God’s Prophetical Time-Line As Seen Through The Lens of the 7 Jewish Feasts of Leviticus 23
Many of my friends ask, “Why do you as a Gentile pastor celebrate/teach the 7 Jewish Feasts?” My standard answer to them is found in Romans 15:4, “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.”
What were the Scriptures Paul had? The Tenach (aka Old Testament, but used throughout this paper). What was the past that was taught so that we might have encouragement, endurance and hope? The information contained within the Tenach. Thus, I teach about the 7 Jewish Feasts at New Hope because the more we understand the Jewish background of our faith, the more we will under-stand our faith and how to be healthy believers.
With that in mind, I’d like to talk about the upcoming 5th Feast called “The Feast of Trumpets” or what is commonly referred to today as “Rosh Hashanah” (the head of the year). Whereas Passover is the beginning of the religious New Year, Rosh Hashanah is celebrated as the beginning of the civil new year. There is also another name given to this 5th Feast – the Day of Remembering (Yom ha-Zikkaron). It is the celebration of the creation of the world, when “G-d saw all that He had made, and it was very good” (Genesis 1:31). It is a time of spiritual renewal through prayer and deep personal reflection leading up to Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, on the 10th day of Tishri (Leviticus 23:26-28). Rosh Hashanah is when the Jewish people recognize G-d as King and Judge over all living things. On this particular day the shofar is blown and bread and honey are handed out, symbolizing fullness and completion, when dipped in honey it symbolizes our prayer for a sweet new year.
This is all wonderful and helpful for our spiritual journey, but I want to do what Paul said, study the Tenach and see what it teaches about this 5th Feast. Where is this Feast talked about in the Scriptures and what hope and encouragement does it bring us?
Before we begin our study, however, we must understand that the words the Holy Spirit chose to have written are very important. When certain words are present, we must take note. When they are not we must also take note. The Spirit knew what He was saying when He had these words penned. Now, when people add or take away from these words, we can lose the meaning of the passage at worst, or obscure what the Spirit wants us to know at best.
It is my belief that this is what is happening to the 5th of the 7 Jewish Festivals listed by Moshe in Leviticus 23:23-25 and Numbers 29:1-6. I believe that though the practices listed previously are very useful to our journey in Yeshua, it is also my belief that they can get in the way of what the L-rd wants us to know so we can be encouraged and given hope.
Let’s make a few observations about our passages. First thing I want to draw to your attention is that Moshe does not specifically give a name to the 5th Feast in either Leviticus 23 or Numbers 29. Where do you find that it is the New Year? Where are the bread and the honey? Where is the Day of Remembering found? They are all traditions. Tradition is okay, but we must always take it back to Scripture, especially as believers.
When you study all 7 Feasts, you will note that only 5 of the 7 are given names by G-d. Feasts 1 and 2 are named Pesach/Passover and Unleavened Bread (Lev. 23:4-8; Ex. 23:15). Feast 4 is called Shavuot/Weeks or Harvest (Ex. 23:16). Feast 6 is called the Day of Atonement or Yom Kippur (Lev.23:26) and Feast 7 is called Sukkot/Tabernacles or Ingathering (Lev. 23:34: Ex. 23:16). Only Feasts 3 and 5 are not specifically given names. Why is that? Is the Spirit trying to get our attention?
Next, the Spirit does something even more noticeable to get our attention. Of all the Feasts only one is not given a specific reason for doing it – Feast 5. Moshe ties Feasts 1 and 2, Pesach and Unleavened Bread, to the Israelites flight from Egypt (Exodus 12). He lists Feast 3 as a time to remember when the Israelites left Egypt and entered the land where they would reap a harvest (Lev. 23:10). He then goes on to state that Feast 4, Shavuot, is about celebrating a harvest (Ex. 23:16; Lev. 23:22). Then Moshe explains Feast 6, Yom Kippur, as the national redemption of Israel (Lev. 16; 23:28). Lastly, he explains that the meaning of Feast 7, Sukkot, as a celebration of a harvest (Lev. 23:39; Deut. 16:13-15) and when the nation of Israel lived in tents during their wanderings in the desert (Lev. 23:42).
Yet the Spirit records no meaning for Feast 5. It appears as if the Spirit of G-d is drawing attention to two Feasts, 3 and 5 for special attention. They are not given names. He further seems to be pointing out Feast 5 for further scrutiny as it has no stated purpose. Why is that so? What could the Spirit be saying to us today from the Tenach?
Let us dive into the passages and see what that might mean. I find it interesting that Leviticus 23:24 states that it was a day to hold an assembly “commemorating” with trumpet blasts. The word for “commemorating” (Nwrkz zikrown which comes from rkz zakar) means to remember, to call to mind, or to recall. This is why it is called the Day of Remembering; yet keep in mind two things. One, the Spirit does not give it this name. And two, nowhere in this passage or anywhere else in Scripture for that matter, does it say what they were to remember. All 6 of the other Feasts were tied to something that was known, but not this one. Hmm. Hold onto this fact as there is more to be learned from the passage.
Because the passage states this day was to be remembered with “trumpet blasts” it was given the name The Feast of Trumpets. Again keep in mind that the passage itself does not give this day this name. Tradition does. But is “trumpet” actually meant here?
The Hebrew word used in Leviticus 23 and Numbers 29 is hewrt teruah. There are three other Hebrew words often translated trumpet – hruux chatsots (Hos. 5:8); rpwv shofar (Ex. 19:16) lbwy yowbel (Ex. 19:13 – a ram’s horn), all of which are not used in this passage. Thus the practice of blowing the shofar, though good, is not found in this passage. They were to teruah on this day. Teruah comes from the word “rua”, which means to shout, to sound the battle cry. Though some commentaries state that it has the meaning of blast as well, which can be done on an instrument, I find the following interesting.
In Joshua 6:16, the word shofar and rua are mentioned in the context of the Jericho walls coming down. The writer of Joshua states, “And it came to pass at the seventh time, when the priests blew with the trumpets (rpwv shofar), Joshua said unto the people, Shout (ewr rua); for the L-RD hath given you the city” (KJV). According to Joshua 6:4, only the priests carried the trumpets or shofars. What did the rest of the people use? Nothing but their mouths! They shouted or rua or teruah. If the Spirit uses different words, He must have a reason. I believe He is telling us that there is a difference between the two words.
Both words are also used in Leviticus 25:9, “the trumpet (shofar) of jubilee (teruah)”. The NIV translates these words as “trumpet (shofar) sounded (teruah)”. Why be repetitive? Trumpet trumpet? In Numbers 23:21 teruah is translated by the NIV and KJV as “the shout of the king.” The king is here, so shout!
2 Samuel 6:15 also uses both words when the people shouted (teruah) and blew the trumpets (shofar) in celebration of when the Ark came into the city of Jerusalem. Job 33:26 reveals that seeing G-d’s face causes one to shout for joy. Psalm 33:3 says to sing a new song to the L-RD and shout for joy! The Psalmist states (47:5) that when G-d ascended (can it mean that He came to the earth as well?) amid shouts (teruah) of joy and the sounding of trumpets (shofar).
What I believe the Tenach is teaching us about the 5th Feast is that a whole lot of shouting is going on, not necessarily trumpets blowing. What difference does it make? What can we learn from this?
I believe Feast 5 is talking about when the King comes to take His bride, the Messianic Community (aka the Church or the “called out ones”), home. Paul calls this Messianic Community a mystery in Ephesians 5:32. In Scripture, a mystery is something that was hidden in the Tenach, but is brought to light in the New Testament. Paul calls the fact that Christ would live inside the believer a mystery, something kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now revealed. In other words, I believe the Tenach is the New Testament concealed and the New Testament is the Tenach revealed. They need each other to form a complete message. They are Acts I and II of a two-part play.
Based upon that we have Feast 5 described in the Tenach as having neither name nor purpose (a mystery to be solved); yet it must be remembered, though no reason is given for what is to be remembered. We have Feast 5 that was to be a day that a burnt, sin and grain offering were made and a great shout was made. Could this Feast have something to do with the Church, which would later be explained? I believe it does as there is a passage where both shouts are made and trumpets are blown – 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18.
Paul states that the L-rd will come from heaven with a “loud command” (NIV) or as the KJV translates it, “shout.” He will also come with the “trumpet call of G-d”. What will happen after this shout and trumpet call? The dead in Christ and then those believers left on this planet will be “caught up” or snatched up and taken to meet the L-rd in the air and be with Him forever.
It is no coincidence in my mind that the Tenach Paul spoke about in Romans 15 tells us to make a difference between a shout from a voice and a trumpet sound. Then Paul goes on to use this very same phraseology in 1 Thessalonians.
What I also find interesting is that this shouting and trumpeting mirror another Tenach example – a Jewish wedding. In Yeshua’s day, a groom would negotiate a price for his bride and sign a document – ketubah or betroth. At this point she is his wife, they are married. The groom would then return to his father’s house to prepare a house for them to live in. Only when his father felt he was ready would the groom come to get his bride, usually at night with his best man in a torch-lit procession. The bride knew her husband was coming, but never knew when. She was always to be ready and to anticipate his coming for her. When the groom came, guess how he let everyone know that he was coming – shouts and trumpets blasts!
Yeshua came and negotiated the price for us – His death on the cross and signed the ketubah in blood. The Scriptures state in John 14 that Jesus returned home (heaven) to prepare a mansion, a home, for us. Yeshua also taught in Matthew 24-25 that His Bride was to live as healthy believers (i.e. putting their faith into action) every day in order to be ready for His return to come get her, which could take place any time the Father said for Yeshua to come.
Now 1 Thessalonians 4 tells us that Yeshua’s coming to get His Bride, His Messianic Community/ Church, will be preceded by a shout and trumpet blast of G-d the Father. I believe the same Paul who wrote Romans 15:4 also wrote 1 Thessalonians 4 and is practicing what he preached. He is telling us that in order to understand this thing called the “rapture” or better phrased, “the home going of the Church” we must understand the Jewish foundation of both, which are found in Feast 5 and in a Jewish wedding.
Paul is putting Act I and Act II together for us to understand that Yeshua is behind all the Feasts. Each Feast speaks of a work of the Messiah. Yeshua fulfills each of the Feasts. He is the Pesach Lamb, Feast 1, (John 1:29; 1 Cor. 5:7), the Unleavened Bread of Life, Feast 2, (John 6:35) and the Firstfruits, Feast 3, of those who would rise from the dead (1 Cor. 15:20). Then in Acts 2 Luke points out that Shavuot, Feast 4, is the beginning of the Church/Bride. Could it be that Feasts 4 and 5 deal with the Church, hidden in the Tenach, as to when it would begin and end? The Tenach teaches us when the Church would begin as it foretold when the Messiah would come riding on a donkey and then be “cut off” (Daniel 9:25-26). Could Feast 5 be the home going (aka “rapture” or “snatched/caught up”) of the Bride/Church that is hidden in the Tenach? Could the home goings of both Enoch and Elijah (both were born, lived and skipped physical death by being taking home to heaven) be examples in the Tenach of something the New Testament calls the home going of the Bride? Not that Enoch or Elijah are representatives of the Church in the Tenach. They are simply examples of the New Testament concept of a home going without dying.
Let’s review for a second. The first four Feasts were not only something to be observed, but they were also prophetic in nature and were filled exactly as written. Feast 4, Shavout, is when the Church began. When does it end? I believe the Spirit is revealing that it is at Feast 5 so the L-rd can begin His total focus on Israel again. The period of history known as the Time of Jacob’s Trouble (Jer. 30:7), is not only to get Israel ready for the Day of the L-rd or the Day of Atonement where the nation is saved, but it is also when Israel is given back her role of being His messenger of hope to a dying world (Rev. 7:1-8; 11:1-6).
Of all the Feasts only this one has no name or explanation. It’s almost like G-d is trying to hide something. What is hidden or a mystery in the Tenach? The Church (Eph. 5:32). The going home of the Church, also called the bride of Christ, is taken home by her Husband with a shout. Feast 5 is based upon a one day event with a shout. It takes place on a single day – the 1st day of the 7th month. This is further interesting as the number “7” in Scripture is used for the concept of completion. What is completed on the 1st day? The Church, the moment she fulfills her role, the moment when the “full number of the Gentiles has come in”, she is gone.
This home going of the Bride is both a joyous event and a sorrowful one. Joyous for those who have put their faith in the Messiah and sorrow for those who are left behind. It will be difficult for Gentiles, but especially for the Jewish people as Satan will turn up the heat and G-d’s wrath will be poured out.
The Jewish High Holidays, which starts with Feast 5, is the biggest time of reflection for Jewish people. On Rosh Hashanah the question, “Should G-d give me another year to reach my potential?”, is asked. It is on this day of rest (no work was to be done on Feast 5) that they will notice something terribly wrong on this planet as people will be missing from the globe and from their country! G-d will have their attention, but will they turn to Him? Will they ask their Messiah, King Yeshua, to come back like Hosea 5:15 states, “I will go back to My place (means He had to come in the first place) until they admit their guilt”, which is what Rosh Hashanah begins and culminates in Yom Kippur?
Paul states that the Church was to get the Jewish people’s attention (Romans 11:11). Salvation came to the Gentiles to make them jealous, to make them want what we have – Yeshua. That hasn’t worked on a national level (which Yom Kippur represents – the nation’s salvation – Rom. 11:26); so G-d is going to turn it up a notch – wrath or the time of Jacob’s trouble in order to get them to turn to their Messiah.
It is my belief that that this 5th Feast, called by some the Feast of Trumpets, others Rosh Hashanah is the day the Yeshua will come to take the believers in Him home. This year that day is September 30th.
Some will counter, “But the Bible says you can’t know the day or the hour, so are you not predicting it by saying Feast 5 is the day of His return?” No I am not. First of all, keep in mind that the previous 4 Feasts took place on their days, why not this one? Second, we still don’t know on which Feast of Shouts He will come; thus, we can’t know the exact date or hour of His return.
What I see G-d doing here is exactly as Amos 3:7 states, “Surely the Sovereign L-rd does nothing without revealing His plan to His servants the prophets.” The first 4 Feasts were prophetical in nature.Why not the last 3? With Feast 5 – the Feast of Shouts – G-d is telling us to be ready for Yeshua’s arrival to take us home. He is showing His grace by doing this. The Scriptures record that believers should be found faithfully doing what their Master told them do when He returns. If Yeshua doesn’t return this September, in His grace, G-d is giving us another year to get right with Him and start doing what He has called us to do – reap a harvest!
Can you mess around all year and get your act together just before Shouts? No, as the point of this season is to reflect back on how you have spent the previous year. If you waited until days before the Rapture to get right, you will be like the person in thorny soil – green stalks but no corn! You can’t plant the seed two days or even a month before you need the fruit to be eaten. It has to be in the ground long before. The point is that we are to live each day in light of tomorrow. If Yeshua doesn’t come this September 30th, in His grace G-d is giving us another year to plant seeds of character and the gospel now, so we might reap a harvest.
In Judaism, a time period of a month called Elul precedes Rosh Hashanah. Elul is used to prepare for Yom Kippur where a Jewish person performs a daily cheshbon, a spiritual accounting, in order to evaluate their lives to see how they can improve the next year. The shofar is blown every weekday until the day before Rosh Hashanah to help remind people to deal with their “stuff”.
So this coming month would be a great time to evaluate your life. The shofar is blown as a call for repentance, to return to the path as outlined in the Scripture. It helps us remember who our Creator is and our need to live for Him. It is time to evaluate our lives. Are we ready for Yeshua’s return? How healthy is your faith in Yeshua seen on a daily basis? Are you asking the L-rd to send you into the harvest? (Matthew 9:35-38), so He has a huge Bride? Are you willing to let go of your distractions and fears to see those who are without hope, those who have pasts that are eating them up in the present, come to faith in Yeshua? This September 30th, the Feast of Shouts is coming and so could our L-rd Yeshua Messiah. Are you ready? You could be hearing the shout and trumpets from heaven this September 30th.
Author: Chris Suitt