Jesus, Himself is the fulfillment—He is God in the flesh who tabernacled among us.
It is hard to believe another year has passed! The Fall Feasts are upon us, and Jewish people all around the world will soon begin to celebrate the New Year (Rosh Hashanah), the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur), and the Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot)—the three great Fall Festivals described in Leviticus 23:23-44.
We believe that each of the Festivals points to Jesus in one way or another, and this is wonderfully true of the Feast of Tabernacles! This Feast, in particular, carries a rich meaning for both Christians and Jewish people alike.
Yeshua the Messiah and the Feast of Tabernacles
Jesus (Yeshua in Hebrew) is the fulfillment of all the Jewish Festivals, and this includes Sukkot. First of all, we understand that Jesus Himself is the fulfillment of the Festival in that He is God in the flesh who “tabernacled” among us. As John wrote,
And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)
The Greek word John used for “dwelt” is skene, a word that refers to the pitching of a tent. The image is easy to grasp—through the incarnation, God pitched a tent, which was His flesh, to veil His pure glory. Jesus pitched His tabernacle and dwelled among us for a short sojourn until the day He returns to reign as King. The incarnation was a foretaste of the experience of God’s glory we will enjoy when the kingdom is established on earth. In that day, the Messiah will be King over all, and both Israel and the nations will bow to Him as their sovereign Lord.
…so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:10-11)
In the 7th chapter of John, we see that Jesus Himself celebrated the Festival and, in fact, He used the celebration to make one of the most profound announcements regarding who He is. Specifically, it was on the seventh day of the Feast, called Hoshana Rabbah. This day is also known in Judaism as the last Day of Judgment. It was customary at that time for the Jewish people to send a choir of Levites and a priestly orchestra to the pool of Siloam to gather water in giant urns, which were then brought back to the altar.
They would march around the altar crying out Hosheanah—“Lord save us…Lord save us,” many times over. They would then pour the water from the urns at the base of the altar. This ceremony symbolized the future hope of the Jewish people—looking forward to the day when God would pour out His Spirit upon the people of Israel in fulfillment of Joel 2:28-29:
It will come about after this that I will pour out My Spirit on all mankind: And your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Even on the male and female servants I will pour out My Spirit in those days.
According to Jewish tradition, these events were expected to take place when the Messiah appeared on the earth. This “pouring out” was foreshadowed in the Temple by the pouring out of the water at the base of the altar. The water drawing ceremony, as it was known, was a portrait of the day when God would send His Messiah and His Spirit, and the Jewish people would become alive spiritually as they had never before.
Jesus understood the traditions associated with this great day of the Feast, and He knew this was the last opportunity on the Jewish calendar to repent of sins and be cleansed. It is a common misconception that Judaism teaches that the Books of Life and Death are sealed at the conclusion of the Day of Atonement; however, Jewish tradition dating back to the first century tells us that the judgment, which determines one’s fate for the year, is actually finalized on Hoshana Rabbah—literally, the great day of salvation.
It was at the high point of this ceremony when Jesus rose up and cried out:
“If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’ ” But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive; for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. (John 7:37-39)
Clearly, He was telling the crowds He was the Messiah, and that the Spirit of God is now being poured out, and that He is the living water. Those who drink, or believe in Him, will never thirst again! The Jewish people had a chance to find forgiveness of sin at the conclusion of the High Holiday cycle, and that moment had arrived—the way of salvation was through faith in Him!
It is safe to assume that Jesus’ declaration was heard by many Jewish people that day, because Sukkot is one of the three biblical Festivals which required all Jewish males to travel to Jerusalem from around the world.
The Future Sukkot
We will also see the Feast of Tabernacles fulfilled in the Kingdom period when the nations will be commanded to come up to Jerusalem and celebrate the Feast (Zechariah 14:16-19). If not, the prophet tells us that a drought would come upon those who disobey. We may assume that this is speaking of God literally withholding water, but also refers to a spiritual drought as those who do not follow the Lord also do not enjoy His favor and goodness.
There is a final unfolding of this great Festival which is described by the Apostle John who writes,
And I heard a loud voice from the thrones saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He shall dwell among men and they shall be His people and God Himself shall be among them, and He shall wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there shall no longer be any death; there shall no longer be any mourning, crying, or pain, the first things have passed away. (Revelation 21:3-4)
We believe God will fulfill the kingdom promises to the Jewish people and establish the throne of Jesus in a literal and renewed Jerusalem. But that is not the end of the story—there is more to come. Ultimately, the whole earth will become the Sukkah booth of God, and He will reign for all eternity. As Paul describes,
When all things are subjected to Him, then the Son Himself also will be subjected to the One who subjected all things to Him, so that God may be all in all. (1 Corinthians 15:28)
This is a description of heaven, as after Jesus reigns as King over Israel and the nations for what many believe is for a literal thousand years (Revelation 20:1-5), the events described in Revelation 21 and 1 Corinthians 15 will take place. First, He literally fulfills His promises to Israel based upon the Abrahamic Covenant (Genesis 12:1-3), and then the eternal reign of the Triune God is established forever.
I hope this gives you a whole new perspective on why the Feast of Tabernacles is also called the “Season of Our Joy.” What can bring greater joy than remembering how God tabernacled among us, while also looking forward to the day when He will be with us forever?
The Gospel and the Middle East Conference
There is much to learn about the present and future of Israel and the nations! This is why we have planned a major conference on biblical prophecy to study these very issues in the Scriptures! It is critical for us to look at current events through the lens of the Bible.
Speaking of which, I have some good news: we still have some room for you to join us at The Gospel and the Middle East conference scheduled for October 13-14 in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex! This is going to be an exciting opportunity to hear speakers like Joel Rosenberg, Darrell Bock, Craig Blaising, and others from the Chosen People Ministries staff. We are also bringing in speakers from Israel, and we will hear testimonies from former Muslims who know the Lord and love the Jewish people.
The conference will be an incredible time of exploring what the Bible teaches about Israel and the Middle East, but it will also be a time of celebration as you hear directly from those who minister in Israel about how God is moving in the Holy Land! We are grateful for our co-sponsors, Dallas Theological Seminary and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, so please join us if you are able! The registration information is on the enclosed card, or you can register online at thegospelandthemiddleeast.com.
Thanks for your prayers and faithful financial support as we share the Good News of Jesus the Messiah with Jewish people around the globe!
Enjoy the remainder of the newsletter, especially the information about Jewish views of the end times. I pray you have a blessed High Holiday season. Please remember to pray for Your Mission to the Jewish People and for the many outreaches we are having at this time all around the globe.