The Feast of Tabernacles

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Puritan Board Doctor
"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." Zechariah 14:16

Gill, "not literally, but spiritually; for, as all the Jewish feasts have been long since abolished, having had their accomplishment in Christ, not one of them will ever be revived in the latter day. This feast was originally kept in commemoration of the Israelites dwelling in tents in the wilderness, and was typical of Christ's incarnation, who was made flesh, and tabernacled among us; so that to keep this feast is no other than to believe in Christ as come in the flesh, and in the faith of this to attend to the Gospel feast of the word and ordinances; and whereas this feast was observed by drawing water with expressions of joy, this may respect the pouring forth of the Spirit in the last day, and that spiritual joy saints will then be filled with; to which may be added, that palm tree branches used to be carried in their hands at the time of that feast; and so the keeping of it now may denote the victory that will be obtained over the beast and his image, which palm tree branches are a token of; and this will issue in the personal reign of Christ, when the tabernacle of God shall be with men."

Do you agree with Gill? Is the Feast of Tabernacles kept spiritually or will we keep it (somehow) during a future period? Have "all the nations" come against Jerusalem?

Yours in the Lord,

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Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
I'd want to make my own general expression, and not rely on Gill; but I agree with him in principle. What I understand is as follows.

The dispersed and varied OT feasts and ceremonies have all been condensed now in the weekly (Sabbath) devotions of the NT church. The OC events were all spiritual (not carnal, or even partly carnal, as some allege); however, there is more spirituality in one properly conducted NC worship service than in a full annual slate of Israelite worship under the type and shadow. The Lord's Supper does not merely "replace" the Passover; but all the mandatory feasts of the nation, plus the innumerable sacrifices and the meals made of their meats, plus the showbread of the Holy Place.

Yes, we keep the feast of tabernacles, and better than an annual memorial would. The actual fulfillment has supervened upon the typological prophetic picture of the fulfillment. The new wine has burst the old wineskins. The OT expectations cannot contain the fulfillment. And so, I would say with Gill, that to expect a future in which the old feast is restored and kept in the old pattern, is to expect retrograde movement down and away from NC heights, a shortening of the perspective gained in Christ, truncating "fulfillment" by means of subtraction.

The feast that is kept now, and will be kept, is the feast of tabernacles--and then some. The time is coming, and now is, when one physical mountain (Jerusalem) is not enough to contain the gathered throng. Zechariah does not envision "the Jerusalem that now is," but "the Jerusalem that is above." The Gentile nations once were all arrayed (in some form or sense) against the people of God, surrounding the nation and the city. And now? They have come to "Mt. (heavenly) Zion," the "city of the living God" in worship.

And still, the church in the world is surrounded and beleaguered. The nations still come against it, as it sits dispersed and apparently defenseless in the midst of every nation, every city and town on earth (with fewer and fewer exceptions). But a time is coming when all the enemies will be gone, and only those people will remain: who left those nations to make this Jerusalem their home. Thus, Zechariah's prophecy is ultimately eschatological; but the future has broken into the present age, and we live in the already/not yet of near-fulfillment.


Jack K

Puritan Board Professor
Much like Jesus saw himself as the fulfillment of Passover when he said of the bread, "This is my body," he also saw himself as the fulfillment of the Feast of Tabernacles:

On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, "If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, 'Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.'" Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. (John 7:37-39)​

The Feast of Tabernacles both recalled God's care for his people in the wilderness, including the gift of the Spirit at that time (Nehemiah 9:20), and looked forward to the Spirit being poured out more fully, which is a theme in the wider passage in Zechariah: "On that day there shall be a fountain opened for the house of David" (Zechariah 13:1).

Just as the old Passover was properly celebrated for the last time on the night Jesus was betrayed, so too the old Feast of Tabernacles was properly celebrated for the last time on the day Jesus stood up and made his announcement about living water. By the time the feast came around again the following year, it had been fulfilled in a new, greater outpouring of the Spirit. In that sense, as Bruce said, it continues to be celebrated today—now as a feast that includes all nations—and will one day be celebrated even more fully in the New Jerusalem.


Puritan Board Freshman
Colossians 2:14 plainly and unambiguously declares, that Christ's atonement resulted in the Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross.”

The Greek word for “Blotting out” here is exaleiphō (eks-ä-lā'-fō) meaning: ‘to wipe off, wipe away, to obliterate, erase, wipe out, blot out’

These old covenant ordinances (rites and rituals) pertaining to the ceremonial law were obliterated at the cross.

For those that still anticipate the renaissance of the old abolished ordinances we need to ask: When did (or will) the “blotting out the handwriting of ordinances” occur? From this passage it is clear, Christ “took it out of the way” by “nailing it to his cross.” These ordinances embraced the old covenant civil, ceremonial or ecclesiastical law. They were finished at the cross.

Colossians 2:16-17 tells us: Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.”

The Greek word translated “holyday” here is heorte meaning feast or festival. Of 27 mentions of this word in the normally precise KJV, it is interpreted “feast” in all of them apart from here.

New American Standard interprets: “Therefore let no one act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day -- things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ.”

The Living Bible says, “So don't let anyone criticize you for what you eat or drink, or for not celebrating Jewish holidays and feasts or new moon ceremonies or Sabbaths. For these were only temporary rules that ended when Christ came. They were only shadows of the real thing-of Christ himself.”

Paul is saying here that the old covenant feasts and festivals simply served as types and shadows of things that were to come. They looked forward to the new covenant arrangement and the reality and substance in Christ. The Jews of Ezekiel’s day and Zechariah’s day would never have understood this.

Colossians 2:20-22 finally sums up the sums up the biblical position today: “Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances, (Touch not; taste not; handle not; Which all are to perish with the using) after the commandments and doctrines of men?”

This is not talking about the moral law, it is talking about the ceremonial law. It is a redundant system. Christ took the whole old system away. The old Mosaic ceremonial law is completely gone. It is useless.

Christianity took us away from the old Mosaic ceremonial law completely. Those who argue for a return to the old system fail to see that it has been rendered obsolete through the new covenant.

Hebrews 7:18-19 makes clear: For there is verily a disannulling of the commandment going before for the weakness and unprofitableness thereof. For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did; by the which we draw nigh unto God.”

This word “disannulling” is taken from the Greek word athetesis meaning cancellation.

Barnes tells us in his commentary that the “disannulling of the commandment going before” relates to “the office of priest” and the Old Testament “ceremonial rites in general.” He explains that the old covenant “was not adapted to save man; it had not power to accomplish what was necessary to be done in human salvation. It answered the end for which it was designed-that of introducing a more perfect plan, and then vanished as a matter of course. It did not expiate guilt; it did not give peace to the conscience; it did not produce perfection (Heb 7:11), and therefore it gave place to a better system.”

The phrase “weakness and unprofitableness” used here to describe the old abolished system actually reads asthenes kai anopheles literally meaning: feeble and impotent useless and unprofitable.

It is hard to believe that Christian scholars would promote the return, on the new earth of all places, of such a hopeless discarded arrangement.

When Christ made that final sacrifice for sin He satisfied all God’s holy demands for sin and uncleanness and thus Christ became the final substitution for the sinner. Ephesians 2:13-15 also says, “now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition [between us]; Having abolished (katargeo) in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances.”

The Greek word katargeo is used here to describe the fate that befell the old Mosaic ritualistic system relating to “the law of commandments contained in ordinances.” This word means: ‘bring to nought’, ‘none effect’, and ‘abolish’. Jesus did away with any need or reliance upon the outward keeping of the old covenant religious system. The cross fulfilled forever God’s demand for a perfect once-for-all sacrifice.

Hebrews 7:16 tells us that Christ “is made, not after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless life.”

Adam Clark says: “Who is made - Appointed to this high office by God himself, not succeeding one that was disabled or dead, according to that law or ordinance directed to weak and perishing men, who could not continue by reason of death. This is probably all that the apostle intends by the words carnal commandment, εντολης σαρκικης· for carnal does not always mean sinful or corrupt, but feeble, frail, or what may be said of or concerning man in his present dying condition.”

Albert Barnes says: “Not after the law of a carnal commandment - Not according to the Law of a commandment pertaining to the flesh. The word “carnal” means “fleshly;” and the idea is, that the Law under which the priests of the old dispensation were made was external, rather than spiritual; it related more to outward observances than to the keeping of the heart. That this was the nature of the Mosaic ritual in the main, it was impossible to doubt, and the apostle proceeds to argue from this undeniable truth.

The whole context here is the removal and the replacement of the old covenant priesthood, the writer of the Hebrews presents Christ as heavens eternal replacement. What is more, we can see that this priesthood cannot pass from one to another, it is not transferrable. No other can appropriate this title or share in the function of the position, Christ alone holds that sacred high priestly office. Christ is the only real and perfect high priest today. He is the ultimate and final High Priest of the redeemed of God.

The animal sacrifices were done away forever. Hebrews 10:4-12 explains, For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins. 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. Above when he said, Sacrifice and offering and burnt offerings and offering for sin thou wouldest not, neither hadst pleasure therein; which are offered by the law; Then said he, Lo, I come to do thy will, O God. He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second.”

When Jesus died on the cross He instituted the new covenant which allowed the believer to access God directly. No longer would the bulk of God’s people be excluded from the presence of the Lord by a veil. No longer did they need an earthly priest to represent them before God. They were now free to approach Him personally by simple faith. Christ removed the partition between God and His people when He laid down His life for our sins. He became man’s final high priest.

The curtain between the believer and God was eternally torn apart. The separation was removed. Matthew 27:51 says, “And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent.” This veil was representative of Christ’s physical body. It was torn apart in order to secure eternal redemption for God’s people. It is only through Jesus that we can approach God. The way to salvation can only be found in Jesus.

For what purpose would we need a third temple? Christ is the realization of the shadow, symbol, and type. He is the ultimate fulfillment. He is the eternal temple. Is He not enough? Is He not acceptable enough? Do you need something greater?

Hebrews 9:9-11 says of the old covenant, “for the time then present, in which were offered both gifts and sacrifices, that could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience; Which stood only in meats and drinks, and divers washings, and carnal ordinances, imposed on them until the time of reformation. But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building.”

The idea that Ezekiel and Zechariah is predicting a return to old covenant worship and the widespread slaughter of animals in a future millennium is preposterous and is dismissed by numerous explicit New Testament Scripture. Any way: why would God restore animal sacrifices when He sent His Son to make one final all-sufficient sacrifice for sin? Jesus did away with any need or reliance upon the outward keeping of the old covenant religious system. The cross fulfilled forever God’s demand for a perfect once-for-all sacrifice.
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