How many of you remember the jingle—“Plop plop, fizz fizz; O what a relief it is?” Do you also remember what product it was meant to sell? That’s right! Alka Seltzer! Just drop two tablets in a glass of water, let it dissolve, drink it down, and your acid indigestion is immediately relieved. That why their mascot is named what he is—Speedy, because of how quickly his two tablets bring relief.
The problem with products like this is they don’t always live up to their claims. I’ll never forget the night I started having chest pains and thought it was indigestion. So I guzzled a glass of Alka Seltzer and popped some Tums and Rolaids. But nothing I tried did anything to help. So Cheryl finally drove in to the Emergency Room to make sure I wasn’t having a heart attack. I wasn’t. Many of you’ve had the same experience and know what I was suffering. Acid reflux syndrome which can be traced to a number of things—hiatal hernia, being overweight, eating fatty or spicy foods late at night! So they gave me some super-duper Malox and sent me home with a prescription, and I haven’t had trouble with it since. But the point is: I was in serious pain and desperate for relief, but nothing I took did anything to help.
You say, “Where are you headed with all of this?” So let me focus the topic if I can. Over the last few weeks we’ve been studying the feasts of Israel, each one a visual aid picturing something we need which only Jesus the Messiah can provide for us. The first week it was the Feast of Passover picturing Jesus as the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world and gives the gift of salvation to everyone who believes in Him. Then it was the Feast of Unleavened Bread picturing the burial of Jesus and our sins with Him in the tomb. Next it was Firstfruits picturing His resurrection and the promise that because He lives, we will live forever too. Finally, last time it was the Feast of Pentecost picturing the Holy Spirit which Jesus has poured out on His church giving us the boldness to proclaim to everyone who will listen: Jesus is Lord!
But this week we come to a new feast and topic, and right away there’s a change in the pattern we’ve seen. The first four feasts pictured what Jesus did for us in the past at His first coming. But the last three are still unfulfilled giving us a glimpse into what Jesus is about to do for us in the future. That’s why there’s also a long summer drought between the spring and fall feasts in Israel. The first four feasts take place in the spring in the space of just 58 days whereas the last three feasts take place the first three weeks in the fall. So the question: Does this long dry spell between the two holiday seasons in Israel have any prophetic significance. The answer is: Absolutely! It’s intended to be a prophetic picture of the huge time gap between the first and second comings of Christ.
During which time what has God been doing? He has temporarily set aside the nation of Israel, because of their refusal to receive His Son as their Savior, and out of His Father’s heart of love, He has spent the last two thousand years preparing a Gentile Bride for His Son made up of a vast multitude from every tribe, tongue and nation who love the Lord Jesus Christ. Of course, part of the church has always been Jewish even during the long centuries when there was no nation of Israel. The first disciples who planted the church and gave us our Bible were Jewish as have been many of the great Christians throughout church history. But the nation of Israel hasn’t accepted Jesus as Messiah yet and as a result, God has had them on the shelf the last two thousand years.
All that is about to change, but not until God gives His church the relief we need. Because in case you haven’t noticed, this world is a broken place full of broken people suffering all kinds of brokenness—broken bodies, broken minds, broken hearts. To make matters worse, Jesus warned that this world is diametrically opposed to those of us who love Him and will do everything in its power to discourage us and disable us from walking uprightly. And yet, God has promised relief for our brokenness both in the form of grace to help in time of need, but also beyond He says there’s a new day coming when He’s going to wipe away every tear from our eyes and give us everlasting relief from all our heartache and pain.
You can see that in 2 Thessalonians 1 where Paul commends us, first of all, for remaining faithful to Christ in spite of our suffering. But then he adds this important promise. He says: “God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels.” Do you see that word “relief” in verse 7? That’s both the key word in this verse and the theme of our study today. The word in the original language is interesting. It’s the word anacin.
Sound familiar? It should because that too is the name of a famous pain reliever, isn’t it? Again the point is life is hard, especially for those who love Christ. But God promises us grace for our troubles now everlasting relief when Jesus comes. When will that be? That’s the question answered in our study. Many people assume that because the feasts are Jewish, they have nothing to do with the church. But that isn’t true. As we’ve seen again and again, the feasts are about Jesus, not Israel, picturing what He has and is about to do for us His people. Today we’re going to see that pictured in the Feast of Trumpets, first by how it’s celebrated in Israel and then in how it’s about to be fulfilled at the Return of Christ. Let’s look, first of all, then at the holiday itself.
1. The Holiday
The holiday is described in Leviticus 23:24-25 where again the Lord speaks to Moses and says: “Speak to the children of Israel, saying: ‘In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall have a sabbath-rest, a memorial of blowing of trumpets, a holy convocation. You shall do no customary work on it; and you shall offer an offering made by fire to the Lord.” This is a feast marked by the blowing of trumpets. In fact, that’s the Hebrew name for it—Yom Teruah, the Day of Blowing. And while there may not be a great deal written about it in the Scriptures, it was and is one of the most important days of the Jewish year.
For one thing, it is the Jewish New Year, Rosh HaShanah, meaning “head of the year,” which falls on the first day of Tishri in early to late September depending on the lunar calendar. It also happens to be the first of the high holy days in Israel known as the Days of Awe and Ten Days of Repentance leading up to and preparing the people for Yom Kippur or Day of Atonement, the holiest day of the Jewish year. It may also interest you to know that according to the rabbis, this is the anniversary of the day that Adam and Eve were created, as well as the day when God opens the Book of Life to examine everyone’s thoughts, words and deeds to see if our good deeds outnumber our bad, and if they do, then our names remain in the Book of Life for another year.
The rabbis are partially right about that. God does have a Book in which the names of all the righteous are written. But we don’t get our names inscribed in it by doing good works, for the Bible says, “By grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of work, lest anyone should boast.” The only way to get your name written in God’s Book, which the Bible calls “the Lamb’s Book of Life,” is by turning from your sins and trusting Jesus for your salvation.
This is a very serious day, then, for the Jewish community. Even Jews who don’t ordinarily attend Sabbath services may make their way to the synagogue on this day to search their souls, repent of their sins, and seek God’s forgiveness. Micah 7:18 is one of the passages they recite together: “Who is a God like You, pardoning iniquity and passing over the transgression of the remnant of His heritage? He does not retain His anger forever, because He delights in mercy. He will again have compassion on us, and will subdue our iniquities.” Then, at the conclusion of the service, if there is a body of water nearby, the congregation will take stones with their sins written on them and cast them into the water as a way of internalizing the last verse of this passage which says, “You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.”
Consequently, one of the other traditions that has become very popular on this day is to send greeting cards to friends and relatives wishing them a happy and healthy New Year with this blessing added to it: L’shanah tovah tikatevu meaning “May you be inscribed in the Book of Life for a good year.”
But it also happens to be a very happy occasion celebrated by eating sweet things like apple slices dipped in honey. Honey symbolizes their hopes for a sweet new year, whereas the apples—what do they symbolize? Apples are eaten because of what Isaac said when he blessed Jacob in Genesis 27:27. He said, “Surely, the smell of my son is like the smell of a field which the Lord has blessed.” The Talmud says the field was an apple orchard and that Jacob smelled like apples. So they celebrate God’s blessing on them as Jacob’s children by eating apple slices dipped in honey.
2. The Shofar
Now onto the trumpets themselves! Trumpets have played a major role throughout Israel’s history. The first time was when God commanded Joshua to destroy the city of Jericho because of its sin. But there were huge walls surrounding the city, so how would they ever get in? God took care of the problem Himself. For six days He had the people march around the walls of the city, but on the seventh day He told them to march around the city seven times, and then the priests blew the trumpets. And it says, “When the people heard the sound of the trumpet, they shouted out with a great shout and the wall fell down flat.” At which point the men marched into the city and took it with the edge of the sword. That’s when God’s people also began calling Him the horn of their salvation—because whenever He won a victory for them, it was always accompanied by the blowing of the trumpet called a shofar.
The shofar is made from a ram’s horn or sometimes the larger horn of an antelope and it pictures two things. First, it recalls the sacrifice of Isaac on Mount Moriah. You’ll remember as Abraham and his son climbed that hill together, Isaac asked him, “Father, here is the wood and the fire, but where is the lamb for sacrifice?” What did Abraham answer? “God Himself will provide the lamb.” And He did! Before Abraham could plunge the knife into his boy, God called to him from heaven telling him to stop because he’d already passed the test of faith by his willingness. Jewish tradition says that the shofar also rang out from heaven at this point. And looking up, what did Abraham see in the thicket? A ram caught by its horns ready for sacrifice!
But more important is the second thing the shofar signals. It signals the coming of the king. That’s another name for this holiday—Yom Hamelech meaning “Day of the King!” The shofar was blown at the coronation of Solomon and the other kings of Israel, of course. But on this day, the Feast of Trumpets, the shofar is blown 100 times announcing that God is the King of the Universe and that the gates of heaven are open for our home taking which sounds like an allusion to the Rapture to my ears. Four types of blasts are heard on this day, each one with its own sound and message. The Tekiah is a blast of joy calling the people to be still and know that God is God. The Shevarim, on the other hand, are three wailing blasts that sound like a person mourning or weeping in repentance. Then comes the Teruah which are nine short blasts calling for alertness because the King is coming. But the Tekiah Gedolah is the last and longest blast of the shofar announcing that the King has now arrived.
That, I believe, is what Paul is referring to when he says we’ll be caught up “at the last trumpet,” to meet the Lord in the air. He’s talking about the Tekiah Gedolah, the 100th blast of the trumpet blown at the very end of the feast. By the way, the Jews believe this too. They believe that the shofar will be blown from heaven at the coming of Messiah. The difference is we believe He’s already come—to save us from our sins the first time and to save us from our suffering when He comes again.
3. The Rapture
Now the best part of all! You know how the hostess tells you at the end of dinner, “Don’t forget to keep your fork.” She says that because it’s time for dessert and the best is yet to come! That’s what we’re going to bite into now. I want to look at two key passages about the return of Christ, and in each one we’re going to hear the sound of the shofar. First, in 1 Corinthians 15:51 where Paul says this: “Behold, I tell you a mystery.” What’s a mystery? It’s a divine truth that has been kept secret from eternity past, but now at last has finally been revealed. And what mystery is he talking about? He continues, “We will not all sleep (die), but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable and we will be changed.” What great mystery is Paul revealing to us? The supernatural transformation of the bodies of every person who loves Christ and is still living and our sudden removal from the earth to heaven! When does he say that all of this will take place? At the last trumpet!
But be careful here, because when many people read this, their minds drift over to the book of Revelation assuming that what Paul is talking about is the 7th trumpet judgment in Revelation chapter 11. After all, isn’t that the last trumpet to be blown? And therefore, they say that those of us who believe in a pre-tribulation rapture are wrong. Jesus isn’t going to return and remove the church from the world before the great tribulation takes place on earth. We’re going to have to go through the tribulation like everyone else, and only in the middle or maybe at the end of the tribulation, when the 7th trumpet is blown and Christ is about to destroy His enemies at the Battle of Armageddon—only then will He return and remove us from this world.
But here’s the problem with that. Paul knew nothing about the trumpet judgments when he wrote this letter, because they hadn’t been revealed yet. John didn’t write the book of Revelation until 30 years later in 96 A.D. when he exiled to the Isle of Patmos. And by that time Paul was long dead, beheaded 30 years before by Nero in Rome in 67 A.D. So the trumpet judgments couldn’t have been in Paul’s mind when he wrote this. For an accurate interpretation of the last trumpet, we going to have to look somewhere other than the book of Revelation.
Where is that? In the Feast of Trumpets. That’s what Paul had in mind when he wrote about the last trumpet. He was talking about the Tekiah Gedolah, the 100th blast of the shofar at the Feast of Trumpets. You see, what the rabbis have always said is true! The King is coming and the gates of heaven are about to open up to welcome us home one day soon when the last trumpet sounds on Rosh HaShanah during the Feast of Trumpets. Except the King who is coming is One we already know—Jesus Christ who will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and the trumpet of God, and then, just as the Israelites broke camp and moved to another place when the trumpet sounded in the wilderness, we’re going to break camp and be caught up to meet the Lord and be taken to those mansions He’s been preparing for us in His Father’s house in heaven. What a day and what a place that’s going to be!
Another argument for a pre-tribulation rapture is found in the other name for this feast – Yom Zikaron, meaning “Day of Remembrance.” That comes from Malachi 3:17 which is also recited in the synagogues this day. There it tells us that God has a book of remembrance where all the names of the righteous are written. There He also makes us this promise: “They shall be Mine,” says the Lord of hosts, “On the day that I make them My jewels. And I will spare them as a man spares his own son who serves him.” God says He treasures us like a man treasures his jewels, and therefore what is He going to spare us from? Read on in Malachi and it becomes clear. He is going to spare us from the great tribulation that is about to be poured out on the earth.
So now that we know what the last trumpet means, we also have some inside information about when Jesus is going to return for us. After all, if Jesus fulfilled each of the first four feasts—Passover, Unleavened Bread, Firstfruits, and Pentecost—in a literal way and on the very day the feasts took place, don’t you suppose He’s going to fulfill the last three feasts in the very same way? That’s why I say even though we do not know the day or hour of His return (Jesus said that, you remember. No one knows the day or hour when the Son of Man will return “except My Father in heaven.” So let’s not fool ourselves into thinking we can know something we can’t.)—We don’t know the day or hour or even the year Jesus will return. But we do know the feast. One day soon on Rosh HaShanah (maybe this Rosh HaShanah, September 6th, who knows!) the trumpet will sound, Jesus will return and we will be caught up to heaven with Him.
One other footnote about this feast! The Feast of Trumpets is the only feast that takes place on the new moon. So because the high priest never knew exactly when the new moon would appear, this feast lasts two day. So even if we know the feast when Jesus will return, we still don’t know the day or hour, because the feast lasts two days.
So what do we do with all we’ve learned? Look at one last passage with me. 1 Thessalonians 4 starting with verse 15 where Paul says this: “For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who 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 always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.”
What are we to do with all that we’ve learned? Paul says we’re to comfort one another with these words. That’s why I began our study the way I did, talking about the hardships of life and the relief you and I need so badly—a kind word to comfort us, a strong shoulder to lean on, a gentle hand to wipe away our tears. I know that many of you have suffered many hard things in life and that some of you are still suffering them today—health crises, money troubles, family disappointments, and mental anguish over all these things.
So what I say to you is what I say to myself: Hang on just a little bit longer because Jesus cares and will not only give you grace to help in time of need; He is also about to part the clouds and catch you up to your home in heaven where you will be with Him forever and never suffer anything again. So hang on, friend. The night is almost over, and the day is about to dawn. So hang on and look up! For your redemption is drawing near.
Sources used in this sermon series: “The Seven Feasts of Israel” by Zola Levitt, “Celebrating Jesus in the Biblical Feasts” by Richard Booker, “Unlocking the Secrets of the Feasts” by Michael Norten, “Life Principles for Worship from the Feasts of Israel” by Rick Shepherd, and “The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah” by Alfred Edersheim.