At youth group in 1978, I saw the end-times movie “A Thief in The Night.” Folks got “raptured” with the rest “left behind” to deal with the Antichrist. It definitely made me want to “accept Jesus” (for the 50th time), but it sure didn’t help me to like Jesus . . . at all.

When I was a youth pastor and trying to make a point one night at youth group, I introduced a series on the Revelation in the following way: I just made up a bunch of stuff, talked for about 10 minutes or so, and then unveiled the name of the antichrist who would appear on the world scene in 1991 (It was 1991.)

It turned out that the antichrist — according to my “cleverly devised myth” — was our new summer intern sitting in the back of the room. We dragged him to the front of the room, held him down, and checked for the “mark of the beast.” With an electric razor, I shaved the thick, curly, black chest hair from the left side of his chest, revealing a big black number six. And then, another number six. And then, a number . . . five. I then apologized to our new youth intern and asked the kids, “Was I off by one, or more than one? How do we know the Truth?”

The ruse worked far better than I imagined; actually, it terrified me. These were smart kids. There were about a hundred in the room. They weren’t shy, but up until we started shaving chest hair, they were deathly silent and totally buying everything that I said. So, this is what terrified me: I could’ve utterly exploited them if I had so desired.

2 Peter 1:12, “I intend to remind you of these (faith, love, manifestations of the divine nature), though you know them and are established in the truth that is present (parousi) to you.” Peter uses this same verb to describe the second coming (parousia), first coming, and the presence of the Truth to each one of us right now.

The Truth is hanging on the tree in the middle of the garden. How will you know “the Truth”?
• If you simply take Him as an object to use as you see fit, you crucify “the Life,” there is no truth, and everything dies.
• If you surrender to the Truth who is the Life, you know because you are known by the Good —God alone is good — and everything has meaning and everything lives.

The only way to objective truth is subjective encounter with the Truth; that is, being honest.

2 Peter 1:13-14, “I think it right as long as I am in this body (skenoma, tent, tabernacle) to wake you up… I know the putting off of my body (skenoma) will be soon… so that after my departure (exodus), you may recall these things.” In three more verses, he’ll mention “The Holy Mountain.”

What is Peter picturing? I think Peter is picturing the eighth day of the Feast of skenopogia, in Greek, “Tabernacles.”

Israel was commanded to celebrate three great pilgrim festivals.

The first of these was Passover, commemorating the night the angel of death passed over homes with the blood of the lamb brushed on the doorpost. In this way, the Israelites began their journey to the Promised Land. Passover was also a commemoration of the firstfruits of the barley harvest.

The second of these was Pentecost, commemorating the giving of the law on the 50th day (one week of weeks) after the Passover sacrifice. Pentecost was also a commemoration of the firstfruits of the wheat harvest.

The third of these pilgrim festivals, and last of seven annual feasts, was the Feast of Tabernacles (skene, skenoma, skenopagia). It commemorated camping in tents (tabernacles and booths) on the Israelite’s journey, the exodus, and then crossing over into the Promised Land where the Israelites were instructed to assemble on the “Holy Mountain” — the Holy Mountain where Jerusalem was built, destroyed, and comes down new from heaven; the mountain where Adam was made and remade at a tree in the middle of a garden; the mountain where we will all be transfigured and party without end (Isaiah 25:6-9).

The Feast of Tabernacles is also called the Feast of Ingathering, for it commemorates the end of the Harvest in the seventh month when everything — the “harvest of the earth” — is harvested. This is when the grapes are trampled in the winepress, and the blood of the grapes is transformed into wine.

The Feast ends with an end that has no end, an eighth day assembly: Shemini Atzeret. The eighth day represents an eternal seventh day, the sabbath of God, the End that is also the Beginning. In Jesus’ day, all of Israel would travel to Jerusalem and camp in booths for seven days, but on the eighth day, everyone would joyfully dismantle their tabernacles, enter the city, and assemble at the Lord’s tabernacle, worshiping with great joy and singing, “His steadfast love endures forever.”

“We know,” writes Paul, “that if the tent which is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands eternal in the heavens (2 Corinthians 5:1).”

“For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ will all be made alive. But each in its order: Christ the first fruits (Passover), then at his coming those who belong to Christ (Pentecost). Then comes the end (Tabernacles and the eighth day)…that God may be all in all (1 Corinthians 15:22-28).

In John 7, Jesus says the most shocking things on the eighth day of the Feast. They kill Him on the following Passover. His Spirit descends on Pentecost. And then, the eighth day of Tabernacles starts happening in the Temple — they share everything in one tent with “glad and generous hearts.” And Peter preaches the apokatastasis (restoration of all things), for in the imperishable Seed “shall all the families of the earth be blessed (Acts 3:21-25).”

The prophets, particularly Isaiah and Zechariah, gloriously depict this feast. I think the Revelation ends with this feast and a voice from the throne announcing, “Behold I make all things new.” And yet, to enter the dwelling (skenoma) not made with hands, we must sacrifice the shack (skenoma) that we have made with our hands. Jesus is the flaming sword that cuts it from us at the edge of the city. And Jesus is the Good Will within us that freely chooses to be honest. He is the Truth and the Life welling up from the holy of holies in the Sanctuary of your tabernacle and longing to commune with God and all things in His Tabernacle — the New and Eternal Creation.

2 Peter 1:16, “For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming (parousia) of our Lord… But false teachers also arose among the people… In their greed they will exploit you.”

What was I offering the kids at youth group when I so easily could’ve exploited them? Answer: Objective knowledge of good and evil that they could use to save themselves from the End (Jesus is the End.) I was appealing to their desire to build their own tabernacle out of fig leaves and fear.

And who is the antichrist, the imitation Christ? Answer: If you try to save yourself with yourself, you are; you’re trying to take the throne in the temple of God that is you. False teachers will appeal to your desire to save yourself, while Jesus whispers, “Come sacrifice yourself with me.” False prophets will appeal to the ego, the tabernacle that you have built, while prophets will testify to the One in whom all things hold together. The Antichrist will make you fear the Judgment . . . The Judgment is Eternal Life, and you already know him.

I once prayed with a young girl trapped in despair, for a demon had told her that she would be “left behind.” In prayer I told her, “You know Jesus; look for Jesus.” She had a vision of herself sitting on his lap in a swing, and so there she asked him, “Will I be left behind?” He looked her in the eye and said, “I would rather be left behind than leave one little girl behind.”

He will come like a thief in the night, but He can’t steal anything, for it all belongs to Him. Like a thief in the night, I once came home late from a trip and accidentally woke my bride. I then heard the sound of sheer terror: “Oh my God… who’s there?” I called to my wife. She knew my voice. Then we slept in one tent as one body. It was a wonderful night.

Good News: He will come like a thief in the night, but He’s not a thief in the night; He’s your husband and you already know his voice.

How do we know the Truth? He’s already with you in the Sanctuary of your soul. To know Him because He knows you is to surrender to the Truth in you; it is to be honest. And then, the Truth is the Way to the Life — Eternal Life in One Very Big Tent.

Subscribe to the Podcast

All Sermons