What Is the Feast of Tabernacles, and Should I Be Keeping It?

As the sun sets on this coming Sunday evening, God’s people from around the world will gather at special chosen locations to begin observing the Feast of Tabernacles. This weeklong festival is a highlight of the year for all who observe it.

Note God’s instruction: “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 …” (Deuteronomy 16:13-15).

The Feast of Tabernacles is to be kept seven days, beginning the 15th day of the seventh month on the sacred calendar (Leviticus 23:33-35). At the feast, God’s people gather in services daily to hear special messages prepared for the occasion. They fellowship, enjoy meals and activities together with other believers. “[A]nd 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” (verses 40-41).

Notice it is commanded forever. This festival is not just for an ancient nation. In fact, its relevance is greater now than ever. It foreshadows the Millennium to come after Jesus Christ returns—following 6,000 years of man’s rule on Earth—an event just ahead of us.

To teach men about His great master plan, God used the harvest seasons in ancient Israel as a picture of the spiritual harvest of people into His eternal Family. The Holy Land has two annual harvests: a small grain harvest in the spring, and the larger, main harvest in the fall.

The Day of Pentecost is observed at the end of the spring harvest. It pictures the culmination of the first, small harvest of God’s saints during the Church age at the return of Jesus Christ.

The Feast of Tabernacles is to be held “at the year’s end” (Exodus 34:22). The harvest year ended at the beginning of autumn. In this verse, the festival is called the “feast of ingathering.” It pictures God opening salvation to all humanity in the Millennium!

Zechariah 12 and 13 foretell Christ returning—a great event pictured by the festival of Trumpets—and then commencing to reconcile the whole world to God—pictured by Atonement. Members of God’s Church have just celebrated both these holy days.

Next, notice Zechariah 14. 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. … [T]here shall be no more utter destruction; but Jerusalem shall be safely inhabited” (verses 9, 11). At this time, “living waters”—representing the Holy Spirit and salvation—“shall go out from Jerusalem” (verse 8). The Feast of Tabernacles pictures a time when God will offer His Holy Spirit and spiritual education to all people on a massive scale.

In that day, when Earth is safely inhabited and the Spirit is granted to all mortals, 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).

The Feast of Tabernacles is not “done away”! Even in the Millennium, all people on Earth will still observe it! It is commanded forever.

Jesus Christ kept this Feast. 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.

In the Millennium, the Kingdom of God—into which human beings may be born (John 3:3, 5)—will rule the nations which are composed of mortal men begotten by God’s Spirit. The billions of men alive will still be heirs to God’s Kingdom. They will not yet inherit it as long as they remain mortal flesh, for “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Corinthians 15:50). “Ye must be born again”—“of the Spirit”—to inherit it, said Jesus.

Why is this observance called the Feast of Tabernacles? We read of this feast, “Ye shall dwell in booths [another word for tabernacles] 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). The Israelites lived in tabernacles in the wilderness before entering the Promised Land. Those booths showed that they were only heirs. Even during the Millennium, when God’s Kingdom is ruling over the nations, mortals will only be heirs of the Kingdom. They must be begotten by God’s Spirit, then live a godly life and die in the faith before they will inherit the promises.

What a marvelous picture! Israel in the wilderness was a type of all people who must go through trials and tribulations to inherit God’s spiritual promises.

There is great meaning in all God’s festivals, and you should be keeping them. The Feast of Tabernacles is the highlight of the year for all who keep it properly. It is full of rejoicing and abundance, both physically and spiritually. Why wouldn’t it be when it pictures something as great as God’s rule over Earth? This festival gives us a glimpse into life during the wonderful World Tomorrow.

To learn more about all of God’s festivals and what they picture, request Pagan Holidays—or God’s Holy Days—Which? To more deeply understand the Feast of Tabernacles, download and study Lesson 34 of our free Herbert W. Armstrong College Bible Correspondence Course.