According to Kevin Howard and Marvin Rosenthal, “Ancient Jewish tradition held that the resurrection of the dead would occur on Rosh Hashanah. Reflecting this tradition, Jewish gravestones were often engraved with a shofar [ram’s horn trumpet].”
“Both of these great events – God’s last trump and the resurrection of the righteous – are intricately connected to the Rapture of the Church in the New Testament.” Howard and Rosenthal go on to quote 1 Corinthians 15:51-52 and 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 and Matthew 24:31 to show how Jesus resurrects the saints and raises them along with those saints still living at His return to meet Him in the air.
According to Revelation 20:4-6, this seems to begin a 1000 year rule by Jesus with His resurrected saints. Not much is said about this time, except that it ends when Satan is released and the normal human business of war and oppression begins anew. It is eventually put down by Jesus through fire from heaven.
This suggests that the millennium should be considered as a sort of sabbath during which the world gives up its normal ways and devotes itself to rest from war and greed under Jesus’ tutelage and the co-rule of His saints. It is small wonder, then, that the festival itself is treated as a sabbath-rest.
Strife, war and oppression are not completely eliminated in this picture at the time pointed-to by this festival, but they are put on hold temporarily for a millennial duration. One might consider the millennium as a preview of the better, eternal, “new heavens and new earth” pointed to in Rev. 21 and 22.
As beautiful as this picture is, today’s reader might wonder, “So what?” What possible urgency can there be for me to celebrate future paradise when my life is a mess now?
What does it take to be included in that picture? To be blunt: everything you have and are! Look at the description in Rev. 20:4 and 12:11. Phrases like, “they did not cling to life even in the face of death” and “who had been beheaded for their testimony to Jesus” or “had not worshipped the beast and its image” make this sound like serious business.
As Chaplain Mike of the Internet Monk says, “You can’t try Jesus. You can’t sample salvation. Being a Christ-follower is not a product you can fiddle with for 30 days, or a hobby you can explore. It’s not like tasting food or taking a test drive. It’s not like seeing if you enjoy playing the piano. It’s more like jumping out of the airplane with a chute on your back. It’s more like forking over more money than you ever thought possible and signing that final paper for your new house. It’s more like saying, “I do.”
“I think that’s what Jesus is getting at in today’s Gospel [Luke 14:25-33].
Making a commitment like getting married changes everything. All your relationships, the way you have lived your own life up until now. So does becoming Jesus’ disciple.
Building a house means planning ahead and making sure you’re ready to go through with a long-term, costly commitment. So does becoming Jesus’ disciple.
If you’re the leader of a country, and you’re going to declare war, you’d better make sure you have enough forces and firepower to win, because there is no turning back once you’ve made the call. That’s what it’s like to be Jesus’ disciple. It’s a huge commitment with high risks, certain losses, and no guarantees. And no opportunity to “try before you buy.” [end of quote]
Another similar list of people who enter the “rest” of Jesus appears in Hebrews 11. Along with it the “encouraging” statement in verse 13-14, “All these died in the faith without having received the promises, but from a distance the saw them and greeted them. The confessed that they were strangers and foreigners on the earth, for people who speak in this way make it clear that they are seeking a homeland.” [NRSV]
These are people who are shunned and often even killed because they do not fit in with this world’s ways of doing business. They live a way that is so at odds with the powers-that-be that they are often perceived as a threat to the very foundations of civilization itself. God looks at it differently. “For this reason God is not ashamed to be called their God.” [v. 16]. He admires their total committment to Him and Him alone, and promises to take care of them forever if they remain faithful to Him even when times get tough.
The only proper time to give up a race is once you have crossed the finish line. That’s why Jesus emphasizes “counting the cost” so much if you are going to be His disciple. Once you walk through that door, there is no going back.