The concept of God confronting sin permeates Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread. But the Feast of Trumpets is also about God confronting sin! And comparing these holy days shows some important similarities, and sobering differences.
It is one of the most dramatic stories in the Bible.
There was a slave nation of about 3 million—driven hard by their taskmasters, crying out for deliverance. One day, their deliverer came—and brought with him a host of terrifying plagues from the Almighty God: Water turned to blood, frog infestation, insects, boils. Plague after plague hammered their captors, yet they were protected.
Finally, one night, all the firstborn of the Egyptians died. The plague was so horrifying, so intense, they relented and granted the slaves their freedom.
The Israelites left with a high hand—escaping Egypt and starting their journey to a Promised Land.
This is history that God’s people memorialize each year during the spring holy days. It provides us a dramatic picture of our dealing with sin—how we must come completely out of it.
On Passover, we memorialize Christ’s sacrifice, which purged our sins and reconciled us to God. We remember how, if the Israelites hadn’t put the blood of the lamb on their doorposts, the death angel would have killed their own firstborn along with the Egyptians; by this we learn that it is only the blood of the Lamb—Jesus Christ—that saves us and removes that death penalty. We also remember how God inflicted the Egyptians with a series of plagues that, really, was a punishment on them for their sins.
Prior to the Days of Unleavened Bread, we get leaven out of our homes, which pictures getting sin out of our lives. We remember Israel’s exodus from Egypt, a type of our coming out of sin. At the end of seven days, we remember Israel passing through the Red Sea, a type of baptism, and the cleansing power of the Holy Spirit. We remember the drowning of the Egyptians in the sea, just like our sins are left buried in the baptismal waters.
Through this rich history, God has given us a spectacular illustration of what we go through during repentance, baptism and conversion.
The spring holy days show us just how serious God is about our getting the sin out of our lives. They force us to ask the important question: What is our attitude toward sin?
God commands that we examine our lives each Passover season (1 Corinthians 11:26-29). We must realize just how much Christ went through so we can be cleansed of our sin and reconciled to God—physically and spiritually. We go through this examination process year round, finding ourselves wanting, coming before God, confessing those sins, seeking forgiveness, and then living anew. Those in God’s Church are well acquainted with the process of repentance.
Now, what does all of this have to do with the Feast of Trumpets?
Spring and Fall Parallels
There are tremendous parallels between what we memorialize during the spring holy days and what is pictured on Trumpets! The story of the Israelites’ delivery from Egypt was not only a type of our coming out of sin: There will be a future fulfillment even more dramatic.
As we examine these parallels, we will see that both holy day seasons picture God confronting sin.
Again: What is our attitude toward sin? Do we hate it as much as God does?
The spring holy days show how God purges sin from His people. The fall holy days, beginning with the Feast of Trumpets, picture how God will purge sin from the world. The process is similar in many ways—but there are also some important contrasts.
The First Six Seals
The book of Revelation describes the end-time events culminating in Christ’s Second Coming and the establishment of God’s Kingdom. Let’s look briefly at this chronology.
First, the Apostle John describes in the opening verses of Revelation 5 his vision of a book sealed with seven seals. Jesus Christ is the only one worthy to loose these seals and open the book, which He does.
In chapter 6, we see that each seal being loosed represents the fulfillment of a terrifying prophetic event. Within this one chapter, the first six of these seals are described. They begin with the four horsemen of the apocalypse—false religion, war, famine and pestilence—which are riding even now in their early stages of fulfillment (verses 1-8).
The fifth seal describes the Great Tribulation and the martyrdom of the Laodicean saints (verses 9-11). This is the full expression of Satan’s greatest wrath. Here at the end of this 6,000 years of the age of man, God allows him virtually free reign. His most powerful instrument, the Holy Roman Empire, will be at the height of its power, wreaking excruciating suffering upon both physical and spiritual Israel for a period of 2½ years. During this time, the nations of Israel will go into captivity and slavery in Gentile lands.
Then, the sixth seal introduces the fact that something totally different is going to happen next. A sequence of supernatural events—a great earthquake, a darkened sun, a blood-like moon, falling stars—petrify the inhabitants of the Earth with fear, so much so that they cry out for death: “And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains; And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?” (verses 15-17).
The seventh seal is about to be opened, which will propel the world into the Day of the Lord.
Two Groups Spared!
But before that seal is loosed, something else happens. Revelation 7 is the chapter of the “two companies”—the 144,000 and the great multitude.
In verses 1-8, the 144,000 Laodiceans are “sealed.” Malachi’s Message says that means their eternal salvation is placed beyond doubt—they have made it. At that point, the Laodicean era ends. The Tribulation, terrible as it was, was successful in turning half of the Laodiceans back to God, to rise in the first resurrection and become a part of the bride of Jesus Christ.
Then it talks about a great, innumerable multitude. “After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands” (verse 9). These are the people who will repent in the Tribulation (and, as we will see, even the Day of the Lord) and live over into the Millennium. Many of them will have heard the pcg’s message. They will have recognized the fulfillment of the very things Herbert Armstrong and Gerald Flurry prophesied about! As Mr. Armstrong wrote, “We of this ministry well know that our real reward in the harvest of precious lives will mostly come after our labors are finished!” (The Book of Revelation Unveiled at Last!). This is why it’s so important to reach the largest audience possible right now, even if we can’t see the fruits.
Among these people will be Israelites captive in Assyria, Egypt and other Gentile nations. God protects them from the punishments that are about to happen, even though they will still be in the middle of it—just as the Israelites in the middle of Egypt while it was being besieged by plagues were protected.
In all these events, God’s goal is to have as many people repent as possible.
We’ve already seen that there will be a significant number who repent during the Tribulation. So although the lesson was painful, God must consider that a success. The angels rejoice when one sinner repents (Luke 15:10). This will be multiple tens of thousands—innumerable persons, in fact—who, while experiencing the agony of the Great Tribulation, will accept the correction, and will then repent and begin submitting to God. That’s what He wanted all along from them. It took the Tribulation, but they made it.
Now, as great a success as that will be, God isn’t finished. He wants to see if He can possibly convict the hearts of a few more individuals before Christ returns and forces this evil age of man to a crashing end.
The Day of the Lord
“And when he had opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour. And I saw the seven angels which stood before God; and to them were given seven trumpets” (Revelation 8:1-2). The Day of the Lord lasts for one year, and includes these seven trumpets.
Mr. Armstrong explained, “These symbolic trumpets portray, then, the Day of the Lord—the day of God’s wrath! The day God intervenes in world affairs to punish this world for its evil—the day God pleads with all flesh in the physical language it can understand!—and, as Zephaniah 1:16 says: ‘A day of the trumpet and alarm against the fenced [that is, fortified, or defended] cities, and against the high towers [that is, military fortifications].’
“The trumpet was always blown as a warning of war, or approaching armies. It signifies war and destruction. When Israel turned a deaf ear to all God’s prophets—rejected God’s loving pleading through preaching—God punished ancient Israel by sending the armies of Assyria to conquer them. When Judah disobeyed worse than Israel, God Almighty sent the armies of the Chaldeans to conquer them. As God steps in to punish the whole world—yes, all nations, for their evil, which is destroying them and bringing such suffering and unhappiness on all their peoples—the trumpets, or alarms of war, are sounded” (ibid).
This is no longer Satan’s wrath. This is God’s wrath poured out on mankind for all their sins.
Here is where we begin to see how God purges sin from mankind.
Plagues—As in Egypt!
The first four trumpets are supernatural plagues, similar to the ones God sent on ancient Egypt—hail and fire, sea turned to blood, waters made bitter, darkness of sun, moon and stars (verses 7-12).
Note this! The whole scenario, of a people being captive among Gentiles, and God smiting the captors with plagues, is remarkably similar to the situation in ancient Egypt. We will see that it will have a similar outcome as well.
There is one contrast to take note of, however. With ancient Egypt, God hardened the heart of Pharaoh so the Egyptians wouldn’t let Israel go until all the plagues had occurred. God intervened to ensure events happened just as He wanted—for it put across the right picture to us in these times!
In Revelation, there is no mention of God hardening anyone’s heart. In these end times, people’s hearts are too hardened already! As we watch these events unfold within John’s prophecy, we will get a real sense of just how hard-hearted men have truly become in these times. In these last moments, we are living among a generation of people who will endure these plagues of the Day of the Lord!
Nevertheless, remember that God is ultimately after repentance. Notice this statement from the Ambassador College Bible Correspondence Course: “As each plague from God falls upon the wicked people of this Earth, a few will surrender to God, and forsake the ways of death this society is pursuing. When they do, God will protect them from the horrible punishment to come as the rest of the trumpets sound!” (Lesson 36).
Again, God wants men’s repentance. Consider this for a moment. What a demonstration of God’s mercy, that—even though these people were so hard-headed they wouldn’t repent during the Tribulation—God is still looking for a way to reach them! And then—as soon as they repent—He spares them from further punishment. What a vivid demonstration of the sincerity of God’s statement in Ezekiel 33:11, “As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live …”!
Woe, Woe, Woe!
At this point, there are yet three trumpets to sound. These final trumpets are called woes (Revelation 8:13).
Revelation 9 describes the first and second woes (the fifth and sixth trumpets), which are gigantic, violent military clashes: the beast power striking pre-emptively at the Asian hordes (verses 1-12), and then the counter-attack of the 200-million-man Asian army (verses 13-21). This is world war on a scale never before seen and never to be seen again. How severe will the carnage be? One third of all men will be killed in it! (verse 15).
Now, through this whole time, through the Great Tribulation, through all the supernatural plagues, through the very worst of the cataclysmic, nuclear, biological and chemical war engulfing the world throughout the Day of the Lord, God’s Work is going on—still trying to get men to repent!
The Two Witnesses
“And I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth” (Revelation 11:3). God’s two witnesses will be powerfully visible! They will be warning and preaching God’s message, explaining the events around them—giving people every possible chance to see the error of their ways and turn to God for deliverance and protection.
You can see that even all the tremendous punishment is motivated by God’s love! He wants so much for people to repent—He doesn’t want them to experience any more punishment than they have to.
The two witnesses will have tremendous power: “And if any man will hurt them, fire proceedeth out of their mouth, and devoureth their enemies: and if any man will hurt them, he must in this manner be killed. These have power to shut heaven, that it rain not in the days of their prophecy: and have power over waters to turn them to blood, and to smite the earth with all plagues, as often as they will” (verses 5-6). Perhaps God gives these righteous men such power simply to make it that much more obvious to people that they are sent by God! These men aren’t crackpots—they possess supernatural, miracle-working power, drawing attention to an urgent message for people to turn to God and repent!
But how has rebellious man always responded to God’s message? How will men respond to the two witnesses? “And when they shall have finished their testimony, the beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit shall make war against them, and shall overcome them, and kill them” (verse 7). There will be a few who repent, and who are then protected from further punishment—but the majority will reject the message, and then kill the messengers. They will even go so far as to celebrate their demise with gift-giving! (verses 8-10). How horrible is man!
This is the last thing that happens before God finally says, Okay—you have had it. If nothing that these people have seen to this point has put the fear of God into them, what is about to happen will surely do it.
Notice what leads up to the seventh and most terrible trumpet of all: “And after three days and an half the Spirit of life from God entered into them [the two witnesses], and they stood upon their feet; and great fear fell upon them which saw them. And they heard a great voice from heaven saying unto them, Come up hither. And they ascended up to heaven in a cloud; and their enemies beheld them. And the same hour was there a great earthquake, and the tenth part of the city fell, and in the earthquake were slain of men seven thousand: and the remnant were affrighted, and gave glory to the God of heaven. The second woe is past; and, behold, the third woe cometh quickly” (verses 11-14).
God is now ready to pull out all the stops.
The Hardness of Man
It is the loosing of the seventh and final trumpet that we anticipate on the Feast of Trumpets.
A lot happens on this one day. All these events will begin during a single 24-hour period: Christ returns; all the dead saints from Abel right up to Mr. Armstrong and those who die in the faith today, including the 144,000, are resurrected as spirit beings; all the living saints are caught up in the air to meet Christ as converted spirit beings. There is much to celebrate on this special holy day!
But before all that, and still within this same day, God will pour out the seven final plagues.
Think again about the spring holy days. We examine ourselves, repent, and accept the blood of Christ for the remission of our sins. In the Days of Unleavened Bread, we purge the sin out—we work very hard to clean up our lives in submission to God.
Realize that if we didn’t undergo that process—not just symbolically at the Days of Unleavened Bread, but throughout the year, throughout our converted lives—we would continue to accumulate sin. Sin scars our mind and separates us from God.
These seven last plagues show the ultimate result of sin left unrepented of—sin that God Himself must purge!
This completes and consummates God’s righteous wrath. Here is how God has to correct these hard-hearted people. “But who may abide the day of his coming? and who shall stand when he appeareth? for he is like a refiner’s fire” (Malachi 3:2). Matthew 3:11-12 says Christ will baptize people with fire, “and he will thoroughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”
Remember, we are viewing this as an expression of how much God hates sin. God will have the Earth cleaned up of all the filth that Satan has led man to get mixed up in. Ideally, He would tell man what to do, and man would do it. But we can see that it doesn’t matter how rough God gets, there are still some people who won’t buckle!
“And I looked, and behold a white cloud, and upon the cloud one sat like unto the Son of man, having on his head a golden crown, and in his hand a sharp sickle. … And he … thrust in his sickle on the earth; and the earth was reaped. … And the angel thrust in his sickle into the earth, and gathered the vine of the earth, and cast it into the great winepress of the wrath of God. And the winepress was trodden without the city, and blood came out of the winepress, even unto the horse bridles, by the space of a thousand and six hundred furlongs” (Revelation 14:14, 16, 19-20). What a bloodbath must occur because of the hardness of man!
Seven Final Plagues
Then comes the final expression of God’s wrath. Revelation 16 explains all seven vials: Those who worship the beast receive sores; the sea becomes blood, killing everything in it; the rivers turn to blood; heat scorches the Earth.
Why is God delivering such severe punishment? Only because the people’s sins have been severe—and because they won’t repent!
If these people had repented at any time before this, there would be no need for this! But what happens instead—astoundingly—is that they become even more hard-headed! Notice, after the fifth plague: “they gnawed their tongues for pain, And blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, and repented not of their deeds” (verses 10-11). And the seventh: “And there fell upon men a great hail out of heaven, every stone about the weight of a talent: and men blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail; for the plague thereof was exceeding great” (verse 21). You have to marvel at the hardness of human beings!
Think again to your own repentance. Perhaps God really had to knock you around to get your attention. He may have used some powerful means of humbling us to get through to us. But what a blessing that it didn’t take this! What a blessing to have turned our hearts to God now—that when God called us, we responded. We rended our hearts and broke down in repentance before God.
Of course, we must give God credit (Romans 2:4). If it weren’t for Him giving us the eyes to see and, with the Holy Spirit, giving us that fleshy heart to replace our heart of stone, we would be just as stubborn and hard-hearted as the worst of these men!
This is why it is so important that every day we keep going back to God to seek that repentance. every day we must draw on that Holy Spirit and remain humble before God, so we never fall back into our hard-hearted ways. Without that, our hearts are just as deceitful and as desperately wicked (Jeremiah 17:9) as anyone’s out there! These verses show just how deceitful, how desperately wicked we can become!
There is this aspect to the day of Trumpets that is extremely bitter. Trumpets really does give us a deeper appreciation for God’s attitude toward sin! It should reaffirm in our minds how important it is to purge sin from our lives.
If this is how God will deal with sin when Jesus Christ returns, we want to make sure it is completely purged from us personally before that time. God is going to have tremendous wrath—and we want to ensure none of it is directed at us! We want to be as clean and free from sin as possible.
We want to retain that fear of God now, so God doesn’t have to teach it to us in the crucible of these global plagues!
There is yet another massive event that will occur when the last trumpet blasts: the final antitype, or fulfillment, of ancient Israel’s deliverance from Egypt. At the last trump, God will deliver the great multitude—particularly the Israelites—from captivity.
This is a wonderful, hope-filled aspect of the day of Trumpets that, in the midst of all the war and blood, we mustn’t forget about.
For God to call someone, liberate them from bondage and save them—the process is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. These people in the future will go through exactly what we in that smaller spring harvest have gone through—but on a much more dramatic scale.
Let’s try to create in our minds a picture as vivid as the one in Exodus.
Israel will be in captivity throughout the Tribulation and Day of the Lord. They will be in Assyria (the land of the north), Egypt, Pathros, Cush and many other places—the four corners of the Earth. They will be “ready to perish” (Isaiah 27:13). Some few will repent during that time—a remnant. These repentant ones God will protect and deliver as part of the great multitude—they will be among those living humans who will start the new civilization in the Millennium.
When will God deliver them? “[I]n that day, that the great trumpet shall be blown”! (verse 13). This is referring to the last trumpet of Revelation 11:15.
And how will God deliver them?
First He will pour fury out upon the captor nations: “As I live, saith the Lord God, surely with a mighty hand, and with a stretched out arm, and with fury poured out, will I rule over you: And I will bring you out from the people, and will gather you out of the countries wherein ye are scattered, with a mighty hand, and with a stretched out arm, and with fury poured out” (Ezekiel 20:33-34; see also Isaiah 10:21-22, 12-13). This event will occur amid a lot of godly fury.
Then, in order to remove this remnant of Israel physically out of their captor nations, God will cause miraculous physical, topographical changes to allow their passage—just as He did with Israel coming out of Egypt (Isaiah 11:11, 15-16; see also Isaiah 27:12). Their coming through the waters will be a type of baptism, just as it was for ancient Israel.
Remember, these repentant Israelites who survive the Day of the Lord form part of the great multitude (which are described in Revelation 7:9 as including people from “all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues”). This is the remnant of Israel—the Israelite part of the great multitude. Those from other nations won’t need this dramatic physical delivery from slavery as Israel will.
Once these repentant Israelites have traveled the road God carves for them, just as with ancient Israel, God will bring them into the wilderness and there “plead” with them “face to face,” working with them intensively to help them conquer their carnality (Ezekiel 20:35-36). Remember, it was in the wilderness that God gave the Israelites His law and entered into a covenant with them. This time, while in the wilderness they will likely enter into the same baptismal covenant that we do today (verse 37)—to be consummated at their conversion into spirit beings, sometime during the Millennium.
In ancient Israel, God wiped out a whole generation without their entering the Promised Land, because of their rebellion. The same will be true of the end-time generation—except that those who do enter will truly be converted! (verses 38, 41-44). Anciently, it was only a physical deliverance from Egypt and sin. Here will be a physical and a spiritual deliverance. These will be the first generation of people in the new world! No rebel will be there.
Jeremiah 31 speaks of this second exodus. Even today the Jews read this chapter on the Day of Trumpets. It pictures God lovingly gathering these repentant Israelites like a shepherd (verses 8-10), showering them with blessings (verses 12-17), and establishing His new covenant with them (verses 31-34).
This is really something to rejoice over when we celebrate the Feast of Trumpets!
In a way, many things will come full circle. Israel will fulfill the role God always intended as His example nation (Isaiah 11:12-13; see also Zephaniah 3:20; Zechariah 10:6-12). God always intended Israel to be the example! Finally, they will be!
This latter-day exodus will be so massive, it will completely supersede the ancient exodus (Jeremiah 23:3-8). Just as ancient Israel was brought to the Promised Land anciently, so will they be—to that same land—in this Second Exodus!
The innumerable multitude includes repentant peoples of all nations who live over into the Kingdom, but only the Israelites will be brought back to the Promised Land. They will be gathered in Jerusalem to worship God (Isaiah 27:13).
After quoting Revelation 7:1, Mr. Armstrong wrote, “These winds were held back from blowing these seven trumpets until the sealing of the 144,000 and the great innumerable multitude that came out of the Great Tribulation from all nationalities and peoples. They who repent and turn to God for protection are first brought under the divine protection, so that just as God protected the children of Israel when He poured out the plagues on ancient Egypt, so shall He protect all His children who rely on Him from these plagues now about to come on the modern Babylon! And, incidentally, the plagues God sent on Egypt in the days of Moses were a direct type of these plagues that shall now be poured out on Babylon. Those protected from those ancient plagues were taken under Moses to the Promised Land, the Holy Land. Those saved from these plagues will be taken by Christ into the Kingdom of God—to be set up on Earth with headquarters in Jerusalem” (The Book of Revelation Unveiled at Last!).
Blessing of the Firstfruits
What a beautiful picture!
The fall holy days ultimately fulfill all the promise of the spring holy days. Look at the parallels!
In the spring, we look back on that deliverance of ancient Israel. But in the end, this latter-day exodus will so far exceed its predecessor, people won’t even remember it! Far more than 3 million—an innumerable multitude of people brought to repentance by the terrible events of the Great Tribulation and the Day of the Lord. They’ll be ready to be taught, ready to accept God’s law, ready to purge sin from their lives.
Think about this! We are experiencing this deliverance from sin today! As dramatic as the Second Exodus will be, we must realize again what a great blessing it is to have already made our exodus out of this world, out of sin, on a personal level!
God does reward us for submitting to Him today; for repenting and becoming converted today. As we respond to His calling now—as we purge sin from our lives now—our reward will be so much greater!
All those broken, repentant people—that first generation of human beings who will start the Millennium—they will be our children!
Imagine what a joy it will be to work with them. They will be clamoring for education.
And what makes this prophecy all the more real and immediate and important for us is this sobering fact: The better we do our job today of getting God’s message to this world, the more people there will be in that first repentant generation!
How important it is that we pour our hearts into this work!
We Confront Sin
This Feast of Trumpets, let’s ask ourselves, Do I hate sin as much as God does?
If we are honest, we must answer no. If we truly hated it enough—if we were so repulsed at the idea of it—we wouldn’t sin nearly so much, if at all! God wants us to be much more serious about it than we are.
“But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. … For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world” (1 Corinthians 11:28, 31-32).
Notice: Paul says the world is about to be condemned for its sin. That is certainly borne out in the message of the Day of Trumpets. He thus exhorts us to judge ourselves, and examine ourselves. If we hold ourselves to God’s standard of conduct, God doesn’t have to judge us, or chasten us. We can avoid severe punishment from God if we simply judge ourselves and hold ourselves to the same standard God has.
In other words, we must take on the same attitude toward sin that God has! Take on God’s attitude toward sin, and live by it—confront sin the way He does—and you will avoid being condemned with the world.
Think about these parallels between the spring holy days and these fall holy days. Realize that everything we’re going through—struggling to be righteous, to keep sin out, to repent daily—these are the same things that everyone will have to go through some day—in a much more painful process—if they are going to make it into God’s family.
Meditate on what a blessing it is to be a part of that spring harvest: If we make it, as all of these cataclysmic events are unfolding, we will be on Christ’s side, fighting alongside Him!
And when that first generation of repentant, submissive people is there, waiting to be taught at the beginning of God’s Kingdom, we’ll be ruling alongside Him in love.