Although I tend to stick to the seven feasts of Leviticus 23 when I speculate about the timing of the Rapture of the Church (the Feast of Tabernacles being my prime choice), there are a few “wildcard” possibilities that have caught my interest throughout the years. Tu B’Av is one of them because it may point to the Rapture occurring in the summer. Although I have written about this possibility in the past, I wanted to provide an updated post on the subject.
What is Tu B’Av?
Tu B’Av is named after the Hebrew calendar date for the 15th of Av. It is a minor Jewish holiday that is not expressly found in Scripture. However, some scholars think it could be the festival mentioned in Judges 21:19.
Coming six days after the 9th of Av, a day of mourning, the 15th of Av is considered to be one of the two happiest days on the Jewish calendar, with Yom Kippur being the other. It was first mentioned in the Mishna (Taanit 4:8): “There were no better days for the people of Israel than the Fifteenth of Av and Yom Kippur, since on these days the daughters of Jerusalem go out dressed in white and dance in the vineyards. What they were saying: Young man, consider who you choose to be your wife.”
It also marked the beginning of the grape harvest. In modern times, it is celebrated as a day of love in Israel, where cards and flowers are given to loved ones. It is also a popular day for Jewish weddings.
Tu B’Av is thought to commemorate several events, including the readmission of the Tribe of Benjamin into the tribal community; the end of the death of the generation that left Egypt; and the lifting of a ban on tribal intermarriage through the daughters of Zelophehad.
I would first like to focus on the fact that Tu B’Av is a celebration of the firstfruits of the grape harvest.
Connection Between Resurrections and Harvests
There may be a pattern established between harvests and resurrection events. For example, Jesus was resurrected on the Feast of Firstfruits. The Apostle Paul also compared our earthly bodies to seeds and our resurrection bodies to the vegetation that is produced by those seeds:
“But some man will say, How are the dead raised up? And with what body do they come? Thou foolk that which thou sowest is not quickened, except to die: And that which thou sowest, thou sowest not that body that shall be, but bare grain, it may chance of wheat, or of some other grain: But God giveth it a body as it hath pleased him, and to every seed his own body.” 1 Corinthians 15:35-38.
Therefore, the celebrations of the Feasts of Firstfruits, Pentecost, and Tabernacles – all harvest festivals – may be significant watch days for Rapture-watchers. It should be noted then that the Feast of Firstfruits celebrates the firstfruits of the barley harvest, the Feast of Pentecost celebrates the firstfruits of the wheat harvest, and the Feast of Tabernacles celebrates the final harvests of the year – including a fruit harvest.
“Thou shalt observe the feast of tabernacles seven days, after that thou has gathered in thy corn and thy wine.” Deuteronomy 16:13.
So, if there are firstfruits harvests of barley and wheat, shouldn’t there be a firstfruits harvest of fruit?
Hidden Summer Fruit Harvest
Perhaps a hidden harvest (i.e. one not included in the feasts of Leviticus 23) will represent a “hidden” resurrection event like the Rapture. The Bible likens people to fruit trees: “Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.” Psalm 1:1-3. The nation of Israel is specifically likened to grapes and figs: “I found Israel like grapes in the wilderness; I saw your fathers as the firstripe in the fig tree at her first time ….” Hosea 9:10. And the predominantly Gentile Church has been grafted into the tree that is Israel. See Romans 11:11-24. So it can be seen as a fruit tree.
That is why Tu B’Av is so interesting. It is a Jewish celebration of the firstfruits of the grape harvest. And it is also tied into the story of the twelve spies who were sent to explore the land of Canaan. According to Numbers 13:20, the spies made a forty day trek during the “time of the firstripe grapes.” They even brought back a large, single cluster of grapes, some figs and pomegranates. Basically a firstfruits harvest of summer fruit.
Ten of the twelve spies bring back a bad report, however, and convince the Jews to rebel against God’s mandate to conquer the Promised Land. As punishment for their unbelief, the people are told that they will never enter the Promised Land. They must wander the desert for 40 years until they all die. Only their children, nineteen years and younger, and Caleb and Joshua, who exercised faith, are permitted to enter the land.
According to tradition, the people believed the bad report of the ten spies on the 9th of Av. Tradition further holds that, on each subsequent 9th of Av, they would dig graves for themselves and sleep (and some die) in them. This continued until the fortieth year, when the mass deaths stopped. It was not until a few days later, on the 15th of Av, that they finally realized that the curse was over.
Although there is probably more folktale than fact in the rabbinical version of the story, we can be assured from the biblical account that the spies made their trek during the summertime. So it is not farfetched for the curse to be lifted during the anniversary of the time that it was imposed. And perhaps God will use a harvest celebration, already recognized by the Jews, as a point of emphasis for a resurrection event.
Tabernacles in the Vineyard
As I have noted earlier, the Feast of Tabernacles is my top choice for the timing of the Rapture (assuming that it will occur on a Jewish feast day or holiday). I believe that the spiritual journey of the Church is represented by the three pilgrimage festivals of Unleavened Bread, Pentecost, and Tabernacles; while the spiritual journey of Israel is represented by the seven festivals of Leviticus 23. (Please see my September 11, 2013 post “The Pilgrimage Festival Pattern” : http://www.fivedoves.com/letters/sep2013/lisat911.htm .) The book of Jonah illustrates the conversion of a group of Gentiles, and may also serve as a confirmation of a Pilgrimage Festival Pattern.
Jonah was 3 days and 3 nights in the belly of the fish. Likewise, Jesus was 3 days and 3 nights in the heart of the earth – the fulfillment of Unleavened Bread. 120,000 Ninevites were saved. (See Jonah 4:11). 120 people initially received the Holy Spirit on Pentecost – which is a multiple of the number of saved Ninevites. (See Acts 1:15). Jonah built a tabernacle to watch the destruction of Nineveh – but the Ninevites were preserved from judgment. (See Jonah 4:5). Tabernacles are built in observance of the Feast of Tabernacles. So, the Church may be preserved from judgment on a future Feast of Tabernacles.
So, you can imagine my thrill in discovering that booths or tabernacles were also set up in vineyards. According to the Illustrated Dictionary of Bible Manners & Customs, edited by A. Van Deursen (2006): “In the fruit gardens (for instance, in the garden of cucumbers, Isa. 1:8), and in the vineyards there were small shelters not unlike summer-houses, for use during the ripening of the fruit and the harvest. These consisted of a roof made of branches supported on rough posts. They are watchmen’s booth (b) on top of the watch towers (a) built in the vineyard (Isa. 5:2), and at harvest time the whole family would often live in such a booth (the cottage in the vineyard, Isa. 1:8.” Id. at page 42.
In Isaiah 1:8, the Hebrew word for “cottage” is “cukkah” (or “sukkah”): “And the daughter of Zion is left as a cottage in a vineyard, as a lodge in a garden of cucumbers, as a besieged city.” Isaiah 1:8. It is the same word that used to describe the tabernacles or booths used during the Feast of Tabernacles. It is also the same word used in Jonah 4:5: “So Jonah went out of the city, and sat on the east side of the city, and there made him a booth, and sat under it in the shadow, till he might see what would become of the city.”
Therefore, if tabernacles are maintained in vineyards, a Rapture in the summer would still be in keeping with the pattern illustrated in the book of Jonah. At any rate, there is a lesson we can take away from these tabernacles. In the parable of tenants, in Matthew 21:33, a landowner plants a vineyard and builds a watchtower for it. Like tabernacles, watchtowers were used for guarding a harvest and for shelter. The parable describes how the tenant-farmers kill the owner’s servants when they come to collect the fruit. They also kill his son. The passage states:
“When the lord therefore of the vineyard cometh, what will he do unto those husbandmen? They say unto him, He will miserably destroy those wicked men, and will let out his vineyard unto other husbandmen, which shall render him the fruits in their seasons. Jesus saith unto them, Did ye never read in the scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord’s doing and it is marvellous in our eyes? Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof. And whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken: but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder. And when the chief priests and Pharisees had heard his parables, they perceived that he spake of them.” Matthew 21:40-45.
As Christians, we are now the husbandmen of the Lord’s vineyard. Someday, we will present him with a harvest of fruits “in their seasons.” We are also to be watchmen in tabernacles and watchtowers.
“Woe is me! For I am as when they have gathered the summer fruits, as the grape-gleanings of the vintage; there is no cluster to eat: my soul desired the firstripe fruit. The good man is perished out of the earth: and there is none upright among men: they all lie in wait for blood; they hunt every man his brother with a net. That they may do evil with both hands earnestly, the prince asketh, and the judge asketh for a reward; and the great man, he uttereth his mischievous desire: so they wrap it up. The best of them is as a brier: the most upright is sharper than a thorn hedge: the day of thy watchmen and thy visitation cometh; now shall be their perplexity.” Micah 7:1-4.
“Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.” Luke 21:36.
The Daughters of Zelophehad
According to Jewish tradition, as a result of a matter involving the daughters of Zelophehad, a ban on heiresses from marrying outside of their tribe was lifted on Tu B’Av. Scripture contradicts this tradition, however.
In Numbers 27:1-11, the five daughters of Zelophehad, who had no brothers, asked to receive an inheritance of property from their father who had died. The Lord granted their request in Numbers 27:8: “And thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel, saying, If a man die, and have no son, then ye shall cause his inheritance to pass unto his daughter.” Later, in Numbers 36, the issue of intermarriage between the tribes was addressed. The daughters of Zelophehad were told that they could marry anyone they pleased as long as they married within the tribal clan of their father; so that their inheritance would remain in their father’s clan and tribe. The daughters complied with this mandate, marrying cousins within the clans of the descendants of Manasseh son of Joseph. See Numbers 36:12. Finally, in Joshua 17:3-4, during the actual allotment of land, the five sisters remind Joshua that they are eligible to receive an inheritance and it is granted to them.
Nowhere in the text, however, is the prohibition against intermarriage lifted, much less on Tu B’Av. There is an application for the Church as the Bride of Christ, however. We have been adopted into the family of God. “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.” Romans 8:14-15. We also have the expectation of an inheritance. “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together. Romans 8:15-17. Consequently, we must marry within our tribe – which makes Jesus Christ a suitable bridegroom, as we are in the same tribe through adoption.
(As a side note, the daughters of Zelophehad were of the Tribe of Manasseh. It was only through Jacob, who adopted the two sons of his son Joseph, Manasseh and Ephraim, that the Tribe of Manasseh was even eligible for an allotment of the Promised Land. Genesis 48:5.)
A Pattern from Five Virgins
Ironically, my research on the five daughters of Zelophehad made me notice a Rapture pattern in the types of individuals who were permitted to cross over into the Promised Land.
First, the five unmarried daughters of Zelophehad are five virgins. The phrase “five virgins” should remind all prophecy students of the parable of the ten virgins (in Matthew 25:1-13). Only five were ready when the bridegroom arrived to take them to the wedding feast. All are exhorted to “[w]atch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh.” Matthew 25:13.
Likewise, as the children of God, we are eligible to receive an inheritance. "The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs – heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory." Romans 8:16-17.
Second, Joshua and Caleb were the only members of the original generation who were allowed to go into Canaan. They entered on the basis of their faith.
Joshua has often been thought to be a type of Jesus Christ, both leading God’s people into the Promised Land. In fact, the name Jesus is the Greek form of the name Joshua, which means “the Lord saves.” The Septuagint, a Greek version of the Hebrew Bible, even calls Joshua “Jesus.”
Although Caleb was chosen to spy on behalf of the Tribe of Judah, he was a Gentile. His father is called “Jephunneh the Kenizzite.” See Numbers 32:12. The Kenizzites were one of the peoples who inhabited the land of Canaan. (God promised Abraham the land inhabited by the Kenizzites and others in Genesis 15:17-21.) So, we can assume that Caleb was adopted into the Tribe of Judah – the kingly tribe and the Lord’s line. We too have been adopted into the Lord’s line. Thus, as a Gentile adopted into the Tribe of Judah, Caleb can represent the predominately Gentile Church who comes to Christ through faith.
Joseph’s bones were also taken to the Promised Land. Joseph made a strange request at the time of his death: “And Joseph took an oath of the children of Israel, saying, God will surely visit you, and ye shall carry up my bones from hence.” Genesis 50:25. In compliance with this request, Moses takes the bones of Joseph during the exodus. See Exodus 13:10. Finally, we see that the bones of Joseph are buried at Shechem in the Promised Land. See Joshua 24:32. So Joseph’s bones can represent the dead in Christ.
The second generation, who were 19 years old and under, can represent the innocent or those who have not reached the age of accountability. “Your carcases shall fall in this wilderness; and all that were numbered of you, according to your whole number, from twenty years old and upward, which have murmured against me, Doubtless ye shall not come into the land, concerning which I sware to make you dwell therein, save Caleb the son of Jephunneh, and Joshua the son of Nun. But your little ones, which ye said should be a prey, them will I bring in, and they shall know the land which ye have despised.” Numbers 14:29-31. And also: “Moreover your little ones, which ye said should be a prey, and your children, which in that day had no knowledge between good and evil, they shall go in thither; and unto them will I give it, and they shall possess it.” Deuteronomy 1:39.
So we have a pattern for the types for the individuals who will participate in the Rapture: Jesus, Gentiles who are adopted into the Tribe of Judah through the exercise of faith, five virgins who will receive an inheritance and marry within their clan, dead believers, and children and individuals who do not know good from evil. All will cross over into the Promised Land in a single event. The book of Hebrews calls this “entering into his rest.” See Hebrews 4:1.
We are warned not to be like those who rebelled in the time of Moses, but to enter His rest through faith. “While it is said, Today if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation. For some, when they had heard, did provoke: howbeit not all that came out of Egypt by Moses. But with whom was he grieved forty years? Was it not with them that had sinned, whose carcases fell in the wilderness? And to whom sware he that they should not enter into his rest, but to them that believed not? So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.” Hebrews 3:15-19.
Tu B'Av and the Bride Snatch
Tradition also connects the Fifteenth of Av to an event that occurs in the book of Judges, concerning the reconciliation of the Tribe of Benjamin to the Israelite community. This possible connection is especially exciting for Rapture watchers.
According to the Bible, the Tribe of Benjamin had offended the Israelites by their unwillingness to surrender fellow Benjamites who had committed a heinous crime. A conflict ensued between the two sides resulting in the deaths of the entire Tribe of Benjamin, with the exception of 600 fighting men. According to Judges 20:47: “But six hundred men turned and fled into the desert to the rock of Rimmon, where they stayed four months.” Now, the Israelites had made an oath not to give their daughters in marriage to any Benjamite. Consequently, they realized that the tribe of all men was bound to die out. Regretting their vow, but unable to break it, they devised a plan to get wives for the remaining 600 Benjamites. First, they determined that no one from the camp of Jabesh Gilead had assisted them in the war. So they put that entire camp to death, except for 400 virgin girls. Then they took the girls to Shiloh and sent an offer of peace to the Benjamites at the rock of Rimmon, who accepted the women as wives. Then they told the remaining 200 men to go to an annual festival of the Lord at Shiloh. “Therefore they commanded the children of Benjamin, saying, Go and lie in wait in the vineyards; And see, and behold, if the daughters of Shiloh come out to dance in dances, then come ye out of the vineyards, and catch you every man his wife of the daughters of Shiloh, and go to the land of Benjamin. And it shall be, when their fathers or their brethren come unto us to complain, that we will say unto them, Be favourable unto them for our sakes: because we reserved not to each man his wife in the war: for ye did not give unto them at this time, that ye should be guilty. And the children of Benjamin did so, and took them wives, according to their number, of them that danced, whom they caught: and they went and returned unto their inheritance, and repaired the cities, and dwelt in them.” Judges 21:20-24.
So, you are probably wondering why I think that this story is so exciting. I think that it is a model of the Rapture and could point to its timing. Let’s make the assumption that the festival referred to in this passage is actually Tu B’Av, the Fifteenth of Av. The 600 Benjamites obtained wives in increments of 400 and 200. First through killing, and second through a bride snatch. If you add an extra zero to 600, 400, and 200, you can see the timeline of 6000 years of human history. During the initial 4000 years, God obtained a wife through killing or the sacrificial system. After the final 2000 years, Christ will obtain His wife through a bride snatch – the Rapture. The name Benjamin translates to "son of the right hand." Jesus Christ is the ultimate Son of God’s right hand. “Jesus saith unto him, Thou has said: nevertheless I say unto you, Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.” Matthew 26:64. The 600 Benjamites initially fled to the “rock of Rimmon.” Rimmon is Hebrew for “pomegranates.” The fruit connected only to the High Priest. Jesus is not only our High Priest, but He is also our Rock. The 400 virgins were taken to Shiloh. Shiloh was the place where the Tabernacle was set up after Canaan was conquered by the Israelites. It is also a name used for the Messiah in Genesis 49:10. So, perhaps Christ will seize His Bride at the time of the first grapes, figs and pomegranates.
So, long story made long, I don’t think that we should rule out the possibility of the Rapture occurring in the summer. I do not know if it will occur on a celebration of Tu B’Av, but I know that we should keep watch at all times.
Keep looking up!
– Lisa Taylor