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The fourth and fifth signs form the heart of John’s gospel and progressively portray the central features of Christ’s first and second coming. As such, the fourth sign explains the meaning and purpose of Passover and the cross, which was to break the true Bread of life to feed the multitude. The fifth sign explains the meaning and purpose of Tabernacles and what Christ is intending to accomplish in His second work.
One might say too that the purpose of Passover is to lay the foundations for the grand climax at the feast of Tabernacles, where His work in us is completed. Pentecost has been a partial work and a time of learning, as we transition into the fulness of all that God intends for us—and, indeed, for all of creation. Pentecost was meant to begin our instruction as He writes the law in our hearts, preparing us for the final work in Tabernacles.
As we have shown, the fourth and fifth signs are given to us back to back before we see their commentaries. The commentary on the fourth sign is found in the last half of the sixth chapter, and then chapters 7 and 8 form the commentary on the fifth sign.
John 7:1, 2 begins the commentary on the fifth sign,
1 After these things Jesus was walking in Galilee; for He was unwilling to walk in Judea, because the Jews were seeking to kill Him. 2 Now the feast of the Jews, the Feast of Booths, was near.
The “Jews” in this case were the religious leaders, not the ordinary people. Yet the people looked up to their leaders and had faith in their decisions, believing, for the most part, that they were called as God’s agents. Their confidence in the decisions of their leaders did not entirely eliminate the people’s liability.
The latter half of Jesus’ ministry was spent mostly in Galilee. It appears, however, that He always went to Jerusalem for Passover, for it was necessary to perform many signs there to reveal the purpose of that feast. The gospels record only one time when Jesus kept the feast of Tabernacles, and it is found here in John 7. That makes this chapter unique and vital in giving us the revelation of His second coming.
John 7:3-5 says,
3 Therefore His brothers said to Him, “Leave here and go into Judea, that Your disciples also may behold Your works which You are doing. 4 For no one does anything in secret when he himself seeks to be known publicly. If you do these things, show Yourself to the world.” 5 For not even His brothers were believing in Him.
Jesus’ brothers included James and Jude, who were not yet classed as Jesus’ disciples. Later, when they were converted, both authored epistles that were included in the New Testament. However, at this point in their lives, they did not believe in Him properly, even though they obviously knew of His ability to perform miracles.
John’s record does not say specifically which disciples thought that Jesus ought to do what was necessary to gain publicity. He seems to be saying that the 12 did not really believe in Him at that point, nor even did His own brothers. No doubt they all would have professed faith in Christ at the time, because they had all decided to follow Jesus. But their faith was yet insufficient and immature to be overcomers.
It is also noteworthy that nothing is said of Jesus’ disciples in this chapter. They seem to fade into the background. If we go by the strict wording, it says that Jesus sent His brothers to Jerusalem. We do not know for sure if the disciples accompanied them to Jerusalem or if they went later with Jesus, or if they stayed behind.
John 7:6-9 gives Jesus’ response,
6 So Jesus said to them, “My time is not yet here, but your time is always opportune. 7 The world cannot hate you, but it hates Me because I testify of it, that its deeds are evil. 8 Go up to the feast yourselves; I do not go up to this feast because My time has not yet fully come.” 9 Having said these things to them, He stayed in Galilee.
Jesus sent His brothers to Jerusalem to attend the feast, while He Himself remained in Galilee. Take note how this was done according to the same pattern seen in the fifth sign, where Jesus sent His disciples ahead of Him toward Bethsaida (or Capernaum). The events in John 7 directly parallel the sign in John 6 and explain the prophetic meaning of that sign.
John 7:10 says,
10 But when His brothers had gone up to the feast, then He Himself also went up, not publicly, but as if, in secret.
This “secret” arrival is similar to His arrival in the middle of the lake when He walked on the water. Recall that the next morning the people looked for Him but could not find Him. It was only later that they discovered that He had walked on the water at the fourth watch of the night.
Thus, in each case He came “in secret.” Certainly, this must prophesy something about His second coming. His brothers probably arrived a day or two before the feast in order to prepare their booths in the hillside near Jerusalem or upon someone’s housetop. The precise timing of Jesus’ arrival is kept “secret” in order that men would not understand too soon the timing of His second coming.
Perhaps He came on the first day of Tabernacles, because this is the prophesied time of the birth of the living overcomers as sons of God. Likewise, as we will see shortly, the law itself suggests this. Nonetheless, Jesus remained hidden until the middle of the feast, as we will see shortly, in order to prophesy other details of His coming.
John 7:11-13 says,
11 So the Jews were seeking Him at the feast and were saying, “Where is He?” 12 There was much grumbling among the crowds concerning Him; some were saying, “He is a good man”; others were saying, “No, on the contrary, He leads the crowds astray.” 13 Yet no one was speaking openly of Him for fear of the Jews.
The Jews—that is, their religious leaders—were watching for Him, hoping to find cause to arrest Him and execute Him. The crowds too were expecting to see Him, and perhaps many had come to the feast, hoping to see Him perform some miracles. Their opinions of Him were mixed, but they discussed these things privately “for fear of the Jews,” that is, the religious leaders.
John 7:14 says,
14 But when it was now the midst of the feast, Jesus went up into the temple and began to teach.
John does not say that Jesus arrived in Jerusalem in the middle of the feast. Instead, he tells us that this was the point where Jesus presented Himself openly by going to the temple courtyard and teaching there.
What day is the middle of the feast? If we view the feast as being seven days in length, then it would be the fourth day of the feast. However, the parallelism in John’s gospel presents eight miraculous signs, representing eight days of Tabernacles. They are naturally separated into 7 + 1.
Because Jesus came to His disciples in the middle of the Sea of Galilee in the fifth sign, we can assume that Jesus presented Himself in the temple on the fifth day of Tabernacles as well.
His arrival at the temple fulfilled the prophecy in Mal. 3:1,
1 “Behold, I am going to send My messenger [i.e., John the Baptist], and he will clear the way before Me [i.e., God, through His Agent, the Messiah]. And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple; and the messenger of the covenant [the Messiah], in whom you delight, behold, He is coming,” says the Lord of hosts.
John the Baptist prepared the way for the Messiah (Mark 1:2), specifically so that the Messiah might “come to His temple” at the feast of Tabernacles in John 7. Malachi did not know the precise timing of His arrival at the temple, for this was part of the “secret” to be revealed later when Jesus actually arrived “suddenly,” i.e., unexpectedly.
Although this fulfilled Malachi’s prophecy on one level, the fact that this occurred in the middle of the feast of Tabernacles indicates that there was yet another greater fulfillment when that feast would be fulfilled on a historic level. There is yet a day coming—the fifth day of some future feast of Tabernacles—when Christ will “come” to the temple of His completed body.
Before He can come on that level, the sons of God must first be brought to birth on the first day of the feast. Only then can the Head be joined to the body as one, and only then will the body be fully transformed and upgraded in righteousness in preparation for the Head.
The prophetic order of events, then, is as follows: The dead overcomers from past ages will be raised at the feast of Trumpets on the first day of the seventh month, as that feast prophesies. Two weeks later, the living overcomers will be brought to birth and will be transformed fully into the image of Christ, so that all of the overcomers can truly be unified as one body.
Hence, on the first day of Tabernacles, the body will be nearly complete, lacking only the Head.
Once the full body of overcomers are complete and transformed into the image of Christ, the preparation is complete, and the Head may join the body in the middle of the feast. This complete body, then, will be presented to the Father on the eighth day of the feast, according to the Law of Sonship in Exodus 22:29, 30,
29 You shall not delay the offering from your harvest and your vintage. The first-born of your sons you shall give to Me. 30 You shall do the same with your oxen and with your sheep. It shall be with its mother seven days; on the eighth day you shall give it to Me.
All of the first-born among men and animals were to be presented to God only on the eighth day. The seventh day was too soon; the ninth day was too late. This is the purpose of the eighth day, and it relates directly to the eighth day of Tabernacles, as well as the eighth sign in the sequence of John’s gospel.
Furthermore, the law says, “It shall be with its mother seven days.” The sons of God have a heavenly Father and an earthly mother. In order for this law to be fulfilled in the overcomers at the feast of Tabernacles, the sons of God must remain with their Mother (on the earth) during the seven days of the feast and only on the eighth day will they be presented as the perfected sons of God.
Ephesians 5:26, 27 says,
26 so that He might sanctify her [the church], having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she should be holy and blameless [amomos, “without blemish”].
Jude 24 says,
24 Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless [amomos] with great joy…
Revelation 14:5 says,
5 And no lie was found in their mouth; they are blameless [amomos].