What is the meaning of the seventh month festivals? We hear so much about them, but do we really understand them? Let us examine them that we might have a better understanding of God’s purpose in these festivals.
The first seventh month festival is Trumpets, celebrated on the first day of the seventh month of Tishri. On that day, “you shall have a rest, a reminder by blowing of trumpets, a holy convocation”, says the Lord (Leviticus 23.24). This day is a Sabbath and, in addition, on this day the Lord says it is to be a “reminder”. Yet what is it the Lord has called us to remember? We are called to remember that God desires to dwell in the midst of His people. The first time Israel heard the sound of the shofar (trumpet) was when they were gathered around the base of Mount Sinai. The Scripture says “you shall have . . . a holy convocation”. “Convocation” is the Hebrew word mikraw, meaning “a calling together; a sacred assembly”. We understand this better when we see it in its actual meaning. Jesus said “And He [the Son of Man] will send forth His angels with a great trumpet and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other” (Matthew 24.31). This is the seventh trumpet as shown in Revelation 11.15-18. There is a gathering — “a holy convocation” — of the people of the Lord and they are gathered unto Jesus — the Lord is in their midst. So Trumpets reflects the sound of the shofar at the coming of the Lord.
There is a ten-day period between Trumpets and Yom Kippur. Traditionally Israel has used this as a time of reflection on their sins as a nation. This time does not relate to the individual but to the nation as a whole. As such, we at Fellowship Church have used it as a time of reflection as a body; to make sure that we are pursuing the goals which the Lord has called us as a body.
Let us look at what I believe is the real purpose behind this period. Trumpets signifies the gathering together of the Church to Messiah Jesus — not to heaven but to Jerusalem. Jesus will come to reign on the Temple Mount in the physical city of Jerusalem with His bride, the Church, in the midst of Israel. The Church is also God’s Temple (1 Corinthians 3:16). So then when the shofar has sounded (Matthew 24.31) and God has gathered the nations against Jerusalem (Zechariah 14.2), Jesus returns with the Church to fight for the city (Zechariah 14.3-5). I believe that the ten days represent the battle that is going on between the Lord and the nations. This battle is not a short one, for it is described in much detail in Ezekiel 38-39, Zechariah 12-14, and Revelation 19. In Zephaniah we see that the “great day of the Lord” seemingly corresponds with the seventh month festivals (1.14-18). John describes this “harvest” and states the blood will rise “up to the horses’ bridle, for a distance of two hundred miles” (Revelation 14.20; see also Joel 3.13). We also see that Israel will burn the weapons of the nations for seven years, as well as spend seven months burying the dead from the nations (Ezekiel 39.9, 12).
We call this great slaughter the “The Marriage Supper of the Lamb” (Revelation 19.9). God is calling every kind of bird and every beast of the field to this great feast. In fact, He states that He sacrificed these people for them (Ezekiel 39.17). Usually it is man sacrificing animals to God; here it is God sacrificing men for His animals.
On the tenth day of the seventh month of Tishri is Yom Kippur, which literally means “day of atonement”. The details of Yom Kippur are listed in Leviticus 16. The basic idea of the day is that atonement is made “for the holy place, because of the impurities of the sons of Israel, and because of their transgressions, in regard to all their sins; and thus he shall do for the tent of meeting which abides with them in the midst of their impurities” (Leviticus 16.16). God is getting ready to dwell in the midst of His people (to be “at one with”), and atonement must therefore be made for the sins of the people and for the holy place – the Temple Mount. God said through Moses, “Rejoice, O nations, with His people; for He will avenge the blood of His servants, and will render vengeance on His adversaries, and will atone for His land and His people“ (Deuteronomy 32.43). Here we see that God links “vengeance on His adversaries” with atonement “for His land and His people”. While the word “atonement” means “to purge, or cleanse”, it also means “to reconcile” or to be “at one with”. So we see the Lord “reconciling” His land and people that He may dwell in their midst (to be “at one with”).
We know that Messiah Jesus is the sin offering, but what is the “goat of removal” (Leviticus 16.8; 21-22)? Scripture says “When he finishes atoning for the holy place, and the tent of meeting and the altar, he shall offer the live goat” (Leviticus 16:20). Note here that two lots are cast “for the two goats, one lot for the Lord and the other lot for the goat of removal“ (Leviticus 16.8). The Scripture actually reads “for the two goats, one lot for the Lord and the other lot for Azazel“. The parallel, “for the Lord”, suggests that the word Azazel should be taken as a proper name (see also “goat-demon” – Leviticus 17.7). The inference here is that lots are being cast not for the Lord and a goat, but for the Lord and someone (or thing) other. I believe that here the “goat of removal” represents the removal of satanic influence. As the goat of the sin offering represents the cleansing of our sins by the sacrifice of Jesus, so the “goat of removal” represents the removal of our iniquity, or tendency to sin, by the removal of this satanic influence. The goat is left alive and sent “to a solitary land … in the wilderness” (Leviticus 16.22). And so, at the end of the great day of the Lord, when Jesus returns, Satan is left “alive” and sent “into the abyss … until the thousand years [are] completed” (Revelation 20.3). So the lots are cast one for the Lord and one for that which represents the removal of satanic influence. The one for the Lord is for the goat of the sin offering; the other is for the goat of removal to remove the tendency for sin, or iniquity. For the Lord says, “I will remove the iniquity of that land in one day” (Zechariah 3.9) and “On that day I will cleanse you [Israel] from all your iniquities” (Ezekiel 36.33).
The last of the seventh month festivals is Sukkot, known also as the “feast of the ingathering” (Exodus 23.16). It is the feast celebrated after “you gather in the fruit of your labors from the field”. This is a beautiful illustration of the time after the gathering of the bride to the bridegroom — Messiah. The bride is the “fruit of His labors”. We see this festival clearly in Zechariah (14.16).
Perhaps this festival represents the time during the millennium when we will be remembering the redemption of God throughout all of time. Scripture says to “live in booths for seven days” (Leviticus 23.42). This is to remember when Israel dwelt in booths in the wilderness. Although Israel was in rebellion, God still provided redemption for the nation as a whole. So it has been for almost six thousand years — God providing for His creation as a whole; in the end — redemption.
We see in Ezekiel, after the Temple is rebuilt and God returns to dwell in it, the priests offer sacrifices for seven days to “make atonement for the altar and to purify it” and “on the eighth day and onward” God declared “I will accept you” (Ezekiel 43.26-27). The feast of Sukkot is eight days long with a Sabbath on the first and eighth day representing, I believe, the six thousand years of redemption (God celebrated the Shabbat at the beginning), the one thousand-year reign of Messiah, and then an eternal Shabbat (the “eighth day”).
God laid out His entire plan of redemption through the feasts. We see the sacrifice of Messiah in Pesach and His resurrection in First Fruits; He made a covenant with Israel and the Church on Shavuot. In Trumpets we see the sounding of the shofar which accompanies the coming of the Lord. On Yom Kippur, sin and iniquity are removed from Israel that the Lord may dwell in their midst. In Sukkot we see the celebration of God’s provision and the redemption of His creation.
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