Christians are to Be Strangers and Pilgrims?

By COGwriter

Are Christians supposed to be strangers and pilgrims in this life?

(A related video sermon is titled Christian Pilgrims.)

The Bible teaches that they are (1 Peter 2:11, KJV).

Partially because of that, faithful Christians keep the Feast of Tabernacles, which helps remind them of it.

The first specific mention of that festival in the Bible is in Leviticus 23:

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. (Leviticus 23:33-35, NKJV, throughout except as elsewhere indicated)

The word translated as tabernacles in Leviticus 23:34 is defined as:

hut or lair:

KJV - booth, cottage, covert, pavilion, tabernacle, tent.
(Biblesoft's New Exhaustive Strong's Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary. Copyright © 1994, 2003, 2006 Biblesoft, Inc. and International Bible Translators, Inc.)

It conveys the concept of "temporary dwellings or abodes." Let's notice another translation of that verse:

"Tell the Israelites, 'On the fifteenth day of this seventh month is the Festival of Temporary Shelters for seven days to the LORD. (Leviticus 23:34, NET Bible)

The Feast of Tabernacles is the Feast of Temporary Shelters. When God ordained this Feast in ancient Israel, He instructed the Israelites to build booths or lean-tos to dwell in for the duration of the Festival (Leviticus 23:40-43).

Notice two translations of Leviticus 23:42-43:

42 Live in temporary shelters for seven days: All native-born Israelites are to live in such shelters 43 so your descendants will know that I had the Israelites live in temporary shelters when I brought them out of Egypt. I am the LORD your God. (Leviticus 23:42-43, NIV)

42 You must live in temporary shelters for seven days; every native citizen in Israel must live in temporary shelters, so that your future generations may know that I made the Israelites live in temporary shelters when I brought them out from the land of Egypt. I am the LORD your God. (Leviticus 23:42-43, NET Bible)

The modern counterpart of these booths would be hotels, motels, tents, and other places of temporary residence.

Why are tents and motel rooms acceptable 'tabernacles' as opposed to only dwelling in palm-branch huts? Here are some items to consider:

Many suggest that since Leviticus is part of the Old Testament that this means nothing for us today. Yet the Bible teaches that we are to learn from what happened to the "congregation in the wilderness" (Acts 7:38)--the children of Israel (1 Corinthians 10:1-11). And the children of Israel dwelled in booths to remind them about their travels out of physical Egypt. Christians are reminded that we are living in the midst of a world that is under Satan's sway that is a type of spiritual Egypt.

We should not dismiss this and think it is not important:

11 Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.

12 Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. (1 Corinthians 10:11-12)

Now, just like in the days of the old Radio/Worldwide Church of God, some brethren cannot get to the Feast sites. If they cannot make it, the Continuing Church of God encourages them to somehow dwell in a temporary shelter:

The Feast of Tabernacles is different.  Those who can, will travel (Deuteronomy 14:23-26) go to a Feast site.  They tend to keep a second tithe of their increase for this purpose (see Is Second Tithe and Third Tithe Still Valid Today?). Those who cannot travel to a site may wish to consider the possibility of not sleeping in their usual locations 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 the Bible only mentions seven days).  Staying in ‘temporary dwellings,’ of whatever sort (and we are not advocating roof top dwellings), helps convey during the time of the Feast of Tabernacles that this age is temporal and a new millennial age is coming. (Thiel B. Letter to the Brethren: September 11, 2014)

Still, for the duration of the Feast, those who cannot come should be involved in a daily routine of services, meals and activities that is different from what they do the rest of the year.

For the majority in God's Church, however, travel and living outside their homes continues to be an integral part of the Feast observance. The Bible teaches that people should "go to the place which the Lord your God chooses" (Deuteronomy 14:25).

Why go or why change your routine?

Other than the fact that God commands such, the answer lies in the meaning of the Feast of Temporary Dwellings.

Christians Do Not Fit in With the World

For this brief period of the year, God's people get to partake of a style and quality of life quite different from their normal routines.

Many in the world who claim to be Christian think the idea of actually keeping the Feast of Tabernacles is strange or somehow was done away.

Of course, the idea of real followers of Christ not fitting in with the world is no surprise.

Here are some of Jesus' teachings:

24 "No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.

25 "Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?

28 "So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; 29 and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?

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. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. (Matthew 6:24-34)

22 Then He said to His disciples, "Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; nor about the body, what you will put on. 23 Life is more than food, and the body is more than clothing. 24 Consider the ravens, for they neither sow nor reap, which have neither storehouse nor barn; and God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds? 25 And which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? 26 If you then are not able to do the least, why are you anxious for the rest? 27 Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 28 If then God so clothes the grass, which today is in the field and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will He clothe you, O you of little faith?

29 "And do not seek what you should eat or what you should drink, nor have an anxious mind. 30 For all these things the nations of the world seek after, and your Father knows that you need these things. 31 But seek the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added to you.

32 "Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom. 33 Sell what you have and give alms; provide yourselves money bags which do not grow old, a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches nor moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Luke 12:22-34)

Jesus more that taught about how Christians do not fit in this world:

14 I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 15 I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth. 18 As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. 19 And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also may be sanctified by the truth. (John 17:14-19)

36 Jesus answered, "My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here." (John 18:36)

While Jesus taught that the world would not love Christians, the Apostle John wrote that Christians were not to love the world as Satan deceived it:

15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world — the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life — is not of the Father but is of the world. 17 And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.

18 Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour. 19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us.

20 But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you know all things. 21 I have not written to you because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and that no lie is of the truth. (1 John 2:15-21)

9 the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world (Revelation 12:9).

Does that last verse mean that we are to remain deceived?

The Apostle Peter taught:

1 Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking, 2 as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby, 3 if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious.

The Apostle Peter continued with:

4 Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, 5 you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 Therefore it is also contained in the Scripture, "Behold, I lay in Zion A chief cornerstone, elect, precious, And he who believes on Him will by no means be put to shame."

7 Therefore, to you who believe, He is precious; but to those who are disobedient, "The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief cornerstone," 8 and "A stone of stumbling And a rock of offense."

They stumble, being disobedient to the word, to which they also were appointed.

9 But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; 10 who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy.

11 Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul, 12 having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation. (1 Peter 2:1-12)

Polycarp of Smyrna, ordained a Bishop/Pastor/Overseer by the apostles, started his Polycarp's Letter to the Philippians with the following:

Polycarp, and the presbyters with him, to the Church of God sojourning at Philippi (Polycarp's Letter to the Philippians)

So, he wrote that the Christians in the Church of God were sojourning at Philippi. The idea that Christians were to be sojourners and pilgrims was retained by him.

Christians are supposed to be building a spiritual home now, one that will last eternally, as Christians are the people of God and not of the world.

9 But as it is written:

"Eye has not seen, nor ear heard,
Nor have entered into the heart of man
The things which God has prepared for those who love Him."

10 But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. (1 Corinthians 2:9-10)

What we are looking for is different as well as wonderful. We understand many of the mysteries of the Gospel of the Kingdom of God (Luke 8:10) that the world does not know or accept.

Old Testament Examples for the New Testament

While there are things that the children of Israel did that Christians should not, the New Testament teaches that there were examples of God's people not fitting in with the world in more ancient times. Notice some comments about positive examples in the Old Testament:

1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. 2 For by it the elders obtained a good testimony.
3 By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.

4 By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts; and through it he being dead still speaks. (Hebrews 11:1-4)

Abel was willing to give God's way (see also Tithing Questions and Some Answers).

5 By faith Enoch was taken away so that he did not see death, "and was not found, because God had taken him"; for before he was taken he had this testimony, that he pleased God. 6 But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.

7 By faith Noah, being divinely warned of things not yet seen, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his household, by which he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith. (Hebrews 11:5-7)

Noah was wealthy. He had to have been in order to build the ark. But he believed God and built a big, expensive ark nowhere near a large body of water.

8 By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. 9 By faith he dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise; 10 for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God. (Hebrews 11:8-10)

Abraham was also wealthy. He was living in a modern city for the time, with whatever modern comforts were available, and he left as he believed God and he went to live in temporary dwellings. Why? Because he believed God and became an example for us:

6... Abraham "believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness." 7 Therefore know that only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham. (Galatians 3:6-7)

What about his wife?

11 By faith Sarah herself also received strength to conceive seed, and she bore a child when she was past the age, because she judged Him faithful who had promised. 12 Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born as many as the stars of the sky in multitude — innumerable as the sand which is by the seashore. (Hebrews 11:11-12)

Sarah went and dwelled with Abraham in temporary dwellings. Dwellings away from the modern stores and other things she probably was used to.

All of them believed God's word and lived as God said.

Now what happened to Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, and others?

13 These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. 14 For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland. 15 And truly if they had called to mind that country from which they had come out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them. (Hebrews 11:13-16)

Christians are to be the sons and daughters of Abraham now and "[f]or the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy" (Revelation 19:10)--the faithful of old believed the prophetic word themselves instead of being part of the world. We need to be willing to be sojourners and not think of ourselves as part of the world.

Can a sojourn last years or a lifetime?

According to the Bible, yes. Notice the following:

40 Now the sojourn of the children of Israel who lived in Egypt was four hundred and thirty years. (Exodus 12:40)

Four hundred and thirty years is longer than most everybody lives. So, yes, our entire Christian lives can be considered as a sojourn.

Notice some of what the English Standard Bible translation tells about Abraham and Isaac:

1 Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. 2 And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” 4 So Abram went, as the Lord had told him, and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran. 5 And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother’s son, and all their possessions that they had gathered, and the people that they had acquired in Haran, and they set out to go to the land of Canaan. When they came to the land of Canaan, 6 Abram passed through the land to the place at Shechem, to the oak of Moreh. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. 7 Then the Lord appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So he built there an altar to the Lord, who had appeared to him. 8 From there he moved to the hill country on the east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east. And there he built an altar to the Lord and called upon the name of the Lord. 9 And Abram journeyed on, still going toward the Negeb. Abram and Sarai in Egypt 10 Now there was a famine in the land. So Abram went down to Egypt to sojourn there, for the famine was severe in the land. (Genesis 12:1-10).

1 Now there was a famine in the land, besides the former famine that was in the days of Abraham. And Isaac went to Gerar to Abimelech king of the Philistines. 2 And the Lord appeared to him and said, “Do not go down to Egypt; dwell in the land of which I shall tell you. 3 Sojourn in this land, and I will be with you and will bless you, for to you and to your offspring I will give all these lands, and I will establish the oath that I swore to Abraham your father. 4 I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and will give to your offspring all these lands. And in your offspring all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, 5 because Abraham obeyed my voice and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws.” Isaac and Abimelech 6 So Isaac settled in Gerar. (Genesis 26:1-6)

Abraham had a very long series of sojourns, apparently for 100 years as he lived to be 175 (Genesis 25:7-8).

Not Always Easy

It was not easy for the wealthy to give up wealth and sojourn.

Notice the following:

23 Then Jesus said to His disciples, "Assuredly, I say to you that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."

25 When His disciples heard it, they were greatly astonished, saying, "Who then can be saved?"

26 But Jesus looked at them and said to them, "With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible." (Matthew 19:23-26)

So, it has always been difficult for the wealthy. But Simon Peter wanted to know about what would happen for he and the disciples, who though not wealthy, had become sojourners following Jesus:

27 Then Peter answered and said to Him, "See, we have left all and followed You. Therefore what shall we have?"

28 So Jesus said to them, "Assuredly I say to you, that in the regeneration, when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29 And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My name's sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life. 30 But many who are first will be last, and the last first. (Matthew 19:27-30)

Peter thought what he and the other disciples did was difficult.

Of course, it is also difficult for the poor and suffering, but Jesus taught about them as well:

3 "Blessed are the poor in spirit,
For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 Blessed are those who mourn,
For they shall be comforted.
5 Blessed are the meek,
For they shall inherit the earth. (Matthew 5:3-5)

20 Then He lifted up His eyes toward His disciples, and said:

"Blessed are you poor,
For yours is the kingdom of God.
21 Blessed are you who hunger now,
For you shall be filled.
Blessed are you who weep now,
For you shall laugh. (Luke 6:20-21)

Jesus became poor to live in this world:

9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich. (2 Corinthians 8:9)

Jesus Himself was a stranger and sojourner in this world:

10 He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. 11 He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. 12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: 13 who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:10-13)

Jesus was a stranger in what should have been His own land.

This does not make sense to many in the world. But as the Apostle Paul wrote:

17 And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! 18 Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable.

20 But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. 23 But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ's at His coming. 24 Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power. (1 Corinthians 15:17-24)

So, since Christ is risen, we realize that our sojourn is profitable. Notice something else that the Apostle Paul wrote:

18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. 19 For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; 21 because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. 23 Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body. 24 For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance. (Romans 8:18-25)

So, there is suffering associated with this sojourning and we need perseverance, but we await the same hope that Abraham and others looked forward to. That takes faith (see also the free online booklet Faith for Those God has Called and Chosen).

We must truly:

5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding;
6 In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He shall direct your paths.

7 Do not be wise in your own eyes;
Fear the Lord and depart from evil. (Proverbs 3:5-7)

We must truly believe:

28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. 29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. 30 Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.

31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:28-31)

This takes faith, and we have a lifetime to work on this and sojourn. But, we, like Abraham, need to believe God, despite problems.

God's People are to Seek

We Christians do not have a permanent home in this age--no permanent city:

14 For this world is not our permanent home; we are looking forward to a home yet to come. (Hebrews 13:14, NLT)

14 For we have not here a permanent city: but we seek that which is to come (Hebrews 13:14, Rheims NT).

14 There is no permanent city for us here; we are looking for the one which is yet to be. (Hebrews 13:14, NJB).

As sojourners we are to seek God's truth and ways. King David knew this:

7 On that day David first delivered this psalm into the hand of Asaph and his brethren, to thank the Lord:

8 Oh, give thanks to the Lord!
Call upon His name;
Make known His deeds among the peoples!
9 Sing to Him, sing psalms to Him;
Talk of all His wondrous works!
10 Glory in His holy name;
Let the hearts of those rejoice who seek the Lord!
11 Seek the Lord and His strength;
Seek His face evermore! (1 Chronicles 16:7-11)

26 ... Those who seek Him will praise the Lord. (Psalms 22:26)

Those who truly seek Him will praise Him, partially because they understand His plan. As far as exile goes, David himself was exiled physically for years after he fled from Saul (1 Samuel 21:10).

David later fled his son Absalom and wrote the following:

10 The young lions lack and suffer hunger;
But those who seek the Lord shall not lack any good thing. (Psalms 34:10)

The above is consistent with what Jesus taught (e.g. Matthew 6:33).

Notice more that Jesus taught:

7 "Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. 9 Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent? 11 If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him! 12 Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.

13 "Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. 14 Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it. (Matthew 7:7-14)

Notice that Jesus taught that most would not truly seek and find.

Sojourning: Being Pilgrims and the Feast

While in distress, notice what the author of one of the Psalms wrote:

1 As the deer pants for the water brooks,
So pants my soul for You, O God.
2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When shall I come and appear before God?
3 My tears have been my food day and night,
While they continually say to me,
"Where is your God?"

4 When I remember these things,
I pour out my soul within me.
For I used to go with the multitude;
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 42:1-4)

A "pilgrim feast"?

What did he mean by that?

He did not mean the annual Thanksgiving meal that many of those in the USA often partake of.

The Psalmist was writing of a different type of pilgrim feast.

Pilgrims are travelers, wayfarers, sojourners, normally for religious reasons. Many in the USA, for example, have heard of the Pilgrims, the 16th century settlers of the Plymouth Colony. Americans tend to think about them and the thanksgiving dinner they shared after the native Americans assisted them.

Originally, most of them were in a group called Separatists. Unlike the Puritan groups who maintained their membership in and allegiance to the Church of England, Separatists held that their differences with the Church of England were irreconcilable and that their worship should be organized independently of the trappings, traditions and organization of a central church. In like manner, we in the Continuing Church of God teach that our doctrines and worship practices are also irreconcilable with, not only the Church of England, but also the Church of Rome, the Eastern Orthodox, the Messianic Jews, the Jehovah's Witnesses, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormons), Baptists, and other Protestant groups.

Those of the 1500s were called pilgrims, not because of the thanksgiving meal, but because they left their homes, their permanent residences, in order to live a different way of religious life than those in Europe.

The pilgrims journeyed from England to the Netherlands and finally realized that they could not practice their faith without taking the dangerous and perilous journey to the New World. And even after they got there, they encountered difficulties and sorrows. But they persevered.

As long as people are pilgrims, they are not in a permanent residence. They are on the move. Of course, the early pilgrims that came to the New World, finally and permanently settled. But even then, it was for religious reasons that they made the dangerous travels to North America.

Now getting back to Psalm 42, notice that the psalmist wrote in verse 2, that he had a destination: He thirsted to "come and appear before God."

Is not that what true Christians do at God's Feasts? Apparently the psalmist was unable to do so and realized some of what he was missing.

We who can appear before God at one of the locations He, through His chosen ministry, has designated and where He has placed His name. Notice what the Bible 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. (Deuteronomy 14:22-25)

The feast is paid for by collecting a festival tithe (some details are in the article Is Second Tithe and Third Tithe Still Valid Today?) and is a normally a place to travel to. [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).]

Think about the picture Deuteronomy 14 is describing: It is telling that God expects His pilgrims sojourning on their way to appear before God--to be with God--where He (through His ministry) chooses.

Is not that what this life is all about for God's people? For real Christians, life is a journey with a destination. With the same destination that leaders like Enoch and Abraham looked forward to.

Just as the children of Israel wandered through the wilderness, living in temporary dwellings, before reaching the promised land, we are making our way to the eternal inheritance that has been promised to us. We are only heirs of salvation; we have not yet inherited it. We live in temporary dwellings in this life. Our homes are temporary. So are our physical bodies.

The Feast of Tabernacles, or Feast of Temporary Abodes, calls attention to the fact that our physical existence is temporary, that we are pilgrims on our way to an awesome destination. (Steep C. Good News, 1983)

The apostle Peter wrote:

1 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ,

To the pilgrims of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, 2 elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ:

Grace to you and peace be multiplied. (1 Peter 1:1-2)

Peter was referring to the 'elect,' the scattered Christians of his day, as "pilgrims of the Dispersion." They were in various locations (most of which were in Asia Minor; see also Location of the Early Church: Another Look at Ephesus, Smyrna, and Rome).

He stressed to the brethren that they were "sojourners and pilgrims" (1 Peter 2:11). Peter exhorted Christians to:

conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear; 18 knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. 20 He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you 21 who through Him believe in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God. (1 Peter 1:17-21)

The city that Abraham and others were looking forward to is, of course, New Jerusalem as it will be when it is the headquarters and dwelling place of Almighty God. Abraham and others did not belong to the world.

Notice something from the old Worldwide Church of God:

How about you? Do you belong to this world? Do material pursuits take up the choicest part of your time? Is your attention mostly centered on earthly things? Do your highest goals and aspirations revolve around the attainment of wealth, physical security and comfort? Or are you as a stranger and sojourner in this sin-weary world, just passing through, on your way to your homeland?

Going up to Jerusalem

Traveling to the Feast to appear before God, living in temporary dwellings at the Festival location and following a different routine during the Feast portrays that this life is so fleeting. Christians are looking ahead to something permanent. They are waiting for a city whose builder and maker is God. They have their sights set on the city prepared by God for them — holy Jerusalem.

Listen to this description: "Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised in the city of our God, in His holy mountain. Beautiful in elevation, the joy of the whole earth, is Mount Zion on the sides of the north, the city of the great King. God is in her palaces; He is known as her refuge" (Ps. 48:1-3).

The age depicted in these verses is the wonderful world tomorrow, when Jesus Christ will be ruling on this earth. Then the whole world will finally realize the truth: This temporary life is just the preliminary, first step in the awesome human destiny. Man was created to ultimately — if he surrenders to God's government in this life — be born into the immortal Family of God.

Living in temporary dwellings at the Feast of Tabernacles celebrates that this great truth will be universally understood during Christ's millennial rule. In ancient times those who kept the Feast spoke of having to "go up" to Jerusalem (John 7:8). So in the world tomorrow people will "go up" to Jerusalem to learn God's ways.

The great pilgrimage

If you are a member of God's Church you have been thinking for weeks, if not for months, about the joy of traveling to one of the Feast sites to appear before God. It is probably the highlight of your year. It has been on your mind. You have been contemplating it, talking about it, making plans. It's exciting. It's called "Feast fever."

But are you much more excited and enthralled with a greater pilgrimage — your pilgrimage in this life to appear before God in the Jerusalem He shall build? How much do you plan for that event, think about it, yearn for it, long for it?

"My soul longs, yes, even faints for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God," declares Psalm 84:2. As the sparrow or swallow, after considerable effort, finally finds a place to build a nest and lodge, so we, if we persevere, will finally reach God's house (verse 3). "Blessed are those who dwell in Your house," the psalm continues (verse 4). We will no longer dwell in temporary tabernacles of flesh — these physical tents (II Pet. 1:14). We will exchange them for permanent dwellings (II Cor. 5:1-4). We give God our ashes; He gives us beauty in return (Isa. 61:3).

How is that for a trade?

We surrender these mortal, corruptible bodies; we receive immortal, incorruptible bodies at Jesus' return (I Cor. 15:52-54). But we've got to make it to that point first!

Back to Psalm 84, where verse 5 tells us how to be assured of getting to that great destination: "Blessed is the man whose strength is in You [we can't do it on our own strength!], whose heart is set on pilgrimage."

Notice that! Our hearts must be set on pilgrimage. They must not be set on this world. Our hearts must be set on pilgrimage — passing through this world, being sojourners with no permanent inheritance here. The values, the ideals, the customs, the styles, the philosophy and religion, the entertainment and glamour of this world must not dominate our lives. We should, of course, use whatever lawful physical possessions or opportunities we have for God's glory, but without setting our hearts on any of them. We must be ever ready to move on. We must be willing to cast aside anything that encumbers us or gets in the way of fulfilling God's will in our lives (Heb. 12:1).

We must overcome Successful pilgrims must be overcomers, as verses 6 and 7 of Psalm 84 indicate: "As they pass through the Valley of Baca [an arid valley on the way to Jerusalem], they make it a spring; the rain also covers it with pools. [We overcome circumstances — not vice versa.] They go from strength to strength [not from strength to weakness — from strength to strength. This is growth and victory!]; everyone of them appears before God in Zion."

That is the goal offered to you. That is what can be at the end of this physical existence for you. Think about that while you are living temporarily in different circumstances at the Feast of Temporary Dwellings. Life is a pilgrimage. Use what precious time is left to learn all you can about God's laws. Let them be written in your heart and mind. Study them. Meditate on them. Sing of them as David did. "Your statutes have been my songs," he declared, "in the house of my pilgrimage" (Ps. 119:54).

At the Feast you are picturing that this life is temporary and that the existence that really counts is ahead in God's Family. (Steep C. God's People Are Pilgrims in This World! Good News, September 1983)

That is true. Yet, living in temporary dwellings, while spending second tithe, also helps us rejoice (Deuteronomy 14:22-26).

Keeping the Feast of Tabernacles helps picture the abundance of the millennium (see also Did The Early Church Teach Millenarianism?).

The Millennium will be a time of global prosperity, peace and obedience to God's laws. Staying in temporary dwellings portrays our own pilgrimage in the present evil world, and the fact that those during the Millennium will understand that they are pilgrims in their physical lives (1 Peter 2:11).

Temporary Locations Also Remind Us of Exile

The Feast of Tabernacles is a time to rejoice, but also to reflect on this age and what happened in the past.

Notice also the following:

Remember the wilderness trek

One of the sections of the Bible that can be profitably studied in connection with dwelling in booths is Numbers, chapters 9-21. Most of what we know about Israel's 40 years of living in tents in the wilderness is contained in these few chapters. But there are also some tremendously vital lessons we need to think about and apply to our Christian "sojourning" on earth. Here are a few examples related to this section.

The purpose of the Christian life is summed up in Deuteronomy 8:2-3. The number 40 is often used in the Bible to indicate a period of testing. The Christian life is a period of testing to see whether we qualify for our inheritance.

"And thou shalt remember [a command!] all the way which the Lord thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee, and to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep his commandments, or no." That is what God wants to find out. That is why we are mortal now. God is going to find out where we stand before we inherit eternal life. He doesn't want a Lucifer-type rebellion in His Kingdom.

"And he humbled thee... that he might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord doth man live."

What a lesson to learn while we are in our earthly tabernacles!

God was an ever-present guide to the children of Israel. In a pillar of fire at night and a cloud by day He led them. They had to be always ready at a moment's notice — night or day — to pack up their temporary shelters and follow the cloud when it moved. "And... whether it was by day or by night that the cloud was taken up, they journeyed" (Num. 9:21).

Maybe they had just gotten their tents set up. Maybe some were particularly fond of a choice location near a big rock or a cave where the children could play. No matter. They had to keep their eyes on that cloud and fire. "Or whether it were two days, or a month, or a year, that the cloud tarried... the children of Israel abode in their tents, and journeyed not: but when it [the cloud] was taken up, they journeyed" (verse 22).

We might ask ourselves how responsive we are to God's direction. Are we always prepared to forsake any and every earthly tie that would hinder us from obeying God? Are we ready to move on?

Most of Israel's actions in the wilderness, such as rebelling against the leaders God had appointed, lusting and complaining, were examples of what not to do. But they were recorded that way expressly for our learning (I Cor. 10:6). They should be thoroughly studied so you can " be reverent in your conduct while you sojourn here below" (I Pet. 1:17, Moffatt version).

Think about the meaning

Staying in temporary dwellings portrays Israel's pilgrimage in the wilderness, our own pilgrimage as Christians in the present evil world and the time during the Millennium when all will understand that they are pilgrims in this life. (Steep C. But WHY 'Temporary Dwellings'? Good News, August 1980)

Exile and Strangers and Pilgrims is Part of the Plan

Notice something from David and the Apostle Paul related to ancient Israel:

10 David said: ... 15 For we are aliens and pilgrims before You, As were all our fathers; (1 Chronicles 29:10, 15)

16 Then Paul stood up, and motioning with his hand said, "Men of Israel, and you who fear God, listen: 17 The God of this people Israel chose our fathers, and exalted the people when they dwelt as strangers in the land of Egypt, and with an uplifted arm He brought them out of it. 18 Now for a time of about forty years He put up with their ways in the wilderness. (Acts 13:16-19)

The children of Israel were living a life of exile as slaves in Egypt, plus the 40 years they wandered in the wilderness.

And at risk of repeat, that is essentially the reason that they were given to stay in temporary shelters:

42 You must live in temporary shelters for seven days; every native citizen in Israel must live in temporary shelters, so that your future generations may know that I made the Israelites live in temporary shelters when I brought them out from the land of Egypt. I am the LORD your God. (Leviticus 23:42-43, NET Bible)

Satan is the god of this age (2 Corinthians 4:4). We, Christians, are living as strangers in a type of spiritual exile.

Did you know what, according to Protestant sources, the second most looked up verse in the Bible is? The first is John 3:16, but the second is is found in Jeremiah. Here are two Protestant translations of it:

11 For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. (Jeremiah 29:11, NIV)

11 For I know the plans I have for you," says the LORD. "They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. (Jeremiah 29:11, New Living Translation)

Certain Protestants tend to quote the first verse as proof that God has a plan for them. But they tend to not consider the verse in context.

Notice what the Bible teaches:

11 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. 12 Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. 13 And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you, says the Lord, and I will bring you back from your captivity; I will gather you from all the nations and from all the places where I have driven you, says the Lord, and I will bring you to the place from which I cause you to be carried away captive. (Jeremiah 29:11-14)

Notice that the plan was exile. To be a sojourner. That is still the plan for Christians in this age.

Sometimes we get discouraged. We often face disappointments. We do not always think everything is fair, despite the fact that all things will work together for good.

As determined pilgrims, we cannot give up. Notice what the Apostle Paul wrote:

13 Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, 14 I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:13-14)

Paul had not apprehended. He did not think he had no concerns because he made it. He continued to press on his sojourn.

Like faithful in the past, we Christians are strangers and pilgrims in this world sojourning to become part of the Kingdom of God.

The journey continues. Keeping the Feast of Tabernacles helps show that.

A related video sermon is titled Christian Pilgrims.

Thiel B. Christians are to Be Strangers and Pilgrims? COGwriter (c) 2014 2015 2017 2018 1006

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