The sacred convocations of the fall
We have seen how the prophetic models of the sacred convocations of spring became realities in the first coming of Our Lord. Is it logical to expect that the sacred convocations of the fall season will equally correspond to the realities of his second coming? It is certainly worth exploring those feasts, or sacred convocations to see if we can detect any connection with the long awaited return of the Lord.
The Feast of Trumpets, Yom Teruah
The first of those feasts falls in the first day of the month of Tishri. It is known as the Feast of Trumpets that begins the new year, Rosh Hashanah. The biblical name for this holiday is Yom Teruah (יוֹם תְּרוּעָה), the “day of blasting.” It is the first of the Days of Awe (יָמִים נוֹרָאִים Yamim Nora’im.)
Leviticus 23, 23-25 — The Lord spoke to Moses, saying: Speak to the people of Israel, saying: In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall observe a day of complete rest, a holy convocation commemorated with trumpet blasts. You shall not work at your occupations; and you shall present the Lord’s offering by fire.
For the Israelites this was a day of preparation and reflection for the Day of Atonement. For us Christians is a reminder of the “first resurrection,” the resurrection of those who belong to Christ.
1 Corinthians 15, 20-28; 50-52 — But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have died. For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead has also come through a human being; for as all die in Adam, so all will be made alive in Christ. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. Then comes the end, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father, after he has destroyed every ruler and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. […] What I am saying, brothers and sisters, is this: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Listen, I will tell you a mystery! We will not all die, but we will 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 imperishable, and we will be changed.
Day of Atonement Yom Kippur
The day of expiation, or atonement is celebrated on the tenth day of the month of Tishrei, the seventh month of Israel’s religious calendar. During that day two males of the goats were selected. One was reserved for a burnt offering and the other was let go in the wilderness. That is a prophetic representation of the end of sin, and of the purification of the Earth by fire that will occur at the end of times.
Leviticus 23, 26-27 — The Lord spoke to Moses, saying: Now, the tenth day of this seventh month is the day of atonement; it shall be a holy convocation for you: you shall deny yourselves and present the Lord’s offering by fire; and you shall do no work during that entire day; for it is a day of atonement, to make atonement on your behalf before the Lord your God.
2 Peter 3, 7-10 — But by the same word the present heavens and earth have been reserved for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the godless. But do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like one day. The Lord is not slow about his promise, as some think of slowness, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, and the elements will be dissolved with fire, and the earth and everything that is done on it will be disclosed.
Sukkot, the Feast of the Tabernacles
The feast of Sukkot is celebrated from the 15th to the 22nd day of the month of Tishrei. During this feast the Israelites were told to dwell in small makeshift huts for the eight days (Leviticus 23, 33-43). These little booths are a reminder to Israel that they once dwelled in tents or tabernacles, during the forty years in the wilderness, when they depended on Divine Providence for sustenance. The prophet Zechariah predicts that in the world to come, people of all nations would come to Jerusalem to celebrate this festival.
Zechariah 14, 16 — Then all who survive of the nations that have come against Jerusalem shall go up year by year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to keep the festival of booths.
Sukkot coincides with the end of the harvest but it is associated strongly with the first harvest that the Israelites reaped when they entered the Promised Land.
For Christians the end of the harvest is connected with the reality that Sukkot represents, the second advent of Our Lord when the angels gather all the believers and condemn all those who reject the rule of God. Jesus explained how his second coming was going to be when he gave the parable of the harvest.
Matthew 13, 36-43 — Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples approached him, saying, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field.” He answered, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man; the field is the world, and the good seed are the children of the kingdom; the weeds are the children of the evil one, and the enemy who sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. Just as the weeds are collected and burned up with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers, and they will throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Let anyone with ears listen!”
St Paul uses the image of the tabernacles of Sukkot to illustrate how faithful mankind waits for the end of this age, groaning under the weight of original sin. Our sinful mortal bodies are not a permanent abode and must be changed for a body that can actually inherit the permanence of the Kingdom of God, the glorified bodies of the resurrected.
1 Corinthians 5, 1-5 — For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling — if indeed, when we have taken it off we will not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan under our burden, because we wish not to be unclothed but to be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.
St Peter also reminds us of the precariousness of our present reality that are waiting for the promised, more permanent, and just world.
2 Peter 3, 11-13 — Since all these things are to be dissolved in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in leading lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set ablaze and dissolved, and the elements will melt with fire? But, in accordance with his promise, we wait for new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness is at home.
The Sukkot is a happy feast for those who love God. Everyone is invited to be joyful in this seven-day holiday. In that sense Sukkot represents the joy, the plentiful and righteous happiness of the Kingdom of God. At the same time it is a reminder of the life of sin we have left behind, the aimless wandering in the wilderness of the Israelites of old. For Jesus, in the parable of the harvest, the season is a prophetic symbol of the separation of the righteous and unrighteous at the end of the age. In a replay of all the feasts of the fall, the angels sound their trumpet announcing the end of the harvest, the wicked are sifted, like useless chaff, and destroyed in the everlasting fire, while those who love righteousness, are saved.
Zechariah 14, 9-11 — And the Lord will become king over all the earth; on that day the Lord will be one and his name one. The whole land shall be turned into a plain from Geba to Rimmon south of Jerusalem. But Jerusalem shall remain aloft on its site from the Gate of Benjamin to the place of the former gate, to the Corner Gate, and from the Tower of Hananel to the king’s wine presses. And it shall be inhabited, for never again shall it be doomed to destruction; Jerusalem shall abide in security.
The times are appointed
If the Israelites would have had the Mosaic liturgical calendar when they were slaves in Egypt, they would have known in advance the time of their liberation, on the 14thday of the month of Nisan, early in the spring.
God gave us the grace to know the whole liturgical calendar. He also gave us plenty of fulfilled prophecies through history so we can discern safely — not the day and the hour — but certainly the general time of the expected events, so we can follow Christ’s advice and “lift our heads up” in expectation of our glorious liberation! According to Zechariah, in the days to come, the main celebration will not be Passover but Sukkot! We know through Zechariah’s prophecy that one day, the whole world will be celebrating at harvest time.
We are still in the dark not knowing the day or the hour but we have enough signs in Scripture and history to infer that our liberation will occur during the Feast of the Tabernacles. We know the month (Tishrei) and the week!
The first revelation of Jesus Christ
On a now distant Sukkot Our Lord was about to be revealed to all of Israel. Those who have heard him and seen his miracles in Galilee, advised him to go to Jerusalem during the Feast of Tabernacles and make himself known as a prophet. Our Lord did something unexpected. We can detect a pattern of behavior in that he delays his revelation, the same way as he would later do when talking to the disciples on the way to Emmaus — on that occasion he spoke to their heart without allowing them to recognize him. Also, when he appears to Mary Magdalene at the garden, he allows her to think he is a gardener for a short while, and then he reveals himself. In the following passage he is invited to go to Jerusalem but he refuses to go.
John 7, 2-5 — Now the Jewish festival of Tabernacles was near. So his brothers said to him, ‘Leave here and go to Judea so that your disciples also may see the works you are doing; for no one who wants to be widely known acts in secret. If you do these things, show yourself to the world.’ (For not even his brothers believed in him.)
Now see what he did to conceal “the day and the hour” of his revelation to the world.
John 7, 8-9 — Go to the festival yourselves. I am not going to this festival, for my time has not yet fully come.’ After saying this, he remained in Galilee.
Later, after his family has departed, he went to Jerusalem.
John 7, 10; 14-15 — But after his brothers had gone to the festival, then he also went, not publicly but as it were in secret. […] About the middle of the festival Jesus went up into the temple and began to teach. The Jews were astonished at it, saying, ‘How does this man have such learning, when he has never been taught?’
There is not one idle word in Scripture therefore this is very likely to be an intentional pattern by which we can learn about the ways of the Lord.
Mark 13, 37 — “And what I say to you I say to all: Keep on the watch.”
Sometimes God reveals “the day and the hour”
There have been cases in which God revealed the appointed times to those who needed to know.
Revelation 9, 15 — So the four angels were released, who had been held ready for the hour, the day, the month, and the year, to kill a third of humankind.
Exodus 12, 3; 6; 31; 37-38 — Tell the whole congregation of Israel that on the tenth of this month they are to take a lamb for each family, a lamb for each household. […] You shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month; then the whole assembled congregation of Israel shall slaughter it at twilight. […] Then [Pharaoh] summoned Moses and Aaron in the night, and said, ‘Rise up, go away from my people, both you and the Israelites! Go, worship the Lord, as you said. […] The Israelites journeyed from Rameses to Succoth, about six hundred thousand men on foot, besides children. A mixed crowd also went up with them, and livestock in great numbers, both flocks and herds.
Notice that the Israelites had some good idea of when their liberation would occur. If this was the case in the prophetic figure, how much more should that be true for the reality, the fulfillment. We can expect some degree of discernment, otherwise how would we “raise our heads up” knowing that “our liberation is near”? Why does the Lord conceal the day and the hour of his second coming? A clue to that is given in the parable of the ten virgins.
Matthew 25, 1-13 — ‘Then the kingdom of heaven will be like this. Ten bridesmaids took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. When the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them; but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. As the bridegroom was delayed, all of them became drowsy and slept. But at midnight there was a shout, “Look! Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.” Then all those bridesmaids got up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish said to the wise, “Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.” But the wise replied, “No! there will not be enough for you and for us; you had better go to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.” And while they went to buy it, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went with him into the wedding banquet; and the door was shut. Later the other bridesmaids came also, saying, “Lord, lord, open to us.” But he replied, “Truly I tell you, I do not know you.” Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.
Someone may exclaim: “But … this is the passage that originated the belief that we should not be too curious about the appointed times of the Lord!” That is true but this scripture also points at a Jewish wedding. In ancient times when a man and a woman were about to get married, they would enter first into a period of betrothal. That was the beginning of marriage. For the community that couple was already married even when their time to live together had not yet arrived.
After the marriage ceremony, the man would go to the new home and prepare it for his bride. At a certain time the husband returned to his wife to bring her home. It was the obligation of the bride to be alert and prepare lovingly for her husband’s return. The parable of the ten virgins must be understood against that cultural background. The groom would not show up any day but would send word to his bride so she could be ready to bid her parent’s goodbye, and get prepared for her wedding night. Knowing the constraints of the Mosaic Law that could not be any day, it had to be arranged to some degree. The bride-Church is obliged by love to be ready for the groom, Christ. Between bride and groom there can be “love games of hide and seek” but there will never be any loss of communication.
Revelation 22, 17 — The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come.’ […] The one who testifies to these things says, ‘Surely I am coming soon.’
Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!