by Jeff Smith and Doug Ward

  We have had much to say in this issue about the beautiful symbolism of 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 we  participate:

``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 for doing so, but then the new covenant gives us great  latitude with regard to worship days.''

      These remarks have provided us with much food for thought.  In this article, we  would like to examine them in some detail. 

We agree with the author of the remarks (WCG pastor Ted Johnston)  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 the Exodus, and there is no scripture that explicitly  tells us its meaning.  The Bible 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 aim in 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 always been  based on the conviction that the annual festivals tell the story of God's plan of salvation, along with the observation that the events associated in the Bible with the blowing of trumpets fit remarkably well into their appropriate  place in that story.  We next examine the biblical support for this understanding.   


The Festivals as Types

  Revelation 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 ways throughout 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 [6].  But even more frequently, the Gospel  is announced symbolically through special people, events, and ceremonies. These  special symbols are called ``types''.       The New Testament writers explicitly recognized a number of different types in 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 tabernacle and priesthood as types of Christ's heavenly priesthood (Heb. 8:5; 9:24).  (See Chapter 1 of [2] for an enlightening discussion of biblical typology.)

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.  This is 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) and as  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 a type of sin and the Days of Unleavened Bread as symbolic of the cleansing from sin that we receive as a result of Christ's sacrifice for us (I Cor.5:6-8).  It sees the Christian church as a spiritual spring harvest, the beginning of the salvation of mankind (Rom. 8:23, James 1:18).These connections are accentuated and reinforced by the fact that Jesus was crucified on the very day on which the Passover lambs were killed and resurrected on the day of the wavesheaf offering; similarly, the spiritual spring harvest began with the coming of the Holy Spirit on the very day of Pentecost.  All of this symbolism has been well understood by the Christian Church through the centuries, as has been carefully documented in [1, 4].  

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 recent Christian sources on  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'' during their forty  years of wandering in the wilderness.  Later, in the time of the prophets,  it also came to picture the messianic kingdom, in which the righteous would  enjoy safe dwelling places (e.g., Isa. 32:18; 33:20;Zech. 14:11, 16). This  connection between the Feast and the millennium was recognized by the Church  in its early centuries; in [4, Chap. 20], Danielou cites examples from the  writings of Methodius, who died around A.D. 311.             

The association of the Feast with the messianic age is also reflected in  post-exilic Jewish festival liturgy [4].  Psalm 118 was traditionally sung  on the seventh day of the Feast, and v. 26 (``Blessed be he that cometh in  the name of the Lord ....'') was seen as a reference to the Messiah.  One celebration  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 He was 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  given by the fact that all of the annual festivals are listed together in Lev.  23, implying that they form one unified whole.  There is also an orderly progression in  their symbolism at several levels, suggesting that God intended them, as a unit, to tell a story.  On one level, they tell the story of the annual harvest in Israel, from spring to fall.  On a second level, they tell the story of the Exodus, from the deliverance of Israel at Passover, to the giving of the law at Sinai during the Pentecost season, to the wilderness journey 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 sacrifice to  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 following the lead of the Holy Spirit,  and onward to eternal life.  As nineteenth-century Lutheran preacher Joseph  Seiss wrote in [7], ``There are three general aspects in which these remarkable festivals may be considered.  They had important relations to the peace and prosperity of the Jews as a nation; they embodied a great religious idea; and they presented chronological prefiguration of the 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 establishment of 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  endorsed such a belief in the past, as do references [1-3,5], pointing to the  fact that these very events are associated in the Bible with the blowing of 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  of  Trumpets was based on some rather strong circumstantial evidence:  (1)There  is broad consensus in the Christian world on the prophetic symbolism of Passover,  Pentecost, and the Feast of Tabernacles.  (2) This symbolism indicates that  the typology of the festivals lays out chronologically the story of God's plan of redemption.(3) Finally, the Feast of Trumpets falls shortly before the Feast of Tabernacles  in the calendar, and trumpet imagery is associated in the Bible with events to occur shortly before those pictured by the Feast of Tabernacles.        


Trumpet Symbolism and the Feast of Trumpets

   The 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 theology and festival traditions that had been developed  by the first century A.D.  With a better knowledge of the religion of Jesus'  time, we can come to a deeper awareness and understanding of New Testament 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 part of 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 festival traditions.  In the Jewish tradition, the shofar  is sounded on the first day of each of the first six months of the Hebrew calendar.  These trumpet blasts are also seen as calls to repentance, reminders of the time of judgment that begins when the shofar  is sounded on the Feast of Trumpets (the first day of the seventh month) and continues until the Day of Atonement.

The context of this section of Revelation gives further indication of its  connection with the Feast of Trumpets.  It begins in Rev. 8:1-5 with an offering of  incense and the prayers of the saints at a golden heavenly altar, 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 Day of Atonement, the only time when the High Priest ministered before the ark of the covenant (Lev. 16).  Again, in Jewish tradition, a judgment period begins on the Feast of Trumpets and reaches its culmination on the Day of Atonement.  That tradition seems to be reflected in the symbolism of Rev.8-11. 

The theology of this passage provides yet another link with the Feast of  Trumpets.  As we mentioned on p. 23, the Feast of Trumpets is introduced in  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 of the saints are a plea to God to remember His people (see also Rev. 6:9-10),and God responds powerfully by sending the seven trumpets.  The kingship of God (Rev. 11:15, 17) is also a theme long associated with this festival.In Jewish tradition, three ``pillars''of the Feast of Trumpets are kingship, remembrance, and the sound of the shofar.  All three are pictured in Rev. 8-11. 

The trumpet symbolism in Rev. 8-9, 11 does, then, relate closely to the  Feast of Trumpets.  There are possible Feast of Trumpets connections with some  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 the twinkling  of an eye, at the last trump.''  According to Chumney [3], the term ``last  trump'' in Jewish tradition refers specifically to the blowing of the shofar  on the Feast of Trumpets. 

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 rise first.''  Chumney  explains in [3] 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, also can 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 associated in Jewish tradition with the  Feast of Trumpets.  Interestingly, both awakening and shouting are connected with  the resurrection of the dead in Isa. 26:19, which states in the NIV:``But your dead will live; their bodies will rise.  You who dwell in the dust, wake up and shout for joy.''  Chumney also mentions a Talmudic reference [Rosh Hashanah , 16b] to the belief (familiar to many of us!) that the resurrection of the dead will take place on the Feast of Trumpets.

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.


Concluding Thoughts

  We conclude, along with [1-3, 5], that it is inaccurate to say that there  is ``little scriptural or historic precedent'' for connecting the Feast of  Trumpets with the events to come at the close of this age.  Our traditional  case for the meanings of the Feast of Trumpets is admittedly indirect, based  as it is upon the clearer typology of the other festival days, but it can be  strengthened with help from the festival allusions present in several New Testament  passages, most notably Rev. 8-11.  The light provided by   Scripture and history  shows that the meanings of the Feast of Trumpets are certainly not shrouded  in shadow.      

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 symbolism:

  Don't be dogmatic, especially in regard to the Feast of Trumpets and  the Day of Atonement.  Typology is not an exact science.  There is general  agreement on the Christian meanings of Passover, Pentecost, and the Feast of  Tabernacles, but which prophetic events one associates with the Feast of Trumpets  and which with the Day of Atonement may differ, depending upon the particular  prophetic scenario one is following [2,3,5].  This is not surprising, since  the two festivals are closely linked and both have connections  with trumpet symbolism. (For the Day of Atonement, this connection is through  the announcement of the Year of Jubilee-Lev. 25:9-and through the traditional  blowing of the shofar 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 Testament is the  most important source for understanding the background and context of the New  Testament, but the Jewish tradition that developed after the time of 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 John. 

  Focus on Christ in the past, present, and future.  Years ago, we in  the WCG tended to concentrate too much on the future aspects of fall festival  symbolism.  However, all of the festivals have past and present, as well as  future, significance [1-2].  For example, the meaning of the Feast of Trumpets,  broadly considered, includes the ways in which God has``remembered'' His people  throughout history.  The ultimate expression of God's remembrance of us is  found in the coming of Jesus-in the flesh, 2000 years ago; in the lives of believers today (John 14:23); and in power at His glorious return. There is indeed much for us to celebrate on the Feast of Trumpets, as on all of God's annual festival days.        



1. Samuele Bacchiocchi, God's Festivals in Scripture and History, Part  I:  the Spring Festivals.  Biblical Perspectives, Berrien Springs, MI,  1995.  (For sample chapters, see

2. Samuele Bacchiocchi, God's Festivals in Scripture and History,  Part II:  the Fall Festivals.  Biblical Perspectives, Berrien Springs,  MI, 1996.  (Volumes I and II can be purchased for $15 each from  Biblical  Perspectives, 4990 Appian Way, Berrien Springs, MI 49103.)

3. Eddie Chumney, The Seven Festivals of the Messiah. Destiny  Image Publishers, Shippensburg, PA, 1994.  (This book is available on the internet in  its entirety at, and copies may be purchased for $12 from Hebraic Heritage Ministries International, P.O. Box 81, Strasburg, Ohio 44680.)

4.  Jean Danielou, The Bible and the Liturgy. University of Notre Dame Press, Notre Dame, IN, 1956.

5.  Kevin Howard and Marvin J. Rosenthal, The Feasts of the Lord.  Thomas Nelson, Nashville, 1997.

6.  Walter C. Kaiser, Jr., The Messiah in the Old Testament. Zondervan, Grand Rapids, 1995.

7.  Joseph A. Seiss, Holy Types: or, the Gospel in Leviticus: a Series of Lectures on the Hebrew Ritual. Charles C. Cook, New York, 1900.

  About the AuthorsJeff Smith lives in Peoria, Illinois, and has been a member of the WCG since 1974.  He has written a book entitled The Gospel Medley, a single narrative of the four gospels that is as yet 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 Analyst for Caterpillar, Inc., and has been married to his wife Julie for 13 years. They have three children: Victoria(11), Olivia(9), and Raymond(6).

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