A Question I Was Asked:

Surely Will We Need to Keep the Feast of Tabernacles and Other Bible Laws in the Future?

Why, if the law has been done away with, does the Bible say the following ?

22. For as the new heavens and the new earth, which I will make, shall remain before me, saith the Lord, so shall your seed and your name remain.
23. And it shall come to pass, that from one new moon to another, and from one sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to worship before me, saith the Lord.
24. And they shall go forth, and look upon the carcases of the men that have transgressed against me: for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched; and they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh.
Zechariah 14:16-19 (KJV).

16. And it shall come to pass, that every one that is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall even go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to keep the feast of tabernacles.
17. And it shall be, that whoso will not come up of all the families of the earth unto Jerusalem to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, even upon them shall be no rain.
18. And if the family of Egypt go not up, and come not, that have no rain; there shall be the plague, wherewith the Lord will smite the heathen that come not up to keep the feast of tabernacles.
19. This shall be the punishment of Egypt, and the punishment of all nations that come not up to keep the feast of tabernacles.

That is ruling with a rod of iron!

UK Apologetics Reply:

Okay, there is some confusion here. The first quote is from Isaiah 66, not Zechariah at all, it is the second quote which is from Zechariah 14. You then triumphantly put the two quotes together, presumably as your "proof" that the law is not "done away with" (the questioner's expression, not an expression which I have ever used).

The first point here is that all of this is in the Old Testament, yet - presumably - my questioner is placing this in greater importance than the voluminous comments about repentance, law, grace and faith which come from Paul the Apostle over in the New Testament. Why is he doing that? So that is my first question. He (or she) is immediately showing a flawed perspective in biblical understanding. I say this because all experienced Bible exegetes and commentators accept that the biblical revelation is progressive.

The Old Testament prophets (living within, and under the Old Covenant) looked forwards to a future time when things would be very different but they tended to express things as seen and understood from within their own worldview of the time. Again, this is well-noted and recognised by all the major Bible commentators, I am not stating anything dramatically new here. They saw the mountains in the distance. So, if you will, they saw the great 'prophecy fulfillment mountains,' but God only allowed them to see so much, they still continued to live and exist within the Old Covenant. If one looks at mountains in the distance one cannot make out the detail, it seems like one range of mountains, but - as one gets much closer - one starts to be able to make out more detail. That could be said to be similar to the position of the prophets. In Zechariah's day, the people of Israel were expected to observe the Feast of Tabernacles. This great prophet, in looking forward to a day when a wholly new covenant, the New Covenant, would be in effect, could only express such a future time in terms of every nation being required to keep that feast time. A great prophet Zechariah might have been, but God only allowed all His Old Testament prophets to see so much - never everything! Today Christ has come and provided the perfect and complete sacrifice. We now look to the New Testament - not the old - to fill out the details; when we do that, we see that the Feast of Tabernacles, important to Israel, is now an irrelevant thing. How do we know that? Because the New Testament now explains - often in much detail - the place of law and law observance in a Christian's life and the whole thing has now obviously changed. I mean, that is a clear fact established from the Bible, not my opinion, or that of some particular 'theological train of thought.' Consider this:

In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. (Hebrews 1:1-2).

If perfection could have been attained through the Levitical priesthood - and indeed the law given to the people established that priesthood - why was there still need for another priest to come, one in the order of Melchizedek, not in the order of Aaron? For when the priesthood is changed, the law must be changed also. He of whom these things are said belonged to a different tribe, and no one from that tribe has ever served at the altar.... The former regulation is set aside because it was weak and useless (for the law made nothing perfect), and a better hope is introduced, by which we draw near to God. (Hebrews 7: 11-13, 18-19).

If we just take the Feast of Tabernacles as an example, it is not even mentioned as a Christian observance at any point in the New Testament. Then we may look at the writings of the early Christian 'fathers' - they don't refer to it or have any interest in it at all. Why? Because these people - living, let us remember, far, far closer to the days when Jesus, Paul and the other Apostles walked this earth than you or I - knew what was important in the light of Christ's having come and provided the perfect sacrifice, inaugurating the New Covenant (please note: these were things which occurred/were fulfilled just a very few years before they wrote!) Their perspective, it is too often forgotten, was necessarily a better one than ours.

Since my questioner seems especially concerned about observing various days, he or she should just take note of what Paul the Apostle wrote about this matter (Romans 14:5). For Paul, it was a matter of conscience with, it would appear, no real difference between the 'holiness' of any days existing in his own mind. Obviously under the Old Covenant that was not the case but we live under the New Covenant, which centres on Christ and His work upon the cross. This is why those few who regularly scream about the need to observe a sabbath have, in all frankness, lost the plot. They don't know their New Testament and - too often - have been affected by false teachers who pervert the Word of God. If one wants more information on any of these points there is voluminous information available on our website.

The other point I would make here is that when the early church discussed which part of the earlier Old Covenant regulation those Gentiles who were coming to Jesus should be made aware of, only a few rules and guidelines survive. Read it for yourself, don't take my word for it, it is all there in Acts 15.

The first Scripture which my questioner quotes (Isaiah 66, not Zechariah) seems somewhat unrelated to the point raised so I am not sure why it is raised in this context.

Robin A. Brace. December 9th, 2014.