WHY WERE TABERNACLES BUILT AT THE TRANSFIGURATION?
It has been suggested by some that the reason Peter asked to build the tabernacles was because it was the time of the feast of tabernacles. That however cannot be the reason because we read in Lev. 23:42, “Ye shall dwell in the booths for seven days”. The Lord would not have gone to the mountains to pray during the feast of tabernacles, He would have spent those seven days in the tabernacles as required by the Mosaic Law.
So what is the reason Peter asked to build the tabernacles? In order to make this study a bit easier to understand, I will share a brief overview and my conclusions, and then offer the Scriptural evidence which, in my opinion, proves the conclusions of that overview.
Just days before the transfiguration, Christ had told His disciples that they will see “the kingdom of God come with power”, i.e. the millennial reign of Christ (Luke 9:1). Further, the transfiguration included several events which were associated with millennial prophecies.
Conclusion: I believe that Peter asked to build the tabernacles, which, as will be proved in this study, are associated with the millennium, because he wanted to show his faith in the coming of the millennial kingdom as promised just days before by the Lord Himself.
In short, it is the association of the feast of tabernacles with the millennium that is the key to understanding why Peter asked to build the tabernacles. This association is, unfortunately, not widely understood, but will be proved in the body of this paper.
MILLENNIAL SIGNS IN THE TRANSFIGURATION
There are several verses in the three Gospel accounts of the transfiguration which are signs associated with the millennial reign of Christ. Consider for example, Mark 9:1-9 which records the transfiguration. Verse 1 records Christ’s statement six days before they went up to the mountain and reads, “And He said unto them, ‘Verily I say unto you That there be some of them that stand here which shall not taste of death, till they have seen the kingdom of God come with power”. The phrase, “the kingdom of God come with power” is an obvious reference to the second coming of Christ to earth to establish His kingdom. (Please see the paper on the phrase “shall not taste of death” for a Scriptural explanation of why this prophecy was not fulfilled).
Consider also Mark 9:7 which is a partial quote of a millennial prophecy, “This is My beloved Son”. This is a quote from Ps. 2. Let us consider Ps. 2:7-9 which reads, “I will declare the decree: The Lord hath said unto Me, ‘Thou art My Son: This day have I begotten thee, ask of me, and I shall give Thee the heathen for Thine inheritance. And the uttermost parts of the earth for Thy possession. Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; Thou shalt dash them to pieces like a potter’s vessel’”. Note the phrases, “the heathen for Thine inheritance” and “uttermost parts of the earth for Thy possession”. These prophecies have not yet been fulfilled, but will be fulfilled in Christ’s millennial reign.
Another millennial prophecy is found in Matt. 17:5, which records the transfiguration and reads“….behold a bright cloud overshadowed them….”. We read of a cloud in Is. 4:5, “And the Lord will create upon every dwelling place of mount Zion, and upon her assemblies, a cloud and smoke by day, and the shining of a flaming fire by night; for upon all the glory shall be a defence”. That this is a millennial prophecy is proved by its context. Consider, for example, Is. 4:3-4 which reads, “And it shall come to pass that he that is left in Zion, and he that remaineth in Jerusalem, shall be called holy, even every one that is written among the living in Jerusalem: when the Lord shall have washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion, and shall have purged the blood of Jerusalem from the midst thereof by the spirit of judgment, and by the spirit of burning”. (This passage in Is. 4 is an important link between the millennial reign and the feast of tabernacles and will be discussed in more detail below).
My point is that the cloud that was seen at the transfiguration would, in Peter’s mind, have been connected to the millennial reign of Christ as it is in the Old Testament prophecy quoted above. Consider also Luke 21:27, “Then shall they see the Son of man in a cloud coming with power and great glory”. Once again we have the cloud of the transfiguration associated with God’s coming kingdom and with His millennial glory.
We have seen in this section that the transfiguration included several signs associated with the millennial reign of Christ. In the next sections we will see how the millennial reign is associated with the feast of tabernacles in prophecy, in the Mosaic Law and in Israel’s history.
THE CONNECTION OF THE MILLENNIUM WITH THE FEAST OF TABERNACLES IN THE PROPHETS
May I respectfully remind the reader that, as mentioned above, a “bright cloud” was in evidence at the transfiguration? So we will begin with the connection between the transfiguration, the millennium and the feast of tabernacles as presented in Isaiah. The importance of Is. 4:5 lies in the fact that it speaks of a cloud in connection with the millennium, but it also concerns the feast of tabernacles. Is. 4:5 reads, “And the Lord will create upon every dwelling place of mount Zion, and upon her assemblies, a cloud and smoke by day, and the shining of a flaming fire by night; for upon all the glory shall be a defence”. Let us consider Ex. 13:18-22 which reads, “But God led the People about, through the way of the wilderness of the Red sea…..21) And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of a cloud, to lead them the way: and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light; to go by day and night. 22) He took not away the pillar of the cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night, from before the People”.
I believe the comparison is obvious. That is to say Is. 4:5 connects the cloud by day and the fire by night with the pillars of cloud and fire that led Israel in their forty year wilderness journey during which time they lived in tabernacles. In other words, the millennial prophecy of Is. 4:5 connects the millennium with the feast of tabernacles.
THE CONNECTION BETWEEN THE MILLENNIUM AND THE FEAST OF TABERNACLES IN THE MOSAIC LAW AND IN HISTORY
As discussed in the section above, there were several signs in the transfiguration that point to the millennial reign, and which are in turn, connected in Is. 4:5 to the feast of tabernacles. I believe therefore, that the tabernacles Peter asked to build were associated with the tabernacles of the feast of the Mosaic Law, i.e. the feast of tabernacles. That being the case we must understand the feast of tabernacles in order to properly address the question posed in this paper.
We read of the feast of tabernacles in Lev: 23:34-36 and 39-43. Verse 43 tells us what the feast of tabernacles (Heb. sukkoth) commemorates. “That your generations may know that I made the children of Israel to dwell in booths (Heb.”sukkoth”) when I brought you out of the land of Egypt….”. In short, the feast of tabernacles commemorated the booths, or tabernacles, in which Israel dwelt after God led them out of Egypt, i.e. as they wandered for forty years in the wilderness.
As stated above, the feast of tabernacles is associated with the millennium. To see this association in the Mosaic Law we must consider the first feast of the Mosaic Law, i.e. the weekly sabbath. It is not widely understood that the weekly sabbath is one of the feasts of the Mosaic Law, and as will become clear in the paragraphs below, an understanding of the weekly feast is a very important key in understanding why Peter asked to build the tabernacles. Let us first determine that the weekly feast was indeed a feast.
The Hebrew word translated “feast” in Lev. 23:2 is “mower”. That verse reads, “Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, ‘Concerning the feasts of the Lord, which ye shall proclaim a holy convocation, even these are My feasts‘”. The next verse goes on to explain how Israel is to honor the sabbath. “Six days shall work be done: but the seventh day is the sabbath of rest, an holy convocation: ye shall do no work therein: it is the sabbath of the Lord in all your dwellings”. We learn from this that the weekly sabbath is one of the eight feasts, a “mower” of the Mosaic Law (Lev. 23:3).
As we learned in the paragraph above the first recorded feast of Mosaic Law in Lev. 23 is the weekly sabbath. The last recorded feast in Lev. 23 is the feast of tabernacles for which booths were to be built to remind Israel of the forty years they had to dwell in these booths. But how are the first and last recorded feasts connected? That connection of the first feast, i.e. the weekly sabbath, to the last feast, i.e. the feast of tabernacles, is the subject of Heb. 3:9-11, “… your fathers tempted Me, proved Me, and saw My works forty years. Wherefore I was grieved with that generation, and said, they do alway err in their hearts; and they have not known My ways. So I sware in My wrath, ‘They shall not enter into My rest“. This same theme is repeated in Heb. 4:3-5 where we read, “For we which have believed do enter into rest, ……For He spake in a certain place of the seventh day on this wise, ‘And God did rest the seventh day from all His works’ And in this place again, ‘If they shall enter into My rest“.
It is clear that the writer of Hebrews used the phrase “enter into My rest” for entrance into the promised land. But Israel did not enter into God’s rest, rather, they wandered in the desert for forty years and lived in booths or tabernacles. So the first feast commemorates God’s rest, i.e. entrance into the promised land, and the last feast commemorates Israel’s failure to enter into that rest, but instead lived in the wilderness in tabernacles.
I believe an outline of Lev. 23 which records the eight feasts of the Mosaic Law will help the reader see at a glance the suggested connection between the first recorded feast, i.e. the sabbath, and the last recorded feast, i.e. the feast of tabernacles
1a) The weekly feast of the sabbath typifies the rest of believers.
2a) The feast of passover typifies the sacrifice of Christ so that the believer may not suffer eternal death.
3a) The feast of unleavened bread typifies being free (escape) from sin.
4a) The feast of firstfruits typifies the resurrection of Christ.
4b) The feast of weeks typifies the resurrection of man.
3b) The feast of trumpets typifies the escape from the day of wrath by the rapture.
2b) The feast of atonement typifies the sacrifice of Christ so that our sins may be covered.
1b) The feast of tabernacles typifies failure to enter into God’s rest.
For a more complete study of the feasts of the Mosaic Law please see the paper on that subject.
The passages quoted from Heb. 3 and 4 speak of those who had been led out of Egypt but not been allowed to enter the promised land. But I believe that the writer of Hebrews also had in mind those of his day who were looking, by faith, to enter into the rest that is the millennial reign of Christ. Consider for example, Heb. 3:19-4:1, “So we see that they (those who had wandered in the wilderness) could not enter in because of unbelief, let us therefore fear, lest a promised being left us of entering into His rest, any of you should seem to come short of it”.
We also have in Heb. 3 and 4 the inspired account of the historical connection between the feast of tabernacles and the millennium. That is to say, the writer of Hebrews connects the historical fact of Israel failing to enter into God’s rest, i.e. the shadow of the millennium, with Israel living in the tabernacles in the wilderness because of that failure.
To summarize this section: Hebrews chapters three and four makes the connection between the millennium, and the feast of tabernacles in the Law of Moses and in Israel’s history.
In my opinion, the answer to the question as to why Peter asked to build the tabernacles is that the feast of tabernacles is associated with the millennial reign of Christ. And Peter having heard Christ’s promise just a few days before the transfiguration that he would see the kingdom coming in glory, was showing his faith in that promise by asking to build the tabernacles that were associated with the millennial reign of Christ in prophecy, in the Mosaic Law and in Israel’s history.