The Feast of Trumpets. The fifth major festival of the Hebrew calendar is the Feast of Trumpets occurring in the fall on the first day of Tishri, the seventh month (Num. 29:1; Lev. 23:23-25). The Hebrew word translated as “trumpets” in Numbers 29:1 (תְּרוּעָה – těrû‘āh) is derived from the verb רוּעַ (rû‘ā), meaning “give a great shout,” “shout a war-cry,” and “sound the signal for battle.” Harris, Archer, and Waltke outline Old Testament usage of těrû‘āh in the following manner:
There are four distinct senses in which it is used. It is used for “signal” (Lev. 25:9), the “sound of the trumpet” for the blowing of the shofar on the day of atonement. It is also used for “alarm” as in case of attack (Josh. 6:5; Jer. 4:19), “I hear the sound of the trumpet, the alarm of war.” In addition, it is used for the trumpet in the tumult of battle, “And Moab shall die amid uproar, amid shouting, and the sound of the trumpet” (Amos 2:2). Lastly, the noun is used for the exultation of praise to God, “Praise him with trumpet sound, praise him with lute and harp” (Ps 150:3).
In a rather unique manner, this particular festival not only constitutes a special Sabbath day, but it also occurs on a new moon.
Jewish Observance of the Feast of Trumpets. The Feast of Trumpets is also known by other names, such as Rosh Hashanah (lit. “the head of the year”) and Yom Teruah (lit. “the Day of the Shout/Trumpet”) and was celebrated by the blowing of the shofar, “a curved trumpet fashioned from a ram’s horn” at the first sighting of the new moon. Leviticus 23:23-25 outlines this sacred festival: “And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 24‘Speak to the people of Israel, saying, ‘In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall observe a day of solemn rest, a memorial proclaimed with blast of trumpets (תְּרוּעָה – těrû‘āh), a holy convocation. 25You shall not do any ordinary work, and you shall present a food offering to the LORD.’” Howard describes the Feast of Trumpets in the following manner:
In relationship to the New Moon, Rosh Hashanah is unique. It is the only Jewish holiday which occurs on the first day of the month, at the New Moon, when the moon is dark and only a thin crescent….In ancient Israel, the New Moon was normally announced by short blasts of the trumpet, but the New Moon of the seventh month [i.e. the Feast of Trumpets] was celebrated by long blasts, emphasizing its solemnity and uniqueness among months.
Thus, this particular feast was observed with blasts from the shofar trumpet at the first sighting of the new moon of the seventh month.
Trumpets in the Old Testament. Apart from its use in conjunction with the jubilee year, the Feast of Trumpets, and the Day of Atonement, the blowing of trumpets served three chief purposes in the Old Testament: to assemble Israel before Yahweh (Exod. 19:13-19, 20:18; Num. 10:2; Isa. 27:13), to sound the alarm or battle cry in time of war (Num. 10:9; Josh 6:4, 20; Judg. 3:27, 6:34, 7:8-22; Neh. 4:18; Job 39:25; Jer. 4:5, 19), and to signal the coronation of the king of Israel (2 Sam. 15:10; 1 Kgs. 1:34, 39; 2 Kgs. 9:13, 11:12-14). For example, Shepherd states: “An explanation of trumpet blowing is found in Numbers 10. The trumpets were blown in Israel for the calling of the assembly; to sound an alarm; to prepare the people for battle; and as was done at the Feast of Trumpets, as a memorial before their God.” Howard also writes, “The shofar also announced the coronation of a new king as in the cases of Solomon (1 Ki. 1:34, 39), Jehu (2 Ki. 9:13), Joash (2 Ki. 11:12-14), and the treacherous Absalom (2 Sam. 15:10).”
Christ’s Fulfillment of the Feast of Trumpets. Not only is the shofar intimately related to the Feast of Trumpets (Lev. 23:23-25), Day of Atonement (Lev. 25:9-10), and jubilee year, but more importantly it is prophetic of the Person and Work of the Lord Jesus Christ (cf. Col. 2:16-17). In fact, the New Testament frequently associates the trumpet with Christ’s parousίa, a term that likely refers to both Jerusalem’s destruction in 70 A.D. (Matt. 24:29-31) and to Christ’s Second Coming at the consummation (1 Cor. 15:51-52; cf. 1 Thess. 4:15-17). Although Matthew 24:29-31 (also Mark 13:24-27) is generally interpreted as a description Christ’s return in glory, R.T. France interprets Jesus’ words in Mark 13:5-31 (also Matt. 24:4-35) as describing Jerusalem’s destruction while Mark 13:32 (also Matt. 24:36) initiates Jesus’ teaching regarding His Second Coming. France also understands Jesus’ allusion to Daniel 7:13-14 in the Olivet Discourse (Matt. 24:29-3; Mark 13:24-27) in the following manner: “That act of judgment will make plain that Jesus has received from God the authority and dominion described in Daniel 7:13-14.” In other words, Christ’s judgment against unbelieving Israel in 70 A.D. serves as divine confirmation of His heavenly enthronement at His ascension.
Understood in this manner, Matthew 24:29-31 and Mark 13:24-27 may indicate a first-century fulfillment of the Feast of Trumpets. Thus, Jesus’ reference to a trumpet in these two passages may well refer to Christ’s messianic enthronement at God’s right hand and His subsequent judgment against unbelieving Israel in 70 A.D. Furthermore, Jesus’ declaration that He would “send forth His angels with a great trumpet and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other” (Matt. 24:31, NASB; also Mark 13:27) may be a symbolic description of Christ’s human messengers being sent forth to ‘gather’ God’s elect via the Spirit-empowered preaching of the Gospel.
Whether or not Matthew 24:29-31 and Mark 13:24-27 in fact refer to Jerusalem’s destruction in 70 A.D., 1 Corinthians 15:51-52 and 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17 most likely describe Christ’s Second Coming at the consummation. As a result, the references to a trumpet in both passages indicate that Christ’s future return also fulfills the Feast of Trumpets. Just as the trumpet was used to assemble Israel before the Lord in the Old Testament, all believers will be resurrected “at the last trumpet” (1 Cor. 15:51-52; cf. 1 Thess. 4:15-17) and “caught up together…in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air” (1 Thess. 4:17) at Christ’s Second Coming. Just as the trumpet was blown to sound an alarm or battle cry in the Old Testament, the Trumpet of God will sound the battle cry for the final climactic battle of God (Rev. 6:12-17; 19:13-20). Just as the trumpet signaled the coronation of the king of Israel in the Old Testament, the trumpet of God will signal the consummation of Christ’s heavenly reign in fulfillment of the Davidic promises (1 Cor. 15:24-26). This interpretation appears to dovetail well with Revelation 11:15-18, which states.
15And the seventh angel sounded; and there arose loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord, and of His Christ; and He will reign forever and ever. 16And the twenty-four elders, who sit on their thrones before God, fell on their faces and worshiped God, 17saying, “We give Thee thanks, O Lord God, the Almighty, who art and who wast, because Thou hast taken Thy great power and hast begun to reign. 18And the nations were enraged, and Thy wrath came, and the time came for the dead to be judged, and the time to give their reward to Thy bond-servants the prophets and to the saints and to those who fear Thy name, the small and the great, and to destroy those who destroy the earth” (NASB) [emphasis mine].
The Apostle Paul declares that when Christ returns in glory “every knee” will “bow, in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth, and every tongue” will “confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil 2:9-10).
Christ’s Second Coming will also fulfill three additional aspects of the Old Testament Feast of Trumpets. First, recall that one of the alternate names for this particular Jewish feast is Yom Teruah (lit. “the Day of the Shout”). In 1 Thessalonians 4:16, Paul states, “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first” (NASB) [emphasis mine]. Second, an intense spirit of watchfulness permeated the observance of this feast, since the trumpets were to be sounded as soon as the smallest portion of the new moon was visible. In a similar manner, the life of a New Covenant believer is to be characterized by an intense watchfulness with regard to Christ’s Second Coming. Concerning His return, the Lord Jesus declared, “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone….Therefore be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming….For this reason you be ready too; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think He will” (Matt 24: 36, 42, 44; NASB). Third, Jewish tradition associates the Feast of Trumpets with the Final Judgment when the judgment “books” are opened. Amazingly, the New Testament stands in agreement with this particular aspect of Jewish tradition. If the parousίa of 1 Corinthians 15:23, 51-57 is “the end” (1 Cor. 15:24), then the Feast of Trumpets stands fulfilled not only in Christ’s return but also in the Great White Throne Judgment. Consider Revelation 20:12-15:
12And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds. 13And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds. 14And death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. 15And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire (NASB) [emphasis mine].
Thus, the New Testament likely indicates that the Feast of Trumpets is also fulfilled at Christ’s Second Coming when He returns in glory, executes the resurrection, and judges all mankind.
Harris, Archer, and Waltke, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, 839.
Howard & Rosenthal, The Feasts of the Lord, 106.
Shepherd, Jewish Holy Days, 59. See also Howard & Rosenthal, The Feasts of the Lord, 26.
Howard & Rosenthal, The Feasts of the Lord, 107. Ernest Martin also comments, “The Day of Trumpets was also acknowledged as the time for counting the years of their kingly rule. Indeed, it was customary that the final ceremony in the coronation of kings was the blowing of trumpets.” Ernest L. Martin, The Star that Astonished the World (Portland: ASK Publications, 1998), 95.
Some theologians argue rather convincingly that the Lord Jesus Christ was also born on the Feast of Trumpets in 3 B.C. See Ernest L. Martin’s The Star that Astonished the World.
R.T. France, Jesus and the Old Testament: His Application of Old Testament Passages to Himself and His Mission (Vancouver: Regent College Publishing, 1998), 227-239.
Howard & Rosenthal, The Feasts of the Lord, 108.