Sukkot: The Feast of Tabernacles
Sukkot: The Feast of Tabernacles
Sukkot, otherwise known as the Feast of Tabernacles, is the last feast on the biblical calendar, and it is the most joyous of any. Of all the feasts, this is my personal favorite, and I’ve been very excited to write this particular post for you. This post will be longer than the others, yet I kindly encourage you to read it. The Feast of Tabernacles, which is also known as the Feast of Booths, or the Feast of Ingathering, represents the intimacy we have with God. By the end of this post you will understand precisely why this feast is the very last to be celebrated, and why it is so overwhelmingly joyous. In this post we will discover the rich prophetic significance this feast has for the Body of Christ as we discuss its traditional observance, the prophetic fulfillment, and how we can celebrate it right now.
The Feast of Tabernacles centers on three primary things:
1.) The concept of God dwelling with man, which is represented by a tent.
2.) The latter rain given at the time of harvest, which is represented in the pouring out of water in the drink offering.
3.) The in-gathering of the harvest, which is represented in the wave offering of branches cut from strong beautiful trees.
God, Himself, calls this feast the Feast of Tabernacles. It was officially initiated in the Law of Moses during the time of Israel’s sojourning in the wilderness, at which time Israel lived in tents. It is celebrated for seven days, from the fifteenth to the twenty-first day of the month of Tishri, beginning just five days after Yom Kippur. This is when the moon is full and at its brightest. The eighth day is known as the ‘great day of the feast’. It is not only the last day of Sukkot, but the final day of all the feasts to be celebrated within the given year, in which it marks a new beginning.
Speak to the children of Israel, saying, The fifteenth day of this seventh month shall be the feast of tabernacles for seven days unto the LORD. On the first day shall be an holy convocation: ye shall do no servile work therein. Seven days ye shall offer an offering made by fire unto the LORD: on the eighth day shall be an holy convocation unto you; and ye shall offer and offering made by fire unto the LORD: it is a solemn assembly; and ye shall do no servile work therein. These are the feasts of the LORD, which ye shall proclaim to be holy convocations, to offer an offering made by fire unto the LORD, a burnt offering, and a meat offering, a sacrifice, and drink offerings, every thing upon his day: beside the sabbaths of the LORD, and beside your gifts, and beside all your vows, and beside all your freewill offerings, which ye give unto the LORD. Also in the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when ye have gathered in the fruit of the land, ye shall keep a feast unto the LORD seven days: on the first day shall be a sabbath, and on the eighth day shall be a sabbath. And ye shall take you on the first day the boughs of goodly trees, branches of palm trees, and the boughs of thick trees, and willows of the brook; and ye shall rejoice before the LORD your God seven days. And ye shall keep it a feast unto the LORD seven days in the year. It shall be a statue for ever in your generations: ye shall celebrate it in the seventh month. 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 the LORD your God, (Leviticus 23:34-43, KJV).
Sukkot is a time of rejoicing unlike any other, in which God strictly commands His people to feast with laughter and great joy for eight days. Therefore, it is known among the ancients as ‘the holiday’, being the most prominent feast celebrated. It is important to know that during this feast God strictly forbids weeping, crying, mourning, or a downcast countenance of any kind. The overwhelming joy during the Feast of Tabernacles is unparalleled and was to be celebrated without restraint. It was during this feast that the most elaborate sacrifices were made unto the LORD. Meat offerings were all brought to the Temple insomuch they could not be counted. Each day of the feast water was brought from Siloam and poured out before the LORD. The branches of beautiful trees which grew by the water (willow and palm) were brought before the LORD and waved before Him in all four directions. This jubilant time is celebrated during the harvest when the fields are ripe and the ‘ingathering’ takes place. This occurs at the change of seasons when Israel receives its latter rain. Eight is the number which represents new beginnings, and although this feast is celebrated for seven days, its eighth and final day holds a special prophetic significance, which we will later discuss. But for now, let it be known that its eighth day brings a beautiful closure to Sukkot as well as the entire calendar of biblical feasts.
All of these things hold prophetic meaning. However, the most significant of them all is the tent, hence the given name for this holy convocation.
The Prophetic Significance
‘Succa’ is the Hebrew word for ‘tabernacle’ or ‘tent’, and therefore ‘succot’ which is plural (a.k.a. sukkot), is the Hebrew word used for this feast.
The concept of God dwelling with man is central to this feast.
Let’s talk about how God has demonstrated this intimacy toward man throughout our history. We will soon discover just how zealous and unceasing is His desire toward us, how immaculate His love, and how humble His heart. Throughout the ages God has avidly pursued mankind, coming to us with this express intention: to dwell in our very midst. Our God created us for intimacy with Him. That means that our glorious, all-powerful, Almighty God is not afraid to dwell in a tent. He comes to us intimately and humbly in an earnest desire to ‘tabernacle’ with us. And I’m going to show you exactly how He’s done this.
God’s desire has always been to dwell among His people. That intention and desire has never changed or wavered. And despite our gross sin, He continues to come to us. He finds a way. If we look carefully throughout biblical history, we see Him demonstrating this zealous pursuit of mankind on numerous occasions. From the very beginning in the Garden of Eden, God walked with Adam and Eve. He dwelt among them in earth’s tent, and we see that He walked with them in the cool of the day. This paradise He created for fellowship with them was absolutely perfect, not merely because it was the ultimate paradise, but because their fellowship was unbroken. The earth’s tent is described in this passage:
It is he that sitteth upon the circle of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers; that stretcheth out the heavens as a curtain, and spreadeth them out as a tent to dwell in, (Isaiah 40:22, KJV).
And so we see that the earth He created was the first tent. He created it for the express purpose of dwelling with man.
Yet there is more.
Although His judgment came upon the earth in the flood of Noah, God just could not stay away. He preserved a remnant. From that remnant of eight whom He preserved in Noah’s ark, He would choose for Himself a people, and so we see the calling of Abraham and the birth of the promised son, Isaac, from whom Israel was born. Again, we see God coming closer. And so the concept of the tent, in which God dwells with man, continues…
As with all the feasts, the feast of Sukkot was initially and formally instituted in the Law of Moses during Israel’s sojourning in the wilderness when they dwelt in tents or booths. They lived a nomadic lifestyle without a permanent dwelling place. So what does God do? He demonstrated a gorgeous intimacy in their midst, in which He commanded a tent be made for Him as well. Thus the Tabernacle was constructed, where the Ark of the Covenant would reside, and upon which God’s shekinah glory would rest between the cherubim over the Mercy Seat in a pillar of cloud by day and fire by night. It was in this Tabernacle that God revealed His heart. His manifest presence was extraordinarily powerful and intimate. This was God’s second tent.
His third tent was manifested in the birth of His one and only Son, Jesus Christ:
Wherefore when he cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me: In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin thou hast had no pleasure. Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me,) to do thy will, O God… By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all, (Hebrews 10:5-7 & 10, KJV).
It is important to note the pronouncement of Christ’s coming, and the name which was prophetically declared:
Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us, (Matthew 1:23, KJV).
And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt (literally ‘tabernacle’) among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth, (John 1:14, KJV, emphasis mine).
And so we see once again the tabernacle of God with men in the Person of Jesus Christ, in which He took upon Himself an earthly body or tent:
For in him dwelleth (literally ‘tabernacle’) all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power, (Colossians 2:9, 10, KJV, emphasis mine).
Which leads me to the fourth tent in which God’s holy pursuit of mankind continues – the body of believers. We see a progression taking place, perhaps even a figurative one, as if God is revealing an outer court, inner court, and finally a Holy of Holies. If you are a believer, the Holy Spirit has come to dwell within you. To dwell within the soul of man is the ultimate intimacy. It doesn’t get any more intimate than that here on earth. And to this end, God makes this argument:
Thus saith the LORD, The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: where is the house that ye build unto me? and where is the place of my rest? For all those things hath mine hand made, and all those things have been, saith the LORD: but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word, (Isaiah 66:1-2, KJV).
Our LORD loves intimacy. He no longer dwells in a building made with hands. He dwells inside us through His Holy Spirit. You are now the tent in which He intimately dwells. Christ spoke candidly of this:
And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you… If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him, (John 14:16-18 & 23, KJV).
This is precisely why Christ said that it is best if He goes away so the Comforter can come. As close as we might think one could possibly be to Christ during His time of earthly ministry, He was still just one man. He was limited. And so He made it very clear that it was needful for the Spirit to come. But for that to happen, He had to go away. The exponential multiplication the Spirit would bring was absolutely necessary if the world was to be reached. And although this troubled His disciples, there remained a greater intimacy that could only occur through His indwelling Spirit. Thankfully, He now resides in every single believer throughout the world. It is for this reason that we are called the Body of Christ.
Paul, who was a tent-maker, understood this concept, in which he explains:
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. For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven: If so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked. 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. Now he that hath wrought us for the selfsame thing is God, who also hath given unto us the earnest of the Spirit, (1 Corinthians 5:1-5, KJV).
What? Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s, (1 Corinthians 6:19-20, KJV).
Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; and are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; in whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit, (Ephesians 2:19-22, KJV).
God has never stopped pursuing mankind. He just keeps getting closer, until finally we see the fulfillment of Sukkot in the New Jerusalem at the marriage supper of the Lamb. Christ spoke several parables about this marriage supper (see Matthew 22:2-14 & 25:1-13). We will talk about this fulfillment later in this post. However, it is important to note right now, that although we would receive the indwelling Holy Spirit while here on earth, Christ gave clear indication toward an even greater habitation yet to come, for which we still eagerly wait:
In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also, (John 14:2-3, KJV).
God’s intention from the very beginning
to the very end of time
is to tabernacle with us.
THE DRINK OFFERING
Enormous and even wasteful amounts of water were brought and poured out before the LORD during a season in which water was desperately needed. These drink offerings represented the latter rain so necessary for the harvest. Make no mistake – these drink offerings were lavish. Water in this arid region was often scarce. When the rain fell it was a sign of God’s covenant blessing. Rain is, therefore, always received as a blessing upon God’s people. If ever the rains were withheld, it was indicative of God’s curse upon the people, their animals, and their land. This latter rain in which the harvest was reaped was very precious. It was for this very reason, these abundant drink offerings were made.
Christ made His presence known upon the eighth day of Sukkot – the great day of the feast which was the last day of all feasting for the spiritual year (not the civic year). Pay close attention to His prophetic response:
Now the Jews’ feast of tabernacles was at hand. His brethren therefore said unto him, Depart hence, and go into Judea, that thy disciples also may see the works that thou doest. For there is no man that doeth any thing in secret, and he himself seeketh to be known openly. If thou do these things, shew thyself to the world. For neither did his brethren believe in him. Then Jesus said unto them, My time is not yet come: but your time is always ready. The world cannot hate you; but me it hateth, because I testify of it, that the works thereof are evil. Go ye up unto this feast: I go not up yet unto this feast; for my time is not yet full come. But when his brethren were gone up, then went he also up unto the feast, not openly, but as it were in secret. Then the Jews sought him at the feast, and said, Where is he? (John 7:2-11, KJV).
It’s important to know that going up to Jerusalem for the feast of Tabernacles was mandatory. Remember, the feasts were part of the Law. They were commanded by the LORD. In no way was our LORD absent. But He came in secret. And on the eighth day He revealed Himself openly:
In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.) (John 7:37-38, KJV).
In the drink offering we see the promise of the Spirit, plainly declared by Christ Himself.
We see the latter rain
the final outpouring of God’s Spirit as prophesied in Joel
before the harvest is gathered.
Again, we see an example of lavish abundance that brings life.
THE WAVE OFFERING
The branches God commanded to be cut were to said to be “goodly”. They were strong, beautiful, and lush green. The willow and palm were indigenous trees that grew close to the water. It’s important to understand that trees have a prophetic reference to the lives of individuals – whether dead or alive.
The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meed; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound. To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn; to appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified, (Isaiah 61:1-3, KJV).
Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper, (Psalm 1:1-3, KJV).
Woe unto them! for they have gone in the way of Cain, and ran greedily after the error of Balaam for reward, and perished inthe gainsaying of Core. These are spots in your feasts of charity, when they feast with you, feeding themselves without fear: clouds they are without water, carried about of winds; trees whose fruit withereth, without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by the roots, (Jude 1:11-12, KJV).
Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit, (Matthew 7:16-17, KJV).
These “goodly” branches: strong, green and full of life-giving sap, would be waved in all four directions – North, South, East and West, representing the souls of mankind which will be gathered from the four winds by the angels of heaven at the time of harvest. For this reason Sukkot is also called the Feast of Ingathering.
And then shall he send his angels, and shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from the uttermost part of the earth to the uttermost part of heaven, (Mark 13:27, KJV).
In the wave offering we see the promise of harvest
the fulfillment of the Feast of Ingathering
wherein souls from every nation, tribe and tongue are saved.
The Prophetic Fulfillment
There are three sevens to note for the Feast of Tabernacles. The Feast of Tabernacles is the seventh and final feast held in the seventh month of Tishri for seven days, and is clearly fulfilled in the marriage supper of the Lamb, which is outlined in beautiful detail in Revelation.
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. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful. And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely. He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son. But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death. And there came unto me one of the seven angels which had the seven vials full of the seven last plagues, and talked with me, saying, Come hither, I will shew thee the bride, the Lamb’s wife. And he carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain, and shewed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God… And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it. And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof. And the nations of them which are saved shall walk in the light of it: and the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honour into it. And the gates of it shall not be shut at all by day: for there shall be no night there. And they shall bring the glory and honour of the nations into it. And there shall in no wise enter into it anything that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb’s book of life. And he shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. And there shall be no more curse: but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and his servants shall serve him: and they shall see his face; and his name shall be in their foreheads. And there shall be no night there; and they need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them light: and they shall reign for ever and ever, (Revelation 21:1-10 & 22-27; 22:1-5, KJV, emphasis mine).
Here we see the eighth day of Sukkot, which is the ‘great day of the feast’, in which all things are completed by the Son, as described by Paul:
If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming. Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and authority and power, (1 Corinthians 15:19-24, KJV).
Here we see all points of the Feast of Tabernacles prophetically fulfilled:
1.) The ingathering of souls.
2.) The tabernacle of God is with men forever.
3.) The fountain of the water of life is abundantly poured out to all those who thirst.
4.) The tree of life is again present in their midst which gives healing to all nations.
5.) The Lord Almighty and the Lamb are the temple providing eternal light.
6.) Death, the last enemy, has finally been overcome.
7.) There is no more crying, sadness or mourning.
Your Personal Celebration
As you celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles, remember the significance of this glorious holiday. This feast, unlike any other, brings a joyous culmination of all God has performed on behalf of His people. It is the last and final feast yet to be fulfilled, for which we all anxiously wait.
When this one is finished, Christ calls it a wrap.
The end has come. And He makes all things new.
This is the eighth day — A new beginning awaits us. I often dream of what God will do next. Will there be another creation story? Another race formed? What eternally awaits us beyond this point? No one knows. We can dream and speculate all day. But God is full of surprises, and anything is possible, so we never know what He’ll do next. But one thing is certain, we’ll live intimately in His presence forever, and rule and reign with Him as eternity unfolds. He’s already there. That’s exciting stuff. Whatever He does, He has forever to perform it. As for me, I just look forward to being there in His presence. That is what the Feast of Tabernacles is really all about. The Lover of our souls never stops pursuing us.
All things are possible with God. And although we know the ending, a brand new beginning awaits us. Celebrate it with lavish joy!
Cheers & Shalom,