In Colossians 2:16, when speaking about the Biblical feasts, Paul wrote,
“Therefore, no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day; things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ (NASB).”
Or, as the Tree of Life version translates this verse:
“Therefore, do not let anyone pass judgment on you in matters of food or drink, or in respect to a festival or new moon or Shabbat. These are a foreshadowing of things to come, but the reality is Messiah.“
As we begin trying to understand the prophetic significance of the Biblical feasts, one of the most important things to note is how Paul says in this passage that all of the festivals of Leviticus 23 are a “shadow” or “foreshadowing” of “what is to come.” This particular phrase “what is to come” has clear eschatological connotations throughout the New Testament.
For example, in Ephesians 1:21, Paul speaks of how Jesus is above all rule and authority, “not only in this age but also in the one to come.” And in Hebrews 2:5 and 6:5, similar language to what Paul uses in Colossians 2:17 is used to discuss the “world to come” and the “age to come.”
What this means is that for Paul, all of the Biblical feasts have vital lessons to teach us about the end times, the Second Coming of the Messiah, and future prophetic events. The Biblical feasts give us a basic framework of celebrations that we can participate in on an annual basis, which collectively are meant to help us focus on, yearn for, and anticipate the coming kingdom of God.
The Historical Context of the Feast of Trumpets
Before we can more fully explore the future prophetic significance of the Feast of Trumpets, it is first necessary to place this festival within its proper historical setting, so that we can view it in the same way as the Israelites would have in the Torah.
In Scripture, the blast of the trumpet was specifically associated with being called into God’s presence, and the first time this actually happened within the context of ancient Israel’s history, was at Mt. Sinai. As we read in Exodus 19:13, God said to Moses, “When the ram’s horn sounds a long blast, they shall come up to the mountain.”
Exodus 19:13 is the first place in the Bible where the “shofar,” “ram’s horn,” or “trumpet” is ever mentioned. As a matter of fact, the idea that Israel encountered God at Sinai in the midst of the trumpet blast is a major theme in Exodus 19-20. In these chapters we see the two words used for “trumpet,” which are yovel and shofar, mentioned collectively on four separate occasions. This represents the most concentrated usage of these two terms in the entire Bible.
In Exodus 19:16 we find a more detailed picture of Israel’s encounter with God at Mt. Sinai:
“So it came about on the third day, when it was morning, that there were thunder, and lightning flashes and a thick cloud upon the mountain and a very loud trumpet (shofar), so that all the people who were in the camp trembled. And Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain.”
As we try and wrap our heads around the prophetic significance of the Feast of Trumpets, it is important to keep this historical background information related to Israel’s original Sinai encounter in mind. The reason I say this is because when we look at God’s command to Israel in Leviticus 23, where He told them to celebrate the Feast of Trumpets on an annual basis, it become clear that Moses and the Israelites would have understood this feast as a memorial or “reminder” of the events that took place at Mt. Sinai. This is precisely why in Leviticus 23:23 when speaking of the Feast of Trumpets, God calls this festival a “reminder” (Heb: zicharon):
“Again the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Speak to the sons of Israel, saying, ‘In the seventh month on the first of the month you shall have a rest, a reminder by blowing of trumpets, a holy convocation (Lev. 23:23).””
Prior to Leviticus 23, there is no other mention of any trumpet anywhere in the Torah besides the occurrences that appear in Exodus 19-20 within the context of the Sinai narrative. Thus, when God tells Israel in Leviticus 23:23 to have a holy convocation every year and a “reminder” during which they blow the trumpet, it is most logical to assume that what God wanted to remind Israel of at this time of year, was their original encounter with Him at Mt. Sinai, when they first heard His trumpet blast, encountered His glory, and received His commandments.
The Sinai encounter represented the time when God gave Israel their covenant identity as a holy people, and the annual Feast of Trumpets was a reminder for Israel to continue living in light of their holy calling, as a sanctified covenant people set apart unto Him.
The Feast of Trumpets and the Age to Come
With this vital background understanding in place, we can now begin to address the question of the unique prophetic significance of the Feast of Trumpets. Based on Paul’s words in Colossians 2:16-17, how are we supposed to understand this feast in relation to “what is to come,” and how does the Lord want to use this holy time of year to remind us of the prophetic realities of His kingdom?
In essence, the Feast of Trumpets has a two-fold application to believers living under the New Covenant.
First, the sound of the shofar reminds us that just like Israel did at Mt. Sinai, we too are a people who have encountered God’s presence in the New Covenant, specifically through our relationship with the Messiah. Those of us who believe in Yeshua (Jesus) have entered into a covenant with God, but we have not come to the physical Mt. Sinai. Instead we have come to “Mount Zion” and the “heavenly Jerusalem” (Heb. 12:18-29). The Feast of Trumpets reminds us to walk in God’s ways, and to observe His commandments through the power of the Holy Spirit. This festival is a call to spiritual vigilance, and a reiteration of our covenant responsibilities as the Lord’s people. It is a wake-up call and a reminder of our identity in God. As Israel looked back to their encounter with God at Sinai, the trumpet reminds us to look back to when the Messiah first revealed Himself to us, set us apart, and called us into a relationship with the Holy One of Israel.
Second, when we study the broader storyline of Scripture, it becomes evident that the Feast of Trumpets is also meant to instill within us a joyous sense of anticipation of our final encounter with the Messiah in the Age to Come. We look back to the events that took place at Sinai, when Israel first encountered God’s trumpet call, because these events serve as a prophetic foreshadowing of the day when we too will be called into the Messiah’s presence with a trumpet blast in the future, when our King reigns from Mt. Zion in Jerusalem.
The Feast of Trumpets grounds us in the redemptive realities of Israel’s past, but then at the same time, helps us view these as a foretaste of what will take place in the Messianic Age. Just as Israel encountered God at Sinai, we will encounter the presence of the Messiah physically, tangibly, and in all His glory, when He is revealed from heaven in the not too distant future.