Global Gathering to Celebrate the Coming Kingdom of God -- the Biblically Prophesied Future of Humanity -- to Take Place in More than 15 Nations Oct. 13-20

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Reflecting a modern Christian focus for the ancient Festival of Tabernacles, about 15,000 members of the United Church of God will celebrate the future Kingdom of God Oct. 13-20. The eight-day Festival, first celebrated thousands of years ago, biblically represents the time when Jesus Christ will rule the world for 1,000 years and beyond, according to Church president Dennis Luker.

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The United Church of God will celebrate the coming Kingdom of God, represented by the ancient Festval of Tabernacles, Oct. 13-20.

As part of the United Church of God's commitment to follow the example of the first-century Church, we keep these days, even though they are essentially nontraditional in today's age

Following a direct and often-neglected biblical teaching, about 15,000 members and families of the United Church of God will observe a modern-day Christian focus for the annual international Festival of Tabernacles October 13 through October 20. According to Church tenets, the eight-day Festival prophetically reflects the establishment of the Kingdom of God and the coming reign of Jesus Christ, and will be observed at more than 40 Festival sites across the world, ranging from India to Estonia. Fourteen of these sites are in the United States and Canada.

Since the United Church of God is a Christian fellowship, some may ask why Church members observe these ancient Festivals that some ascribe to Hebrew or Jewish origins. Dennis Luker, president of the United Church of God and a Christian minister for nearly 50 years, explains: “Chronicling the activities of Jesus Christ's earthly ministry, the biblical book of John points out that when the ‘Feast of Tabernacles was at hand,’ Jesus Himself ‘went up to the feast’ and taught at the Temple in Jerusalem (see John chapter 7, verses 2, 10 and 14), the then-centerpiece of the annual Festival in ancient times.

“This was done in observance of the final of three annual Festival seasons that are outlined in the Bible,” he continued. “We as Christians are commanded in the Bible to follow the example of Christ, and since Jesus kept the Feast of Tabernacles, observing this Festival is one way we achieve this.” (A general summary of the ancient Festivals is found in the book of Leviticus, chapter 23.)

Because of their New Testament meaning for Christians, these three seasons—the Passover and Days of Unleavened Bread, the Festival of Pentecost and the Fall Festival season—were all observed by Jesus and the first-century Church, according to Luker. The latter season is capped by the eight-day Festival of Tabernacles and Last Great Day (also called "the eighth day").

"As part of the United Church of God's commitment to follow the example of the first-century Church, we keep these days, even though they are essentially nontraditional in today's age and not largely observed by other religious organizations," explained Luker.

This same commitment leads members of the United Church of God to observe a seventh-day Sabbath on Saturday as Jesus did.

Luker pointed out that from a biblical perspective, the Festival of Tabernacles pictures the coming time when Jesus will return to earth and directly rule the world for 1,000 years. "As we believe that the Feast of Tabernacles represents a coming time of unprecedented harmony and peace, we conduct this annual eight-day event with a strong family focus," Mr. Luker explained.

Accordingly, members and families take part in daily church services and a whole range of positive family-based activities throughout the Festival.

According to Church doctrine, this eight-day Festival represents the prophesied fulfillment of the coming Kingdom of God, which Jesus taught extensively during His earthly ministry. The annual festivals observed earlier in the year by the Church are believed by members to represent the Christian's redemption from sin through Christ's sacrifice, the commitment of Christians to put sin out of their lives, and the coming of God's Holy Spirit to strongly empower a Christian to live life in harmony with God's law and to prepare for eternal life.

In 2011, United Church of God members and families will travel to multiple dozens of Festival sites around the world to take part in this biblical assembly. Church members traditionally observe the earlier biblical festivals in their local areas. However, proper modern observance of the Festival of Tabernacles requires that members reside in temporary quarters (called "booths" or "tabernacles" in the Bible – Leviticus 23:42).

The Church rents large conference centers or facilities to accommodate daily worship during the Festival, and members typically stay in nearby hotels to fulfill the temporary nature required by the biblical command. "Staying in a temporary dwelling such as a hotel underscores the transitory nature of this present world and illustrates how it will be replaced by the prophesied Kingdom of God," noted Luker.

This year the Festival of Tabernacles season will be observed from October 13 (beginning the evening before at sunset) through October 20, 2011.

"The emphasis placed by Christ on the coming Kingdom of God is intense, and Church members accordingly take the opportunity to observe this Festival very seriously," explained Luker.

Continuing, he said: “They very much look forward to the time of peace and prosperity that is foretold for this coming Kingdom of God, and they take seriously God’s biblical command for each and every Christian to seek first this Kingdom.”

Cities with Festival sites in the United States and the designated Festival meeting facilities are: Bend-Redmond, Oregon (Deschutes County Fair and Expo Center); Branson, Missouri (Baldknobbers Theater); Escondido (North San Diego), California (California Center for the Arts Escondido); Galveston, Texas (Galveston Island Convention Center); Gatlinburg, Tennessee (Gatlinburg Convention Center—Mills Conference Center); Jekyll Island, Georgia (Grand Oaks Hall at the Jekyll Island Convention Campus); Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii (Maui Theatre); Panama City Beach, Florida (Edgewater Beach Resort); Steamboat Springs, Colorado (Steamboat Grand Resort Hotel); Virginia Beach, Virginia (Sander Center for the Performing Arts); and Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin (Crystal Grand Music Theater).

Additional information about the Festival of Tabernacles and other biblical Festivals observed by Jesus and the first century church can be found in the Church’s booklet : God’s Holy Day Plan: The Promise of Hope for All Mankind. It can be downloaded for free from http://www.ucg.org.

About the United Church of God, an international association. Basing its beliefs on the biblical practices of the original 1st Century Church, the United Church of God maintains congregations in more than 40 countries around the world. Following the recorded example of Jesus Christ and the first apostles, the Church observes the seventh day Sabbath and the annual Holy Days as outlined in the Old and New Testaments. The main domestic and international offices of the Church are located in Cincinnati, Ohio. The Church produces the Beyond Today television program and publishes the Good News magazine. For more information about the Church and its activities, please visit http://www.ucg.org.

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