Three weeks ago, I briefly discussed the first phrase of John 7:37: "On the last day, the great day of the feast,..." Earlier in the chapter - verse 2 - John tells us the feast is Sukkot - Tabernacles. This was a 7 day celebration and was the last of the 7 major annual holy observances. It was one of the three holy days in which it was required for all Jewish males to go to Jerusalem.
Like many of the holy days, Sukkot has a double celebration. The Hebrew word, SUKKOT, means "booths" and it refers to the temporary dwelling places the Jews had in the wilderness.
Leviticus 23:41-43 NKJV
41 You shall keep it as a feast to the LORD for seven days in the year. It shall be a statute forever in your generations. You shall celebrate it in the seventh month.
42 You shall dwell in booths for seven days. All who are native Israelites shall dwell in booths,
43 that your generations may know that I made the children of Israel dwell in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.'"
Secondly, this holy feast has an agricultural significance. It is a harvest festival, and is sometimes referred to as the "Feast of Ingathering." You could look at it as being the first Thanksgiving festival, thanking Jehovah for the increase of harvest.
Now back to John 7. Three weeks ago, I mentioned some of the activity that occurred on the last day of this feast. On that day, while the morning sacrifice was being prepared, a priest, accompanied by a joyous procession with music, went down to the Pool of Siloam. The priest would fill a golden pitcher of the water that had come from the Gihon spring. A group of people - worshipers - would walk with the priest to the pool and back.
When the priest returned, he entered the Temple inner court through what is called the "Water Gate." That gate actually gets its name from this ceremony. As he entered, there would be three blasts of the trumpet as he entered through the Water Gate. This priest would arrive at the same time another priest arrived carrying a pitcher of wine. The two priests would mount the steps or the incline to the Altar of Sacrifice, and each priest would pour from their pitchers into two funnels or silver bowls with holes in their bottom above the Altar, that would flow through the altar to its base.
This is called the Drink Offering, which is mentioned 33 times in the Bible. This moment was a very solemn one. Silence fell as the people strained to hear the sacred water splashing into the silver bowl at the altar.
A most wonderful sound then occurs at this solemn and holy moment on the day mentioned by the apostle John. The voice of He who was their creator fell on the ears of the thousands at the temple that day. It was a voice that made the spine tingle. I am sure his loud voice startled the people nearby. At Jerusalem He stood and issued a royal and divine edict.
John 7:37-38 NKJV
37 On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, "If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink.
38 He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water."
The Scriptures in John 7 also tell us about a parallel story going on at the same time. Back in verse 32, we are told that the religious leaders had sent out officers. Their job was to try to find if Jesus was in the city, and, without troubling the people, bring Jesus back to them. In verse 45, the officers return to the religious leaders - that is, the chief priest and the Pharisees. These, asked the officers, "Why have you not brought Him?" Their answer - verse 46 - "No man ever spoke like this man."
1,300 to 1,500 years earlier, God had written His plan for Israel in the wilderness across a blackboard 40 years wide. The Lord opened bubbling streams from a rock at Meribah (Exodus 17:1-7). The Temple drink offering was a celebration in memory of that wilderness water (Numbers 20:1-13).
On a side note, but yet relative, are some of the Jewish traditions. It is believed by the Jews that the pillar of cloud by day and of fire by night happened its first appearance on the 15th day of Tishri - the first day of this Festival. And when you compare 1 Kings 8 with 2 Chronicles 7, you will read how the Shekinah came down at the dedication of Solomon's Temple, filling it with such an awesome presence on the first day of the Feast of Tabernacles.
Before continuing with the story of what Jesus said in John 7 on the final day of this Feast, let me share one more item related to the Feast of Tabernacles. In an earlier lesson, we took note of how the first 4 of the 7 annual Jewish feasts were fulfilled in Christ and the Church.
1. Christ was crucified on the day of Passover - becoming the sacrificial Passover Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.
2. The Feast of Unleavened Bread was the next day - the day of his burial.
3. In the year Christ was crucified, the next day after the Unleavened Bread was the Feast of Firstfruits.
That was the day Christ rose from the dead, and, according to 1 Corinthians 15:20, has become the "firstfruits of them that have died."
4. Then 50 days later, on the Day of Pentecost, Christ sent the Holy Spirit and the Church of Christ was born.
Each of these Old Testament feasts were fulfilled completely by Jesus Christ. When it comes to the fulfillment of the last of these Holy Days - the Feast of Tabernacles, in my mind, there is no question it will be fulfilled when Christ comes to set up His kingdom. At that time Christ will "tabernacle" with the people of earth. His throne will be in the city of Jerusalem.
You can read it in the 14th chapter of Zechariah. After the future 7-year Tribulation, depicted by Daniel and Revelation, and at the end of the Battle of Armageddon depicted in Zechariah and Revelation, the Lord will come from Heaven in great glory. Zechariah describes His coming this way.
Zechariah 14:4 NKJV
4 And in that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which faces Jerusalem on the east. And the Mount of Olives shall be split in two, from east to west, making a very large valley; Half of the mountain shall move toward the north and half of it toward the south.
Then, 5 verses later - in verse 9 - we read this:
Zechariah 14:9 NKJV
9 And the LORD shall be King over all the earth. In that day it shall be - "The LORD is one," And His name one.
Then, beginning in verse 16, we are told what is required of all people and nations that survive the Battle of Armageddon.
Zechariah 14:16 NKJV
16 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.
"To keep the Feast of Tabernacles."
Now, back to Jesus. For those present on that "last day, the great day of this feast," Jesus gave it a new a glorious meaning. The drink offering now becomes a symbol of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
John 7:39 NKJV
39 But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.
Nobody had ever made a claim like what Jesus makes on this day. Notice what Jesus says in Acts 1:4.
4 And being assembled together with them, He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, "which," He said, "you have heard from Me";
Also notice similar words given earlier in Luke 24:49.
49 Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high."
He would shortly ascend up to glory where Creation had begun and change the order of things. Ten days later, something not known before would surge from Heaven to earth.
Notice the phrase that is common to both of these verses. Jesus called it "the promise of the Father." THE PROMISE! Out of over 8,000 promises in God's Word, the designation as THE promise makes it stand singularly and significantly alone.
The Lord Jesus Christ Himself promised it: "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you,..." [Acts 1:8].
The Bible is a picture gallery of the Holy Spirit in operation. It portrays signs, wonders and miracles. You see those pictures, beginning with the second verse of the Bible, where the Spirit of God is mentioned as hovering over the face of the waters. And in the last chapter of the Bible, we find the Spirit of God, in chorus with the Bride of Christ.
Revelation 22:17 NKJV
17 And the Spirit and the bride say, "Come!" And let him who hears say, "Come!" And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely.
In between those two scenes, let me review with you four pictures from the gallery of the Holy Spirit.
THE FIRST PICTURE
In Numbers 11, Moses gathers 70 elders around the Tabernacle, and the spirit of God came upon them and they began to prophecy. At that moment, back in the camp, Eldad and Medad were also enabled to prophecy. Someone who heard these two ran unto Moses to have him stop them.
Numbers 11:29 NKJV
29 Then Moses said to him, "Are you zealous for my sake? Oh, that all the LORD 's people were prophets and that the LORD would put His Spirit upon them!"
Seventy at once! For the next 1300+ years, that would be the most at any one time upon whom the Holy Spirit would be poured. However, the wish of Moses that all would prophesy would one day be realized, beginning on the Day of Pentecost.
THE SECOND PICTURE
The temple that Solomon had built was in full operation. But, over time, sin had weakened the nation. A prophet of God stood in Jerusalem, bringing a warning of God's judgment. The prophet Joel looked through the telescope of prophecy, and saw distant skies black with war, terror and destruction. Israel would lay waste - which, when it came true, proved Joel to be a true prophet.
But Joel was telling Israel more. Beyond the black storm clouds of judgment, he saw bright skies, not merely recovery after judgment, but, rather, a wonderful New Thing. And he writes down what was revealed to him by God.
Joel 2:28-29 NKJV
28 And it shall come to pass afterward that I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions.
29 And also on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days.
In the days of the prophet Joel, young slave girls poured water on the hands of their mistresses to wash them. But he prophesied of a time when God's Spirit would be poured upon them. In fact, Joel says it will be poured out on ALL flesh - upon all manner of people.
This was sensational. What He had once granted to only a handful of His chosen servants would be a privilege everyone could call his own. This truly was something new.
THE THIRD PICTURE
John the Baptist, in his leather clothes, is standing on the bank of the Jordan River. He is about 20 miles due east of Jerusalem, and across the river and slightly north of Jericho. Israel hadn't had a prophet in some 400 years. Crowds came to hear him and be baptized. His thunderous message called on Israel to repent and to prepare themselves because the long-awaited Coming One would appear.
Matthew 3:11 NKJV
11 I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.
24 hours later, among those coming to be baptized, John saw a young man. He was wading towards him, and John stood aghast. "You! Jesus! I am not worthy to baptize you - You should baptize me!" God had shown John that Jesus was that promised "one who was to come." (Matthew 11:3)
This man, Jesus, would perform a baptism far greater than that of John the Baptist. Jesus the Baptist would not use a physical element, water, but heavenly fire, which is a spiritual element. And, while John had baptized for a few short days, Jesus would baptize down through the ages, and not to just one group of people - but to ALL FLESH. And Jesus continues to do so even now - some 723,000 days later.
THE FOURTH PICTURE
Fearing the authorities that had executed Jesus, the 120 believers came together quietly. Jesus had said, "Stay in Jerusalem until you have been clothed with power from on high" (Luke 24:49). They sat and waited and prayed. For 9 days nothing extraordinary happened - no marvels occurred. Everything seemed so ordinary.
The tenth day was a Sunday, and many Jews were in the city from many countries. They had come to celebrate the Feast of Weeks - also called Pentecost.
At that very moment - 9 o'clock in the morning - a Temple priest would have lifted the bread of the firstfruits and waved it before the Lord. It was almost as if the priests actions were a signal for the ascended Christ to send a divine tornado that tore through the skies above Jerusalem. Ten days earlier, Jesus Himself had broken through the heavens in His shattering and victorious Ascension. Now through the opened skies there was a Descension. The Holy Spirit came, demonstrating that the way into the heavens was open. And, praise God, it has never been closed since.
Amber flames settled in burning beauty upon the head of each waiting disciple. The promise of the Father, through His son, poured down and into the 120 sitting there in the Upper Room. And also, as Jesus said in John 14:17, the Holy Spirit was in them, not only with them. The glory that filled all Heaven now crowded in the bodily frames of those present. There were no words to adequately describe it. This was truly unutterable. Then God gave them words - new tongues and languages to tell "the wonderful works of God" (Acts 2:11).
What divine power and glory was present that day. This was a testimony that the heavenly Father does not make empty promises, just to build up our hopes and then laugh at us. And because there was a monumental inflow from heaven, there had, then, to be an outflow. As Christ promised, "out of his heart will flow rivers." (John 7:38). It was not only a flow "INTO" but also a flow "OUT OF".
They could not contain themselves! These 120, prior to this, had been fearful of their lives. Peter, who, like the others, had been petrified, was now electrified. He preached the first sermon, and the Christian Church was born, with 3,000 being saved on that day, and another 5,000 not long after. But this was not Peter's doing. It was God's doing.
What a day Pentecost was! Rivers began to flow that eventually flooded the Roman Empire. But it was neither the men or women which made the time special. It was the baptism in the Holy Spirit. Without it, the disciples would probably have gone back to being fishermen in Galilee and grown old telling tales of strange events when they were young. Instead, they changed the world.
And the great news - that same baptism is for all believer today!