Pastors Report - 04 Oct 2019
Tabernacles 2019

Tabernacles – Reminding us Life is Temporary ...

"For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away." (James 4:14)

In Just Over 3 Weeks:

Yes, that's right – in just over three weeks and the Feast of Tabernacles 2019 - to which we are looking forward to so much - will have come and gone! With each year that passes time seems to speed up, and I don't know about you but my wife and I are finding that not only does it seem each day is over just as it has begun, but a year barely starts and suddenly we're faced with de-leavening, Passover and Unleavened Bread, followed almost immediately by Pentecost and what seems like a mere handful of weeks later by Tabernacles! And then the year is once more virtually over. As the song in Fiddler on the Roof brings out; "Sunrise, sunset, swiftly fly the years, one season following another, laden with happiness and tears". And as Job put it, millennia before: "My days are swifter than a weaver’s shuttle ... my life is wind ... as the cloud is consumed and vanisheth away ..." (Job 7:6-9)

Our youngest grandsons (4 and 6) stand in awe of us, their grandparents, as in their eyes we're so incredibly old. Yet it doesn't seem all that long ago that I was a youngster myself, joyfully anticipating the imminent school holidays, which seemed to stretch before my young eyes for eternity. And it's seems no time at all since I was a young husband, and then an inexperienced first-time father ... and where have those intervening years - decades - gone? Maybe we measure time as a percentage of life already lived, which would certainly make it speed up as we hit old age! Or maybe it's just that we are so much busier, with many more responsibilities on our ageing shoulders?

God's Glorious Plan:

But this life of ours that rushes by with ever-increasing speed has been designed for a glorious God-ordained purpose, which is laid out for us year after year within the seven annual festivals. Beginning with the Passover we must first be reconciled to the Father on repentance by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ – forgiving our past sins. This reconciliation and contact with the Father then enables us to understand the Word of God and come OUT of those sins – pictured by the days of Unleavened Bread. But without the love of God shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5) we could never succeed to the degree required to form the Firstfruits – pictured for us by the day of Pentecost.

Then we come to the autumn/fall festivals and the fulcrum around which all the other festivals and holy days revolve on the calendar of God – the Day of Trumpets. But that day is a fulcrum in an even greater way as well as it pictures the transition from this present evil world into what is the glorious liberty of the children and Kingdom of God:

  • The whole creation waits breathless with anticipation for the revelation of God's sons and daughters.
  • Creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice—it was the choice of the one who subjected it—but in the hope
  • that the creation itself will be set free from slavery to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of God's children.
  • We know that the whole creation is groaning together and suffering labor pains up until now.
  • And it's not only the creation. We ourselves who have the Spirit as the first crop of the harvest also groan inside as we wait to be adopted and for our bodies to be set free. (Romans 8:19-23 CEB)

That incredible transition will begin with the return of Jesus Christ to this earth at the last Trump in supreme power and glory to rule over all nations (Revelation 11:15). Then we come to the Day of Atonement, picturing the removal of Satan and the nullifying of his power - making possible a state of true at-one-ment for all mankind. A veritable Jubilee bringing liberty to all mankind. (Leviticus 25:10) And that then brings us to the Feast of Tabernacles.

Feast of Booths:
  • "Ye shall dwell in booths seven days; all that are Israelites born shall dwell in booths ..." (Leviticus 23:42)

The Feast of Tabernacles – or booths – pictures the millennial rule of Jesus Christ and His resurrected saints as the ruling family, or Kingdom of God, over this entire earth transforming it over the course of 1000 years into a literal utopia. And the purpose of this utopia is to prepare for the fulfilment of the final festival – the Last Great Day – when all who've ever lived and died without the knowledge of the Truth will be given their first chance of salvation through a resurrection to physical life into this prepared earthly paradise. At that time the earth will be filled with unsurpassed physical abundance:

  • Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that the plowman shall overtake the reaper, and the treader of grapes him that soweth seed; and the mountains shall drop sweet wine, and all the hills shall melt. (Amos 9:13)

But during the millennium and the great White Throne judgement period, more importantly there will also be spiritual abundance – a world filled with the spirit of God – generating a society brimful with love, joy, peace, patience, courteousness, goodness, faith, teachableness and holy righteous godly character. And this is where the booths come in. During the Feast of Tabernacles we gather together, living in temporary dwellings – hotel rooms, cottages and condominiums – to drive home the lesson that everything that is physical on this earth - including ourselves - is only temporary, " even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away." (James 4:14) Whereas what is of lasting value – the true riches of the world tomorrow – is the character and love of God that will go on for eternity:

  • My righteousness is near; my salvation is gone forth, and mine arms shall judge the people; the isles shall wait upon me, and on mine arm shall they trust.
  • Lift up your eyes to the heavens, and look upon the earth beneath: for the heavens shall vanish away like smoke, and the earth shall wax old like a garment, and they that dwell therein shall die in like manner: but my salvation shall be for ever, and my righteousness shall not be abolished. (Isaiah 51:6,7)
Solomon's Splendour:

This time of unparalleled prosperity and peace during the millennium will largely flow from the knowledge of God covering the earth:

  • For the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea." (Habakkuk 2:14)
  • Thus saith the LORD that made thee, and formed thee from the womb, which will help thee; Fear not, O Jacob, my servant; and thou, Jesurun, whom I have chosen.
  • For I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground: I will pour my spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring:
  • And they shall spring up as among the grass, as willows by the water courses.
  • One shall say, I am the LORD’S; and another shall call himself by the name of Jacob; and another shall subscribe with his hand unto the LORD, and surname himself by the name of Israel. (Isaiah 44:2-5)

That said, the kingdom of Israel did have a pale foretaste of something approaching this time 3000 years previously during the rule of King Solomon. His reign was a unique time in Israel's history. From a humble beginning as a slave people 500 years before, God granted Israel under King David, the father of Solomon – "rest round about from all his enemies" (II Samuel 7:1). Under Solomon this then extended – allowing Israel to become dominant in the area under the wisest, richest and most honoured monarch ever – with "every man under his vine and under his fig tree":

  • Judah and Israel were many, as the sand which is by the sea in multitude, eating and drinking, and making merry.
  • And Solomon reigned over all kingdoms from the river [Euphrates] unto the land of the Philistines, and unto the border of Egypt: they brought presents, and served Solomon all the days of his life....
  • For he had dominion over all the region on this side the river [Euphrates], from Tiphsah even to Azzah, over all the kings on this side the river: and he had peace on all sides round about him.
  • And Judah and Israel dwelt safely, every man under his vine and under his fig tree, from Dan even to Beersheba, all the days of Solomon...
  • And God gave Solomon wisdom and understanding exceeding much, and largeness of heart, even as the sand that is on the sea shore.
  • And Solomon’s wisdom excelled the wisdom of all the children of the east country, and all the wisdom of Egypt.
  • For he was wiser than all men...
  • And there came of all people to hear the wisdom of Solomon, from all kings of the earth, which had heard of his wisdom. (1 Kings 4:20-21,24-25,29-31,34)
Ecclesiastes:

But the time of Solomon was merely a shadow of what is to come. The millennial rule of Jesus Christ – without the satanic influence – is going to be very different. At that time, the emphasis on the spiritual will be very clear from the onset – preparing all mankind to become part of the very family and Kingdom of God. But that was not the case for King Solomon. Although he was wise – the wisest of all the kings of the earth – there is no evidence that he was converted as was his father David. And for this reason, although he appeared to have it all physically – untold wealth, wisdom, power and fame – he ended his days hating life, filled with depression and despair at the apparent injustice of it all.

  • So I hated life, because the things that happen under the sun were troublesome to me. Definitely, everything is pointless—just wind chasing.
  • I hated the things I worked so hard for here under the sun, because I will have to leave them to someone who comes after me.
  • And who knows whether that one will be wise or foolish? Either way, that person will have control over the results of all my hard work and wisdom here under the sun. That too is pointless.
  • I then gave myself up to despair, as I thought about all my laborious hard work under the sun,
  • because sometimes those who have worked hard with wisdom, knowledge, and skill must leave the results of their hard work as a possession to those who haven't worked hard for it. This too is pointless—it's a terrible wrong.
  • I mean, What do people get for all their hard work and struggles under the sun?
  • All their days are pain, and their work is aggravation; even at night, their hearts don't find rest. This too is pointless. (Ecclesiastes 2:17-23 CEB)
Our Short Pilgrimage:

Without the plan of God to illuminate us would not we – as did Solomon – also regard this physical, chemical existence as utterly pointless? Little better than that of the mayfly that exists for no more than a day? Certainly the apostle Paul recognised this – but then immediately proclaimed his firm understanding and faith in the glorious plan that God has for all mankind:

  • If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.
  • But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.
  • For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead.
  • For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.
  • But every man in his own order ... (1 Corinthians 15:19-23)

Mr Armstrong too – particularly towards the end of his life – would comment on the fragile nature of our human frame. This extract from a sermon in May 1982 is typical:

" ... all we have is a chemical existence and life isn’t very long anyway. I think I realize that more than when I used to speak to you 30 or 40 years ago. Somehow, I don’t know how, I sneaked past middle age. I never hit middle age. But now I look back and see I’m past it. I don’t know how I got past it. But in less than three months now, I will be in my ninetieth year. So that’s a little older than most of you and I’ve come to realize that life, this life, this temporary existence, is just a will-o-the-wisp, it’s just here today and gone tomorrow. Almost no time at all..." ( Interracial Marriage May 1982)

Recognised by God:

If towards the end of our lives we begin to recognise this will-o-the-wisp nature of our current physical lives – then how much more must God Himself – who not only has formed it this way, but has witnessed mankind grow old and die over and over again down through the millennia? How incomprehensible therefore must be human arrogance and posturing to the Eternal? As He says through the prophet Isaiah:

  • Who hath measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, and meted out heaven with the span, and comprehended the dust of the earth in a measure, and weighed the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance?
  • Who hath directed the Spirit of the LORD, or being his counsellor hath taught him?
  • With whom took he counsel, and who instructed him, and taught him in the path of judgment, and taught him knowledge, and shewed to him the way of understanding?
  • Behold, the nations are as a drop of a bucket, and are counted as the small dust of the balance: behold, he taketh up the isles as a very little thing.
  • And Lebanon is not sufficient to burn, nor the beasts thereof sufficient for a burnt offering.
  • All nations before him are as nothing; and they are counted to him less than nothing, and vanity . (Isaiah 40:12-17)
  • Woe to those who quarrel with their Maker, those who are nothing but potsherds among the potsherds on the ground. Does the clay say to the potter, 'What are you making?' Does your work say, 'The potter has no hands'? (Isaiah 45:9 NIV)

Conversely as David brings out in the one hundred and third Psalm for those whose desire is to be obedient, God also recognises our frailty and human weakness with mercy and pity – being the loving Being that He is:

  • Like as a father pitieth his children, so the LORD pitieth them that fear him.
  • For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust.
  • As for man, his days are as grass: as a flower of the field, so he flourisheth.
  • For the wind passeth over it, and it is gone; and the place thereof shall know it no more.
  • But the mercy of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him, and his righteousness unto children’s children;
  • To such as keep his covenant, and to those that remember his commandments to do them. (Psalm 103:13-18)
Not Even Come to Mind:

And this is the reason that the Feast of Tabernacles – picturing the physically abundant and glorious utopia of the millennial rule – is also the Feast of temporary dwellings. It is there to remind us that no matter how rich and abundant human life may be it always remains merely a physical chemical existence – " You are but a mist, which appears for a little and then vanishes" (James 4:14 Moffatt) Indeed, dust we are and to dust we will return! (Genesis 3:19)

But the true life – the kind of life Jesus Christ meant when He said, "I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly." (John 10:10) – is a life based firmly on the spiritual qualities that will lead inexorably into eternity. So far above what we have today is THIS kind of life, that God promises us that when we are there, within it, within the new heavens and new earth, that all this physical existence, every human experience, "shall not be remembered, nor come into mind." (Isaiah 65:17) It appears we will think as much then about this present frail human existence as we do today of our time within the womb. All the trials - the highs and lows, pain and suffering, heartaches and joys of our lives today – and those of the world around us – are merely working towards that time for which we yearn:

  • ... though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.
  • For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory;
  • While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.
  • For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.
  • For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven:
  • If so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked.
  • For we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened: not for that we would be unclothed, but [further clothed], that mortality might be swallowed up of life. (2 Corinthians 4:16-5:4)
Temporary Dwellings:

So as we approach the Feast of Tabernacles this year it is an appropriate time to consider the frailty of this existence we call life – just before we travel to our temporary dwellings – looking forward not just to the Millennium, but out into an eternity of REAL Life, and the godly character, the way of life, that will make it an ETERNAL utopia. This fleeting physical life has been given to us to learn the fundamental, vital lesson of the Two Trees - and to be the teachers of The Way to all humanity - in the Millennium first and then out into all eternity; "And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever." (Daniel 12:3)

  • Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? there is no searching of his understanding.
  • He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength.
  • Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall:
  • But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint. (Isaiah 40:28-31)