The Encyclopædia Britannica reveals what historians have long known, that the early Christians continued to observe the Biblical Feasts: "The first Christians continued to observe the Jewish festivals, though in a new spirit, as commemorations of events which those festivals foreshadowed.”
At Holy Cross we are committed to fully returning to the faith which was once delivered in the first century (Jude 3), so we are beginning to celebrate the Feasts of the LORD.
The Feast of Trumpets called Yom Teruah in Hebrew begins this year at sunset on Friday, September 18th and ends at sunset on Saturday, September 19th.
Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the children of Israel, saying: ‘In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall have a sabbath-rest, a memorial of blowing of trumpets, a holy convocation. You shall do no customary work on it’” (Leviticus 23:23-25).
Leviticus chapter 23 lists the weekly Sabbath and the seven annual Feasts of the LORD. The meaning of each of these Feasts is explained by God in the Scriptures with one exception — the Feast of Trumpets. The meaning of the Feast of Trumpets was not revealed when it was given. Why? Because at the time of Moses it’s meaning could not have been understood.
All seven of the Biblical Feasts tell the story of the Messiah of Israel, beginning with the Passover in the Spring. These prophetic Feasts clearly point to the life of the Messiah whom Israel from its earliest times had been eagerly awaiting. However, they did not and could not have understood that the Messiah of Israel would come twice — first as the Suffering Servant, Messiah ben Joseph, and then return as the triumphant King of kings and Lord of Lords, Messiah ben David — and that is why the meaning of the Feast of Trumpets was not explained in Leviticus 23.
Yom Teruah, the Feast of Trumpets, eventually became known as Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year in the Rabbinic Jewish community, despite the fact that the Bible says that the first month on the year is in the Spring, not the Fall. Both the Roman Empire and the Babylonians began their year in the Autumn and Rosh Hashanah commemorates not the beginning of the Biblical year, but the beginning of the Babylonian year. Babylon had been the center of Jewish scholarship after the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE, and remained so into the 11th century. The Rabbinical Jewish community took this New Years celebration from the Babylonians, although the Karaites with their commitment to the written Scriptures were not so influenced and continue to celebrate Yom Teruah to this day, — although without knowing its meaning.
THE MEANING OF THE FEAST OF TRUMPETS
We who are under the New Covenant however, do indeed know the meaning of the Feast of Trumpets. It is a Feast that the early believers celebrated with great joy and shouting because it points to the Second Coming of the Messiah:
Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed— in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory” (1 Corinthians 15:50-54).
For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words (1 Thessalonians 4:15-18).
Then the seventh angel sounded [the seventh and last trumpet]: And there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!” (Revelation 11:15).
The Feast of Trumpets, Yom Teruah, looks forward to, and reminds us that Yeshua, Jesus is coming again, and that we need to be ready and found watching:
“But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Take heed, watch and pray; for you do not know when the time is. It is like a man going to a far country, who left his house and gave authority to his servants, and to each his work, and commanded the doorkeeper to watch. Watch therefore, for you do not know when the master of the house is coming—in the evening, at midnight, at the crowing of the rooster, or in the morning— lest, coming suddenly, he find you sleeping. And what I say to you, I say to all: Watch!” (Mark 13:32-37)
But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you.For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. For when they say, “Peace and safety!” then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape. But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief. You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk are drunk at night. But let us who are of the day be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet the hope of salvation. For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him. Therefore comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing (1 Thessalonians 5:1-11).
The Feast of Trumpets is a yearly reminder to watch and to pray, and to be children of the light so that this Day should not overtake us as a thief in the night. When Christians ceased celebrating the Biblical Feasts they not only lost their focus on the Return of the King, but many (most?) came to believe that his coming would indeed overtake everyone as a thief in the night and therefore there was no point in watching and observing the Signs of the Times. The loss of the Feasts of the LORD has had a terribly negative effect on Christian faith and practice.
THE MESSENGER OF THE PRESENCE
In Rabbinical literature — and we must remember that Yeshua was both Jewish and a Rabbi — there is a lot of discussion of Messengers or Angels of the Presence. Angel means messenger, and can refer to a spirit being (angel) or a human being. In Rabbinical literature there are three Messengers of the Presence (of God): Enoch (also known as Metatron in Rabbinic literature), Elijah the prophet, and Yeshua (Jesus). This Yeshua is clearly Yeshua of Nazareth according to many Jewish scholars.
Professor Yehuda Libs of Hebrew University in Jerusalem, a professor of Jewish Mysticism, traced this Yeshua sar hapanim, Yeshua the Messenger of the Presence, in books going all the way back to the 12th century. Very old books, especially from a small and terribly persecuted minority are hard to find as few have survived. Written works quickly deteriorate from use and age, and are often destroyed in persecution, so it is very significant that he was able to trace Yeshua back in writing for a thousand years as a Messenger of the Presence.
The earliest extant book in which he found Yeshua sar hapanim, Yeshua the Messenger of the Presence [of God] is called Sefer HaKheshek, The Book of Desire. It was written in Germany by Rabbi Nehemiah HaNavi (Nehemiah the Prophet).
In Rabbinic literature the three Messengers of the Presence are Enoch, Elijah and Yeshua. All three are men who ascended into heaven.
Enoch was the father of Methuselah. And Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him (Genesis 5:24).
Elijah was the mentor of Elisha and was perhaps the greatest of the Prophets of Israel. John the Baptist came in the spirit and power of Elijah.
Elisha said, “Please let a double portion of your [Elijah’s] spirit be upon me.” So he said, “You have asked a hard thing. Nevertheless, if you see me when I am taken from you, it shall be so for you; but if not, it shall not be so.” Then it happened, as they continued on and talked, that suddenly a chariot of fire appeared with horses of fire, and separated the two of them; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven (2 kings 2:9-11).
Yeshua ascended into heaven from the Mount of Olives and will return to the same place.
Now when He [Yeshua] had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, who also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven” (Acts 1:9-11).
Enoch, Elijah and Jesus (Yeshua). What makes this even more interesting is that in the 11th chapter of the Book of Revelation we have two witnesses appearing in Jerusalem just before the Second Coming of Jesus. You will find the two witnesses in Revelation 11:1-13. Then a few verses later, in verse 15, we read of the seventh and last trumpet sounding heralding the Return of the King: Then the seventh angel sounded [the seventh and last trumpet]: And there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!”
These two witnesses in Revelation chapter 11 could be any two people whom God raises up for the mission, but from ancient times many Christian commentators have held that the two witnesses are Enoch and Elijah. Neither died, and both ascended into heaven because, so many believe, God has a Last Days mission for them just before the return of the Messiah. If this is so — and it makes perfect sense Scripturally and historically — then Enoch, Elijah and Yeshua are certainly Messengers of the Presence: Enoch and Elijah preparing the way of the Lord, and Yeshua sar hapanim as the Messenger of God’s Presence par excellence in the Millennial Kingdom.
On the Feast of Trumpets, called Rosh Hashanah by Rabbinic Jews today, Orthodox Jews pray from a special Holy Day prayerbook called Machzor. There is an ancient prayer in the Machzor that is recited between the blowings of the Shofar (Trumpet) called Sar HaPanim (Messenger of the Presence). Yeshua figures prominently in this prayer.
Scholars believe that this prayer either entered the liturgy for the Feast of Trumpets very early when many thousands of Jews were believers in the Messiahship of Yeshua, And they [James and the elders in Jerusalem] said to him [Paul], “You see, brother, how many myriads of Jews there are who have believed, and they are all zealous for the law (Acts 21:20), or several centuries later when the Roman State Church forbade the keeping of the Law of God and the Biblical Feasts, and many Judaeo-Christians found refuge in the Jewish community, returned to worshipping in the Jewish synagogues, and brought this prayer with them.
This beautiful Feast of Trumpets Prayer to God reads:
“May it be Your will that the sounding of the shofar [trumpet], which we have done, will be embroidered in the veil by the appointed angel, as You accepted it by Elijah, of blessed memory and by Yeshua, the Messenger of the Presence and the one who sits on God’s throne. May you be filled with compassion toward us. Deserving of praise are You, LORD [Yehovah/Jehovah] of compassion.”
Around a century ago, when Jews were beginning once again to recognize that Yeshua is indeed the Messiah of Israel the name of Yeshua was excised from the Machzor. It was deleted from the traditional Machzor after having been included for many centuries without objection. We are restoring this beautiful prayer at Holy Cross and it will be offered on Friday evening at our Service for the Feast of Trumpets.
Evening Prayer (Ma’ariv/Vespers) with a sermon is at 6:00 PM on Friday, September 18th. If you think you have learned a lot in this article, just wait until you hear the sermon!
Psalms: 126, 127, 128, 129, 130 and 131
First Canticle: Magnificat
First Lesson: Exodus 19:16-25
Second Canticle: Nunc dimittis
Second Lesson: 1 Corinthians 15:51-58
Share this with family and friends and invite them to attend. Everyone is invited and visitors are always welcome. We will be looking forward to seeing you there!
Yours in the Blessed Hope,
HOLY CROSS ORTHODOX CHURCH
7545 Main Street
Ralston, Nebraska 68127