Feast of Trumpets in the Old and New Testament

Except from God’s Festivals in Scripture and History: Part 2 – The Fall Festivals by Samuel Bacchiocchi available for download here. For an in-depth study of the Feast of Trumpets by Samuel Bacchiocchi, please read God’s Festivals in Scripture and History: Part 1 – The Spring Festivals by Samuel Bacchiocchi available for download here.

The Feast of Trumpets in the Old Testament

The three Fall Feasts of ancient Israel coincided with the end of the harvest season and were ushered in by the Feast of the Trumpet which fell on the first day of the seventh month. After the return from the Babylonian exile, the name Rosh Hashanah, which means “New Year” (literally, “head of the year”), was attached to the feast. Within the same seventh month, the last two important feasts were observed, namely, the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) on the tenth day and the Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot) from the fifteenth to the twenty first day.

The Feast of Trumpets reflects God’s desire to summon His people to repentance so that He can vindicate them on the day of His judgment. The name of the feast is derived from the blowing of the trumpets (shofar) which was its distinguishing characteristic. The massive blowing of the shofar on the first day of the seventh month was understood by the Jews as the beginning of their trial before the heavenly court where books would be opened and the destiny of each individual would be decided. The trial lasted ten days until the Day of Atonement (Yom kippur) when God would dispose of their sins in a permanent way.

The blowing of the shofar during the Ten Days of Penitence served not only to call upon the Jews to repent but also to reassure them that God would remember and vindicate them on the day of judgment. The ten days preceding the Day of Atonement were not an abstract theological truth, but an existential reality lived out with real trumpet-calls to repentance, trusting in God’s mercy to vindicate them. The Jews developed some interesting customs and ceremonies to help them live out their belief that God would judge them with mercy during the ten days preceding the Day of Atonement.

Summing up, the Feast of Trumpets in Old Testament times was understood and experienced as the inauguration of a judgment process that culminated on the Day of Atonement with the final disposition of all the sins committed during the previous year. This understanding and experience of the Feast of Trumpets helps us appreciate the antitypical fulfillment of the feast in the New Testament.

The Feast of Trumpets in the New Testament

In the New Testament, the Feast of Trumpets is not explicitly mentioned. The themes of the feast, however, are frequently found in the book of Revelation. The same holds true for the Fall Feasts of Atonement and Tabernacles, both of which are clearly alluded to in Revelation. The reason the imagery of the Fall Feasts is present especially in Revelation is to be found in the fact that these feasts typify the consummation of redemption which is the focus of the book. Furthermore, since the entire book of Revelation has a comprehensive sanctuary setting with a rich sanctuary festival typology, one would expect to find in it more allusions to the feasts than in other books of the New Testament.

The themes of the Feast of Trumpets are evident in the seven trumpets of Revelation which serve to announce God’s final judgment like the blowing of the shofar during the feast in Old Testament times. Our study suggests that the blowing of the seven trumpets in Revelation corresponds to the blowing of trumpets at the seven New Moon festivals in the Old Testament. Each new moon trumpet blowing was understood as a day of judgment in miniature, which warned people to prepare for the final judgment ushered in by the Feast of Trumpets. Correspondingly, the blowing of the first six trumpets in Revelation warns people to prepare for the final judgment inaugurated by the blowing of the seventh trumpet.

Support for this interpretation is provided by the warning function of the first six trumpets (Rev 9:20-21) and by the explicit announcement of the final judgment at the blowing of the seventh trumpet (Rev 11:18). The seventh trumpet is unique because it announces the judgment that transpires in heaven: “The nations raged, but thy wrath came, and the time for the dead to be judged, for rewarding thy servants, the prophets and saints, and those who fear thy name, both small and great, and for destroying the destroyers of the earth” (Rev 11:15, 18).

It is noteworthy that the announcement of the judgment is followed by the opening of the most Holy Place of the heavenly temple where the ark of the covenant is seen (Rev 11:19). This is a clear allusion to the Day of Atonement which finds its antitypical fulfillment in the coming of Christ as indicated by the manifestation of the cosmic signs of the End. “There were flashes of lightning, voices, peals of thunder, an earthquake, and heavy hail” (Rev 11:19; cf. Rev 16:18; 6:12-14). The association of the cosmic signs of the End with the ritual of the Day of Atonement, suggests that Christ’s coming represents the antitypical fulfillment of the disposition of sin typified by the Day of Atonement.

The thematic development of the seven trumpets reveals a movement from the warning judgment messages on this earth in conjunction with the blowing of the first six trumpets, to the announcement of God’s enthronement and the inauguration of His heavenly judgment at the blowing of the seventh trumpet. The same movement can be seen in the blowing of the trumpets during the seven new moons of the Hebrew religious calendar. During the new moons of the first six months, the trumpets were blown to warn the people about the forthcoming judgment, but on the new moon of the seventh month the trumpets were blown to announce the inauguration of the heavenly judgment. These thematic similarities suggest that the seven trumpets represent the antitypical fulfillment of the Feast of Trumpets.

The Feast of Trumpets in the Old and New Testaments reveals that God is not in the business to punish but to save. He uses attention-catching methods to warn and lead His people to repentance before executing His judgments. In the Old Testament, God summoned His people by means of the annual trumpets blasting to repent and amend their lives in view of the judgment going on in heaven. In the New Testament, God sounds the same clarion call to mankind by the flying angel of Revelation who proclaims with a loud voice, “Fear God and give him glory, for the hour of his judgment has come” (Rev 14:7).

Christians today, like God’s people in ancient times, need to hear the annual trumpet-call of the Feast of Trumpets to stand trial before God and seek for His cleansing grace. After all, Christians, too, need to be reminded periodically that “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive good or evil, according to what he has done in the body” (2 Cor 5:10). The Feast of Trumpets provides a much needed annual wake up call to prepare oneself to stand before God’s judgment by repenting and forsaking sinful ways.

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