Should Christians keep it? What are some of the reasons why?
The ''Feast of Tabernacles'' is a 7-day Biblical pilgrimage festival, also known as the Feast of Booths, the Feast of Tabernacles, or ''Tabernacles (it is immediately followed by an eighth day, so normally it is considered to be a pilgrimage of at least 8 days).
Can Christians keep it? Must it be kept in palm-branch booths in Jerusalem? How would Christians keep it now?
Jesus, His apostles, and their faithful immediate followers kept it. It is documented that it was kept for centuries by Christians after Jesus' death and resurrection.
In the 7th day Church of God groups, the Feast of Tabernacles is one of the most important holy days as it lasts the longest and normally requires a great deal of preparation and travel to be able to attend (see also Christians are to Be Strangers and Pilgrims?). But it is normally the physical and spiritual highlight of the year for those that do observe it.
The Feast of Tabernacles also helps give us a glimpse into the coming millennial Kingdom of God which motivates us to live as Jesus wants us to and to teach what Jesus wanted proclaimed.
This article covers this subject from a Christian perspective. It includes quotes from both the Old and New Testament, plus many historical citations. Two related sermon videos include Feast of Tabernacles from Israel and the newer one titled Should Christians keep the Feast of Tabernacles?
In 2018, the Feast of Tabernacles will begin the evening of September 23rd and continue until sunset the Last Great Day which is October 1st.
The Hebrew Scriptures
The Hebrew scriptures discuss this Festival in many places.
Leviticus 23:33-43 states:
33 Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 34 "Speak to the children of Israel, saying: 'The fifteenth day of this seventh month shall be the Feast of Tabernacles for seven days to the Lord. 35 On the first day there shall be a holy convocation. You shall do no customary work on it. 36 For seven days you shall offer an offering made by fire to the Lord. On the eighth day you shall have a holy convocation, and you shall offer an offering made by fire to the Lord. It is a sacred assembly, and you shall do no customary work on it. 37 'These are the feasts of the Lord which you shall proclaim to be holy convocations, to offer an offering made by fire to the Lord, a burnt offering and a grain offering, a sacrifice and drink offerings, everything on its day — 38 besides the Sabbaths of the Lord, besides your gifts, besides all your vows, and besides all your freewill offerings which you give to the Lord. 39 'Also on the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when you have gathered in the fruit of the land, you shall keep the feast of the Lord for seven days; on the first day there shall be a sabbath-rest, and on the eighth day a sabbath-rest. 40 And you shall take for yourselves on the first day the fruit of beautiful trees, branches of palm trees, the boughs of leafy trees, and willows of the brook; and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God for seven days. 41 You shall keep it as a feast to the Lord for seven days in the year. It shall be a statute forever in your generations. You shall celebrate it in the seventh month. 42 You shall dwell in booths for seven days. All who are native Israelites shall dwell in booths, 43 that your generations may know that I made the children of Israel dwell in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.'" (NKJV throughout, unless otherwise noted, or including in quotes from other sources)
Christians have interpreted the statement about dwelling in booths to include temporary dwellings (see also Christians are to Be Strangers and Pilgrims?), hence most stay in hotels, motels, or tents to observe it today (the idea that palm branch dwellings are not the only option which is consistent with Leviticus 23:43 for Christians per Hebrews 9:11-15; cf. 13:10).
Why are tents and motel rooms acceptable 'tabernacles' as opposed to only dwelling in palm-branch huts? Here are some items to consider:
This festival has also been referred to as 'a pilgrim feast':
4... I went with them to the house of God, With the voice of joy and praise, With a multitude that kept a pilgrim feast. (Psalms 42:4)
And Christians observe it on the same days that the Jews celebrate Sukkot (which is based on the same verses in the Hebrew Bible). Attending services, or at least watching the sermons (which you can do online), each day is a way for you to offer yourself as a living sacrifice which is your reasonable service.
[Some may wonder why attending services is done for all the days at the Feast of Tabernacles and not required for the Days of Unleavened Bread. Well, the scriptural reason is that the command for the Feast of Tabernacles says it will be a "Feast" "for seven days to the Lord" (Leviticus 23:33; Deuteronomy 16:13) and "Seven days you shall keep a sacred feast to the Lord your God in the place which the Lord chooses" (Deuteronomy 16:15). That is not so stated related to the Days of Unleavened Bread (the commands for it says to eat unleavened bread for seven days in Leviticus 23:6 and Deuteronomy 16:3, as opposed to observe the feast of seven days--w make a 'sacrifice' the seven days of unleavened bread by eating unleavened bread on each of the days).]
As shown in Leviticus 23, the Bible teaches that the children of Israel were to have offerings for every day of the Feast. While we in the Continuing Church of God do take up offerings on the First Day of the Feast and the Last Great Day, we do not take up financial offerings on the other days. But one way for Christians to fulfil what God expects is to attend church services each day of thr Feast of Tabernacles. Notice something that the Apostle Paul wrote:
1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. (Romans 12:1-2)
Attending services each day during the Feast of Tabernacles is a way for you to offer yourself as a living sacrifice which is your reasonable service.
More information on this Feast is in the Hebrew scriptures. Notice some others:
2 You shall utterly destroy all the places where the nations which you shall dispossess served their gods, on the high mountains and on the hills and under every green tree. 3 And you shall destroy their altars, break their sacred pillars, and burn their wooden images with fire; you shall cut down the carved images of their gods and destroy their names from that place. 4 You shall not worship the Lord your God with such things.
5 "But you shall seek the place where the Lord your God chooses, out of all your tribes, to put His name for His dwelling place; and there you shall go. 6 There you shall take your burnt offerings, your sacrifices, your tithes, the heave offerings of your hand, your vowed offerings, your freewill offerings, and the firstborn of your herds and flocks. 7 And there you shall eat before the Lord your God, and you shall rejoice in all to which you have put your hand, you and your households, in which the Lord your God has blessed you.
8 "You shall not at all do as we are doing here today — every man doing whatever is right in his own eyes — 9 for as yet you have not come to the rest and the inheritance which the Lord your God is giving you...
11 then there will be the place where the Lord your God chooses to make His name abide. There you shall bring all that I command you: your burnt offerings, your sacrifices, your tithes, the heave offerings of your hand, and all your choice offerings which you vow to the Lord. 12 And you shall rejoice before the Lord your God, you and your sons and your daughters, your male and female servants, and the Levite who is within your gates, since he has no portion nor inheritance with you. 13 Take heed to yourself that you do not offer your burnt offerings in every place that you see; 14 but in the place which the Lord chooses, in one of your tribes, there you shall offer your burnt offerings, and there you shall do all that I command you.
15 "However, you may slaughter and eat meat within all your gates, whatever your heart desires, according to the blessing of the Lord your God which He has given you; the unclean and the clean may eat of it, of the gazelle and the deer alike. 16 Only you shall not eat the blood; you shall pour it on the earth like water. 17 You may not eat within your gates the tithe of your grain or your new wine or your oil, of the firstborn of your herd or your flock, of any of your offerings which you vow, of your freewill offerings, or of the heave offering of your hand. 18 But you must eat them before the Lord your God in the place which the Lord your God chooses, you and your son and your daughter, your male servant and your female servant, and the Levite who is within your gates; and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God in all to which you put your hands. 19 Take heed to yourself that you do not forsake the Levite as long as you live in your land. (Deuteronomy 12:2-9, 11-19)
Christians have cited the following passages from Deuteronomy 14:22-27 (which has similarities to chapter 12) to explain how this festival attendance should be financed and to show that others are to be assisted with this financing:
22 "You shall truly tithe all the increase of your grain that the field produces year by year. 23 And you shall eat before the Lord your God, in the place where He chooses to make His name abide, the tithe of your grain and your new wine and your oil, of the firstborn of your herds and your flocks, that you may learn to fear the Lord your God always. 24 But if the journey is too long for you, so that you are not able to carry the tithe, or if the place where the Lord your God chooses to put His name is too far from you, when the Lord your God has blessed you, 25 then you shall exchange it for money, take the money in your hand, and go to the place which the Lord your God chooses. 26 And you shall spend that money for whatever your heart desires: for oxen or sheep, for wine or similar drink, for whatever your heart desires; you shall eat there before the Lord your God, and you shall rejoice, you and your household. 27 You shall not forsake the Levite who is within your gates, for he has no part nor inheritance with you.
Most Christians who observe the Feast of Tabernacles save 10% of their income (normally referred to as second tithe or simply festival tithe) to finance this. They also point to those verses in Deuteronomy to show that they are to feast and rejoice during this time, which they feel points to the time when Jesus will reign on the Earth for a thousand years. A time they say will be filled with great prosperity--a glimpse of which they get when they spend approximately 10% of their annual income for an eight-day (plus travel time) festival (sometimes, portions of that 10% are used for the other biblical holy days; see also Is Second Tithe and Third Tithe Still Valid Today?).
This saving of funds is somthing many who claim Christ do not do for many reasons. They lack faith. Many do not take the words of Jesus or James seriously enough:
31 "Therefore do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' 32 For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. (Matthew 6:31-33)
14 What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, "Depart in peace, be warmed and filled," but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? 17 Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
18 But someone will say, "You have faith, and I have works." Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. 19 You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe — and tremble! 20 But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? 22 Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? 23 And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, "Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness." And he was called the friend of God. 24 You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only. (James 2:14-24).
Faith without action is not real faith. Want more faith? Here is a link to something that can help: Faith for Those God has Called and Chosen. Of course, people will normally claim that they do have faith, so they make up excuses for not keeping the Feast of Tabernacles. Consider the following:
11 Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience. 12 For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. 13 And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account. (Hebrews 4:11-13)
People do NOT 'get away' with disobedience, though they like to think that they do.
Christians who observe this festival believe that part of the reason that there will be peace during the millennium is that people will all be taught the law of God. Notice that teaching the law of God was an important part of this feast during the days of the children of Israel:
10 And Moses commanded them, saying: "At the end of every seven years, at the appointed time in the year of release, at the Feast of Tabernacles, 11 when all Israel comes to appear before the Lord your God in the place which He chooses, you shall read this law before all Israel in their hearing. 12 Gather the people together, men and women and little ones, and the stranger who is within your gates, that they may hear and that they may learn to fear the Lord your God and carefully observe all the words of this law, 13 and that their children, who have not known it, may hear and learn to fear the Lord your God as long as you live in the land which you cross the Jordan to possess." (Deuteronomy 31:10-13).
Related to the reading of the law, an article of related interest may be The Feast of Tabernacles: A Time to Learn the Law.
Christians who observe this festival sometimes point to the following in Zechariah, which they believe provides evidence that it has not been done away with:
16 And it shall come to pass that everyone who is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Tabernacles. 17 And it shall be that whichever of the families of the earth do not come up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, on them there will be no rain. 18 If the family of Egypt will not come up and enter in, they shall have no rain; they shall receive the plague with which the Lord strikes the nations who do not come up to keep the Feast of Tabernacles. 19 This shall be the punishment of Egypt and the punishment of all the nations that do not come up to keep the Feast of Tabernacles. (Zechariah 14:16-19)
Since it is clear that the Feast of Tabernacles is to be kept in the future, this is another reason why Christians should be keeping it now (f0r more about Egypt, please check out the article Egypt in Prophecy).
The Feast of Tabernacles is to be kept every year (Zechariah 14:16; Deuteronomy 16:16).
Where Is it to be Kept?
Where is the Feast of Tabernacles to be kept?
The Bible teaches "in the place which He chooses" (Deuteronomy 16:16; 31:10-11).
Since God does not physically speak the physical locations for every year, the responsibility for this falls on His ministry (cf. Leviticus 23:1,4,37). In modern times, generally this will be near the area where enough Christians live or can travel too. Here is a link to Feast of Tabernacles' Sites for 2015 from the Continuing Church of God.
While some falsely claim that the Feast of Tabernacles from the past through current times must only be kept in Jerusalem, this is in error as the children of Israel were not even in Jerusalem for centuries after the commands for its observance in Leviticus 23 were recorded--hence Jerusalem was not possibly an initial option for them.
Interestingly, the Bible shows that Jesus ‘tabernacled’ with humans when He was here:
14 And the Word became flesh, and did tabernacle among us, and we beheld his glory, glory as of an only begotten of a father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14, Young's Literal Translation)
The Greek word ἐσκἠνωσεν in John 1:14 aboved can be translated also as "tabernacled" (Green JP. Interlinear Greek-English New Testament. Baker Books, 1996, 5th printing 2002, p. 282). And Jesus did that without always being in a palm booth.
Furthermore, the Bible shows that the Feast of Tabernacles can be kept in cities other than Jerusalem (Deuteronomy 14:23-24) and also seems to indicate that it was (Psalm 74:8; cf. Nehemiah 8:15). It should also be understood that since Jesus commanded the Passover to be kept (Luke 22:29; 1 Corinthians 11:24-25), taught that there were Christians in places like Asia Minor (Revelation 2 & 3), and told His disciples to teach all nations what He commanded (Matthew 28:19-20), this shows that He did not restrict the observation of the Holy Days to Jerusalem (consider also His words in John 4:19-24).
The 1st century Jewish historian Josephus wrote:
4. Upon the fifteenth day of the same month, when the season of the year is changing for winter, the law enjoins us to pitch tabernacles in every one of our houses, so that we preserve ourselves from the cold of that time of the year; as also that when we should arrive at our own country, and come to that city which we should have then for our metropolis, because of the temple therein to be built, and keep a festival for eight days. (Josephus. "Antiquities Of The Jews" Book 3 Chap 10 vs 4. The Genuine Works of Josephus. Whiston, 1825, p. 217)
The above shows that the Feast of Tabernacles was conducted both inside and outside of Jerusalem.
Notice also something from a 20th century Jewish scholar:
In the time of the second Temple, Sukkos was a great festival even outside of Jerusalem. (Schausse H.The Jewish Festivals: A Guide to Their History and Observance, 1938. Schocken (September 9, 1996), p. 184)
Sukkos or Sukkot are Hebrew names for the Feast of Tabernacles (essentially a word meaning booths). The Second Temple period in Jewish history is estimated to have lasted between 530 BC and 70 AD.
It may also be of interest to note Polycarp of Smyrna in the 2nd century and certain others in Asia Minor in the late 4th century kept the Feast of Tabernacles in Asia Minor, not Jerusalem. This is confirmed by sources such as the Catholic saint Jerome (Migne JP Argumentum Patrologia Latina Volumen MPL025 Ab Columna ad Culumnam 1415 - 1542A, pp. 922, 930) and research done by the 20th century Cardinal Danielou (Danielou, Cardinal Jean-Guenole-Marie. The Theology of Jewish Christianity. Translated by John A. Baker. The Westminister Press, 1964, pp. 345-346).
The Feast of Tabernacles, consistent with biblical instructions (cf. Nehemiah 8:15; Deuteronomy 16:15), was being observed outside of Jerusalem centuries after Christ’s resurrection (other holy days, also were sometimes by Jews outside of Jerusalem, including apparently Pentecost in Luke 4:16 and the Days of Unleavened Bread in Luke 6:1, by Jesus). In the late fourth century, John Chrysostom (of Constantinople) commented that people who professed Christ in his area were observing it (John Chrysostom. Homily I Against the Jews I:5;VI:5;VII:2. Preached at Antioch, Syria in the Fall of 387 AD. Medieval Sourcebook: Saint John Chrysostom (c.347-407) : Eight Homilies Against the Jews. Fordham University. http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/chrysostom-jews6.html; for more on John Chrysostum himself, please check out the article John Chrysostom, Bishop of Constantinople and Antisemite).
The Catholic saint Jerome reported that the 'Nazarene'/Judeo Christians of Asia Minor kept it in the fourth/fifth centuries (Migne JP Argumentum Patrologia Latina Volumen MPL025 Ab Columna ad Culumnam 1415 - 1542A, pp. 922, 930).
Comments by Epiphanius and others in the late fourth century concerning the Nazarene Christians would also seem to support that those who kept the Fall Holy Days were located in several areas at that time (see Nazarene Christianity: Were the Original Christians Nazarenes?).
In the 20th and 21st centuries, Christians have kept the Feast of Tabernacles on all inhabited continents as well as various islands.
The New Testament Examples
Christians point out that Jesus kept the Feast of Tabernacles. This is discussed in detail in John chapter 7:
10 But when His brothers had gone up, then He also went up to the feast, not openly, but as it were in secret. 11 Then the Jews sought Him at the feast, and said, "Where is He?" 12 And there was much complaining among the people concerning Him. Some said, "He is good"; others said, "No, on the contrary, He deceives the people." 13 However, no one spoke openly of Him for fear of the Jews. 14 Now about the middle of the feast Jesus went up into the temple and taught. 15 And the Jews marveled, saying, "How does this Man know letters, having never studied?" 16 Jesus answered them and said, "My doctrine is not Mine, but His who sent Me. 17 If anyone wills to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God or whether I speak on My own authority. 18 He who speaks from himself seeks his own glory; but He who seeks the glory of the One who sent Him is true, and no unrighteousness is in Him. 19 Did not Moses give you the law, yet none of you keeps the law? Why do you seek to kill Me?" 20 The people answered and said, "You have a demon. Who is seeking to kill You?" 21 Jesus answered and said to them, "I did one work, and you all marvel. 22 Moses therefore gave you circumcision (not that it is from Moses, but from the fathers), and you circumcise a man on the Sabbath. 23 If a man receives circumcision on the Sabbath, so that the law of Moses should not be broken, are you angry with Me because I made a man completely well on the Sabbath? 24 Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment." 25 Now some of them from Jerusalem said, "Is this not He whom they seek to kill? 26 But look! He speaks boldly, and they say nothing to Him. Do the rulers know indeed that this is truly the Christ? (John 7:10-26)
Jesus kept the Feast and taught on what we tend to refer to as “the Last Great Day” (see also The Last Great Day: 'Shemini Azeret).
The Apostle Paul, after the Christ's death and resurrection indicated that it was important to keep the Feast in Jerusalem--and this may have been the Feast of Tabernacles. As it is noted in Acts 18:21:
21 I must by all means keep this coming feast in Jerusalem; but I will return again to you, God willing.
Some have questioned which Feast was being discussed, but the late Dr. Hoeh felt that this was a reference to the Feast of Tabernacles:
Paul Kept the Feast of Tabernacles
Paul followed Jesus' example and not only kept the Feast of Tabernacles, but kept it after the New Testament manner long after what was "nailed to the cross" was nailed there. And notice Paul's command that we follow his example as he followed Christ's: "Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ" (I Cor. 11:1).
That is very plain.
We follow Paul in keeping the New Testament Feast of Tabernacles as he followed Christ.
Notice now the sequence of events in the book of Acts which clearly indicate that Paul kept the Feast of Tabernacles. God used Paul to reach the Gentiles with the gospel. In A.D. 50, Paul crossed over from Asia into Europe and began to preach the gospel at Philippi (Acts 16:11-13). After a few weeks at Philippi, Thessalonica (Acts 17:1), Berea (verse 10) and Athens (verse 16), Paul came to Corinth in the late summer of A.D. 50 (Acts 18:1). After spending several Sabbaths teaching in the synagogue (verse 4), Paul continued to hold meetings in the house of Justus (verse 7) for "a year and six months" (verse 11).
This brings us to the spring of A.D. 52. After a riot stirred up against the apostle was quelled, we read the following about Paul: "And Paul after this tarried there yet a good while, and then took his leave of the brethren, and sailed thence into Syria" (Acts 18:18). It was now well into the summer of A.D. 52. The Feast of Unleavened Bread and Pentecost — the two festivals near the beginning and end of spring — were now past.
To continue with Paul's journey, on his way from Corinth to the port of Syria, "he came to Ephesus" and "entered into the synagogue, and reasoned with the Jews. When they desired him to tarry longer time with them, he consented not; but bade them farewell, saying, I must by all means keep this feast that cometh in Jerusalem: but I will return again unto you, if God will. And he sailed from Ephesus" (Acts 18:19-21). Was Paul planning to keep the feast with the Headquarters Church at Jerusalem? Indeed! Which feast? The spring festivals were already past.
The two late summer or early autumn holy days, the Feast of Trumpets and the Day of Atonement, were held at any of the local congregations. Yet here was a major festival being held at Jerusalem in the autumn. The one big major festival that occurs in the autumn is the Feast of Tabernacles! Paul told the Ephesians that he "must by all means keep this feast that cometh in Jerusalem" — with the Headquarters Church. (This was long before A.D. 70, at which time Jerusalem fell to the Roman General Titus and the Temple was destroyed.)
Paul had just completed his first journey into Europe with the gospel and undoubtedly felt he had to report the progress of the work to the Headquarters Church and the brethren (verse 22). What better time to do so than while keeping the Feast of Tabernacles! Here is the example of Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles. After years in the New Testament ministry he is still keeping the Feast of Tabernacles!
Why Verse Left Out in Corrupted Manuscripts
Acts 18:21 appears correctly in the King James Version of the Bible. But numerous modern translations leave out that portion of the verse which tells of Paul's intention to keep the Feast. This verse, in its entirety, belongs in the Bible. It has always been 100 percent a part of the inspired Greek text handed down to the Greek-speaking world by the original true Church of God. The only manuscripts which leave it out are those copied in Egypt and in the Latin-speaking portions of the Roman Empire.
There would have been no reason to add this verse to the Bible if it were not there originally. But there is every reason why men would like to remove it from the inspired text! The Catholic version of the Bible leaves it out as do almost all modern Protestant translations of the Bible. These churches do not want to keep this feast. (Hoeh H. The New Testament FEAST OF TABERNACLES. Good News, July-September 1973)
Notice some statements from the Apostle Paul:
17...Men and brethren, though I have done nothing against our people or the customs of our fathers (Acts 28:17)
4 though I also might have confidence in the flesh. If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so: 5 circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; 6 concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. (Philippians 3:4-6)
Since Paul kept the customs of his people, he, too, kept all the Fall Holy Days including the Feast of Tabernacles. If not, he could not have made that statement which is in Acts 28:17 nor the one being blameless in the law in Philippians 3:4-6.
Paul taught Gentiles to follow him as he followed Jesus:
Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1).
Jesus and Paul kept the feasts. Are you following their example?
Notice that Paul does commend those in Thessalonica for imitating the church in Judea:
13 For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe. 14 For you, brethren, became imitators of the churches of God which are in Judea in Christ Jesus (1 Thessalonians 2:13-14).
The church in Judea kept the Feast of Tabernacles, etc. And those in Thessalonica were commended for receiving the word of God and imitating the practices of the church in Judea. Thus, the Gentile Church of God in Thessalonica kept the Feast of Tabernacles.
Others Have Kept the Feast of Tabernacles and Taught of its Meaning
Related to the first/second century, the 20th century Catholic Cardinal Jean Danielou wrote:
Did the Jewish Christians retain the Jewish feasts while giving them new meaning...?
the Feast of Tabernacles was certainly kept in the month of September by Jewish Christianity as by the Jews. (Danielou, Cardinal Jean-Guenole-Marie. The Theology of Jewish Christianity. Translated by John A. Baker. The Westminister Press, 1964, pp. 343,345)
This temporal Messianism had a strong influence on Christians in the form of millenarianism, which had its centre in the Asiatic environment to which both Papias and Cerinthus belonged. This Messianic agitation was connected with the mystique of festivity, which belonged essentially to the Feast of Tabernacles. (Ibid, pp. 345-346)
Cardinal Danielou seemed to see references to the Feast of Tabernacles in the Shepherd of Hermas (ibid, pp. 341-345), which would indicate that around then some in Rome also observed it--though he believed that they later transferred it to become something else.
In the early second century, Papias of Hierapolis said:
there will be a period of some thousand years after the resurrection of the dead, and that the kingdom of Christ will be set up in material form on this very earth. (Eusebius. The History of the Church, Book 3, Chapter XXXIX; Digireads, p. 69)
Polycarp of Smyrna apparently taught this about the Feast of Tabernacles and the Last Great Day:
What must one say, when even He that was gentler than all men so appeals and cries out at the feast of Tabernacles? For it is written; And on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried saying, If any man thirsteth, let him come to Me and drink (Pionius. Life of Polycarp, Chapter 19. Translated by J. B. Lightfoot, The Apostolic Fathers, vol. 3.2, 1889, pp.488-506).
A nineteenth century anti-millennial scholar named Giovanni Battista Pagani wrote the following about the Egyptian Bishop Nepos of the third century and those who supported the millennium:
…all those who teach a millennium framed according to Jewish ideas, saying that during the millennium, Mosaic law will be restored…These are called Judaical Millenarians, not as being Jews, but as having invented and upheld a millennium according to Jewish taste. The principal authors of this error were Nepos, an African Bishop, against whom St. Dionysius wrote his two books on Promises; and Apollinaris, whom St. Epiphanius confound in his work against heresies (Pagani, Giovanni Battista. Published by Charles Dolman, 1855. Original from Oxford University. Digitized Aug 15, 2006, pp. 252-253).
It should be of interest to note that neither Nepos nor Apollinaris (this is a reference to Apollinaris of Laodicea, not Apollinaris of Hierapolis) were Jews, but were condemned for having a religion that had “Jewish” beliefs. It should be clear that the respected and non-Jewish Christian leader Nepos in the early third century and others clearly did hold to ideas that were condemned by the allegorists. The fact that some held to 'Mosaic law' is evidence then as both understood the meaning of and kept the Feast of Tabernacles, but with a Christian emphasis.
The Greco-Roman bishop & saint Methodius of Olympus in the late 3rd or early 4th century taught that the Feast of Tabernacles was commanded and that it had lessons for Christians. And he tied it in with the teaching of the millennial reign of Christ (he also twice quotes Proverbs 1:5 about understanding):
1)... God, when He appointed to the true Israelites the legal rite of the true feast of the tabernacles, directed, in Leviticus, how they should keep and do honour to the feast;...it is commanded that the Feast of our Tabernacles shall be celebrated to the Lord, of which the things said in Leviticus are symbols and figures, which things, carefully investigating, we should consider the naked truth itself, for He says, "A wise man will hear, and will increase learning; and a man of understanding shall attain unto wise counsels: to understand a proverb, and the interpretation; the words Of the wise, and their dark sayings." ...
...these things, being like air and phantom shadows, foretell the resurrection and the putting up of our tabernacle that had fallen upon the earth, which at length, in the seventh thousand of years, resuming again immortal, we shall celebrate the great feast of true tabernacles in the new and indissoluble creation, the fruits of the earth having been gathered in, and men no longer begetting and begotten, but God resting from the works of creation...
For since in six days God made the heaven and the earth, and finished the whole world, and rested on the seventh day from all His works which He had made, and blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, so by a figure in the seventh month, when the fruits of the earth have been gathered in, we are commanded to keep the feast to the Lord, which signifies that, when this world shall be terminated at the seventh thousand years, when God shall have completed the world, He shall rejoice in us. For now to this time all things are created by His all-sufficient will and inconceivable power; the earth still yielding its fruits, and the waters being gathered together in their receptacles; and the light still severed from darkness, and the allotted number of men not yet being complete; and the sun arising to rule the day, and the moon the night; and four-footed creatures, and beasts, and creeping things arising from the earth, and winged creatures, and creatures that swim, from the water. Then, when the appointed times shall have been accomplished, and God shall have ceased to form this creation , in the seventh month, the great resurrection-day, it is commanded that the Feast of our Tabernacles shall be celebrated to the Lord , of which the things said in Leviticus are symbols and figures, which things, carefully investigating, we should consider the naked truth itself, for He says, A wise man will hear, and will increase learning; and a man of understanding shall attain unto wise counsels: to understand a proverb , and the interpretation; the words Of the wise, and their dark sayings.
4)... Whoso, therefore, desires to come to that Feast of Tabernacles, to be numbered with the saints, let him first procure the goodly fruit of faith, then palm branches, that is, attentive meditation upon and study of the Scriptures, afterwards the far-spreading and thickly-leaved branches of charity, which He commands us to take after the palm branches;...
5)... whoever shall not be found decorated with the boughs of chastity, shall neither obtain rest, because he has not fulfilled the command of God according to the law, nor shall he enter into the land of promise, because he has not previously celebrated the Feast of Tabernacles. For they only who have celebrated the Feast of Tabernacles come to the Holy Land, setting out from those dwellings which are called tabernacles, until they come to enter into the temple and city of God, advancing to a greater and more glorious joy, as the Jewish types indicate. For like as the Israelites, having left the borders of Egypt, first came to the Tabernacles, and from hence, having again set forth, came into the land of promise, so also do we. For I also, taking my journey, and going forth from the Egypt of this life, came first to the resurrection, which is the true Feast of the Tabernacles, and there having set up my tabernacle, adorned with the fruits of virtue, on the first day of the resurrection, which is the day of judgment, celebrate with Christ the millennium of rest, which is called the seventh day, even the true Sabbath. (Methodius. Banquet of the Ten Virgins (Discourse 9). Translated by William R. Clark. From Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 6. Edited by Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1886.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. <http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/062309.htm>)
Yet, after Emperor Constantine views from the Greco-Romans turned negative.
Epiphanius considered those who kept the Nazenes who kept the Holy Days heretical (Ephiphanius. The Panarion of Ephiphanius of Salamis: Book II (sects 1-46) Section 1, Chapter 19, 7-9. Frank Williams, editor. Publisher BRILL, 1987, p. 117-119).
In spite of their biblical origin, the Catholic saint John Chrysostom preached against the Fall Holy Days in 387 A.D.:
The festivals of the pitiful and miserable Jews are soon to march upon us one after the other and in quick succession: the feast of Trumpets, the feast of Tabernacles, the fasts. There are many in our ranks who say they think as we do...If the Jewish ceremonies are venerable and great, our are lies...Does God hate their festivals and do you share in them? He did not say this or that festival, but all of them together (John Chrysostom. Homily I Against the Jews I:5;VI:5;VII:2.. Preached at Antioch, Syria in the Fall of 387 AD. Medieval Sourcebook: Saint John Chrysostom (c.347-407) : Eight Homilies Against the Jews. Fordham University. http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/chrysostom-jews6.html 12/10/05).
Now this actually causes a problem for the Catholic Church. First, it shows that until at least the late fourth century, that some who professed Christ still kept all the Holy Days. But secondly, and more importantly, since the Catholic Church claims that it still keeps a version of Passover (though under the name Easter in English) and Pentecost, then their saint, John Chrysostom, should never have condemned all of the festivals that God gave the Jews. Yet he did.
Furthermore, it needs to be understood John Chrysostom made many non-Christian statements towards Jews, and hence appears to have not been motivated by the word of God or love (more information can be found in the article Did Early Christians Observe the Fall Holy Days?).
The millennial teachings became less popular among the Greco-Romans after Emperor Constantine.
Christians have long realized the millennial connection with the Feast of Tabernacles (cf. Jerome PL 25, 1529 & 1536-7).
Notice the following report related to the Middle Ages:
The Waldenses recognized that they were the true successors of the apostolic church. They kept the SABBATH, also the yearly PASSOVER. And each September or October (in God's seventh month -- see Lev. 23), they held at the headquarters church a great "conference." As many as 700 persons attended from afar. New students were chosen, ministerial assignments were made, AND CROWDS GATHERED DAILY TO LISTEN TO SERMONS. What could this gathering have been but the Feast of Tabernacles! Under the name of Passagini, we have the clearest sort of statement that these people, about 1200, observed the whole Old Testament law, including the Sabbath and FESTIVALS! People called Cathars at Cologne, Germany, kept a fall festival, called "Malilosa", even before Waldo began to preach. Compare this unexplained name with Hebrew "melilah" (a harvested ear of grain -- Strong's Exhaustive Concordance) and the Biblical title "Feast of Ingathering" (Ex. 23:16). How much more we might have known about these Middle Ages' Feasts of Tabernacles had not the Inquisitors so zealously burned the records! The three-part division of tithes paid the Waldensian Church is significant. Even in the 1500's the same division continued. "The money given us by the people is carried to the aforesaid general council, and is delivered in the presence of all, and there it is received by the most ancients (the elders), and part thereof is given to those that are wayfaring men, according to their necessities, and part unto the poor" (George Morel, Waldensian elder, quoted by Lennard, "History of the Waldenses"). 1. Compare this practice with Num. 18:21 and Deut. 14:22-25, 28-29. Isn't it exactly what the Bible commands?... Most authors have ASSUMED the "wayfaring men" were the traveling "barbel." But THEIR expenses would have been paid from the money given the elders, at EVERY time of year, for the direct conduct of the Work -- "first" tithe and offerings. Notice that in Numbers 18:21. What Morel then mentions is a "second" tithe, for those traveling to and from the festivals -- wayfaring men; and following it, the "third" to the poor. See the explanation in Deut. 14. Feast goers who had more "second tithe" than they needed shared their excess with those who had need, even as they do today! (LESSON 51 (1968) AMBASSADOR COLLEGE BIBLE CORRESPONDENCE COURSE "And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place ..." Rev. 12:6).
Furthermore, Sabbath-keepers in Transylvania in the 1500s (and probably later kept) the Fall Holy Days such as the Day of Atonement and the Feast of Trumpets (called Day of Remembrance below):
The Sabbatarians viewed themselves as converted Gentiles..They held to the biblical holidays. (Liechty D. Sabbatarianism in the Sixteenth Century. Andrews University Press, Berrien Springs (MI), 1993, pp. 61-62)
The old Ambassdor College reported that some of the American Sabbath-keepers may have kept the Feast of Tabernacles back then:
The Church in Rhode Island became the MOTHER CHURCH in the United States. It grew slowly for about 30 years. Then in 1708, the enlarged and geographically widespread Newport congregation was officially constituted into two congregations.
The "Westerly" or "Hopkinton" congregation retained the original records — being recognized as the leading or HEADQUARTERS location.
The reason for this transfer is most interesting. Previous to this time, the "Westerly" or "Hopkinton" site had become the regular meeting place for "a YEARLY MEETING" of members from all over! It was at such a meeting — on September 28 (Gregorian calendar) — that the decision was made to establish the new congregation. Details are lacking, but it is highly significant that this date falls during the Feast of Tabernacles of that year!
The earliest of these annual meetings of which we now have record had been held in late May, 1684. Other annual meeting dates consistently fell either during the fall Holy Day season or near Pentecost ("The Seventh Day Baptists in Europe and America", pages 127, 150-152, 174, 602, 614). None of these meetings came at Christmas, Easter, or even in midsummer! This was not mere chance. God's people were, at least in part, attempting to follow the pattern of the Holy Days He had ordained.
In the meantime, a number of other congregations of Sabbath keepers had been formed — mostly of new converts and immigrants from England. And though they recognized their relationship to the mother church in Rhode Island, distance made it necessary for the brethren in New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania to gather in annual meetings in their own areas. These assemblies often sent greetings to each other by letters and delegates. At these times, "the Sabbath, with its general communion, was indeed an HIGH DAY" ("The Seventh Day Baptists in Europe and America", p. 151, emphasis ours).
It was not until much later that the MAJORITY accepted the Protestant idea that God's Holy Days had been done away. (Lesson 53 - I Will Build My Church, Part 5. Ambassador College Correspondence Course, 1969)
And the Fall Holidays are still observed into the 21st century by many Sabbath-keeping Church of God groups, like the Continuing Church of God.
The basic Old Testament understanding of the Feast of Tabernacles is that it was a seven-day celebration of the annual fall harvest and was observed by living in temporary dwellings for the duration of the Feast. (Leviticus 23:33-43) .
The basic New Testament understanding is that this festival pictures the Millennium, the 1000 year period when the earth will be ruled by Jesus Christ and His saints (see also the information in the free online book: Should You Observe God's Holy Days or Demonic Holidays?).
Millenarianism (a literal thousand year reign of Christ on Earth, often called the millennium) was taught by the early Christians. The Bible teaches that the knowledge of the Lord will cover the earth “as the waters cover the sea” (Isaiah 11:9).
During the millennium, Christ will rule as King of kings, and His saints will rule with and under Him for 1,000 years (Revelation 20:4-6). God will restore Israel and will bless all nations that learn to worship Him. The Bible shows that there will be peace and prosperity throughout the earth (Amos 9:11-15, Isaiah 19:24-25). It will be an abundant time for all people and all nations (Micah 4:3-4, Ezekiel 36:33-37) who obey (there will problems for those who stubbornly will at first refuse to obey ). Sickness and disease will be cured (Jeremiah 30:17; Malachi 4:2). Various problems will be removed from the earth (Isaiah 51:11-13; 35:4). The true worship of God and His truths will be taught throughout the world (Isaiah 30:21; Ezekiel 11:19-20, Hebrews 8:11-12; Revelation 20:1-6). The Feast of Tabernacles essentially helps picture God’s kingdom on this earth. The Bible teaches that Christians are to pray, “Thy Kingdom come” (Matthew 6:10). That kingdom will usher in the time when the promise described in Revelation:
More on the Kingdom can be found in the articles The Gospel of the Kingdom of God was the Emphasis of Jesus and the Early Church and Just What Do You Mean the Kingdom of God?
6 Blessed and holy is he who has part in this first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be the priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years. (Revelation 20:6)
The Feast of Tabernacles: Additional Information
The late Herbert W. Armstrong wrote the following:
NOW WE come to the festival of Tabernacles or Feast of Booths the sixth festival. Let us notice the instruction concerning this occasion:
"Thou shalt observe the feast of tabernacles seven days, after that thou hast gathered in thy corn and thy wine. And thou shalt rejoice in thy feast, thou, and thy son, and thy daughter. . . . Seven days shalt thou keep a solemn feast unto the Lord thy God in the place which the Lord shall choose: because the Lord thy God shall bless thee in all thine increase, and in all the works of thine hands, therefore thou shalt surely rejoice . . . and they shall not appear before the Lord empty: every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of the Eternal thy God which he hath given thee" (Deuteronomy 16:13-17).
Here is the Festival of Tabernacles, to be kept for seven days, beginning the 15th day of the seventh month of God's sacred calendar. Notice Leviticus 23:33-35: "And the Eternal spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, The fifteenth day of this seventh month shall be the feast of tabernacles for seven days unto the Eternal. On the first day shall be an holy convocation; ye shall do no servile work therein."
On the first of these days is a holy convocations commanded assembly. No work is to be done. ". . . And ye shall rejoice before the Lord your God seven days. . . . It shall be a statute for ever in your generations: ye shall celebrate it in the seventh month" (Leviticus 23:40- 41).
Notice that it is commanded forever.
Here are pictured those final culminating events in God's great plan: after Christ has died for our sins to redeem mankind after He has sent us the Holy Spirit and picked out a people for His Name to become kings and priests through the thousand years after His glorious Second Coming after He has finally restored the redeemed by placing all the sins upon the head of Satan, their real author, and separating both him and the sins from the presence of God and His people, thus finally perfecting the at-one-ment, making us finally joined in one then we are ready for that final series of events, the commencement of the "Marriage of the Lamb," the actual making of the New Covenant, the establishment of the Kingdom of God on earth and the reaping of the great harvest of souls for a thousand years.
This festival is the picture of the Millennium!
Pictures the Millennium
To portray His plan, God took the yearly material harvest seasons in ancient Israel as the picture of the spiritual harvest of souls. In the Holy Land there are two annual harvests. The first is the spring grain harvest. Second comes the main harvest.
Now notice when the Festival of Tabernacles is to be held "at the year's end" (Exodus 34:22). In this verse the Festival of Tabernacles or Booths is specifically called the "feast of ingathering." The harvest year ended at the beginning of autumn. Just as Pentecost pictures the early harvest this church age, so the Festival of Ingatherings or Tabernacles pictures the fall harvest the great harvest of souls in the Millennium!
Today is not the only day of salvation. Today is a day of salvation. Isaiah said so: chapter 49, verse 8. In fact, the original Greek words of Paul in II Corinthians 6:2 should be translated "a day of salvation," not "the day of salvation."
Turn to the book of Zechariah to understand this more thoroughly. In the 12th and 13th chapters we have a picture of Christ returning and the reconciliation of the world commencing. Here the meaning of the Festivals of Trumpets and Atonement is made plain.
Next, notice the 14th chapter. The time is the Millennium. "And the Lord shall be king over all the earth: in that day shall there be one Lord, and his name one . . . there shall be no more utter destruction; but Jerusalem shall be safely inhabited" (verses 9, 11). It is the time when "living waters" salvation, the Holy Spirit "shall go out from Jerusalem" (verse 8). The "waters" are literal as well as figurative. God often pictures His spiritual plan by material events.
In that day, when the earth is safely inhabited, when the Holy Spirit is granted to all mortal flesh, what happens? "And 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" (verse 16).
Gentiles Forced to Keep the Feast of Tabernacles
Notice this 16th verse of Zechariah 14. After Christ returns, the nations mortal Gentiles who have not yet received salvation will come to Jerusalem to keep the Feast of Tabernacles! How could they keep a festival that was abolished at the cross? They could keep it only if it were commanded forever.
And what will happen if they refuse to obey God? "And it shall be, that who so will not come up of all the families of the earth unto Jerusalem to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, even upon them shall be no rain." Strong words these!
The nations will be forced to keep the Feast of Tabernacles, from year to year, when Christ is ruling with a rod of iron!
And if the nations still won't obey? ". . . there shall be the plague, wherewith the Lord will smite the heathen" there are still heathen nations just beginning to learn the way of salvation "that come not up to keep the feast of tabernacles. This shall be the punishment . . . of all nations that come not up to keep the feast of tabernacles" (verses 18-19).
To receive salvation even the Gentiles will have to keep this festival. Of course, it is commanded forever!
Now we customarily quote Isaiah 66:23, showing that the Sabbath will be kept in the Millennium, as proof we must keep it now. Will we, then, when we read Zechariah 14:16, showing that the Feast of Tabernacles will be kept in the Millennium, be consistent by keeping it today?
Can we qualify as a son of God a king and priest ruling with Christ on His throne, assisting Christ at that time, if we now refuse to keep these festivals? Notice that Christ kept the Feast of Tabernacles. The Apostle John devoted an entire chapter of his gospel the seventh chapter to describe what Jesus said and did during the Feast of Tabernacles in the last year of His ministry.
Why Called the Feast of Tabernacles
During the Millennium, the Kingdom of God into which we may be born will rule the nations which are composed of mortal men begotten by the Spirit of God. The billions of mortal men alive during the Millennium will still be heirs to the Kingdom of God. They will not yet have inherited it as long as they remain mortal flesh, for "flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God" (I Corinthians 15:50). "Ye must be born again" "of the Spirit" to inherit the Kingdom, said Jesus.
Remember that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were merely heirs when they dwelled on earth (Hebrews 11:9). While heirs they dwelled in tabernacles or booths, sojourning in the land of promise. Booths or temporary dwellings pictured that they were not yet inheritors. Thus we read of the Feast of Tabernacles that "ye shall dwell in booths seven days . . . that your generations may know that I made the children of Israel to dwell in booths, when I brought them out of the land of Egypt" (Leviticus 23:42-43). Israel dwelled in booths in the wilderness before they entered the promised land. Those booths pictured that they were only heirs. Even during the Millennium, when the Kingdom of God is ruling over mortal nations, the people will be only heirs to the Kingdom. They must overcome and grow in knowledge and wisdom to inherit the promises.
What a marvelous picture. God says of Ephraim (a type of all Israel) that they will "dwell in tabernacles, as in the days of the solemn feast" (Hosea 12:9). Israel, in the wilderness, was a type of all people who must go through trials and tribulations to inherit the promises. They were wanderers, waiting to inherit the promises of salvation.
The contention, held by some sects, that mortal human beings in the Millennium will remain flesh and blood forever is plainly denied by the Feast of Tabernacles, for the festival itself points toward an eternal inheritance.
Besides, after Jesus gathers the Church to Himself, and after He is seated on His throne where we will be ruling with Him, He will gather the nations before Him and say: "Inherit the Kingdom" (Matthew 25:34). (Armstrong HW. Pagan Holidays or God's Holy Days Which? booklet)
The term Feast of Tabernacles signifies that this is a festival with a connection to tabernacling with God.
14 Knowing that shortly I must put off this my tabernacle, even as our Lord Jesus Christ hath shewed me.
15 Moreover I will endeavour that ye may be able after my decease to have these things always in remembrance. (2 Peter 1:14-15, KJV)
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 upon with our house which is from heaven:
3 If so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked.
4 For we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened: not for that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life. (2 Corinthians 5:1-4, KJV)
The NKJV translates the word for 'tabernacle' in the KJV as 'tent.' But tabernacling better conveys the concept.
Those who profess Christ and keep the Feast of Tabernacles can better understand what the New Testament (as well as Old) is teaching about tabernacling.
Notice the following from the Old Testament:
4 I will abide in Your tabernacle forever;
I will trust in the shelter of Your wings. (Psalms 61:4)
While there will a thousand year period of tabernacling in the millennial Kingdom of God, ultimately--in a time after the millennium--there will be a permanent tabernacling. This is confirmed in the New Testament:
1 Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. 2 Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. 4 And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away." (Revelation 21:1-4)
Keeping the Feast of Tabernacles points not only to the millennium, but also to the time of permanent tabernacling with God.
This present world is passing away, but the final phase of the Kingdom of God will abide forever.
The Eighth Day (also Known as "The Last Great Day")
The seven day Feast of Tabernacles is immediately followed by the eighth day. Christians normally call this the ''Last Great Day'' based on these statement from Jesus in John 7:37-38,
37 On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, "If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. 38 He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water."
According to an old, but probably modified in the 4th century document, it seems that Polycarp observed the Feast of Tabernacles in the second century including the Last Great Day:
I will give the narration in order, thus coming down to the history of the blessed Polycarp...
So also he pursued the reading of the Scriptures from childhood to old age, himself reading in church; and he recommended it to others, saying that the reading of the law and the prophets was the forerunner of grace, preparing and making straight the ways of the Lord, that is the hearts, which are like tablets whereon certain harsh beliefs and conceptions that were written before perfect knowledge came, are through the inculcation of the Old Testament, and the correct interpretation following thereupon, first smoothed and levelled, that, when the Holy Spirit comes as a pen, the grace and joy of the voice of the Gospel and of the doctrine of the immortal and heavenly Christ may be inscribed on them. And he said that they could not otherwise receive the impression of the seal which is given by baptism and engrave and exhibit the form conveyed in it, unless the wax were first softened and filled the deep parts. So also he thought that the hearts of the hearers ought to be softened and yield to the impress of the Word. For he said that it unfolded and opened, like closed doors, the minds of recent comers; and accordingly the prophet was bidden by God, Cry out mightily and spare not, Raise thy voice as a trumpet. What must one say, when even He that was gentler than all men so appeals and cries out at the feast of Tabernacles? For it is written; And on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried saying, If any man thirsteth, let him come to Me and drink. (Pionius, Life of Polycarp (1889) from J. B. Lightfoot, The Apostolic Fathers, vol. 3.2, pp.488-506.)
Although it is adjacent to the Feast of Tabernacles, this eighth day is considered a separate Feast (Leviticus 23:36, 39. This eighth day helps picture the coming "Great White Throne Judgment" at which all of humanity that had not previously been truly called will have the chance to hear the real Gospel and accept God's offer salvation (see alsoUniversal Offer of Salvation: There Are Hundreds of Verses in the Bible Supporting the Doctrine of True Apocatastasis and Hope of Salvation: How the Continuing Church of God differ from most Protestants).
While pagans have had holidays for the dead, the Last Great Day is really the "Day of the Dead". That is those that were spiritually and physically dead will be resurrected to have their opportunity for salvation (see also Hope of Salvation: How the COGs differ from most Protestants and Universal Salvation? There Are Hundreds of Verses in the Bible Supporting the Doctrine of True Apocatastasis).
Here is some of what the late Herbert W. Armstrong taught about the Last Great Day:
This eighth day, technically a separate feast, is called "the last day, that great day of the feast" (John 7:37).
What does this final holy day represent?
Notice what Jesus preached about on that day: "If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink . . . out of his belly [innermost being] shall flow rivers of living water. (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive . . .)" (John 7:37-39).
This was Jesus' sermon giving the meaning of the last great day!
Now turn to Revelation 20. After the Millennium, what happens? A resurrection! The dead stand before God. This couldn't include true Christians today, as they will appear before the judgment seat when Christ returns. It couldn't refer to those converted during the Millennium. They have already inherited the Kingdom during the Millennium, after living out a normal life-span. Those in this resurrection must be those who died in ignorance in past ages! They are not brought to life until after the Millennium (Revelation 20:5).
This is that judgment day mentioned in Matthew 10: 15. It is a time when Gentiles who died in ignorance will be given an opportunity to receive salvation. Ezekiel 16:53-55 makes this very plain. Even those in Israel who died in their sins will be given their first opportunity to understand the truth of God and His way (Ezekiel 37). The prophet wrote that God would pour out His Spirit on those resurrected (verse 14). This is precisely the salvation that Jesus mentioned in His sermon on that great day of the feast in the autumn of AD 30.
This eighth day, which immediately follows the seven days of the Feast of Tabernacles, pictures the completion of the plan of redemption. It is just prior to the new heaven and the new earth. All parents and children, young and old will be resurrected. Notice that the "book of life" typifying salvation is opened (Revelation 20:12). Revelation presents the final view of the "judgment day" as the present material heaven and earth are perishing and the faithful are receiving their eternal reward at the throne of Christ. The wicked those who disobey are seen perishing in the lake of fire! What a marvelous plan! All will have an equal opportunity (Armstrong HW. Pagan Holidays--or God’s Holy Days—Which?, booklet).
Isaiah prophesied how long the White Throne Judgment period would last. During this time Christ and the resurrected saints will rule. It is the time of the second resurrection. The earth will be as peaceful and productive as the Millennium itself. Children who died will live again for one hundred years, building character through the power of God's Holy Spirit. Older people who had died without knowing God's plan for them will also be resurrected to live for one hundred years. The close of the one-hundred-year White Throne Judgment is pictured by John in Revelation 20:11-12…100 years of testing…Isa. 65:20. (Bible Correspondence Course, Lesson 39. 1954, 1965 Edition).
A major reason that I became part of the old Worldwide Church of God (the group that took over WCG stopped observing biblical holy days) and remain part of the genuine Church of God is that in addition to proving all things from the Bible, I truly believe that since "God is love" (1 John 4:16) that He has a plan of salvation that will ultimately result in everyone being called and nearly every one who ever lived being saved.
Two must read articles to demonstrate the truth of those doctrines are Hope of Salvation: How the Continuing Church of God differs from most Protestants and Universal Salvation? There Are Hundreds of Verses in the Bible Supporting the Doctrine of True Apocatastasis.
More on the eighth day is found in the article The Last Great Day: 'Shemini Azeret.
How do Christians observe these Holy Days today?
Well, part of it is based upon the teachings of the Old Testament and part of it on the New Testament.
Recall that Deuteronomy 14:22-26 teaches:
22 "You shall truly tithe all the increase of your grain that the field produces year by year. 23 And you shall eat before the Lord your God, in the place where He chooses to make His name abide, the tithe of your grain and your new wine and your oil, of the firstborn of your herds and your flocks, that you may learn to fear the Lord your God always. 24 But if the journey is too long for you, so that you are not able to carry the tithe, or if the place where the Lord your God chooses to put His name is too far from you, when the Lord your God has blessed you, 25 then you shall exchange it for money, take the money in your hand, and go to the place which the Lord your God chooses. 26 And you shall spend that money for whatever your heart desires: for oxen or sheep, for wine or similar drink, for whatever your heart desires; you shall eat there before the Lord your God, and you shall rejoice, you and your household.
Because of this, Christians in the tend to go somewhere for the Fall festivals. The primary (if not only) location for the old Radio Church of God (which became the old Worldwide Church of God) was in Belknap Springs, Oregon. Herbert W. Armstrong attended the feast of Tabernacles there from at least 1946-1951 (he may have also attended there in later years). When our family went to the Feast in Oregon one year, we visited Belnap Springs and took the following photographs:
River at Belknap Springs and the building that services for the Feast of Tabernacles for 1946-1951 were held.
In the 21st century, the Continuing Church of God has some sites in scatted locations around the world such as Africa, North America, and the South Pacific (see Feast of Tabernacles' Sites for 2015). Here are sermons that were given at a few of those sites in 2013:
Here are some messages from 2014:
For opening night, you could watch the short message that was prepared for this: Feast of Tabernacles Opening Night Message.
Feast of Tabernacles from Israel This was videoed in Israel to be played at the Feast of Tabernacles and is on the Feast of Tabernacles.
Behind the Work: Go Therefore and Make Disciples Highlights what has been happening in the Continuing Church of God and showing what it has been doing since the last Feast of Tabernacles.
Christian Pilgrims This was given in Orlando, Florida in 2014.
Messianic Jewish Beliefs This was given in Orlando, Florida in 2014.
The Temple, Prophecy, and the Work This was given in Orlando, Florida in 2014.
Human Nature: Where Did it Come From? This was given in Orlando, Florida in 2014.
The Future Kingdom of God This was given in Orlando, Florida in 2014.
Tradition and Scripture This was given in Orlando, Florida in 2014.
For the Last Great Day (which ends at October 16 at sunset this year), we recommend that you watch the sermon given last year on that date (which only those in Orlando, Florida, heard on the Last Great Day in 2014): Shemini Azaret: The Last Great Day.
Here is a link to a new sermon made watched to be watched during the Feast of Tabernacles in 2015: Millennial Utopia.
Here is a link to a new sermonette made to be watched during the Feast of Tabernacles in 2015: Behind The Work 2015: Technology and the Gospel.
Here are links to sermons giiven in 2015 at the Feast of Tabernacles in the USA and Canada:
Here is a link to a sermon for the Feast of Tabernacles in 2016: Christianity and the Feast of Tabernacles.
Here is a link to a message for the Feast of Tabernacles in 2016:. Behind the Work 2016: All Nations, Tribes, People, and Tonques.
Here is a link to a sermontte for the Feast of Tabernacles in 2016: Where Did God Come From?
Here is a link to an offertory: Feast of Tabernacles Offertory.
Here is a link to an offertory: Last Great Day Offertory.
More can be found in the article: Feast of Tabernacles' Sites for 2017.
Our family has been to Australia, the Bahamas, Barbados, Belgium, Canada, Fiji, Greece/Turkey, Guatemala, Italy, Jamaica, Malaysia, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Sri Lanka, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and various states in the USA for the Feast of Tabernacles (all in different years, except Greece and Turkey which was combined via a cruise).
Jesus Himself attended the Feast (John 7:10-26).
Normally, attendees at the Feast go to church services for two hours most days, and sometimes have two services on one or more of the Holy Days (first day of the Feast, the Sabbath, and the Last Great Day). Sermons often focus on the Kingdom of God, the law of God, and the Millennial reign of Christ, though pretty much any topic of Christian interest can be covered.
The Church normally has some type of family day activity for one day, often also a dance or social event at least one evening, and sometimes organizes group activities.
The time not at services or church activities is essentially free time, and people tend to go to restaurants, go sight-seeing, view the creation, meditate, participate in local activities, fellowship with Christians not normally possible, and/or otherwise attempt to enjoy being away from most of the cares of their normal lives.
Those who can will travel (Deuteronomy 14:23-26) go to a Feast site. Those who cannot may wish to consider the possibility to not sleep in their houses during the time of the Feast. If they are physically and financially able, they may wish to try to sleep in some type of temporary dwelling like a hotel, motel, camper, or a tent (including perhaps one in one's own home). In ancient Israel, those who did not travel (as well as native Israelites that did) made 'booths' of branches on top of their roofs (Leviticus 23:40) and slept in them for the seven days of the Feast (Leviticus 23:42), and some slept for the entire eight days (though th e Bible only mentions seven days). Staying in 'temporary dwellings,' of whatever sort, helps convey that this age is temporal and a new millennial age is coming.
The first day of the Feast of Tabernacles is kept like a Sabbath, as it is also a day of rest and a holy convocation as is the eighth day, also known as the Last Great Day (John 7:37). Christians should pray and attend services and/or watch messages on each of the eight days. An offering is normally also taken up on the first and eighth day (cf. Deuteronomy 16:16). But the other days are NOT kept like the Sabbath, meaning that one can engage in regular physical work on those days.
Also, if you attend, remember to be an ambassador for Jesus Christ and God's Kingdom:
Ambassadors for the Kingdom
...Infused with godly hope and vision, we should resolve to act as ambassadors for the Kingdom of God (II Cor. 5:20). A key part in this we have already covered — following instructions. Another important part we all have to play is to prepare, mentally and spiritually, to endure some inconveniences at the Feast. There are no perfect Feast sites, for the Church itself is still imperfect.
Resolve now, well ahead of time, to accept trials and setbacks as challenges, hurdles to overcome, prods to our resourcefulness, stimulants (Isa. 1:4). Be thankful for sticky problems (Rom. 5:3). ...
"Peculiar people" (I Pet. 2:9)? Yes! Peculiar and unconquerable (Rom. 8:37). Some get frustrated at the mammoth crowds at some Feast sites. They abandon as hopeless one of the special benefits of the Feast of Tabernacles — the mutual support and strength derived from active fellowship with other members of the Body of Christ (I Cor. 12:14). Try this. Rather than selfishly resenting the big crowds, take the brethren one at a time. Radiate warmth and affection for those around you (Prov. 15:15). A little leaven does leaven the whole lump, after all (I Cor. 5:6).
These people at the Festival are our brethren, everyone of them purchased with the shed blood of Christ (Acts 20:28). Some have their own successful businesses. Some are Ph.D.s. Some have fought wars in far-flung parts of the world. Some are pressured ladies with hostile mates waiting at home. Some are single parents walking the financial and emotional tightrope.
Many are strangers, lonely, widows and new members who don't know a soul. And you can help. Maybe your family has a little time on its hands. Perhaps as a single adult you have a little extra second tithe. Why not set aside some time for some of the loners you notice? This is a foretaste of your role in the Kingdom of God. It's living like Jesus Christ: "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me" (Matt. 25:40).
More blessed to give
Hundreds of brethren each year find that the Feast of Tabernacles was the pivotal experience to bring them out of themselves a little more — the time they learned more deeply how much more blessed it is to give than receive (Acts 20:35). ...
Of course, when hundreds and hundreds of God's people gather we should all understand that there are scores of new members with children trying to "learn the ropes," or teens not yet convinced that this is for them. The Feast is an excellent time for us all to learn the big picture: "Who art thou that judgest another man's servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth" (Rom. 14:4).
Give people the benefit of the doubt. Nothing short-circuits our own joy like petty criticism and self-righteous nit-picking (Gal. 5:15). Learning to understand and tolerate other people is a requirement for successful community relationships, an essential character trait required in those called to government posts in the Kingdom of God. Perhaps now we grasp more clearly the dynamic lessons and principles permeating each Feast of Tabernacles!
The fact is that humanity has lost the art of successful human relationships. Yet each Feast site is a miniature community, after all, a minute foretaste of an organizational pattern based on God's law of give. The lesson? Enjoying other people, learning to tolerate their idiosyncrasies, submitting to order and directions — all this is pioneering a way out for a hopeless humanity (Isa. 59:9, Matt. 5:14).
God's kind of Christianity works! It transforms people. It leavens community relations (Matt. 13:33). It will change the world, ultimately.
As one dedicated, highly motivated, submissive implement in God's hands, God's people will write another lesson of order and unity at the...Feast of Tabernacles. The stakes are high: Can God take multiple thousands of human beings, give them His Spirit and produce not just unity and order, but rejoicing? If so, we have discovered the practical keys to peace on earth.
What a challenge — what a calling! Will we grasp it more clearly this year at God's great Feast of Tabernacles, a feast of joy? (Earle N. Make This a Feast of Joy. Good News, September 1982)
The following link has a calendar of when the Feast of Tabernacles is: Holy Day Calendar.
The Feast of Tabernacles is significant for Christians. It pictures the reality of Christ's reign on the earth and that this current world is simply temporal
In its Statement of Beliefs, the Continuing Church of God states:
The Feast of Tabernacles, which shows a time of abundance, helps picture the millennial kingdom reign (Revelation 20:4-5) of Jesus Christ and His saints on the earth (Zechariah 14; Matthew 9:37-38; 13:1-30; Luke 12:32; John 7:6-14; Acts 17:31; Revelation 5:10, 11:15; 12:9). This future paradise, following the near total destruction that humanity will have brought upon itself through its activities and the Great Tribulation and Day of the Lord (Matthew 24:21-31), will help show humanity the advantages of God’s way of life. Every seven years, the law is to be read during this festival (Deuteronomy 31:10-13).
The Last Great Day helps picture that all who ever lived will have a real opportunity for salvation (John 7:37-38; Isaiah 52:10,13-15; 65:20; Luke 3:6)--an opportunity most will accept (John 7:37-39; Romans 11:25-26; Ezekiel 37:11-14; Hebrews 9:27-28). The New Testament name comes from the Apostle John who wrote, “On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, "If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water." (John 7:37-38).
Because of its New Testament references and connections, the Feast of Tabernacles is something that should be highly relevant for Christians. In spite of this, a least one fourth century leader, who had antisemetic tendencies, condemned this day and other Fall Holy Days (see article Did Early Christians Observe the Fall Holy Days?)--however, the Bible itself shows that the Feast of Tabernacles is important for Christians.
The Bible teaches:
18 Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he. (Proverbs 29:18, KJV)
18 Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint; But happy is he who keeps the law. (Proverbs 29:18, NKJV)
God reveals His plan of salvation through His Holy Days.
Observing the Feast of Tabernacles helps us have the vision of the coming millennial Kingdom of God. By observing it, we get a better understanding of what the millennium will be like. People who keep the Feast of Tabernacles are also happy to do so.
Perhaps it might be helpful to realize that Catholics do admit that early Christians (sometimes called Nazarenes, see Nazarene Christianity: Were the Original Christians Nazarenes?) did observe the Feast of Tabernacles:
St. Jerome (PL 25, 1529 & 1536-7) speaking of how the Judaeo-Christians celebrated the Feast of Tabernacles…tells us that they gave the feast a millenarian significance (Bagatti, Bellarmino. Translated by Eugene Hoade. The Church from the Circumcision. Nihil obstat: Marcus Adinolfi. Imprimi potest: Herminius Roncari. Imprimatur: +Albertus Gori, die 26 Junii 1970. Franciscan Printing Press, Jerusalem, p.202).
Here is some of the actual Latin, from PL 1529 & 1535-1536 that Jerome wrote:
1529...Judæi et Christiani judaizantes... Judæi Christiani…1535-1536... Omnes, inquit, qui relicti fuerint de gentibus quae venerint contra Jerusalem, ascendent per singulos annos, ut adorent regem Dominum exercituum, et celebrent festivitatem Tabernaculorum. Hæc quoque Judei cassa spe in mille annorum regno futura promittunt, cujus solemnitatis istud exordium est:
(It is typed by hand from that shown in Catholica Omnia Tabulinum De Ecclesiae Patribus Doctoribusque Materia Migne JP Argumentum Patrologia Latina Volumen MPL025 Ab Columna ad Culumnam 1415 - 1542A, pp. 922, 930 http://www.documentacatholicaomnia.eu/02m/0347-0420,_Hieronymus,_Commentariorum_In_Zachariam_Prophetam_Libri_Duo,_MLT.pdf and is part of http://www.documentacatholicaomnia.eu/1815-1875,_Migne,_Patrologia_Latina_01._Rerum_Conspectus_Pro_Tomis_Ordinatus,_MLT.html which is related to http://www.documentacatholicaomnia.eu/25_20_25-_Rerum_Conspectus_Pro_Auctoribus_Ordinatus.html)
Here is a basically Google-machine translation of the above with minor adjustments for English that Jerome wrote:
Jews and Christian judaizers…Christian Jews… All, he says, those who remain survivors of the nations that come against Jerusalem, shall go up every year, to worship the King the Lord of hosts, and to keep the feast of Tabernacles. These also shall hope in, through the hollow devotion of Jews, a thousand years old promise of the future kingdom, whose festival this is the beginning of.
So, just like those Jerome observed in the 4th/5th centuries who had the revealed vision of God's plan, we in the Continuing Church of God also believe that the Feast of Tabernacles foreshadows the coming millennium. Living in temporary dwellings, while spending second tithe to rejoice (Deuteronomy 14:22-26), helps picture the abundance of the millennium.
And the eighth day festival pictures that salvation will be offered to all humankind (see also The Last Great Day: Shemini 'Azeret).
Jesus, Paul, and true Christians kept these Holy Days. Though they were condemned by one who called Jews "miserable," this does not change the fact that they are taught in the Bible and were observed by true Christians.
Sadly, since most professing Christianity do not keep these days and the other Christian Holy Days, they often do not have a proper view of God's plan of salvation. They tend to focus more on the world and the things of the world--they do not understand much of what God is doing.
These day picture not only what has happened but what will happen.
This is information that Christians living in these latter days should value.
We who observe the Feast of Tabernacles realize that it pictures that God’s millennial kingdom truly will come.
Christians should also consider that the Bible also shows that God will later “tabernacle” with His people for all eternity (Revelation 21:3).
Keeping the Feast of Tabernacles now is a foretaste of things to come.
Where is the Feast of Tabernacles held? Check out Feast of Tabernacles' Sites for 2018. These are the publicly announced sites thus far; other groups also have sites. Two related sermon videos include Feast of Tabernacles from Israel and Should Christians keep the Feast of Tabernacles?
More information on the Holy Days can be found in the free booklet: Should You Observe God's Holy Days or Demonic Holidays? as well as the articles:
Hope of Salvation: How the Continuing Church of God Differs from Protestantism
Universal Salvation? There Are Hundreds of Verses in the Bible Supporting the Doctrine of True Apocatastasis
Is There "An Annual Worship Calendar" In the Bible?
The Feast of Tabernacles: A Time to Learn the Law
Did Early Christian Teach Millenarianism? (a literal thousand year reign of Christ on Earth, often called the millennium)
Should Christians Keep the Days of Unleavened Bread?
Melito's Homily on the Passover
The Book of Life and the Feast of Trumpets?
The Day of Atonement--Its Christian Significance
Holy Day Calendar
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