“In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you are to have a holy convocation; do not do any kind of ordinary work; it is a day of blowing the shofar for you” Num 29:1.
“In the seventh month, the first of the month is to be for you a day of complete rest for remembering, a holy convocation announced with blasts on the shofar” Lev 23:24.
Yom Teruah is a time that God appointed for His people. In Hebrew yom means day and teruah means shout, blast of war or joy. Shout does not merely represent human voice, but also the voice of a trumpet or shofar.1 The sound of the shofar has also been the instrument for warnings, watching and rallying people to battle. 2 There is also a fascinating connection between the presence of God and the sound of the shofar. 3
In recent days this celebration is known as Rosh Hashanah, and has had much tradition attached to it. I am not saying that is all bad in and of itself, but it is important to note that God gave very little detail in regard to the actual observance of this festival. There is however, much we can piece together in relation to this very mysterious day.
God expected His people to partner with Him in all facets of their lives, as He still desires today. Even though there may be traditions affixed to this specific day which are observed by countless people of all walks and ethnicity, there are things to learn that can impact our understanding as to the relevance it possesses in the future of all who “trust in the Lord”.
Whether or not you are inclined to observe this festival, or whether you think that twenty-first century believers ought or ought-not to observe is not my intention for this short blurb. The festival was given to God’s people as a commemoration of a greater reality that (in my opinion and of others) is yet to be fully realized. These pictures in other festivals have been seen in the way they came to fruition in and through the life of Messiah and the people who were his contemporaries. There are seven festivals, four of which have had major fulfillments in the early years of the first century A.D. Three of these festivals await the greater unfolding of God’s great plan for His people.
This particular festival is the “head of the month” which is called rosh chodesh. Upon the adoption of a civil calendar, the first day of Tishré also became the rosh hashanah, meaning the head of the year. Biblically (which details the religious calendar), Tishré is the seventh month (although the name is not), but in the civil calendar, it is the first (which is a good example of traditional views regarding this period of time). There are other calendars as well, but that is not relevant to the discussion. Because it is on the rosh chodesh or the head of the month, it is the only festival to be on a new moon; one of the darkest nights of the month, where just a sliver of the moon is seen. There is much that could be said in relation to this, but just appreciate the significance of the Messiah who “will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for Him” Hebrews 9:28, and “who rescues us from the coming wrath”1Thes 1:10.
Ancient Jewish tradition is that the resurrection of the dead will occur on Yom Teruah, and it will be announced by the blowing of the shofar. “Then the LORD will appear over them, And His arrow will go forth like lightning; And the Lord GOD will blow the shofar, And will march in the storm winds of the south” Zec 9:14. The rabbis quoted verse 14 often in what they saw as a connection to the coming of the Messiah (son of David). They saw this connection between the end of days and the blowing of trumpets (shofar):
“It is the ram’s horn that the Holy One, blessed be He, is destined to blow, when the Son of David, our righteous One, will reveal Himself, as it is written, and the Lord God will blow the horn” Tanna debe Elijahu Zutta XXII.
“On New Year, bondage was removed from our ancestors in Egypt; in Nissan, they were redeemed; in Tishré they are destined to be redeemed [again]” BT, Rosh HaShanah 11a.
Possibly the greatest story exemplifying the course of humanity that will happen yet again are the events surrounding the destruction of Jericho. This was a wicked city and God partnered with His people to take it down. So much of the time, God brings His justice, mercy and righteousness to the world through His people. In chapter 6 of Joshua, God gave explicit instructions as to what they were to do. Why the details? Was it a picture and perhaps the event by which future meaning would be derived? In verse 3 they were to “march around the city, all the men of war circling the city once…for six days.” In addition to this was the instruction that “seven priests shall carry seven shofars of rams' horns before the ark”. Then on the seventh day, “you shall march around the city seven times, and the priests shall blow the shofars. It shall be that when they make a long blast with the ram's horn, and when you hear the sound of the shofar, all the people shall shout with a great shout; and the wall of the city will fall down flat, and the people will go up every man straight ahead.” This is what Joshua and the people did, and God delivered the city into their hands.
Interestingly, something the prophets continuously call the “Day of the LORD” is very similar in description and tone to the story of Jericho, even down to Rahab (a prostitute) and her family being “saved”. For instance, here is the prophet Zephaniah’s “word”: “Near is the great day of the LORD, Near and coming very quickly; “Listen, the day of the LORD! In it the warrior cries out bitterly. A day of wrath is that day, A day of trouble and distress, A day of destruction and desolation, A day of darkness and gloom, A day of clouds and thick darkness, A day of shofar and battle cry Against the fortified cities And the high corner towers” Zeph 1:14-16.
Isaiah is a perfect example of the revelation of this matter. In chapter 25 the writer is glorifying Yahweh, the God of Israel, (vs 1). He declares, “I will give thanks to Your name; For You have worked wonders, Plans formed long ago, with perfect faithfulness.” There was a plan? In verse 6 he states that “Yahweh of hosts will prepare a lavish banquet for all peoples on this mountain…”. He goes on in verses 8 and 9 saying “He [Yahweh] will swallow up death for all time, And the Lord GOD will wipe tears away from all faces, And He will remove the reproach of His people from all the earth…And it will be said in that day, "Behold, this is our God for whom we have waited that He might save us. This is the LORD for whom we have waited; Let us rejoice and be glad in His salvation [lit. yeshua].” Notice it is Yahweh’s, His yeshua/salvation. Into the next chapter Isaiah continues with this same theme (not that chapter and verse marks mean anything anyways). If we look carefully, we will find descriptions reminiscent of Joshua and his conquest of Jericho. In verse 5 of chapter 26 we are given more information detailing this future time of which the prophet testifies, “For He has brought low those who dwell on high, the unassailable city; He lays it low, He lays it low to the ground, He casts it to the dust. The foot will trample it, The feet of the afflicted, the steps of the helpless." Isaiah continues his adoration and praise of his God, his Rock and then makes a very startling statement in regards to those who have been trampled under their feet (vs 14), “The dead will not live, the departed spirits will not rise; Therefore You have punished and destroyed them, And You have wiped out all remembrance of them.” This passage could present itself challenging when trying to prove the existence of an immortal soul. The writer does not stop here, but makes an astonishing and declarative comparison of those who have been “trampled” to those who do the trampling. He says in verse 19-21 “Your dead will live; Their corpses will rise. You who lie in the dust, awake and shout for joy, For your dew is as the dew of the dawn, And the earth will give birth to the departed spirits…the LORD is about to come out from His place To punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity; And the earth will reveal her bloodshed And will no longer cover her slain.” Then under the same theme (in regards to that great “Day of Yahweh”) he states (27:13), “It will come about also in that day that a great shofar will be blown, and those who were perishing in the land of Assyria and who were scattered in the land of Egypt will come and worship the LORD in the holy mountain at Jerusalem.” It is interesting that in chapter 28 verse 2 carrying the exact same message it states that “The Lord has a strong and mighty agent” (NAU) or another translation renders it, “The Lord has someone strong and powerful.” I wonder who that may be? This is a perfect reflection of the Hebraic principal of agency that is prevalent throughout the Scriptures, which devastatingly has been largely ignored by Theologians both past and present. 4 The rest of the passage states, “he comes like a hailstorm, a destructive tempest, like a flood of water, rushing, overwhelming; with his hand he hurls them to the ground.” Daniel recorded something very similar, “Many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life, but the others to disgrace and everlasting contempt” (Dan 12:2). These ideas of resurrection, shouts and shofars seem to nestle together, giving us a greater clue to something continuously being expressed. It goes on from there, but you will have to track the rest on your own. I want to now move ahead to another prophet who saw visions very much in line with everything we have been examining thus far.
Joel is an amazing book, worthy of much detailed study. For our purposes I want to point out only a piece of the prophecy. In chapter two, we find this proclamation:
“Blow a shofar in Zion, And sound an alarm on My holy mountain! Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble, For the day of the LORD is coming; Surely it is near, A day of darkness and gloom, A day of clouds and thick darkness. As the dawn is spread over the mountains, So there is a great and mighty people; There has never been anything like it, Nor will there be again after it To the years of many generations. A fire consumes before them And behind them a flame burns. The land is like the garden of Eden before them But a desolate wilderness behind them, And nothing at all escapes them. Their appearance is like the appearance of horses; And like war horses, so they run. With a noise as of chariots They leap on the tops of the mountains, Like the crackling of a flame of fire consuming the stubble, Like a mighty people arranged for battle. Before them the people are in anguish; All faces turn pale. They run like mighty men, They climb the wall like soldiers; And they each march in line, Nor do they deviate from their paths. They do not crowd each other, They march everyone in his path; When they burst through the defenses, They do not break ranks. They rush on the city, They run on the wall; They climb into the houses, They enter through the windows like a thief. Before them the earth quakes, The heavens tremble, The sun and the moon grow dark And the stars lose their brightness. The LORD utters His voice before His army; Surely His camp is very great, For strong is he who carries out His word. The day of the LORD is indeed great and very awesome, And who can endure it?” Joel 2:1-11.
The passage of course does not stop there, but notice the similarity in the description to Jericho. Perhaps there is something we can learn here. The Lord’s camp; who is that (Zech 14:5, Jude 14-15)? These are the saints of course. In order to keep the length down, I will not include the multitudes of Texts pertaining to this topic and event that are detailed in the Hebrew Scriptures, NT and even other writings such as Apocryphal and Pseudepigraphal literature. The resurrection of the Saints is a big deal. It is the hope of the believer and is precisely why there is “good news”. This is exactly the argument Paul made in Athens to the Stoics regarding the “unknown god” that has “set a Day when he will judge the inhabited world, and do it justly, by means of a man whom he has designated” and has “given public proof of it by resurrecting this man from the dead. At the mention of a resurrection of dead people, some began to scoff;” not unlike today I suppose. We will take on the likeness of the Messiah, and mirror what has transpired for him, being the first-fruits of a greater harvest (Phil 3:21, Rom 8:23, 1 Cor 15:20-23, Rev 14:14-19). This is the ultimate fulfillment of our “redemption”, “deliverance” or our salvation (see my article “Salvation in Action”).
It is noteworthy that so many of the passages detailing the Day of the Lord are full of clouds and thick darkness. Like I stated before, yom teruah is a dark night. The reason I bring this up is because so many of our modern ideals and perspectives pertaining to the return of the Messiah resemble something along the lines of, “on a bright and cloudless morning…” which has no basis whatsoever in the Scriptures. It's quite the opposite in fact, as prophets like Zephaniah for instance recorded: “A day of wrath is that day, A day of trouble and distress, A day of destruction and desolation, A day of darkness and gloom, A day of clouds and thick darkness, A day of shofar and battle cry against the fortified cities and the high corner towers” Zep 1:15-16.
With everything we have examined, let’s look at Revelation. Remember the seven priests bearing shofars, shouting and blasting before the crumbling of the wall in Joshua? Paul states in 1 Cor 15:52 that “it will take but a moment, the blink of an eye, at the final shofar. For the shofar will sound, and the dead will be raised to live forever, and we too will be changed.” Paul also told the Thessalonians (in relation to the sleep of the dead) “Now, brothers, we want you to know the truth about those who have died; otherwise, you might become sad the way other people do who have nothing to hope for. For since we believe that Yeshua died and rose again, we also believe that in the same way God, through Yeshua, will take with him those who have died. When we say this, we base it on the Lord's own word: we who remain alive when the Lord comes will certainly not take precedence over those who have died. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a rousing cry [shout], with a call from one of the ruling angels [voice], and with God's shofar; those who died united with the Messiah will be the first to rise; then we who are left still alive will be caught up with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air; and thus we will always be with the Lord” 1Th 4:14-17. How many shofars were sounded in Joshua? There were seven (Josh 6:16). Look at Revelation 11, “the seventh angel sounded; and there were loud voices”. The next part is the declaration "The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ; and He will reign forever and ever" (Acts 17:31, 2 Tim 4:1). Daniel has a very detailed vision of this in Daniel chapter 7. In this same context, the witnesses spoken of just before, are slain. They lie in the streets for three and a half days before they hear a voice calling “come up here”. They ascend to heaven in a cloud. Who said that Messiah’s return would be accompanied by a cloud? Who is the one “like a son of man” on a cloud harvesting with a sickle in Rev 14 (Daniel 7:13)?
After the seventh shofar, we are told immediately about twenty-four elders. To a westerner or one not accustomed to viewing the New Testament through the lens of the Tanakh, this may lend itself to much speculation (which has been done about the Church or Israel or possibly the Church plus Israel, or all redeemed humanity). If a Jew wrote this, or a Jew read this, there would only be one explanation, the priesthood. The priests were the “elders” of the people. And like most everything else in the book of Revelation, the writer is seeing the heavenly reality of all that had an earthly representation (see my articles “Under the Altar”, “Bearing His Mark”, “Sweet Like Honey”).
The next part is a key in this passage. All of a sudden for no apparent reason, the picture shifts to the priesthood and the “ark of His covenant appeared in His temple”. Again, there has been much speculation and much interpretation. I always wondered why the ark is all of a sudden mentioned, it just didn’t seem to fit the context, until I read this passage with the illumination of the God ordained festivals. If the seventh shofar represents Yom Teruah, the very next thing that happens (10 days later) is the one day a year when the ark is seen by the priest in the temple/tabernacle of God, Yom Kippur. The New Testament has been translated from Greek, but it is very important to remember that the writers are expressing Hebrew Scripture, thoughts and phrases. This passage doesn’t make any sense when read outside of that paradigm and Hebraic worldview. John is a Jew. The things which he saw and recorded are Jewish pictures given by the God of the Jews and a Jewish Messiah in the tradition of the prophets of Israel. Why we try and steer clear of this fact is more than I can understand.
The Day of the Lord, the second coming, the return of Messiah, will be the darkest day the world has ever known, because it signals judgment for all those who oppose God. How all that happens is speculative at best, but God has given us pictures and images that have been largely ignored and swept under the rug for ages past. Yeshua quoted from and made direct reference to Exodus 19, Deut 30, Isaiah 13 and Daniel 7 which means he wanted a connection to their contexts when he said, “But immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the son of man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory. And He will send forth His angels with a great shofar and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other” Matt 24:29-31. He mentions being “gathered together”. Funny thing, the festival of Ingathering happens just fifteen days after the festival of trumpets. God is not a God of coincidence.
This was by no means meant to be an exhaustive study or examination of the Biblical theme of the resurrection of the dead, but realize that this is the believer’s hope. I find many Christians (even Pastors) very skeptical and have a somewhat distorted view concerning the resurrection of the dead (1 Cor 15). The New Testament represents the resurrection of the saints replicating that of the Messiah. 5 Paul (in that knowledge) admonishes believers precisely in this context of resurrection by saying “comfort one another with these words” 1Th 4:18.
1 See 2 Samuel 6:15, 2 Chronicles 5:13, 29:28, Isaiah 58:1, Nehemiah 4:20, Psalm 47:5, 98:6, Rev 1:10, Rev 4:11
2 See Numbers 10:4-9, 31:6, Joshua 6:5, 16, 20, Judges 3:27, 7:20, 1 Samuel 13:3, 2 Samuel 2:28, 2, 15:10, 20:1, 22, 2 Chronicles 13:12, Nehemiah 4:20, Job 39:25, Jeremiah 4:19, 21, 6:1, 17, 42:14, 51:27, Ezekiel 7:14, 33:5-6, Joel 2:1, Amos 3:6-8, Zephaniah 1:16, 1 Corinthians 14:8
3 See Ex 19:12-20, Ex 20:18
4 The principal of agency is also called Shaliah – Acts 7:53, Gal 3:19 ect.
5 See Rom 8:11 and 2 Cor 4:14 and the probable use of the prophetic perfect in Eph 2:6. There are some who believe that the resurrection of the Messiah was somehow related to his “divinity”. Nothing could be further from the truth, as the NT continuously tells us that God resurrected Jesus from the dead (Acts 2:32, Acts 3:26, Acts 4:10, Acts 5:30, Acts 13:33, Acts 17:30-32, Rom 10:9, Gal 1:1, 1 Thes 1:10), and because of this manifestation in Jesus we can be comforted because we know that God will also raise us.