The Feast of Trumpets introduces the autumn festivals—representing the culmination of the present age of man and the beginning of an incredible time during which God will play a much more direct part in world events. Indeed, this festival, a Holy Day, signals the intervention of God in the affairs of humanity on a global basis. The Feast of Trumpets thus represents a dramatic turning point in mankind's history.
This particular festival also marks the beginning of the third and final feast season (Exodus 23:14; Deuteronomy 16:16), which includes the final four Holy Days of the year.
The return of Jesus Christ!
The Feast of Trumpets depicts nothing less than the return of Jesus Christ to the earth to establish the Kingdom of God! The book of Revelation reveals a sequence of earth-shaking events heralded by angels sounding a series of seven trumpet blasts. The seventh angel's sounding of the last trumpet signifies that "the kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ" (Revelation 11:15, English Standard Version). The Bible foretells that at this time Jesus Christ will at last return to the earth. Of all the prophecies in the Bible, this one surely heralds the most exciting news possible for this weary, sin-filled world!
The Feast of Trumpets also marks the future fulfillment of the many Old Testament prophecies that speak of a Messiah coming as a king of the line of David who will sit on the throne of Israel and rule with power and authority over all nations. The concept of a conquering Messiah was on the minds of the apostles immediately after Jesus' resurrection. When He appeared to them just before returning to heaven, they asked Him, "Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?" (Acts 1:6).
Even in His earthly ministry, Jesus had spoken of distinctions between His first and second comings. When Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor of Judea, questioned Him before the crucifixion, Jesus stated clearly that He had not come to rule at that time. "My kingdom is not of this world," Jesus told the governor. "If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here." So Pilate asked Him, "Are You a king then?" Jesus responded that He was: "You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth" (John 18:36-37).
After Christ's resurrection, the apostles excitedly anticipated the fulfillment of Jesus' promises. They were aware of messianic prophecies such as Isaiah's that describe a time when "the government will be upon His shoulder" and "of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end" (Isaiah 9:6-7).
In answer to the apostles' question as to whether He would then establish the Kingdom, Jesus told them it was not for them to know the "times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority" (Acts 1:7). Instead, Christ told them to focus on spreading the gospel—the good news—throughout the world. Later, in due time, the apostles realized that His second coming was not necessarily imminent. Numerous scriptures describe the saints as eagerly looking forward to His return.
Why the symbolism of trumpets?
The excitement of this Holy Day, picturing these monumental events, is captured in the symbolism of this festival. Ancient Israel celebrated it with "a sacred assembly commemorated with trumpet blasts" (Leviticus 23:24, NIV).
What is the significance of the dramatic sounds accompanying the observance of this day? To help us understand the symbolism of trumpets, let's consider the use of that musical instrument in the Bible.
God instructed ancient Israel in the appropriate use of trumpets—in that day, a hollow animal horn, known as a shofar, and metal instruments—to communicate important messages. The sounding of one silver trumpet meant a meeting of the leaders of Israel. Two sounded to call a gathering of all of the people (Numbers 10:3-4). God also used a shofar to herald His meeting with Israel when He descended upon Mount Sinai (Exodus 19:16).
Trumpets could also sound a warning. Numbers 10:9 states, "When you go to war in your land against the enemy who oppresses you, then you shall sound an alarm with the trumpets." In this case the trumpets sounded a warning of impending danger and imminent warfare.
Trumpets could also furnish a festive sound: "Also in the day of your gladness, in your appointed feasts, and at the beginning of your months, you shall blow the trumpets . . . and they shall be a memorial for you before your God" (Numbers 10:10).
With their ability to transmit sound over great distances, trumpets were in ancient times excellent instruments for attracting people's attention. In connection with this feast day, Psalm 81:3 exhorts, "Blow the trumpet at the time of the New Moon . . . on our solemn feast day."
Amplification of the meaning of trumpets
The writers of the New Testament revealed additional understanding of the significance of the blowing of trumpets. Notice Paul's description of the return of Jesus Christ: "For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air" (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17).
Paul also spoke of the day when the firstfruits pictured by Pentecost will be resurrected to immortal life. In 1 Corinthians 15:52 he says this will happen "in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed." Thus the awakening blast of this last trumpet will awaken the dead!
As we saw earlier, the apostle John associated the blowing of a trumpet with Christ's return when he wrote, "Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, ‘The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever'" (Revelation 11:15, ESV). These passages dramatically attest to the significance of the Feast of Trumpets.
Although the Trumpets festival isn't mentioned by name in the New Testament, we have no valid reason for assuming that this Holy Day should not be observed today. On the contrary, the early Church used the Hebrew Scriptures as the foundation for doctrine (2 Timothy 3:16). Like the Ten Commandments (see James 2:10-11), each of God's festivals is intimately and intricately related to the others. By keeping all of them, we can understand God's remarkable plan for humanity as it unfolds. We should not ignore some of His Holy Days while observing others.
Jesus' prophetic teaching
Near the end of Christ's earthly ministry, the apostles asked Him about the end of the present era. Notice Matthew 24:3: "Now as He sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, ‘Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?'"
Centuries earlier, the prophet Daniel had foretold the establishment of the Kingdom of God and how the saints, or God's people, would inherit that Kingdom (Daniel 2:44; Daniel 7:18). Like the disciples, however, Daniel did not understand when the Kingdom would come.
Jesus, in response to His disciples' questions, laid out for them a series of events that would lead up to His return. He mentioned to them religious deception, wars, famines, disease, earthquakes and other calamities (Matthew 24:4-13). He characterized the time of His return as an era of hatred and lawlessness. In this setting Jesus said, "This gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come" (Matthew 24:14).
More details in the book of Revelation
Later Jesus revealed many more details about this pivotal time. The book of Revelation is described as "the Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show His servants—things which must shortly take place" (Revelation 1:1). Here Christ repeated through the apostle John the same events He had described to His disciples decades earlier. Now, however, Jesus used the symbolism of a series of seals He would open one by one (Revelation 6).
After this, at the beginning of God's anger against the disobedient nations, seven plagues will be poured out on a sinning world, with a trumpet blast announcing each (Revelation 8-9). Finally God will send two "witnesses," or "prophets," to proclaim His truth to a rebellious world (Revelation 11). Such prophetic witness is compared to a trumpet warning (Isaiah 58:1). Tragically, the godless society of the last days will reject these two servants of God and kill them (Revelation 11:7-10).
These dramatic events set the stage for the seventh angel's trumpet sounding and Jesus Christ's return to assume rule over the governments of the earth (Revelation 11:15).
Of this same scenario, Matthew 24 says that "immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other" (Matthew 24:29-31).
Unprecedented events at Christ's return
Incredibly, when Jesus Christ returns to the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, the nations of the earth will gather to fight against Him (Zechariah 14:1-4). Revelation 19:19 describes this impending battle: "And I saw the beast, the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against Him [Jesus Christ] who sat on the horse and against His army."
Why would anyone want to fight the Messiah? The armies will try to destroy Christ because Satan has deceived the whole world (Revelation 12:9). The devil's influence will inspire the nations to fight against Christ when He returns.
As already mentioned, the Feast of Trumpets also signals a resurrection of the dead. The apostle Paul spoke of this event: "For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ's at His coming" (1 Corinthians 15:21-23).
Paul again further explained: "For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first" (1 Thessalonians 4:16), immediately followed by the people of God who are alive at that time 1 Thessalonians 4:17).
Revelation 20:5-6 describes this as the "first resurrection," which is also a "better resurrection" (Hebrews 11:35). This change to immortal life was the hope of early Christians and remains the fervent hope of those who understand God's plan.
In the book of Romans, Paul depicts this resurrection as a glorious deliverance from bondage: "For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God . . . because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God . . . And not only they, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption [or full rights of sonship], the redemption of our body" (Romans 8:19, Romans 8:21, Romans 8:23).
We see that, even though tragic events lie ahead, the good news is that God will intervene to save humanity and guide mankind into His abundant way of life. Jesus Christ will return to raise His followers from death and establish God's perfect rule over the earth. This is the wonderful, inspiring meaning of the Feast of Trumpets. Christ taught us to pray to the Father, "Thy kingdom come" (Matthew 6:10, KJV). How urgently we need the answer to that prayer!