Part IV - The Feasts of the Lord: Rehearsals for Messiah's coming

by Voice of Judah

THE SEASON OF THE FALL FEASTS AND THE LUNAR CALENDAR

OVERVIEW OF THE FALL FEASTS SEASON

Before we get into the feasts let’s get an overview of the entire season.  There are three Fall Feasts, all of which occur in the 7th month of the biblical Jewish calendar (the 1st month on the civil Jewish calendar). But the Fall Feasts season actually begins the month before in the 6th month.

Below is a 2-month calendar which shows how the feasts occur on the calendar. It will make more sense to you as we learn about the feasts. Be patient, it takes a while for everything to become clear. But stay with it! Once you understand the feasts, you will be able to place virtually any biblical passage about the end times into its proper chronological order and context.


THE FALL FEASTS SEASON OF THE COMING MESSIAH

ff-2months
KEY

Biblical/Jewish days are reckoned from sunset to sunset (approximately 6pm to 6pm). So a biblical/Jewish “day” is shown in the calendar above as being spread across two standard calendar days.

Days highlighted in yellow mark Teshuvah - the 40 day period for introspection and repentance which begins on Elul 1 and ends with Yom Kippur on Tishrei 10.

(RC) = Rosh Chodesh (In Hebrew - “Head of the month”) This holiday occurs every month of the year. As the months were reckoned on the ancient Israel, biblical calendar - according to the sighting of the New Moon - the first of each month always starts on a “day and hour which no one knows...” Matthew 24:36.

t = Blowing the shofar (trumpet) after morning service during Elul. The shofar is not sounded on Shabbats (sabbath); nor is it sounded on the last day of Elul - making Yom Teruah “the hidden day.”

Lt = The “Last Trumpet” (last shofar blast) which marks the start of Yom Teruah. Paul refers to this marking event of this day in 1 Corinthians 15:51-52.

YT = Yom Teruah (Day of Shouting, Day of Trumpets). The only feast which occurs on Rosh Chodesh, a “day and hour which no one knows...” Matthew 24:36. This feast starts the Fall Feasts - the High Holy Days.
The rehearsal for the resurrection and the rapture.

YK = Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement)
The rehearsal for the defeat of Satan and national atonement for Israel.

S = Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles) (superscripted numbers count the number of days of Sukkot).
The rehearsal for the Wedding Feast of the Lamb with His people.

SA (LGD) = Shemini Atzeret (The Last Great Day - in Hebrew: "the assembly of the eighth [day]"). The final (8th) day of Sukkot and the holiday of Simchat Torah (in Hebrew: "rejoicing in the Torah”). This day completes the annual Torah reading cycle, then the Torah reading cycle begins anew with Genesis 1.

The rehearsal for two events: 1) The time during the beginning of the Messianic Age (Millennial Reign of Messiah) when the nations will begin to seek Messiah for understanding as “the Law (Torah) will go out from Zion, the word of the LORD from Jerusalem...” Isaiah 2:3, and 2) the time after the Millennial Reign when the Father Himself will come and dwell with His people forever (Revelation 21:1-3).


TESHUVAH - THE SEASON OF REPENTANCE

This approximate 6 week season is a rehearsal in itself. This season is known in Hebrew as-Teshuvah. Don’t miss this! Teshuvah sets the stage for understanding the rehearsals in the Fall Feasts.

Teshuvah begins at the start of the 6th month. It is a 40-day season of introspection and repentance, a time set apart for people to solemnly prepare their hearts for the upcoming Fall Feasts (High Holy Days) in the 7th month. Teshuvah begins on Elul 1 in the 6th month and ends at the conclusion of the events of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, on Tishrei 10 in the 7th month. Note that, because Yom Kippur is the culminating event of the end times. The entire feast season points to it.

Origin of Teshuvah. Teshuvah takes its origin from the story of Israel at Mt. Sinai after God delivered them from Egypt. Moses had ascended the mountain and began receiving the Torah on the first Shavuot (Pentecost), the 6th day of the third month of the year, Sivan. Forty days later he descended the mountain and found Israel worshipping the golden calf (Exodus 32:1-6). In great anger at Israel’s idolatry, Moses smashed the tablets of the Ten Commandments and spent the next forty days abolishing idolatry in the camp of Israel (Exodus 32:19-29). Moses then sought the Lord for His forgiveness for Israel’s idolatry (Exodus 32:30-32), and God called Moses up the mountain again to receive the second set of the Ten Commandments (Exodus 34:1-4). The day Moses ascended Mt. Sinai was Elul 1. Forty days later Moses descended with the second set of the Ten Commandments and God’s assurance that He had forgiven the nation of their sin with the golden calf (Exodus 34:29). Thus, Yom Kippur was regarded as a day of “national atonement” for Israel.

The following image shows the three 40-day periods of Moses:

  • Receiving the first set of Ten Commandments (and the Torah) starting on Shavuot
  • The Golden Calf incident and Moses abolishing Idolatry in the camp
  • Receiving the second set of Ten Commandments and God’s forgiveness for Israel during Teshuvah, from Elul 1 to Tishrei 10 (Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement)


ISRAEL CAMPED AT MT. SINAI

1st teshuvah

Sounding the Shofar during the month of Elul. Rabbi Eliezer (80-118) and the Jewish Sages hold that while Moses was on Mt. Sinai seeking God’s forgiveness, the Israelites sounded the shofar every day to awaken the people to repentance and pray earnestly to God for His pardon for the nation:

“And on the New Moon of Ellul, the Holy One, blessed be He, said to him [Moses]: ‘Come up to me on the mount’ (Exodus 34:1-2), and let them sound the Shofar (trumpet) throughout the camp, for behold, Moses has ascended the mount, so that they do not go astray again after the worship of idols.’ The Holy One, blessed be He, was exalted with that Shofar, as it is said, ‘God is exalted with a shout, the Lord with the sound of a trumpet’ (Psalm 47:5).” 1

Ever since then, the month of Elul has been marked by the blowing of the shofar after each day’s prayer services, with the following two exceptions. The shofar is not blown on Shabbat (the sabbath); nor is it blown on the last day of Elul. The Jewish Sage, Rambam, Moses Maimonides (1135-1204), said the shofar’s sound carries this urgent message:

"...Arise from your slumber, you who are asleep; wake up from your deep sleep, you who are fast asleep; search your deeds, repent, and remember your Creator.” 2

1 Hathi Trust Digital Library. “Pirke de Rabbi Eliezer” (The chapters of Rabbi Eliezer) Chapter xlvi (46), p.360.  http://hdl.handle.net/2027/njp.32101062000755?urlappend=%3Bseq=424 Accessed on 13 August 2012.

2 Orthodox Union - Enhancing Jewish Life. “Elul, A Time to Reflect - Arise from your Slumber” (Rambam, Hilchot Teshuva, Chapter 3:4) http://www.ou.org/chagim/elul/arise.html Accessed on 13 August 2012.

Praying Selichot - “Pardon me.” Additional prayers for forgiveness are offered in the morning services during Teshuvah called selichot. The Hebrew word sli-chah means “excuse me” or “pardon me.” These special prayers emphasize the theme of the season to repent from iniquity and seek the Lords’ mercy and grace for forgiveness.

Reading Psalm 27. Psalm 27 is read every day during Teshuvah (and through Sukkot) because it alludes to the High Holy Days (the Fall Feasts).
Psalm 27 can be divided into two sections. The first (vv.1-6) expresses David’s unwavering confidence in God and his protection, and the second (vv.7-14) seems to imply that David’s confidence is now shaken because of his enemy’s oppression and the violence of his foes.

Psalm 27

“(Psalm of David) ‘The Lord is my light...’” (v.1)
This verse is a reference to Yom Teruah because of Psalm 89:15 that says, “Blessed is the people that know the joyful sound [teruah-sound of the shofar]: they shall walk, O Lord, in the light of thy countenance.”

“...and my salvation.” (v.1)
Refers to Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement (salvation for Israel).

“For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his tabernacle...” (v.5)
Refers to Sukkot, the Feast of Tabernacles.

We can view this psalm as not only an expression of David’s heart during his lifetime, but also a prophetic expression of what God’s people will experience during the end times and the Fall Feasts. Thus, the reading of this psalm during Teshuvah is quite divinely inspired. (We can do this because God gave David insight into the life and times of the Messiah because the Messiah, son of David, would come from his lineage [2 Samuel 7:12-13, Psalm 89:20-29, Matthew 1:1-17] ).

Psalm 27 then not only helps God’s people prepare their hearts for the upcoming High Holy Days, it also gives them a foreshadowing of what’s going to happen. As the psalm declares: [in the end times] God’s people will need to:

  •     Maintain an unwavering trust in God’s promises (vv.1-6),
  •     In the midst of being isolated and rejected (vv.7-10),
  •     While seeking God for His deliverance from enemy oppression (vv.11-12), and
  •     Waiting for God Himself to move on behalf of Israel (vv.13-14) selah

Ani L’dodi V’dodi Li” (Hebrew for “I am my Beloved’s and my Beloved is mine”). This verse from Song of Songs 6:3 (highly symbolic of the Messiah and His bride) creates another prophetic aspect of Teshuvah - one of intimate encounter. The first letters of the four Hebrew words from the verse form an acronym, ALVL, which in Hebrew is the same as Elul. Jewish sages explain the connection between the verse and the month of Elul saying:

"Now is the time that all my thoughts should be directed towards my Beloved (G-d), and when I do that, my Beloved is also to me, that he helps, assists, and cares for me...The verse is alluding to the fact that during these 40 days, repentance is accepted, so that one's heart can be closer to his Beloved (G-d) through repentance, and then one's Beloved (G-d) is closer to the person to accept his repentance out of love.”

3 Torah.org “Yom Tov, Vol. I #35, The Month of Elul: Customs” by Rabbi Yehudah Prero. http://www.torah.org/learning/yomtov/elulrosh/vol1no35.html# Accessed on 13 August 2012.

That completes our study of Teshuvah. The entire season is a national “turning to God” and seeking His pardon for the nation of Israel. Remember: it’s a rehearsal - the Jewish people have been doing all this every year for thousands of years now. They are rehearsing what’s going to happen at the end of this age.

We’re about to get into the feasts in the following articles, but before we do we need to explain Rosh Chodesh and the difference between the rabbinical Jewish calendar and the biblical Jewish calendar. You must get this to understand the timing of the feasts and gain clarity about the timing of the rapture.


ROSH CHODESH (THE NEW MOON) AND THE LUNAR CALENDAR

A basic understanding of how the biblical Jewish calendar worked and how the months began in ancient Israel is essential for understanding the rehearsals in the Fall Feasts. Many Christian theologians and teachers miss this and therefore misunderstand end times events and their timing, particularly the event and timing of the rapture.

"The day and hour no one knows" The timing of Yom Teruah, which is the 1st day of Tishrei and starts the Fall Feasts, is unlike any of the other feasts. It occurs on the first day of the seventh month at time of the new moon. Most other feasts occur mid month at the time of the full moon. In the Biblical calendar used by ancient Israel, the months were counted according to the lunar (moon) cycle. One lunar cycle, which was one month, took 29.5 days to run its course. The beginning of a new lunar cycle, a new month, follows the 2-3 days of the previous month when no moon is visible. The new month starts with the “sighting of the new moon.”

When the new moon starts the month it appears as a small crescent, visible to the naked eye for only a few moments at sunset on the western horizon. The new moon had to be sighted by two or more witnesses to be official. This would begin the first day of the month. This event occurred with the start of each month during the year, and it was celebrated as a monthly holiday called Rosh Chodesh (Hebrew for “head of the month”).

You cannot determine beforehand when the month would start because the new moon can only be sighted as it occurs. Historically, two witnesses would sight it and then go to the Temple and give witness to the Levitical priests. The priests would confirm the sighting, then blow the shofar to officially proclaim the start of the new month. Because the first day of the month can only be determined by sighting the new moon on the actual day and hour in which it occurs, you cannot calculate it beforehand. Thus, Yom Teruah falls on a "day and hour no one knows."

The modern day, Jewish rabbinical calendar doesn't use the lunar cycle to calculate the months of the year. It uses a mathematical equation traditionally ascribed to Rabbi Hillel II in the fourth century CE. This equation calculates the Jewish calendar and the dates of the feasts years in advance. In the rabbinical calendar, Yom Teruah has given way to the name, Rosh HaShana, which means "head of the year." This name gradually took over as the name for Yom Teruah because the 7th biblical month is the 1st month on the Jewish civil calendar. As a result, over the last 16 centuries the significance of the lunar calendar and Yom Teruah -  as they prophetically show the rehearsal for the timing of the future coming of Messiah - has been lost to a great degree. This is virtually unknown in the Christian Church today, and this is the reason why three “theories” exist about the timing of the rapture.

Below is a graphic illustration of how the moon appears throughout the ancient Israel, biblical calendar to show you how the sighting of the New Moon starts each month.


THE ANCIENT ISRAEL CALENDER

COUNTING THE DAYS OF THE MONTH AND THE APPEARANCE OF THE MOON
moon calendar

Conclusion. So when the disciples questioned Jesus about the timing of His return in Matthew 24:3, and He spoke of His return at the conclusion of end time events (Matthew 24:29-31) and said it would be on “a day and hour no one knows” (Matthew 24:36), the disciples would have associated Rosh Chodesh and Yom Teruah with the time of His return. It is the only feast that occurs on the first day of the month at the new moon - a day and hour no one knows.

To recap and aid our understanding of the timing of end time events: the rapture cannot happen on any random “day and hour no one knows.” The phrase does not mean that. The phrase is a Jewish idiom. In the Jewish culture of Jesus’ time it would have been understood to be a reference to Yom Teruah. Yom Teruah does not happen on just any day. It occurs on a literal, physical day of the ancient Jewish calendar. It is a “day and hour no one knows” only because the day cannot begin until the actual sighting of the new moon. You know the two or three day window of time when it’s going to happen, but you don’t know the actual day or hour until it occurs.

OK, let’s move into the Fall Feasts to understand more how they are rehearsals for the coming of Messiah...

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