Shemini Atzeret 2004
Sabbath Day Sermon, Saturday 9 October 2004
Welcome to this the eighth day of our assembly following the seven days of Sukkot which ended yesterday evening. All the scriptures say about this day are as follows:
"On the eighth day you shall have a sacred assembly. You shall do no customary work" (Num.29:35-36, NKJV).
There follows a short description of the offerings to be made under the former Mosaic Covenant and that's it. These, together with the offerings made on each of the days of Sukkot, have a meaning which next year I hope to make a study of.
So what is Shemini Atzeret? The word 'atzeret' means to 'tarry', 'hold back', or 'stay on' an extra day after Sukkot and is the official conclusion of the Feast of Tabernacles. Many see in Shavu'ot (Pentecost) a shadow of Shemini Atzeret as both are 'last days', 'conclusions' or 'atzerets' in analagous spring and autumn cycles. Sukkot (Tabernacles), like Pesach (Passover), is a 7 day-long festival, both representing complete units of time. We are reminded by the Psalmist:
"The words of Yahweh are pure words, like silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times" (Ps.12:6, NKJV ).
|Pesach (Passover) - 7 days
||Sukkot (Tabernacles) - 7 days|
|Days of Omer - 49 days || |
|Shavu'ot (Pentecost) - Last (50th) Day
||Shemini Atzeret - Last Great (8th) Day|
Shemini Atzeret is rightly, then, seen as the 'day after time' - it is the end of the mandatory 7 annual festivals as well as representing the end of time itself. As I pointed out last year, it looks beyond the coming Millennium (Athid Lavo) and to the timeless, celestial world where everything is brought to perfection and where Satan can never again tempt or destroy man (see The Last Great Millennium).
Over the course of the millennia the Talmudic Jews have added to the simplicity of Shemini Azteret by adding another festival the day after called Simchat Torah, or 'Rejoicing in the Torah' and whilst there is nothing wrong in celebrating Torah it is, in fact, to duplicate one of the functions of Shavu'ot which is the commemoration of the giving of the Ten Commandments and Torah. Yah'shua (Jesus) had something interesting to say about Torah and Shemini Atzeret:
"Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill (complete). For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled" (Matt.5:17-18, NKJV).
For the Talmudic Jew who has rejected the Messiah, the Torah has almost become a messianic substitute so it makes sense, from the point-of-view of disbelief, to conclude all the festivals with one celebrating Torah ... again. Both Talmudic and Messianic Jews assume that Torah is eternal. This is not, however, what Yah'shua (Jesus) says: "till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled". Indeed, many Messianic Jews interpret this to mean that since heaven and earth will never pass away, so Torah will remain eternally. But this fails to take into account the Revelation of John which reads:
"Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away" (Rev.21:1, NKJV).
Which heaven and earth was Yah'shua (Jesus) referring to in Matthew? To the heaven and earth of that time, and of this time - to the first heaven and the first earth. But John sees a new heaven and a new earth replacing the original ones. Peter saw this time too when he said:
"But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up" (2 Peter 3:10, NKJV).
These 'elements' are the component parts of our material world - everything of the old world and its 7,000 years of history will be completely dissolved by fire and be remade. Isaiah confirmed this prophetic vision:
"For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; and the former shall not be remembered or come to mind" (Isa.65:17, NKJV).
We are speaking here of the end of time itself and all that belongs to a mortal plane. What replaces the old earth is immortality. What, if anything, of this old world remains beyond the Millennium?
"For as the new heavens and the new earth which I will make shall remain before Me," says Yahweh, "so shall your descendants and your name remain" (Isa.66:22, NKJV).
Whose descendants are these? The children of Israel! All that survives is Israel - the people of the covenant, the overcomers whose spiritual parentage is the New Jacob. The only thing we can take with us after the Millennium is ourselves - our redeemed and purified selves.
What will this post-Millennial world look like? Where will we live if everything down here is destroyed by fire and dissolved into its component parts? The Apostle John tells us:
"Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, 'Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.' Then He who sat on the throne said, 'Behold, I make all things new'" (Rev.21:2-5, NKJV).
The New Jerusalem is the habitation of the redeemed. When the earth is dissolved at the end of the satanic rebellion at the end of the coming Millennium, we shall return in a City fashioned in heaven. As it was in the beginning when the earth was "formless and empty" (Gen.1:2, ISRV) and covered with water, so in the end it will be "formless and empty" after it has been swept clean by fire. But this time, what is made will descend from heaven, as John saw. And the new world will be timeless and perfect, and even more glorious than the original Eden after the Creation Week. The New Jerusalem will make the Garden of Eden pale by comparison.
This new world - this timeless sphere where only perfection dwells - is described further by John in the same chapter in the Book of Revelation:
"And He said to me, 'It is done! I am the Alpha (Alef) and the Omega (Tav), the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts. He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son. But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death'" (Rev.21:6-8, NKJV).
We are reading here from the last-but-one chapter in the Bible. This chapter goes on to describe this wondrous City called New Jerusalem. In the last and 22nd chapter, this futuristic scene is wrapped up. In this post-Millennial world "there shall be no more curse" (Rev.22:3, NKJV). No more disease, no more illness, no more death, no more demons, no more sorrow. This is the ultimate home of the faithful, of the overcomers: "the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him. They shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads. There shall be no night there: They need no lamp nor light of the sun, for Yahweh-Elohim gives them light. And they shall reign forever and ever" (Rev.22:3-5, NKJV).
You might perhaps wonder if it is wise of us to be thinking too much about what is yet the distant future. We have so many problems and difficulties in this sphere, many things to occupy our minds with every day. And you would be right ... except on Shemini Atzeret. The Apostle Peter goes on to say: "Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells" (2 Peter 3:13, NKJV).
This world which we look forward to is without the Written Torah because it isn't needed any more? And why isn't it needed? Because "the throne of God and of the Lamb" is in this place - those who dwell there are constantly before Torah-Incarnate. Written Torah will have been fulfilled completely so it will not be needed any more. In a timeless sphere there are no cycles and seasons - no festivals to be celebrated, no Sabbaths and new moons. In the new Heaven and the new Earth, which are completely echad or one (as represented by the New Jerusalem descending to the earth), everything is in the Eternal Now because its core is the great I AM, Yahweh-Elohim.
So it is right and proper that we spend Shemini Atzeret contemplating this wonderful new world-to-be where all is perfection - a world beyond time. It is largely beyond our ken for now though we gain glimpses of it when the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit) burns brightly within us. Some of us have seen visions of the kind of place this will be when we have moved spiritually out of this dimension and into the highest and purest sphere where our Father in Heaven dwells. People who have visited heaven will tell you that when they have returned to earth, they have often been surprised to discover that down here only a few minutes have passed whereas it has seemed to them that they have been away for hours, if not days. The Psalmist wrote:
"For a thousand years in Your sight are like yesterday when it is past" (Ps.90:4, NKJV)
And the Apostle Peter said:
"But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with Yahweh one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day" (2 Peter 3:8, NKJV).
This 7,000 years of world history, when it is completed in a little over 1,000 years hence, is to Yahweh - and to those who live in that exalted sphere - but a week. A mere week! We look at our life span here - and whether you are 50 (as I am), or 80 or 90 as some of you here are - and we think that we have lived for countless ages. Yet old people will tell you that time appears to speed up for them when they think back to their childhood where time seemed to drag along like a slug. That is because we are being attuned, little by little, to the timeless world that lies beyond. The world of spirits, where we shall live after we have died, is much like this final Shemini Atzeret world to come when it comes to what one might call the 'sensation of time'. Time contracts the nearer you get to the Most High, but seems to stretch out the farther away you are. Perhaps that is why hell, for those who end up there, will seem like an eternity even after only a few seconds have passed away. Another good reason to draw near to God! During the Millennium we read this interesting observation:
"... the [righteous] lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection" (Rev.20:4-5, NKJV).
The spirits in prison - those who rejected Christ in mortality - will remain there for the whole Millennium That will seem like a million years to them - 365,000 years to be precise - because they are so far away from the Light of the Elohim. Now if you think 50, 60, 70, 80, or 90 years is a long time, can you imagine what a quarter of a million years will seem like? Now I realise these are mind-boggling figures - we can't even comprehend them. 100 years is tough enough for us to compute. We are talking about the equivalent of over 3,000 lifetimes that the wicked endure in hell waiting for the second resurrection ... or so it will seem to them. Such is what living in darkness is like. The two worlds - the worlds of light and darkness - just can't be compared.
We have celebrated seven festivals throughout the year, the two extra ones excepted, and have come to this day - Shemini Atzeret. Shemini Atzeret is a picture of a world of light, truth, and holiness beyond time for those who are in Christ (one the one hand), and a world of darkness, misery, purposelessness, and destitution, where time tediously grinds on seemingly for ever for those who are not. Shemini Atzeret is therefore actually a time for those who remain outside of Christ to seriously consider their options. It is a time for them to seriously consider what they are living their brief life here in mortality for, and who they are serving.
For those to have made their commitment to Christ by faith and by ordinance, there is nothing but goodness to look forward to. They know that their present affliction will soon pass away and they will enter a sphere of total rest and happiness. The Psalmist says:
"Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but Yahweh delivers him out of them all" (Ps.34:19, NKJV).
There is an end to our trials and tribulations if we are in Christ, but no end for those who are not. There is peace in the heart for those in Christ who are suffering but none for those who are not. The choice of life is a simple one. It is to choose to be chosen. For Yah'shua (Jesus) said:
"You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you" (John 15:16, NKJV).
If you choose to follow Yahweh, our Father in Heaven, you are chosen of His Son! You are chosen to go and bear fruit - the fruit of righteousness - and if your desire is to preserve that fruit, and that desire is the object of your prayers, then whatever you pray for, will be given to you. For He will always answer the prayer that desires to preserve holiness.
If Yah'shua (Jesus) has not chosen you - not manifested Himself to you and called you personally into His Kingdom - then what is it you must do? The successor of Moses - Joshua - whose Name is an earlier form of Yah'shua or Jesus - tells us very clearly as a type of Christ:
"Serve Yahweh! And if it seems evil to you to serve Yahweh, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River [Jordan], or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve Yahweh" (Josh.24:14-15, NKJV).
So what will you do? Will you serve the gods of your unsaved ancestors - the pride of life, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes (1 Jn.2:16) - of will you serve Yahweh? One symbolic cycle of redemption ends at sunset this evening, but so another one begins for those who have not, up to today, chosen! Is this not grace - the loving kindness of God, who waits patiently for His children to choose Him and be saved? Please, if you have not made that decision, do so now. Surrender your heart and will to Yah'shua (Jesus) and invite Him into your life so that you too may bear fruits of goodness that will remain for ever. Amen.
Edward Chumney, The Seven Festivals of the Messiah (Treasure House, Shippensburg, PA), 1999.
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