In ancient Israel the nation was instructed to gather on the first day of the Hebrew calendar’s seventh month to celebrate a festival that was memorialized by blowing trumpets. (This calendar was based on lunar cycles, and the first day of the month was determined by watching for the first sliver of light on the moon after a new moon.)
Israelites at the time were not told what the day represented, but there seems to be a move to tie it to the return of Jesus Christ, the Messiah among some Evangelical churches and Messianic Jewish congregations at this time.
Most of the reasons these groups do so are easily found on the internet, so we won’t bore you with all the details. The main reason it makes sense to review ancient Israel’s autumn feasts is that every one of the spring feasts came to pass in the ministry of Jesus Christ on the exact day it was to be observed. Jesus died on Passover. He was resurrected and accepted by His Father during the “Wave Sheaf” ceremony that occurred at dawn on the Sunday during Passover week. He sent the Holy Spirit on Pentecost (the “Feast of Weeks”). Why should the rest of the festivals not have a fulfilment by Jesus Christ?
As writers Kevin Howard and Marvin Rosenthal say in their book, The Feasts of the Lord, “The interval of time between the last of the spring feasts (Pentecost) and the first of the fall feasts (Trumpets) corresponds to this present age. Put another way, we are presently living between Israel’s fourth and fifth feasts. The outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost commenced the Church Age; and Trumpets, which will signal Messiah’s second coming to rapture the Church and judge the wicked will end the Church Age” (p. 25-26).
There were, however, four basic “religious” things that were done with trumpets in ancient Israel. Trumpets were used:
1) to gather Israelites together for solemn assemblies, such as festival times (Num. 10:2).
2) to direct the movement of Israelites in the wilderness (Num. 10:2)
3) to gather Israelites together for war or signal battle formations (Num. 10:9).
4) to accompany sacrifices offered to Yahweh (Num. 10:10)
5) to accompany the coronation of a new king (1 Kings 1:34, 39).
At previous Feasts of Trumpets we have discussed many of the above meanings. We have spoken, for instance, of the great assembly at Jesus’ return, the Wedding of the Lamb to His bride, the church. We have discussed the resurrection of the faithful at Jesus’ return as a great holy convocation to meet the Lord in the air. We have spoken of the need to follow the lead of the Spirit as Israelites followed the directions of the trumpets. We have also discussed the image of Jesus the conquering king entering his conquered territory accompanied by trumpets and a procession of captured nobility (His people).
Many of the groups who believe that the autumn festivals have a future fulfilment draw a prophetic map that has Jesus returning at the Feast of Trumpets (Rev. 19:11-21), Satan bound for a thousand years at the Day of Atonement (Rev. 20:1-3), followed by the first 7 days of the Feast of Tabernacles picturing 1000 years of the peaceful reign of Jesus Christ (Rev. 20:4-6), followed then by the last (eighth) day picturing the Judgment Day before the great white throne of Rev. 20:11-15.
For many years I accepted this view. A number of details began to bother me, however. The first is that when the Temple stood in Jerusalem, there was a goat set loose at the end of the ritual on the Day of Atonement. This goat carried Israel’s sins away, and was never to be seen again. The above scenario would work, except that it skips over Rev. 20:7-10 – the return of Satan and humanity’s final rebellion. The question for me about the scenario was, “If Satan is the “scapegoat,” why does the goat come back?” If Satan is that goat, he should never come back. Ever.
Another question that began to nag at me was why the Millennium should get 7 full days of recognition, but the following “new heavens and new earth” of Rev. 21 & 22 get, at most, part of the Last Great Day. In other words, why does eternity (which gets two entire chapters in Revelation) get part of a day, when the Millennium (which gets part of one sentence in Revelation 20:4) get a whole week? Something was wrong with that picture.
What if we reorganized our understanding of the fall festival season with a thought-experiment. What if the Feast of Trumpets represented the return of Jesus and His rule with His saints for 1000 years? A sabbath of rest for a world broken by human sin and corruption. A breathing space until all things are finally made new.
What if the Day of Atonement was about the Final Judgment before the white thrones, beginning with the judgment and final disposition of Satan in the Lake of Fire forever. The goat is now never seen again. What if the Day of Atonement symbolizes the final righting of all wrongs and the final separation of all evil from the world Jesus Christ has come to rule, preparing it for the final stage: a new heavens and a new earth.
What if the seven days of the Feast of Tabernacles represented an entirely new beginning of humankind on a new earth, under a new heavens. A clean break from the old world, something like the Flood only much more thorough in its break with a sinful world. Wayne rightly points out that the “living waters” ceremony took place during the Feast of Tabernacles proper, not the Feast of Trumpets. Compare that with the context of the river of life in Rev. 22:1-3, which occurs after the creation of the new heavens and earth.
The eighth day could then be seen as the extension of peace, abundance and joy into eternity. Think of it as an overflow beyond creation time and space.
However, it all still begins with the Feast of Trumpets. This time let us see the occasion as symbolic of His royal coronation as King of Kings and Lord of Lords (as in Rev. 11:15-19). Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus, traditionally accompanied with an orchestra that includes a range of brass instruments including trumpets, really captures the majesty of the occasion of the Ultimate Royal Coronation: that of Jesus Christ, the Lord. This should encourage us to lift our own voices as trumpets to announce His lordship in our own lives and over the whole world at His return. His initial reign of 1000 years is itself just the down-payment on an eternity of peace, love and joy that He will bring after His Coronation.
In the meantime, we still wait with anticipation the fullness of our deliverance in Jesus Christ. As we wait for His return, we can still declare, “Jesus is Lord! Long live the King!”