The Feast of Trumpets – Nehemiah 8:1-3

This will be a relatively short but somewhat convoluted message this evening. I approach it with some trepidation, because I’m venturing into territory in which I have never felt particularly comfortable. But I’m hoping that it will be a blessing to you.

Prior to the Babylonian captivity, Israel had seven Biblically-proscribed feasts or festivals. In the Spring there were the Feast of Passover, the Feast of Unleavened Bread and Firstfruits. Fifty days after the Passover came the Feast of Pentecost, which celebrated the giving of the law. Then in the fall there were the Feast of Trumpets, the Day of Atonement and the Feast of Tabernacles. Nehemiah 8 begins on the first day of Tishri, the seventh month on the Hebrew calendar. That was beginning of the Feast of Trumpets, and it happens to be just about this time of year. It’s coming up on September 18th.

Three of the above-mentioned feasts were supposed to be held each year in Jerusalem, and all the adult males were required to be in attendance at the Temple. Those three “Pilgrimage Festivals” were Passover, Pentecost and Tabernacles – conveniently spaced throughout the year. Over time, more than a dozen other feasts and festivals were added to the calendar. For example, the Feast of Purim, or “Lights,” became one of the more recognized. Purim coincides with the feast of Esther – celebrating the Jews escape from the genocide designed by Haman.

For the other three feasts, please turn to Leviticus 23 and let’s read from verse 23 down to 35. These are the autumn festivals, which includes one of the most important events of the year – the Day of Atonement, or “Yom Kippur.” Admittedly the festival on the first day of the seventh month, the Feast of Trumpets, is not very prominent. I have nearly a dozen books dealing with the temple, the tabernacle, the priesthood and Israelite society, but none of them give me much information on the Feast of Trumpets as it was originally celebrated. There is a tiny bit of information given to us in Number 29:1-6, but it doesn’t say anything about trumpets. And then before Nehemiah, the last reference to the first day Tishri is found in Ezra 3:1-7. If you really want to learn all about the Feast of Trumpets – it’s to the internet you must turn. It is an exceedingly big day in the ethernet.

Types and pictures.

Here is where I need you to bear with me. I’m here to talk with you about types and pictures. When it comes to types, when the scripture isn’t abundantly clear, we can end up with a lot of speculation and subjective thinking. Nevertheless – consider this and see if you don’t agree with me. The Spring feasts – Passover, Unleavened Bread, Firstfruits and Pentecost, are all linked to the death of our Lord Jesus. Christ is our Passover – the Lamb of God, whose shed blood was sprinkled on the posts and lintels of the Hebrew doorway. Jesus died as the Passover Lamb – on the Passover – there can be no doubt about this. In I Corinthians 5:7 – Paul declares, “For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us.” The Passover is inextricably linked to the death of Christ for our sins. And then on the Jewish calendar – following the Passover was the feast of Unleavened Bread. What did the Lord Jesus use to represent His body when he commemorated His upcoming death? The feast of Unleavened Bread speaks of the crucifixion.

Then came the feast of Firstfruits. Following the death and burial of the Lord Jesus was His resurrection. What special word does Paul use in I Corinthians 15 when speaking of Jesus’ resurrection? I Corinthians 15:19 – “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the FIRSTFRUITS of them that slept. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection from the dead.”

Changing directions just a little, what is Paul’s definition of the gospel? From that same chapter, I Corinthians 15, we read – “Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures.” Israel’s firstfruits celebration is easily a picture of the resurrection of Christ. In the first three Jewish feasts we have a picture of the gospel.

Then forty days after the crucifixion and after Christ’s resurrection, He ascended into Heaven. And what important event shortly followed the ascension? Pentecost. Jesus told the disciples, just before His ascension, to wait in Jerusalem. Wait for what? John 16:7 – “Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you.” Christ went away, ascending into Heaven, and then the Comforter – the Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the Trinity, took the Second Person’s place, and He began to bless the people of God and the Church of Christ. Acts 1:8 – “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.”

If I am not mistaken the spring-time festivals of Israel illustrate and prophesy the death, burial, resurrection and ascension of Christ. If we make that application, why can’t we assume the other original festivals speak of Christ as well? If we do make that assumption, what might they signify?

The Typology of Israel’s Autumn feasts.

Today the Feast of Trumpets is today known as “Rosh HaShana,” which translates as “the head of the year.” In Exodus 12 where God tells Moses to prepare for the Passover, He says in verse 2 – “This month shall be unto you the beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year to you.” In other words, before that time, Israel had been using a different calendar. To really confuse us Gentiles, the Jews have two calendars – a secular calendar and a religious calendar. And this day in Neh. 8 is the Feast of Trumpets – the beginning of the new year – the secular New Year. Their calendar begins with the first day of Tishri, making that day “Rosh HaShana,” or “the head of the year.” If you are interested in further study you can check out Exodus 23:16 and 34:22. Now, I need you to keep these calendars in mind as we take a couple steps forward.

“Rosh HaShana,” begins a period called the “Days of Awe” when the people of Israel are supposed to seriously contemplate their position before God. Then on the tenth day comes what is considered to be the holiest day of either calendar – the Day of Atonement or “Yom Kippur.” Yom Kippur is to be spent in consideration of a person’s sinfulness and his need of salvation – that is – his need of atonement. It is supposed to be a day of repentance and humble prayer.

Then 5 days later, during the Feast of Tabernacles, all Israelite males were supposed to gather in Jerusalem. They were to live like street people – in booths made out of whatever they could find. The Feast of Tabernacles was supposed to remind Israel what life was like during the 40 years of wandering in the wilderness. During those 40 years, when they had no home – they lived under the punishment of God – and an entire generation of people died. And then Israel entered the Promised Land.

Now go back to the thing which made the Feast of Trumpets different from the rest – trumpets. Israel used two kinds of trumpets – those which were made from rams’ horns were called “shofars,” and others made of silver. In those days, trumpets were not used in dance bands, jazz bands or marching bands. They had special purposes and generally were not blown by anyone but priests or military leaders. And there were different sounds for different purposes: When Israel was traveling toward the Promised Land, the trumpets told them to pack up and move. There was a different sound when Moses needed to call an assembly of the elders. Later, trumpets were used to warn of danger, urge to battle and to declare a victory. There were trumpet sounds for proclaiming a king and others for proclaiming the worship of the Lord. And of course, on the Feast of Trumpets there was a lot of joyful trumpet noise.

In addition to these Old Testament uses, am I permitted to apply some New Testament scriptures? What if we incorporate yet another part of I Corinthians 15 into this context? Verse 51 – “Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last TRUMP: for the TRUMPET shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.”

What if we include I Thessalonian 4 into this day? Verse 13 – “But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the TRUMP of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which 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. Wherefore comfort one another with these words.”

I admit that I could be totally out of place bringing these scriptures into the context of the Feast of Trumpets. Corinthians and Thessalonians don’t directly apply directly to Israel as a nation. But what about Revelation 8 and 9 where seven trumpets blow and disasters befall the inhabitants of earth during the Tribulation? They could definitely have Israelite implications.

Let me try to paint you a picture. What if we look at the Feast of Tabernacles as a type or prophecy of the translation of the saints? I believe the scriptures teach that the saints will be taken out of the world just prior to the seven years of Tribulation. If you don’t like that application then you can apply the trumpets of Revelation during the Tribulation to the Old Testament feast. Now remember that Tishri was the first month of the year – a new beginning. And what was Yom Kippur supposed to be to Israel? It was a day of soul-searching repentance and ultimately the application of God’s salvation. I believe that following the translation of God’s saints, the Tribulation will begin. The primary purpose of that tribulation is to bring Israel to its knees; to bring that nation to repentance.

Ten days after the Yom Kippur follows the third festival of the season – Tabernacles. For at least 3½ years during the Great Tribulation, the people of Israel will be running for their lives – running from human enemies and from the face of God. Jeremiah 30:7 – “Alas! for that day is great, so that none is like it: it is even the time of Jacob’s (or Israel’s) trouble; but he shall be saved out of it.” Israel shall be saved out of that day, when she as a nation falls on her face before her God the Messiah, whom she has rejected for 2,000 years.

Isn’t it true that the events of the Tribulation begin a new chapter in the history of Israel? What if we looked at the Feast of Trumpets as the beginning of a new era for Israel? During that metaphorical year, the nation be forced to live in tabernacles, caves, and dens of the rocks to hide from the wrath of God and from the hatred of God’s enemies. But at the conclusion of that Tribulation period she will be saved – when she sees her Messiah descending from His throne, fulfilling all his promises to David and Abraham.

Israel’s spring festivals speak of the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. But the fall festivals may speak of His return to bring His salvation to a wicked and gainsaying people. I am certainly not going to say that Nehemiah and Ezra foresaw the Tribulation and the commencement of the Millennium. But we have to admit that many of the Old Testament prophets were not given the opportunity to understand their own prophecies.

Modern day prophets are another matter. So many of them are experts– far beyond the scriptures themselves. Believe me, I am not joining them…. But there are quite a few – in their churches and on the internet – who are saying that on September 18, 2020 – on “Rosh HaShana,” with the “Feast of Trumpets” the Lord is going to come for His saints and order the beginning of the Tribulation. Some internet preachers are saying that the “rapture will take place on September 18 – twenty days from today.”

I don’t believe that the Lord needs to wait 20 more days before He comes for us. He could come tonight. So I will tell you this, God’s people need to be ready. They need to keep their spiritual bags packed and not be surprised when the Lord’s taxi arrives at the front door. Don’t listen for the sound of a car horn – listen for the Lord’s trump. “For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which 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.” As far as I am concerned – those are comforting words. “Even so, come Lord Jesus.” Keep listening for the trumpet, it could blow at any time.