JERUSALEM, Israel – The nation of Israel is celebrating the fall feasts, a special season of biblical holidays. These annual holy days begin with Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, and include Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. Yet, there’s more to this season and the Bible points the way.
The fall feasts are part of the seven feasts of the Lord that God commanded Israel to observe in Leviticus 23. The first four feasts – Passover, Unleavened Bread, Firstfruits and Pentecost – occur in the spring and summer and commemorate God’s deliverance of Israel from Egypt and His giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai. These feasts also foreshadow the first coming of Jesus Christ, who fulfilled them in His death, resurrection and sending of the Holy Spirit.
The last three feasts – Trumpets, Atonement and Tabernacles – occur in the fall and mark the end of the agricultural year in Israel. They also point to the second coming of Christ and His reign on earth. These are the feasts that Israel is celebrating now.
Rosh Hashanah: The Feast of Trumpets
Rosh Hashanah, which means “head of the year” in Hebrew, is also known as the Feast of Trumpets. It falls on the first day of the seventh month of the Hebrew calendar, which usually corresponds to September or October in the Gregorian calendar. This year, Rosh Hashanah began at sundown on September 6 and ended at nightfall on September 8¹.
Rosh Hashanah is a solemn day of repentance and self-examination, as well as a joyful day of celebration and renewal. The main symbol of Rosh Hashanah is the shofar, a ram’s horn that is blown throughout the day to awaken people to repent and prepare for God’s judgment¹². The shofar also reminds us of God’s faithfulness to Abraham and Isaac in the story of the binding of Isaac (Genesis 22), as well as His promise to return as King and Messiah⁵.
On Rosh Hashanah, Jewish people greet each other with “Shana Tova”, which means “a good year” or “a good change”. They also eat sweet foods, such as apples dipped in honey, to symbolize their hope for a sweet new year. Another tradition is to cast bread crumbs into a flowing body of water, such as a river or a sea, to represent casting away sins (Micah 7:19)¹².
Yom Kippur: The Day of Atonement
Yom Kippur, which means “day of atonement” in Hebrew, is the most sacred and solemn day of the Jewish year. It falls on the tenth day of the seventh month, ten days after Rosh Hashanah. This year, Yom Kippur will begin at sundown on September 15 and end at nightfall on September 16¹.
Yom Kippur is a day of fasting, prayer and confession, as well as a day of forgiveness and reconciliation. It is the only day that God commanded Israel to afflict their souls and abstain from any work (Leviticus 23:27-32). On this day, God would cleanse His people from all their sins and grant them access to His presence².
In ancient times, Yom Kippur was the only day that the high priest could enter the Holy of Holies in the Tabernacle or Temple and offer blood sacrifices for himself and for the nation. He would also cast lots over two goats: one to be slain as a sin offering and one to be sent away into the wilderness as a scapegoat, bearing the sins of Israel (Leviticus 16)².
Today, without a Temple or a priesthood, Jewish people observe Yom Kippur by attending synagogue services, where they recite prayers of repentance and confession. They also wear white garments to symbolize purity and humility before God. They believe that on this day, God seals their fate for the coming year in the Book of Life¹².
For believers in Jesus Christ, Yom Kippur is a reminder that He is our High Priest who entered heaven with His own blood and made atonement for us once and for all (Hebrews 9:11-14). He is also our scapegoat who bore our sins and carried them away from us (Isaiah 53:4-6). He is our source of forgiveness and peace with God (Romans 5:1-11).
Sukkot: The Feast of Tabernacles
Sukkot, which means “booths” or “tabernacles” in Hebrew, is also known as the Feast of Tabernacles or the Feast of Ingathering. It falls on the fifteenth day of the seventh month, five days after Yom Kippur. This year, Sukkot will begin at sundown on September 20 and end at nightfall on September 27¹.
Sukkot is a joyful and festive celebration of God’s provision and protection for Israel during their 40 years of wandering in the wilderness. It is also a time of thanksgiving for the harvest and the blessings of God. God commanded Israel to dwell in temporary booths or tents for seven days and to rejoice before Him with branches and fruit (Leviticus 23:33-43)².
Today, Jewish people build sukkahs, or temporary shelters, in their backyards or balconies, where they eat, sleep and entertain guests. They also wave the lulav, a bundle of palm, willow and myrtle branches, and the etrog, a citrus fruit, as symbols of God’s bounty and goodness. They also recite the Hallel, a series of psalms of praise, and sing songs of joy¹².
For believers in Jesus Christ, Sukkot is a reminder that He is our true tabernacle who dwelt among us and revealed God’s glory (John 1:14). He is also our bread of life who satisfies our hunger and our living water who quenches our thirst (John 6:35; 7:37-39). He is our source of joy and hope for the future (Romans 15:13).
The Fall Feasts and the Future
The fall feasts are not only historical commemorations but also prophetic anticipations of God’s plan for Israel and the world. Many scholars believe that the fall feasts will be fulfilled in the second coming of Christ and His millennial reign on earth⁵⁶.
According to this view, the Feast of Trumpets represents the rapture of the Church, when Christ will return in the clouds and gather His people to Himself with the sound of the trumpet (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17). The Day of Atonement represents the tribulation period, when Israel will face great distress and turn to Christ as their Messiah and Savior (Zechariah 12:10; Romans 11:25-27). The Feast of Tabernacles represents the millennium, when Christ will reign from Jerusalem and all nations will worship Him and celebrate His feast (Zechariah 14:16-19; Revelation 20:1-6).
Whether or not this view is correct, we can be sure that God has a purpose and a plan for His appointed times. He invites us to join Him in celebrating His faithfulness, His forgiveness and His future. As we observe the fall feasts, let us remember what He has done, what He is doing and what He will do for us in Christ.