Festival of Tabernacles … Part II
“I don’t want you to forget, dear brothers and sisters, about our ancestors in the wilderness long ago….” (I Corinthians 10:1).
There are some things that must never be forgotten; but always remembered as examples for us, for our children, and for their children. Whether things precious or things dreadful. Be they helpful or hurtful. Whether a child’s cheerful appeal, “Remember, daddy, you promised;” or whether the ominous refrain of an entire nation that lost six million of its own during the 2nd World War: “Never again. We must always remember … this can never happen again.”
The triumphs and tragedies of the past become lessons for the present and patterns for the future. History does repeat itself, especially if we fail to learn from past mistakes and failures. The future is much brighter and our expectations and hopes much stronger when we anticipate and then celebrate milestone events of human history and of our very lives. That’s why we honor birthdays and anniversaries … our own, friends, family, and influential people that helped shape the world we live in. That’s why we commemorate life-changing episodes of our human existence.
That’s why we remember times of great turmoil, that ended victoriously … such as Independence Day and Veterans Day. Or birthdays of great leaders that changed the course of history—such as Presidents Washington and Lincoln and civil rights champion Martin Luther King. And certainly the miraculous birth, horrific death, and awesome resurrection from the grave of Messiah Jesus … at Christmas, Good Friday, and Resurrection Day (Easter), respectively.
The apostle Paul challenged the Jewish believers in Corinth to remember what happened to their ancestors in the wilderness … much of which was covered in last week’s article on the Feast of Shelters. Specifically the attitude and actions of the recently delivered Hebrews (from Egypt) and God’s protection and provisions for them even when they were unfaithful to him. Yes, and God’s correction of them, because the Bible tells us that God disciplines those whom he loves.
“I don’t want you to forget … about our ancestors in the wilderness long ago. All of them were guided by a cloud that moved ahead of them, and all of them walked through the sea on dry ground … All of them ate the same spiritual food, and all of them drank the same spiritual water. For they drank from the spiritual rock that traveled with them, and that rock was Christ” (I Corinthians 10:1-4, italics for emphasis).
It’s crystal clear in the Old Testament record that the food (manna) was actual physical food and the water was real thirst-quenching water, miraculously delivered by God. But Paul shares something with the Corinthian believers even more amazing: Christ was literally with the Hebrews in the wilderness and it was he who supplied both their physical and spiritual sustenance.
After his spectacular encounter with the risen Jesus on the Damascus Road and his equally astounding conversion, Paul knew full well that Yeshua was not only the Son of God, he was God the Son; and that Christ was also fully human, the Son of Man. He understood that the Messiah had made several pre-Incarnate appearances throughout the Old Testament; and Paul fully comprehended that this Jewish born Messiah from the tribe of Judah, from the lineage of King David, had existed with God from the very beginning.
Listen to Paul’s magnificent description of Jesus: “Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation, for through him God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth. He made the things we can see and the things we can’t see—such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world. Everything was created through him and for him. He existed before anything else, and he holds all creation together. Christ is also the head of the church, which is his body. He is the beginning, supreme over all who rise from the dead. So he is first in everything. For God in all his fullness was pleased to live in Christ, and through him God reconciled everything to himself. He made peace with everything in heaven and earth by means of Christ’s blood on the cross” (Colossians 1:15-20).
Do you care to know who Jesus Christ really is and what he has done for you, for me, and for the whole world? Then read this passage again and know beyond any doubt that he is God, Creator, and our Savior. If you believe that he is Creator God and your personal Savior, you will be saved from your sins and the Wrath of God, and you will live forever with Him in heaven.
“God promised this Good News long ago through his prophets in the holy Scriptures. The Good News is about his Son, Jesus. In his earthly life he was born into King David’s family line, and he was shown to be the Son of God when he was raised from the dead by the power of the Holy Spirit. He is Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 1:2-4).
Warnings and Examples
Paul continues with the epic saga of the Hebrews in the wilderness: “These things happened as a warning to us, so that we would not crave evil things as they did, or worship idols as some of them did … Nor should we put Christ to the test, as some of them did and then died from snake bites. And don’t grumble as some of them did, and then were destroyed by the angel of death. These things happened to them as examples for us. They were written down to warn us who live at the end of the age” (I Corinthians 10:6-11, italics for emphasis).
As indicated in last week’s article, the Jews were commissioned to bring to mind all the things that happened to them in the wilderness, most importantly the magnificent ways that God protected them and provided for them after he miraculously delivered them from Egypt. One of the more meaningful methods to never forget the sovereign providence of the Lord is by periodic observance of these monumental events. The last, but certainly not the least, of the seven Festivals to be kept by the Jews is the Festival or Feast of Shelters.
Folks, more than ever before, we are living at the end of the age. We are contemporary, modern-day witnesses to the fulfillment of powerful prophetic signs and events recorded throughout Scripture, the most significant of which is the divinely orchestrated rebirth of Israel, followed by the ever-increasing boasts of terrorist groups and entire nations to wipe Israel from the face of the earth. Yet, just last week in the midst of imminent threats from terrorists, regional conflicts in Syria, Ukraine, Iraq and other nations that threaten to entangle the United States, Russia, and the EU, millions of Jews and tens of thousands of Gentile Christians celebrated the Feast of Tabernacles.
Why is this Holiday so important? What makes it unique in comparison to all of the other Jewish and Christian Holy Days?
One of a Kind
The Bible tells us this Festival that remembers the remarkable providential protection and provision of God in the lives of his people is the only Holiday (Holy Day) that individuals and even nations are required by God to observe at the end of the age … known as the Day of the Lord. As alluded to in past Eye of Prophecy articles, the Day of the Lord begins with the Rapture (transformation, transference, transfiguration of earthly to heavenly bodies) of dead and living believers in Christ. Followed by the seven-year treaty/tribulation that culminates in the apocalyptic battle of Armageddon. Ending with the majestic return of Messiah Jesus to save the Jews from annihilation and the world from extinction. Then the one-thousand year reign of Christ and believers on the earth. From there … eternity, infinity, and beyond!
The Old Testament Prophet Zechariah who tells us more about Messiah that any other of the Minor prophets declares: “In the end, the enemies of Jerusalem who survive the plague will go up to Jerusalem each year to worship the King, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, and to celebrate the Festival of Shelters” (Zechariah 14:16).
What plague? In the preceding verses, Zechariah graphically describes this affliction. “And the Lord will send a plague on all the nations that fought against Jerusalem. Their people will become like walking corpses, their flesh rotting away. Their eyes will rot in their sockets, and their tongues will rot in their mouths. On that day they will be terrified, stricken by the Lord with great panic. They will fight their neighbors hand to hand. Judah, too, will be fighting at Jerusalem….” (Zechariah 14:12-14).
Some Bible scholars believe this passage is describing nuclear warfare, i.e. what could happen to human bodies when a nuclear device explodes. Although there very well may be a nuclear exchange during the Great Tribulation, I don’t believe it applies to this passage. With the primary reason that the Lord, himself, will (supernaturally) inflict this catastrophe on the nations that attack Jerusalem as opposed to other nations including Israel launching nuclear missiles. On the other hand, the very power that Christ wields by the Word of his mouth could very well unlock molecules and unleash the power of the atom that essentially holds all things together.
Revelation vividly tells us more about this final battle, as do a handful of other Scripture passages, both Old and New Testament. “Then I saw heaven opened, and a white horse was standing there. Its rider was named Faithful and True, for he judges fairly and wages a righteous war. His eyes were like flames of fire, and on his head were many crowns. A name was written on him that no one understood except himself. He wore a robe dipped in blood, and his title was the Word of God. The armies of heaven, dressed in the finest of pure white linen, followed him on white horses. From his mouth came a sharp sword to strike down the nations. He will rule them with an iron rod. He will release the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty, like juice flowing from a winepress. On his robe at his thigh was written this title: King of all kings and Lord of all lords” (Revelation 19: 11-16).
It gets even more explicit: “Then I saw an angel standing in the sun, shouting to the vultures flying high in the sky: ‘Come! Gather together for the great banquet God has prepared. Come and eat the flesh of kings, generals, and strong warriors; of horses and their riders; and of all humanity, both free and slave, small and great’” (Verses 17-18).
Back to Zechariah and the Feast of Tabernacles. “Any nation in the world that refuses to come to Jerusalem to worship the King, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, will have no rain. If the people of Egypt refuse to attend the festival, the Lord will punish them with the same plague that he sends on the other nations who refuse to go. Egypt and the other nations will all be punished if they don’t go to celebrate the Festival of Shelters” (Zechariah 14:17-19).
The reason why the Festival of Shelters is a divine requirement for all time, with the corresponding harsh punishment if people and nations deliberately and arrogantly refuse to attend this Holy Day once a year, is found in the text … which is the very purpose of celebrating this memorial. “To worship the King…”
And who is the King? The King of all kings? Among other New Testament books, the final book of the Bible tells us exactly who the king is and will be. The very first verse of the first chapter in the Book of Revelation boldly declares: “This is a revelation from Jesus Christ….” Then we read about Jesus: “…He is the faithful witness to these things, the first to rise from the dead, and the ruler of all the kings of the world. All glory to him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by shedding his blood for us. He had made us a Kingdom of priests for God his Father. All glory and power to him forever and ever! Amen. (Revelation 1:5-6, italics for emphasis).
Immanuel … God with us.
What makes this celebration so different from all other holidays, both Jewish and Gentile, different even from the contemporary observance of Tabernacles? The Answer: Messiah Jesus, himself, will be there! It’s all about Jesus! As well it should be. For he is our Way, our Truth, and our Life. (John 14:6). Once again, the purpose for keeping the Feast of Shelters by traveling directly to Jerusalem during the Millennium is to, Worship the King.
The Festival of Shelters will be celebrated not just in remembrance of the past, but also in reverence of the present and in anticipation of the ongoing glorious future of God’s people. And what does that future presence hold? Just like the small shelters (sukkah) constructed for the Feast of Shelters symbolize God’s sovereign protection and provisions, the Cloud by Day, Pillar of Fire by night, the Tabernacle, and later the Temple contained the very divine presence and glory of God … the Shekinah glory.
This same glory—the very essence of God—visited the human race through … a Child born to us and a Son given to us (Isaiah 9:6) prophesied by Isaiah; fulfilled when the angel confidently announced to Joseph: “…do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins. All of this occurred to fulfill the Lord’s message through his prophet: ‘Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means God is with us.’” (Matthew 1:20-23).
Upon his glorious reappearance, Jesus of Nazareth will once again be among us on earth and then in the New Jerusalem forever and ever. IMMANUEL! God with us!
Yes, one day soon will see the once-for-all permanent fulfillment of the Immanuel prophecy, God with us, take place when Christ returns to Israel. The nations will travel to Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles and to worship the King who first came as a child to Bethlehem to tabernacle (live) among us. But his sojourn was all too brief … only thirty-three years. But, oh what a visit! When he ascended to heaven after he arose from the grave, he left God’s mighty plan of salvation on the earth, available to all who call upon the name of the Lord.
Yes, Messiah will return for all time as Immanuel. This is why so many will gladly make this wonderful pilgrimage to Jerusalem: to show their eternal gratitude that God is with us. “I heard a loud shout from the throne saying, ‘Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever’” (Revelation 21:3-4).
“And all the nations will bring their glory and honor into the city” (Revelation 21:26).
They will come to, Worship the King.
Festival of Shelters … Worship of and Gratitude for a Divine Solution to the World’s Problems
What do we do when we worship something or someone? According to Webster’s Dictionary, worship is: “to honor or reverence as a divine being or supernatural power; to regard with great, even extravagant respect, honor, or devotion.”
Undying loyalty and extraordinary respect goes hand in hand with deep awe and reverence, but also perpetual gratitude for what Christ has done and what he will do to set things right when he returns to the earth.
Those who survive the Great Tribulation, including even those who were fighting against the Jews and against Christ himself will recognize, respect, and revere Jesus Christ as the one who:
- In fact, wages a righteous war. The One who utterly defeats an immoral, unrighteous, ruthless enemy much like we see with today’s terrorists and the ungodly, wicked, shocking slaughter of innocent civilians perpetrated on entire populations as occurred during Hitler’s evil Third Reich. So will it be when the Antichrist beast of Revelation unleashes his unholy alliances against those who refuse to take his mark. Messiah Jesus will deal harshly and decisively with tyranny and oppression to the extent that, “Those who plant injustice will harvest disaster, and their reign of terror will come to an end” (Proverbs 22:8).
- The One (and only one) who will bring true and lasting Peace to a destructive world filled with unrestrained corruption, unbridled immorality, unchecked violence, and the horrors of death. He is the, “…Prince of Peace. His government and its peace will never end….” (Isaiah 9:6-7).
- The One who can and will bring pure justice with him and administer this justice fairly to all peoples. “Look, I am coming soon, bringing my reward with me to repay all people according to their deeds. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End” (Revelation 22:12). And, “…He will rule with fairness and justice from the throne of his ancestor David for all eternity. The passionate commitment of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies will make this happen!” (Isaiah 9:7).
- The One whose way and ways are built on absolute truth and righteousness, which all people long for in a ruler. “… Great and marvelous are your works, O Lord God, the Almighty. Just and true are your ways O King of the nations. Who will not fear you, Lord, and glorify your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship before you, for your righteous deeds have been revealed” (Revelation 15: 3-4).
- The One whose decisions and judgments surpass any human magistrate or Supreme Court known to man: “…Yes, O Lord God, the Almighty, your judgments are true and just” (Revelation 16:7).
- The One who is the “Resurrection and the Life” (John 11:25). The One who has conquered death itself. “I am the living one. I died, but look—I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and the grave” (Revelation 1:18).
- The One who will make everything brand new, better than ever before, surpassing even the Garden of Eden. The only One who can be fully trusted to do what he says he will do. “…Look, I am making everything new! And then he said to me, ‘Write this down, for what I tell you is trustworthy and true” (Revelation 21:5).
The overwhelming price paid by Jesus Christ for our sins—his agonizing painful death on the Cross—is far too great to trivialize or overlook. His majestic return to the earth is far too glorious and benevolent to ignore or minimize, both before and after the fact. The awesome price of peace with God and peace among men paid for by Jesus blood must always be remembered, not just during the Feast of Shelters but all through the days and years to come. Those who refuse to accept the very presence of God in the form of his Son, Yeshua ha Mashiach; and, thereby, refuse to attend the Festival of Shelters, will also pay a heavy price. Because they (like so many today who will never see the light of Heaven) will not acknowledge what the Lord has done and will do on that day and forever more.
“The day will come, says the Lord, when I will do for Israel and Judah all the good things I have promised them. In those days and at that time I will raise up a righteous descendant from King David’s line. He will do what is just and right throughout the land. In that day Judah will be saved, and Jerusalem will live in safety. And this will be its name: The Lord is Our Righteousness” (Jeremiah 33:15-16).
Things to Ponder
On the Jewish calendar, the Festival of Tabernacles is celebrated five days after Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. The number five signifies Grace … the grace of God that bestows blessings and his very presence in all hearts who invite him in. That is the way of it now … the Kingdom of Heaven in the hearts of men, women, and children the world over; those who have believed and received the Son of God, the Son of Man.
“Now repent of your sins and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped away. Then times of refreshment will come from the presence of the Lord, and he will again send you Jesus, your appointed Messiah. For he must remain in heaven until the time for the final restoration of all things, as God promised long ago through his holy prophets” (Acts 3:19-21).
One day soon, Jesus Christ will tabernacle among us. He will be Immanuel, God with us … forever. He will restore all things. As it once was long ago, so shall it be again. He will establish the Kingdom of God on the earth and will, thereby, bring lasting Peace to a troubled world—a planet teetering on an axis of evil, ready to plunge into an Abyss of hopelessness and helplessness.
“…The God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed or conquered. It will crush all these kingdoms into nothingness, and it will stand forever” (Daniel 2:44).
“He who is the faithful witness to all these things says, ‘Yes, I am coming soon!’ Amen! Come Lord Jesus!” (Revelation 22:20).