05 – Rosh Hashanah

The first day of the seventh month of the Jewish caledar is Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, and marks the beginning of the Jewish “High Holy Days” and “Ten Days of Repentance”. (Yes, their first month takes place in Abib/Nisan 7 months earlier, but still, this is their new year, so don’t let that throw you.)

In stark contrast to the other lively and festive Jewish celebrations throughout the year, this “Feast of Trumpets” is a solemn occasion, marked by fasting, prayer, and ten days of reflection and repentance in preparation for Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement – the most significant Jewish holiday). The theme of Rosh Hashana is the acknowledgement of God as king, and each worshiper seeks to have God as his king and personally asks God to accept their loyalty. The primary observance of the feast is the sounding of the shofar (ram’s horn)  which serves as both a call to repentance and an announcement of the people’s coronation of their king. See Leviticus 23:23-25 and Num 29:1-6 for more details.

Not content to be left alone, in addition to the Levitical requirements, Rosh Hashana has picked up some extra traditions along the way:
– Depending on which Rabbi you follow, Rosh Hashanah is either the day that God created the universe, or earth or man.
– It’s the new year for people, animals and legal contracts.
– It’s a special Sabbath day, where no work was to be done.
– It’s the day of Judgment, where all people pass before God for judgment.
– On this day, God opens three books. In one, the deeds of man are written, and based on this, God then writes the names of the righteous in the Book of Life. The wicked are blotted out. The intermediate are given ten days to reflect, repent and become righteous.

Naturally most of these aspects of Rosh Hashanah come from tradition and not Scripture, but nonetheless, the feast draws its worshipers to reflect on their sin, their need for repentance and atonement, and a commitment to holy living for the new year.

Shadow and Substance

We’re told in the Scriptures that all these feasts and observances are but a reflection of Christ Himself  (Col 2:16-17), so… what does Rosh Hashanah have to do with Jesus?

I’m so glad you asked!

Remember that Rosh Hashanah is known as the Day of Judgment. In the Book of Revelation (17:8; 20:12-15; 21:27), we see that a book is opened and all unbelievers are judged according to their deeds as written in that book. And anyone whose name was not found in the Book of Life was thrown into the Lake of Fire. This book belongs to the Lamb – ie, Christ.

We also know that the Father gave the Son authority to judge everyone, and that anyone who personally accepts Jesus as their King will pass from death to life. (John 5:24-27; 2 Tim 4:1) In other words, through our acceptance of Jesus Christ and His atoning sacrifice for our sins, Jesus becomes the fulfillment of this Old Testament feast that draws us to focus on repentance, judgment and atonement.

This attention to trumpets and judgment is one of several reasons that some people speculate that Jesus’ return may take place on Rosh Hashanah:

For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.(1 Thess 4:16, ESV)

As you might guess, a number of other passages carry this same theme of Jesus coming on Judgment Day:

  • Joel 2:1-15 [same chapter quoted by Peter in Acts 2 to talk about the last days];
  • Zech 9:14-17
  • Mat 24:31
  • 1 Cor 15:52

Stay tuned for Yom Kippur in ten days….