Shortly, we will be keeping the Feast of Tabernacles, a seven-day festival that pictures the coming Kingdom of God ruling the earth during the 1,000 year period known as the millennium. The Feast is also intended to picture, not just the happiness that will exist on the earth for the millennium, but also the joy and happiness we will enjoy for eternity in the Kingdom of God.
So that the Feast can picture the joy we will have in the Kingdom of God and the joy the human race will enjoy in the millennium, God instructs us to save a tenth (second tithe) of our income for a year to spend at the Feast of Tabernacles on the food and things we enjoy. It is a time of spiritual renewal, because we will be listening to sermons every day and we can get away from our daily routine. But it is also a time of celebration and rejoicing.
This festival is commanded by God for Israel and for the Church of God. The basic instructions are in Leviticus 23:33-44. The booths or tabernacles God commanded Israel to make out of leafy trees and branches were temporary dwellings. They were intended to remind Israel of their journey in the wilderness after leaving Egypt (verses 42-43). The journey out of Egypt for Israel can represent our time in this temporary physical life, and the promised land that Israel was to enter can represent for us the Kingdom of God, our promised reward.
For temporary dwellings, we use hotels and motels to stay at a Feast location, and this reminds us that our journey in this physical life is temporary, but we look to an eternal reward in the Kingdom of God.
Each of the annual feasts and holy days of God teaches a spiritual lesson about the plan of God to those who believe and obey God by observing these days as God commanded.
Many people who have come into the Church of God from other religions or no religion have been amazed when they hear God's plan, as illustrated by the holy days, explained to them, perhaps at the Feast itself. Some have said that they were "blown away" when they first heard God's plan because it was so logical and clear and made so much sense, and they never heard that before from other churches.
Passover is an annual feast of God that teaches us about the sacrifice of Christ to pay the penalty of our sins so we can be forgiven.
The Days of Unleavened Bread teach us about our responsibility to strive to put sin out of our lives and the righteousness of Jesus Christ into our lives.
Pentecost teaches us about the gift of God's Holy Spirit to help us understand spiritual knowledge and to help us overcome our sins. It also teaches us about the founding of the Church of God and the responsibility of the Church of God to preach the gospel to the world (Acts 2:1-47).
The Day of Trumpets teaches us about the second coming of Jesus Christ, the resurrection of the saints, and the setting up of the Kingdom of God on earth.
The Day of Atonement reminds us of the sacrifice of Christ so we can be reconciled with God, but it also teaches us about the putting away of Satan after Christ returns.
The Feast of Tabernacles teaches us about the happiness and joy that will exist on the earth for one thousand years under the rule of Jesus Christ and the happiness in the Kingdom of God for eternity.
The Last Great Day, which immediately follows the Feast of Tabernacles, also called the "eighth day" of the Feast, is a separate festival that teaches us about the general resurrection of the billions who lived and died without an opportunity to hear the true gospel and be saved. This general resurrection is called the "white throne judgment", and will be a time when everyone who has lived and died without a chance for salvation will have their first real opportunity to hear the true gospel, believe God, repent, and be saved.
In these holy days and festivals of God is the instruction about God's plan for the salvation of the whole human race, everyone except those who knowingly reject God's salvation.
The world of traditional churches does not understand this plan, and they will not understand this plan as long as they do not keep God's holy days. Some members of these churches think they can understand the meaning of the holy days by studying the holy days in the Bible, but without keeping them. But they do not understand that to understand God's truth we need God's help, and God helps those who are willing to believe and obey Him.
Thus, the holy days are a test to see who will believe God and obey Him and who will not. This is especially true for those who have not grown up in the Church of God and who come from other churches or no religion at all, for they must sacrifice to begin to observe these days.
We know about these days and about the plan of God because Mr. Armstrong believed God. He saw in the Bible that these days are commanded, He believed God and began to observe these days, and when God saw Mr. Armstrong's faith and obedience He helped Mr. Armstrong to understand the meaning of these days, what they represent, and the whole plan of God. Mr. Armstrong then taught this to the Church and on radio, and he said to his radio listeners, "Don't believe me, believe your Bible, believe God", and he taught his listeners and readers how to prove these truths in the Bible for themselves. Thousands who heard him did believe their Bibles, and the Church of God grew.
So it is through faith and obedience that we today understand the plan of God and are able to enjoy the Feast of Tabernacles.
During the Feast of Tabernacles, members of the Church of God will hear sermons that teach from the Bible what the millennium and the Kingdom of God will be like and how the millennium will be different from today's evil world.
One of the differences is that, during the millennium, the resurrected saints, made full Sons of God, will be teaching the world God's law and way of life. Today, ministers in the Church of God teach members the law of God and God's way of life.
But there are two differences. Today, God's true ministers teach only a tiny fraction of the human race, those few who are called into the Church of God. In the millennium, the whole world will be taught, and salvation will be open to all.
But also, today, God's true ministers are fallible human beings. They make mistakes. Not everything they teach is totally free from error. So those members who are wise will prove every important doctrine from the Bible, and when a minister teaches something they have not heard before, if it is important, those members will check up in the Bible so they can prove it for themselves. Their faith is in God, not the ministry. This is not a criticism of the ministry, for we are all human, and we should all be learning from our mistakes. The Bible shows that even faithful servants of God are not perfect.
But in the Kingdom of God, those resurrected in the first resurrection will no longer be subject to the pulls and limitations of the flesh. We will be full children of God, made immortal, glorified like Christ, full members of God's family. And we will have the personal presence of Jesus Christ, and He will directly supervise our teaching and judging of the people.
So our teaching will be right. Not mostly right, not almost right but with a few errors, but totally right. We will no longer know in part, but we will know the truth of God fully.
"For we know in part and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away. When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known" (1 Corinthians 13:9-12).
There is a lesson, I think, in the example of Old Testament Israel in the wilderness. They were instructed that when they entered the promised land, they would look to God's government for direction.
In the wilderness, in instructing the people in how to live after they entered the promised land, God said, "You shall not at all do as we are doing here today - every man doing whatever is right in his own eyes - for as yet you have not come to the rest and the inheritance which the Lord your God is giving you. But when you cross over the Jordan and dwell in the land which the Lord your God is giving you to inherit, and He gives you rest from all your enemies round about, so that you dwell in safety, then there will be the place where the Lord your God chooses to make His name abide. There you shall bring all that I command you: your burnt offerings, your sacrifices, your tithes, the heave offerings of your hand, and all your choice offerings which you vow to the Lord" (Deuteronomy 12:8-11).
These instructions are particular to keeping the Feast and all the holy days and feast days and to the sacrificial system. But there is a general application. Notice that God says that in the wilderness every man was doing what is right in his own eyes because they had not yet come to the rest and inheritance God was about to give them, but that once they enter that land they would look more to the place where God placed His name.
In this particular passage, it does not seem that God is strongly rebuking them for doing what is right in their eyes there in the wilderness, for this whole passage is not in the context of a rebuke or punishment for one of Israel's many acts of rebellion or unfaithfulness they committed from the time they left Egypt. Rather, it seems to be a simple acknowledgement that they are taking liberties, in a sense, to use their own judgment in a way they should not do when in the promised land. There should be greater control from headquarters in the promised land than existed in the wilderness.
Does this fit with the state of the Church of God today?
We are living in a time that is symbolized by the time Israel journeyed in the wilderness. For us, the promised land we hope to enter is the Kingdom of God.
And in this time, there is a tendency for us to do what is right in our own eyes. Some of that is bad, and we should not do it. We should always be striving to believe and obey God, to do what God says to do in the Bible, to believe what God says is right in His eyes, not to do what seems right in our own eyes. Yet, we are human, and as sincerely as we try to obey God, we make mistakes. And being human with human nature, we still sin. And so, though we try not to do what is right in our own eyes, we still sometimes do.
We have to make judgments. And sometimes we make mistakes. We need to learn from our mistakes and let God correct us from the Bible, but we still make mistakes. That is true for the whole Church of God in any era, but it is especially true during this Laodicean era when the Church of God is scattered.
Just to attend services and pay our tithes, we have to choose among many fellowships and Church of God organizations. Where do we attend? Where do we send our tithes and offerings? There are no names and addresses of today's Church of God organizations in the Bible. We have to make certain judgments based on the teaching of the Bible. And though we strive to make right judgments, we are human and can make mistakes. And we need to be corrected by the Bible and let God correct our errors, and sometimes that means leaving one organization to attend another. Sometimes, a member has to admit to himself, I made a mistake.
And even when we are attending the right fellowship, the fellowship God wants us to attend based on His teachings in the Bible, can anyone say, "Our ministers never make mistakes"? Do we not check important teachings in the Bible? Did not even Mr. Armstrong make mistakes?
We in the Church of God live in an environment, no matter where we attend, where we may know that the fellowship we attend is mostly teaching the truth, but we also know that the ministry can and does make mistakes from time to time, and we have to be alert and on our toes so to speak, and not let any man deceive us.
So in that sense, just like the Israelites in the wilderness, we do what is right in our own eyes, to a degree.
But not so in the Kingdom of God.
Christ will supervise us directly, in person. We will be Spirit-born immortal sons of God. We can follow Christ totally, without reservation or concern that Christ may be making a mistake. We won't have to check in the Bible to see if Christ is telling the truth. And if we have questions about what Christ means when He speaks to us, if we need more details to be clarified, we can always ask Him. He will be there for us, fully present in person, and we can ask Him questions directly and get immediate answers.
Moreover, the people and the nations can follow our teachings fully during the millennium. The Church of God will not be divided as it is now.
Each man will not be doing what is right in his own eyes, but every man can obey the teachings of Christ and the saints with full confidence that those teachings are totally true.
That is one of the many blessings that will exist in the Kingdom of God and the millennium.
In chapter two of my book (see link in the right side panel of this blog) I have information about the meaning of all the holy days and feasts of God.
Here is a link to a post in this blog with more information about the Feast of Tabernacles:
"The Feast of Tabernacles, the Last Great Day, and the Kingdom of God", dated September 25, 2015, link: