Happy Birthday, Jesus

By Scott Lively

Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth … while the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy?” (Job 38:4-7)

Today (Sept. 6, 2021) is Yom Teruah, the Feast of Trumpets, the birthday of Creation according to the ancient rabbis, and thus the most likely birthday of Jesus Christ, who in a very real sense IS the Creation (but at the same time is greater than it).

In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through Him all things were made, and without Him nothing was made that has been made” (John 1:1-2).

For in Him all things were created, things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities. All things were created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:16-17).

While Hellenistic church tradition celebrates the birthday of Jesus on Dec. 25, it is far more likely that He was born on this day in the Hebrew calendar. Based on the analysis of a fellow Christian lawyer in his film “The Star of Bethlehem,” I am persuaded that the December tradition actually celebrates the meeting of the three Magi with the toddler Jesus.

Be that as it may, the Feast of Trumpets (aka Rosh Hashanah) marks the new year in God’s timekeeping system as outlined in Leviticus 23 and 25, and its several symbolic themes identify it with the resurrection and rapture.

First, it is associated with the resurrection story of Abraham and Isaac in Genesis 22. To this day the parsha (portion) of the Torah read in synagogues is this chapter. The New Testament confirms the essential theme of resurrection in Hebrews 11:17-19: “By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac on the altar … Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead, and in a sense, he did receive Isaac back from death.

The Feast of Trumpets is also associated with the fall wheat harvest – symbolic of the “harvest” and glorification of the Bride of Christ per the parable of the wheat and tares (Matthew 13:24-30) at His second coming in the same way that the ascension of Christ (and His return as Holy Spirit) was associated with the spring wheat harvest at Pentecost at His first coming.

The origin of the ram’s horn or “shofar” as a symbol of resurrection is in the Genesis 22 story. The shofar is associated with “substitutionary atonement” because a young ram was provided by God as a sacrificial substitute for Isaac (just as Christ became the “lamb who takes away the sins of the world”).

And of course, the shofar links the timing of the resurrection and rapture to the Feast of Trumpets when “… 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 [resurrection]. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds [rapture] to meet the Lord in the air” (I Thessalonians 4:16-17).

The resurrection and rapture event is further amplified in 1 Corinthians 15:20-57, especially verses 51-52: “Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, 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.

Both of these passages echo Matthew 24:31, “And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.

In God’s timing, my newly launched schedule of preaching chapter by chapter through the Bible brought me to John 5 this week. It begins “Some time later there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.” The feast in question was the three-feast pilgrimage of Sukkot or Tabernacles, which starts with the Ten Days of Awe, book-ended by Trumpets and Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement), followed five days later by Sukkot (symbolic of the Millennial Kingdom).

Interestingly, the chapter begins with Jesus’ miracle at the Pool of Siloah, wherein the reference to an angel “stirring” the waters of the pool evokes the image of the birth of Creation in Genesis 1:1, when “the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters” (the only such parallel in Scripture, to my knowledge). It is also significant that Tabernacles was celebrated in those days by a water ritual involving the priests collecting a pitcher of water from this same pool to pour upon the altar concurrently with the pouring of a second pitcher, of wine.

The miracle event is followed by a commentary on the absolute authority of Christ to judge all things in Creation, most particularly human beings. At the end of this commentary Jesus prophesies, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live. For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself; And hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man. Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation” (John 5:25-29).

This judgment of resurrection to life or damnation is precisely the theme of the Ten Days of Awe (the final 10 days of a 40-day period for repentance), and an unmistakable parallel to the resurrection and rapture scriptures cited above.

I cannot claim with certainty that today is Jesus’ actual birthday, but I suggest it would be a far more appropriate day on which to celebrate it than Dec. 25 (which tradition has no justification whatsoever in Scripture) if for no other reason than to help reconnect Christians to their Hebrew cultural roots that Christendom has largely forgotten. Since we all have the liberty to celebrate His birthday whenever we wish, I choose today. Happy Birthday, Jesus!

Watch Pastor Lively’s small-group Bible study on John 5.

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