We started our service on the first day of the Feast of Tabernacles 2013 with a reading from Isaiah 11:1-9. The former Worldwide Church of God referred frequently to this passage to describe the Millennial Reign of Jesus Christ. They even based their church logo on verse 6, which featured a child leading a lion and a lamb.
Isa 11:1 And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots: 2 And the spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD; 3 And shall make him of quick understanding in the fear of the LORD: and he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of his ears: 4 But with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth: and he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked. 5 And righteousness shall be the girdle of his loins, and faithfulness the girdle of his reins.
Isa 11:6 The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. 7 And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together: and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. 8 And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice’ den. 9 They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.
Verse 9 makes two interesting statements relating to the conditions on earth. The first is the absolute peace and safety involved in this time and place. “They shall not hurt nor destroy,” following on the idea of even the animals being at peace with each other seems to indicate a peace and harmony unfathomable in our present war-torn world. The second statement is about the earth being “full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.” This statement seems to indicate a universal knowledge of God that leads to that peace and safety.
These verses are usually mapped to Revelation 20:4-6, which is the only passage in the Bible that refers to a 1000 year reign. Verses 7-10 in Revelation 20 cause me to see red flags in this map.
Rev. 20:7 When the thousand years are over, Satan will be released from his prison 8 and will go out to deceive the nations in the four corners of the earth–Gog and Magog–to gather them for battle. In number they are like the sand on the seashore. 9 They marched across the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of God’s people, the city he loves. But fire came down from heaven and devoured them. 10 And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever.
It strikes me as unlikely that the conditions in Is. 11:9 can be so easily overturned in Rev. 20:7-10. Can Satan really deceive an entire world that is filled with the knowledge of God?
A further clue to the proper “mapping” of passages about universal peace and knowledge of God can be found later in the book of Isaiah. Is. 65:17-25 puts 11:6-9 in the context of the creation of new heavens and a new earth.
Isa 65:17-25 For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind. 18 But be ye glad and rejoice for ever in that which I create: for, behold, I create Jerusalem a rejoicing, and her people a joy. 19 And I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and joy in my people: and the voice of weeping shall be no more heard in her, nor the voice of crying. 20 There shall be no more thence an infant of days, nor an old man that hath not filled his days: for the child shall die an hundred years old; but the sinner being an hundred years old shall be accursed.
21 And they shall build houses, and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, and eat the fruit of them. 22 They shall not build, and another inhabit; they shall not plant, and another eat: for as the days of a tree are the days of my people, and mine elect shall long enjoy the work of their hands. 23 They shall not labour in vain, nor bring forth for trouble; for they are the seed of the blessed of the LORD, and their offspring with them. 24 And it shall come to pass, that before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear.
25 The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, and the lion shall eat straw like the bullock: and dust shall be the serpent’s meat. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain, saith the LORD.
It is also described as a time of extreme longevity accompanied by no more reason for sadness. A comparison with Revelation 21:1-5 reveals a much closer match in terms of timing and conditions with Isaiah 65:1-2.
Rev 21:1 And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. 2 And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. 4 And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. 5 And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful.
My first clue that something was amiss with the picture of the Millennium represented by the Feast of Tabernacles came when I realized that the proportions were wrong. According to WCG teaching and that of several Messianic Christian groups, the seven days of the Feast represent the Millennium, followed by the eighth day (Last Great Day), representing the new heavens and new earth.
Why does it take seven days to represent 1000 years, while only one day to represent an eternity beyond? The proportion is wrong.
My second clue was the extensive coverage given to the Millennium in the book of Revelation…
… an entire three verses, all of which describe who gets to rule with Christ. They contain no description of the living conditions of that time.
Contrast that to the treatment given to the new heavens and new earth in chapters 21 and 22. These chapters contain much more detailed descriptions of the glorious life beyond this world.
It would be easy to conclude that the final two chapters are more important than the three verses in scheme of that story. The Millennium is not the focus of the hope of salvation. The eternal life beyond is what we Christians are really looking forward to.
Therefore, a better picture for the Feast of Tabernacles would be that of the eternal dwelling place God has in mind for himself and humanity, as pictured in Revelation 21:1-3.
Revelation 21:1 And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away ; and there was no more sea. 2 And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying , Behold , the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. 4 And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away . 5 And he that sat upon the throne said , Behold , I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write : for these words are true and faithful. 6 And he said unto me, It is done . I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely. 7 He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son.
Epilogue: A comparison of Genesis 2 with Revelation 22 also provides clues about the nature of “eternity beyond.”
Gen 2:8 And the LORD God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed. 9 And out of the ground made the LORD God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil. 10 And a river went out of Eden to water the garden; and from thence it was parted, and became into four heads.
Rev 22:1 And he shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb. 2 In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. 3 And there shall be no more curse: but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and his servants shall serve him:
The reappearance of the river that waters the earth and the Tree of Life in the new heavens and new earth gives the impression of a fresh start for the human race. First, humanity must be restored to relationship with God. After that, God can provide a fresh start for the restored human race in a new world. The Apostle Paul looks forward to a time of refreshing of the entire creation in Romans 8:16-23.
Rom 8:16 The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: 17 And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together. 18 For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. 19 For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God.
20 For the creature [creation] was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope, 21 Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. 23 And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.
God had a plan and a purpose for humanity on earth. The restoration of humanity is a restoration to that which God intended on earth for humankind. The next post, based on a message from our service on the eighth day of the Feast, will explore God’s mission for humankind.
In the meantime, Jesus Christ calls out from heaven for all people to come to him for release from the corruption and anxieties of this world into a refreshing renewal of spirit in him. He has proven that he has life to give beyond the grave by rising from the grave himself. Nobody else can make a claim that convincing.
Seeking that eternal dwelling requires commitment on our part, however. We need to seek Jesus and stick with him through thick and thin. Speaking from the experience of ancient Israel, the writer of Hebrews puts it this way:
Heb 12:25 See that ye refuse not him that speaketh. For if they escaped not who refused him that spake on earth, much more shall not we escape, if we turn away from him that speaketh from heaven: 26 Whose voice then shook the earth: but now he hath promised, saying, Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven. 27 And this word, Yet once more, signifieth the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that are made, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain.
28 Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear: 29 For our God is a consuming fire.