LCG Article

The Meaning of the Feast of Trumpets

horn end of a golden trumpet

While the Feast of Trumpets is not named in the New Testament in such a direct way as many of the other Holy Days are, we can see from Scripture that the early Christians did have a deep understanding of the day and its application to the Church.

Peter G. Nathan

The Feast of Trumpets is not mentioned by that name in the New Testament, yet the New Testament abounds with imagery that is taken from an understanding of the Hebrew name for that day. Hence, understanding the Hebrew name used for this festival—and the way in which it is used throughout Scripture—enables us to also appreciate the importance of the day in God’s plan, as the early Church did.

Critics who reject the keeping of the Holy Days point out that the Feast of Trumpets is not mentioned in the New Testament, and from this draw the mistaken conclusion that it is not binding on followers of Jesus Christ. However, the allusions and imagery the apostles were inspired to include in their writings provide a very powerful connection to this Feast—and, properly understood, become a powerful witness to the fact that the early Church clearly understood the place and purpose of the Feast of Trumpets in God’s plan, just as we do today.

Jesus Christ described the time of His return as being accompanied by an angelic host and the sound of a trumpet, to which the dead in Christ will respond through the first resurrection (Matthew 24:31). Paul spoke of the same event to the church in Thessalonica when he stated that “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” (1 Thessalonians 4:16).

Both Jesus and Paul speak of two elements in that event—the angelic involvement and the sound of a trumpet. Paul added more detail in describing the angelic hosts being led by an archangel. These elements are essential to the Day of Trumpets. Surprisingly, the source of these comments hearkens to Leviticus 23:24. A careful reading of this verse highlights something upon which we seldom focus. In some modern translations, the word “trumpets” is written in italics, indicating that the word was added for clarification. The Tanakh, a translation undertaken by the Jewish Publication Society, renders the verse most closely when it records that “you shall observe complete rest, a sacred occasion commemorated with loud blasts” (Leviticus 23:24).

The Hebrew term translated as “trumpets” in the NKJV is the term teruah, which most appropriately refers to a loud shout, created either by human voices or by trumpets. The Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB), which prides itself on being literal, reads that “you are to have a day of complete rest, commemoration, and joyful shouting—a sacred assembly.” Young’s Literal Translation (YLT) provides this reading: “ye have a sabbath, a memorial of shouting, a holy convocation.” The New English Translation (NET) provides a note to the verse, stating that “the term for ‘horn’ does not occur here, allowing for the possibility that vocal ‘shouts’ of acclamation are envisioned….”

What is most fascinating is the study of how this term teruah is used within the Scriptures and the association those usages have with our understanding of the Feast of Trumpets.

We know that trumpets were to be sounded on this day, as on every new moon. Two silver trumpets were made for the priests to proclaim these events (Numbers 10:1–10). But only two priests could blow at a time. Trumpets alone could create teruah as in proclaiming the Jubilee year (1 Chronicles 13:12), but in most cases teruah relates to the human shout as well as trumpet blasts. The description given in Leviticus suggests that the shouting and noise was to be wider spread than provided by just two trumpets. The companion scripture relating to this day (Numbers 29:1) uses the same Hebrew term, which is translated as “a day of sounding an alarm” (Jubilee Bible) or “a day of joyful shouting” (HCSB; see also YLT).

The usages of the Hebrew teruah cover either shouting as a joyful expression or one of alarm. They are frequently coupled with the blowing of trumpets. What is most instructive is the use of this word within the Scriptures and the way in which the writers of the New Testament, although writing in Greek rather than Hebrew, were inspired to build on that imagery of shouting coupled with the blowing of trumpets to relate to the return of Jesus Christ as Lord of lords and King of kings. It is used as a war cry—either confidently or in a state of alarm—while in its singularly joyful applications it relates to the coming of a king, the bringing of the Ark of the Covenant, salvation, and the confirmation of the oath relating to the covenant.

We can learn much by looking at each of these usages to see how the apostles used this relationship as they wrote the New Testament.

War Cry

The first occasion for this term to be used was the shout that the children of Israel were to give on the seventh day of marching around the city of Jericho: “when you hear the sound of the trumpet, that all the people shall shout with a great shout; then the wall of the city will fall down flat” (Joshua 6:5, see also v. 20). Coupled with the trumpet blasts, the shouting—teruah—was the command for the walls of the city to collapse, enabling Israel to destroy the city and start to inherit the land. Jericho pictured the destruction of this world’s systems for the Kingdom of God to be established in all its glory.

Zephaniah was inspired to couple the destruction of the fortified cities of this world with the trumpet and the battle cry—teruah—when speaking of the Day of the Lord (Zephaniah 1:14–16). Jeremiah likewise couples these two sounds—the trumpet and the alarm of war—with the necessity to speak out against the sins of his people (Jeremiah 4:19; 49:2).

The Apostle John used the trumpet and shouting in relation to the kingdoms of this world becoming the property of Jesus Christ at His return in lines that have been immortalized in Handel’s oratorio Messiah. “Then the seventh angel sounded [a 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).

Having revealed the seventh seal of Revelation—the coming of the Day of the Lord—with seven angels “given seven trumpets” (Revelation 8:1–2), John subsequently describes this event coming with the “loud voice of a great multitude” (Revelation 19:1–6).

Jubilation for the King

Balaam, in prophesying about Israel to Balak the king of Moab, noted that “the shout [teruah] of a King is among them” (Numbers 23:21). Israel had no obvious king at that point. Rather, the Eternal—who became Jesus Christ—was their King. Balaam was given the ability to understand that reality even though the Israelites did not.

The psalmist appreciated the role of the Eternal God of Israel. Addressing a scene that we can understand as also relating to the return of Jesus Christ as the Lord, Ethan the Ezrahite blessed those “who know the joyful sound”—teruah. The result was that those people walked in the light of the Eternal (Psalm 89:15–16).

Speaking prophetically of the establishment of the Kingdom of God over all the earth, the psalmist notes that “God has gone up with a shout”—teruah—while, by the use of a parallel, the next line celebrates the Lord with the trumpet (Psalm 47:5–6). On another occasion, the psalmist speaks of the enthronement of the King—the Eternal once again the focus—with voices, instruments, and timbrels (Psalm 68:24–25; see also Psalm 150:5).

Consider again the usage of shouting and trumpets in both Matthew’s and Paul’s account of the return of Jesus Christ. The triumphant tones of Revelation 11:15 once again use the combination of trumpets and shouting—proclaiming that the kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of Jesus Christ—as does Revelation 19:6. The Kingdom of God is to be established over all humanity and this earth. In light of this, consider as well the actions of the people when they saw Jesus coming into Jerusalem on a donkey (Matthew 21:5–6, 9).

Ark of the Covenant

King David’s bringing the Ark of the Covenant up to the City of David yields another usage of the term teruah—shouting, coupled with the blowing of trumpets (2 Samuel 6:15; 1 Chronicles 15:28). Prior to the time of David, when the Israelites—under Eli as High Priest—took the Ark onto the battlefield against the Philistines, the army shouted for joy over its arrival and presence among them. Yet, due to the sins of the nation, their joy became sadness when the Philistines captured the Ark (1 Samuel 4:5–11).

Notice the scenario provided by John at the revealing of the Ark of the Covenant following the sounding of the seventh trumpet (Revelation 11:19). On this occasion it appears that the natural forces in the universe provide the shouting and acclamation to the reign of Jesus Christ.

Foundation Stone of the Temple

If teruah was used in relation to the Ark of the Covenant, it is only appropriate that it is used in relation to the building that was going to house that throne of the Eternal. Hence, we find that when the Jews who returned from Babylon re-laid the foundation stone for the temple, they shouted—teruah—for joy. In fact, the term teruah is used three times in the three verses to describe the jubilant shouting of the people in seeing the foundation stone laid, despite the sadness of those who had seen the temple in its previous glory (Ezra 3:11–13).

While no apparent mention is made of the foundation stone of the temple in the imagery of the Feast of Trumpets, we are all aware that Jesus Christ Himself is the chief cornerstone of the spiritual temple. As the cornerstone, Jesus Christ is the Being around whom that temple is presently being constructed and from whom it takes its form and shape (Ephesians 2:20–21). That in itself is cause for much rejoicing. His return enables the completion of that temple, a cause for enormous rejoicing.


The ultimate purpose of the plan of God and of Christ’s return is the salvation of humanity as the pinnacle of the God Family’s creation. Hence, it is not surprising that the term we have been examining is used in relation to this wonderful event. Elihu spoke to Job and his three companions about the wonders of the salvation offered to humanity. He talked about the state of joy that exists—once again, teruah—when a person is made right before his Creator (Job 33:26). David also understood the way in which his God offered salvation, to whom the recipient offers songs of joyteruah—in return (Psalm 27:5–6). Note as well that this same idea is expressed in Psalm 33:1–3, where teruah is once again translated as joy.

The account of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem is instructive here as well. As Jesus entered Jerusalem immediately prior to the Passover in AD 31, the throngs of people were inspired to recognize that something very special was happening. The New Testament writers record that the people were shouting, “Hosanna” (Matthew 21:9)—a Hebrew expression not translated for us. The word is a plea or prayer that means, “Please save us.” Whether or not any of these people truly understood the role of Jesus Christ, they were inspired to acknowledge with a shout His role as Savior of humanity.

The Pharisees were so embarrassed by the show of support for Jesus that they asked that He rebuke His followers. Jesus retorted that, if His followers were silent, the stones would cry out (Luke 19:39–40). John later records another vision he saw of a great multitude before the throne of God who were “crying out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”’ (Revelation 7:10). The return of Jesus Christ, with the binding of Satan following shortly thereafter, is when salvation can be made available to humanity on a broader scale than today, and whereby the transformation of this earth can occur to the glory of our Father.

Taking an Oath

The last occasion for the usage of the Hebrew term is in relation to taking an oath before the Eternal, literally entering into a covenant relationship with Him. We find an example of this in the time of Asa, king of Judah. In the fifteenth year of his reign, he purged Jerusalem of its idols and called the nation together in the third month—most likely the feast of Pentecost. They entered into the covenant with the Eternal by taking an oath coupled with shouting, trumpets, and rams’ horns (2 Chronicles 15:10–14).

Oaths and covenants are essential to one other area associated with the return of Jesus Christ—the marriage of the Lamb to His Bride. Once again, John provides the imagery for this event, describing the exultation in the heavenly court as “the voice of a great multitude, as the sound of many waters and as the sound of mighty thunderings, saying, ‘Alleluia! For the Lord God Omnipotent reigns!’” (Revelation 19:6). This rejoicing introduces a covenant relationship—the marriage of the Lamb (Revelation 19:7–9).

The Hebrew word teruah is used in the Old Testament regarding a number of occasions also associated with the triumphant and glorious return of Jesus Christ. The noise level of shouting that the people were to accomplish on this day, together with the trumpets sounding, will be greater at that time than at any other event in human history, as on this occasion the shouting will also be performed by the heavenly angelic throngs—who, like us, anticipate with eagerness the return of Jesus Christ.

And so it should be! The “last trumpet” (1 Corinthians 15:52) signals the great and glorious resurrection at which the true servants of God, having received their salvation, will meet Christ “in the air” (1 Thessalonians 4:16–17).

So, while in one sense it is correct to say that the Feast of Trumpets is not exactly specified or named in the New Testament in such a direct way as many of the other Holy Days are, we can see from Scripture that the early Christians did have a deep understanding of the day and of its application to the Church. The Holy Spirit inspired the New Testament writers to address this Holy Day not by name, but rather by its function within God’s plan. As such, it would be a mistake to claim that the Feast of Trumpets is “not mentioned” in the New Testament.