THE FEAST OF INGATHERING

The Feast of Ingathering is observed after the barley,  wheat, and fall harvest seasons of Palestine (the fall harvest was the largest harvest of all three).

"Three times [i.e., seasons] you shall keep a feast to me in  the year.   You shall keep the feast of unleavened bread . . . and  the feast of the harvest of first-fruits of your labors which you have sown in the field: and the feast of ingathering, which is in  the end of the year, when you have gathered in your labors out of the field" (Ex.23:14-16 KJV).

"And you shall observe the feast of weeks, of the first-fruits  of wheat  harvest, and the feast of ingathering at the  year's  end" (Ex.34:22 KJV).

"Also  in the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when  you  have gathered in the fruit of the land, you shall keep a feast to  the Lord seven days:  on the first day shall be a Sabbath, and on the eighth day shall be a Sabbath" (Lev.23:39 Para.). For an explanation of the  eighth  day, see our study concerning the  Feast  of  the Eighth Day.

"You  shall  observe the feast of  tabernacles [shelters]  seven days,  after that you have gathered in your corn and  your  wine: And you shall rejoice in your feast, you, and your son, and  your daughter,  and  your manservant, and your  maidservant,  and  the Levite, the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow, that are within  your gates. Seven days shall you keep a solemn  feast  to the  Lord  your  God in the place which the  Lord  shall  choose: because  the Lord your God shall bless you in all your  increase, and  in all the works of your hands, therefore you  shall  surely rejoice"  (Deut.16:13-15 KJV).

The Harvest and the Celebration

There are two very important points that need to be  clarified in  order  to  clearly define the meaning of the  name "Feast  of Ingathering":

1. At the time this festival was to be observed each year, the fall harvest had already been completed.

2. The seven-day festival was a celebration of the fall  harvest, which had already been gathered in.

Understanding these two interrelated points gives us the key to unlocking  the  prophetic and symbolic meaning of this  festival,  which celebrated  the bountiful fall harvest  that  God  had provided to the Israelites.

THE THREE SPIRITUAL HARVESTS

Besides being times of rejoicing and thanksgiving for the  great physical and spiritual blessings from God, these  three annual  harvest seasons were prophetic and symbolic of a great spiritual harvest of humanity into the Kingdom of God.

The Spring Harvest

The  Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread, which occurred  at the beginning of the spring harvest season, picture the  beginning of God's plan for the salvation of humanity.

Within the spring  harvest season was the sacrificial Passover  Lamb, which was prophetic of the Lamb of God who would sacrifice  himself in  order  to take away the sins of the world. Moreover, the spring harvest season contained the official  beginning  of  the barley harvest  and  the  wave-sheaf offering,  which pictured the Messiah being presented to  and  accepted by God the Father as the first of the harvest of humanity to become his spiritual son.

The spring harvest season is unique; in that, five major beginnings in the plan of God for the salvation of humanity are revealed and pictured within it:

1. The beginning of the process of salvation through Jesus Christ as the sacrificial Passover Lamb of God—the Savior and redeemer of humanity.

2. The beginning of coming out of a life of bondage and  slavery to sin through repentance.

3. The beginning of the process of spiritual growth  by remaining sinless and practicing righteousness.

4. The Lift Offering through which Jesus Christ is  revealed  as the beginning of the Father's new creation—his first-born son.

5. The beginning of the counting toward the Festival  of Weeks (Pentecost).

The Summer Harvest

The second festival season comes during early summer, at  the end  of the  wheat harvest (i.e., the Feast of  Weeks/First-fruits/Pentecost).  Within this festival, two loaves of wheat bread  made from the harvested wheat are  presented to God for  his  acceptance.  These two loaves represent the literal harvest  of  wheat and  the spiritual harvest of those called to salvation before and after the advent of the Messiah.

Just as  the first grains of the barley harvest were prophetic and  symbolic of Jesus Christ as the first of humanity to be  harvested, the first grains of the wheat harvest are prophetic and symbolic of the elect of God who will participate in  the first  resurrection (i.e., everyone called to become  sons  of God from the time of Adam until Christ's return).

God's acceptance of the two loaves of wheat bread was prophetic of  the time when the elect of God who  have  been  made righteous through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ will be accepted by God the Father into his spiritual family, through their  transformation  into immortal spirit beings.

The Opportunity for Salvation

Prior  to the Kingdom of God being established on earth,  there are only two groups of people who are offered an opportunity  for salvation:

1. Those  who  were called to salvation  under  the  sacrificial system before the advent of Christ.

2. Those who have been called to salvation after the  advent  of Christ during the gospel age.

Each  of  these two groups comes under the  sacrificial  blood  of Jesus  Christ and will be in the first resurrection. All others must wait until Christ's return, the resurrection of national  Israel (Ezk.37), or the resurrection of the rest of the  dead (Rev.20:5). See our study paper on the various resurrections.

"For  as  in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall  all  be  made alive.  But every man in his own order: Christ  the  first-fruits; afterwards they that are Christ's at his coming" (1.Cor.15:22-23 KJV).  See also Jms.1:18; Rev.14:15-16; 20:4-6.

In his infinite wisdom, the Eternal God has designed his  plan for  mankind  very  carefully in order to give  every  person  an opportunity  to  have eternal life.  The vast majority of  people who  have lived and died throughout history have never  heard  or understood  God's  plan for salvation. These people  are  neither saved nor lost; they simply have not yet been given an  opportunity for salvation.

The Great Fall Harvest Season

After  the  small spring barley harvest and   the  large  early summer wheat harvest of Palestine, came the third harvest  season—the Great Fall harvest.

This  seven-day festival was to be a celebration of  thanksgiving to  God  for  the great abundance and  blessings   that  he  gave throughout  the  year: especially, the blessings of  the fall harvest.

It  is important again to note that the fall harvest had  already been completed before the observance of the seven-day  festival of the seventh month, because this seven-day festival is a  celebration of the completion of the fall harvest.

Just as the spring and summer harvests were prophetic and symbolic of a spiritual harvest, the fall harvest  is as well. The biggest difference  between  the spring, summer, and fall harvests is that the fall harvest is prophetic and symbolic of  a much larger spiritual harvest.

This great fall harvest represents four categories of people  who will have their first opportunity for salvation, after the  return of Jesus Christ and the establishment of the Kingdom of God  on the earth:

1. Those  who live through the great tribulation at the  end  of this age.

2. Those of National Israel who will be resurrected to  physical life and placed in the promised land.

3. Those of all humanity who have lived and died never having an opportunity for salvation.

4. Those born to the ones living during the reign of Jesus Christ on earth.

This  great spiritual harvest season spans well over 1,000 years  as billions upon billions of people who  have  lived and died and those yet to be born are presented with an  opportunity for salvation and eternal life.

The Great Harvest Begins

The great spiritual harvest that is pictured by the fall harvest of  Palestine will only begin after the return of Christ and  the first resurrection in which the elect of all ages will have  been changed  to immortal beings (1.Cor.15:51-54). One of the  primary reasons  Jesus will return again is to bring peace to the earth;  so that,  God's  plan for the salvation of humanity can go  forward, unimpeded by Satan who is the god and ruler  of  this  present world. See 2.Cor.4:4; Rev.12:9.

The vast majority of those who will live through the great tribulation at  the  end of this age or those who will be born after the return  of  Christ will  enter into a world  transformed into a physical utopia: a world  of  peace and prosperity in which they   will  be given  the opportunity to learn and live by the laws and ways  of God.

This is the time spoken of by the prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah,  and Micah in which the world will be at peace and all nations will  come to Jerusalem to learn God's way.

Isaiah 2:2-4 KJV

"And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the  Lord's  house shall be established in the top of  the  mountains,  and  shall be exalted above the hills;  and  all nations shall flow unto it" (v2).

The government of God is symbolized as a mountain that will be above all other mountains (i.e., governments), and people will look to this government of God for guidance.

"And many people shall go and say, Come you, and let us go up  to the  mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob;  and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths:  for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem" (v3).

The earth will finally be at peace, when the entire earth comes under the rule of the Family of God, which includes the elect of God who will have been made immortal.

"And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and  their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword  against nation,  neither  shall they learn war any more" (v4).  See  also Isa.9:6-7.

As  the rule of Christ progresses through time, all  of  humanity will eventually come to understand the word of God because of the efforts of the Family of God as they rule the earth:

"But with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and reprove with equity the meek of the earth: and he shall smite the  earth: with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall slay the wicked.  And righteousness shall be the girdle of his reins. . . They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain:  for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as  the waters cover the sea" (Isa.11:4-5,9 Para.).

Jeremiah

"And no longer shall a man teach his neighbor, and  each man  his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for they shall all  know me, from the least of them even to the greatest of them, declares the Lord: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will  remember their sin no more" (Jer.31:34 Para.). See also Heb.8:7-10.

Micah

"But  in the last days it shall come to pass, that  the  mountain [government] of the house of the Lord shall be established in the top  of  the  mountains [governments/nations], and  it shall  be exalted  above the hills [governments/nations]; and people  shall flow  to it. And many nations shall come, and say, Come, and  let us  go  up to the mountain [government] of the Lord. and  to  the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways,  and we will walk in his paths: for the law shall go forth  of  Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. And he shall judge among many  people, and rebuke strong nations afar off; and they  shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks:  nation shall not lift up sword against  nation,  neither shall they learn war any more" (Mic.4:1-3 KJV).

The King-Priests

Those who are a part of the first resurrection will become co-rulers with Christ in the Kingdom of God on earth.

"To him that overcomes will I grant to sit with me in my  throne, even  as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father  in  his throne" (Rev.3:21 KJV).

"John  to the seven churches which are in Asia: Grace  unto  you, and  peace,  from him which is, and which was, and  which  is  to come; and from the seven spirits which are before his throne; And from  Jesus  Christ, who is the faithful witness, and  the  first begotten  of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the  earth. Unto  him  that loved us and washed us from our sins in  his  own blood, And has made us kings and priests to God and his  Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen"  (Rev.1:4-6 KJV).

"And  has  made us unto our God kings and priests: and  we  shall reign  on  the  earth" (Rev.5:10 KJV).  See  also  Matt.19:27-28; Lk.22:28-30; 1.Pet.2:5-6,9.

Major Responsibilities

One  of the major responsibilities for those who  participate  in the  first resurrection will be to assist in the conversion of humanity as  spiritual  leaders and teachers:

"And  he  that overcomes, and keeps my works to the end,  to  him will I give power over the nations: And he shall rule them with a rod  of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken  to shivers: even as I received of my Father" (Rev.2:26-27 KJV).  See also 1.Cor.6:2-3; 2.Tim.2:12; Rev.3:21.

The Righteous Rule of Christ

Isaiah,   chapters 30 and 65 contain several prophecies pertaining to  the end of this age and what will  follow  the return of Jesus Christ as King of kings. Two especially interesting prophecies in these chapters concern the elect of God and  their responsibility for teaching God's way of life and helping people to obtain salvation:

"But your teachers shall not be hidden anymore,  your eyes shall  see your teachers: And your ears shall hear a word  behind you,  saying, This is the way, walk in it, when you go right,  or when you go left" (Isa.30:20-21 Para.).

This is a reference to physical humans who live during the  reign  of Christ being taught by spirit-beings.  Because  the elect of God are to be king-priests in the government of God,  it seems logical that they are included in this scripture as teachers of humanity.

The Labors of the Harvest

Because  of  the many misconceptions concerning  this  particular festival,  it is again important to note that the harvest  itself is something very different from the celebration of the  harvest. The harvest is when the crops are being harvested, but the  celebration of the harvest comes after the crops have already been  harvested:

"And my elect [Heb. bahir] shall grow old to the work of their hands. They shall not labor in vain, nor bring forth for  terror; for they are the seed of the  beloved ones of the Lord, and their offspring with them"  (Isa.65:22-23 Para.).

In verse 23, the  Hebrew  word that is translated into English as 'elect' is  'bahir', which means 'chosen.' 'My chosen' in this verse means those  whom the Father has personally chosen and predestined to be his spiritual sons before the return of Christ as King of kings.

The  phrase 'grow old' is from the Hebrew word 'bala', which  means 'to wear out' or 'use to the full'. In context this word denotes the exhaustive and intense effort that is put forth by the  sons of God in helping humanity obtain salvation.

The  word  'seed' is translated from the Hebrew word 'zera', which means 'sowing', 'seed', or 'offspring'.

Those who will be taught God's way after the return of Christ by  his spirit-sons (the elect) will be their seed or offspring (i.e., children) in the same way  that those  who were taught and converted through the teaching of  the apostle Paul and John were their children. See Gal.4:19; 1.Jn.2:1.

The Celebration Begins

Remember that the spiritual harvest of humanity will  have been accomplished before the actual celebration of the Festival of  Shelters/Ingathering. This great celebration of  the  harvest cannot  take place until the harvest is completed and all  that can be harvested has been harvested. See Matt.13:24-42; 25:31-46.

This great celebration of the harvest will begin with a day of cessation from labor, because the great spiritual harvest will have been  completed. It will be a time to cease from the labor  of the harvest and celebrate. All of humanity will have been given their opportunity  for salvation. Everyone  who has been found worthy of eternal  life will have been gathered into the Family and Kingdom of God.

God the Father, Jesus  Christ,  the elect of all ages, and the vast multitudes who will obtain salvation during the reign of Christ on earth will participate in this celebration.

This celebration of  the great harvest of humanity will last seven days. Interestingly, the number 'seven' is symbolic of completeness, spiritual perfection, and bringing to an end. This final harvest celebration will bring God's plan for the salvation of humanity to a close.

SUMMARY

The  name 'Feast of Ingathering' denotes  the completion of  God's plan for the salvation of humanity.

This seven-day feast of the seventh month is prophetic of a grand and  glorious celebration that will take place with God  the Father and Jesus Christ, after the  great spiritual  harvest (ingathering) of humanity, which will occur after  the return of Christ and the establishment of the Kingdom of God on the earth.

During  this great spiritual harvest of humanity,  this  festival celebration will continue from year to year until the harvest  of humanity  is finished. Those who will live during this time  will  rejoice  in anticipation of their being gathered into  the  Family and Kingdom of God.

Immediately  after   the celebration of the largest  of  all  the harvest seasons, comes the final and greatest celebration pictured in the annual festivals—The Feast of the Eighth Day.

By B. L. Cocherell, file b5w67