By Brian G. Bettes
As a child growing up, I remember being excited every year when it came time to go to the Feast of Tabernacles. To be sure, I liked all of the holy days as a youth. But the Feast of Tabernacles was always such an extra special, fun time.
We got to go away from home and visit new places we had not been before, or sometimes go back to a place we had been but loved. We got to see friends from years past and meet new ones. We ate all kinds of food that we couldn’t afford to eat the rest of the year; we really did (and still do) feast at the Feast. And I personally liked to sit and hear the messages about the future time of Jesus Christ’s 1000-year reign and how “cool” the world was going to be when He returned.
Maybe as a child those sermons created a bit of an idealistic, fantasy-like world in my mind, but it fired my imagination to want to see such a beautiful, peaceful world as it was being described. Even as a youth I took comfort in knowing that these weren’t just words that men were making up about a “Utopian” world. These words came directly out of the Bible.
As the years rolled by and I grew into a teenager, unfortunately the environment in the church had changed to where there was more focus on events and activities, and less on the message of the “Millennium” as we called it. The Feast became more centered on the social and “vacation” aspect rather than what God intended it to be. We still had fun, but the solid, foundational messages about why we were keeping the Feast got a bit lost in all of the hustle, bustle, and distraction of travel and activities. As a result, the Feast seemed to lose some of its luster. It just wasn’t the same.
In my late teens, I decided to make my formal commitment to God and I was baptized. To say that I didn’t fully understand what I was “getting into” at the time is an understatement. However, I think every person I have talked to who has been baptized for any length of time feels the same. Baptism is a starting point in our relationship with God, not the end.
Though I was young and still somewhat idealistic, (I have always been that way to a certain extent I guess), the Feast started to take on a new meaning to me. Maybe it was also because I was maturing from being young and not having as much responsibility, to where I was having to face the daily pressures of life, trials, and responsibilities of an adult, but something started to change in the way that I looked at…well…everything, including the Feast. The Feast became more real to me and less “idealistic”.
What I mean by that is, the Feast and what it represents, the 1000-year reign of Jesus Christ, started to become a fact in my mind, not a fantasy. There started to be a realization that Jesus Christ really is going to come back and set up a very different environment than the one we live in now. Scriptures that promise different leadership than what we currently experience started having deeper meaning to me. Isaiah 11:2-5 states:
“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; 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: butwith 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. And righteousness shall be the girdle of his loins, and faithfulness the girdle of his reins.”
The verses that followed, Isaiah 11:6-8, about the animals’ nature being changed so they will be at peace and not wanting to eat each other still fired my imagination as when I was a child, but the scriptures that talk about the difference Jesus is going to make in how humans treat each other became more important. What a wonderful difference it will be when Satan and his influence is removed (Revelation 20:1-3), and instead, the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the seas (Isaiah 11:9).
Suddenly differences He would make happen, like men beating swords into plowing implements, spears into pruning tools, and not learning how to kill each other like it was an art form (Micah 4:3), became much more important to me than the childhood dream of being able to have my very own lion and my very own tiger without fear of being eaten (I still want those by the way).
As the years have gone by and I have been given the privilege to give messages at the Feast, I have found it exiting to present the message of a world where Jesus will stand on the Mount of Olives, and be King, and all nations will go up to Jerusalem to learn from Him (Zechariah 14:4,9,16).
Yes, I suppose the Kingdom that I preach about today is different in some ways than the Kingdom that fired my youthful imagination as a child – and yet it brings me comfort to know that it is also still the same Kingdom. There is just a lot more that I understand about how my Brother is going to establish and govern within it, and what my part in it will be.
As a child I mentally participated in that world with the vision of having my pet “kitties” (big ones)! Today, I know my involvement in that Kingdom will be much more. I will have responsibilities as a ruler, a priest, a Son to my Father, and a Brother to my Eldest Brother who is the Firstborn Son, Lord of all, and King of kings (Revelation 20:6). It will be my honor to serve under Him at His side. What a privilege that will be!
Hoping you are having a wonderful, deeply meaningful Feast wherever you are feasting. Signing off from the Feast in Indian Wells, California, USA. ~brian