Letter to the Brethren: October 5, 2017

Dear Brethren and Co-Workers in Christ:

Greetings from New Zealand!

We arrived prior to sunset on the Day of Atonement and were able to keep the Day of Atonement with our brethren here.

This was the second time that I, my wife Joyce, and son David were able to do that in New Zealand.

Last evening we had the opening night for the Feast of Tabernacles, which is now in progress.

In case you have not seen it, here is a link to a short message: 2017 Feast of Tabernacles Opening Night Message.

Day of Atonement

The Day of Atonement went well in New Zealand. Here is a photograph of many who were with us then:


Takanini, New Zealand

Evangelist Evans Ochieng sent the following report from Kenya:

Pastor Dr Bob,

Greetings from Kenya.

I received so many calls from all over Kenya that the feast of Atonement was good. I am happy that the number who fasted in Kenya is large according to calls that I received this evening.

Granton is on the way to Nairobi and he will travel to Malawi on 2nd October 2017.

Evans

Many with us in Africa are relatively new as far as the annual Holy Days go, and we are pleased that they are learning and obeying God in the observance of His Holy Days.

Feast of Tabernacles

As a reminder, services for the Feast of Tabernacles were to begin the evening of October 4th and continue until through Last Great Day which is October 12th this year.

Opening night of the Feast of Tabernacles for 2017 went well in New Zealand. And according to a report I just received from Jay Chiang, it also went well in San Diego, California (we had not received other reports by the time I sent this out).

The Feast of Tabernacles itself pictures a culminating event in God’s plan.

After Jesus died for our sins to redeem humankind, and after He sent us the Holy Spirit and picked out a people for His Name to become kings and priests to reign with Him on earth (Revelation 5:10), and after His Second Coming, and after He has finally placed all the sins upon the head of Satan separating both him and the sins from the presence of God and His people (making us finally joined at-one with Him, atonement), then we are ready for that final series of events, the commencement of the establishment of the millennial Kingdom of God on earth.

The Feast of Tabernacles pictures the spiritual and material abundance that will occur during the millennial reign of Jesus Christ when people will keep God’s laws without Satan’s deceptions (Revelation 20:1-6). This is in contrast to what is happening now in a world deceived by Satan (Revelation 12:9). Satanic deception, which will be gone then (Revelation 20:1-3), is part of why most who profess Christianity have been misled by ‘nice’ false ministers as well as why many of those ministers have been misled (2 Corinthians 11:14-15).

Jesus himself, kept the Feast of Tabernacles, and also taught it per John 7:10-26.

Here are some instructions about it from the Hebrew scriptures:

33 Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 34 “Speak to the children of Israel, saying: ‘The fifteenth day of this seventh month shall be the Feast of Tabernacles for seven days to the Lord. 35 On the first day there shall be a holy convocation. You shall do no customary work on it.

41 You shall keep it as a feast to the Lord for seven days in the year. It shall be a statute forever in your generations. You shall celebrate it in the seventh month. 42 You shall dwell in booths for seven days. All who are native Israelites shall dwell in booths, (Leviticus 23:33-35,41-42)

13 “You shall observe the Feast of Tabernacles seven days, … 14 And you shall rejoice in your feast, you and your son and your daughter, your male servant and your female servant and the Levite, the stranger and the fatherless and the widow, who are within your gates. 15Seven days you shall keep a sacred feast to the Lord your God in the place which the Lord chooses, because the Lord your God will bless you in all your produce and in all the work of your hands, so that you surely rejoice.

16 “Three times a year all your males shall appear before the Lord your God in the place which He chooses: at the Feast of Unleavened Bread, at the Feast of Weeks, and at the Feast of Tabernacles; and they shall not appear before the Lord empty-handed. 17 Every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of the Lord your God which He has given you. (Deuteronomy 16:13-17)

God had ancient Israel dwell in booths/tabernacles (‘sukkos’ in Hebrew) in the wilderness for decades before they entered the promised land. Those booths, in a sense, pictured that they were only heirs to the promised land. Even during the Millennium, when the Kingdom of God is ruling over mortal nations, the mortal people will be only heirs to the Kingdom. They must overcome and grow in knowledge and wisdom to inherit the promises.

God says of Ephraim (sometimes portraying a type of all Israel in scripture) that they will “dwell in tabernacles, as in the days of the feast” (Hosea 12:9, Douay-Rheims). Israel, in the wilderness, was a type of all people who must go through trials and tribulations to inherit the promises (1 Corinthians 10:11). They were sojourners, waiting to inherit the promises of God.

We Christians are to realize that we have no permanent city in this age and look to the one to come (Hebrews 13:14). The staying in temporary dwellings during the Feast of Tabernacles helps remind us of that.  Christians should attend church services, if possible, each day of the Feast of Tabernacles to learn (Deuteronomy 31:10-13; Nehemiah 8:17-18) being living sacrifices, which is our “reasonable service” (Romans 12:1).

The Feast of Tabernacles is a time to rejoice (Deuteronomy 14:26; 16:15). The use of the related tithe (commonly called “second tithe”) shows that this is to be a time of abundance (Deuteronomy 14: 22-26), but also that the ministry should be taken care of in this age (Deuteronomy 14:27). The Feast of Tabernacles helps picture the time of millennial abundance.  This gives us a glimpse into the time after Jesus returns.

The millennium represents the seventh day of God’s 7,000 year plan. Interestingly, every seven years, the book of the law was commanded to be read at the Feast of Tabernacles (Deuteronomy 31:10-13). This helps picture that the law, including the Ten Commandments, will be kept in the millennium, as the Bible shows the law will be taught then (Isaiah 2:2-3; more on the commandments can be found in our free online booklet The Ten Commandments). It is living according to God’s laws that will bring blessings and abundance during the millennium.

We Christians now await the coming millennium and the change that occurs at the last trumpet (1 Corinthians 15:52), which is also called the first resurrection:

4 And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them. Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands. And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. (Revelation 20:4)

The Bible show that after Jesus gathers the Church to Himself, and after He is seated on His throne where we will be ruling with Him, He will gather the nations before Him and say to the Christians:

34 Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: (Matthew 25:34).

Now, those who keep the Feast of Tabernacles look forward to this as it helps picture the millennial kingdom.

In the early second century, Papias of Hierapolis said:

[T]here will be a period of some thousand years after the resurrection of the dead, and that the kingdom of Christ will be set up in material form on this very earth.

The observance of the Feast of Tabernacles is a shadow of the coming millennial kingdom of God that faithful Christians have kept since New Testament times.

The Feast of Tabernacles is essentially a ‘pilgrimage’ (Psalm 84:1-5) period, meaning it usually involves travel outside of one’s normal community. Jesus ‘tabernacled’ with humans when He was here (As the Greek word ἐσκἠνωσεν in John 1:14 can be translated per Green JP. Interlinear Greek-English New Testament. Baker Books, 1996, 5th printing 2002, p. 282).

While some falsely claim that the Feast of Tabernacles from the past through current times must only be kept in Jerusalem, this is in error. The children of Israel were not even in Jerusalem for centuries after the commands for its observance in Leviticus 23 were recorded—hence Jerusalem was not an initial option for them. The Bible shows the Feast of Tabernacles can be kept in cities other than Jerusalem (Nehemiah 8:15; cf. Deuteronomy 14:23-24). During the second temple period (530 B.C – 70 A.D.), Jews often kept it elsewhere (Hayyim Schausse noted, “Sukkos was a great festival even outside of Jerusalem.” Schausse H. The Jewish Festivals: A Guide to Their History and Observance, 1938. Schocken, p. 184).

It may also be of interest to note Polycarp of Smyrna in the 2nd century (Life of Polycarp, Chapter 9.) and certain others in Asia Minor in the late 4th century kept the Feast of Tabernacles in Asia Minor, not Jerusalem.  This is confirmed by sources such as the Catholic saint Jerome (Patrologia Latina Volumen MPL025 Ab Columna ad Culumnam 1415 – 1542A) and research done by the 20th century Cardinal Jean Danielou (Danielou, Cardinal Jean-Guenole-Marie. The Theology of Jewish Christianity. Translated by John A. Baker. The Westminister Press, 1964, pp. 343-346).

A nineteenth century anti-millennial scholar named Giovanni Battista Pagani wrote the following about the Egyptian Bishop Nepos of the third century and those who supported the millennium:

…all those who teach a millennium framed according to Jewish ideas, saying that during the millennium, Mosaic law will be restored…These are called Judaical Millenarians, not as being Jews, but as having invented and upheld a millennium according … The principal authors of this error were Nepos, an African Bishop, against whom St. Dionysius wrote his two books on Promises; and Apollinaris, whom St. Epiphanius confound in his work against heresies. (Pagani, Giovanni Battista. Published by Charles Dolman, 1855, pp. 252-253)

It should be of interest to note that neither Bishops Nepos nor Apollinaris were Jews, but were condemned for having a religion that had “Jewish” beliefs. And since Apollinaris is called a Catholic saint, it should be clear that the respected non-Jewish Christian leaders in the early third century clearly did hold to ideas that were condemned by the allegorists. The fact that they held to “Mosaic law” is evidence then that they both understood the meaning of and kept the Feast of Tabernacles, but with a Christian emphasis.

The Greco-Roman bishop & saint Methodius of Olympus in the late 3rd or early 4th century taught that the Feast of Tabernacles was commanded and that it had lessons for Christians:

For since in six days God made the heaven and the earth, and finished the whole world, and rested on the seventh day from all His works which He had made, and blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, so by a figure in the seventh month, when the fruits of the earth have been gathered in, we are commanded to keep the feast to the Lord, …it is commanded that the Feast of our Tabernacles shall be celebrated to the Lord … For like as the Israelites, having left the borders of Egypt, first came to the Tabernacles, and from hence, having again set forth, came into the land of promise, so also do we. For I also, taking my journey, and going forth from the Egypt of this life, came first to the resurrection, which is the true Feast of the Tabernacles, and there having set up my tabernacle, adorned with the fruits of virtue, on the first day of the resurrection, which is the day of judgment, celebrate with Christ the millennium of rest, which is called the seventh day, even the true Sabbath. (Methodius. Banquet of the Ten Virgins, Discourse 9)

The Catholic priest and scholar Jerome said that Nazarene Christians kept it and that they believed that it pointed to the millennial reign of Jesus Christ (Patrologia Latina Volumen MPL025 Ab Columna ad Culumnam 1415 – 1542A). This keeping of the Feast of Tabernacles by Nazarene Christians in the late fourth century was also confirmed by the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox saint Epiphanius of Salamis.

As far as where it is being kept this year, here is a link to an article with that information: A listing of those sites is in the article: Feast of Tabernacles’ Sites for 2017.

We were able to upload the sermon given in New Zealand earlier today:

 1:17:16

Upload speeds have improved tremendously in New Zealand since the last time we were there.

If you are a Christian, you should be keeping the Feast of Tabernacles.

World News Items

The government of Spain and the people of the Catalonia region clashed. The Spanish government opposed a vote by those in Catalonia for independence and hundreds were injured (see Chaos and civil unrest in Catalonia, Spain). There were more protests later and more problems. Expect to see more violent civil unrest in Europe.

A gunman killed 59 people in Las Vegas (originally it was claimed to be 58, see 58 reported murdered in Las Vegas). Expect to see more violence in the USA.

This world needs the return of Jesus and the establishment of the Kingdom of God. God’s kingdom is something that the Feast of Tabernacles helps picture.

Suggested Sabbath Service

Here is a suggested Sabbath service for this week for those not at the Feast of Tabernacles:

Note: If you have a slow internet connection, you can watch these by starting the video, then below it (and towards the right) look for an outline of a gear–if you click on that, it will allow the YouTube video to be played with lower video quality, but at least it will not stop often–you can select a quality as low as 144p. If your internet connection is still too slow (as my home one is) and/or you prefer audio messages to audio-visuals ones, go to the YouTube link for the message, click on SHOW MORE related to the description. You will then see something that says, “Download MP3.” Below that is a link to an MP3 file. Most computers (and even some cellular telephones) will allow MP3 files to be downloaded and played. This is an option we have made available (but we are also looking into ways to improve that as well)–and, of course, we have written article options. Some people have found that if their internet connections are not fast enough, that they can simply listen to the messages that are found at the new Bible News Prophecy online radio channel. IN CASE YOU DO NOT RECEIVE A ‘LETTER TO THE BRETHREN’ FOR ANY WEEK, REMEMBER THAT THERE ARE MANY SERMON MESSAGES ON THE ContinuingCOG channel AND MANY SERMONETTE MESSAGES ON THE BibleNewsProphecy channel. There are also some messages at the CCOGAfrica channel.

Concluding Comments

Bible prophecy shows that the Feast of Tabernacles will be kept in the millennium:

16 And it shall come to pass that everyone who is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall go up from year to year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Tabernacles. 17 And it shall be that whichever of the families of the earth do not come up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, on them there will be no rain. 18 If the family of Egypt will not come up and enter in, they shall have no rain; they shall receive the plague with which the LORD strikes the nations who do not come up to keep the Feast of Tabernacles. 19 This shall be the punishment of Egypt and the punishment of all the nations that do not come up to keep the Feast of Tabernacles (Zechariah 14:16-19).

Brethren, we keep the Feast because of God’s commands and to learn what He wants us to learn. Keep it as God wants you to.

Sincerely,

Bob Thiel
Pastor and Overseer

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