Dr. Thomas McCall, the Senior Theologian of our ministry, has written many articles for the Levitt Letter. He holds a Th.M. in Old Testament studies and a Th.D. in Semitic languages and Old Testament. He has served as Zola’s co-author, mentor, pastor, and friend for nearly 30 years.
This article appeared originally in the September 1998 Levitt Letter.
Jewish people in Israel and throughout the world observe Rosh HaShana. These are two Hebrew words that mean “the head of the months,” or New Year. In the Scriptures, this holy day is called the Feast of Trumpets, the great convocation. This was one of the seven feasts the Lord gave Israel in the 23rd chapter of Leviticus, the third book of Moses.
These are the feasts of the LORD, even holy convocations, which ye shall proclaim in their seasons. (Leviticus 23:4)
In our Western culture, there are no holidays instituted by God. But Israel has at least these seven feasts designed and ordained by the Almighty, and they have been observed annually for some 1,500 years. These seven feasts were actually divided into three festival periods:
For these three festival periods, every Jewish man in Israel under the Mosaic Law was to leave his pursuits, his agriculture, and whatever else he was engaged in, and make the journey to Jerusalem to worship the Lord in His Temple. After each festival period, he would return home, taking up his pursuits again until the time he was to go back to Jerusalem for the next festival period.
As we approach the fall of the year, we are about to start the season of the Tabernacles Festival. It begins with the Feast of Trumpets, sometimes called Rosh HaShanah, or the New Year. On the first day of the seventh month, which occurs sometime in our September–October, trumpets would be blown, and the Feast of Trumpets would occur:
And the Lord spoke unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, In the seventh month, in the first day of the month, shall ye have a sabbath, a memorial of blowing of trumpets, an holy convocation. (Leviticus 23:23)
On the first day of the seventh month, just as for Passover and Pentecost, Israelites would come from their businesses, from their agricultural work, from their various locations, and they would ascend the hills of Jerusalem. There would be a great blowing of the Shofar, the ram’s horn, by the priests on the wall of the Temple, and they would gather in Jerusalem to prepare for the important days ahead. It was a great convocation, a great coming together in Jerusalem. The harvests were over and had been laid aside in the storehouses. The approaching fall and winter were coming; it was a time of celebration in the Holy City.
In modern Judaism the Feast of Trumpets is not called that any more; it is called instead Rosh HaShana, “the head of the months,” but it still has the blowing of the trumpets. This is actually considered the beginning of the year in the Jewish calendar. Jews send New Year’s cards and wish for one another that they should be inscribed in God’s book of life for the next year.
Rosh HaShana, is the beginning of the Days of Awe, the ten days leading up to the Day of Atonement. In Rabbinic theology, it is during these ten days that God weighs every man in the balance — his good deeds versus his evil deeds. Then God determines whether or not the person will be permitted to go through another year.
To the believer in our Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ, the Feast of Trumpets has great prophetic significance. We are told in I Thessalonians 4:16, 17:
The Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first; then we who 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.
This event is known as the Rapture, the catching up. It is the time when the Lord will come for His own, when Jesus will descend through the stratosphere and take those of us who have trusted in Him to be with Himself. It is imminent, it can happen at any moment; it can happen today, it can happen ten years from now. We do not know when it will be, but it could happen at any time. And so, the prophecy of the Feast of Trumpets will be fulfilled in the Rapture of the Church. It has not yet been fulfilled. We are still in the period between Pentecost and Trumpets in God’s prophetic calendar.
The Feast of Trumpets not only has reference to the Rapture of the Church, but also has a prophetic reference to Israel. In Isaiah 27:12 and 13, the Lord promises Israel:
Ye shall be gathered one by one, O ye children of Israel, and it shall come to pass in that day, that the great trumpet shall be blown, and they shall come which were ready to perish in the land of Assyria, and the outcasts in the land of Egypt, and shall worship the Lord in the holy mount at Jerusalem.
There will be a time in the future when the Lord will blow a trumpet for Israel to be regathered back in the land, and so the fulfillment of the Feast of Trumpets will have to do with not only the calling of the Church to its home in glory, but also calling the Jewish people back to their home in the Land of Israel. We are seeing the beginnings of this even now. When the Lord blows the trumpet, the migrations back to Israel will be on an even greater scale than they are now, and will be complete.
The Feast of Trumpets (Rosh HaShana, New Year), then, both looks back to the ancient days of Israel’s past, and looks ahead to our Redeemer’s return. The blowing of the trumpet signifies the Rapture of the Church (composed of believing Jews and Gentiles of this age) to its home in Heaven, and the calling of Israel back to its home in the Promised Land. Let the trumpet blow!