The last of the seven feasts which the Lord instructed Moses to proclaim was the feast of tabernacles, also known as the feast of booths. This feast was to be observed in remembrance of the time in which Israel dwelt in temporary shelters (v. 43). This would be the forty years between the exodus of the children of Israel from Egypt and their crossing over Jordan into the promised land under the leadership of Joshua (Josh. 3:16, 17). Observance of this feast, like the feast of first fruits and the feast of weeks, would not take place in Moses’ lifetime. In addition to serving as a remembrance to Israel’s wandering in the wilderness for forty years, the feast was to be a celebration of the fall harvest (v. 39).
The nation of Israel was required to keep the seven feasts listed in Leviticus 23. New Testament believers are not under the law and do not keep these feasts. That is not to suggest that these seven feasts do not hold special meaning for New Testament Christians. The Holy Spirit moved the Apostle Paul to declare Christ to be our passover lamb (I Cor. 5:7) and Christ to be the first fruits of them who shall rise from the dead (I Cor. 15:20). New Testament saints most certainly will witness the keeping of the feast of booths in a future day. The prophet Zechariah proclaimed: “And it shall come to pass, that every one that is left of all the nations which come against Jerusalem shall even go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to keep the feast of tabernacles” (Zech. 14:16). Zechariah is speaking of Christ’s yet future reign. New Testament saints shall be part of the Lord’s administration during His one thousand year reign upon the throne of David in Jerusalem.
Because the seventh and final feast marks the completion of the last harvest of the year, it marks the beginning of a period of rest for the land. Rest, coupled with remembrance of years of wandering, is a picture of that which shall be realized when the Lord rules upon the throne of David in Jerusalem. Israel shall be at rest in the land which God promised Abraham.
If the feast of booths were to be re-instituted in the present day nation of Israel, the remembrance would not be for the forty years of wandering in the wilderness alone. It would also be in remembrance of the many, many years (almost two thousand) in which the sons of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were separated from their home and found temporary shelter in foreign lands.
Because both the keeping of the first feast and the keeping of the last feast are pictures of future events (one fulfilled and one to be fulfilled) that are found in scripture, some New Testament believers look upon all the feasts of Leviticus 23 and see a larger picture of prophecy. Each feast involves the Lord Jesus Christ.
The prophecy of the first three feasts was fulfilled in the space of three days. Jesus is the passover lamb who was sacrificed such that men might enjoy a new and pure relationship (unleavened) with God. The certainty of man’s new relationship with God was confirmed when Christ arose upon the third day to be the first fruits of them who shall rise from the dead.
The fourth feast, the feast of weeks, marks the falling of the Holy Spirit upon believers — an event which was dependent upon Christ’s presence with the Father (see Jn. 15:26). The coming of the Comforter (the Holy Spirit) marked the beginning of the church (Acts 2:2-4). The church age shall end with the coming of the fifth feast, the feast of trumpets. When the trumpet sounds, the church will be taken up to be with Christ (I Cor. 15:52). The feast of trumpets is set by the beginning of the seventh month (seven signifying completion).
Following the removal of the church, Israel shall experience great tribulation that shall not end until the sixth feast. On the day of atonement Christ shall pour “the spirit of grace and supplications” upon Israel and Israel shall “look upon me whom they have pierced” (Zech 12:10).
As previously noted, the seventh and final feast coincides with the Lord’s reign from the throne of David in Jerusalem.
God moved Moses to record the seven feasts of the Lord in the manner that He did such that both Old and New Testament believers might be His testimony. The Lord shall return after He has finished preparing places for all who believe upon Him. New Testament believers are not called to sit and wait for the trumpet to sound. The harvest is not quite gathered. We are to declare His love until the end.