MEANINGS OF THE FEAST OF TRUMPETS
Jeff Smith and Doug Ward
We have had much to say in this issue about the beautiful
symbolismof the fall festival season. We are aware, though,
that this symbolism is currently a controversial issue in
the WCG. For example, the following remarks about the Feast
of Trumpets recently appeared on an internet forum in which
``As a Holy Day, Trumpets is perhaps the most `shadowed'
of the Lev. 23 days. What it meant to Israel and what it foreshadows
about Jesus are less clear than with the other days. Indeed,
in Israel its meaning evolved over time as reflected in rabbinic
practice and interpretation.
``In the WCG, we chose to assign to it a futuristic orientation
related to the Day of the Lord and Jesus' second advent. We
have little scriptural or historic precedent fordoing so,
but then the new covenant gives us great latitude with regard
These remarks have provided us with much food for thought.
In thisarticle,we would like to examine them in some detail.
We agree with the author of the remarks (who will remain nameless
here) that ``the new covenant gives us great latitude with
regard to worship days.'' Whatever form our worship takes
on, the important thing is that we worship ``in spirit and
in truth'' (John 4:24). The great works that God has performed
in the past, carries out in the present, and has planned for
the future are worth celebrating on an annual basis-in fact,
leaders of other denominations have expressed their approval
of such traditions. So in a sense, we need offer no justification
for our Feast of Trumpets celebrations. In answer to the traditional
festival question, ``Why are we here?'', we can rightfully
answer, ``Why not?''
We also acknowledge that the Feast of Trumpets is the festival
about which the Bible gives us the least amount of direct
information. It is not associated with any particular facet
of theExodus, and there is no scripture that explicitly tells
us its meaning. TheBible introduces it simply as a ``remembrance
blast'' (Lev. 23:34) and a ``day of blowing'' (Num. 29:1).
But is it fair to say that there is ``little scriptural or
historical precedent'' for associating the Feast of Trumpets
with the events to occur at the close of this age? We think
not. Our aimin this article is to carefully evaluate our traditional
teachings on the meanings of the Feast of Trumpets and demonstrate
how these teachings can be enhanced by further information
from the Bible and history.
Our understanding of the meanings of the Feast of Trumpets
has alwaysbeen based on the conviction that the annual festivals
tell the story ofGod's plan of salvation, along with the observation
that the events associatedin the Biblewith the blowing of
trumpets fit remarkably well into their appropriate placein
that story. We next examine the biblical support for this
Festivals as Types
13:8 tells us that God planned to send Jesus as our Savior
``from the foundation of the world.'' As Jesus taught His
disciples after His resurrection, God inspired the Gospel
to be proclaimed in various waysthroughout the Old Testament
(Luke 24:44-46). One way in which Jesus' coming and mission
are predicted is through a wonderful series of direct prophecies,
such as Micah 5:2, Isa. 9:6-7,and Isa. 52:13-53:12 . But
even more frequently, theGospel is announcedsymbolically through
special people, events, and ceremonies. These special symbols
are called ``types'' (see the Glossary on p. 22). The New
Testament writers explicitly recognized a number of different
typesin the Old Testament, including the events of the Exodus
as a type of the Christian experience (I Cor. 10:1-11), Adam
as a type of Christ (Rom. 5:14),the flood as a type of baptism
(I Peter 3:20-21), and the old covenant tabernacleand priesthood
as types of Christ's heavenly priesthood (Heb. 8:5; 9:24).
(See Chapter 1 of  for an enlightening discussion of biblicaltypology.)
Did God design the annual festivals as types? There is ample
biblical evidence that He did, and that the New Testament
church understood that He did. Thisis especially clear for
the spring festivals. The Bible identifies Jesus as the true
Passover lamb (John 1:29, I Cor. 5:7,I Peter 1:19) andas the
Firstfruits of the spiritual harvest (I Cor. 15:20-23),the
fulfillment of the wavesheaf offering of Lev. 23:9-14. It
identifies leavening as atype of sin and the Days of Unleavened
Bread as symbolic of the cleansingfrom sin that we receive
as a result of Christ's sacrifice forus (I Cor.5:6-8). It
sees the Christian church as a spiritual spring harvest, thebeginning
of the salvation of mankind (Rom. 8:23, James 1:18).These
connectionsare accentuated and reinforced by the fact that
Jesuswas crucified on thevery day on which the Passover lambs
were killed and resurrected on the dayof the wavesheaf offering;
similarly, the spiritual spring harvest beganwith the coming
of the Holy Spirit on the very dayof Pentecost. All of this
symbolism has been well understood by the ChristianChurch
through the centuries, as has been carefully documentedin
Given that the typology of the spring festivals has attained
such remarkable fulfillment, is it not reasonable to infer
that the fall festivals also foreshadow major milestones in
the unfolding of God's plan? The WCG has given an affirmative
answer to this question in the past, and several recentChristian
sourceson the annual festivals (e.g., [1-3, 5]) concur. There
are strong biblical and historical arguments in favor of such
a view. First, there is the eschatological symbolism of the
Feast of Tabernacles. We know that the Feast commemorated
God's protection of the Israelites while they lived in ``booths''
duringtheirforty years of wandering in the wilderness. Later,
in the time of theprophets, it also came to picture the messianic
kingdom, in which the righteouswould enjoy safe dwelling places
(e.g., Isa. 32:18; 33:20;Zech. 14:11, 16). This connection
between the Feast and the millennium wasrecognized by theChurch
in its early centuries; in [4, Chap. 20], Danielou cites examplesfrom
the writings of Methodius, who died around A.D. 311.
The association of the Feast with the messianic age is also
reflectedin post-exilic Jewish festival liturgy . Psalm
118 was traditionallysung on the seventh day of the Feast,
and v. 26 (``Blessed be he that comethin the nameof the Lord
....'') was seen as a reference to the Messiah. Onecelebration
of the seventh day of the Feast was the water libation ceremony,in
which water was drawn from the pool of Siloam and poured out
on the altar. The water in this ceremony came to be associated
with the healing, purifying ``waters'' of the Holy Spirit
that would be poured out in the messianic age (Isa. 44:3;
Ezek. 47:1; Zech. 14:8). When Jesus proclaimed Himself on
that day to be the source of the Spirit (John 7:37-39), He
was saying that Hewas the Messiah and the fulfillment of the
ceremony's symbolism. His audience recognized the import of
His proclamation (v. 40-41).
A second indication of the typological nature of the fall
festivals is givenby the fact that all of the annual festivals
are listed together inLev. 23, implying that they form one
unified whole. There is also an orderlyprogressionin their
symbolism at several levels, suggesting that God intendedthem,
asa unit, to tell a story. On one level, they tell the story
of theannualharvest in Israel, from spring to fall. On a second
level, they tellthe story of the Exodus,from the deliverance
of Israel at Passover, to thegiving of the law at Sinai during
the Pentecost season, to the wildernessjourney and arrival
in the Promised Land pictured by the Feast of Tabernacles.
A third level is the story of the salvation of the world,
from Jesus'Passover sacrificeto the outpouring of the Holy
Spirit on and after Pentecost,and on to the time when God
will tabernacle with mankind forever (Rev. 21:3). Finally,the
festivals tell the story of the salvation of individual Christians,from
our acceptance of Christ's sacrifice to our receiving and
followingthe lead ofthe Holy Spirit, and onward to eternal
life. As nineteenth-centuryLutheran preacher Joseph Seiss
wrote in , ``There are three general aspectsin which these
remarkable festivals may be considered. They had importantrelations
to the peace and prosperity of the Jews as a nation; they
embodieda great religious idea; and they presented chronological
prefiguration ofthe great facts of our redemption.''
Given the chronological progression in the typology of Passover,
Pentecost, and the Feast of Tabernacles, it is reasonable
to believe that the festivals which fall between Pentecost
and the Feast of Tabernacles-the Feast of Trumpets and the
Day of Atonement-would have symbolism involving events to
occur between the founding and growth of the Church and the
establishmentof the millennial kingdom, events like the Day
of the Lord, the first resurrection, and Christ's return to
judge the nations and be crowned as king over the earth. We
have endorsedsuch a belief in the past, as do references [1-3,5],
pointing tothe fact that these very events are associated
in the Bible with the blowingof trumpets (e.g., Joel 2:1-2,
I Thes. 4:16-17, I Cor. 15:51-52, Matt. 24:30-31, Rev. 11:15-18).
In summary, the traditional WCG understanding of the meanings
of the Feast ofTrumpets was based on some rather strong circumstantial
evidence: (1)There is broadconsensus in the Christian world
on the prophetic symbolismof Passover, Pentecost, and the
Feast of Tabernacles. (2) This symbolismindicates that the
typology of the festivals lays out chronologically thestory
of God's plan of redemption.(3) Finally, the Feast of Trumpets
fallsshortly before the Feast of Tabernacles in the calendar,
and trumpet imageryis associated in the Bible with events
to occur shortly before those picturedby the Feast of Tabernacles.
Symbolism and the Feast of Trumpets
argument outlined above can be substantiated further by evidence
linking biblical trumpet imagery with the Feast of Trumpets
itself. Such evidence is available in the Jewish theologyand
festival traditions that had beendeveloped by the first century
A.D. With a better knowledge of the religionof Jesus' time,
wecan come to a deeper awareness and understanding of NewTestament
festival imagery (see [2,3]).
A particularly interesting section of Scripture in this regard
is the description of the seven trumpets of Rev. 8-9, 11.
In this partof the book of Revelation (a book full of festival
symbolism!) six trumpets announce plagues designed to call
the world to repentance (see Rev. 9:20-21) before a seventh
trumpet proclaims the judgment of the world (Rev. 11:18).
There is a striking parallel here with Jewish festivaltraditions.
In the Jewish tradition, the shofar is sounded on the
first day of each of the first six months of the Hebrew calendar.
Thesetrumpet blasts are also seen ascalls to repentance, reminders
of the time ofjudgment that begins when theshofar is
sounded on the Feast of Trumpets (the first day of the seventhmonth)
and continues until the Dayof Atonement.
The context of this section of Revelation gives further indication
ofits connection with the Feast of Trumpets. It begins in
Rev. 8:1-5 withan offeringof incense and the prayers of the
saints at a golden heavenlyaltar,giving the passage a worship
setting. It is immediately followed,in Rev. 11:19, by the
opening of the Most Holy Place of the heavenly temple,where
the ark of the covenant is seen. The imagery here is that
of the Dayof Atonement, the only time when the High Priest
ministered before the arkof the covenant (Lev. 16). Again,
in Jewish tradition, a judgment periodbegins on the Feast
of Trumpets and reaches its culmination on theDay ofAtonement.
That tradition seems to be reflected in the symbolismof Rev.8-11.
The theology of this passage provides yet another link with
the Feastof Trumpets. Aswe mentioned on p. 23, the Feast of
Trumpets is introducedin Lev. 23:24as a ``memorial of blowing
of trumpets'' or ``remembrance blast'' (ziccaron teruah
in Hebrew) ). The word ziccaron (``remembrance'') has
special significance in the Jewish theology of the Feast of
Trumpets[2,3]. In that theology, the festival calls upon people
to remember God,and it also calls upon God to``remember''
His people and His covenant (Num.10:8-10). In Rev. 8:1-5,
the prayers ofthe saints are a plea to God to rememberHis
people (see also Rev. 6:9-10),and God responds powerfully
by sendingthe seven trumpets. The kingshipof God (Rev. 11:15,
17) is also a themelong associated with this festival.In Jewish
tradition, three ``pillars''of the Feast of Trumpets are kingship,
remembrance, and the sound of theshofar. All three are picturedin
The trumpet symbolism in Rev. 8-9, 11 does, then, relate closely
to the Feastof Trumpets. There are possible Feast of Trumpets
connections withsome other New Testament passages, too. For
example, Paul states in I Cor.15:52 that the resurrection
of the saints will occur ``in a moment, in thetwinkling of
an eye, at the last trump.'' According to Chumney , theterm
``last trump'' in Jewishtradition refers specifically to the
blowingof the shofar on the Feast ofTrumpets.
Another verse with significant language is I Thes. 4:16: ``For
the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with
the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and
the dead in Christ shall risefirst.'' Chumney explains in
 that ``shouting'', the Feast of Trumpets, and the resurrection
of the dead are all intertwined in Jewish thought. The source
of this connection is the fact that teruah, the Hebrew
word for the trumpet blast in Lev. 23:24, alsocan be translated
as an ``awakening blast'' or ``shout''. As a result,biblical
references to ``shouting'' (e.g., Isa. 12:6, 42:1,44:23; Jer.
31:7; Zeph. 3:14; Zech. 9:9) are associatedin Jewish traditionwith
the Feast of Trumpets. Interestingly, both awakening and shouting
areconnectedwith the resurrection of the dead in Isa. 26:19,
which states inthe NIV:``But your dead willlive; their bodies
will rise. You who dwellin the dust, wake up andshout for
joy.'' Chumney also mentions a Talmudicreference [Rosh
Hashanah, 16b] to the belief (familiar to many ofus!)
that the resurrection of the dead will take place on the Feast
These examples indicate that it is reasonable to associate
the Feast of Trumpets with the Day of the Lord and the resurrection
of the saints, since the Bible and Jewish tradition give hints
of such connections.
We conclude, along with [1-3, 5], that it is inaccurate to
say that there is ``little scripturalor historic precedent''
for connecting the Feast of Trumpets with the events to come
at the close of this age. Our traditional case for themeanings
of the Feast of Trumpets is admittedly indirect, based as
it is uponthe clearer typology of the other festival days,
but it canbe strengthenedwith help from the festival allusions
present in several NewTestament passages, most notably Rev.
8-11. The light provided by Scriptureand history shows that
the meanings of the Feast of Trumpets are certainlynot shrouded
Still, we have much yet to learn about the meanings and history
of the Feast of Trumpets and the other annual festivals. Here
are three suggestions for modern-day students of festival
Don't be dogmatic, especially in regard to the Feast
of Trumpetsand the Day of Atonement. Typology is not an exact
science. There is general agreement on the Christian meanings
of Passover, Pentecost,and the Feastof Tabernacles, but which
prophetic events one associates withthe Feast ofTrumpets and
which with the Day of Atonement may differ, depending upon
theparticular prophetic scenario one is following [2,3,5].
This is not surprising,since the two festivals are closely
linked and both haveconnections with trumpet symbolism. (For
the Day of Atonement, this connectionis through the announcement
of the Year of Jubilee-Lev. 25:9-and throughthe traditional
blowing of theshofar at the close of that day.)
Learn about Jewish tradition. The WCG has come to see
that there is much of value in the nearly 2000 years of Christian
thought, and the same is true of the many centuries of Jewish
thought. The Old Testamentis the most important source for
understanding the background and context oftheNew Testament,
but the Jewish tradition that developed after the timeof Malachi
is also a very valuable aid to our understanding. In particular,it
can help us to recognize the implicit festival symbolism in
the New Testament, especially in the writings of the apostle
Focus on Christ in the past, present, and future. Years
ago, wein the WCG tended to concentrate too much on the future
aspects of fallfestival symbolism. However, all of the festivals
have past and present, as wellas future, significance [1-2].
For example, the meaning of the Feast ofTrumpets, broadly
considered, includes the ways in which God has``remembered''His
people throughout history. The ultimate expression of God's
remembranceof us is found in the coming of Jesus-in the flesh,2000
years ago; in thelives of believers today (John 14:23); and
in powerat His glorious return. There is indeed much for us
to celebrate on theFeast of Trumpets, as onall of God's annual
- Samuele Bacchiocchi, God's Festivals in Scriptureand
History, Part I: the Spring Festivals. Biblical Perspectives,
BerrienSprings, MI, 1995. (For sample chapters, see http://www2.andrews.edu/~
- Samuele Bacchiocchi, God's Festivals in Scriptureand
History, Part II: the Fall Festivals. Biblical Perspectives,
BerrienSprings, MI, 1996. (Volumes I and II can be purchased
for $15 each from Biblical Perspectives, 4990 Appian Way,
Berrien Springs, MI 49103.)
- Eddie Chumney, The Seven Festivals of the Messiah.
Destiny ImagePublishers, Shippensburg, PA, 1994. (This book
is available on theinternetin its entirety at http://www.geocities.com/Heartland/2175,
andcopies may be purchased for$12 from Hebraic Heritage
Ministries International,P.O. Box 81, Strasburg, Ohio 44680.)
- Jean Danielou, The Bible and the Liturgy. University
of Notre Dame Press, Notre Dame, IN, 1956.
- Kevin Howard and Marvin J. Rosenthal, The Feasts of
the Lord.Thomas Nelson, Nashville, 1997.
- Walter C. Kaiser, Jr., The Messiah in the Old Testament.
Zondervan, Grand Rapids, 1995.
- Joseph A. Seiss, Holy Types: or, the Gospel in Leviticus:
a Series of Lectures on the Hebrew Ritual. Charles C.Cook,
New York, 1900.
the Authors: Jeff Smith lives in Peoria, Illinios,and
has been a member of the WCG since 1974. He has written a
book entitledThe Gospel Medley, a single narrative
of the four gospels that is asyet unpublished. He also creates
children's plays from scripture to be performed within the
local congregation. Jeff graduated with a B.S. from Case Western
Reserve University in 1978 and earned an MBA from Bradley
University in 1994.
Jeff works as a Senior Systems Analystfor Caterpillar,
Inc., and has beenmarried to his wife Julie for 13 years.
They have three children: Victoria(11), Olivia(9), and Raymond(6).