Was the Feast of Tabernacles a part of the "law of Moses"? It is commanded in the New Testament? Did the apostle Paul observe it after everything was "nailed to the cross?"
You are now a part of the true NEW TESTAMENT Church of God, if you have been baptized and have received the Spirit of God. You have become a follower of Christ — and of the apostles in so far as they followed Christ. What was Christ's example? Did He observe the Feast of Tabernacles? Was He merely following Old Testament practice, or did He come to set the New Testament example?
New Testament Teaching
You have probably heard that Jesus merely followed the customs of Moses — that He set only an Old Testament example. That it was left to Paul to set up New Testament theology and practice. Many today have accepted without question the idea that Paul, not Jesus, really founded New Testament teaching. Yet nothing could be farther from the truth! Consider! MOSES set the true Old Testament example. He was the one called of God to establish the practice of the Old Testament Church. He gave the "law of Moses" to the Old Testament Church. The Jews had MOSES' example for their church. Jesus did not come in Moses' name, merely repeating the example of Moses. Jesus brought a New Covenant message. The gospel came by Jesus Christ! Christ brought the New Testament promise of the Holy Spirit. HE set the example for the New Testament Church. Christ left us "an example, that ye should follow his steps" (I Peter 2:21). Several times over Jesus had to declare: "You have heard it said by them of old time" — that is the Old Testament message — "BUT I SAY UNTO YOU..." — that is the New Testament message! Read it for yourself in Matthew 5:21 and 22; in 27 and 28 and in many other places. The apostle John was inspired to write: "And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments... whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: HEREBY know we that we are in him. He that saith he abideth in him OUGHT HIMSELF ALSO TO WALK, EVEN AS HE (CHRIST) WALKED" (I John 2:4-6). Notice! We are to walk as CHRIST walked. It doesn't say "as MOSES walked." Christ not only died to pay for our sins — He also LIVED so that we would know how to live. How did Christ live? What was His example? What did He teach? Did He set us the example of keeping the Feast of Tabernacles? Did Paul follow Jesus' example and keep the Feast of Tabernacles LONG AFTER everything was "nailed to the cross"? Notice Paul's command to follow HIS example as HE followed Christ's: "BE ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ" (I Corinthians 11:1). That is very plain. Are we willing to follow Paul as he followed Christ? How did he follow Christ?
Nailed to the Cross?
You have probably heard it said that the Feast of Tabernacles — as also the other annual festivals — were a part of the ceremonial law of Moses added "till the seed should come." That the Holy Days of God were "nailed to the cross." What most of you probably were not told is that after everything was nailed to the cross WE STILL FIND THE APOSTLES AND THE NEW TESTAMENT CHURCH OBSERVING THESE DAYS! In I Corinthians 5:8 Paul commands Gentiles to observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread. "Let us therefore keep the feast," he exhorts the Gentile converts at Corinth. By becoming neglectful of the Feast, the Corinthians were allowing the leaven of sin to creep into their midst. Notice what this means. Either Paul was not the apostle of Jesus Christ and was trying to re-establish what was already abolished, or else the laws regulating the festivals were not abolished at the cross! Isn't that plain? Paul would have been without any authority whatsoever to command these Gentile converts to "keep the feast" unless it was STILL GOD'S LAW to keep the Holy Days. Now notice the examples of Paul himself planning to KEEP an annual festival. The first is found in Acts 20:16. Paul is rushing by Ephesus in order to be at Jerusalem. Why does Paul want to be at Jerusalem? — in order to preach to the Jews? Not at all! Notice how this verse reads: "For Paul had determined to sail by Ephesus, because he would not spend the time in Asia: for he hasted, if it were possible, for him TO KEEP the day of Pentecost at Jerusalem." Paul was determined to KEEP the day of Pentecost with the Headquarters Church before launching on a campaign into Spain. Many translations obscure the real meaning of this verse. The original, inspired Greek word here translated "to keep" is "genesthai," which is an infinitive form of "ginomai." The King James and other versions incorrectly render it "to be." The Greek word for "to be" is "einai," but Luke was inspired to use "genesthai" here in Acts 20:16 which can mean among other things "to keep, to celebrate, or to solemnize a festival" according to the "Analytical Greek Lexicon." This same root word is used in Matthew 26:2, which ought to be translated: "Ye know that after two days the Passover IS CELEBRATED..." So here we have two important examples of Paul — 1) commanding Gentiles to observe the Days of Unleavened Bread and 2) planning to KEEP the day of Pentecost with the Headquarters Church at Jerusalem. But what New Testament examples are there for keeping the Feast of Tabernacles?
Christ's Example in the New Testament
The last autumn before He died, Jesus went up to Jerusalem to observe the Feast of Tabernacles! The entire seventh chapter of the Gospel according to John is devoted to what Jesus said and did at that Festival. Because of the Jews, Jesus did not go to Jerusalem with his family, but separated from them (verses 8 and 10). He did not appear publicly to teach in the temple until the middle of the Feast of Tabernacles (verse 14). John records parts of the special sermon of Christ delivered on the last great day of the Feast, beginning with verse 37. Did Paul follow Jesus' example?
Paul Kept Feast of Tabernacles
Paul obeyed Jesus Christ. Paul kept the Holy Days Jesus commanded. That included the Feast of Tabernacles. Where, in Scripture, do we find Paul keeping this festival? Turn to the book of Acts for the answer! Notice the sequence of events. God used Paul to reach the Gentiles with the Gospel. In 50 A.D., Paul crossed over from Asia into Europe and began to preach the gospel at Philippi "on the day of weeks" — Pentecost — according to the inspired original Greek (Acts 16:13). Pentecost is also called the "feast of weeks" in the old Testament (Deut. 16:10). Most versions render the Greek expression "on the Sabbath day"; but the original inspired Greek is in the plural — and means "the day of weeks." This was exactly 19 years to the day since the Holy Spirit came on Pentecost in A.D. 31 (Acts 2). After a few weeks at Philippi, Thessalonica (Acts 17:1), Berea (Acts 17:10) and at Athens (verse 16), Paul came to Corinth in the late summer of A.D. 50. After spending several Sabbaths teaching in the synagogue (Acts 18:4), Paul continued to hold meetings in the house of Titius Justus (verse 7) for "a year and six months" (verse 11). This brings us to the spring of 52 A.D. After a riot stirred up against the Apostle was quelled, we read the following about Paul: "And Paul after this tarried there A GOOD WHILE, and then took his leave of the brethren, and sailed thence into Syria" (Acts 18:18). It was now well into the summer of A.D. 52. The Days of Unleavened Bread and Pentecost — the two festivals near the beginning and end of spring — were now past. To continue with Paul's journey. On his way from Corinth to the port of Syria, "he came to Ephesus" and "entered into the synagogue, and reasoned with the Jews. When they desired him to tarry longer time with them, he consented not; but bade them farewell, saying, I MUST BY ALL MEANS KEEP THIS FEAST THAT COMETH IN JERUSALEM: but I will return again unto you, if God will. And he sailed from Ephesus" (Acts 18:19-21). Paul planning to keep the feast with the Headquarters Church at Jerusalem? Indeed! That is what the Scripture says! Which Feast? Obviously the Feast of Tabernacles! The spring festivals were already past. The two late summer or early autumn Holy Days, the festivals of Trumpets and Atonement, were held at any of the local congregations. Yet here was a major festival being held at Jerusalem IN THE AUTUMN. The only major festival that occurs in the autumn is the Feast of Tabernacles! Paul told the Ephesians that he "MUST BY ALL MEANS KEEP THIS FEAST" with the Headquarters Church in Jerusalem. Paul had just completed his first journey into Europe with the gospel. He felt he had to report the progress of the work to the Headquarters Church and the brethren in Palestine (verse 22). What better time than to do so while keeping the Feast of Tabernacles! Here is the example of Paul the apostle to the Gentiles. After years in the New Testament ministry he is still KEEPING THE FEAST OF TABERNACLES.
Verse Left Out in Corrupted Manuscripts
Acts 18:21 appears correctly in the King James Version of the Bible. But numerous modern translations leave out that portion of the verse which tells of Paul's intention to keep the Feast. This verse, in its entirety, BELONGS IN THE BIBLE. It has always been 100% a part of the Greek "Received Text" — which is the inspired text handed down to the Greek speaking world by the original true Church of God. The overwhelming majority of Greek Manuscripts (95%) have this verse in it. The only manuscripts which leave it out are those 5% copied in Egypt and in the Latin-speaking portions of the Roman Empire. There would have been no reason to add this verse to the Bible if it were not there originally. BUT THERE IS EVERY REASON WHY MEN WOULD LIKE TO REMOVE IT FROM THE INSPIRED TEXT! The Catholic version of the Bible leaves it out as do almost all modern Protestant translations of the Bible. These are just the churches who do NOT want to keep this feast! Here, brethren, is proof from the New Testament — from Christ's teaching and example, and the apostle Paul's example — that the New Testament Church is commanded to keep the Feast of Tabernacles. How plain the Scripture is when we are willing to believe and practice what it reveals!
Began Before the Old Covenant
Many people assume that the command to keep the Feast of Tabernacles was a part of the Old Covenant — and since the Old Covenant is no longer in force it is no longer necessary to keep the Feast. This idea is false. Here is why! The Old Covenant was a marriage agreement (Jeremiah 31:32). If a marriage agreement is broken, THAT DOES NOT ABOLISH THE LAWS THAT REGULATE MARRIAGES. The laws incorporated in the Old Covenant are like the laws which regulate a marriage covenant. They exist before a marriage agreement and regulate it. Israel's breaking of the Old Covenant did not abolish the laws to which Israel agreed. This brings us to another fact! THE OLD COVENANT DID NOT INSTITUTE THE HOLY DAYS! The statutes which regulate the annual festivals existed PRIOR to the Old Covenant. What the Old Covenant did not institute it cannot abolish. The Old Covenant was merely a marriage agreement between the Eternal (the Husband) and Israel (the wife) in which the wife agreed TO OBEY the Husband's laws WHICH WERE ALREADY IN FORCE. In return for obedience, Israel was physically blessed and provided for above all other nations. The statutes which instituted the Holy Days were required to be kept BEFORE the Old Covenant was made! Turn to Exodus 15:26: "If you will diligently hearken unto the voice of the Lord your God, and will do that which is right in His sight, and will give ear unto His commandments, AND KEEP ALL HIS STATUTES, I will put none of these diseases upon you that afflict the Egyptians." Here is the Lord Jesus Christ commanding His people to keep ALL His statutes BEFORE the Old Covenant. These statutes could not have been instituted by the Old Covenant because the Old Covenant was not completed until Exodus 24. These statutes, which God was revealing to Moses and the people before Sinai, were LATER incorporated into the Old Covenant — just as was the weekly Sabbath (Exodus 20). But the Old Covenant did not begin then. The Old Covenant merely required obedience to what already was in full force and effect. Among all the statutes which were IN FORCE BEFORE SINAI and later incorporated into the Old Covenant ARE THE REQUIREMENTS TO OBSERVE THE ANNUAL FESTIVALS — including the Feast of Tabernacles (Exodus 23:14-17). If the annual festivals had not already been God's laws they could not have been included in the Old Covenant.
Began with the Church
The weekly Sabbath began with man. It was made at creation (Genesis 2). But the annual festivals God gave first to the Church when the Church began. The twelve tribes of Israel were first formed into a Church just before the Exodus from Egypt. The FIRST function of that Congregation or Assembly was TO KEEP THE ANNUAL HOLY DAYS. The first time the word Congregation is used for the tribes of Israel is in Exodus 12:3, where the annual festivals are first introduced! Just as the Sabbath keeps MAN in a right relationship with his Creator, so the annual Holy Days keep THE CHURCH in a right knowledge of the Plan of God. Any group which refuses to keep holy these days God made holy is not in a right relationship with God. Such a group is spiritually like the Egyptians who scoffed at God's festivals! When the Congregation of Israel — the Church in Old Testament times — began to sin (began to be in a wrong relationship with God) and to break these laws, God TEMPORARILY ADDED — AFTER the making of the Old Covenant — various physical rituals and sacrifices which were imposed ON EVERY DAY OF THE YEAR until the coming of Jesus Christ to shed His own blood for our sins (Hebrews 9:10 and Galatians 3:19). These temporary, physical laws did not exist prior to the Old Covenant (Jeremiah 7:22-23). They were given only to the Old Testament Church for a limited duration. JESUS NEVER PRACTICED THESE RITUALISTIC LAWS. You cannot find one place in the New Testament where He sets us any example to keep them. But He did keep the Feast of Tabernacles as an example for us — and He commanded those who love Him to keep His words, which included the observance of the annual festivals.
Nowhere in the Bible was the "law of Moses" commanded forever. But the annual festivals are commanded to be kept by the people forever! It is time we opened our Bibles to see what the Scriptures actually say. Notice the many texts which declare the festivals are to be "observed by a statute FOREVER." "And this day" — the Passover — "shall be unto you for a MEMORIAL; and ye shall keep it a feast [the word "festival" is a better translation] to the Lord throughout your generations; ye shall keep it a feast by a statute ["ordinance" is not the correct translation] FOR EVER" (Ex. 12:14). "And ye shall observe the feast of unleavened bread; for in this selfsame day have I brought your armies out of the land of Egypt: therefore [as a MEMORIAL] shall ye observe this day in your generations by a statute ["ordinance" is not correct] FOR EVER" (Ex. 12:17). In this chapter, verse 24, the Passover is again referred to: "And ye shall observe this for a statute to thee and to thy sons FOR EVER"! In Exodus 13:10 the Feast of Unleavened Bread is commanded to be observed in his season from year to year." As long as a new year occurs this festival is to be observed! Notice what the Bible states about the Day of Atonement: "And this shall be a statute FOR EVER unto YOU: that in the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, ye shall afflict your souls, and do no work" (Lev. 16:29). And verse 31: "It shall be a Sabbath of rest unto you, and ye shall afflict your souls, by a statute FOR EVER." Concerning the Feast of Pentecost: "And ye shall proclaim on the selfsame day, that it may be an holy convocation unto you, ye shall do no servile work therein: it shall be a statute FOR EVER in all your dwellings throughout your generations" (Lev. 23:21). Israel's generations ate still continuing. Most of YOU are of Israel! Again, "Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, In the seventh month, in the first day of the month, shall ye have a Sabbath, a MEMORIAL of blowing of trumpets, an holy convocation [verse 24]. ALSO on the tenth day of this seventh month there shall be a day of atonement [verse 27]. Ye shall do no manner of work: it shall be a statute FOR EVER throughout your generations in all your dwellings" (Lev. 23:31). The Feast of Tabernacles is mentioned in verse 41 of this same chapter: "And ye shall keep it a feast unto the Lord seven days in the year. It shall be a statute FOR EVER in your generations." Notice! Here are God's annual festivals COMMANDED FOREVER — throughout the generations of Israel. Israel's generations are still continuing. THE MANNER OF OBSERVING THE DAYS IS DIFFERENT NOW THAN UNDER THE LEVITICAL PRIESTHOOD, BUT THE DAYS ARE STILL TO BE OBSERVED — STILL TO BE KEPT HOLY — NO SERVILE WORK TO BE DONE IN THEM! These verses mean what they say! In every one of these scriptures GOD MEANS EXACTLY WHAT HE INSPIRED THE WRITERS OF THE BIBLE TO RECORD FOR US! When He declares a law to be everlasting HE MEANS IT! NOWHERE IN THE BIBLE WERE PHYSICAL SACRIFICES COMMANDED TO BE PERFORMED BY THE PEOPLE FOREVER! People have merely taken for granted that the Bible says so! But it is not true! No stronger proof than these nine verses can be given that the Church of God must keep holy these days God made holy! Yet in not one of these places is any mention made of physical sacrifices being commanded forever. As final proof we have the New Testament example of Christ and of Paul and the inspired New Testament Church. They kept holy these days God made holy. The true New Testament Church has continued to keep holy these days. Together with the Sabbath they constitute the very SIGN by which we are known as the PEOPLE of God!
A COLLECTIVE Duty
It is a COLLECTIVE duty of the New Testament Church of God to observe the Feast of Tabernacles. It is not an individual matter. It is MOST vital that all members understand this! YOU, as an individual member, are not responsible for determining where or when the WHOLE Church shall assemble. If you were, then God would be using you as His direct instrument for determining WHERE all other members should assemble. God would be ruling the Church through you! God has not left it for the individual member to decide WHEN the Church shall assemble. God Himself has set aside His Holy Sabbath, sanctified and hallowed the seventh day of every week. Is it permissible for YOU, as an individual member, to decide that the WHOLE CHURCH shall meet on Tuesdays or Sundays? Of course NOT. Put that way it seems ridiculous. To keep any different day and profane GOD'S day which HE appointed is a basic SIN! God sets the TIME for the annual festivals. In like manner GOD sets the PLACE! Only GOD can sanctify — set apart — a place to which all His people are to assemble. GOD determines where we are to assemble! But how can the Church know which is the place God has chosen for the Feast of Tabernacles? HOW and TO WHOM does He reveal it? Since observing the Feast is a collective matter, WHO HAS THE AUTHORITY TO BIND GOD'S CHOICE OF A PLACE ON THE WHOLE CHURCH? Is the individual member given the power to bind all other members — the power to rule the Church — in this matter? What is the New Testament way by which GOD RULES His Church, by which GOD KEEPS UNITY among the members so that all may collectively assemble in harmony at the locations He has chosen for the Feast of Tabernacles?
Christ the LIVING RULER of His Church
God RULES His Church — the Church of God — through Jesus Christ. Jesus is the Head of the Church, not some man! Jesus rules from Heaven! But how does Jesus reveal His decisions to the Church on earth? Where, in the Bible, do we find HOW Jesus governs His Church? What is the instrumentality by which Jesus, who is in Heaven, carries out His will on earth? Notice the Bible answer: God "hath set some in the Church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers..." (I Cor. 12:28) — or, as in Ephesians 4:11-14, some are "apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers, for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry... till we all come in the unity of the faith" — that is, unity in doctrine or belief — "that we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine has chosen as His ministers and His instruments for administering HIS AUTHORITY, for the very purpose of preventing false doctrine creeping in to divide and to destroy the flock — for the very purpose of keeping UNITY in the Church. It is to the ministry of God's Church that Christ said: "Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven..." (Matt. 18:18). It is not through individual members, but through His ministry, that GOD reveals where He wants us to assemble. It is through the ministry that He BINDS HIS CHOICE of the place on the whole Church. Thus God reveals through His ministers the place He sets apart to which HIS WHOLE CHURCH IS TO ASSEMBLE! When individual members attempt to determine and to decide for themselves which place God has chosen they make themselves competitors and enemies of God's Church and of God's government in it. They stir up dissension, cause division, and thus put themselves out of the Church. The individual must first determine for himself — must satisfy himself — as to which is the one true Church of God, and then he must be subject to the government of God in His Church. This he must voluntarily submit to. He ought, however, to know HOW God's Church is led to recognize the place God has chosen for the Feast of Tabernacles.
Not Jerusalem Today
Notice the Book of Zechariah. The one feast in the Millennium which all will be required to attend in one place at first is the Feast of Tabernacles! "And it shall come to pass that every one that is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem" — and all nations will come against Jerusalem — "shall even go up from year to year... to keep the Feast of Tabernacles" (Zech. 14:16). In the Millennium even the Gentiles will be required to assemble at Jerusalem to keep the Feast of Tabernacles. But JERUSALEM is NOT NOW the place which God has chosen. Jesus said: "The hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain (where the false Samaritan worship was centered), nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father" (John 4:21). God rejected Jerusalem after 69 A.D. He withdrew His name from it. It is at the second coming of Jesus Christ that "the Lord... shall choose Jerusalem AGAIN" (Zech. 2:12).
Jesus Leads Our Church Today
All our older brethren have learned from past issues of "The Good News" how GOD chose areas near Gladewater, Texas, and near London, England, and led His Church to assemble there for the Feast of Tabernacles. NO OTHER PLACES IN THE UNITED STATES OR ENGLAND WERE CHOSEN for the Feast of Tabernacles — NOT EVEN PASADENA, the Headquarters Church. For years there was ONE place in the United States and Canada! Jesus leads His Church — this Church. We are the Church of God. Since Jesus never changes, we find Him leading the Church today in exactly the same manner as He did in apostolic times. He is leading His ministers today to know where the festivals of God ought to be held, just as He led the apostles and ministers in old times to know where God's people should meet. God provided in His law for us to save the SECOND TITHE so that we all could journey to a central place for the Feast of Tabernacles. For years Gladewater was centrally located from east to west. Economically it was centrally located from north to south, for the majority of our brethren who had low incomes lived in the region of the Southern states. Certainly God is the all-wise God, and Jesus is the living Head of His Church today! But the Church of God has grown so in the past year that now Jesus has had to open up to His true Church ANOTHER place for the Feast of Tabernacles — at Squaw Valley, California. The brethren simply COULD NOT ANY LONGER AFFORD to build all the needed facilities near Gladewater. It became apparent to the Church this year that for the first time we all could not continue assembling at Gladewater and that a new area in addition to Gladewater — just as we had London and Sydney — was needed. JESUS CHRIST MADE THE CHOICE. He revealed it. We now must do what He commands through His servants — His Ministry. Brethren, let's all be at the Feast of Tabernacles this autumn wherever held.