In this keynote address of the 1992 Feast of Tabernacles, John Ritenbaugh reflects on what it will take to produce the abundant fall harvest depicted by the Feast of Tabernacles. Unlike the pristine virgin forests and prairies encountered by Lewis and Clark, the remnants of Israel before the Millennium will encounter devastation and ruin. The restoration will not come about by magic, but people will learn incrementally and systematically by putting God into their lives through the outpouring of God's Holy Spirit, replacing their stony hearts with pliable hearts of flesh. In order for the fruit of the land or the fruit of the spirit to be produced, the hearts are going to have to change. We must fill our lives with peace, repenting, changing our attitude, and voluntarily yielding to God before we can produce the fruits of righteousness. The true worship of God is to imitate God to the best of our ability in every circumstance, showing love by our reasonable sacrifice.
In this sermon John Ritenbaugh focuses on the Old Testament emphasis on the dwelling in booths and the sacrifices as the context for rejoicing (Leviticus 23:40-44). Even though the Feast is an interlude from our customary activities, it is not a vacation (a cessation from our spiritual sacrifices, duties, or responsibilities). If we do not prioritize properly, (fearing God -Deuteronomy 14:23 and seeking God's Kingdom- Matthew 6:33), the miscellaneous distractions of this world (Mark 4:19) could railroad our most important priority. The booths depict our current lives as pilgrims, people on the move, not living in our own country, wandering single-mindedly toward our destination as our forefather Abraham had earlier set the pattern (Hebrews 11:8), fully determined that the cares of the world would not deter him from his goal.
John Ritenbaugh warns us that in our relationship with God, we must emphasize principle over pragmatism, because pragmatism inevitably leads to idolatry. Jeroboam, in setting idolatrous shrines and festivals at Dan and Bethel, appealed to the carnal desire for practical convenience (I Kings 12:26-33). These practical compromises eventually led to the desecration of the Sabbath and the holy days, ending in the captivity of Israel. When doctrine is diluted, it turns into outright idolatry. Like ancient Israel, we have to guard against the tendency to gravitate toward ministers speaking smooth and pleasant things at the expense of turning from the truth. If we are led into deception, it is because our carnal nature wanted it that way (Jeremiah 17:9).
John Ritenbaugh, focusing upon a generally pessimistic treatise, read in the annual cyclical Jewish tradition, during the Feast of Tabernacles, illustrates the disillusionment that love for this world will inevitably bring (I John 2:17). Realizing that the world is passing away, our priorities should be on fearing God and keeping his commandments. The temporary booths (short lived and quickly deteriorating) at the Feast depicts our temporary and impermanent, often unpleasant and disappointing (Hebrews 2:10) earthly pilgrimage or sojourn, contrasted with the permanence of Christ's rule and our future eternal life. (Romans 8:17-18). Without living for God's purpose for us, this life is absolutely meaningless. (Ecclesiastes 12:14, Hebrews 1:10-12)
John Ritenbaugh stresses that God emphasizes the rather pessimistic theme of Ecclesiastes during the Feast of Tabernacles to show the consequences of doing whatever our hearts (without God's Spirit) has led us to do. Without incorporating God's purpose (Ecclesiastes 12:14), our lives, even with all the creature comforts satisfied to the maximum, are absolutely meaningless. Solomon, by continuously evaluating the causes and effects of his calculated pleasure- or meaning-seeking experiment, records many shrewd, commonsense observations about the meaning of life. Even with vast materialistic, artistic, or academic accomplishments, life without the purpose of God is depressingly hollow, disappointing, meaningless, and vain. These disillusionments force God's called-out ones to live by faith. Consequently, God can turn something formerly disappointing and meaningless into something meaningful, purposeful, and profitable for those who fear and trust Him (Roman 8:28).
John Ritenbaugh affirms that the world will learn that God judges- that He has had perpetual hands on contact with His creation, having the ultimate decision over everything. After Satan is bound and confined, God proceeds to bring about seven reconcilements: (1) Judah reconciled with Christ (2) Judah and Israel reconciled (3) Israel, Assyria, and Egypt reconciled (4) all nations reconciled to each other (5) Man and nature reconciled (6) Families reconciled to each other (7) God and man reconciled despite all we have done to trash His property.
What does God see in Israel that so affronts Him that He has to swear "by His holiness"? Israel had every opportunity that the Gentiles did not have: His calling, His promises, His Word, His laws. He gave the Israelites these gifts to help them develop into His sons and daughters, but God sees them as diametrically opposite of Himself. Should not God expect to see some of His characteristics in His sons?
John Ritenbaugh reiterates that the subtle incremental changes made by the misguided leaders in the Worldwide Church of God, beginning with the "born again" understanding in 1991, were intended to destroy the vision of the purpose God is working out. Ignoring the last portion of Ephesians 2:10, the proponents of the no works, no conditions, no standards, cheap grace mentality have perverted the name of Christianity, adopting the fruit of the world's brand of Christianity, cutting itself off from the law and rule of God. In contrast to this adolescent "obey because we feel like it"- "all roads lead to heaven" mentality is God's package, consisting of a body of laws, a body of beliefs or doctrines, and a way of life, all of which are working to produce a magnificent product- not merely to save us.
In this comprehensive overview of tithing, John Reid explores the attitudes we should have toward tithing, the purposes of the tithe, and the benefits of tithing. Tithing expresses both our honor and love for God (the Supplier and Sustainer of all things) and our love for our neighbor, actively expressing God's great law. The first tithe is reserved exclusively for God's purpose, enabling the ministry to perfect the saints. The second tithe is reserved for festival purposes, enabling us to learn to fear God. The third tithe is used to show love for the helpless and people who have fallen on bad times. Incredible blessings accrue to those who keep these tithing principles.
John Ritenbaugh focuses upon our future responsibilities as a priest in God's Kingdom, asking us if we are really preparing for this role. If we are not practicing being a priest right now,we will not be prepared. During the Millennium, the priest will be required to make a large number of mediating sacrifices on behalf of the people, mediating, reconciling, teaching, judging, and saving the remnant of Israel. The primary function of a priest is to assist people in accessing God- so that there can be unity with God. A priest is a bridge-builder between man and God. The sacrifice that God demands is a total sacrifice of time, energy, and service (in short, ones whole life) to that end. Nothing will prepare us to become a priest more than to commit our entire lives as a total living sacrifice.
Why does God want us to keep the Feast of Tabernacles? John Ritenbaugh shows that the Feast is far more than a yearly vacation!
John Ritenbaugh reiterates that the days, months, and times referred to in Galatians 4:10 do not refer to Jewish Holy Days or the law of God, but to Pagan Gnostic rites connected with the worship of demons. To refer to the liberating law of God as weak and beggarly constitutes rank blasphemy. To use Galatians as an antinomian tract denigrating God's holy and righteous law creates a hypocritical dichotomy- in which Paul, while keeping the law, allegedly urged the people not to keep it. Paul, as a light to the Gentiles, kept the Sabbath and the rest of God's law in the middle of gentile territory (Acts 18:11, 13:44) indicating that neither the Sabbath nor any other aspect of God's law had been done away. The target of Paul's wrath was Gnostic asceticism, which was syncretized with both extra- biblical Judaistic and Pagan elements.
The doctrine of tithing often raises specific questions regarding how many there are, who they go to and whether they are strictly on agriculture. This article gives the answers.
The late spring Feast of Pentecost shows the harvest of firstfruits, God's church. It is a continual reminder of our part in God's plan!
The Feast of Tabernacles is a type of the soon-coming Millennium, when Christ will set up His government on the earth. Real peace and prosperity will be the norm. And everyone will have access to the knowledge of God!
Joy, the second fruit of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5:22, is more than just happiness. There is a joy that God gives that far exceeds mere human cheerfulness. John Ritenbaugh shows how the Holy Spirit produces it in us.
John Ritenbaugh warns that it is possible to have an enjoyable feast, but not keep the feast properly, failing to derive any spiritual profit. God expects the Feast of Tabernacles to be the spiritual high of the year. Paradoxically, if we go to the Feast with the goal of physically enjoying, we may lose out on both the spiritual and physical benefits. The attitude and purpose for keeping the Feast should focus upon the spiritual: serving, growing, overcoming, transforming, and producing spiritual fruit. The lesson of Amos 5 indicates that going through the motions, perhaps superstitiously acknowledging the historical ambience of the event, but in a smug, carnal, self-indulgent mode - without including the spiritual component - makes the entire event an abomination.
God not only rules in heaven, but He is also sovereign on earth! He is not an absentee landlord, but One who is actively involved in administering His creation.
What is worship? What should our attitude be in worship? How do we worship God? Our God is seeking people to worship Him in spirit and truth!
Pentecost in 2001 is a little different than in other years. The Sabbath during the Days of Unleavened Bread falls on the last day. How should we count to Pentecost on odd years like this? John Ritenbaugh explains the reasons for counting the same way as in all other years.
Richard Ritenbaugh affirms that in spiritual matters, as in athletics, those who have mastered the fundamental skills are the best. The fundamentals of the Feast of Tabernacles consists of a harvest image, depicting a massive number of people coming to the truth, while the journey or pilgrimage depicts a time of judgment. We are currently undergoing our period of judgment, preparing to reign with Christ as spiritual kings and priests during His millennial rule, bringing salvation and judgment releasing bands of suppression and bondage, bringing healing, and enabling the wastelands and deserts to reach an Edenic standard.
God commands us to keep His feasts and holy days, and He also makes funds available for us to do so—by saving second tithe. When God gives us something to do, He always provides the means to do it!
The Bible tells us that at the Feast of Tabernacles, we can spend our money on whatever we desire. However, the Feast is a test of our hearts. What do we really desire? Do we indulge ourselves, or do we use our resources to make it the best Feast ever for others?
How can we evaluate whether our Feast is 'good' or not? Using God's criticism of Israel's feasts in Amos 5, John Ritenbaugh shows that the pilgrimage locations of Bethel, Beersheba, and Gilgal provide instruction about what God wants us to learn from His feasts.
John Ritenbaugh, reflecting on the scripture commanding the saving of second tithe, focuses on the admonition that we learn to fear God, having awe, respect, with a certain measure of dread. We are admonished to internalize the book of Deuteronomy in preparation for our future leadership roles. In one sense, Deuteronomy serves as the Reader's Digest Condensed Book or the Cliff Notes, outlining the details for our salvation, providing us instructions for our relationship to God and our guidebook to the Promised Land. Deviating from this set of instructions leads to apostasy, idolatry or spiritual adultery, a situation in which physical Israel perennially found itself, having become repeatedly immersed in degenerate heathen religious practices. Ezekiel 16 is directed to modern Israel, a people who have outstripped their ancestors in their zeal to defile themselves in a moral and spiritual cesspool. Unfortunately, all of us have been tainted by this degenerate culture. Modern Israel's major sin is idolatry. Once the First Commandment is broken, the others topple like a house of cards. Most of the world worships pictures or sculptures of gods and lords. Those who trust these false entities are as good as dead. There is no alternative to worshipping the one true God. Israel's propensity for idolatry is deeply ingrained in them, impatiently and emotionally clamoring for something they could see—a malleable idol. Unfortunately, this propensity toward idolatry is part of human nature, a natural extension of self-centered coveting; transforming ourselves into the god we serve. God will not brook competition under any circumstances, demanding total destruction of all alternative forms and methods of worship—no form of syncretism with anything pagan whatsoever.
John Ritenbaugh, suggesting that all of us in the greater church of God had a misconception about this day, focuses upon an understanding of the Last Great Day. The scriptures are better understood than they were before, clarifying many things that were muddled before. The New Testament is needed to put the true stamp of authority to the Holy Days of the Old Testament. In John 7:37, we need to ask what day of the week on which this event occurred. This address was given on the last day of the feast, the day before the Last Great Day. Jesus Christ was crucified on a Wednesday on the Passover, the 14th of Abib, in the afternoon in 31AD (before an annual high holy day) and was resurrected on a Sabbath. We calculate this event using the Hebrew calendar, using the customary postponements. The calendar in 30AD does not fit a Wednesday crucifixion. All days, from Passover to Tabernacles, are named in the Bible, except for the Last Great Day, having received its name from the Radio Church of God. From John 7-9, we learn that the Jews invariably misunderstood Jesus Christ's doctrines, having been muddled by their worldly traditions. The Feast of Tabernacles represents a time when God's government will extend over the entire earth. The seventh day of the Feast of Tabernacles is indeed a great day. The Feast of Tabernacles is only seven days long. The eighth day was a separate festival, apart from the Feast of Tabernacles, can only derive its significance in the New Testament, namely the Day of Judgment, the Great White Throne Judgment, the second resurrection, a time Christ will judge. In John 8, there is nothing more than a scene change until the end of chapter 8, at which time the Pharisees tried to kill Him.
John Ritenbaugh, reminding us that the scene does not change between John 7 and 8, but the location changes in chapter 9, a location where He heals a man who had been blind from his birth. This stirred up another controversy with the Pharisees. All of the events occurring in John 8-10 occurred on the Last Great Day, six months before Jesus was crucified, in the same year on the Hebrew calendar, but on two separate years on the Roman calendar (30 AD and 31 AD). Jesus Christ healed the blind man on a double Sabbath, a high day, and a weekly Sabbath. This verse proves that the seventh day of Feast of Tabernacles is not the eighth day of the Feast of Tabernacles, and that Christ was crucified in 31 AD, and that the postponement rules of the Hebrew calendar are accurate. In October 30 AD, the Feast of Trumpets and the beginning of the Feast of Tabernacles both took place on the Sabbath, while the Last Great Day occurred on the Sabbath. In the spring, calculated with postponements, the crucifixion occurred on a Wednesday while the Resurrection occurred on a Sabbath. According to the scripture, the calendar has to match both years. The only calendar which will fit is the calculated Hebrew calendar using the postponements. The events of John 7:37 categorically prove the veracity of the Hebrew calendar with its postponements. In John 8, Jesus shows us the mindset of the people coming out of the grave. The blind man healed in chapter 9 represents the whole world, spiritually blind from birth. Chapter 10 indicates that there will be no shepherd except for Him. When the resurrection of the rest of the dead occurs, judgment will be rendered on the basis of a person's works. They will be resurrected, either to eternal life or oblivion. This will be a permanent change.
The Seventy Weeks Prophecy in Daniel 9:24-27 is best known for its prediction of the timing of the coming of the Messiah. David Grabbe explains how its detail about "confirm[ing] a covenant with many" points to Jesus and His making of the New Covenant with His elect—and hints at a future confirmation of the covenant to complete the seventieth week.
Many of us have been members of the church of God for decades, and because of our long association with God's festivals, we forget that new members have little or no idea how to keep them and can be intimidated about what God requires of them during these appointed times. Richard Ritenbaugh points out the foundational principles new members need to keep in mind in observing the Feasts of God throughout the year.