God’s festival season for 2022 recently concluded with the observance of the Feast of Tabernacles and the Last Great Day.
Those in God’s Church observing these feasts did so to correctly picture the great harvest of human beings into God’s family.
The reason for gathering comes directly from the biblical teachings of God’s late apostle, Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong.
The Feast of Tabernacles
In his booklet “Pagan Holidays, God’s Holy Days, Which?”, pg. 44, Mr. Armstrong explains the meaning of the Feast of Tabernacles as he understood it.
“Just as Pentecost pictures the early harvest—this church age, so the Festival of Ingathering or Tabernacles pictures the fall harvest—the great harvest of souls in the Millennium!”
“The Feast of Tabernacles is, strictly speaking, seven days long—to picture the entire Millennium".
From his article in the May 1981 edition of “The Good News Magazine” titled “Why Many Don’t Understand Pentecost,” pg. 28, Mr. Armstrong again reiterates that the Feast of Tabernacles represents the time of the Millennium.
“On the 15th day of the seventh month begins the FEAST OF TABERNACLES—the MILLENNIUM—the time of the physical FALL HARVEST in Jerusalem and environs and the time when ALL THEN LIVING SHALL BE CALLED and given the chance to repent, believe and receive salvation."
This remains the predominant understanding among most in God’s Church today about the meaning of the Feast of Tabernacles.
The Last Great Day
What then is the meaning of God’s final feast, the Last Great Day?
Again, from his booklet “Pagan Holidays, God’s Holy Days, Which?”, pgs. 47-48, Mr. Armstrong explains the meaning of this 7th feast day.
“After the Millennium what happens? A resurrection! The dead stand before God. Those in this resurrection must be those who died in ignorance in past ages! They are not brought to life until after the Millennium.”
“This eighth day, which immediately follows the seven days of the Feast of Tabernacles, pictures the completion of the plan of redemption. It is just prior to the new heaven and the new earth.”
And from his Good News article, pg. 28, Mr. Armstrong said this about the Last Great Day.
“This Feast (of Tabernacles) lasts SEVEN DAYS, with the first day an annual Sabbath.”
“This is followed, the very next day, by a HOLY DAY, picturing the GREAT WHITE THRONE JUDGMENT—the time when ALL who ever lived and were not CALLED shall be RESURRECTED MORTAL, just as they were—human flesh and blood. They will be able to see and KNOW the results of the 6,000 years of the "GET" way of man, cut off from God, as well as the 1,000 years of the "GIVE" way under Christ. Then will everyone be "CALLED"—given opportunity to REPENT and BELIEVE and receive the Holy Spirit and eternal life in the KINGDOM OF GOD!”
Mr. Armstrong clearly defined the great fall harvest as those who become part of God’s family during the Millennium, the Feast of Tabernacles, with those to become part of His family in the Great White Throne Judgment, the Last Great Day.
But is this an accurate understanding of these 2 feast days in God’s plan?
In his May 1981 Good News article, pg. 4, Mr. Armstrong explains how God’s seven feasts center around the two agricultural harvest seasons of the Promised Land
“All seven festivals were based on the annual MATERIAL harvest in the "Holy Land." There were the two harvests yearly—the first the early grain harvest, early summer: the main harvest being the fall harvest, with four festivals coming in the seventh month of the sacred calendar. Thus, the annual festivals use the MATERIAL harvest to picture the SPIRITUAL.”
From his booklet “Pagan Holidays, God’s Holy Days, Which?”, pg. 23, Mr. Armstrong wrote this about these harvests:
“. . . God took the yearly material harvest seasons in ancient Israel as the picture of the spiritual harvest of souls.”
“In the Holy Land there are two annual harvests. First, is the spring grain harvest. Second, comes the fall harvest.”
Mr. Armstrong saw the spring harvest as the time when those in God’s Church would become members of God’s family. He explains this on pg. 26 of “Pagan Holidays, God’s Holy Days, Which?”:
“Passover symbolized Christ's sacrifice for the remission of our sins, and the days of unleavened bread the putting away of sin. Pentecost pictures the first part of the spiritual harvest—the calling out of the Church . . .”
Mr. Armstrong taught that the small few of God’s Church represented the spring harvest. He connected this harvest to the Feast of Pentecost. He then connected the vast majority of humanity being harvested during the time periods of the Millennium, the Feast of Tabernacles and the Great White Throne Judgment and the Last Great Day. This was the great fall harvest in God’s plan according to Mr. Armstrong’s teaching.
But is this an accurate view of God’s holy day plan or is there more that needs to be understood about it?
Three Harvest Periods
Within the two harvest seasons of God’s holy day plan are actually three harvest periods when crops are gathered in.
These three harvest periods are specifically identified in Exodus 23:14-16. Notice carefully.
“Three times you shall keep a feast to Me in the year: You shall keep the Feast of Unleavened Bread . . ., the Feast of Harvest (Pentecost) . . .and the Feast of Ingathering (Tabernacles) . . .”
In Exodus 34:22 the two harvest seasons are specifically mentioned.
“And you shall observe the Feast of Weeks (Pentecost), of the firstfruits of wheat harvest, and the Feast of Ingathering (Tabernacles) at the year’s end.”
In verse 23 the three harvest periods are referenced, but not named. However, these three harvest periods are specifically mentioned again by name in Deuteronomy 16:16.
“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 (Pentecost), and at the Feast of Tabernacles . . .”
It is important to recognize that God’s Word specifies within the two harvest seasons, three periods of time when people are harvested into God’s family.
How did Mr. Armstrong view these three harvest periods?
First, he associated the Feast of Unleavened Bread with the resurrected Jesus Christ as the wave sheaf offering. From pgs. 23-24 of his booklet “Pagan Holidays, God’s Holy Days, Which?”, he wrote,
“First of these is the Passover, followed by the Feast of Unleavened Bread with the two annual Sabbaths. Beginning (Lev. 23) verse 9, we find instructions for the wave-sheaf offering.”
“This pictures the resurrected Christ ascending to heaven to be accepted by His Father as the very first human to be actually born of God—the firstfruit of the first harvest of souls!”
Second, he associated the Feast of Pentecost and the two wave loaves as the harvest of God’s Church.
“On the fiftieth day (Pentecost) in Old Testament times, two "wave loaves" (Lev. 23:17, 20) were brought out of the habitations of the congregation as the firstfruits unto the Lord. Just so the New Testament Church was gathered out of this world as the firstfruits of His salvation, in fulfillment of the meaning of the wave loaves.”
It is important to note that the offering of the wave sheaf and the two wave loaves makeup the totality of the spring harvest, separated by 50 days.
As seen earlier, Mr. Armstrong combined the Millennium and Great White Throne Judgment periods to makeup the last harvest period, the greater fall harvest.
An initial examination of Mr. Armstrong’s explanation concerning the three harvest periods certainly makes sense until the Scriptures involved are re-examined.
The Wave Sheaf
It is interesting to note that Mr. Armstrong never discussed the identity of the priest in his explanation of the wave sheaf offering.
Notice this is not the case when he correctly identified the priest in the ceremony of the two goats for the Day of Atonement, in “Pagan Holidays, God’s Holy Days, Which?”, pg. 38.
“As soon as the slain goat was dead, who went within the veil, presenting the blood of this goat before the typical throne of God?”
“And so, it was the high priest taking blood within the veil, to the mercy seat, that typified the risen Christ figuratively taking HIS blood, once for all, within the veil to the very throne of God in heaven, there to intercede for us as High Priest. Surely this is so plain a child can see.”
The question must be asked, who then does the priest offering the wave sheaf picture during the Feast of Unleavened Bread? It is the same “risen” priest who entered the Holy of Holies on the Day of Atonement, the resurrected Jesus Christ.
“Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, . . .” (Heb. 4:14).
To correctly understand Mr. Armstrong’s explanation concerning the wave sheaf requires recognizing that the one offering the wave sheaf pictures Jesus Christ (the priest) presenting Himself (the wave sheaf) to God the Father. But is this what is actually being pictured? Could these verses about wave sheaf ceremony picture something else?
Not the Same Firstfruits
Notice that the wave sheaf and two wave loaves are both called firstfruits in Leviticus 23.
“When you come into the land which I give to you, and reap its harvest, then you shall bring a sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest to the priest (v 10).”
“You shall bring from your dwellings two wave loaves of two-tenths of an ephah. They shall be of fine flour; they shall be baked with leaven. They are the firstfruits to the Lord (v 17).”
It is important to note that two different Hebrew words are used for firstfruits in these verses. There is a clear distinction between the firstfruits offered in each ceremony.
The Hebrew word (7225) used to describe the wave sheaf applies to the very first firstfruits of the harvest. It refers to the very first stalks of grain to ripen in the grain harvest. Whereas the Hebrew word (1061) used to describe the two wave loaves applies to the firstfruits of the crop, the remaining grain to be harvested following the presentation of the wave sheaf.
Another important distinction to note between these two offerings is that the wave sheaf is an unleavened offering while the two wave loaves are a leavened offering. Remember, God’s use of leaven is to picture sin, the violation of His Law (I Cor. 5:8).
Why is this distinction so important? Because those of the 1st resurrection, who are the very first to be harvested into God’s family are perfect and without sin.
Paul confirms this fact in I Corinthians 15:51-52.
“Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed—in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.”
Notice John’s description of the 144,000 resurrected firstfruits in Revelation 14:5.
“And in their mouth was found no deceit, for they are without fault before the throne of God.”
In Revelation 19:7-8 John provides additional information about the character of those in the 1st resurrection.
“Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready. And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.”
It is incorrect to identify the two wave loaves as those of the first resurrection. The sins of these individuals were cleansed through the blood of Jesus Christ based on their repentance. To become part of the first resurrection this group had to remain faithful to God’s Truth to the end of their lives. When they are resurrected at the seventh trumpet, they will be perfect members of God’s family without sin. It is incorrect to identify the two wave loaves as representing the Church of God.
Understanding who the identity of the priest is offering the wave sheaf and why the two wave loaves cannot represent the Church of God, how do those of the first resurrection fit into the harvest of God’s plan?
A re-examination of Mr. Armstrong’s explanation concerning the offering of the wave sheaf and two wave loaves reveals four flaws in the understanding God’s Church currently holds concerning the harvest periods of God’s plan.
First, the priest involved in the offering of the wave sheaf and two wave loaves represents the resurrected priest, Jesus Christ. Therefore, Christ cannot represent the wave sheaf.
Second, the two wave loaves cannot represent the resurrected Church of God since those in the first resurrection are to be resurrected without sin.
Third, the wave sheaf pictures those of the first resurrection who will be without sin once they are resurrected and given eternal life. This group of resurrected firstfruits is to be presented by Jesus Christ to God the Father soon after their resurrection. God’s harvest plan cannot go forward until the very first of the harvest has been presented to and accepted by the Father.
And fourth, the two wave loaves represent those who will become part of God’s family during the Millennium. There will be sin in the Wonderful World Tomorrow that will have to be repented of before people can become members of God’s family (Zech. 14:16-19).
Correctly Understanding God’s Plan
Knowing that the two wave loaves represent people in the Millennium, which coincides with the Feast of Pentecost, shows that these people cannot be part of the fall harvest. This means only those resurrected in the Great White Throne Judgment will makeup the totality of the fall harvest in God’s plan.
The Feast of Tabernacles pictures the redemptive completion of God’s family, not the Last Great Day as Mr. Armstrong thought. This 7-day celebration comes after the harvest has been gathered in at the end of the year (Ex 23:16, 34:22).
Once this festival is complete, sin will be destroyed once and for all.
John describes this process in Revelation 20:13-15.
“The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.”
This event coincides with the destruction of the current heavens and earth which Peter describes in II Peter 3:10.
“But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up.”
Following this destruction will be the coming of a new heaven and new earth which John describes in Revelation 21:1-3.
“Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also, there was no more sea. Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God.”
The Last Great Day is the time of the third resurrection when sin and death will finally be destroyed. Following this destruction will come the new heaven and new earth, at which time God the Father will dwell with His perfect family for eternity in absolute peace and righteousness. This will truly be a great day when the old world passes away and new world is established.
God has revealed a more accurate understanding concerning His Feast of Tabernacles and Last Great Day. Without God’s work through Mr. Armstrong this understanding would not be possible. However, this information is only useful to those interested in holding fast to God’s Truth and continuing to grow in it.
“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”