THE FEAST OF TABERNACLES
Between the Passover in chapter six and the feast of tabernacles in chapter seven is another period of time of almost a year concerning which nothing is recorded in this Gospel. The Passover was the first of the annual feasts mentioned in Leviticus 23, and the feast of tabernacles was the last (vv. 5, 34). Exodus 23:15 and 16 speak of three of the annual feasts: “Thou shalt keep the feast of unleavened bread…and the feast of harvest, the firstfruits of thy labors, which thou hast sown in the field: and the feast of ingathering, which is in the end of the year, when thou hast gathered in thy labors out of the field.” The feast of ingathering is the feast of tabernacles, held at the end of the year. The point here is that between the feast of Passover in John 6, held at the beginning of the year, and the feast of tabernacles in John 7, held at the end of the year, there is no record in John’s Gospel of anything that happened in the Lord’s ministry.
The feast of tabernacles is a feast for enjoyment and satisfaction. This feast can be compared to Thanksgiving as it is celebrated in the United States. The feast on Thanksgiving day is a feast of ingathering, a feast held at the end of the year after the crops have been harvested. The feast of tabernacles is also a feast of ingathering.
The feast of Passover signifies feeding, and the feast of tabernacles signifies satisfaction. The feeding at the Passover in John 6 was a shadow; it was not the real feeding. Likewise, the satisfaction at the feast of tabernacles in John 7 is also a shadow. Only Christ is the reality of both the feast of Passover and the feast of tabernacles.
At the end of the Bible we see an eternal tabernacle, the New Jerusalem. For eternity, we shall enjoy a feast of tabernacle. The New Jerusalem will be our tent, our tabernacle, where we shall have full enjoyment and full satisfaction. The river of living water will flow throughout the New Jerusalem for eternity. In eternity we shall have the full enjoyment of this feast.
FED AND SATISFIED BY CHRIST
We have seen that in chapter five of John everything is annulled and only Christ remains as the available One and the availing One. Do you realize that, apart from Christ, nothing avails in human life? Your education and your employment are not availing. Everything except Christ is empty. Our need, then, is for Christ for our feeding and satisfaction. We do not need the holy city, the holy temple, or any other holy things. Furthermore, apart from Christ, not even the Bible is availing. According to the picture portrayed in chapters five, six, and seven of John, we need feeding and satisfaction. Who can feed us? Who can satisfy us? The Lord Jesus is the only One who can feed us and satisfy us.
We have just said that only the Lord Jesus can feed us and satisfy us. Now we need to ask what kind of Jesus can do this? In chapter six of John we have the incarnated and crucified Jesus. In chapter seven we have a Jesus who is not yet resurrected, not yet glorified (7:39). The living water was not available until He was resurrected, for in resurrection He changed His form to become the life-giving Spirit as the real river of water. From the day of His resurrection the river began to flow, and the full enjoyment of this river began at Pentecost, when the river came as a flood upon the disciples to satisfy them.
Through crucifixion and resurrection the Lord Jesus became the life-giving Spirit. First He was the Savior and the Redeemer, and then He became the Spirit who gives life. In the first few verses of the Gospel of John we see that Christ was the Creator. Then through incarnation He became the Savior and the Redeemer. After His death and resurrection, He became the life-giving Spirit, the very breath breathed into His disciples (20:22).
It is crucial for us to see that Christ has annulled everything and that only He Himself avails for our feeding and satisfaction. Because Christ is the bread of life as the living bread within us and because He is also the fountain of living water, He can feed us and satisfy us. Eventually, this fountain flows forth to become the river of living water. First Christ was the fountain, and now as the life-giving Spirit He is the river. In order for the fountain to flow, it had to be opened through Christ’s death. Christ was “cut” on the cross so that the fountain could become the life-giving Spirit as the flowing river to satisfy us.
HUNGRY AND THIRSTY
In the scene in chapter six there was the feast of Passover. In the scene in chapter seven there is the feast of tabernacles. The feast of Passover is the first of the Jewish annual feasts, and the feast of tabernacles is the last (Lev. 23:5, 34). The feast of Passover, at the first of the year, implies the beginning of man’s life (Exo. 12:2-3, 6), which involves man’s seeking for satisfaction and results in man’s hunger. The feast of tabernacles, as the last feast of the year, implies the completion and success of man’s life, which will end and result in man’s thirst. In the scene of the feast of Passover, the Lord presents Himself as the bread of life, which satisfies man’s hunger. In the scene of the feast of tabernacles, the Lord promises that He will flow forth as the living water, which quenches man’s thirst.
After the full harvest of their crops, the Jewish people observed the feast of tabernacles to enjoy what they had reaped in the worship of God (Deut. 16:13-15). Hence, this feast signifies the completion, achievement, and success of man’s career, study, and other matters of human life, including religion, with the joy and enjoyment thereof.
With the Passover at the beginning of the year and the feast of tabernacles at the end, we see the beginning and end of human life. At the beginning of life, we are full of expectation, but we are also hungry. We may be hungry for a good education or a career. But eventually, when we come to the end of human life, we shall be thirsty. Young people, who are full of expectation, are hungry. But the older ones, who are at the end of human life, are thirsty. Young people may expect to have a high education and a promising career. Their hunger will continue throughout life. However, when they come to the end of their life, they will realize that they are thirsty, that they are not satisfied. Therefore, we need the Lord Jesus as both the living bread to feed us and the fountain of living water to satisfy us. We may say that, in particular, at the beginning of human life He is our food, and at the end, He is the river of living water.
As an elderly person, I am no longer at the beginning of my human life. However, I can testify that I am not thirsty. On the contrary, I am filled with living water and overflowing with it, for I enjoy the Lord, who is the life-giving Spirit, as my satisfaction. Because this living water fills me to overflowing, I am able to water others so that they may be satisfied.
(The Fulfillment of the Tabernacle and the Offerings in the Writings of John, Chapter 20, by Witness Lee)