Nu. 29:1-11; Lev. 23:23-32: How Christians Should Observe Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur.

1. If We Celebrate the First Four of Jesus’ Holy Days, Why Not the Last Three?

  • All seven of the holy days on God’s calendar foreshadow Jesus. The title of this study might strike the average Christian as odd. Only Jews observe Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur. Jesus came to fulfill the Law (Matt 5:17). Thus, we cannot be judged for failing to observe these holy days (Col. 2:16). Yet, these holy days are the “shadow” of Jesus (Col. 2:17; Heb. 10:1). That means that God created them to tell us something about Him. Indeed, the Hebrew word for these “holy convocations” can also be translated as “rehearsals.” (Lev. 23:2). These holy days were all rehearsals for Christ. With the first four holy days, the Jews unknowingly rehearsed for Jesus’ arrival. With the last three days, we rehearse for His return. As an analogy, you are under no obligation to celebrate your spouse’s birthday or anniversary. But you do so out of love. We should also celebrate these days out of love and not obligation. As shown below, most Christians celebrate the first four days of Jesus’ festivals by a different name. Why then should we ignore the last three holy days on His calendar?

  • The Passover Feast / Jesus’ Death on the Cross. Although Christians may not realize it, they celebrate the first of God’s seven holy days, Passover. Passover celebrated when the blood of the lamb allowed the angel of death to “pass over” every firstborn son during the tenth plague in Egypt (Ex. 12:12-13, 22-23). On the ninth hour on the 14th day of the month of Nisan, the people killed the Passover lamb (Nu. 28:16; Lev. 23:5; Ex. 12:6). Also on the ninth hour on the 14th day of Nisan, the people killed Jesus (Matt. 27:45-50; 28:1; Mk. 15:29; Jo. 2:19). Christ was the Passover lamb who died for us to allow judgment to “pass over” us (Isa. 53:7; Jo. 1:29; 1 Pet. 1:18-19). Thus, Christians celebrate Passover.

  • The Feast of Unleavened Bread / Jesus’ Time in the Grave. Christians also observe the second holy time period. The hasty departure of the Jews did not afford the time required to bake leavened bread (Ex. 12:34, 39). To celebrate their deliverance, the Jews celebrated the Feast of Unleavened Bread by purging their sins. Christians observe this week by remembering Jesus’ time in the grave and by purging their sins (1 Cor. 5:7; 6:13-20).

  • The Feast of First Fruits/ Jesus’ Resurrection. Christians also observe God’s third holy day “First Fruits” by a different name. On this day, the Jews celebrate that (1) God saved the Jews at the Red Sea (Ex. 3:18; 5:3, 14); He saved Noah by bringing him to dry land (Gen. 8:4); and He saved the Jews by having Haman hung (Esther 3:12; 4:16; 5:4). Christian call this day Easter Sunday or Resurrection Sunday. On this day, Jesus also rose from the grave and became the “first fruits” for those who were once dead (1 Cor. 15:20). In response, we make ourselves a “living sacrifice” by giving the first fruits of our lives (Rom. 12:1).

  • The Feast of Weeks/Pentecost. Many Christians also celebrate God’s fourth holy day. Exactly 50 days after God saved His people from death at the Red Sea, God revealed His will for their lives through the Ten Commandments (Lev. 23:15-17; Dt. 16:9-10; Ex. 19:20-25; 20:1-21). This became the “Feast of Weeks.” It was also the birth date of modern Judaism. Exactly 50 days after Jesus’ death, God revealed His will for our lives by pouring out the Holy Spirit unto His believers (“Pentecost”) (Acts 2:3). This was the birth of the Church. If you are grateful for the gift of the Holy Spirit, this is the day to celebrate Him.

2. Seven Ways Christians Should Celebrate Rosh HaShanah. Nu. 29:1-6; Lev. 23:24-25.

  • The Purpose of Rosh HaShanah. God commanded His people to celebrate Rosh Hashanah on the seventh month of the religious calendar (Nu. 29:1; Lev. 23:24-25). Seven is a number of completeness (Ex. 20:11). This holy day is God’s New Year’s Eve. Thus, it holds a double meaning of completeness. It was a time of spiritual preparation for the year to come, a new beginning. According to Jewish tradition, God also created Adam on this day. Thus, the focus of the day is new beginnings and change.

(1) A time for renewal. (the three bulls). The day included three bull sacrifices. The priests sacrificed one bull to mark Rosh Hashanah (Nu. 29:2). The priests sacrificed two additional bulls in connection with the normal new moon festival, which began on that day (Nu. 29:6; 28:11). (Unlike the Western calendar, God’s months begin with the arrival of the new moon). The regular new moon festival with two bulls symbolized renewal. Thus, the three bulls sacrificed on Rosh Hashanah indicated a time of even more intense reflection and renewal. This is the equivalent of our New Year’s resolutions. Yet, here the resolutions all relate to one’s walk with God. With even greater intensity than the normal new moon festivals, Christians are to “be transformed by the renewing of your mind . . .” (Rom. 12:2). They are to also set their “mind[s] on the things above, not the things that are of the earth.” (Col. 3:2). How are Christians to do this? We study the details of the sacrifice of the bull. We then examine how they are fulfilled through Christ today. Christ’s blood fulfilled the role of the actual blood sacrifice (Heb. 9:11-14). We cannot atone for our own sins. Yet, this leaves us with three things that we must do. First, just like the bull that was sacrificed, we must wash our insides (the sins within us) and our legs (the filth of the world) with holy water (Lev. 1:9; Jo. 13:10). This involves reading and washing with the Word to expose our sins (Eph. 5:26). Second, we must confess our sins (1 Jo. 1:9). Third, we must let Christ be our strength (our bull) by being humble and without pride (Phil. 4:11-13).

(2) A time for forgiveness and preparation. (the two rams). Rosh Hashanah also included two ram sacrifices. The priests sacrificed one ram to mark this day (Nu. 29:2). The priests also sacrificed one as part of the regular new moon festival (Nu. 29:6; 28:11). The two rams had separate meanings. The first ram was symbolic of God’s provision of a substitute offering for our sins. Abraham showed faith that God would provide one so that he would not need to kill Isaac (Gen. 22:1-19). Later, the ram became a trespass offering to substitute payment to God for our sins (Lev. 8:18; 5:15). Jesus then became our “trespass offering” to God to pay for our sins against Him (Is. 53:10-11; 1 Jo. 2:2). In the context of the first ram, we have three things that we must do on God’s new year to be renewed. First, to be forgiven, we must seek God’s forgiveness (1 Jo. 1:9). Second, we must pay restitution to restore any victim of our prior wrongs (Lev. 5:15). Finally, to be forgiven and renewed, we must forgive others for their wrongs against us (Lk. 6:37; Matt. 6:14; Mk. 11:25).

  • A time to study and meditate on Jesus’ return. The second ram is connected to Jesus’ return. The ram’s horn (the shofar) was blown on this day and on Yom Kippur. Rabbinical tradition associates the left horn of the ram as the “first trumpet” and the right horn as the “last trumpet.” The first trumpet sounded on Mount Horeb when Jesus gave the 10 Commandments. The people in the camp trembled in reverent fear when they heard it (Ex. 19:16). In between the first and the last horn blasts, the horn was blown to show the Jews’ faith and trust in the Lord. Examples include: the Jubilee year (Lev. 25:9); the beginning of the festivals (Nu. 10:10); and the battle of Jericho (Josh. 6:20). On Rosh HaShanah, “the last trumpet” is also called the teki’at shofar. It is a long blast that signals victory or good news. The first and last blasts correspond to different kinds of “good news.” The first (or left) ram shofar blast heralds the good news of the Ten Commandments. It is our wedding vow. The believer who (1) hears the blasts, (2) learns of their sins through the Law, and (3) repents is forgiven. (Rom. 3:20; 6:12-13; Jam. 4:4). In Palm 89:15, it says that those who hear the blast of the shofar will be blessed. The last (or right) shofar blast heralds the good news of the rapture and the church’s wedding to Christ. In Psalm 47:5, it is written, “God has ascended with a shout, the Lord, with the sound of a trumpet.” In Isaiah 26:19, the word “awake” is also associated with the dead rising in a resurrection. In the New Testament, Paul tells us that “[i]n the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.” (1 Cor. 15:52). “…awake, sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” (Eph. 5:14). The wedding following the rapture is foretold in Psalm 47:59, which the Jews read in every synagogue on this day. Psalm 47:5 begins with the shout and the ram’s shofar blast on Rosh HaShanah. In verses 6-7, the King of all the earth is praised. In verse 9, the believers (“the princes of the people”) are gathered in the King’s presence. After the coronation of our King, He will wed His church (Rev. 4:1-2 (coronation); 19:7; 21:2, 9 (the wedding)). This is our good news.

  • The date and the hour of Christ’s return are unknown. As shown previously, the major events on the Christian calendar all correspond to the holy days on God’s calendar. The rapture is the next event on the Christian calendar. Like Rosh HaShanah, the rapture will also be preceded by the blowing of a loud trumpet heard only by God’s people (Matt. 24:31; 1 Cor. 15:52; 1 Thess. 4:16-17). Rosh HaShanah is also the next holy day on God’s calendar that has not yet been fulfilled. Yet, this does not necessarily mean that the rapture will happen on Rosh HaShanah. The Jews did not know the exact day when Rosh HaShanah began due to the uncertainty about when the new moon began. For this reason, orthodox Jews still celebrate this day over two days to avoid missing the correct day. Jesus is also clear that no one knows the day or hour of His return (Matt. 24:36; Mk. 13:32). God appointed this day, for among other reasons, so that we would meditate on His return. The Church must not ignore teaching about His return. If it does, it becomes like the virgins who missed the bridegroom (Jesus) because they failed to fill their flasks with oil (symbolizing the Holy Spirit) (Matt. 25:1-13). On the other hand, the Church should not limit its preparation for the rapture to this day. If Jesus had told us the exact hour of His return, we would put off until that moment purifying our hearts and preparing for His return. God wants us to always be prepared at all times for His return (Matt. 25:13).

(3) A time to submit and pray. (the 16 Lambs). Rosh Hashanah included a staggering 16 lamb sacrifices; seven lambs for this day (Nu. 29:2), plus seven offered as part of the regular new moon festival (Nu. 29:6; 28:11), plus two as part of the required daily sacrifices (Nu. 28:3). Christ was the Passover lamb (Isa. 53:7; Jo. 1:29; 1 Pet. 1:18-19). Just as He was led submissively like the lamb to the slaughter for us, we must submit to him (Rom. 12:1). Just as the lamb’s blood of Jesus created a “soothing aroma” before God, our prayers should create a soothing aroma before God (Ps. 141:2; Rev. 5:8; 8:3). The 16 lambs therefore correspond to multiple prayers on our part on this day. If you are to make this day a day for renewal and redirection, extensive prayer is required throughout the day.

(4) A time for dedication and rest. (the Grain Offering). Rosh Hashanah included a grain offering (Nu. 29:3). The grain symbolized a person dedicating the best of his or her labors. The grain offering was given out of thanks for being freed of sin (Lev. 2:1-16; Dt. 29:8-11). To be renewed, we are to offer ourselves as a “living sacrifice” (Ro. 12:1; 1 Cor. 6:19-20). On Rosh Hashanah, the people were also to rest from “laborious work.” (Nu. 29:1; Lev. 23:24-25). We are not obligated to do this (Col. 2:16). Yet, rest is a time for reflection and renewal (Heb. 4:9-10). It is also a chance for God to bless us (Is. 58:13-14).

(5) A time for purification. (the Oil). The grain offering had to be mixed with oil (Nu. 29:3). The offerings were also thrown into God’s fire (Lev. 23:24-25). Oil mixed with the grain symbolized the Holy Spirit leading a person’s life offering (1 Sam. 16:13). The fire symbolized the purification and judgment of the Spirit. God “shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness.” (Mal. 3:3). The Holy Spirit purges sin from us through fire and tribulation (1 Cor. 3:13-15; 1 Pet. 1:7). Our will needs to be crushed before the Holy Spirit can come upon us (2 Cor. 4:8). Letting the Spirit lead us is a vital part of our renewal.

(6) A time to break from the sins of the past. (the Two Goats). Rosh Hashanah included two goat sacrifices; one goat for this day (Nu. 29:5) plus one offered as part of the regular new moon festival (Nu. 29:6; 28:15). The two goats were a sin offering to cast off a person’s sins (Lev. 16:13). To cast off sins, it is critical to both repent of them and disavow them in your life. This connects to the broader season of Tesuvah, which includes Rosh Hashanah. Tesuvah means to “return or repent.” Tesuvah begins on the first day of the month of Elul. Thirty days into this season, Rosh HaShanah begins. On the fortieth day, Yom Kippur, the day of atonement begins. Each day during this festival, the people are to repent and return to God. Repenting of sins and promising to cast them off in a way that we never willingly return to them, like someone trying to quit an addiction, is a vital part of spiritual renewal.

(7) A time to restore communion with Christ. (the Drink Offering). Finally, Rosh Hashanah included a drink offering (Nu. 29:6). The drink offering celebrates our communion with Christ (Mk. 14:24; Jo. 6:53). Like Paul, our lives should also be a “drink offering” filled with joy (Phil. 2:17). The joy of Christ should be light for others (Matt. 5:14-16), shining brightly like the full moon. Your joyful witness is the confirmation of your renewal.

3. Seven Ways Christians Should Observe Yom Kippur. Nu. 29:7-11; Lev. 23:26-32.

  • Yom Kippur/ the Day of Atonement. On the 10th day of the seventh month of the religious calendar (which is the first month of the civil calendar), God directed His people to observe the holiest and most somber of all God’s holy days, Yom Kippur (Lev. 16:29; Nu. 29:7). This day is observed exactly 10 days after Rosh HaShanah. It is the day of atonement for the sins of the nation. Seven is a number of completeness. Ten is the number associated with God’s law, the Ten Commandments. This was the day that Moses returned for the second time with God’s commandments after He broke the first set in anger following the nation’s worship of the golden calf. By rabbinic tradition, this was also the day (ten days after their creation) that Adam and Even fell from grace. Many believe that this day also foreshadows the day of wrath when the Messiah will come to judge the nations (Joel 2:1; Rev. 8-9).

  • The meaning behind the 10-day gap between Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur. To an outsider, the list of sacrifices for both of these days may seem repetitive. It may also seem excessive for these sacrifices to repeat after only ten days. But God had a purpose in having the day of repentance follow only 10 days after the day of renewal. The 10 days, called the days of awe, symbolize the 10 Commandments. They teach us that even our best efforts at renewal and rededication will fall short of God’s expectations. The more we study God’s Law, the more we understand this. “Through the law comes the knowledge of sin.” (Rom. 3:20). No one can be justified by their works. “[F]or all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Rom. 3:23; Ps. 14:1-3; 53:1-3). We are justified by faith alone in Christ (Rom. 1:17; Phil. 3:9; Gal. 3:11; Hab. 2:4). By rabbinic tradition, if a person’s name was not written in the book of life at the time of Rosh HaShanah, the person had 10 days left to repent to be written in the book of life. Just as there is a gap in time between Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur, there is a gap in time between the rapture and the day of judgment. If someone’s name is not written in the book of life at the time of the rapture, the person has only until the day of judgment shortly thereafter to repent and accept Christ.

  • The application of Yom Kippur to Christians – The National Day of Intercessory Prayer. Christians are freed of any obligation to observe Yom Kippur (Col. 2:16). God does not want any worship made out of obligation. Yet, Yom Kippur has still has two important purposes for Christians. First, it is the day God appointed for believers to voluntarily give thanks to Christ for doing what we cannot do on our own. Second, it is also God’s national day of prayer for believers to pray for others and the nation. To understand this, we must realize that Yom Kippur brought together (1) the holiest man, (2) in the holiest place, (3) on the holiest day. The High Priest was to go alone into the Tent of Meeting to intercede on behalf of the people (Lev. 16:17-18). Today, Jesus is our High Priest (Heb. 8:1-2). He is the one and only mediator between man and God (1 Tim. 2:5). While the High Priests of the Old Testament could only enter the Holy of Holies once per year (Lev. 16:29), Jesus sits in the Holy of Holies interceding daily on our behalf (Heb. 9:1-10). We in turn are called upon to intercede for others. Christ’s death tore from top to bottom the “veil” of the Holy of Holies that separate us from God (Matt. 27:51; Mk. 15:38). According to the Midrash, the High Priest had to wear a rope to be pulled out in case he died inside the Holy of Holies as a result of failing to properly follow God’s procedures. By contrast, we can now enter the Holy of Holies with “boldness” for others (Heb. 10:19-22 (KJV)). Like the High Priests, we are to be praying for others. God’s seven sacrifices listed below tell us how to do so.

(1) Before we can boldly petition for others before God, we must repent on our sins. (the Bull). Before the High Priest could pray for others, the High Priest sacrificed a bull (Lev. 16:3; Nu. 29:8). The bull atoned for three types of sins. First, it covered the High Priest’s sins (Lev. 16:11). Second, it covered the sins of his “household.” (Lev. 16:11). Third, it covered any sins against others (Lev. 4:1-5:13). Yet, to the Jews, the single bull sacrifice presented a mystery. The New Moon Festivals involved two bull sacrifices, and Rosh HaShanah involved three (Nu. 29:2, 6; 28:11). Why would the holiest day of the year involve only one? The Jews did not know because God appeared only as “a cloud” above the mercy seat where the High Priest sprinkled the bull’s blood (Lev. 16:2, 14). The High Priest only knew the “shadow” of Christ (Col. 2:16-17). Through Christ, we now can see God and the different purposes of the bulls as one sees through clear glass (2 Cor. 3:18) (KJV). With all of the bull sacrifices, the blood symbolized Christ’s atoning blood. Yet, with the new moon and Rosh HaShanah sacrifices, the bull’s inner parts and legs were washed with water to purify them (Lev. 1:9). This symbolized our purifying of our inner sins and the sins of the world (Jo. 13:10; Eph. 5:26). On Yom Kippur, we recognize that our efforts to cleanse our inner self and wash ourselves from the sins of the world are futile. Only Christ, the one true bull sacrifice, can atone for our sins. Once we understand this, we are left to do two things. First, we must confess our sins to be forgiven (1 Jo. 1:9). Our prayers for ourselves or others may be “hindered” if we have not repented of the sins in our own lives (1 Pet. 3:7). Second, we must repent of the sins of our households. God’s leaders cannot have sin or rebellion in their families (1 Tim. 3:5-6). Job offered sacrifices for his children every morning before he went before God. We must also seek forgiveness for our family sins (Job 1:5). When God forgives their sins, He remembers them no more (Heb. 8:12; 10:17).

(2) Before we can petition for others, we must also seek forgiveness and forgive others. (the Ram). Before the High Priest could pray for others, he also sacrificed a ram (Lev. 16:3; Nu. 29:8). The ram offering was in fact a “trespass” offering for sins against the Lord (Lev. 5:14-19). Just like on Rosh HaShanah, the ram sacrifice on Yom Kippur requires that we do three things before we go before God to pray for others. First, to be forgiven, we must seek His forgiveness (1 Jo. 1:9). Second, we must pay restitution to restore any victim of our prior wrongs (Lev. 5:15). Finally, we must forgive others for their wrongs against us (Lk. 6:37; Matt. 6:14; Mk. 11:25).

(3) Before we go before God, we must also completely submit to His will. (the nine Lambs). Before the High Priest could pray for others, he also sacrificed nine lambs. This included seven to mark Yom Kippur (Nu. 29:8). It also included two more that had to be sacrificed daily (Nu. 28:3). The lamb’s blood of Jesus created a “soothing aroma” before God (Nu. 29:8). Today, our prayers should create a “soothing aroma” before Him (Ps. 141:2; Rev. 5:8; 8:3). Yet, to do this, we must submit to Jesus (Rom. 12:1). We do this because He was led like the lamb to the slaughter for us (Isa. 53:7; Jo. 1:29; 1 Pet. 1:18-19). The nine lambs also symbolize submission in the fullness of the Spirit (Gal. 5:21-22).

(4) Before we go before God, we must also deny and humble ourselves. (the grain offering and fast). A normal grain offering was also required on this day (Nu. 29:9). This was a person’s life offering given out of gratitude. On Yom Kippur, people were also told to “humble their souls” and not to do any work (Lev. 16:29; 23:26-32; Nu. 29:7). Anyone who violated these commandments was to be “cut off” from his or her people (Lev. 23:29). We must also deny ourselves in our life offering as we seek to pray on this day for others (Lk. 9:23). This includes fasting. We know that this practice continued into the early Church. In the book of Acts, Paul admonishes certain sailors with him after “the fast,” which was another name for Yom Kippur (Acts 27:9). We are told to follow Paul’s example as he followed Christ (1 Cor. 11:1). If we do so, Yom Kippur should be a day of fasting for us as well.

(5) Before we go before God, we must also be led by the Spirit. (the oil). The grain offering was also mixed with oil (Nu. 29:9). This symbolized the Holy Spirit (1 Sam. 16:13). Our own will needs to be crushed before the Holy Spirit can come upon us (2 Cor. 4:8). This requires that we empty ourselves of our pride and our selfish desires. The High Priest normally dressed in a special tunic, a sash, a robe, a sacred headpiece with gold letters, and an ephod (apron) with 12 precious stones worn over the priest’s heart (Lev. 8:7-9; Ex. 28:4, 15-20, 36). Yet, to enter into the Holy of Holies, the High Priest had to humble himself of his own grandeur by wearing a plain white linen garb (Lev. 16:4). Likewise, when Christ dwelt amongst us in the flesh, He emptied Himself of grandeur (Phil. 2:5-9). Like the High Priest, the men on Yom Kippur wore a white robe called a “kittel” to humble themselves. Like the High Priests, we sometimes clothe ourselves in accomplishments that might look brilliant to those around us. But they are just “filthy rags” to God (Is. 64:6). Thus, for our prayers before God to be Spirit led, we must leave behind our selfish desires.

(6) Our prayers should seek for the sins of others and the nation to be cast away. (the goat). After purifying the mercy seat with the bull’s blood, the High Priest then took two goats. The first was sacrificed to atone for the sins of the nation (Lev. 16:20; Nu. 29:11). The goat symbolized the devil. The first time a goat is mentioned in scripture was when Jacob uses goat skins to deceive his father (Gen. 27:16, 23). Jesus will also one day separate the goats from the lambs (Matt. 25:31-46). The atonement of sin “kaphar” can also be translated as “to cover.” It is the word used for the “pitch” that Noah used to seal the Ark (Gen. 6:14). Thus, in seeking to atone for his nation, the High Priest was limited to “covering” the people’s sins. The High Priest then transferred the sins of the nation onto the second goat and drove it away, the “scapegoat” (Lev. 16:7-8). For us, Christ did not merely cover our sins, He took them away (Jo. 1:29; Acts 3:19; 1 Jo. 2:2). According to the Midrash, to prevent the goat from returning, it was “released” over a cliff. Likewise, Christ will one day cast the devil into a pit of fire (Rev. 20:10). Our prayers for others should ask for Satan to be bound until he can be cast down.

(7) Our prayers should be in Christ’s name and in communion with His will. (the drink offering). Finally, Yom Kippur required a drink offering (Nu. 29:11). The wine symbolized the blood of Christ (Mk. 14:24; Jo. 6:53). To pray for others, our lives should always be in communion with Christ. In this context, we are reminded to dwell on His mercy. His blood was sprinkled seven times on the “mercy seat.” (Lev. 16:15). It was not the “entitlement seat.” In Christ’s name, we pray for His mercy for others. When we pray in faith in Christ’s name, we can successfully intercede on behalf of others. Moses, for example, successfully prayed on behalf of the Jews after they worshipped the golden calf (Ex. 32:30-35). Daniel’s prayers for others were also successful (Dan. 9:22-23). On Yom Kippur, the Jews always read from the book of Jonah. Jesus warned that the book of Jonah was the last sign a doubting people should expect to see (Matt. 12:39). In the book of Jonah, the people of Nineveh were prompted to repent, and they were saved (Jonah 3:5-10). Today, we can prompt people to repent through the power of prayer. Do we have any reason to think that God won’t respond to our prayers on behalf of the nation?

  • Conclusion. We have been given an honor that High Priests never had. We may approach God boldly to intercede on behalf of others. Unlike the High Priests, we can also do so on a daily basis . God appointed Yom Kippur for us to pray for the sins of the nation. What must God think if we chose to ignore that privilege?

The Seven Festivals of the Messiah – Part V: Rosh HaShanah

1. Background: The First Four Feasts Foretold Past Events on the Christian Calendar.

  • The Passover Feast / Jesus’ Death on the Cross. The blood of the Passover lamb allowed the Jews to have the angel of death pass over them. The lamb was to be selected on the 10th day of the month of Nisan, the day Jesus entered Jerusalem (Ex. 12:3). The Passover lamb was to be slaughtered at twilight or 3:00 pm on the Jewish calendar four days later on the 14th day of Nisan (Lev. 23:5; Ex. 12:6). On this day, Jesus died during the ninth hour of the day (starting from 6:00 am or 3:00 pm) (Matt. 27:45-50; 28:1; Mk. 15:29; Jo. 2:19). As believers, we celebrate that Christ was the Passover lamb who died for us to allow judgment to “pass over” us (Isa. 53:7; Jo. 1:29; 1 Pet. 1:18-19).

  • The Feast of Unleavened Bread / Jesus’ Time in the Grave. The hasty departure of the Israelites did not afford the time required to bake leavened bread (Ex. 12:34, 39). To celebrate God’s deliverance, the Jews celebrated the Feast of Unleavened Bread over seven days. The Jews tried to break from the sins of their old lives of bondage by living without sin, represented by the leaven in their normal bread. Jesus was in the grave during part of this festival. As believers, we celebrate that we have been given a new life in Christ, and we commit to breaking free from our old lives and living a life without sin.

  • The Feast of First Fruits/ Jesus’ Resurrection. On this day, the Jews celebrate being saved at the Red Sea (Ex. 3:18; 5:3, 14). During the Feast of First Fruits, the people were told to bring their “first fruits” of their harvest to the alter to thank God (Lev. 23:17). Jesus rose from the grave and became the “first fruits” of those who were once dead (1 Cor. 15:20). We are to give the best of our time, talent, and money to thank God (Ro. 12:1; Mal. 3:8-10).

  • The Feast of Weeks/Pentecost. The Feast of Weeks was celebrated exactly 50 days after God saved His people from death at the Red Sea, counting from the day of the Feast of First Fruits (the 17th of Nissan) (Lev. 23:15-17; Dt. 16:9-10). On this day, Jesus, the great “I AM” revealed His Ten Commandments to His people at Mount Horeb (Ex. 19:20-25; 20:1-21; Jo. 8:58; Ex. 3:14). Jesus rose from the grave on the day of the Feast of First Fruits, the 17th of Nissan. Exactly 50 days after Jesus’ death, during the Feast of Weeks, He revealed His will by pouring out the Holy Spirit unto the believers (Acts 2:3).

2. Does Rosh HaShanah Foreshadow the Rapture?

  • The last three festivals are (1) Rosh HaShanah; (2) Yom Kippur; and (3) the Feast of Tabernacles. Many people agree that Yom Kippur (the next study) foreshadows the day of judgment. Many people also agree that the Feast of Tabernacles (the study after next) foreshadows the time when God will dwell with us during the Millennial Reign. Should we then assume that Rosh Hashanah foreshadows some future date on the Christian calendar?

  • The shadows of Jesus. According to the New Testament, the seven Jewish festivals are the shadows of Jesus the Messiah (Col. 2:16-17; Heb. 10:1). By studying them, we learn more about Jesus. Likewise, in Leviticus 23:2, the Jews were told that the festivals were “holy convocations.” This same word miqra can also mean a “rehearsal.” If Rosh HaShanah is one of the seven festivals, doesn’t this festival also need to foreshadow a specific event during Jesus’ life in some way? Alternatively, if the first four festivals foreshadowed specific event’s Christ’s life, shouldn’t the fifth one foreshadow one as well?

  • Clue Number One Rosh Hashanah was celebrated on the seventh month of the religious calendar (Lev. 23:24-25). Seven is a number of completeness (Ex. 20:11). We should then be looking for something special that is completed through Christ.

  • Clue Number Two The feast took place on New Year’s Eve of the end of the Jewish civil calendar. Thus, it was a double sign of completeness. It was a time of spiritual preparation for the year to come, a new beginning. According to Jewish tradition, God created man on this day. It is thus a symbol of an end here and a new beginning for a believer.

  • Clue Number Three. It is said that this was to be a time of rest (Lev. 23:24-25). We are therefore looking for something where we will be able to rest from our labors on Earth because of Christ. Believers will not need to struggle for their salvation (Heb. 4:9-10).

  • Clue Number Four. It was celebrated with an offering by fire (Lev. 23:24-25). Fire is a symbol of purification and judgment. God “shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness.” (Mal. 3:3). The Holy Spirit purges sin from us through fire and tribulation (1 Cor. 3:13-15; 1 Pet. 1:7). Thus, this ceremony is for believers who are filled with the Spirit and purified by the Spirit of the sin in their lives.

  • Clue Number Five. This festival was part of a special season called Tesuvah, which in Hebrew means to “return or repent.” It begins on the first day of the month of Elul. Thirty days into this season, Rosh HaShanah begins. On the fortieth day, Yom Kippur, the day of atonement begins. Each day during this festival, a ram’s horn is blown to tell people to repent and return to God. Psalm 27, which begins with “the Lord is my light and my salvation” is read in the evening and morning services. Thus, this festival appears to be reserved for those believers who have repented and returned to God.

  • Clue Number Six. Unlike all other festivals, this festival involves uncertainty regarding its exact timing. Rosh HaShanah is observed over two days during the Hebrew month of Tishrei. The reason for this is that there was uncertainty over the correct calendar day. It was dependent of the timing of the new moon, and observers could not be certain of the exact day or hour when this would come (Chumney, The Seven Festivals of the Messiah (1994 Treasure House)).

  • Clue Number Seven. The festival shall be celebrated by the blowing of trumpets (Lev. 23:24-25). The sound of the trumpet symbolized an awakening. Rosh HaShanah is referred to in the Torah as Yom Teruah, which means the day of the sounding of the Shofar (a ram’s horn). This also means the day of the sounding of the awakening blast. In Palm 89:15, it says that those who hear the blast of the shofar will be blessed. In Psalm 47:5, it is written, “God has ascended with a shout, the Lord, with the sound of a trumpet.” In Isaiah 26:19, the word “awake” is also associated with the dead rising in a resurrection. The next event on the Christian calendar which will also be preceded by the blowing of a loud trumpet heard only by believers is the rapture (Matt. 24:31; 1 Cor. 15:52; 1 Thess. 4:16-17). In Ephesians, Paul reveals that at that time Christ will order “…awake, sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” (Eph. 5:14).

  • Be written on the Book of Life. Some midrashic writings describe God as sitting upon His throne while books containing the deeds of all humanity are opened for review. During this time, each person passing in front of Him for evaluation of his or her deeds. During this festival, it is also customary to greet others with the words: L’shana tova ketivah vi-chatima tova. This is translated as: “For a good year – you should be written and sealed in the good Book of Life.” Only through faith in Christ’s death can we be written in the Lamb’s book of Life. Are you telling others what they need to do to prepare?

3. The Final Trumpet Blast

  • The Origin of the Shofar The shofar (or ram’s horn) is associated with the Akebah, Abraham’s offering of his son Isaac as a sacrifice (Gen. 22:1-19). It was symbolic of God’s provision of a substitute offering when Abraham showed faith that God would provide one. “God will provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering.” (Gen. 22:8). The ram is also a trespass offering to atone for our sins against God (Lev. 8:18; 5:15). The ram foreshadows Jesus, who died for us and is our trespass offering for our sins against God (Is. 53:10-11).

  • The Blast of the Left Shofar. Rabbinical tradition associates the left horn of the ram as the “first trumpet” and the right horn as the “last trumpet.” The first trumpet is mentioned on Mount Horeb when the shofar was blown, and the people in the camp trembled in reverent fear (Ex. 19:16).

  • Other Blasts of the Shofar. The Bible is filled with other examples where there was a blast of the shodar, each is associated with an act of great faith in God. These include: the Jubilee year (Lev. 25:9); the beginning of the festivals (Num. 10:10); the battle of Jericho (Josh. 6:20); the beginning of the day of the Lord (Joel 2:1); and seven shofar are blown when God judges the Earth during the Great Tribulation (Rev. 8-9).

  • The Blast of the Right Shofar. In 1 Cor. 15:52, Paul writes “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 is the last trumpet? On the Jewish New Year’s eve (Rosh HaShanah), the last horn to blow is the right horn. During this festival, the horn has three distinct blasts. Tekiah:  one long, straight blast; Shevarim:  three medium, wailing sounds; Teruah:  nine quick blasts in short succession. The last blast is called the teki’at shofar. It is a long blast that signals victory or good news. This blast is referred to as “the last trumpet”.

  • The left and the right shofar blasts are related. One cannot claim to be a believer of God if he or she will not accept the Ten Commandments. Although we are not saved by our works or compliance with the law, Jesus says that if we love Him we will seek to obey the Law (Jo. 14:15; 14:21; 15:10; 1 Jo. 5:2). He is the great “I AM” who revealed the Ten Commandments to Moses (Jo. 8:58; Ex. 3:14). Thus, when Jesus said that if you love Him you will keep His commandments, He was referring to His Ten Commandments. They are your wedding vow. The believer who hears the blasts, repents, and accepts God’s Law is freed from sin, the desires of this world, and serving the devil (Rom. 6:12-13; Jam. 4:4).

  • The Coronation of Jesus; the Wedding Groom. The Jews read Psalm 47:59 on this day refer to the coronation of God as ruler of the universe. Psalm 47:5 is the shout and trumpet of Rosh HaShanah. In verses 6-7, the King of all the Earth is praised. In verse 9, the believers (“the princes of the people”) are gathered in the King’s presence. At Mount Horeb, the wedding between the Jews and God was not completed because of their spiritual infidelity. Is there another point in the future when the believers will be gathered for the coronation of the king and their wedding to Him? (Rev. 4:1-2 (coronation); 19:7; 21:2, 9 (the wedding)).

4. Arguments against a Relationship Between Rosh Hashanah and the Rapture

  • No One Knows the Day of Christ’s Return. Jesus said no one knows the day or hour of His return (Matt. 24:36; Mk. 13:32). Thus, the exact date is not predictable.

  • Jesus Preached Repentance. Another argument is that Jesus preached repentance while He was here. Although this was not tied to the Feast of Rosh HaShanah it could represent a fulfillment of this Feast while Jesus was alive, making a future fulfillment unnecessary.

  • Yom HaKeseh. Consistent with Jesus’ words, Rosh HaShanah has another meaning called Yom HaKeseh. This means the “Day of Hiding” or the “Hidden Day.” Although the trumpet is blown each day during the month of Elul to warn people to turn back to God, there is one day when it is not blown. According to one belief, Satan was not to be given advanced notice of the arrival of Rosh HaShanah and the day of judgment (Chumney, The Seven Festivals of the Messiah (1994 Treasure House, p. 138)).

  • Reconciling these Verses. It is possible that the rapture has nothing to do with Rosh HaShanah. Even though there is evidence to back it, it is only a theory. Yet, as set forth above, Rosh HaShanah is not a precise holiday. During the thirty days preceding Rosh HaShanah, a trumpet is blown every day. It is possible that it is not the last trumpet blast of this thirty-day period. Furthermore, if Rosh HaShanah correlates with the rapture, there is nothing in the Bible which tells us which of the two calendar days of Rosh HaShanah applies. The year is also unknown. Thus, is there a way to reconcile Christ’s statements with the possibility that a future Rosh HaShanah foreshadows Christ’s return?

  • The Purpose in Providing Uncertainty. Jesus gives us the parable of the virgins who failed to prepare for the bridegroom. They failed to fill their flasks with oil (symbolizing the Holy Spirit). When the bridegroom came, they were not ready. Jesus said that He never knew them (Matt. 25:1-13). If Jesus told us the exact hour of His return, we would put off until that moment purifying our hearts and preparing for His return. God wants us to be prepared at all times for His return (Matt. 25:13).

  • Observe a Season of Elul. As stated above, this holiday happened during a season for the people to repent and return to God. Because we don’t know the exact time of Christ’s return, we should also repent and return to Him.