The Feast of Tabernacles
The Feast of Tabernacles (Succoth, "booths") was to be kept for seven days, and then they had a final ceremony on the morning of the eighth day. The basic law of this feast is found in Lev. 23:33-44. Verse 39 singles out the first and eighth days as sabbaths.
During this week, the people of Israel were to cut down branches of trees and build booths in which they would camp for seven days. Verse 40 also specifies that they were to "rejoice before the Lord."
The stated reason in Moses' day is given in verse 43,
43 so that your generations may know that I had the sons of Israel live in booths when I brought them out from the land of Egypt.
It is significant that Israel left Egypt from a place called Succoth (Ex. 13:20). So in their journey to the Promised Land, they were to dwell in booths from the beginning to the end of their journey.
This has more than one significance. First, in relation to the rest of the feasts, it shows that when we become believers by faith in the blood of the Lamb—that is, when we leave Egypt in our own Passover experience--we are to have as our goal the experience of Tabernacles.
This journey, after all, does not end on Passover, as some seem to think. Many Christians "get saved," and then they sit around waiting to be raptured to the Promised Land from the border of Egypt. No, the journey has just begun, and there is more of God to experience.
Others of a Pentecostal persuasion urge people to move on to the "second work of grace," called the baptism of the Spirit. In other words, they urge Israel to keep walking to Mount Sinai, that scene of the first Pentecost, where God came down as fire and spoke the Ten Commandments in the people's language. This is good, if the people see that the purpose of Pentecost is to write the law in one's heart by hearing His voice.
But Mount Sinai is not the goal of this journey. It is merely the empowerment of the earnest of the Spirit to equip Israel to enter the Promised Land. Israel failed to enter into the land at the time of the feast of Tabernacles when they refused to enter in Num. 13 and 14. Their refusal came at "the time of the first-ripe grapes" (Num. 13:20). In other words, this signified the Jubilee in September, but the people's refusal and lack of faith turned that Jubilee into a Day of Atonement, a day of mourning and fasting.
Their problem was that they had refused to hear His voice at Sinai (Ex. 20:18-21), and so without the empowerment of Pentecost (hearing His voice and being led by the Spirit), the people were not equipped with the faith to enter the Promised Land. This tells us that in order to be an overcomer and qualify for the first resurrection, one must be led by the Spirit and hear His voice. "Tongues" is one of the gifts of the Spirit, but it is not what qualifies a person. It is hearing, not speaking, that qualifies a person.
And the Hebrew word shema, "to hear," also means "to obey." Without learning obedience, one is not truly hearing. See my book, Hearing God's Voice.
If the people had declared their faith on the Jubilee when the twelve spies gave their report, they would have entered the Promised Land five days later on the first day of Tabernacles. As they passed the Ark of the Covenant, they would have received immortal bodies, and they would have conquered the Canaanites by the Sword of the Spirit within a week. What Canaanite would have argued with an army of immortals with glorified bodies? They would gladly have submitted to Joshua (Yashua-Jesus).
Unfortunately, it did not happen this way. Israel had to remain another 38 years in the wilderness (Deut. 2:14) before entering Canaan, and when they finally did enter the land, it was at the time just before Passover (Joshua 4:19). They were not allowed to enter at Tabernacles, because the fulfillment of that feast now had to await a day far into the future.
The people were supposed to dwell in booths during their 40 years in the wilderness so they would always keep the Promised Land (Feast of Tabernacles) in mind as their goal. Also, dwelling in booths signified a temporary dwelling place, acknowledging that the wilderness was not their inheritance. Nor was any particular place or oasis in the wilderness their inheritance. If anyone had built a house in the wilderness, he might have refused to move on when the pillar of cloud moved.
This problem is manifested in the Church today through denominational "houses" that claim they are "the true church." They have built a house in the wilderness and have lost the vision of the Feast of Tabernacles. They think that from their "house" the people will be raptured to the Promised Land. This has become a substitute for following the pillar of cloud and being led by the Spirit. Once men have built their "house" and settled into it, it is difficult for them to make the choice when the cloud lifts and moves to another place of revelation.
The gates and bars of a house can be an excellent protection from the wolves and the wind and the rain, but those same bars can also easily become a prison. Herein lies the danger, unless one knows how to obey God rather than man.
But getting back to the Feast of Tabernacles itself, it is the feast of immortality. Paul makes this clear in his commentary on Tabernacles in 2 Cor. 5:1-4, where he shows that the "booths" made of living branches actually prophesy of being clothed with immortality. We no longer need to go camping in booths. Those were teaching tools that spoke of better things.
1 For we know that if the earthly tent which our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.
In other words, we know if our present, mortal body "house" is torn down (i.e., if we die), we have another house not made with hands awaiting us.
2 For indeed in this [mortal] house we groan, longing to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven. 3 inasmuch as we, having put it on, shall not be found naked, 4 For indeed, while we are in this [mortal] tent, we groan, being burdened, because we do not want to be unclothed [die], but to be clothed, in order that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.
Paul refers to the body as a house, a tent (tabernacle), and clothing. We have two of them, one mortal and other immortal. The one we live in today is mortal; the immortal body is reserved for us in heaven, even as the priestly garments were stored in the side chambers of the temple.
The Feast of Tabernacles is the appointed time when men receive those immortal bodies. These are not given when a person dies. When one's spirit returns to God, it does not have an immortal body. It is spirit, not body. It needs clothing. And furthermore, the spirit has no need for immortality, for it is never said to die in the Bible. We are in need of an immortal BODY. The "Promised Land" is not heaven per se, but a glorified body as Jesus had after His resurrection.
The first day of Tabernacles is the point where the immortal body is dispensed as the priestly garments to "clothe" one's spirit with a new kind of spiritual flesh. The purpose of this body is so that the spirit can minister to the rest of the people on earth who need ministry for the next thousand years.
Yet this Feast is a full seven days in length with an eighth day final Sabbath. Why? Because while we are in this mortal body, we are "touching a dead body." It requires seven days of cleansing (Num. 19:11) after coming into immortality before we can lawfully be presented to the Father on the morning of the eighth day of Tabernacles.
The law is prophetic, because it reveals the divine plan and even the timing of these events, so that we can prepare our hearts.