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Sukkot/Feast of Tabernacles: This is the final Feast of the Lord as recorded in Scripture. Celebrated on Tishri 15, this Feast falls in the September/October timeframe. It is outlined in Deuteronomy 16:13 – 15, where the Lord tells the Israelites: “You are to keep the festival of Sukkot for seven days after you have gathered the produce of your threshing-floor and winepress. Rejoice at your festival – you, your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, the Levi’im (Levites), and the foreigners, orphans and widows living among you. Seven days you are to keep the festival for ADONAI your God in the place ADONAI your God will choose, because ADONAI your God will bless you in all your crops and in all your work, so you are to be full of joy!
Leviticus 23:39-43: “‘But on the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when you have gathered the produce of the land, you are to observe the festival of ADONAI seven days; the first day is to be a complete rest and the eighth day is to be a complete rest. On the first day you are to take choice fruit, palm fronds, thick branches and river-willows, and celebrate it in the presence of ADONAI your God for seven days. You are to observe it as a feast to ADONAI seven days in the year; it is a permanent regulation, generation after generation; keep it in the seventh month. You are to live in sukkot (booths, tabernacles) for seven days; every citizen of Israel is to live in a sukkah, so that generation after generation of you will know that I made the people of Israel live in sukkot when I brought them out of the land of Egypt; I am ADONAI your God.'”
We can comfortably say that this Feast will find its ultimate fulfillment with the New Jerusalem – which comes down out of heaven as the eternal heavenly dwelling place for redeemed man. Interestingly, the dimensions of this stratosphere defying City are amazingly identical to the traditional “booth” or ”Tabernacle” constructed during the Feast of Tabernacles.
Notice the language used by John when the New Jerusalem comes down out of heaven.
Rev 21: 2-3, “And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.”
The Greek word used here for “dwelling” is the same root word used in John 1:14 when it declares that God’s Word became flesh and “dwelt” among us. The word literally means “to tabernacle”. This word appears in the Septuagint (Greek translation of the Old Testament) in relation to the Feast of Sukkot. Scripture teaches that God will tabernacle with us in the New Jerusalem.
Further Proof that Tabernacles Will Await Fulfillment Even After the 2nd Coming
For those who would accuse me of reading too much into the text of Revelation 21:2-3, there is more.
Zechariah 14:16 tells us that, in the coming Messianic age, the survivors of the nations, will be required to come annually to Jerusalem to worship the King during one particular feast. Those nations who do not do so will experience famine:
“Then everyone who survives of all the nations that have come against Jerusalem shall go up year after year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Tabernacles.”
I would argue that the reason Tabernacles is singled out as the only Feast still required to be observed during the future millennial Kingdom is that it will be the only Feast still awaiting fulfillment up to that time (when the New Jerusalem comes down from Heaven as the celestial tabernacle – at the end of the 1,000 year reign)! Remember, Sukkot is the last of the 7 Feasts of the Lord on the Hebrew calendar.
I would argue that this is more than mere conjecture… we can rest assured that if Jesus fulfilled the Spring Feasts (with exact and sequential precision) He will fulfill the Fall Feasts as well. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
Why should Zechariah 14 even be understood literally? Because it points to the sequel of a very literal and historical parallel event.
Yahweh’s Feet Upon The Mount of Olives & New Testament Confirmation of a Literal Fulfillment of Zech 12-14
The prophet Zechariah, in addition to laying out a clear Millennial scheme based on the observance of Tabernacles in the coming age, gives us an interesting detail about the “moment of contact” in which Yahweh (the God of Israel) descends to the earth at the end of days. This detail is corroborated by the New Testament as we shall soon see:
“I will gather all the nations to Jerusalem to fight against it; the city will be captured, the houses ransacked, and the women ravaged. Half of the city will go into exile, but the rest of the people will not be taken from the city. Then the Lord (Yahweh) will go out and fight against those nations, as he fights on a day of battle. On that day his feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, east of Jerusalem, and the Mount of Olives will be split in two from east to west, forming a great valley, with half of the mountain moving north and half moving south.” Zech 14:2-4
It is the location of Yahweh’s descent, which shows up later in the Book of Acts, that clearly affirms a literal hermeneutic regarding Zechariah 12-14 on the part of the disciples – namely Luke. In Luke’s faithful telling of the ascension of the risen Messiah, he confirms the truthfulness of Zechariah’s prophecy written hundreds of years before:
“They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.” Then the apostles returned to Jerusalem from the hill called the Mount of Olives, a Sabbath day’s walk from the city…” Acts 1:10-12
The implications are clear: In the first chapter of Acts the disciples are told (by angels no less) that the Messiah will return “in the same way” that He left. He ascended physically, and visibly from the earth – and will return physically and visibly to the earth. He ascended in the clouds of heaven and will return in the clouds of heaven. But there is more… He ascended, as the fullness of deity in bodily form, from the Mount of Olives – east of Jerusalem. Is it any wonder that, according to Zechariah, Yahweh (God Almighty) will touch His feet upon the Mount of Olives when He comes at the end of days? If this aspect of Zechariah’s vision is to be literal, pray tell why we should shift gears after verse 4 and interpret the rest (which is quite specific in detail) in an allegorical fashion? Furthermore, is there a single prophecy concerning Messiah’s first coming that He did not fulfill literally – almost always hyper-literally!?
After presenting this Zechariah/Acts – Mount of Olives connection to multiple people, I have yet to hear an interpretation that could point to a non-literal, allegorical “a-or-post” millennial eschatology.
In the next post we will look at an interesting tradition passed on by early rabbinic and Christian fathers in ancient times. Their words, while not Scripture, give us insight into the early understanding of the “millennium”, based on the texts of Scripture.