Sukkot – The Feast of Tabernacles

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Three times in a year shall all thy males appear before יְהוָֹה thy God in the place which he shall choose; in the feast of unleavened bread, and in the feast of weeks, and in the feast of tabernacles: and they shall not appear before יְהוָֹה empty: Deuteronomy 16:16 (AV)

In this post we are going to explore the third of three annual high sabbaths of Israel stipulated in the Old Testament–namely the Feast of Tabernacles or ‘Sukkot’ סֻכָּה ‘suka’ in Hebrew meaning ‘a hut, lair, thicket, covert and booth’ – also referred to alternatively as the Feast of Ingathering. As we move forward, we will see the explicit Christological and prophetic significance in these feasts and their impacting power regarding eschatological revelation.

The Feast of Tabernacles

The Feast of Tabernacles is the third of three perpetual Old Testament high sabbaths instituted under the law of Moses to be held in the seventh month Tishrei under the Hebrew calendar. It is an umbrella festival covering two other significant high sabbaths in the same month – the Feast of Trumpets and the Day of Atonement.

The first high sabbath occasion to be held annually is the Passover (Pesach – פֶּסַח p̱esaḥ) and the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Following is the second designated seventh sabbaths later, the Feast of Weeks (Shavuot – שָׁבֻעַ ‘shabuan’ or Pentecost). Each of these hold significant meaning with Pesach signifying the Israelites exodus from Egypt and Shavuot celebrating the beginning of the agricultural wheat harvest in Israel.

We see the first reference to the three annual feasts together as perpetual commandments in Exodus 34:18-23. They are then further unpacked in Leviticus 23 the whole chapter, and reiterated again in Deuteronomy 16:1-16. We also find a second detailed instructional description of the three solemn assemblies designated under the Feast of Tabernacles in Numbers 29 the whole chapter.

These feasts were to be held as a perpetual annual ordinance where several special sacrifices were offered to יְהוָֹה as well as continuance of the daily temple sacrifices. They are generally referred to in scripture as ‘holy convocations’ (Leviticus 23:37), ‘solemn days’ (Numbers 10:10), ‘solemn feasts’ (Numbers 15:3), ‘solemn assemblies’ (Numbers 29:35) and ‘the feasts of יְהוָֹה’ (Leviticus 23:44).

And יְהוָֹה 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 יְהוָֹה. On the first day shall be an holy convocation: ye shall do no servile work therein. Leviticus 23:33 (AV)

Tabernacles?

The significance of the word and concept ‘tabernacles’ is in reference to the wilderness wanderings where the Israelites had to dwell in tents or ‘tabernacles’ during the forty year period prior to entering Canaan.

Once entering the promised land they were commanded to memorialize this event in constructing small ‘booths’, huts or ‘tabernacles’ as a physical acknowledgment of how they lived and were supported by the hand of God during their time in the wilderness.

Ye shall dwell in booths seven days; all that are Israelites born shall dwell in booths: 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: I am יְהוָֹה your God. Leviticus 23:42-43 (AV)

Tabernacles in Perspective

The Feast of Tabernacles is little acknowledged outside of Jewish religious thought and practice, and due to the absence of the Hebrew Temple, the season cannot be observed in its full application.

Historical Christianity concluded that the feasts of Old Testament observance had become obsolete due to historical teaching which renders Jewish observance and the Law of God now superseded by the Gospel.

It is important to note here that even though the Law and Gospel are separate and distinct systems with the Gospel taking preeminence being the culmination and fulfillment of the Law, they have a symbiotic relationship complimenting one another as taught by the Apostle Paul:

Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law. Romans 3:31 (AV).

Future Observance

Understanding this, it is clear the scriptures do indicate that the annual feasts of יְהוָֹה will be observed once Jesus Yeshua the Christ or Mashiach (Messiah) returns to rule the world from Jerusalem in the Millennial Kingdom according to the words of Zechariah the Prophet:

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, יְהוָֹה צָבָא, and to keep the feast of tabernacles. And it shall be, that whoso will not come up of all the families of the earth unto Jerusalem to worship the King, יְהוָֹה צָבָא, even upon them shall be no rain. And if the family of Egypt go not up, and come not, that have no rain; there shall be the plague, wherewith יְהוָֹה will smite the heathen that come not up to keep the feast of tabernacles. Zechariah 14:16-18 (AV)

The Prophet Zechariah by the word of יְהוָֹה reveals that the Feast of Tabernacles will be kept as a perpetual observance by Israel and the nations of the Gentiles. We see here even divine judgment in the form of drought will be executed against all nations who would attempt to exempt themselves from this observance. 

Prophetic Significance

The spiritual significance of the Feast of Tabernacles in its relation to Christocentric biblical theology is great in extent. With all three feast days in the same month climaxing under the Feast of Tabernacles, we also see very clear eschatological implications for the fast approaching prophetic end times. We will now break these three events down in historical description then in types and shadows.

The Feast of Trumpets

The Feast of Trumpets or ‘Yom Teruah’ in Hebrew תְּרוּעָה (trumpets or blowing), is more commonly known in modern Judaism as ‘Rosh Hashanah’ which marks the beginning of the Jewish New Year and is held on the first day of the seventh month Tishrei. Biblically it was the first feast in a series of three in the seventh month and was designated a ‘memorial of blowing of trumpets’.

And יְהוָֹה spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, In the seventh month, in the first day of the month, shall ye have a sabbath, a memorial of blowing of trumpets, an holy convocation. Leviticus 23:23 (AV)

Trumpets are used in scripture as primarily a tool of announcement either for the calling of regular assemblies, for use during public and religious ceremonies, as a public call organizing the people for mass movement, announcing the presence of royalty, for musical celebration and thanksgiving, or in military operations as a battle cry.

Allusions to the significance of the Feast of Trumpets can be found in the book of Numbers chapter 10 and seems to point to the day as being a memorial of victory in warfare and a memorial of celebration of the solemn days signified by the blowing of trumpets in fanfare.

And if ye go to war in your land against the enemy that oppresseth you, then ye shall blow an alarm with the trumpets; and ye shall be remembered before צָבָא your God, and ye shall be saved from your enemies. Also in the day of your gladness, and in your solemn days, and in the beginnings of your months, ye shall blow with the trumpets over your burnt offerings, and over the sacrifices of your peace offerings; that they may be to you for a memorial before your God: I am צָבָא your God. Numbers 10:9-10 (AV).

The prophetic types and shadows in this feast are very clear and powerful as we see the prophetic landscape being prepared for the soon return of Jesus Christ. The trumpets do signify the eschatological time period where the coming of Christ is announced both as a symbolic preliminary action through fulfillment of prophecy and also through the literal trumpet blast of God initiating the resurrection of the dead in Christ and gathering of His elect at His return.

And I saw the seven angels which stood before God; and to them were given seven trumpets… And the seven angels which had the seven trumpets prepared themselves to sound. Revelation 8:2-6 (AV)

In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. 1 Corinthians 15:52 (AV)

We also can see a clear allusion to the aspect of warfare in the symbol of the trumpet blast. Scripture declares Jesus Christ will return to deliver His people in glorification but also wage war upon the unrepentant and particularly the satanic forces amassed under the direction of the Antichrist.

And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war. Revelation 19:11 (AV)

The Day of Atonement

The Day of Atonement or ‘Yom Kippur’ is the second of the three feast days held on the tenth day of the seventh month Tishrei and is a day in which the people of Israel were to ‘afflict their souls’ in nationwide repentance and cleansing from sin. The Hebrew word atonement is כִּפֻּר ‘kippur’ essentially meaning reconciliation or to return to a status of being ‘at one’ with God – hence ‘at-one-ment.’

And יְהוָֹה spake unto Moses, saying, Also on the tenth day of this seventh month there shall be a day of atonement: it shall be an holy convocation unto you; and ye shall afflict your souls, and offer an offering made by fire unto the Lord. Leviticus 23:26 (AV)

The New Testament doctrine of the atonement speaks specifically of Gospel reconciliation purchased for us by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross – particularly the shedding of blood for the remission of sins. It is this atonement that returns the sinner to God and in which the forgiveness of sins is found and applied. This immediately causes us to now view the Day of Atonement through the lens of the atonement of Christ.

The prophetic significance of the Day of Atonement is clear in two senses. Firstly, at the return of the Lord Jesus Christ, redemption will be complete and the full benefits of the atonement of Christ will be applied in the resurrection to eternal life and the glorification of the body.

This resonates with the concept of national atonement instituted in Old Testament Israel where the sins of the nation were forgiven on the Day of Atonement and the blessings of the first covenant would be allowed to flow unhindered by the sin of the people.

And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body. Romans 8:23 (AV)

Secondly, the Day of Atonement resonates with the coming prophetic event ‘the Day of יְהוָֹה’ (Day of the Lord). This Day of יְהוָֹה is the literal day of the return of Christ where those who are saved and have partaken of the atonement are redeemed and glorified having escaped the judgment of God through the atonement; but it is also the same day that the wicked sinners who have in finality rejected the Gospel and the atonement of Christ, will be destroyed and consumed by the brightness of His glory.

And I will shew wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath; blood, and fire, and vapour of smoke: The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before that great and notable day of יְהוָֹה come: And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of יְהוָֹה shall be saved. Acts 2:19-21 (AV) Cf. Joel 2:32 (AV)

The Feast of Tabernacles

The Feast of Tabernacles as explained earlier is the central feast under which the previous two are also celebrated. It is a memorial feast which highlights the wilderness wanderings and particularly how the Israelites dwelt in tents or ‘booths’ or ‘tabernacles’ in their travels through the Sinai and Arabian deserts until they reached the promised land of Canaan.

And יְהוָֹה 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 Lord. Leviticus 23:33-34 (AV)

Scripture commands this feast be kept on the fifteenth day of the seventh month Tishrei with a duration of eight days. The first day being a sabbath day of rest and for seven days the people would dwell in small constructed booths or abodes which would bring remembrance to the historical events. The eighth day would mark the end of the festive week and also be a sabbath with special sacrifice and offering.

The prophetic significance here is also two fold. Firstly, New Testament revelation sheds light on the concept of the tabernacle. According to the Apostles Paul and Peter the tabernacle spiritually refers to the human body in which the saved and sanctified spirit is contained.

Also the concept of the wilderness wanderings is now seen in transferred significance to the Christian journey of faith through the world, which is now our wilderness, until we reach that promised land of full redemption in eternal life with God in the new heavens and new earth.

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 5:4 (AV)

Wherefore (as the Holy Ghost saith, To day if ye will hear his voice, Harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness: Hebrews 3:7-8 (AV)

Secondly, the Book of Revelation tells us that God will in the end dwell physically with redeemed humanity in the New Heavens and New Earth. It speaks of the time in which all things and all creation are reconciled to God and sanctified in what is called ‘the Regeneration’ (Matthew 19:28).

In this time the ‘tabernacle of God’ or ‘New Jerusalem’ will be present on earth – as scripture reveals in several places that there is a heavenly tabernacle where the Lord God the Father dwells and where the Lord Jesus Christ is now seated at the right hand of His throne in glory. Therefore, it can be concluded that the future observance of the Feast of Tabernacles also acknowledges the tabernacle of God in its presence on earth and where the faithful saints of the Most High will dwell with Him forever more.

And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. Revelation 21:1-3 (AV)

Conclusion

Therefore, in the Feast of Tabernacles and surrounding assemblies we see clear prophetic correlations to the eschatological realities both in play right now and still yet to manifest. We see the clear signposts pointing us to the Lord Jesus Christ as these Old Testament statutes and ordinances all are types and shadows which reveal Him to us. And we also acknowledge the future observance of these solemn assemblies, where we will memorialize the fulfillment of the promises of God to which these feasts direct us (Hebrews 8:5; 10:1).

Let us now wait for that trumpet sound announcing the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, the blessed hope in the resurrection to eternal life and the final victory of יְהוָֹה and His saints over the enemies of God and enemies of righteousness.

Let us also find grace in His glorious appearing, that the full effects of of the atonement will be realized in the redemption and that יְהוָֹה Himself will execute the final righteous judgments which the whole creation groans and longs for.

And let us finally look forward to the blessed day when in the twinkling of an eye, we who are saved will shed this earthly tabernacle and put on our heavenly tabernacle and in which we will dwell with יְהוָֹה forever in the New Jerusalem – the Tabernacle of God.

Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city. Revelation 22:24 (AV)

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