WHY IT IS ESSENTIAL TO STUDY THE
HEBRAIC ROOTS OF THE OLD TESTAMENT
REDISCOVERING THE HEBRAIC ROOTS OF THE EARLY
CHRISTIAN CHURCH, CIRCA A.D. 60
TABERNACLES - THE FESTIVAL OF ILLUMINATION
* JESUS DECLARES HIS DIETY *
Note: The following article is a transcription from one of our Shalom radio programs, and specifically from the series on the Fall Festivals of the Lord. Since this program provided such important insights to the Lord’s plan for the end of this present Age, we wanted to provide it also in written form so that it would be easier to study for those Bible students who are especially interested in this topic. The two participants in the radio program are Neale Johnson, the host, and Carmen Rachael, the prophesy commentator.
Neale: Now we want to jump right back into our discussion about The Feast of Tabernacles. You and I, Carmen, last week spoke about one of the two major themes that went on during the time of The Feast of Tabernacles while Christ was here on this Earth. And He actually attended The Feast of Tabernacles, it says so right in the Gospel of John - - makes it very clear so there is no doubt in our minds where He was; that He was there where this event took place in midst of the Temple. Further still, we know exactly where He was in the Temple, and in fact we know exactly on which specific day He made these proclamations - these declarations - of who He was. But we have to realize that He made declarations that would’ve been astounding in that day. They would’ve been phenomenal to the Jewish mind of that time or of any time. Unfortunately we miss that background so we don’t get the true impact of what He is saying.
But that’s what we’re wanting to correct through these radio studies. Right now we want to re-create those times and describe in detail what went on during The Feast of Tabernacles. By doing that we will get a clear understanding of the incredible force of what Jesus is saying about Himself. And what we’re pointing out is that these events took place on what was called “the seventh day” - Hosana Raba.
We talked last week about the statement Jesus made that “anyone who will come unto Me, out of him will flow rivers of living water.” And, as we saw from the Scriptures, that phrase “rivers of living water” was specifically a biblical idiom that referred to God - the Spirit of God - was the pouring out of living water. And so Jesus makes this direct attachment of Himself to God by saying that those “who come to Me out of you will pour rivers of living water.” And he extends it to those who come to Him. This is very important. That means that for those of us who come to Jesus, that the Holy Spirit of God - the rivers of living water - will pour out of us as His faithful followers.
Carmen: Yes, that’s the fulfillment, that’s the looking forward.
Neale: Exactly, and that’s why it’s so important that we yield ourselves completely to God. That He may use us as vessels that He can fill with His spirit to overflow and pour out on the world wherever He has us planted.
And then the other theme, the one that we haven’t talked about yet, is the one we’re going to address today and it is a theme of light or illumination. Directly connected to that is another very, very important statement that Jesus made in the midst of the same Feast of Tabernacles - again on the seventh day - and it has to do with light and how He identifies Himself.
Now we know what that is: He says that “I am the light of the world.” And as we read that in our Bibles that just seems like a nice statement that Jesus is making about Himself, and it sounds like He is the source of truth and the things we identify in the New Testament. However, we - and I am speaking on behalf of most Bible students and scholars today - completely fail to recognize what’s going on in the Feast of Tabernacles.
Carmen: Right, and that all prophesy comes together in that statement that Jesus makes.
Neale: Absolutely does. Because He is making a comment about Himself. And again, in the Jewish mind, He is making a very, very dramatic declaration of Who He is. So in order to understand that statement, you have to know what was going on in the Feast of Tabernacles at that time. So I am going to describe the other major event that was taking place.
On the very first day of the seven days of that Festival, one of the great things that people would look forward to - and remember that this is called “the season of our joy” it is a thanksgiving to God, it’s call the Ingathering, it is a picture of thanksgiving and it is supposed to be and was recorded in history as being the most joyous of days in all of the days of Israel - that was the Feast of Tabernacles. So this was a celebration day.
And what would happen on the first night of the seven days took place in the Temple - and specifically in an area known as the Court of the Women (by the way, its very helpful to have a very clear knowledge of how the Temple was laid out in that time so that you can visualize this location; I’d suggest you get a map of the Temple layout so you see exactly where this is). The Court of the Women is just outside of what’s called the Court of the Jews, which is in-turn just outside of the Court of the Priests. The Court of the Priests is where the altar was located and where the sacrifices took place. So this is the Court that’s leading in to that place where sacrifices actually took place.
And around the sides of the Court of the Women were what was called “the Treasury.” And I mention that specifically because the Scriptures identify that Jesus was in the Treasury at this important moment which we are going to discuss. In fact, in the Gospel of John chapter 8 verse 20 it says, “these words He spoke in the Treasury as He taught in the Temple.” So we have absolutely clear knowledge, we don’t have to guess about this, we have an absolutely clear statement from Scripture of where Jesus is when He is making these statements.
He is in His Father’s house; He is in the Treasury.
Now the other reason that fact is important is that we know from history that it was in the Court of the Women where the Jews at that time [during the Feast of Tabernacles] erected four golden lampstands. These lampstands are reported to have been about 75 fee tall, and that on the tops of these lampstands were golden bowls that contained 30 gallons of pure olive oil. And into each one of those four they dipped a wick. The wick was actually made from the former garments of the high priest. And these were used as the wicks for these giant candles that were then ignited on the first evening of the first day of the Festival Tabernacles.
And a great light was created. In fact there were candles and lights throughout the Temple and it was called the Festival of Illumination; it was illumination of the Temple. And anyone today should ask themselves, “Why were they doing this? What was the purpose of this?” Well, it was, in a sense, a remembrance. Because when you go back and you look in the Scriptures to the time when the Temple was originally dedicated (and the tabernacle before it), the Scriptures record that the glory of God filled the Temple; in fact the brightness was so great that the priests could not even enter into the Temple to minister.
Carmen: The Shekinah glory that was with them in the Tabernacle.
Neale: Exactly. That’s the illumination - the Glory - of which this was a remembrance.
Carmen: And Neale, they called those lights the “Light of the World” during the times of Jesus.
Neale: Right, that’s a most important thing to realize. Because this Festival was seen as a representation and remembrance of the original glory of God that filled the Temple which the Jews called “The Light of the World.”
And they gave it that identity for a specific reason. That was because the things that they had learned that God had taught through both the Torah and through the major prophets, especially from Isaiah, was that the light of God - The Light of the World - was to go out to the nations of the world; was to go out to the Gentiles. And we’ll read some very specific Scriptures that state that. So you see, this is the whole picture in the Jewish mind of the Festival of Tabernacles and this Festival of the Illumination of the Temple they saw in expectation that this was going to be the glory of God that was going to go out to all the world. That all the world was going to come to Jerusalem at the Feast of Tabernacles to honor the one true God of the world. The God of Israel.
Now remember, this is also the time - the Fall Festivals - in which they fully expected the Messiah to appear. This was to be the time of the coronation of Messiah. This was the time that He was going to come to the earth, and all of those who He judged to be His righteous ones were going to be written in His “Book of Life” for everlasting life. This was to be the celebration of those things. This was a great occasion to celebrate that God had delivered His people - - not only physically - - but spiritually. And that they knew that they were going to have everlasting life in the New World - the new messianic kingdom - with Him.
These were the expectations. And very clearly, from what the prophet said, this is not just for the nation of Israel, it was not just for the Jews, it was for all the nations of the world.
Carmen: Yes, Isaiah 66 says that, “all flesh will worship God in that Day.”
Neale: There are a number of scriptures like that, and we want to read a couple of those so that we really lay this down very, very clearly and very carefully of what He had to say. So let me start first with Isaiah 49 verse six. It says, “And He said,” and this is God speaking, “It is a light thing that Thou shouldest be My Servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the preserved of Israel, I will also give Thee for a light to the Gentiles,” that is, to the nations, “that thou mayest be My Salvation unto the end of the earth.” [KJV]
And then again in Isaiah 60, verses one through five, it says, “Arise, shine, for thy light is come and the glory of the Lord is risen upon Thee. For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth and gross darkness the people, but the Lord shall arise upon Thee and His glory shall be seen upon Thee. And the Gentiles,” which, again, means the nations, “shall come to Thy light, and the Kings to the brightness of Thy rising. Lift up thine eyes round about and see all they gather themselves together and they come to Thee. Thy sons shall come from far and thy daughters shall be nursed at thy side. Then thou shall see and flow together and thine heart shall fear and be enlarged because the abundance of the sea shall be converted unto thee, the forces of the Gentiles,” the nations, “shall come into thee.” [KJV]
So this is representative of a number of the Scriptures that are given that clearly identify that this light was representative of God; this was the glory of God that was going to come to all of the nations. And it’s in the midst of this - remember that this is the understanding that was going on within the Jewish mind at that time - that Jesus stands up in the midst of the Temple, and He makes this declaration - “I am the Light of the World”.
Now again, picture this in your mind. There are these four great golden candelabra that are illuminated. Their illumination goes on for seven nights. And after the illumination of the candelabra there is great rejoicing. In fact all of the rabbis, the scholars, the priests and all the people dance and sing all night long. Today this is hard for us to even imagine, but this was the kind of outpouring of joy that did go on at that time. Because w must remember that this was the expectation - at this time - that all the world will have come to know the God of Israel as the One true God.
Carmen: They will all come to the light of God. Right.
Neale: Right. And this would be the same joyous celebration - The Feast of Tabernacles - that all nations would enter into when all of the world would have come to know the God of Israel. So now think again, it’s in the midst of this Festival Day that Jesus stands up and He says, “I am the Light of the World. He that followeth Me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.” [KJV]
Carmen: Yes. So the Shekinah glory had returned to the Temple, and, unfortunately, they didn’t recognized Him.
Neale: No they did not. And that’s exactly what John said in the very first chapter of the book of John. “In Him was life and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehended it not.” John 1: 4-5 [KJV].
He, Jesus, is making a statement . . . Again, think how preposterous this would have been to the Jewish mind at that time. The Jewish mind took that phrase, that biblical idiom, “The Light of the World” to mean the Shekinah glory, the Glory of God. And they referred, as you said, to these four candle stands standing there as “the Light of the World.” That’s exactly what they were meant to represent - - the Glory of God going out to the nations. And these were positioned right in the Court of the Women, right next to the Treasury, right where Jesus is standing, and He makes this declaration, “I AM the Light of the World.” He’s literally saying, I am the Glory of God which is now in the Temple again!
Carmen: Here I am.
Carmen: And I wanted to connect, Neale, that there is this circular aspect of God’s Word that we always talk about. I want to show how in the very early parts of the Bible, the earliest connections of this statement that Jesus made as being the Light or being the Messiah, the anointed savior from God, and one of the earliest places we see this is in Genesis 15. If you remember, when Abram was cutting the covenant with God, that someone took Abram’s place when it came time to walk through the carcasses.
The point being that God’s covenant was unconditional because God would fulfill His promises on His own, and that they did not rely on man in any way. That God was the substance of the covenant, and that man was merely the recipient. Understanding this is vitally important in that - even if man did fail - God would overcome that failure through Messiah.
Cutting covenant in the ancient world was a blood covenant where both parties committed unto death to uphold the covenant. By walking through the carcasses of sacrificial animals, each party signified his commitment to the death for the sake of the covenant.
The Bible tells us, however, that when it came time for Abram to walk through the split carcasses, God caused him to fall into a deep sleep and that another took his place. As we read this, remember that the ancient writers used this language only twice when describing the manifestation of the glory of God. We are going to look at the first time in Genesis 15 verse 12 [NKJV], “Now when the sun was going down a deep sleep fell upon Abram, and behold, great darkness fell upon him. And it came to pass that when the sun went down and it was dark that, behold, there appeared a smoking furnace and a burning torch that passed between those pieces,” or that passed between the sacrificial carcasses.
So here God reveals that the true partner to fulfil the Abrahamic Covenant is Messiah. It was His presence that was described as a fiery furnace and a great light that passed between the carcasses in place of Abraham.
So when speaking of what we now identify as the “Abrahamic Covenant” after this throughout Scripture, God declares that, “I swear by Myself,”or God swears by the power of His Son, the Messiah, to fulfill His purposes of redemption through the Covenant. Only Christ could die to fulfill the covenant and overcome man’s failure, or, in this case, to overcome Israel’s failure. But His death would not only restore Israel’s inheritance, but would also extend salvation to all those who would enter into the covenant through Christ. It is in this context that Christ is described as “a Light to the Gentiles” in Isaiah 42.
Now the second time we will see this same description of the manifested glory of God is in Exodus where God’s glory is seen over Mt. Sinai in Exodus 19 verse 18 [NKJV], “Now Mt. Sinai was completely in smoke because the Lord descended upon it in fire. Its smoke ascended like the smoke of a furnace and the whole mountain quaked greatly.” Then Exodus 24:17 tells us that, ”the sight of the glory of the Lord was like a consuming fire on the top of the mountain in the eyes of the children of Israel.” [NKJV]
Paul completely brings this full circle when he is speaking of the second coming of Christ, and he describes Him in the same way in Hebrews 12:29, when he warns us, “Our God is a consuming fire.” I think this is a great illustration of the oneness of God in Christ.
Neale: That’s what we want to do is just continue focusing on that idiom, that very, very important phrase of “the Light of the World,” and understand it in the light of the Hebrew Scriptures which were clearly intending to show that this “Light” was a Light that was not just for the Nation of Israel, but was meant for the entire world. And this is the concept that they were celebrating at that time.
But God uses this picture of light and darkness constantly as an illustration of those who come to Him and those who reject Him. And I’d like to go back and re-read the very first few scriptures fo the Gospel of John because this is so important, so critical, to this understanding. And starting at verse one of chapter one it says, “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by Him and without Him was not anything made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.” And there’s that word “light” again. “And the light shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehended it not. There was a man sent from God whose name was John. The same came for a witness to bear witness of the light that all men through Him might believe. He was not that light, but was sent to bear witness of that light. That was the true light which lightest every man that cometh into the world. He was in the world and the world was made by Him, and the world knew Him not. He came unto His own, and His own received Him not. But as many as received Him to them gave He power to become the sons of God - even to them that believe on His Name. Which were born not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us. And we beheld His Glory; the glory as of the only begotten of the Father full of grace and truth.”
And that Glory is the Light of God.
And the important thing for us - because He says “for those that come unto Him” - that we will receive that same thing. Tie this into Matthew 5 verse 14, where Jesus says to His disciples, “Ye are the light of the world.” Now, He is not saying that they are God, but He is saying that those who “come unto Me” that you are born anew of God. And just as He said that for those “who come unto Me out you will pour rivers of living water,” which were of God, the Spirit of God, He says you who come unto Me, you will be the light of the world.
Carmen: Right, because our commission is to be the Nation of Priests today. We are to take the light of God to the world.
Neale: You are so correct. And we have become part of that kingdom of Priests. And this is precisely what Peter says, I think it’s in 2nd Peter, he declares to the followers of Jesus, “you are a royal priesthood.” That is our function. That is what God desires of us. To fill us with His rivers of living water; to fill us with His light; that we would pour out that water and that light into a dry world that is filled with darkness. And darkness is totally the province of the opponent of God..
Again you see this contrast of light and dark; good and evil. This is the whole theme of the Bible from beginning to end. This is what God is telling us about, and each one of us have the choice to make whether we are going to be sons of light or whether we are going to be sons darkness.
Carmen: And the Dead Sea scrolls talked about that great war that would take place in the last day between the Sons of Light and the Sons of Darkness.
Neale: That is a great point, and another tie-in from the ancient historical record.
Now there are just a couple of other scriptures I like us to read that connect into these things because we really want to make a very clear picture of this idea of “the Nations” coming to Jesus. And this is a statement of Jesus Himself. This is a prophetic statement He is making as the last great prophet of God. This is in Matthew 25, and he says in verse 31, “When the Son of Man shall come in His glory and all the holy angels with Him, then shall He sit upon the throne of His glory.”
This is what happens at Tabernacles; this when He is coronated. “And before Him shall be gathered all nations. And He shall separate them one from another as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats. And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, ‘Come ye blessed of my father inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundations of the world.’”
The response He has to those He on His left is the same thing He says in Matthew 13, and is repeated here eventually, “Say unto them on the left hand, depart from Me ye accursed into everlasting fire prepared for the Devil and his angels.”
These are the proclamations of the Son of God Himself. This is not the “God of the Old Testament” . . . actually it is. But unfortunately, so many teachers and “scholars” over time tend to want to relegate God to being one God in the Old Testament and something different in the New Testament. But this is the same picture of God as Judge that we hear in the Old Testament. He is going to bring Judgement. Jesus is the Judgement of God; He is also the Spirit and Life of God. And we make the choice as to which camp we decide to fall on; whether we are going to be of the sheep or the goats.
And the Festival of Tabernacles gives us this beautiful picture of the coming Messiah and His blessing to all the nations of the world. And we know in Zechariah chapter 14 we have this magnificent prophetic statement that says, “At that time, that in that day all the nations of the world that remain will come up to Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles.”
So this is the Jewish understanding; this is the ancient biblical understanding. This is the same thing that we should understand. Because if we want to fully appreciate and understand the things that our Lord has given us, thenwe need to have a complete and clear understanding of these Festival Days of God that they might live within us. And that we might also be the light of the Lord to those with whom He confronts us - - to bring the Light of God to the world.
copyright Ariel Ministries 2006
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