The emotions surrounding the moment a 17-year-old girl saw her real father for the very first time, presented in a television program, brought tears to my eyes.
At age 11 she had come home from school one day to find her mother with a photo album. Her mother said, “You'll find pictures of a man in there you don't know. He's your real father.”
Out of her confusion and myriad questions came an intense desire to meet the father she had never known.
In her adolescent way, the girl searched for him for six years without success. Someone who knew about her longing to see her dad chose to personally intervene, and through a private investigator eventually found her father.
Not knowing whether it was the right thing to do, the benefactor arranged to meet the girl without telling her why. There the person asked her, “Do you really want to see your father?”
“Oh yes, more than anything!”
“Well, he's in the room next door waiting to see you.”
After six years of disappointments, she broke down in tears of disbelief as her real father walked into the room with a large bouquet of flowers. He explained that after the marriage had broken up, he had not wanted to confuse her by having her grow up with two fathers.
Do you know your Father?
Surprising as it may sound, we, too, have a Father whom we have never seen—not a physical, flesh-and-blood father, but our Heavenly Father.
The emotions of a young girl seeing her real father for the first time can be similar to our experience as believers. We are born into a physical life without prior knowledge of our Heavenly Father. When called by God we perceive the Kingdom of God in limited ways, but we still do not know or see the Father as He actually is.
However, God does provide a way for us to experience now what it will be like when the whole world finally comes to know our Heavenly Father.
Foretaste of the future
This leads us to the picture of that incredible future painted by God's Feast of Tabernacles. This foretaste of the future is the motivation behind thousands of Christians who save their money through the year to leave their homes to observe this festival of God in temporary dwellings (see Leviticus 23:1-2 Leviticus 23:1-2 1 And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying,
2 Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them, Concerning the feasts of the LORD, which you shall proclaim to be holy convocations, even these are my feasts.
American King James Version×, 34-41).
This festival is not just a holiday. In fact it is quite apart from a vacation. It is a specific, predetermined observance commanded by God. And yes, attendees do enjoy many of the benefits of a vacation. But the focus of this commanded assembly is daily church services—and for very good reasons.
During these services, Christians focus on the most wondrous knowledge anyone could have—insights into God's plan for humanity, eternal life and the Kingdom of God.
Scripture shows that at Christ's return and the beginning of His millennial reign, changed believers will see the glorified Jesus Christ for the very first time. This event will be the prelude to a still future time when all human beings will meet their Heavenly Father for the very first time (Revelation 21:3 Revelation 21:3And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.
American King James Version×). What a momentous event! And this understanding is derived from this sacred observance God gave us, the Feast of Tabernacles.
In God's plan for mankind as outlined through His Holy Days, the world will be forever changed by the return of Jesus Christ, symbolized by the Feast of Trumpets (Leviticus 23:24 Leviticus 23:24Speak to the children of Israel, saying, In the seventh month, in the first day of the month, shall you have a sabbath, a memorial of blowing of trumpets, an holy convocation.
American King James Version×). It is followed by the Day of Atonement (verse 27), which depicts Satan being banished so he can no longer deceive mankind.
Following these two Holy Days is the Feast of Tabernacles (verses 34-41), picturing the millennial reign of Jesus Christ and the resurrected saints over the earth after His second coming (Revelation 20:4 Revelation 20:4And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was given to them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark on their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.
American King James Version×). During this time all people will have access to God through His Spirit, receiving a “new heart” and “new spirit” within them (Ezekiel 36:26-27 Ezekiel 36:26-27 26 A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and you shall keep my judgments, and do them.
American King James Version×).
Under the guidance of the Spirit of God, people will enthusiastically want to obey God from their hearts. They will place the interests of others before themselves. That's why believers today, led by that same Spirit, place such a high priority on attending this festival of God. They know that they will in turn receive inspiring spiritual knowledge of God's plan for mankind and His gift of eternal life.
The significance of tabernacles
God's command to ancient Israel to stay in temporary dwellings during this time (Leviticus 23:42 Leviticus 23:42You shall dwell in booths seven days; all that are Israelites born shall dwell in booths:
American King James Version×) symbolizes in part the temporary, transitory nature of life. The apostle Paul explained that as this temporary body—“this tent”—physically ages, we yearn even more for our permanent, eternal spirit body from heaven (2 Corinthians 5:1-2 2 Corinthians 5:1-2 1 For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. 2 For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed on with our house which is from heaven:
American King James Version×).
Hebrews 11 describes the faithful servants of God as “strangers and pilgrims on the earth” (verse 13). The Feast of Tabernacles is an annual reminder of our temporary state and how believers “seek a homeland” with God (verse 14).
This transitory nature of human life and the wonderful future beyond are reinforced when we travel to festival sites and dwell temporarily in locally available lodging. Believers gain enormous encouragement from what this festival portrays for the future. Understanding what God has in store for us—eternal life—gives great hope and purpose for enduring life now. These are some of the wonderful spiritual lessons from keeping God's festivals.
Knowing God for the first time
Scripture shows that believers are destined to be permanently bound in a close, loving, personal relationship with Jesus Christ. God's Word describes “the marriage of the Lamb”—Jesus Christ—to His Church at His return (Revelation 19:6-9 Revelation 19:6-9 6 And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunder, saying, Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigns.
7 Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honor to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife has made herself ready.
8 And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints.
9 And he said to me, Write, Blessed are they which are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he said to me, These are the true sayings of God.
American King James Version×). This close relationship will continue through all eternity.
And throughout the world, people will at last have access to the spiritual knowledge they have never known. Under Jesus Christ's righteous rule, “They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain, for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea” (Isaiah 11:9 Isaiah 11:9They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.
American King James Version×, emphasis added throughout).
Speaking of that time, God tells us: “No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more” (Jeremiah 31:34 Jeremiah 31:34And they shall teach no more every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, said the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.
American King James Version×).
Those who attend the Feast of Tabernacles are pioneering this future world by observing God's festivals now. In the magnificent world to come, entire nations will join in celebrating the Feast of Tabernacles (Zechariah 14:16 Zechariah 14:16And it shall come to pass, that every one that is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall even go up from year to year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to keep the feast of tabernacles.
American King James Version×). When these pioneers are changed to immortal spirit in the Kingdom of God, they will assist Christ in a global reeducation program (Revelation 5:10 Revelation 5:10And have made us to our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth.
American King James Version×; 20:6).
Believers who observe this festival are every year busily preparing to help bring that ideal to pass. Jesus said our prayers are to be directed to our Heavenly Father, whom we have never seen (John 5:37 John 5:37And the Father himself, which has sent me, has borne witness of me. You have neither heard his voice at any time, nor seen his shape.
American King James Version×). Yet the time is coming when we “shall see His face, and His name will be on [our] foreheads” (Revelation 22:4 Revelation 22:4And they shall see his face; and his name shall be in their foreheads.
American King James Version×).
The Feast of Tabernacles gives us a foretaste of a new life, world, environment and destiny. And it offers us a fascinating anticipation of a close personal relationship with our Heavenly Father. These are some of the pictures painted by a festival filled with wonderful meaning, understanding and great hope for all believers. GN