The Feast of TabernaclesChronicling the activities of Jesus Christ's earthly ministry, the book of John points out that when the "Feast of Tabernacles was at hand," Jesus Himself "went up to the feast" and taught at the Temple in Jerusalem. This was done in observance of the final of three annual Festival seasons that are outlined in the Bible, particularly in the book of Leviticus.
These three seasons, the Passover and Days of Unleavened Bread, the Festival of Pentecost and the Fall Festival season, were all observed by Jesus and the first-century Church. The latter season is capped by the eight-day Festival of Tabernacles and Last Great Day (Leviticus 23:33-36).
"As part of the United Church of God's commitment to follow the example of the first-century Church, we keep these days, even though they are essentially nontraditional in today's age and not largely observed by other religious organizations," explained Clyde Kilough, president of the United Church of God.
This same commitment leads members of the United Church of God to observe a seventh-day Sabbath on Saturday as Christ did.
Kilough pointed out that from a biblical perspective, the Festival of Tabernacles pictures the coming time when Jesus will return to earth and directly rule the world for 1,000 years.
"As the Feast of Tabernacles represents a coming time of unprecedented harmony and peace, we conduct this annual eight-day event with a strong family focus," Kilough explained. Accordingly, members and families take part in daily church services and a whole range of positive family-based activities throughout the Festival.
This eight-day Festival represents the prophesied fulfillment of the coming Kingdom of God, which Jesus taught about extensively during His earthly ministry. The annual festivals observed earlier in the year by the Church represent the Christian's redemption from sin through Christ's sacrifice, the commitment of Christians to put sin out of their lives and the coming of God's Holy Spirit to strongly empower a Christian to live life in harmony with God's law and prepare for eternal life.
In 2009, United Church of God members and families will travel to more than 50 Festival of Tabernacles sites around the world to take part in this biblical assembly. Church members traditionally observe the earlier festivals in their local areas. However, proper observance of the Festival of Tabernacles requires that members reside in temporary quarters (called "booths" or "tabernacles" in the Bible – Leviticus 23:42).
The Church rents large conference centers or facilities to accommodate daily worship during the Festival, and members typically stay in nearby hotels to fulfill the temporary nature required by the biblical command. "Staying in a temporary dwelling such as a hotel underscores the transitory nature of this present world and illustrates how it will be replaced by the prophesied Kingdom of God," noted Kilough.
This year the Festival of Tabernacles will be observed by about 20,000 members and families of the United Church of God October 3 through October 10, 2009.
"The emphasis placed by Christ on the coming Kingdom of God is intense, and Church members accordingly take the opportunity to observe this Festival very seriously," explained Kilough.
Because the Festival of Tabernacles occurs during a nontraditional time when vacations and school absences are not common, the Church encourages members and families to notify employers and schools well in advance of their plans.
This helps minimize misunderstandings and to obtain school assignments and other information.
"This way Church children don't fall behind in academics while they are briefly absent from school to observe the biblical festivals with their families," Kilough related.
The Church president also noted that the vast majority of teachers and administrators are "very cooperative across the United States" in helping students prepare for their brief absences to observe the biblical festivals.
Feast of Tabernacles locations sponsored by the United Church of God.
About the United Church of God, an international association
Basing its beliefs on the biblical practices of the original 1st Century Church, the United Church of God maintains congregations in more than 40 countries around the world. Following the recorded example of Jesus Christ and the first apostles, the Church observes a seventh day Sabbath and the annual Holy Day seasons as outlined in the Old and New Testaments. The main offices of the Church are located in Cincinnati, Ohio.
This is the United Church of God - Preaching the Gospel, Preparing a People
The mission of the United Church of God is to proclaim to the world the little-understood gospel taught by Jesus Christ—the good news of the coming Kingdom of God—and to prepare a people for that Kingdom. This message not only offers great hope for all of humanity, but encompasses the purpose of human existence—why we are here and where our world is headed.
Feast of Tabernacles & Last Great Day Related Resources
The Feast of Tabernacles: Jesus Christ Reigns Over All the Earth
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The Last Great Day
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Coming: God's Solutions to the World's Problems
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