Shemini Atzeret 2003
The Last Great Day
Sabbath Day Sermon, Saturday 18 October 2003
We welcome you today to the last day of the autumnal festivals which is called Shemini Atzeret which follows immediately after Sukkot or the Feast of Tabernacles. This is the time of the year that I know the children enjoy enormously as they spend the week in tents or booths in representation of the Millennium. Concerning this eighth day, the Scriptures say:
"On the eighth day you have an assembly, you do no servile work" (Numbers/Bemidbar 29:35, ISRV).
Had this not been a Sabbath day this year, we would have been celebrating an extra Sabbath. Instead of going off home on the last day of Sukkot, we 'tarry' an extra day, which is what the Hebrew atzeret means. There are many who therefore believe that Shemini Atzeret is an extra festival, and there is a good case for believing this to be so. As Shemini Atzaret is the conclusion of Sukkot in the autumnal (fall) festivals, then by the same token Shavuot is the conclusion of Pesach in the spring festivals, for Shavuot is likewise a 'conclusion'.
We must not overlook the fact that the Festival of Sukkot, which we have just finished celebrating, is a seven day festival. Why specifically seven days? The number 7, you will recall, is a perfect number, representing a complete unit, as in seven days of the week. Sukkot represents the Millennium, which is the seventh thousand year period since the Creation. And that is why we celebrate 7 days of Sukkot.
You might have thought, though, that the festivals should end with Sukkot, but you will recall that at the end of the Millennium Satan and his angels are released from the bottomless pit for a short period of time in which to tempt mankind one last time. "One more time?" you might groan. "Wasn't the previous six thousand years of time enough?"
The Millennium is not, you must remember, a sinless world. Though Satan and his angels are no longer present to tempt man, man may yet retain his carnal nature if he so chooses. And there will be, you recall, two classes of people in the Millennium: there are the redeemed firstborn of Israel who live in the Holy City, and there are the rest who were not destroyed in the Great Tribulation - the honourable and just men and women but who did not necessarily accept Yah'shua (Jesus) as their Saviour before He returned. Their belief or trust will be based on the undeniable evidence of their eyes - they will see, like the firstborn, the returning Messiah. They will witness His power and glory. Like the Israelites of old who were led out of Egypt, they will not be able to deny the obvious. However, we must never forget that true faith does not depend on what is visible. True faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen (Heb.11:1).
You will recall Doubting Thomas. He would not believe that Yah'shua (Jesus) was resurrected on the basis of the testimony of others, but insisted that he see the Master with his own two eyes and touch the prints in his hands and side for himself. Yah'shua (Jesus), you will recall, said:
"Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed" (John 20:29, NKJV).
The reason there is a class called the Firstborn who live in the Holy City, and a class who live outside it, is because the firstborn believed and obeyed without seeing. Those who believe and obey on this basis always have a deeper faith than those who do not. We know only too well how quick the Israelites rebelled in the Exodus wandering. We know only too well that mighty miracles do not create lasting faith. True faith is believing what you cannot see with your natural senses. True faith is believing with your spirit. And that is why there must be a tempting period at the end of the Millennium too. Those who believed by sight must likewise be sifted.
There are, as we have seen, major parallels between the Exodus and the Last Gathering for the Great Tribulation. In both instances there was, and will be, a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night, the special protection and guidance of Yahweh (Is.4). The Exodus ended with an entry into the Promised Land which is paralleled by an entry into the New Heaven and New Earth of those who survive the Last Temptation at the end of the Millennium. It is my belief that this is the core meaning of Shemini Atzeret. Though there are many other meanings to this Festival that have more to do with the agricultural cycle, I believe that at its heart is a sacred principle connected with final salvation, and that is what I want to principally do today.
Why is it, we may ask ourselves, that the human race needs to pass through so much tribulation before it will truly believe? Why must we have all these festivals admonishing us to get rid of the leaven of sin, why must we have these noisy trumpets blown in our ears at Yom Teruah, why Teshuvah, and the strict and harsh judgment at Yom Kippur? And now, Shemini Atzeret? Are human beings so corrupt that Yahweh must nag us year after year?
The prophets will have no difficulty in answering these questions. Yahweh, speaking to the children of Israel through the prophet Jeremiah, said:
"... this is what I commanded them, saying, 'Obey My voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be My people. And walk in all the ways that I have commanded you, that it may be well with you.' Yet they did not obey or incline their ear, but followed the counsels and the dictates of their evil hearts, and went backward and not forward. Since the day that your fathers came out of the land of Egypt until this day, I have even sent to you all My servants the prophets, daily rising up early and sending them. Yet they did not obey Me or incline their ear, but stiffened their neck. They did worse than their fathers. Therefore you shall speak all these words to them, but they will not obey you. You shall also call to them, but they will not answer you. "So you shall say to them, 'This is a nation that does not obey the voice of the Yahweh their Elohim nor receive correction. Truth has perished and has been cut off from their mouth" (Jer.7:23-29, NKJV).
A few weeks ago I received the following letter from an American Christian in response to a series of articles we have on the Internet about the Rapture. You may recall that a few weeks ago we were discussing the various theories people have about the Rapture, and how it is that the pre-tribulation rapture doctrine has become enshrined in the minds of most Christians as the Trinity doctrine has. This is what the letter said:
"I read your views on you website and agree with your point on the "Correct" rapture theory. I consider myself a student of the Holy Scriptures and a Follower of Christ/Yeshua. My innermost ambition is to seek the truth which, often times, stirs resentment and causes strife. Your article makes a very factual and blunt description of the state of spirituality of Christianity today. I am an American and it appears that America leads the world with her deceived, shallow, idolatrous, Jezebel spirit, way. The reason why the Pretrib-Rapture theology appeals to American Christians is because we are spiritually lazy and fat. To even consider suffering for Christ is abhorrent to them. If a vote was taken to see how many believers would respond to this question, "How many fear and love the Lord?", there would barely be a response, if any. Yet, these same people in their hearts, have convinced themselves, that they are ready when the Lord returns".
If we have been paying close attention to the message of the Festivals of Yahweh we will escape the delusion not only of these Americans but of Westerners in general. Instead we will recognise that our spiritual malady is not just a slight malfunction of the inner man but as serious as terminal cancer. Human nature - the Adamic nature - the carnal nature - the 'flesh' - is a serious threat to our eternal happiness and redemption. It will not go away by parroting the words of salvation - it has to be crucified, as I have preached so many times.
This kind of preaching is the most unpopular there is. This kind of preaching makes people put their fingers in their ears and turn away. Or it can provoke them to frenzied anger. People just do not want to know. They are lazy, indolent, and shallow. Every single human being on the face of this planet must at some time confront the awful truth that they are lost and perishing (1 Cor.1:8). It is easy to fool oneself into believing that one is not. It is easy to fashion a fantasy world and convince ourselves that we are basically OK and just need some minor spiritual adjustments. Every single festival gives the lie to this watered down, powerless and lifeless Gospel that the majority of Christians espouse. We are warned in no uncertain terms. The prophet Zephaniah, who might just as easily have been talking to us, said of Israel:
"She has not obeyed His voice, She has not received correction; She has not trusted in Yahweh, She has not drawn near to her God. Her princes in her midst are roaring lions; Her judges are evening wolves That leave not a bone till morning. Her prophets are insolent, treacherous people; Her priests have polluted the sanctuary, They have done violence to the law" (Zeph.3:2-4, NKJV).
As a father with, I hope, a true father's heart, I desire nothing but the best for my sons and daughters, whether of the flesh or the spirit. And true mothers feel no different. My heart is aflame with this message, not because I want to pound on your doors, but because I see with a prophetic eye the Destroyer eagerly waiting to make you his. I understand human nature only too well. I see the dangers and wish you to avoid them. But the solution is not pretending they do not exist. The solution is honestly and squarely facing the truth about yourself and the only hope that the soul has. There is only one way. The world has trained its sons and daughters to be (in the words of the brother who wrote to me) "deceived, shallow, idolatrous, and Jezebelic".
The Word of God is sharper than a two-edged sword and enables us to clearly distinguish between truth and error. The festivals bring everything into sharp focus and challenge us to get our priorities right. We may yet waste time and fall off the precipice doing lawful things - what is important is whether you are doing the right things at the right time. Is what you are doing - however lawful - in Yahweh's will? Are you perhaps supposed to be doing something you are not? What excuses are you making? Did you really repent at Yom Kippur or did you just play-act?
We could have a Third World War on our hands at any time now. And we may have a One World Dictatorship sooner than you think, changing our whole way of life. The liberties we take for granted now may be swept away from us in one day. It happened in 1933 in Germany. It will happen again world-wide. Only this time there will be no countries to flee to where liberty is enjoyed. All there will be twelve tiny settlements dotted around the world, and to get into them you will have to satisfy numerous criteria of righteousness. What you are doing now will determine whether you gain access to them or not, because today is your testing and training ground.
Never assume that you have made it and can sit back waiting for a fantasy rapture to divest you of all responsibility to put the carnal man to death. Beware of vain-confidence. Don't assume you can do tomorrow what you put off today. That was the mistake of the Allied powers as they sat back and let Hitler come to dictatorial power. The majority of Christians are going to sit back, lulled into a false sense of security by false promises made by false teachers, and desensitised by the heavily enchanted and demonised atmosphere of the world around them. The planet is asleep again as it was in the 1930s and ripe for a new dark age.
Shemini Atzereh reminds us once again that we can't just sit back, even when the Millennium comes! You have had much sermonising from me for yet another year and I hope my words have not fallen on deaf ears. I do not know how many more seasons Yahweh will permit me to preach but be assured that one day my voice will become silent and I will not stand in the pulpit anymore to admonish and encourage you. Then it will be up to others, as it always has been from one generation to the next. Will my sons and daughters respond? Will yours? What of your husbands and wives? Will they listen or turn away? When I have gone, and can no more participate in the affairs of this sphere, what will I see when I look down, assuming I am allowed to? For when I have departed this sphere, this world will be in a far more terrible darkness than it is today in the year 2003. You will not, at that time, be assembling in freedom. You will be looking over your shoulders wondering when soldiers or police of the New World Order will break down your door and cart you off to some concentration camp, separating husbands from wives, and children from parents, to torture and murder you? Or will you have repented and gathered to the arks of safety?
I hope that I never have to look down and see my own family - physical or spiritual - destroyed by carelessness, negligence and indifference. I know that our Father in Heaven weeps when we fail to heed His warnings, for He has an infinite father's heart for us. And you young people, do not assume that by virtue of your youth that you somehow have an immunity from what I have been saying. Do not trust in the arm-of-flesh but pay attention to the older and wiser among you. Do not go the way of the first Corinthians.
Shemini atzeret speaks of a new world to come after the Millennium when the toils and cares of life finally come to a complete end. The Millennium is to be seen as a well-earned break for the human race. But even then we cannot be careless. But that is some time in the future.
Today I want to invite you - if you have never trusted and obeyed before - to finally come forward and give your life to Yahweh by trusting in, and obeying, His Son. It is written that "Yahweh has made all for His purpose" (Prov.16:4, ISRV). He did not created us for our own purposes. Why not find out just what His purpose for you actually is?
Do you want a good time? Do you want pleasure? happiness? Well, if you do, that is good. Yahweh does not want us to lead miserable, dull lives. It is good and right to want pleasure. Am I sounding like a hedonist? No! Far from it. For it is written:
"You [Yahweh] show me the path of life; in Your presence is joy to satisfaction; At your right hand are pleasures forever" (Ps.16:11, ISRV).
Pleasures forever! Joy and satisfaction! I can truthfully say that my faith - the religion I live - brings these three things, irrespective of my outer circumstances. I do not live my religion out of a sense of dull and dreary obligation. I do not preach in the pulpit because I have a sadistic enjoyment out of telling people about all the terrible things in the world. I do what I do because I have within me the ultimate peace. I do what I do because I have the ultimate joy. I do what I do because it brings me lasting satisfaction. And these things are for everyone who will come to the Cross.
I do not preach against sin because I am a killjoy: I preach against sin because it separates us from genuine peace, joy, happiness, and satisfaction, and causes those who reject the Gospel to go seeking for these things in places where they cannot be found. It is a terrible thing to trade eternal virtues for temporary thrills. It is total madness. And yet that is what carnal man, lured by the devil, has chosen. Why is it that people stubbornly chose an independent way? It is called self-will which is expressed either by active rebellion or by passive indifference. Which ever of the two paths you choose leads to the same result. It leads to spiritual death and guilt, lack of peace, and intense frustration. Won't you believe what Yahweh said through His prophet, Ezekiel: "The soul that sins shall surely die" (Ezek.18:4)?
You can't hide from sin and you can't remove it by your own personal effort. The Bible says that all our self-effort in doing so is like filthy rags (Is.64:5). Trying to fix yourself without Christ is like trying to climb Mt.Everest with a ball of string dressed in a pair of pyjamas wearing indoor slippers. Whatever alternative ways to salvation may seem right are but illusion and their end is destruction (Prov.14:12). Your good deeds cannot balance out or cancel your bad ones. The universe doesn't operate like that.
Sin is only removed by what the Bible calls emunah which translates into our English word 'faith'. But not just any old faith. Emunah is faith in what Yahweh says. Righteousness - being in right standing with Yahweh - comes through this emunah. The emunah or faith that saves is the one that believes in the blood atonement of the Messiah, Yah'shua (Jesus). It is the blood of Yah'shua (Jesus) that makes a covering for your soul. The prophet Isaiah writes:
"He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our crookedness. The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed. We all, like sheep, went astray, each one has turned to his own way. And Yahweh has laid on Him the crookedness of us all" (Is.53:5-6, ISRV).
During Pesach or Passover earlier in the year, we saw atonement for the family (Ex.12:13). During Yom Kippur we saw atonement for the nation of Israel (Lev.16:30a). Yah'shua (Jesus) brings atonement for all who will believe: "Yahweh has laid on Him the crookedness of us all".
How can you come to know Yah'shua (Jesus) personally and as a community of Yahweh's people? You must invite Him into your mind and heart and life as a whole - into your thinking and feeling processes, and into the way you live our your life on a daily basis. When you have done this, the blood of atonement with cover you, you will be able to approach Yahweh as your Heavenly Father, and begin to experience His abundant life. But you have to do the inviting - of your own free will - and not under any sort of compulsion. You must invite Him because you want to, not because others expect it of you. You have this promise made through the prophet Joel: "everyone who calls on the Name of Yahweh shall be delivered" (Joel 2:32).
Here is a suggested prayer:
"Dear Father Yahweh, I confess that I have greatly sinned against You and I am sorry. Messiah Yah'shua (Jesus), please come into my heart and life and cleanse me with Your blood of atonement. Thank you for doing this according to Your Word. Amen."
If you have really meant this prayer, then five promises belong to you at once:
1. Your sins are atoned for - forgiven, covered (Is.53:6);
2. You are in right-standing (righteousness) with Yahweh by emunah (faith) (Ge.15:6; Hab.2:4);
3. You enter into a personal relationship with Yahweh and you become His child (Jer.31:32);
4. You receive the gift of eternal life within you (Joel 3:5; Dan.12:2);
5. The Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit) enters your life (Ezek.11:19; Zec.12:10).
The moment you have make this decision, you become a citizen of the Nation of Israel. You become a New Covenant Israelite. You are born-again. This becomes a kind of Shemini atzeret for you, as you enter your eighth day and begin a New Life.
May the grace and peace of the Messiah be upon you all. Amen.
This page was created on 24 September 2003
Last updated on 24 September 2003
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