When most people think of Rosh Hashanah, they think of Apples & Honey, round Challah with Raisins... listening to a shofar sound at the synagogue, thinking about the new year, and turning over a new leaf, trying to be "good"; and then coming home for a nice Rosh Hashanah Oneg meal with your friends and family. For the more "observant" it's two days here in the Diaspora, for others, well it's just a day and then back to work...
For Messianic Jews however, it has more of a prophetic meaning, about which this feast of Adonai speaks of a coming "Day of the Lord". These themes are certainly there in the Siddur and the readings in the synagogues for all Jews to see, but this inaugural Holy Day of the Fall Feasts of Israel, initiates for us Messianic Jews a very serious time about future revelatory events that causes us to acknowledge the stern warnings that the Shofar represents and the imagery of apocalyptic symbolism that permeates the Scriptures, both Tanakh (Old Testament), and the Brit Chadasha (New Covenant). Many people ask, "what exactly will happen when the Great Shofar is sounded and the Messiah comes/returns"?
The purpose of this article is to respond to this question.
The Biblical name for this Holy Day in Leviticus 23 is Yom Teruah, (Day of Trumpet). It is not called Rosh Hashanah in the Bible. It later became known by this name which means Head of the Year, as this day starts the fall harvest time which in itself is a type of "new year", much like a business has a "fiscal new year" which is distinct from January 1st. Yom Teruah is simply a day to hear the Shofar call. Why does God want us to remember and recall the Shofar Call? Obviously, we know that the Messiah's return and also the "Day of the Lord" will be heralded with Shofarot (Shofars!). So the question really becomes not "what will happen when the Great Shofar is sounded"?... but rather "which Shofar blast will we begin to see Divine Intervention into the End Time affairs of this world"?
In his commentary, Dr. David Stern says, “Shofars not trumpets. The idea that the Great Judgment of the Last Days is heralded by blasts on the Shofar has its roots in Tanakh.” (Stern, 1992)
Shofars (plural). There are more than one Shofar blast that will occur, as in Revelation 8, which has the 7 Shofar Blasts and with each one, something happens. But as Stern points out, the end time shofar blasts are rooted in Tanakh.
Zechariah 9: 14 ADONAI will appear over them, and his arrow will flash like lightning. ADONAI ELOHIM will blow the shofar and go out in the whirlwinds of the south….16 On that day ADONAI their God will save them as the flock of his people; for they will be like gems in a crown, sparkling over his countryside.
If you are a little frightened about eschatology (the study of end time apocalyptic Biblical literature), no worries... God protects Israel, his Jewish people, and this is evidenced in Rev. 7:1-8 as the 144,000 Jews are sealed before these Shofar blasts in Rev. 8. But before we go there, more is said in Tanakh about shofars and the Day of the Lord...
Isaiah 27: 13 On that day a great shofar will sound. Those lost in the land of Ashur will come, also those scattered through the land of Egypt; and they will worship ADONAI on the holy mountain in Yerushalayim.
Joel 2: 1 “Blow the shofar in Tziyon! Sound an alarm on my holy mountain!” Let all living in the land tremble, for the Day of ADONAI is coming! It’s upon us!
Zephaniah 1: 15 That Day is a Day of fury, a Day of trouble and distress, a Day of waste and desolation, a Day of darkness and gloom, a Day of clouds and thick fog, 16 a Day of the shofar and battle-cry against the fortified cities and against the high towers (on the city walls).
Aside from Tanakh, there is also other literature known as Extra-Biblical literature that speaks about the apocalypse.
The same evidence is found in the Pseudepigrapha and Apocrypha writings, which are…
“The Apocrypha (Greek, "hidden books") are Jewish books from that period not preserved in the Tanakh, but included in the Latin (Vulgate) and Greek (Septuagint) Old Testaments. The Apocrypha are still regarded as part of the canon of the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches, and as such, their number is fixed. The term Pseudepigrapha (Greek, "falsely attributed") was given to Jewish writings of the same period, which were attributed to authors who did not actually write them. This was widespread in Greco-Roman antiquity - in Jewish, Christian, and pagan circles alike. Books were attributed to pagan authors, and names drawn from the repertoire of biblical personalities, such as Adam, Noah, Enoch, Abraham, Moses, Elijah, Ezekiel, Baruch, and Jeremiah. The Pseudepigrapha resemble the Apocrypha in general character, yet were not included in the Bible, Apocrypha, or rabbinic literature.
All the Apocrypha and most of the Pseudepigrapha are Jewish works (some contain Christianizing additions). They provide essential evidence of Jewish literature and thought during the period between the end of biblical writing (ca. 400 BCE) and the beginning of substantial rabbinic literature in the latter part of the first century CE. They have aroused much scholarly interest, since they provide information about Judaism at the turn of the era between the Bible and the Mishna (Biblical Law and Oral Law), and help explain how Rabbinic Judaism and Christianity came into being.” (Stone, 2001)
So here is an example of a book from the Pseudepigrapha known as Psalms of Solomon:
Psalms of Solomon 11: 1. Of Solomon. Unto expectation. 1 Blow ye in Zion on the trumpet to summon (the) saints, 2 Cause ye to be heard in Jerusalem the voice of him that bringeth good tidings; For God hath had pity on Israel in visiting them. 3 (2) Stand on the height, O Jerusalem, and behold thy children, From the East and the West, gathered together by the Lord; 4 (3) From the North they come in the gladness of their God, From the isles afar off God hath gathered them. 5 (4) High mountains hath He abased into a plain for them; 6 The hills fled at their entrance. (5) The woods gave them shelter as they passed by; 7 Every sweet-smelling tree God caused to spring up for them,(6) That Israel might pass by in the visitation of the glory of their God. 8 (7) Put on, O Jerusalem, thy glorious garments; Make ready thy holy robe; For God hath spoken good concerning Israel, for ever and ever. 9 (8) Let the Lord do what He hath spoken concerning Israel and Jerusalem; Let the Lord raise up Israel by His glorious name. (9) The mercy of the Lord be upon Israel for ever and ever.
And in the Apocrypha:
4 Ezra 6: 23: And the trumpet shall give a sound, which when every man heareth, they shall be suddenly afraid. 24: At that time shall friends fight one against another like enemies, and the earth shall stand in fear with those that dwell therein, the springs of the fountains shall stand still, and in three hours they shall not run. 25: Whosoever remaineth from all these that I have told thee shall escape, and see my salvation, and the end of your world.
So now let’s go to the Brit Chadasha (New Covenant) to take a look at these trumpet blasts in Revelation 8 to address the question at hand about what will happen with each Shofar blast?
Revelation 8: 7 The first one sounded his shofar; and there came hail and fire mingled with blood, and it was thrown down upon the earth. A third of the earth was burned up, a third of the trees were burned up, and all green grass was burned up.
8 The second angel sounded his shofar, and what looked like an enormous blazing mountain was hurled into the sea. A third of the sea turned to blood,
9 a third of the living creatures in the sea died, and a third of the ships were destroyed.
10 The third angel sounded his shofar; and a great star, blazing like a torch, fell from the sky onto a third of the rivers and onto the springs of water.
11 The name of the star was "Bitterness," and a third of the water became bitter, and many people died from the water that had been turned bitter.
12 The fourth angel sounded his shofar; and a third of the sun was struck, also a third of the moon and a third of the stars; so that a third of them were darkened, the day had a third less light, and the night likewise.
Interestingly, the first 4 of the 7 shofar blasts in Revelation 8 all have to do with nature and do not directly appear to be aimed at humans.
According to Stern, “The first four judgments affect nature directly and people indirectly (compare Matt 24:4-8)…
Matt 24: 4 Yeshua replied: “Watch out! Don’t let anyone fool you! 5 For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Messiah!’ and they will lead many astray. 6 You will hear the noise of wars nearby and the news of wars far off; see to it that you don’t become frightened. Such things must happen, but the end is yet to come. 7 For peoples will fight each other, nations will fight each other, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various parts of the world; 8 all this is but the beginning of the ‘birthpains.’
…and resemble the plagues of Egypt (see Psalm 105:29, 32):
Psalm 105:29 He turned their water into blood and caused their fish to die. 30 Their land swarmed with frogs, even in the royal chambers. 31 He spoke, and there came swarms of insects and lice throughout their land. 32 He gave them hail instead of rain, with fiery (lightning) throughout their land.
…while the last 3 plagues affect people directly (compare Matt 24:13-22):
Matthew 24: 13 But whoever holds out till the end will be delivered.
14 And this Good News about the Kingdom will be announced throughout the whole world as a witness to all the Goyim. It is then that the end will come. 15 “So when you see the abomination that causes desolation spoken about through the prophet Dani’el standing in the Holy Place” 16 “that will be the time for those in Y’hudah to escape to the hills. 17 If someone is on the roof, he must not go down to gather his belongings from his house; 18 if someone is in the field, he must not turn back to get his coat. 19 What a terrible time it will be for pregnant women and nursing mothers! 20 Pray that you will not have to escape in winter or on Shabbat. 21 For there will be trouble then worse than there has ever been from the beginning of the world until now, and there will be nothing like it again! 22 Indeed, if the length of this time had not been limited, no one would survive; but for the sake of those who have been chosen, its length will be limited.
Dr. Stern continues, “The remaining Shofar judgments are directed not at nature but at the people living on the earth, in order to get them to repent (9:20-21); while the sealed are spared (9:4; 7:1-8). These three “woes” are announced by the remaining Shofar blasts and are described at 9:1-12, 9:13-11:14 and 11:15-18:24 respectively. Just as the seventh seal included the seven Shofar judgments, so the seventh Shofar blast includes the seven “bowl” judgments which begin at 16:1.” (Stern, 1992)
Revelation 8: 13 Then I looked, and I heard a lone eagle give a loud cry, as it flew in mid-heaven, Woe! Woe! Woe to the people living on earth, because of the remaining blasts from the three angels who have yet to sound their shofars!
Therefore, it is my conclusion and opinion based on Jewish-believing sources that the rapture would take place at the conclusion of the 7th Shofar blast, and until then and through the final three blasts, God protects those who are sealed through the tribulation.
Consider this was done before, in Egypt; when God poured out his plagues on Egypt while Israel was still in their midst…
Ex 10:23 People couldn’t see each other, and no one went anywhere for three days. But all the people of Isra’el had light in their homes.
Furthermore, Stern says: “Like the plague of boils which affected only the Egyptians (Ex 9:8-11), these disgusting and painful sores appear only on unbelievers, the people who had the mark of the beast (Rev. 16:2), and worshipped its image. According to v. 11, despite the pain of these sores, their hearts, like Pharaoh’s remain hard – they never turn from their sins to glorify God, v. 9, but curse him to the end v. 21.” (Stern, 1992)
This is all the more reason why believers today who are sealed and faithful can likely expect with the overwhelming biblical evidence that rather than being removed from and during the plagues and woes, that God is more than able to protect those who are faithful to him even during these events and circumstances.
This is why the description seems to change after the 7th Shofar is blown…
Rev 11: 15 The seventh angel sounded his shofar; and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, The kingdom of the world has become the Kingdom of our Lord and his Messiah, and he will rule forever and ever! 16 The twenty-four elders sitting on their thrones in God’s presence fell on their faces and worshipped God, 17 saying, "We thank you, ADONAI, God of heaven’s armies, the One who is and was, that you have taken your power and have begun to rule.
“When the seventh angel sounds his Shofar, then the kingdom of the world has become the Kingdom of our Lord and His Messiah, and Adonai has begun to rule. The active reign of God on earth, the Messianic Kingdom, promised at 1:5-8 and 6:10, now begins to become real. Between these verses and Ch. 19 are the various judgments and other events associated with the overthrow of the system of this world and the inauguration of the Messiah’s rulership. This is why essentially the same cry is heard again at 19:6: “Halleluyah! Adonai, God of heavens’ armies has begun his reign!”. (Stern, 1992)
In summary, the answer to the question is that the final shofar blast will inaugurate both the rapture and the Messianic Kingdom simultaneously in my opinion and the Biblical evidence does support it; however one still can only speculate.
These are common questions Messianic believers have when it comes to Shofar Blasts, Rosh Hashanah, and considering the imminent return of our Messiah, Yeshua. So for us, it's not just about challah and apples and honey! We got some business to do with God, and it "ain't" business as usual.
May you get your house in order, may we be ready with our lamps filled with oil and wearing our white robes washed white and pure by the perfect and powerful Blood of the Lamb, and may our Names be sealed in the Book of Life.
“Ketivah v’chatima tovah”(כתיבה וחתימה טובה) “A good inscription and sealing"
Stern, D. H. (1992). Jewish New Testament Commentary. In D. H. Stern, Jewish New Testament Commentary (p. 927). Clarksville, MD: Jewish New Testament Publications.
Stone, M. E. (2001, June). The Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha . Retrieved November 8, 2011, from Jewish Virtual Library: http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Judaism/apocrypha.html