Autumn Train to Messianic Reign: Removal

On the Gregorian calendar we use to keep track of days and dates, Summer 2014 is almost over. On the Biblical Feast Day/Israel Life-Cycle calendar (Lev. 23:4-44) from which God speaks of past and future events, the Autumn Train to the Messianic Reign is about to leave the station. This means that the prophetic fulfillment of all that is associated with the Jewish High Holy Days of Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and Sukkot, should increase our confidence that Messiah will return soon. This also means that Messiah’s imminent return should be the overriding factor that determines our present priorities.

The first eschatological stop on the Autumn Train to the Messianic Reign is Rosh Hashanah. And the key word here is removal. And the reason the key word is removal, is because the prophetic fulfillment of Rosh Hashanah is the removal of the universal body of Messiah from the world. This is when the Bridegroom comes for His Bride the Church to take her where He is. The popular name for this event is The Rapture.

The term Rosh Hashanah means the head or the beginning of the Jewish New Year which falls on the Hebrew month of Tishri (September-October). This idea of the New Year being in the early fall developed when the Jewish people came out of the Babylonian captivity. That’s when the Babylonian Civil New Year was adopted. And the name of the month, Tishri, is actually a Babylonian word meaning “beginning.”

Now what is traditionally called Rosh Hashanah in the Jewish world is also called Yom Ha Teruah in the Hebrew Scriptures (Num. 29:1);  which means the Day of the Blowing of Trumpets. And trumpets are prophetically significant (cf. Isa. 27:13). In fact, I think there’s a discernable connection between the blowing of a specific trumpet on Rosh Hashanah and the Rapture.

In 1 Corinthians, Paul clearly teaches that there’s an inseparable link between New Testament truth and Israel’s seven holy observances listed in Leviticus 23. For example, in 1 Corinthians 5:6–8 Paul associated Messiah’s death and the sinlessness of His blood offering with Israel’s Passover and Feast of Unleavened Bread. And in 1 Corinthians 15:20–24, he tied Messiah’s resurrection to the Feast of Firstfruits. And so based on this precedent and pattern, I take it that in 1 Corinthians 15:50–58; (a passage that deals with the details of the Rapture and the role that a trumpet will play in that), Paul connects the Rapture of the Church to the Feast of Trumpets.

But first, a little bit of background. Because of sin, we are living under a sentence of death which means that our physical bodies are subject to mortality and decay (cf. Rom. 5:12-14). That kind of body cannot enter into Heaven. A change is necessary, either by means of resurrection or by means of transformation before our bodies can enter into Heaven.The problem of decay that keeps the bodies of dead believers out of Heaven will be solved through resurrection; and the result of that will be a body that is not subject to decay, a body that is imperishable. And the problem of mortality that keeps living believers out of Heaven will be solved by transformation; and the result of that will be a glorified state that possesses immortality (1 Cor. 15: 53).

So when does this happen? In verse 52 of 1 Corinthians 15, Paul says it happens, “…at the last trumpet.” So what’s the last trumpet? I’m convinced that given the associations Paul is making in 1 Corinthians between New Testament redemptive truths and the Feasts of Israel, the last trumpet spoke of here is the tekiah gedolah of Rosh Hashanah. I’m saying that the “last trumpet” here refers to the Feast of Trumpets and the Jewish practice of blowing trumpets at this feast each year.

During this ceremony, there is a series of short trumpet blasts of various lengths, concluding with the longest blast of all, the tekiah gedolah; which again is the great or the last trumpet. And interestingly, first century Jewish religious thought connected this last trumpet with the bodily resurrection of the dead. And so I think under the inspiration of the Spirit, Paul is doing the same thing here in 1 Corinthians 15. He’s saying in effect that the Rapture will be the fulfillment of Rosh Hashanah, the Feast of Trumpets.

Now lest I be accused of being a date-setter or the son of a date-setter, (I’m actually the son of a dentist); please hear me when I say I am not, in any way, shape, or form, suggesting that the Rapture will definitely take place on the specific calendar date of Rosh Hashanah; which by the way this year is September 25. I’m simply saying that the Rapture event itself, whenever God wills that to happen, is the prophetic fulfillment of Rosh Hashanah. It’s about the event, not the date. Date setting is inappropriate because the Rapture is not a dateable event. The precise time of its occurrence is only known by one Person, God the Father. It’s not known by angels, nor was it even known by the Son in His humanity, but only by God the Father. And so the best we can do is look for Scriptural clues that address the timing of the Rapture in a broad general way. And while that may not provide as much specificity as we might like, I do think we’re told enough to conclude that the Rapture will occur sometime before the Tribulation. In fact, from the vantage point of the Feasts of Israel, I think one can actually make a compelling argument for the pre-tribulational position.

The prophetic fulfillment of Israel’s “appointed times/holy assemblies” (Lev. 23:2), takes place in the order in which those observances occur. The Feast of Trumpets occurs before Yom Kippur the Day of Atonement, Israel’s day of affliction of soul and national atonement. And in keeping with that defining theme, the Day of Atonement will be fulfilled by the seven years of Tribulation, during which Israel will suffer affliction leading to her national repentance and restoration. On the basis then of this Tribulation fulfillment of the Day of Atonement, I conclude that since the Feast of Trumpets occurs before the Day of Atonement, and since the Feast of Trumpets will be fulfilled by the Rapture of the Church, the Rapture of the Church will occur before the seven-year Tribulation period.

We live in a day when the doctrine of the Rapture is often misunderstood, marginalized, or denied altogether. But that doesn’t change the fact that the Rapture is a consistent theme throughout the New Covenant with a powerful moral impact upon the lives of both believer’s and seekers. Biblically speaking, it’s presented as an ever present reality which could happen at any moment.

So here’s the deal; since no one knows the exact time of this future blowing of the last trumpet, the tekiah gedolah of Rosh Hashanah; we should be motivated and even passionate about investing our limited amount of time, energy, and resources into pursuits that truly have eternal significance and value. We need to leave the trivial and embrace the transcendent.

Lastly, regardless of where one lands on the specific timing of the Rapture event; the Lord’s impending removal of us should lead to our continual removal of personal sin as an obedient expression of our love and devotion to Him.

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