Previously – I heard every creature: Rev. 5:13-14
Rev. 5:13 – I heard every creature in heaven, on earth, under the earth, on the sea, and everything in them say: Blessing and honor and glory and dominion to the One seated on the throne, and to the Lamb, forever and ever! 14The four living creatures said, ‘Amen,’ and the elders fell down and worshiped (HCSB).
The four-fold doxology of all creatures borrows from the previous proclamation of the church and the angels – with one exception: the “dominion” of the One seated on the throne, and of the Lamb, is added to blessing, honor and glory. The Greek word translated “dominion” is kratos, which refers to might or mighty deed. It differs from other Greek words rendered “dominion,” such as kyriotes, used elsewhere in the New Testament and meaning lordship, and exousia, which in Acts 18, referring to the believers’ transfer from the kingdom of Satan into the kingdom of God, emphasizes freedom of choice.
So why do the creatures focus on God’s might rather than His lordship or sovereignty over human choices? Perhaps it is because all creatures necessarily display the mighty acts of God in their very beings, while His lordship requires acknowledgement, and entrance into the kingdom of God requires choice.
While God rules over all creation, He delegates authority to people. This is not an afterthought but an integral part of God’s divine design for mankind. In Gen. 1:26 God says, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness. They will rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, the animals, all the earth, and the creatures that crawl on the earth.” David declares in Ps. 8:6, “You made him (man) lord over the works of Your hands; You put everything under his feet.”
But when Adam falls, he forfeits his dominion over the earth and concedes it to Satan. As a result, all of creation falls with Adam. The ground is cursed, and Adam must eat from it by means of painful labor (Gen. 3:17). Even more, the whole creation groans with “labor pains” beneath the weight of sin (Rom. 8:22). Still, there is hope in the Lamb. The apostle Paul writes joyously, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is going to be revealed to us. For the creation eagerly waits with anticipation for God’s sons to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to futility – not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it – in the hope that the creation itself will also be set free from the bondage of corruption into the glorious freedom of God’s children” (Rom. 8:18-21).
Why do all creatures exalt the Lord’s dominion? Because their Creator is also their Redeemer. While the Lamb purchases man’s freedom from sin by His blood, He also sets the entire created order on a sure path to complete recovery from the corruption sin has caused. At Calvary, Jesus is consumed as a sin offering, but for the joy of what it will accomplish He endures the cross and despises its shame and today sits at the right hand of the Father (Heb. 12:2).
One day He will purge this world of sin, as Peter writes: “But the Day of the Lord will come like a thief; on that [day] the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, the elements will burn and be dissolved, and the earth and the works on it will be disclosed. Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, [it is clear] what sort of people you should be in holy conduct and godliness as you wait for and earnestly desire the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be on fire and be dissolved, and the elements will melt with the heat. But based on His promise, we wait for new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness will dwell” (2 Peter 3:10-13).
Warren Wiersbe comments, “All of heaven’s praise came because the Lamb took the scroll from the Father’s hand. God’s great eternal plan would now be fulfilled and creation would be set free from the bondage of sin and death. One day the Lamb will break the seals and put in motion events that will eventually lead to His coming to earth and the establishment of His kingdom” (The Bible Exposition Commentary, Re 5:1).
This breathtaking chapter ends with the four living creatures saying, “Amen.” The word is a transliteration of a Hebrew word signifying that something is certain, valid, truthful, or faithful. It often is used at the end of biblical songs, hymns, and prayers. The song of the elders, the proclamation of the church and the angels, and the doxology of every creature – their words of praise ring true and will be repeated throughout eternity. Where do such lofty words naturally lead? Take note of the elders, who, upon hearing the word “Amen,” fall down and worship.
Next: The first seal (Rev. 6:1-2)
Rev. 5:12 – They said with a loud voice: The Lamb who was slaughtered is worthy to receive power and riches and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and blessing! (HCSB).
The word “worthy” appears four times in the chapter, and each time it is connected with the Lamb who is slaughtered. It is hard to imagine an unworthy Jesus. He existed in eternity past as the perfect second person in the triune Godhead – the uncreated Creator – and He lives today as the exalted and holy Son of God. Even His 33 years on earth were unmarred by the slightest impropriety. So when was He ever unworthy?
There are two truths we need to examine to answer this question. First, Jesus has always been sinless. The fact that He “became sin for us” (see 2 Cor. 5:21) does not mean He became a sinner, any more than a sacrificial lamb becomes a liar, thief or murderer at the time his throat is cut and his blood is spilled as an atonement for a person’s sin. Jesus bore our sins and became guilty of them on our behalf yet retained His sinless perfection. Those who argue that the Son of God became a sinner on the cross misread scripture and denigrate the perfection of the Father’s plan and the Son’s obedience.
Second, while Jesus has always been sinless, being worthy requires something more; it requires identifying that for which someone is worthy. Throughout the New Testament, we see people who are worthy to receive the disciples into their homes (Matt. 10:11); unworthy to be a disciple of Jesus (Matt. 10:37); worthy to have Jesus perform a miracle (Luke 7:4); and worthy of honor (1 Tim. 6:1). The Greek word axios carries with it the idea of something that is weighed to evaluate its fitness or appropriateness. On the cross, Jesus is “weighed” and found uniquely qualified to bear the sin debt of mankind. Now, in heaven, as He approaches the Father, He is the only One who is “worthy” to reclaim the world, which for far too long has been Satan’s domain.
Notice that Jesus is proclaimed worthy of seven-fold tribute. Few on earth ascribe these qualities to Him during His earthly ministry because He has set them aside in His humiliation. Note how the apostle Paul describes Jesus in His incarnation: “Christ Jesus, who, existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God as something to be used for His own advantage. Instead he emptied Himself by assuming the form of a slave, taking on the likeness of men. And when He had come as a man in His external form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death — even death on a cross” (Phi. 2:5b-8).
Simply stated, the heavenly host exclaims that Jesus is worthy to receive:
- Power. The Greek word here is not the same as “authority.” Jesus announces after His resurrection and before His ascension that “all authority” in heaven and on earth has been given to Him. But the word used here is dynamis, from which we get the English word “dynamite.” He not only holds authority over all creation; He has the power to vindicate His holiness and punish evil.
- Riches. During His earthly ministry, Jesus shows no interest in building personal wealth (but a great deal of interest in teaching stewardship). He has no place to lay His head, and He must borrow on donkey on which to ride triumphantly into Jerusalem. Today, He still has no need of bank accounts or investment portfolios, for like His Father He owns the cattle on a thousand hills. Heaven is a place where every desire is graciously met, and every desire is toward the King, even to the point where redeemed people cast the very crowns He has given them at His feet.
- Wisdom. Accused of being mad, or even demon-possessed, Jesus endures the slander of those who are wise in their own eyes. Often in scripture we are warned about the wisdom of this world, and of the fools who claim to be wise (Rom. 1:22). But the creatures in heaven around the throne worship “the only wise God, through Jesus Christ” (Rom. 16:27).
- Strength. Unable to carry His own cross up the rocky incline of Golgotha due to the severity of His physical abuse, Jesus today not only saves His own but keeps us by His infinite power (1 Peter 1:5), and we rest in the strength of His promises. The Greek word here is ischys, which may be translated “capability.” As the writer of Hebrews puts it: “He is always able to save those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to intercede for them” (Heb. 7:25).
- Honor. Despised, spat upon, denigrated, Jesus suffers the most painful and humiliating form of death known to the Roman world – crucifixion – yet today He is seated at the Father’s right hand, in the highest place of honor. This is not merely the honor of receiving human accolades or ascending to universal fame; this is the honor of approaching the Ancient of Days, taking from His hand the title deed to earth, and having all creation remember the words uttered long ago from this very throne, “This is My beloved Son, I take delight in Him!” (Matt. 3:17).
- Glory. His humble life, many sorrows and inglorious death are now replaced by the glory of heaven’s throne room. Though Jesus once aside His glory to put on the flesh and live among sinful people, He remembers, in the hours before His sacrifice, His former position next to the Father and prays, “Now Father, glorify Me in Your presence with that glory I had with You before the world existed” (John 17:5). It happens just as Jesus prays, and John sees it in his vision.
- Blessing. As He walks the dusty roads of Galilee, Samaria and Judea, Jesus blesses others while on the cross He becomes a curse for us. Today, as exalted Savior, He is to receive all blessings from the grateful recipients of His grace.
Matthew Henry remarks, “He is worthy of that office and that authority which require the greatest power and wisdom, the greatest fund, all excellency, to discharge them aright; and, He is worthy of all honour, and glory, and blessing, because he is sufficient for the office and faithful in it” (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Complete and Unabridged in One Volume, Re 5:6–14).
Next: I heard every creature (Rev. 5:13-14)
The idea of salvation in the Jewish mind — as written in Isa. 12:2 for example — is tied to the feast of tabernacles. The reference in verse 3 to joyfully drawing water from the springs of salvation reminds the people of the ceremony practiced each day of the feast in which water is drawn from the Pool of Siloam, and it foreshadows the day when Jesus would stand, on the final day of the feast, and proclaim, “If anyone is thirsty, he should come to Me and drink” (John 7:37).
“As the Jew was reminded by the feast of tabernacles of his wanderings in tents in the wilderness, so the Jew-Gentile Church to come shall call to mind, with thanksgiving, the various past ways whereby God has at last brought them to the heavenly “city of habitation” (Ps. 107. Robert Jamieson, A.R. Fausset, David Brown, A Commentary, Critical and Explanatory, on the Old and New Testaments, S. Is 12:2).
Everyone can see Jesus in the Feast of Tabernacles by noting the Messianic symbols God gave us — and Jesus fulfilled — in the feast, most notably:
1. The tabernacle.
2. The water.
3. The light.
4. The harvest.
|Name||Scriptures||Time / Date||Purpose||Fulfillment|
|Tabernacles||Lev. 23:33-43; Num. 29:12-39; Deut. 16:13-17, 31:10-13||15th – 21st of Tishri, with an 8th day added as a climax to all the feasts (September/October).||To commemorate God’s protection during the wilderness wanderings and to rejoice in the harvest.||Restoration: The peace and prosperity of God’s Kingdom on earth.|
The Feast of Tabernacles, or Sukkot, is the seventh and final feast God gave Israel. It is the most festive of all the feasts and is mentioned more often in scripture than any of the others. The word sukkot in Hebrew is translated “tabernacles” in English and means booths or huts. Throughout this seven-day feast, the Jews are required to live in temporary shelters to remind them of God’s provision during their 40 years of wilderness wandering. The holiday also is called the Feast of Ingathering (Ex. 23:16; 34:22) because it is observed after all the fall crops are harvested. This happy feast commemorates God’s past provision in the desert and His present goodness in providing the fall harvest.
The feast begins on the 15th day of Tishri (September/October), five days after the Day of Atonement. The first day of Tabernacles and the day after Tabernacles (known as Shemini Atzeret) are sacred assemblies, or Sabbaths. No work is permitted on these days. This is one of three pilgrim feasts, along with Unleavened Bread and Weeks (Pentecost), requiring all Jewish males to appear before the Lord in the Temple.
The Biblical Observance
Four passages of scripture outline the observance of Tabernacles: Lev. 23:33-43; Num. 29:12-39; Deut. 16:13-17, and Deut. 31:10-13. A great number of sacrifices are required each day: one goat, 14 lambs, two rams, and a number of bulls – 13 on the first day, then decreasing by one each day. In addition, the accompanying meal offerings and drink offerings are presented. The work is so intense that all 24 divisions of priests help carry out the sacrificial duties.
It is during the Feast of Tabernacles that Solomon dedicated Israel’s first Temple. The Shekinah glory of God descended from heaven to light the fire on the altar and to fill the Holy of Holies (2 Chron. 5:3; 7:1-4).
Jewish pilgrims from around the world travel to Jerusalem for this feast. They build booths, or huts, in which they live for one week – all carefully located within a Sabbath day’s journey (a little more than half a mile) of the Temple. At sundown, the ram’s horn (shofar) blasts and the celebration begins as fires from thousands of Jewish camps blaze in a half-mile radius around the Temple.
Water-libation ceremony. Israel’s rainy season is from November through March. Tabernacles gratefully acknowledges the harvest and, at least in part, beseeches God for the coming moisture necessary for future harvests. So each morning of the feast, the high priest pours a pitcher of water from the Pool of Siloam into a special basin in the inner court of the Temple as a visual prayer for rain. At the same time, a drink offering of wine is poured into another basin. Three blasts of a silver trumpet follow, and the people listen as the Levites sing the Hallel (Ps. 113-118). The congregation waves palm branches toward the altar and join in singing Psalm 118:25: “Lord, save us! Lord, please grant us success!”
Psalm 118 is a messianic psalm and gives the feast a messianic focus. Centuries after this Psalm was penned, the crowds in Jerusalem greet Jesus with shouts of Hosanna (“save now”) and wave palm branches as He enters the city triumphantly (Matt. 21:8-9; Luke 19:37-38; John 12:12-13). This imagery continues in heaven where the saints worship around the throne with palm branches in hand (Rev. 7:9-10).
Temple-lighting ceremony. On the second night of Tabernacles, the people gather in the spacious outer court of the Temple known as the Court of the Women. Four towering lamp stands are in the center of the court, each with four branches of oil lamps. The wicks are made from the worn-out linen garments of the priests, who ascend tall ladders to keep the lamps filled with olive oil. The elders of the Sanhedrin perform torch dances all night long. Levites stand at the top of the 15 steps leading down to the Court of Women. As flutes, trumpets, harps, and other stringed instruments accompany them, they sing the “Fifteen Psalms of Degrees” (Psalms 120-134). With each psalm, they descend one step.
This celebration is repeated every night from the second night to the final night of Tabernacles. The brilliant lights, bathing the Temple and flooding the streets of Jerusalem, remind the Jews of the descent of the Shekinah glory in King Solomon’s day as the people look forward to the return of the Shekinah in the days of the Messiah (Ez. 43:1-5).
It is the day after Tabernacles that Jesus proclaims in the Temple, “I am the light of the world. Anyone who follows Me will never walk in the darkness but will have the light of life” (John 8:12). Later that day, He heals a blind man and declares, “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world” (John 9:5). The Pharisees bristle at both statements. The best they can do is to accuse Him of healing a man on the Sabbath. Incidentally, there are no Mosaic laws against healing on the Sabbath; the tradition of the Pharisees is the only thing Jesus violated.
Hoshana-Rabbah ceremony. On the seventh day of the feast, the Temple water-pouring ceremony, which is performed each morning throughout the week, takes on great importance. Jewish tradition holds that it is on this day that God decides whether there will be rain for the next year’s crops. Instead of three silver-trumpet blasts, there are seven sets of three blasts. Rather than one circuit around the altar, the priests make seven circuits. The day is known as the Hoshana Rabbah, or “Great Hosanna.”
It is during this ceremony that Jesus stands up and shouts, “If anyone is thirsty, he should come to Me and drink! The one who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, will have streams of living water flow from deep within” (John 7:37-38). The Jewish leaders are infuriated; some want to seize Him, but no one lays a hand on Him A debate ensues among the people, many of whom do not realize, or will not believe, He is the Son of David, born in Bethlehem, the Messiah (John 7:40-44). The chief priests and the Pharisees rebuke the Temple officers, who had the authority to arrest Jesus for disturbing the ceremony, but the officers reply, “No man ever spoke like this” (John 7:46).
The Modern Observance
The sukkah, or tabernacle, is the primary symbol of the feast today. As soon as Yom Kippur is past, observant Jews build rough booths in their yards or on their patios. The booths are three-sided and covered with branches. The roofs are thatched so that there is partial shade in the daytime, and so the stars can be seen through it at night. Throughout the feast, Jewish families eat their meals in the booths, and some even sleep there. These booths remind the Jews of their hastily built housing in the wilderness.
Leviticus 23:40 instructs the Jews to take fruit, palm branches, the boughs of leafy trees and willows of the brook and rejoice for seven days. Observant Jews may build their booths with these items, or carry them in their hands as they rejoice, or both.
At the synagogue, congregants circle the building and sing Psalm 118. The Torah scroll, rather than the ancient altar, is the center of the ceremony. Since the destruction of the Temple, the feast is more closely connected to Yom Kippur. Hashanah Rabbah, the last day of the feast, is seen as the last day on which the judgments God declared on Yom Kippur could be reversed, so observant Jews ceremonially beat willow branches on the synagogue pews to remove the leafs, symbolizing repentance and the removal of sin.
The Bible often compares the harvest with God’s judgment (Hos. 6:11; Joel 3:13; Matt. 13:39; Rev. 14:14-20). In keeping with this imagery, God designed the Feast of Tabernacles to foreshadow the day in which He will gather His people to Himself and send away the wicked (Mal. 4:1-3). When the Messiah returns and sets up His earthly kingdom, He will bring together Jew and Gentile to worship Him in Jerusalem (Zech. 14:16-17).
Further, the Lord Himself will tabernacle, or pitch His tent, with the redeemed (Ez. 37:27-28; Rev. 21:3). The Shekinah glory will be seen again (Isa. 60:1, 19; Zech. 2:5), covering Mount Zion with a cloud by day and a fire by night (Isa. 4:5-6). God’s people will enjoy intimate, face-to-face fellowship with their Savior.
An interesting observation: Some believe Jesus was born during the Feast of Tabernacles, based on scriptural information regarding the timing of John the Baptist’s birth. If that’s true, it more fully illustrates the truth that Jesus is the Tabernacle of God. John 1:14 says, “The Word became flesh and took up residence (lit. and tabernacled or and dwelt in a tent) with us.” Col. 2:9 states, “For in Him the entire fullness of God’s nature dwells bodily.” Jesus will again tabernacle with us when He returns in power and great glory.
In another way, the shelters that are built represent the physical bodies in which we temporarily live today – bodies that eagerly await their glorification at the return of Christ (Rom. 8:23; 1 Cor. 15:51-57; 2 Cor. 5:1-4).
The Old Testament visions of the coming of all nations to worship at Jerusalem refer to the Feast of Tabernacles on the occasion of their pilgrimage (Zech. 14:16-21). This feast speaks of Christ’s millennial reign – a new beginning without the ravages of sin. The earth gives bountifully, all animals are docile (Isa. 65:25), armies no long march against each other, every man sits under his own fig tree (Micah 4:4), and righteousness becomes a lasting reality on the earth. As the Apostle John wrote in Rev. 22:20b: “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!”
This concludes our study of the Jesus in the Feasts of Israel.