The Feast of Ingathering

John Plunkett

Feast of Tabernacles 2016: Day 1 

October 16, 2016

Each summer, the members and the descendants of various Scottish and Irish families – or clans, as they’re called – meet in groups all over the world to celebrate their Celtic heritage. 

These annual get-togethers are called the "Gatherings of the Clans."

If you think about it, the Feast of Tabernacles might be a similar kind of gathering.  But ours is the annual Gathering of the Clans of the Family of God. 

In fact, the Feast of Tabernacles and the Last Great Day are part of what God, in chapters 23 and 34 of the book of Exodus, calls "the Feast of Ingathering."
In the sermon, today, I would like to discuss the Feast of Ingathering and, in so doing, I would like to concentrate on the word "gather" and the other words that are derived from it.

There are 434 instances in the King James Version of the scriptures of the words gather, gathers, gathered and ingathering.  Some of these scriptures are concerned with the gatherings of God’s people for worship, gatherings of God’s enemies against Him and against His people, and the gathering in of grain and fruit crops during a harvest.  In fact, the English words "ingathering" and "gathering" are both synonymous with the word "harvest."

Perhaps because, by God’s design, ancient Israel’s annual agricultural crop seasons picture His plan so closely, Jesus included the topic of harvest gathering in so many of His wonderful parables.  Many of the "gathering scriptures" and all of Jesus’ "gathering parables" apply, in some degree, to God’s plan and to the fulfillment of His holy days. 

In the sermon, today, I would like to concentrate specifically on how these gathering scriptures apply specifically to the autumn holy days.

God has gathered His seven annual feasts into three groups:

Exodus 23:
14:  Three times you shall keep a feast unto me in the year.
15:  You shall keep the Feast of Unleavened Bread: (you shall eat unleavened bread seven days, as I commanded you, in the time appointed of the month Abib; for in it you came out from Egypt: and none shall appear before me empty:)
16:  And the Feast of Harvest
{Pentecost}, the firstfruits of your labours, 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 labours out of the field.
17:  Three times in the year all your males shall appear before the Lord GOD.

Exodus 34:18:
The Feast of Unleavened Bread shall you keep.  Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread, as I commanded you, in the time of the month Abib: for in the month Abib you came out from Egypt…
Verse 22:  And you shall observe the Feast of Weeks
{Pentecost}, of the firstfruits of wheat harvest, and the Feast of Ingathering at the year’s end.
23:  Thrice in the year shall all your men children appear before the Lord GOD, the God of Israel.

So again, God has gathered His seven feasts into three groups; and those three groups are:

1.  Passover and the seven-day Feast of Unleavened Bread with its two holy days, 

2.   The one-day Feast of Pentecost (also known as the Feast of Harvest, the Feast of Firstfruits, and the Feast of Weeks), 

3.  And finally the autumn group, that includes the Feast of Trumpets, the Day of Atonement, the seven-day Feast of Tabernacles, and the Last Great Day.

We call this third and last annual group of four feasts the Fall or Autumn Feasts; but please notice that in verse 16 of Exodus 23:22 and Exodus 22:34, God calls them collectively "the Feast of Ingathering."

The English word ingathering is translated from the Hebrew word aciyph and, as well as ingathering, it can also be translated into the English word harvest.  The Hebrew word aciyph is derived from the root word acaph, which can be translated as: together, gather, assemble, receive, collect, take away, remove and perish.

But why is ingathering so very relevant to the fall holy days?  What ingathering or gathering will take place at the fulfillment of each of the fall holy days?

I would like to answer these questions by going through the fall holy days briefly, one-by-one, to show you what gatherings are prophesied to take place at the fulfillment of the fall holy days.

Let’s start with the Feast of Trumpets.  At the fulfillment of the Feast of Trumpets we are going to see God’s great harvest of the first-fruits.  In his sermonette this morning, Stephan Willshaw talked about the first-fruits.  I call them "the subsequent first-fruits" because Jesus Christ is the First of the first-fruits; so consequently, we are collectively the subsequent first-fruits.  

In that harvest there are actually going to be three groups of God’s people:

i. God will resurrect the "dead-in-Christ" and will gather them from their numerous resting places around the world.

ii. Most of God’s people who will still be alive at that time will already have been gathered to the Place of Safety – three and a half years before.

iii. Those of God’s people who are left alive and who do not go into the Place of Safety (hopefully, this group will be a minority; Revelation 12:17 calls them a "remnant" of the church’s seed) will be changed (I Corinthians 15:51-52) and will be gathered together from their scattered locations around the world to be united with those who were in the Place of Safety and with their newly-resurrected brothers and sisters.

Where will that gathering-place be?   Will it be in the Place of Safety?  Or will it be on the Mount of Olives from where the apostles saw Jesus ascend to heaven, and to which He promised to return?  Paul answers:

I Thessalonians 4:
13:  But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that you sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.
14:  For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him.
15:  For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent
{precede} them which are asleep.
16:  For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:
17:  Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.

Those three groups will be gathered and united in the clouds, and together we will continue our ascent to meet Jesus – in the air.

At the very same time that this wonderful ingathering – this harvest of the firstfruits – is taking place in the clouds of the first heaven, another group – a more ominous group – under the sway of Satan, will be assembling back on earth:

Revelation 16:
12:  And the sixth angel poured out his vial upon the great river Euphrates; and the water thereof was dried up, that the way of the kings of the east might be prepared.
13:  And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs come out of the mouth of the dragon, and out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet.
14:  For they are the spirits of devils
{demons}, working miracles, which go forth unto the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty…
16:  And he
{actually they… the three unclean spirits} gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon.

The armies who will oppose the returning Christ will be gathering at a place called Armageddon – or more accurately Har-Megiddown, which means the Hill (or Mountain) of the Place of Crowds.  And, of course, all crowds are brought together by a gathering!

How will they get on?  Will they succeed?  What will be their fate?

I know that I said that, during God's Sabbaths and Holy Days, we do not want to be reading the world’s bad news from the world’s sources; but this is God’s news source – God’s news in advance.  It is not very pleasant; but it bears repeating, because it tells us about what is going to happen there and then:

Revelation 14:
15:  And another angel came out of the temple, crying with a loud voice to Him that sat on the cloud, “Thrust in your sickle, and reap: for the time is come for you to reap; for the harvest of the earth is ripe.”
16:  And He that sat on the cloud thrust in His sickle on the earth; and the earth was reaped.
17:  And another angel came out of the temple which is in heaven, he also having a sharp sickle.
18:  And another angel came out from the altar, which had power over fire; and cried with a loud cry to him that had the sharp sickle, saying, “Thrust in your sharp sickle, and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth; for her grapes are fully ripe.”
19:  And the angel thrust in his sickle into the earth, and gathered the vine of the earth, and cast it into the great winepress of the wrath of God.
20:  And the winepress was trodden without the city, and blood came out of the winepress, even unto the horse bridles, by the space of a thousand and six hundred furlongs.

This second harvest will – without knowing it – be waiting in preparation for the reapers’ sickles. The reapers will be the angels of God.  But what are these “grapevines” that are to be gathered and reaped there? 

We’ve already read that these grapevines will be a human harvest.  They will be the armies of the rulers of the world who, deceived by these three unclean spirits in the service of Satan, the Beast and the False Prophet, will refuse to give up their power to the returning King of kings.  They – and this gathering for “battle” – are also mentioned again in chapter 19:

Revelation 19:19:
And I saw the Beast, and the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against Him that sat on the horse, and against His army.

I say “battle”; but these kings and armies, of course, will have no chance of success against the great sword of Jesus Christ.  Back up to: 

Verse 11:  And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and He that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He does judge and make war.
12:  His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns; and He had a name written, that no man knew, but He Himself.
13:  And He was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and His name is called "The Word of God."
14:  And the armies which were in heaven followed Him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean.
15:  And out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should smite the nations: and He shall rule them with a rod of iron: and He treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.
16:  And He has on His vesture and on His thigh a name written, "KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS."
17:  And I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the fowls that fly in the midst of heaven, “Come and gather yourselves together unto the supper of the great God;

So here is yet another gathering.  A gathering of carnivorous birds!  God will summon these birds to gather for this gruesome supper.  Perhaps, as God says "all the fowls that fly in the midst of heaven" are to be summoned for this supper, even the usually non-carnivorous birds will have their natures temporarily changed for this one occasion.

Verse 18:  That you may eat the flesh of kings, and the flesh of captains, and the flesh of mighty men, and the flesh of horses, and of them that sit on them, and the flesh of all men, both free and bond, both small and great. 

This gruesome harvest – the bodies of these once-proud human beings – will quickly be reduced to a vast pile of bones.

Now we move on to the Day of Atonement, in the anti-type of which, after Jesus has dealt with Satan’s human supporters, God then will deal with their prince.  We are told that God will assign an angel, possibly Michael the Archangel, to remove Satan entirely for the duration of the Millennium.  This will be the fulfillment of the Day of Atonement’s Azazel ritual, which God gave to His Old Covenant church thousands of years earlier (Leviticus 16:8-26).

As acaph – the Hebrew root word for the English word ingathering – may also be translated into the English words remove and take away, it is interesting to note that one significant translation of the word Azazel is entire removal.  But it will not be just Satan himself who will be removed entirely for the duration of the Millennium.  His spiritual servants – the demons – will also be gathered and removed with him. 

This event is described in the book of Jude, and is one of those scriptures like the “Heylel” scriptures of Isaiah and Ezekiel, in which there may be dual references to both human beings and spirit beings:

6:  And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, He has reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day…
12:  These are spots in your feasts of charity, when they feast with you, feeding themselves without fear: clouds they are without water, carried about of winds; trees whose fruit withers, without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by the roots;
13:  Raging waves of the sea, foaming out their own shame; wandering stars, to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever.

God will not even give these fallen angels the honour of allowing them to be "decently reaped" with a sharp sickle.  He will have the resisting demons "plucked up by the roots" – violently ripped out of their dwelling-places – and He will gather them and their prince to the bottomless pit, where they will be imprisoned for the duration of the Millennium.

Now, forward to the gatherings of the Feast of Tabernacles.  Out of all the unconverted human beings who are left alive after the end-time carnage, God will regather the scattered, divided tribes of Israel:

Jeremiah 31:10b:
… He that scattered Israel will gather him, and keep him, as a shepherd does his flock. 

At the beginning of the Millennium, Israelites – and Gentiles too – who, at the time of Christ’s return, were left alive but were not converted will see Him, His glorified brothers and sisters, and His holy angels.  I believe that they will all quickly get to know Jesus Christ and will learn His way of life.  One-by-one, just like we were, as they are converted, they will be gathered into the community of the saints – the Millennial Church of God.

Perhaps they will be changed to spirit right after their physical lifetime expires.  Or, perhaps after a hundred years.  Or, perhaps after the whole thousand years.  The scriptures are not totally clear on just when their change from human begotten children of God to spirit-born children will take place.  But, of course, God knows the ideal timing for those occasions.

The babies and older children who are still human at that time – children from converted and unconverted families – who are still alive at the beginning of the Millennium will grow up in a wonderful world, with the personal, first-hand knowledge of the great King – Jesus Christ.  They will see Him, in person!  (How we wish we could see Him now!)  He will need to "turn His brightness down" so that those little children will be able to look at Him.  As they grow, they too will come into the knowledge of the truth, they will learn about Him every day, and about His loving Father who will still be in heaven at that time. 

Many more human children will be born as the Millennium progresses.  As those children grow into adulthood, they too will learn about Jesus and God the Father.  With Satan and the demons all locked away in the bottomless pit, these children, are going to have a natural desire to accept God’s way of life for the remainder of their human lives, and on into eternity.  As they are converted and baptized, God will gather them too into His family.

All of that is very wonderful, of course.  However, right at the very end of the Millennium – just prior to the glorious events of the fulfillment of the Last Great Day, there is going to be one more unpleasant gathering that is prophesied to take place.  

Perhaps the description of this gathering should be divided into two parts, because it will actually be two gatherings. 

The timing of the first one is not totally, 100% clear.  At the end of the Millennium and maybe at the same time as the Second Resurrection; but there are scholars and brethren who believe that there is going to be a Third Resurrection to look after this.  I have heard differing opinions on it, and it is good discussion; but its timing is not totally 100% clear in the Bible.

At the end of the Millennium, there will have been some people from all ages – from Adam and Eve until the return of Jesus and from the return of Jesus on through the Millennium into the Great White Throne Judgment period – there will be some people who will have been offered God’s way of life and His precious gift of salvation; but will have knowingly and willingly rejected them.  They will have had their opportunity.  God is loving and merciful; but He is also very just and so He must look after that segment of rebellious humanity.

The second group that we know of is the rebellious group at the very end of the Millennium when Satan will be loosed out of his prison.  

Can you imagine what it would be like if a bunch of rebellious, antagonistic, contrary human brothers and sisters who don’t get on very well were cooped up together for a thousand years?  Much more so with Satan and his demons!  When he gets free again he is going to be absolutely livid!  He is prophesied to focus all his pent-up anger and power into surprisingly successfully tempting a surprisingly large number of human beings, and gathering them into an army for one last-ditch battle against Jesus and His saints:

Revelation 20: 
7:  And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison,
8:  And shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea...

That is an astonishing number of people who are going to be deceived at that time!

9:  And they went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them.

Throughout the Millennium, through many, many hours of teaching, proper logic and reasoning, God's way of life will have been laid out before them. (You and I will have had a part in this teaching of the people).  At that time they will still be human’s beings.  But they will be unrepentant!  Once Satan returns and gives them his call, they will fall for his wiles and will insist in reverting to living his wretched, miserable way of life, which, ironically, is – and will be for them – the way of death.  It is the way of get, the way of selfishness and the way of failure!

Because of their insistence on accepting Satan’s way, they will be gathered together and will be put out of their misery forever.  Even to them, God is merciful.  There will be no torture.  No eternity in an ever-burning hell.  In an instant, they will be snuffed out of existence and burnt to ash.  They will be like the fruitless fruit bushes, the chaff and the tares that are mentioned in the wonderful parables of Jesus:

Matthew 13:40:
As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world. 

Luke 3:
16:  John answered, saying to all, "I indeed baptize you with water; but One mightier than I is coming, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to unloose. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 
17:  His winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clean out His threshing floor, and gather the wheat into His barn; but the chaff He will burn with unquenchable fire." 

After all the bad news is over and done, at the fulfillment of the Last Great Day, all those billions and billions of human beings who have died without the benefit of the knowledge of the truth of God, are going to be resurrected.

We are given various ideas of how many people have lived on the earth from the beginning.  We know that there are approximately seven billion right now.  No matter what the actual number might be, they will all be given the precious knowledge and calling that was withheld from them, during their lifetime. Yes, they should have known something about God just by looking at the wonderful creation; but He was not calling them, so to a great degree, it was not their fault.  He even withheld spiritual knowledge from them.

Those billions of people died.  They may have died as elderly people.  They may have died as middle-aged people.  They may have died as young people.  And maybe a lot of them –  probably millions – died in the horror of battle.  They may have died as children, even as tiny babies.  How many innocents have there been whose lives were cut off from any meaningful conscious life at all, in abortion?  If our loving and merciful  God is going to bring back aborted babies and give them an opportunity for life and salvation, maybe He will also bring back babies who were miscarried!

The wonderful fact is that all of these are going to be resurrected to human life.  They will be given the opportunity for the first time to learn and accept God’s way of life. 

That's where we come in!  We have to make it!  Because we have a huge job to do!  We will have a part in teaching them!  They are going to learn and accept God’s way of life. As they accept it, they too will be gathered into God’s church as His Spirit-begotten children.  Can you imagine how many baptisms are going to take place?

Then, in God’s good time, they will be gathered and changed from human beings to Spirit beings.  They will be gathered into God’s "barn" – into His fast-growing family of the spirit-born children of God.  

God’s ingathering will then be complete.

But what happens at the end of any successful harvest?  Celebration!

This will call for a time of great celebration.  This completed, successful harvest will be a time for a celebration like there has never been in all of history!. 

God the Father – the Lord of the Harvest, as Jesus calls Him in some of His parables – is going to come down to us.  He will bring the New Heavens and New Earth with Him and He will head up the great celebration.  We can’t get our minds around all that He is going to do. 

Please try to wrap your mind around some of these incredible things.  I know that we can’t do it justice with our limited minds.  I know that I can’t do it justice in mere words.  But please try, if you can, to imagine Jesus' glorified brothers and sisters along with the twenty-four elders, the four living creatures, the cherubim, the seraphim and the millions of angels all gathered around God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ in true celebration and worship.

What a gathering that will be!