By Gil Afriat
We’re experiencing an almost incomprehensible reality today, and the events around us are changing at a dizzying pace. In a matter of a couple weeks, Israel, just like many nations, has come to a grinding halt: everyone, except those in critical services, is ordered to stay in their homes. We believe that God has been preparing believers for this time: a month ago a 40-day global fast (The Jesus Fast) was called by evangelist Lou Engle which many of us here in Israel, along with countless around the world, have joined. We are already in a posture of denying ourselves and seeking Him, and now with the current crisis, we are called to stand in the position that God has prepared for us in the face of a global pandemic.
Is God Sovereign?
Many are wondering, “What is going on here?” First of all, we know that God is sovereign; He is on His throne and nothing happens without His allowing it. The enemy cannot put together this plague behind God’s back, and God is allowing it while at the same time working multiple good objectives through it according to His perfect will. What good objectives might God be working through this crisis? I know that many of us recognize some of them, and I see several positive objectives God is working through this challenging time. In this article I would like to focus on one.
One important objective God is working through this crisis: In His mercy, God wants to wake up those who are walking in darkness without the knowledge of Him, those walking in apathy to the most basic and essential question of their lives: does God exist or not, and if He does, what does that mean for me? We know that God uses crises to wake up those who are living in apathy, who are living for an interminable future without considering their mortality and the meaning of their lives. One thing this pandemic has done is shatter the illusion that people’s day to day lives will continue without significant disruption. The pressure, worries, tasks and pleasures of day to day life keep people in the dim valley of life without the knowledge of God. In fact, the pressures and tasks of day to day life are an excellent tool which the enemy uses to keep people from being able to focus and ponder the deeper questions of their existence.
All Flesh is Grass
It is clear to see that God is working through this crisis to wake people up to the fact of how fragile their existence is, to the fact that our days on the earth are finite. More than that, God is giving everyone the time and the space to stop and ponder these questions, not for just a moment or two, but for a concerted period of time to meditate on these questions, to seek, and to ultimately find, by His grace, the truth—salvation through our Lord Yeshua the Messiah.
The Zechariah 12 Connection
Even though this chapter deals with the final battle for Jerusalem at the end of the Tribulation before our Lord appears in the sky to all, I strongly believe that God is causing a foreshadow of this prophecy to happen today. Zechariah 12: 9-14 says:
It shall be in that day that I will seek to destroy all the nations [today, all the viruses!] that come against Jerusalem. “And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom they pierced. Yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn. In that day there shall be a great mourning in Jerusalem, like the mourning at Hadad Rimmon in the plain of Megiddo. And the land shall mourn, every family by itself: the family of the house of David by itself, and their wives by themselves; the family of the house of Nathan by itself, and their wives by themselves; the family of the house of Levi by itself, and their wives by themselves; the family of Shimei by itself, and their wives by themselves; all the families that remain, every family by itself, and their wives by themselves
Notice how what is written in this verse places special emphasis on the idea of each and every family being together by itself. Until today, I didn’t understand how or why this would happen, however this passage describes the situation today of families being quarantined in their homes together. Not only that, this passage points out that there, in their “quarantine”, God pours out His Spirit of grace and supplication. I believe that a special grace is available right now which God is pouring out on the people of Israel, and on all nations, to receive a revelation of Yeshua the Messiah. These verses In Zechariah 12 encourage and give us hope that in this difficult time we will see significant fruit of salvations among the people of Israel, in the Muslim world, and around the whole world.
Our Calling as Priests
God is always calling us to partner with Him, and especially in this situation: during this time of separation God is calling us to stand in our roles as priests unto God (2 Peter 2:5) to intercede for our nations, to petition the Mercy Seat for the lost. It is our prayer that God would use the pressures of this pandemic to draw people to him, to soften their hearts, and to give them ears to hear and eyes to see the great salvation He has prepared for them!
by Tamar Afriat
Since the beginning of 2020, the news cycle has been dominated by constant attention-grabbing headlines which put last week’s news far from the mind. However, during the first couple months of 2020, there were two unprecedented and highly significant events for Israel and the region—events which, for better or worse, have had surprisingly little coverage in the media or had coverage that greatly misinterpreted their impact and significance. This article will take a look at the first significant event which happened in 2020.
THE US ASSASSINATES IRANIAN MILITARY CHIEF AND CHECKMATES IRAN
On January 3, 2020, US President Donald Trump authorized the targeted assassination of Major General Qassem Suleimani, the leader of Iran’s elite Quds Force and mastermind of Iran’s military operations outside Iran. With Suleimani at the helm, Iran’s military tentacles have been sewing terror and chaos across the Middle East, all the way from Syria, Lebanon and Gaza to Yemen. The US State Department said that it killed the Iranian general because he was actively planning attacks against US troops in Iraq and the region, but the significance of his removal goes far beyond American interests. It is hard to overstate the importance of Suleimani in Iran (the only more powerful man in Iran was the Supreme Leader, the Ayatollah himself), and the huge blow to Iran’s ability to carry out its proxy militia strategy across the Middle East—supporting the Houthis in Yemen, Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in the Gaza Strip, and propping up the Assad regime in Syria, all which bear the hallmarks of Iranian involvement: chaos, violence, radicalization and active aggression against Israel.
Internationally Trump’s action called a “reckless act of war”
As soon as the news of Suleimani’s assassination broke, the international media exploded in one accord, calling Trump’s move tantamount to an act of war and a dangerous escalation of tensions between the US and Iran. As the world watched the funeral procession of Suleimani in Baghdad where mourners draped his grave in the red flag—a call for revenge of the “martyr’s” death—and listened to top Iranian leaders vow harsh retaliation, pundits and politicians around the world began warning that the Iranians would hit back hard, leading to more violence and destabilization.
The Israeli pundits were saying something else
Across the board, from left to right, experts and government officials in Israel called Trump’s move a brave decision—a deterrent to war, not an act of war—a move which showed leadership and sent a powerful message to all terrorist leaders in the region: your heads are on the line. Suleimani’s assassination put Iran into a quandary; they understand that President Trump will not hesitate to put action behind his words, and, if they react by attacking American interests or allies, the US has promised to destroy fifty-two strategic sites in Iran, the destruction of which would put Iran back twenty years. So, how did Iran ultimately respond to Suleimani’s assassination? It attacked a US military base in Iraq which inflicted minor causalities on US military servicemen, a symbolic act which showed that they are not interested in further escalation of hostilities with the US.
Iran’s Situation Today: Iran is finding itself limited and crippled. Firstly, the Trump administration’s sanctions are having the desired effect—everyday Iranians are unhappy with their government’s spending their resources on outside military escapades while the economic situation at home continues to worsen. Iran’s profile in the Middle East is beginning to tarnish on the Arab street as well; for all its brash military actions, the everyday people are left with the violence, death, refugees, chaos and economic collapse Iran’s policies leave in their wake.
Iran’s Spiritual Awakening? More than anything else, the most important change of all is what seems to be happening inside Iran. According to some sources, Iran has the fastest-growing church in the world as disenfranchised Iranians leaving Islam are coming to faith in the Messiah of Israel, Yeshua, and worshiping the one true God, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. What’s more, these believers who are coming to faith are doing so outside of the established, denominational church (which in the Middle East tends to be anti-Semitic\anti-Israel), and Iranian believers are expressing love for Israel and Jews whom they see as the brothers of their Savior. This is the most meaningful development for Iran, Israel and the Middle East by far.
At the end of Sukkot (Tabernacles), we mark one last holiday called Shemini Atzeret, or the Eighth Day Convocation, that is not well-known and is somewhat obscure:
“On the fifteenth day of the seventh month the Lord’s Festival of Tabernacles begins, and it lasts for seven days…on the eighth day hold a sacred assembly and present a food offering to the Lord. It is the closing special assembly; do no regular work.” (Leviticus 23:34, 36)
It is the last bionically mandated holiday in the Torah and, according to rabbinical tradition, marks the conclusion of weekly Torah readings and the beginning of a new cycle, starting with Genesis. Considering that Paul says that the holidays are a shadow of things to come in Colossians 2:17, what is the meaning of this mysterious holiday which only gets a brief mention in Leviticus 23:36 and 39? It seems to be tacked onto the end of Sukkot, but rabbis say it is a separate holy day in its own right and call it “the closing festival”.
Biblical Holidays: A Shadow of Things to Come
All of God’s holidays point to His ultimate plan for redemption. The spring holidays of Passover and Weeks (Pentecost) foreshadowed the first coming of Messiah. In the same way, the fall holidays of Rosh HaShanah (Day of Trumpeting), Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) and Sukkot (Tabernacles) foreshadow the culmination of the great tribulation, the rapture, the defeat of the Antichrist and his armies, Yeshuah’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem and His coronation as king (which we believe will coincide with the holiday of Sukkot). Additionally, Sukkot foreshadows the Millennial reign (thousand-year reign) of Messiah described in Revelation 20 when He will literally dwell, or tabernacle, with us here on earth.
A Thousand Years Like a Day
If we consider that 2 Peter 3 reminds us that a thousand years with the Lord is like a day, and currently on the Hebrew calendar we are towards the end of the 6th day (5,780), we anticipate Messiah’s Millennial reign on the 7th day—or the 7th century on the Hebrew calendar. So, perhaps the Eighth Day Convocation can tell us what will happen on the eighth day (8th century) of the Hebrew calendar which will coincide with the culmination of Yeshua’s Millennial reign. (Note: the Hebrew calendar is not an exact science and may be off by even by several hundred years, meaning that we may have hundreds of years before we reach the culmination of the end of the age or it could be right around the corner)
What Happens After the 7th Day? Hint: Genesis 1
Revelation 20 describes the Millennial reign of Messiah on earth which culminates in a rebellion led by Satan, which God will destroy, followed by the great white throne judgement when God will judge the living and the dead. Seems like the end of the story, right? Actually, it’s just the beginning: Revelation 21 describes something extraordinary that’s difficult to grasp: the creation of a new heaven and a new earth. So, it seems that Shemini Atzeret, the special Eighth day Convocation after Sukkot—which symbolizes the Millennial reign—foreshadows God’s creation of the New Heaven and the New Earth (interestingly, the symbol for eternity looks a lot like the number 8). So, just as Jews around the world begin reading Genesis 1:1 on Shemini Atzeret, the holiday itself foreshadows the new Genesis of creation after the Millennium when God the Father Himself will dwell with people:
“Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Revelation 21:3-4)
Rosh Hashanah Holiday Outreach
Jewish holidays are important part of our lives here in Israel; they’re a time for connecting with family and friends around elaborate holiday meals and, for many Israelis who don’t consider themselves religious, the holidays are a cultural touchstone connecting them thousands-year old ceremonies which inform their history and identity as Jews. For believers of Yeshua, the biblical holidays take on even more meaning because we understand the deep spiritual and prophetic meanings of our cherished biblical holidays and how they point to Messiah Yeshua and God’s plan for redemption.
As much as we love our holidays, they can be a financial burden: hosting elaborate traditional meals, bringing gifts and hosting friends and family during the holiday season can cost too much for many families, and no small number end up going into debt over holiday expenses.
Every year at Tiferet Yeshua we host specially subsidized holiday meals for our congregation members who can’t afford to host their own, for those who don’t have close family or friends to celebrate with (as is the case for many of the foreign students fellowshipping with us), and for those who simply want to celebrate the holiday meal with their spiritual family. There are always many non-believing family members and friends who attend our holiday meals which are an awesome opportunity for them to hear the gospel in the context of a familiar Jewish holiday and connect with believers!
This year Tiferet elder David Trubeck organized and led our Rosh Hashanah seder meal. It was a special time that coincided with the dedication of our new sanctuary. Many of our congregation members attended and their non-believing family and friends had a witness of Yeshua the Messiah in a traditionally Jewish forum.
We can’t host these holiday meals without your support and, as our general budget has taken a hit with the massive renovation project we’ve just completed, we ask that you prayerfully consider supporting this important outreach!
The Lord said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites: ‘On the first day of the seventh month you are to have a day of sabbath rest, a sacred assembly commemorated with trumpet blasts. Do no regular work, but present a food offering to the Lord.’ (Leviticus 23:23-25)
The Day of Trumpeting: back to the original meaning
Of all the biblical feasts, this is the only one we don’t refer to using its biblical name. It is also a holiday that has had subsequent traditions superimposed on it, obscuring its original prophetic meaning. The biblically holiday we celebrate as the first of the fall high holidays is not called Rosh Hashanah (New Years) by the Bible but rather the Day of Trumpeting. The Bible mandates this holiday take place on the first day of the 7th month of the biblical year—not the first—which is Nissan, the month of Passover. The reason this holiday meant to be commemorated by trumpet blasts came to be known as the New Year (Rosh Hashanah) dates back to the Babylonian exile: during their time in Babylon, the Jewish exiles were influenced by the Babylonian culture around them, and, as a result, they adopted Akkadian\Babylonia month names and practices. That’s right, all the Hebrew month names are Babylonian in origin.
While the celebrations of this holiday mainly focus on the new year aspect, the traditions observed in this holiday harken back to the original biblical meaning for this somewhat mysterious holiday—mysterious because the bible gives surprisingly little information about the holiday other than the ordinance to observe it as a Sabbath, to blow the shofar (trumpet), and to make offerings and sacrifices. The blessings recited during the holiday meal repeatedly call for God’s deliverance from Israel’s enemies and implore God’s mercy in judging His people. Rabbinic literature refers to this holiday as the day of judgement, the day on which the people pass as sheep before God, the great shepherd.
Trumpeting: what does it mean?
As this day is called Yom Teruah (the day of trumpeting), and blowing the trumpet is the integral commandment of this day, it would make sense to understand what the Bible has to say about the purpose for trumpeting. Numbers 10: 1-9 gives a clear four-fold meaning for the “lasting ordinance” to blow the trumpets:
- To assemble the community together
- To signal the camps to move out
- To call for God’s help when going into battle in the Land against an oppressive enemy
- For heralding times of rejoicing
New Testament References to Trumpeting
The New Testament also references the sounding of trumpets, and that is in relation to end time events. The book of Revelation describes a series of 7 seals and 7 trumpets which are then followed by 7 bowls of wrath, all of which relating to phases of God’s releasing His judgement on the earth.
Other New Testament accounts reveal an important emphasis on the last trumpet in particular. Since Revelation is the only place in the Old and New Testaments which gives a numbered series of trumpets, the last trumpet in Revelation must correlate to end time events, as the other references reveal:
Behold, I shew 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 trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. (I Corinthians 15:51-52)
For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. (I Thessalonians 4:16)
The New Testament makes abundantly clear that the “last trumpet” heralds the rapture of the saints, the imminent return of the Lord and the wrath of the Lord poured out on the earth before His return. The question remains: do these end time trumpets have anything to do with the Day of Trumpeting mandated in the Law? While the spring biblical feasts (Passover, Pentecost, and Weeks) foreshadowed the first coming of the Messiah as the suffering servant and initiated His kingdom in the hearts of men, is it possible that the fall feasts (the Day of Trumpeting, the Day of Atonement, and Tabernacles) coincide with the Lord’s second coming as a judge and the coming of His literal, physical kingdom to the earth in Jerusalem?
The Joel 2 and the End Time Connection
When lining up the end-time events described in the book of Revelation with the description of end time events in the book of Joel, it becomes clear that the fall feats mirror exactly the progression of the great and terrible day of the Lord just before His return when the armies of the antichrist descend upon the land of Israel and surround Jerusalem.
Joel 2: 1-11 (Day of Trumpeting)
Blow the trumpet in Zion; sound the alarm on my holy hill. Let all who live in the land tremble, for the day of the Lord is coming…
In this passage, the prophet Joel describes the sounding of the trumpet to assemble the people together because a horrible and fierce enemy has invaded the land (remember back to the Rosh HaShanah meal blessings calling for deliverance from enemies). This is also the moment that the Lord Yeshua appears in the sky with the voice of the trumpet and the dead in Messiah are raised and those still alive are raptured.
Joel 2:12-17 (Day of Atonement)
“Even now,” declares the Lord, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.”
This passage in Joel 2 clearly mirrors the Day of Atonement, a time the Lord mandated the Israelites to fast and torture their souls in repentance; here the prophet Joel calls all the people, young and old, men and women, to declare a holy fast and call a sacred assembly to weep, mourn and cry out to the Lord to save them.
Interestingly, Joel 2:15 calls for a fast, which is the Day of Atonement, but it also calls for a trumpet to be blown in Zion, which makes us think that it might also mean the Day of Trumpeting since there are no trumpets blown on the Day of Atonement. However, trumpets are indeed blown on the Day of Atonement every Jubilee year, that is, every 50th year, which brings in an additional level of prophetic meaning to this “last” Day of Atonement—liberation and restoration. (Leviticus 25:9)
All Israel Will Be Saved
The scene that Joel 2:12-17 describes brings to mind another end time prophesy which describes a day when all the nations of the earth are gathered against Judah and Jerusalem and the people cry out in mourning before God:
“And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication. They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son. On that day the weeping in Jerusalem will be as great as the weeping of Hadad Rimmon in the plain of Megiddo. The land will mourn, each clan by itself, with their wives by themselves…” (Zechariah 12:10-12)
This is the moment that Paul’s prophetic declaration in Romans 11:26 that all Israel will be saved comes to pass. The Bible teaches that Israel will go through terrible tribulation and suffering, but Israel will also be the only nation that collectively receives a simultaneous revelation of Him, accepts Him and is saved, just as Peter in Acts 2 quotes Joel 2 describing that final moment: “And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” So, if the season of the Day of Trumpeting marks the rapture and the Lord’s appearing in the sky, and the Day of Atonement marks Israel’s calling a fast and solemn assembly to weep and mourn over “the one they have pierced”, then Tabernacles can be none other than Yeshua’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem where He will tabernacle with His people!