The Feast of Tabernacles focuses on unity among true Christians and pictures the peace of the wonderful world tomorrow.
This is a tragically divided world! Communism opposes capitalism. Democratic and totalitarian systems compete. Labor struggles with management; teens irritate parents; students confront teachers; left-wing and rightwing ideologies clash. The litany of divisiveness blares at us from every corner. Everywhere, it seems, extremism and polarization are the rule, antagonism and accusation almost the norm. Where are the "people of good will" in the world today? We are seeing the fulfillment of a chilling prophecy, one the apostle Paul penned more than 1,900 years ago: "For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud... unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal" (II Timothy 3:2-3). Jeremiah lamented this same social unraveling, the fractured human relationships prophesied to afflict the affluent nations in particular at the end time: "Oh, that I had in the wilderness a lodging place... that I might leave my people, and go from them! For they are all adulterers... treacherous men... do not trust any brother; for every brother will utterly supplant, and every neighbor will walk with slanderers.... Their tongue is an arrow shot out; it speaks deceit" (Jeremiah 9:2, 4, 8). What does all this have to do with the Worldwide Church of God and the coming Feast of Tabernacles? Everything — literally everything!
The coming utopia
Anciently, God Almighty revealed a deeply meaningful series of festivals to His people Israel — seven annual Holy Days that are far more than a disjointed series of meaningless banquets. God's Holy Days are a brilliant, steadily unfolding illumination of God's own plan for the ages, a plan hidden from the wise of this world, but revealed with stark clarity to ordinary people just like us (Matthew 11:25). A major part of God's majestic plan involves the forcible institution of an orderly and harmonious 1,000-year period on this earth (Revelation 20:6). A thousand years of compulsory peace! Jesus Christ announced it during His earthly ministry. He foretold a time when the nations of this earth will be shepherded for 1,000 years by the Prince of peace and His handpicked staff (Matthew 25:31-32). Numerous scriptures shout out this startling truth. During the Millennium all police power and law enforcement will be concentrated in the wise, firm hands of Jesus Christ and His executive assistants (Matthew 24:30-31) — government of the people, for the people, by the God Family (Revelation 21:7). Just think of it — a world where the Ten Commandments and God's other laws are enforced — a world where shoplifting, rape, assault, murder and conspiracy are outlawed! Isaiah foretold it: "And though the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet your teachers will not be moved into a corner anymore, but your eyes shall see your teachers. Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, 'This is the way, walk in it,' whenever you turn to the right hand or whenever you turn to the left" (Isaiah 30:20-21). A tightly monitored world? Yes. A world where authority and law are pervasive? Of course. But not the Orwellian Big Brother world of 1984, either. Not when the government is headed by One who paid the full price in service to God and man — the price of His own blood (Luke 22:20)!
The right attitude
Jesus Christ proved His utter sincerity, His determination to serve humanity and yet not compromise with His Father's laws. How? By submitting to the toughest part of God's master plan — a preordained appointment for a bloody death on the stake. Hebrews 12:2 tells us to look to "Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God." Even as a human being, Jesus added infinite depth to the word compassion. His ministry was characterized by an unashamed openness and feeling for human problems. A government with this motivation — a royal Family of selfless servants, literal brethren of Jesus Christ (Hebrews 2:11) — will guarantee perfect justice and fairness for all — utopia! This is no pipe dream. The glorious Millennium is soon to dawn (James 5:8). The signs of the collapse of the old order are all about us (Matthew 24:3-8). So how should we prepare for the Festival picturing this soon-coming world tomorrow? What might Jesus Christ want to see from us at this 1984 Feast of Tabernacles, a season completing 50 years of service to the great commission (verse 14)?
The number 50
Quite often, the number 50 is used in Scripture to relate to unity, cohesiveness. The tabernacle Moses constructed in the wilderness was covered with beautiful, high-quality curtains woven in two uneven lengths of material. They were joined with 50 hooks or clasps (Exodus 26:6, 11). The 50 attachments made the two uneven portions of linen into one curtain, one tabernacle. Fifty loops of blue were used as couplings for these hooks. Notice Exodus 36:12-13: "Fifty loops he made on one curtain, and fifty loops he made on the edge of the curtain... and he made fifty clasps of gold, and coupled the curtains to one another with the clasps, that it might be one tabernacle." Leviticus 25 mentions the 50- year Jubilee cycle in ancient Israel. After seven sabbatical years "you shall consecrate the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout all the land to all its inhabitants" (verse 10). What happened in the 50th year? "It shall be a Jubilee for you; and each of you shall return to his possession, and each of you shall return to his family." What a beautiful law! Families reunited. Men and women returning to their original inheritance. Social balance and justice renewed. Understand now why the Bible says of the first century Church of God that "when the Day of Pentecost had fully come [Pentecost was the 50th day after the spring wave-sheaf ceremony — see Leviticus 23:15-16], they were all with one accord in one place" (Acts 2:1).
Acting as one
After 50 years of service to the great commission, there is still much to be done. The big push is still ahead. So how can this Feast of Tabernacles help unify God's Church even more as the climax approaches? In many ways. Common activities are unifying. More than 100,000 of us will meet simultaneously "with one accord" at more than 80 sites worldwide. This is an inspiring mass demonstration of oneness. As one splendidly coordinated unit, God's people from age 1 to 101, from China to Chile, Brno to British Columbia, will rejoice before their Creator exactly as God commands (Deuteronomy 16:14). How does this affect Jesus Christ, Head of God's Church? "You are My friends," Jesus promises, "if you do whatever I command you.... until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full" (John 15:14, 16:24). Faith in Jesus Christ's invisible leadership makes the Feast possible. God's Church shows real faith at the Feast, shows that, collectively, we know the lines of authority in God's work run directly to heaven itself. There's more going on than meets the eye at the Feast of Tabernacles. Jesus Himself walks among us at our scattered assemblies (Matthew 18:20). That is inspiring — and unifying (John 17:21). This Feast we as one body could ask to more deeply understand the No. 1 project on God's mind right now: the crying need to send the anointed King of kings back to this earth — the stark, urgent necessity to rescue a suffering humanity, to save mankind from the sickening tragedies pommeling this planet! The Bible's pivotal verses are Acts 3:19-21: "Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that He may send Jesus Christ, who was preached to you before, whom heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began." And what is going to be restored to this earth at Jesus' return? God's government!
The big picture
Surely we can see the need for God's government more this year than in 1983. Yet before that Kingdom comes the Gospel warning must be preached (Matthew 24:14). That is God's schedule: Warn people first, and then they will know enough to repent, to turn to God by the millions at Jesus' return (Isaiah 2:2-3). You and I are called to support the preaching of that Gospel, to back this crusade for sanity (Ezekiel 18:30-32). This is God's first priority now (Matthew 6:33). We observe this Feast as a token, as a surety that a better world is coming. The good news is that it won't be long now! What a hope — what a purpose — what a vision! That goal should pull us together more than ever before in 1984. The world needs the Kingdom even more than it did in 1983. Do we understand that?
A group effort
Common goals cement unity, and unity is the lubricant, the spiritual balm that helps all the diverse arms and agencies of God's Church function harmoniously (Psalm 133:1-2). After all, how many of us could even master the legal technicalities to get The Plain Truth magazine, for example, into a Third-World nation? God's Church today is a big operation. It needs organization, specialized technical expertise: "There are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all… For in fact the body is not one member but many" (I Corinthians 12:6, 14). Spiritual preparation is the real key to unity (Ephesians 4:24-25). Remember our brethren in difficult circumstances — in Haiti and East Germany, in Burma and Belfast. This makes us more appreciative, more unified in spirit (verse 4). It helps drive home how God is using a group effort to finish the job. Most members encounter God's government more intensively at the Feast of Tabernacles than at any other time of the year. Think of the Feast coordinators, the visiting speakers, ushers, deacons, sound and stage crews — the maze of activities necessary for an orderly, profitable Feast. Then resolve to be a goodwill ambassador, an ambassador of unity (II Corinthians 5:20). Pray for other Feast sites. Try to come out of yourself a little more this year. Be warm, service-oriented, concerned for the strangers or new people who will walk among us (Exodus 22:21). Attend the Feast films — these are unifying productions. Fine-tune your children now. Resolve to attend services on time. Pay more attention to the sermons this year. Be part of the solution, not part of the problem (Romans 13:11-12). We are a "little flock" (Luke 12:32), but together at this Festival we comprise the biggest annual conclave on the face of the earth. We are God's own people embarked on the quest of the ages, serving a sure vision of the only future worth striving for — the incredible opportunity to help multiple billions of human beings find peace and productivity in the Family of God (Matthew 25:34). Let's focus on that goal more closely than ever at the 1984 Feast of Tabernacles, a festival of unity!