Yom Teruah (Day of Trumpets)
On the first day of the seventh month Israel was commanded by God to observe Yom Teruah, which literally means ‘Day of Shouting’ but it is more commonly known as the Day of Trumpets. Teruah means a loud noise or sound of alarm, which can either be a noise made by shouting or by blowing of trumpets.
Yom Teruah is the first moed (appointed time) of the autumn season and is peculiar in that the Torah does not give a reason for this festival unlike the other appointed times. Hag Ha-Matzot (Feast of Unleavened Bread) commemorated Israel being delivered from bondage in Egypt; Hag Ha-Shavuot (Feast of Weeks) was a celebration of the end of the wheat harvest; Yom Ha-Kippurim (Day of Atonements) was a day for the people to humble themselves and have their national sins atoned for; Hag Ha-Succoth (Feast of Booths) commemorated Israel’s wandering in the wilderness and was a celebration of the latter harvest of agricultural produce. Today, the Jews do not understand the meaning of the Day of Trumpets and have turned it into their ‘New Years Day’ called Rosh Hashanah, which literally means ‘head of the year’. This came about through the influence of Babylonian tradition that was adopted by the Jews during their exile. The Babylonians celebrated two Akitu festivals during the year, one in the autumn and one in the spring, which coincided with the sowing of barley and the reaping of barley respectively. The first day of their month, called Tishrei, was considered as one of the beginning points in the year, which influenced the Jews in their celebration of Yom Teruah.
The appointed times of Yehovah are a typological shadow of the major events in God’s calendar for the salvation of mankind. Although Israel was commanded to observe them, they were (and still are) appointed times that belong to God. ‘Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, Concerning the feasts of the Lord, which ye shall proclaim to be holy convocations, even these are my feasts’ (Leviticus 23:2). They are God’s pre-appointed times, ordained from the foundation of the world, in which he will fulfil his plan for mankind. The feast days of the first month picture the first coming of Jesus as Saviour; the Feast of Weeks pictures the harvest of first-fruits (which is our present dispensation) who will be in the first resurrection; and the feast days of the seventh month picture the second coming of Jesus as King, as well as the second resurrection at the end of the thousand-year rule. When Jesus died on the cross as our Passover Lamb, it was fulfilled exactly according to the timing God had pre-appointed. There is therefore every reason to believe that the prophesied events yet to be fulfilled in God’s plan will be accomplished on the exact appointed times which he has ordained.
On the Day of Trumpets, God commanded a day of cessation from customary work and there was to be a sacred assembly at the temple for sacrifices to be made (Leviticus 23:23-25). It was to be a memorial of making a noise of alarm, which is why trumpets are associated with this day. Trumpets were also used to call together people for assemblies, as an alarm of war and at the time of the sacrifice of burnt offerings. They functioned as a way to call attention to something. Yom Teruah is also called zikron teruah, which is commonly translated as a memorial of blowing of trumpets. The word ‘zikron’ is also associated with ‘mentioning’, thus we have the idea that the shouting/ trumpets bring to mind, or announce an important event. The trumpet blasts are intended to awaken people’s hearts and bring them out of their spiritual slumber. The first mention in Scripture of a trumpet sound is when Yehovah descended upon Mount Sinai and spoke the Ten Commandments (Exodus 19:16). It was such a dramatic and frightening display that Israel had no excuse not to respect Yehovah their God and the law he gave them. Indeed it must have been this occasion of God coming down from heaven with the sound of a trumpet that was called to mind when Israel annually observed the memorial of blowing of trumpets.
Two silver trumpets were made specifically for use by the priests and would have been used on Yom Teruah, not only because it was a feast day, but also because it was the first day of the month. ‘And the sons of Aaron, the priests, shall blow with the trumpets; and they shall be to you for an ordinance for ever throughout your generations. And if ye go to war in your land against the enemy that oppresseth you, then ye shall blow an alarm with the trumpets; and ye shall be remembered before the Lord your God, and ye shall be saved from your enemies. Also in the day of your gladness, and in your solemn days, and in the beginnings of your months, ye shall blow with the trumpets over your burnt offerings, and over the sacrifices of your peace offerings; that they may be to you for a memorial before your God: I am the Lord your God’ (Numbers 10:8–10). Because the silver trumpets were used on other feast days, it is highly likely that the additional blowing of the shofar (ram’s horn trumpet) on the Day of Trumpets was what made the day distinctive and fulfilled the requirement to make a sound of alarm. The Scriptures, however, only mention the specific requirement to use the shofar in connection with Yom Ha-Kippurim (Day of Atonements) when announcing the upcoming Jubilee Year. On the Day of Atonements, when the Jubilee year was to be announced, a shofar teruah (horn-trumpet shout) was to sound throughout the land (Leviticus 25:9). This was announced in the 49th year, which made every 50th year, starting in the Spring, the Jubilee Year.
The shofar was also used when the city of Jericho fell. For six days the people were to march once around the city in procession with seven priests blowing seven ram’s horn trumpets. Then on the seventh day they were to march around seven times. On the final circuit, when the trumpets would sound, the people were to cry out with a loud shout. ‘And it shall come to pass, that when they make a long blast with the ram’s horn [ha yobel qeren], and when ye hear the sound of the trumpet [shofar], all the people shall shout [rua (verb)] with a great shout [teruah (noun)]; and the wall of the city shall fall down flat, and the people shall ascend up every man straight before him’ (Joshua 6:5). The book of Joshua is a remarkable type that foreshadows the events described in the book of Revelation when another Joshua (Yeshua the Messiah) will come and fight against his enemies to make way for his kingdom on the earth.
The prophets spoke about a period of time called the Day of Yehovah (otherwise known as the Day of the Lord), which is the time period when Jesus Christ will return to this earth to judge the nations and establish his kingdom over all the earth. ‘Behold, the day of the Lord cometh, Cruel both with wrath and fierce anger, To lay the land desolate: And he shall destroy the sinners thereof out of it. For the stars of heaven and the constellations thereof shall not give their light: The sun shall be darkened in his going forth, And the moon shall not cause her light to shine’ (Isaiah 13:9–10). The opening of the seventh seal, which is described in the book of Revelation, begins the Day of the Lord. A sequence of events heralded by seven trumpet blasts bring cataclysmic destruction on the earth. ‘And when he had opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour. And I saw the seven angels which stood before God; and to them were given seven trumpets’ (Revelation 8:1–2).
The first four trumpets represent environmental catastrophes caused by, what appears to be, meteorites hitting the earth. A third of the vegetation, sea and fresh water will be struck. In addition, the light from the sun, moon and stars will be diminished by a third; perhaps as a result of the dust and smoke in the atmosphere after the cosmic bombardment. The last three trumpets are called the ‘three woes’, with the fifth and sixth having to do with demonic powers being released from their prison to cause havoc on the earth. The ultimate fulfilment of what the Day of Trumpets foreshadows is when the seventh trumpet sounds and the heavenly host shout the declaration that Jesus Christ has taken over the throne of the earth. ‘And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever’ (Revelation 11:15). This event was acted out in type when the Israelites shouted after the seventh trumpet and the walls of the city of Jericho fell down. Jericho, in this case, represents the kingdoms of this world. Some of the other parallels in the book of Joshua are: heavenly signs (Joshua 10:13; cf. Revelation 6:12-13); meteorites falling on the earth (Joshua 10:11; cf. Revelation 8:7) and people hiding themselves in caves (Joshua 10:16; cf. Revelation 6:15).
At the sounding of the seventh trumpet, the dead in Christ shall be raised to immortal spirit life. ‘Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, 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’ (1 Corinthians 15:51–52). ‘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 rise first: Then we which 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 ever be with the Lord.’ (1 Thessalonians 4:16–17). ‘And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other’ (Matthew 24:30–31).
For there to be a ‘last trump’, there have to be a series of trumpets and that is exactly what we find in the book of Revelation. At that moment, when the seventh trumpet sounds, the first resurrection will take place in which the saints will be given eternal life and reign with Jesus Christ for a thousand years (Revelation 20:4-6). This event is also described in Revelation 14:14-16 as the first harvest of the earth and in Revelation 19:6-8 as the marriage of the Lamb. Those in the first resurrection are called ‘firstfruits’ (James 1:18). For this reason it seems likely that the resurrection will occur on the Feast of Weeks (Pentecost), which pictures the conclusion of the firstfruits harvest. There were seven complete weeks of harvest from when the first of the firstfruits was offered during the Feast of Unleavened Bread until the conclusion of the harvest at the Feast of Weeks. The seven weeks are therefore a type of the seven eras of God’s church described in Revelation 2 and 3.
After this another harvest occurs, but this time it is a gathering of those who will be cast into the great winepress of God’s wrath (Revelation 14:17-20). There is such devastation during this time period that it must be of short duration (Revelation 16). The saints will have already been raised before the bowl judgements occur because we know that we are not appointed to wrath (1 Thessalonians 5:9). Although we may experience tribulation at the hand of Satan or be affected by general disturbances in the world, we can rest assured that if we are in Christ, we will not suffer God’s wrath in judgement. This is confirmed by the fact that the saints are pictured standing on a sea of glass before the throne of God prior to the bowls of God’s wrath being poured out (Revelation 15:2).
Just as when God descended on Mount Sinai with the sound of trumpets, so too will he descend at the end of the age as King of kings and Lord of lords to the mighty sound of trumpets and shouts of exaltation of the saints. ‘And after these things I heard a great voice of much people in heaven, saying, Alleluia; Salvation, and glory, and honour, and power, unto the Lord our God: For true and righteous are his judgments: for he hath judged the great whore, which did corrupt the earth with her fornication, and hath avenged the blood of his servants at her hand’ (Revelation 19:1–2). The Day of Trumpets pictures a time of war; a time of alarm and demonstration of God’s almighty power. As God’s faithful, we will be with Jesus Christ as part of his army and will share in his glory (Revelation 19:11; 14–15). As children of light, let us watch and be sober and not be taken by surprise when these things happen (1 Thessalonians 5:4-6). Let us pray always ‘Thy kingdom come’!