On December 20th Israel kickstarted its COVID-19 vaccination campaign and, within two weeks, has vaccinated nearly 2 million people, making it the world leader in vaccinations per capita. Not everyone sees that as a positive statistic. In fact, we have received emails from abroad and calls from worried congregation members raising concerns about the COVID-19 vaccine, that it might even be the “mark of the beast” spoken of in the book of Revelation.
Whether the COVID-19 vaccine is safe and ethical, each person must decide for themselves by careful research and prayerful consideration. Careful research means do not take the word of social media posts just because it is not mainstream media. Check claims, sources, and the credentials of the people making them. Whether the COVID-19 vaccine is a candidate for being the mark of the beast is something we can get to the bottom fairly quickly. But, before addressing biblical information regarding the “mark of the beast”, I think we should take a look at where we are at this unprecedented moment in our lifetimes.
If you had asked me a year ago if I thought that end time events might occur during my lifetime, my answer would have been “No”. Today I’m not so sure.
We are in the midst of the greatest global crisis since World War II. The period between the end of World War II and the outbreak of COVID-19 was the longest sustained period of growth and prosperity the world has ever known. The last fifteen years in Israel, a country which has lived through cycles of war and struggle since its founding in 1948, have been its most peaceful and prosperous ever.
Without any warning, this microscopic virus appears, and suddenly the world is on its knees. In addition to the health dangers, the pandemic’s effects on us are multifold: isolation, fear, confusion, depression. Add to that mix many hours spent at home in isolation, looking for answers in the vortex of the internet and social media, and voila`: truth becomes a fluid concept and fear nourishes far-flung ideas.
BIBLICAL TRUTH vs THE INTERNET VERSION (is the COVID-19 vaccine a candidate for the mark of the beast?)
In order to have the mark of the beast (the antichrist), the beast has to be on the scene first, right? The Bible is clear on important issues, and being able to recognize the antichrist is very important. According to Revelation 13, he is a charismatic leader who will
- miraculously survive a fatal head-wound which will cause many to worship and fear him. Rev. 13:3-4
- be given “authority over every tribe, people, language and nation” 13:7
- exercise his authority for 3 1/2 years 13:5
- be boastful and blaspheme God, heaven and the host of heaven 13:6
- will be given authority to persecute and kill the people of God. 13:7
However, the beast is not the one who makes people take his mark.
The Second Beast – the false prophet
The false prophet, according to Revelation 13:11-18, is the beast’s PR man and more who:
- forces people to worship the beast
- performs miraculous signs and wonders
- gives “life” to an image of the beast and kills those who refuse to worship it
- forces all people to take the mark of the beast to be able to “buy and sell”
What will happen to those who take the mark of the beast? Revelation 14:9-11 is abundantly clear: they will be thrown into the lake of fire.
PUTTING THE FACTS TOGETHER
Considering the specific identification that the book of Revelation gives, are there any two characters on the world stage right now exerting that type of influence and power globally? Not by any stretch of the imagination. With such important issues, God would not give us information that is highly symbolic and requires extrapolation, just like prophesies of Messiah’s first coming were specific and literal.
KNOW YOUR GOD AND USE LOGIC
God created us in His image and honored us with the freedom of choice. He is the God of life, but He gives us the freedom to choose between life and death:
I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live (Deuteronomy 30:19)
God would NEVER let people choose death without their knowledge, meaning: you cannot accidentally take the mark of the beast! It will be a choice, a tough choice, but a clear choice, nonetheless. Tricking people into choosing death is what satan does. Not God.
BE ALERT & OF A SOBER MIND 1 Peter 5:8
The events of this last year have proven how quickly and utterly things can change, and what those radical changes and pressures have revealed in society and, more importantly, in the Church, is distressing. In the attempt to grapple with these challenging times, some have fallen down the rabbit hole of trying to figure out who is the wizard behind the curtain pulling the strings on the “new world order”. The Apostle Paul exhorts Timothy to “command certain people not to…devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies” because they “promote controversial speculations rather than advancing God’s work—which is by faith.” (I Timothy 1:3-4)
One of the main “signs of the times” is the deception of believers and the great falling away. (Matthew 24:24-25) Spending more time in His Word and in His presence, being connected to a local body of believers is how to keep from being deceived, not by spending hours on end on the internet trying to figure out the next move of the kingdoms of this age.
Despite some troubling trends that have come to light in the Body of Messiah this past year, I am also filled with great hope because I know that God is showing us, in His great mercy, the things in us that hinder His love. I have also seen many believers clinging to Him and His truth more than ever, despite many challenges. God is preparing the Bride to be able to endure and be light in the darkest hour of history, to be a vessel of love, hope and mercy to a lost and dying world. And that is something to be excited about.
by Tamar Afriat
by Moti Cohen
Happy New Year dear friends! I would like to share an update with you about our weekly outreach Feed Tel Aviv. Yesterday was New Year’s Eve and, because my wife has a Russian background, I know that this holiday (called Novi Gode) is a very festive and nostalgic time for those who come from the former Soviet Union. Russian Jewish immigrants in Israel celebrate this holiday with certain foods, and I decided that after our regular meal distribution to serve one of the staples of the traditional “Novi Gode” food that every Russian associates with the holiday: smoked salmon served on white bread with lots of butter. The Russian speakers in the area of our outreach (drug addicts and women enslaved in the sex industry) were excited and touched by the special holiday food. Some of them, with tears in their eyes, said that it was the loveliest surprise they could have had. They were touched that I, with my Moroccan Jewish background, would care enough to do something special for them. This very simple dish that we served created a special atmosphere, smiles and even laughter which is extremely rare for people who live a daily existence of so much suffering. Praise God!
This year our congregation received a generous donation from believers in South Korea which has allowed us, among other things, to purchase winter gear for the homeless which arrived this week. So, on New Year’s Eve we were able to hand out blankets, sleeping bags, warm socks, hats and gloves to the people living on the street who suffer greatly during the winter months. We give all the glory to the Lord, and we would like to thank our friends for their generosity: your support is enabling us to continue serving in our calling as a congregation to shine the light of Yeshua here in His homeland Israel!
We pray that God would bless you abundantly in 2021 with the blessing He has promised for those who love and stand with His people Israel!
At the end of 2019 we published an article about looking ahead to 2020:
“The path before us may seem clear, but we might be continuing on it without listening for direction from Him: He may be calling us off the ‘main highway’ to something we never imagined.”
Little did we know how much we would be going off the main highway in 2020 into something we could never have imagined!
In 2019, we had just finished our major sanctuary renovation and were getting ready to install livestream technology. When Israel went into total lockdown in March, we had been meeting in our newly renovated sanctuary for about six months. As of the writing of this article, we are in another strict lockdown, and our new sanctuary has sat empty and almost completely unused for the majority of 2020.
THE BUILDING NOT MADE BY HANDS
How does a congregation survive without being able to physically congregate? Like many other congregations around the world, Tiferet Yeshua went online when the pandemic hit. Despite the many challenges we faced through this pandemic, we can say that, by God’s amazing grace, Tiferet Yeshua has continued to thrive and even grow—becoming more God’s building (1 Cor. 3:9). Beyond that, this year we have experienced financial breakthrough and expansion of our ministry here in Israel.
THE AMAZING YEAR OF 2020 FOR TIFERET YESHUA
The end of 2020 is the first time that we are not finishing out the year barely above budget red line —this is a huge breakthrough! We feel God’s hand on us through this crisis, supplying and encouraging us to continue forward and prepare for bigger things to come. We even found ourselves in the amazing position of being able to bless those in need more than ever and to help other congregations and ministries here in Israel because of generous international support.
- Covid Crisis Help – we were able to provide financial support to families and individuals in our congregation who suffered economic loss because of the covid-19 crisis.
- Special grants – We were able to give special financial grants to widows, single mothers, and orphans who suffered disproportionately from the economic crisis
- Mercy Ministries Support – in addition to being able to continue funding our own Feed Tel Aviv outreach ministry, we were able to support other fantastic ministries of Messianic believers in Israel such as: The Red Carpet (an outreach for women enslaved in the sex industry in south Tel Aviv), The Drug Rehabilitation Center in Netanya, and Adullam Outreach Center in Jerusalem.
- Homeless Winter Outreach – we were able to address the immediate challenges the homeless face during the winter months by providing jackets, thermoses, hats and gloves, sleeping bags, and warm winter clothes.
- Covid Grocery Outreach – during Israel’s first and second lockdowns, we provided over one hundred weekly food packages to those in need within our congregation and to people in the community at large. We also brought weekly groceries to single mothers in our congregation.
- Congregations in Need – we were able to give support to a couple congregations in need, one Ethiopian congregation in particular which offers a place of worship for the many undocumented workers and refugees from Africa living in Tel Aviv.
- Little Hearts Preschool – we were able to give a grant to an amazing little preschool in Jerusalem, one of the only Messianic Jewish preschools in Israel!
This year became the year of online outreach all over the world, making our ability to livestream an important asset! In 2020, Israelis found themselves in home quarantine and spending lots of time online while looking for answers to the questions the pandemic has caused many people to ask. This year we were able to hire a professional to redesign our Hebrew website and YouTube channel to improve our online media outreach. Additionally, we invested in critical technology for our livestream and hired a professional soundman.
OUTREACH AND DISCIPLESHIP
In March this year Kosta joined our team in order to focus on outreach and discipleship. Kosta has led street outreach during which he and his team have had many conversations with open and seeking Israelis, handed out many Hebrew, Arabic, and Russian New Testaments and booklets with Old Testament messianic prophesies. He has also been investing in keeping in contact with people who are interested in learning more about faith in Yeshua, in discipleship of new believers, and staying in touch with new congregation members. In short, Kosta has been an enormous asset to our team!
AN ENORMOUS THANK YOU
Despite and through the pressures of this challenging year, God is doing amazing things, and we cannot thank all our supporters enough for standing with us and supporting us. God is always faithful, and He always provides for our needs in surprising ways; but this year, He went out of His way to surprise and bless us through the love and generosity of the international family we are honored and blessed to have. May the Lord bless you with knowing Him more intimately this coming year and leading you into the surprises HE has for you in 2021!
Our Lord Yeshua is the light of the Word (John 1:1), and He calls us to be like Him—to shine His light in the darkness of the world. Each year when Hanukkah comes around, it is getting darker and colder – the perfect time to focus on being a light. When so many in the world are experiencing a dark and difficult time due to the stresses and challenges of the covid-19 pandemic, being a light is all the more important.
“Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a basket. Instead, they set it on a stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5: 15-16
Closure of Restaurants, Hotels and Reception Halls due to Covid-19 has Surprising Effect on the Needy
Each month, we prepare 1,400 hot meals for the poor and needy in Tel Aviv. In addition to our weekly outreach in south Tel Aviv, we have also started providing meals for four other humanitarian outreaches in the area of south Tel Aviv. Before the covid-19 outbreak, restaurants, hotels, and receptions halls provided soup kitchens and halfway houses with all their leftovers. Because of the covid-19 restrictions in Israel, restaurants, reception halls and most hotels are closed, meaning that, in addition to many people being out of work, humanitarian outreaches have lost their source for meals. The outreaches I spoke to had looked into the option of ordering catered food, but the prices were astronomical. God put it on our hearts at Feed Tel Aviv to help other outreaches to the poor that have lost their meal source by increasing the number of hot meals we make each week.
Making Hanukkah Special, Even on the Street
This week during Hanukkah, we wanted to bring some joy in our street food outreach, and, along with the warm meals, we handed out dozens of Hanukkah doughnuts. As you can see in these pictures, there were quite a few children who came to take the doughnuts we were handing out. The fact that there are children in the streets here is a new phenomenon: the soup kitchen facility from where we serve food is located in an area of brothels, hard core drugs, crime and violence. Until recently, we never saw children hanging around this area. The children we have been seeing here recently are the children of migrant workers, the majority of whom were employed in restaurants, hotels, and reception halls which have been completely closed for the last several months due to the covid-19 restrictions. They have no money and, because they are undocumented workers, no access to the State’s social safety net. As a result, they are sending their children out onto the streets to beg, which is the last resort of truly desperate parents. I have been noticing how their mothers arrive with them to the public park nearby and from there they send them out to try to find food.
Thanks to your ongoing support of this outreach ministry, we are able to respond to the immediate needs of the weakest sectors in society here in Tel Aviv which are suffering the most from covid-19. Thank you for helping us shine the light of God here in Israel!
There was a man who firmly believed that access to the Word of God was the only way to bring about real personal and societal change, especially for the poor and disenfranchised. Where he lived there were no Bibles available in his native language, and he was willing to risk everything to get them into people’s hands. His name was Jan Hus, and he was burned at the stake in 1415 for translating the Bible in the Czech language. During Jan’s day, Bibles were only available in Latin, Greek and Hebrew and were the monopoly of the tiniest fraction of the population—church clergy and academics. Back then, making Bibles available to non-elites was a bloody business, and many were brutally executed by religious authorities for attempting to translate any part of the Bible. For the next couple hundred years following Jan’s murder, many brave and deeply committed men paid with their lives for attempting to get Bibles into the hands of everyday people in their own language.
“If God spare my life, ere many years I will cause the boy who drives the plow to know more of the Scripture than the pope does.”
~William Tyndale, burned at the stake in 1536 for translating the Bible into English
Why was there such great resistance to the translation of the Bible, beyond the fact of the clergy wanting to retain its hegemony on power? The answer is this: the Word of God is powerful, and when a believer starts reading the Word daily with the aim of getting to know God, the kingdom of darkness trembles.
Knowing God without reading His Word: Impossible
Five hundred years after those first brave men began risking life and limb to get Bibles translated and into the hands of everyone, the majority of people in the world have the Bible available to them. In the West (including Israel), we not only have multiple versions of the Bible in our native language, we have easy and instant (thanks to smartphones) access to it. According to the American Bible Society, the average American household has 3 Bibles.
With such easy access, one might naturally conclude that there would be very high Bible literacy rates. Sadly, the opposite is true. According to a study by LifeWay Research, over 40% of church attenders in the US read their Bibles only occasionally, once or twice a month, and only 45 % say they read their Bibles more than once a week. If the Word of God is our daily spiritual bread, those statistics mean that two thirds of all believers are spiritually starving. Considering the love, devotion and faith it took those men over five-hundred years ago to risk their lives to give everyone the right to access the Bible, it is heart-breaking to realize how few of us make use of that precious right.
As a pastor, it doesn’t take long to notice the effects of spiritual malnutrition from not reading the Word. We make it a habit to ask people who are seeking council for persistent difficulties in their lives whether they regularly read the Word, and we have discovered that a high percentage of them do not. And they tend to have an anemic prayer life as well.
The only way to experience real change emotionally is to grow spiritually. The only way to grow spiritually is getting to know God. The only way to get to know God is spending time in His Word and in His presence through prayer each day. Period. There are no short-cuts in any relationships, and that includes the incredible relationship with God that we are privilidged to have.
Taste and See!
It can be a real challenge finding the time for prayer and meditation on the Word with busy schedules and the noisy distractions in everyday life. As believers we have access to every kind of worship or the latest message from our favorite preachers, and it is easy to put on worship or listen to a good sermon or teaching while cleaning or cooking or driving to work. However, hearing about Him is not the same as spending time with Him. When all we do is “hear about Him” from others, we will not know Him or His voice. Because this one step is so absolutely integral for believers to start growing, maturing and fulfilling their destinies in God, and because it makes us absolutely dangerous for the kingdom of darkness, the devil spends extra time trying to throw distractions at us to keep us from carving out that time each day.
Here’s a little secret: when you sincerely pray God’s will, He always comes through. If you want it with all your heart, and you ask Him for help, and you don’t give up, even when you’ve fallen off the wagon for a few days or a week, He will give you the grace to push through the initial challenge of making His Word and prayer a daily part of your life. When you do, you are in for a great surprise: spiritual hunger increases when you start feeding it on the Word and the sweetness of His presence. Before you know it, you will miss Him if you skip a day, that’s how satisfying His presence is. Soon enough you will discover the wonderful, constant journey onward and upward in Your relationship with the Creator of the Universe!
If you don’t spend time daily with the Lord in prayer and reading His Word, I want to challenge you to take God at His Word, to taste and see how good He is! Then share your experience with us.
by Tamar Afriat
On October 26th, the Knesset Finance Committee, chaired by ultra-orthodox Knesset member, Moshe Gafni, unanimously denied our petition to receive tax exempt status as guaranteed by law for our congregation, Tiferet Yeshua in Tel Aviv. Our petition was considered along with that of a non-profit belonging to the Jehovah’s Witnesses.
For years now, we have been in the process to receive tax exempt status (article 46) so that our members who subsidize the congregation with their monthly tithes can receive tax reimbursement at end of the year. Article 46 is a right that all religious organizations in Israel and the West enjoy, whether synagogues, churches, mosques, or Buddhist temples. Tiferet Yeshua’s request went through the proper channels of the Tax Authority which granted us “proper standing” status which, according to the law, entitles us to tax exemption.
However, from the moment our article 46 petition arrived at the Finance Committee, it has been in limbo because, according to Finance Committee chair Moshe Gafni, Tiferet Yeshua will receive article 46 rights “over my dead body.” The Supreme Court and the Tax Authority have repeatedly sent our case back to the Finance Committee for re-evaluation, where it is continually denied. The reason? We are Messianic Jews. If we were willing to register our non-profit as a Christian church, no one would bat an eye. However, because we dare to continue calling ourselves Jews, since we dare to assert that we are Jewish followers of a Jewish Messiah, we are denied our rights under the law.
We were not surprised by the Finance Committee’s decision chaired by ultra-orthodox parliament member Gafni who has made it his mission to discriminate against us on religious grounds. Gafni did an excellent job in preparing the committee members to vote against us, despite the recommendation of the Tax Authority to grant us tax exempt status. The flash-point issue that unified the committee against us was the “conversion of minors”. Spurious allegations were made that we aim to “convert” minors, which is against the law in Israel. Tiferet Yeshua completely abides by the law in regard to minors and financial coercion to faith, and the committee produced no concrete evidence to the contrary.
What was surprising for us about the vote was the fact that all of the Finance Committee members, from the left to the right of the political spectrum, joined together to unanimously vote against us. The decision against us brought together extreme ultra-orthodox parties with moderate and even liberal parties from the opposition, parties which are ordinarily at odds with each other. It is particularly surprising that parliament members from the opposition voted against us, like Yair Lapid of Yesh Atid, a well-known firebrand against the ultra-orthodox religious parties.
Lapid made a special effort to come to the session in person to express his opposition to Messianic Jews. We fully expect to be labeled “dangerous missionaries” by the ultra-orthodox, but it was a bit of a shock for us to hear liberal politician Yair Lapid label us “a danger to Israeli society”. There is very little real religious persecution here in Israel, and we are thankful to be living in the only real democracy in the Middle East. However, this vote in the Finance Committee against our congregation reminds us that religious discrimination is alive and well in Israel, even beyond what we imagined.
Congregation Tiferet Yeshua is comprised of Israeli citizens to whom the State of Israel and the people of Israel are dear to their hearts, law-abiding citizens who fulfill their civic duty to the State, serve in the military and pay taxes, in contrast to the ultra-orthodox who do not serve in the army, spend their time in religious schools subsidized by the State, and are currently breaking the law en masse by flouting covid-19 restrictions. We see a reflection of spiritual hostility in this vote, and we know that our battle is first and foremost spiritual. We want to emphasize that our main goal as a congregation is to bring glory and honor to our Lord Yeshua here in Israel, which is far greater in importance to us than being granted article 46. God is sovereign and will take care of all our needs as long as we faithfully follow Him in love. We will continue to petition for our rights and would appreciate prayers for us in those efforts.
“If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.“
by Gil Afriat, Tiferet Yeshua Senior Pastor and Moti Cohen, Tiferet Yeshua Associate Pastor
When Israel went into its first covid lockdown in the beginning of March, we started hearing about people in need who had lost jobs or income due to the crisis. There were others who were unable to get out to get groceries themselves because of being in a high-risk health group. We decided as a congregation to reach out to help those in the community around us: we asked our congregation members to recommend people they knew were in need, and each week we filled grocery bags for families with enough essentials to help get them through the week. Now that Israel is the first country in the world to go into a second lockdown, our team is back to brining groceries to families in need.
When we first started our outreach in March, we were bringing groceries to around twelve families. But each week, we were hearing of more families in need. In the end, we were providing weekly groceries to twenty-three families. Most of the recipients were non-believers, and all of them expressed sincere gratitude that a community of Messianic Jews wanted to bless them. Abbey, one of Tiferet Yeshua’s members, suggested one of her coworkers for our outreach, a Muslim woman whose family was experiencing financial difficulties because of the lockdown. Associate Pastor Moti Cohen delivered the groceries to Abbey’s coworker who asked him what organization was supporting this outreach. When she understood that it was a congregation of Jewish believers in Yeshua that just wanted to bless her, a Muslim woman, her eyes filled with tears.
Miriam, a woman in our congregation who works with the Israeli pro-life organization, B’ad Chaim, recommended several single mothers for our grocery outreach. These were women whom Miriam had counseled through their decision to keep their babies and supported through their pregnancies. Because the corona lockdown closed all childcare facilities for over two months, forcing parents to stay at home to care for their children, these young mothers had fallen on hard times.
Every week during the lockdown we brought them groceries and diapers. It was so special for Miriam to see these babies whose lives she had a part in bringing into the world, and it was an honor for us to be able to encourage and bless these single mothers who had so bravely chosen life for their children.
When we first started our outreach, we posted pictures of the teams of volunteers shopping and preparing the grocery bags on Tiferet Yeshua’s Hebrew Facebook page in order to share with our congregation members that the congregation was still active despite the lockdown. A single mother of a child with special needs saw our post on Facebook and sent us a message asking if she could be included in our grocery outreach because she also had to be quarantined at home caring for her child.
The second covid lockdown is proving to be a difficult and trying period for everyone here in Israel, especially those who were hit hard by the first lockdown. But, it has been such a blessing for us to be able to help and support those in need around us during that time, to bring the groceries to their homes personally, to let them know that they are not alone, and to see how the love of our Messiah Yeshua in action touches and encourages them.
We would not be able to maintain our giving fund without the help from our friends around the world! Your support allows us to address immediate needs in our community as they arise, like those that are coming to our attention during the ongoing covid crisis. Thank you!
“Therefore with joy you will draw water From the wells of salvation.” (Isaiah 12:3)
In the second temple period, a water libation ceremony during Sukkot had developed which had become tradition by the time of Yeshua. In this ceremony, the priests would draw water from the Pool of Siloam each morning during Sukkot and then carry it up to the Temple on the pilgrim road with festive blasts of the shofar. In the evening, the priests would pour the water onto the alter in a great joyous event. According to the Talmud: “He who has not seen the rejoicing at the Place of the Water-Drawing has never seen rejoicing in his life.”
Yeshua’s John 7 Declaration on Sukkot
Naturally Yeshua would have been in Jerusalem celebrating the feast of Sukkot since it is one of the three biblically mandated pilgrimage feast during which the men of Israel are commanded to celebrate the holiday in the Temple in Jerusalem. John 7 describes Yeshua being in Jerusalem on this holiday during which He made a powerful prophetic declaration. In light of the “The Joy of Drawing Water” priestly tradition, it is stirring to imagine Yeshua making this declaration at the height of the celebrations at the end of the feast:
“On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, ‘Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.’” (John 7:37-38)
When the priests were joyously pouring out water on the alter, Yeshua prophesized that He would pour out the Holy Spirit on those who believe in Him, and the Spirit would become rivers of living water flowing in them. God commanded us to be joyful on the feast of Sukkot three separate times, and Yeshua is the joy of our salvation! He paid the price of our sin, cleansed us, and baptizes us with the Holy Spirit who becomes rivers of living water in us –a revelation He made on Sukkot.
Yeshua is returning to establish His kingdom here on earth from Jerusalem, an event which Sukkot points to:
And in that day it shall be
That living waters shall flow from Jerusalem,
Half of them toward the eastern sea
And half of them toward the western sea;
In both summer and winter it shall occur.
And the Lord shall be King over all the earth.
In that day it shall be—
“The Lord is one,”
And His name one. (Zechariah 14:8-9)
Hallelujah! May the Lord fill you with joy of His Spirit this week of Sukkot and the hope for the ultimate joy of His kingdom literally coming to the earth in the future.
We find ourselves at the end of the fall holidays celebrating Sukkot, the Feast of Tabernacles. Sukkot crowns the biblical holiday season because it is the last biblical holiday of the Hebrew calendar year. It is one of the three pilgrimage festivals (shalosh regalim) in the Hebrew Bible:
- Passover (Pesach)
- Weeks (Shavuot in Hebrew, Pentecost in Greek)
- Tabernacles (Sukkot)
On these festivals, the Bible commands the people of Israel to go up to the Temple Jerusalem in order to worship in the Temple. During these three festivals, the people of Israel were commanded to:
- Show themselves before the Lord in the Temple
- Bring offerings
- Rejoice before the Lord
Each of the three pilgrimage festivals of Passover, Weeks and Tabernacles has a three-fold meaning:
The prophetic meaning of Passover and Weeks was fulfilled with the crucifixion and resurrection of the Messiah on Passover and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the festival of Weeks (Pentecost) which marked the beginning of preaching of the gospel of the kingdom from Jerusalem to the nations.
That leaves the feast of Sukkot, the third of the three fall feasts (Yom Teruah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot) which point to the culminating events of the end times. As the last of all the biblical holidays, Tabernacles deserves special attention. Let us delve into the special meaning of this holiday by looking at the three aspects of the pilgrimage holidays mentioned above: historical, agricultural, and prophetic
Tabernacles: Historical Aspect
“‘So beginning with the fifteenth day of the seventh month… Live in temporary shelters (sukkot) for seven days: All native-born Israelites are to live in such shelters so your descendants will know that I had the Israelites live in temporary shelters when I brought them out of Egypt. I am the Lord your God.’” (Leviticus 23: 39, 42-43)
For Jews, spending time in the sukkah we erect in our yards or apartment courtyards is supposed to remind us of the time we were completely dependent upon Him in the desert for our sustenance when we dwelled in sukkot—temporary dwellings.
The Desert Parable:
The desert is a harsh place for anyone to survive, let alone a whole nation with all its livestock. The Israelites found themselves in a situation when there were no “trappings of life” to lull them into thinking that they did not need God. If He did not provide for and protect them each day in a substantial, supernatural way, they would not survive. How easy it is for us to forget that we are completely and utterly dependent upon the goodness of God who “causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous”! Our comfortable modern lives allow us to think all that we have is by our own efforts alone.
Tabernacles Agricultural Aspect:
“Celebrate the Festival of Tabernacles for seven days after you have gathered the produce of your threshing floor and your winepress…For the Lord your God will bless you in all your harvest and in all the work of your hands, and your joy will be complete.” (Deuteronomy 16: 13, 15)
In the agricultural calendar, it is the final harvest, the ingathering. It is the end of the harvest season when people gather in the fruit of their labor in the fields before the winter rains come, starting the cycle over again.
The Agricultural Parable
For believers the symbolism is blaringly clear: this holiday signifies the final great harvest that will take place in the context of the end times tribulation:
“I looked, and there before me was a white cloud, and seated on the cloud was one like a son of man with a crown of gold on his head and a sharp sickle in his hand. Then another angel came out of the temple and called in a loud voice to him who was sitting on the cloud, “Take your sickle and reap, because the time to reap has come, for the harvest of the earth is ripe.” So he who was seated on the cloud swung his sickle over the earth, and the earth was harvested.” (Revelation 14: 14-16)
Tabernacles Prophetic Aspect
Right now the Spirit of God, the Shechinah—the manifest presence of God—dwells in the redeemed whom the Apostle Paul refers to as “tents” or sukkot. (2 Corinthians 5) Prophetic scripture reveals that the Lord Yeshua is returning to dwell or tabernacle among all people at the end of the great tribulation:
“’Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion! For behold, I am coming and I will dwell in your midst,’ says the Lord. ‘Many nations shall be joined to the Lord in that day, and they shall become My people. And I will dwell in your midst. Then you will know that the Lord of hosts has sent Me to you.’” (Zechariah 2:10-11)
Prophetic scripture describes how the Lord Yeshua will return at the culmination of the great tribulation, He will defeat the armies of the antichrist (Revelation 19), descend upon the Mount of Olives and enter into Jerusalem (Zechariah 12) at the invitation of the leaders there (Matthew 23:39), will be crowned king in Jerusalem and establish His kingdom here on earth for one-thousand years, His saints ruling and reigning together with Him. (Zechariah 14, Revelation 20)
Sukkot points to the ultimate fulfillment of the prayer Yeshua taught us, “Let Your kingdom come.”: Yeshua the Messiah Himself establishing His Kingdom here on earth, when every knee will bow and every tongue that Yeshua is Lord. The feast of Sukkot in the one feast that will continue to be of special significance in the Lord’s millennial kingdom for all the nations:
“And it shall come to pass that everyone who is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Tabernacles.” (Zechariah 14:16)
The Bible commands us three different times to rejoice during Sukkot: it is the holiday which crowns all the biblical holidays and points to the day when our Lord Yeshua will be crowned King in Jerusalem, and His Kingdom will fill the earth. That is truly a reason to rejoice!
by Moti Cohen
Each week we are on the streets in south Tel Aviv, handing out food and ministering to the poorest of the poor in our nation – drug addicts, those enslaved in the sex industry, and those who have fallen on hard times. Now that Israel is in its second national quarantine and the country’s whole economy is shut down again, people who were in a hard place to begin with are in dire straits. That is why our mercy outreach in these times is so critical.
Each week I encounter people whose stories would break your heart. Each week God touches someone in an amazing way. There is one story I would like to share about a man I met on the street who shares my name: Moti. My experience with Moti deeply impacted me and the volunteers who were there serving with me.
Last Thursday we started our weekly food distribution as usual: covid-usual, that is, which means we cannot be in our soup kitchen facility and instead walk the streets handing out sandwiches and drinks where the addicts end up.
I approached a thin man who was sitting against a building who looked exhausted. I asked him if he wanted something to eat. “Yes,” he replied. “I haven’t eaten in two days.”
I gave him two sandwiches and sat with him while he ate. I asked him his name, and he said, “Moti.” I told him that is my name too and asked him how he is doing.
“If you want to know the truth,” he told me, “I don’t want to live anymore. In fact, I have been asking God to just take me.”
Moti shared with me his story, which, sadly, is the story I have heard from so many who end up on the streets: He had a job, a home, a family, and then he became addicted to drugs. In the clutches of his addiction, he lost everything: his job, his home, all his money. All his possessions. And his family too.
“My family tried to help me. But then I would steal from them to be able to buy more drugs,” he sighed. “I lost everything. Now I’m on the street, and I just want God to take me.”
“So, if you want God to take your life,” I asked him, “why don’t you give your life to God?” I started to share with Moti the message of the gospel when he stopped me: “I’ve heard it before. I know all about Yeshua,” he told me. Somewhat skeptical, I asked him, “Okay, tell me what you know.”
Moti started telling me that the Hebrew prophets spoke of the suffering servant Messiah who would come and give his life for the people, that Yeshua came as the Messiah, lived a perfect righteous life, was crucified and rose again, and that His blood is the atonement for our sins.
He absolutely knew the gospel! I asked him if he wanted to pray and give his life to Yeshua. Moti said yes, but when I asked him to pray after me, he said, “No, I need to pray from my heart.”
At that moment, Moti closed his eyes and started praying: he cried out to God, thanking Him for forgiveness through Yeshua, asking Yeshua to come into his life. I and those who were with me felt the presence of the Holy Spirit as he prayed. It was one of the most powerful moments I have ever experienced in all my years serving on the streets. Moti gave his life to Yeshua there on the street.
We prayed for him, gave him the contact information of drug rehabilitation centers run by believers and encouraged him to go. Please keep Moti in prayer!
During this time that Israel is again in the midst of a health and economic crisis, the situation of the poor and needy is getting worse, and there are many who need our help. Your support enables us to continue being there for them. Thank you!