According to Jewish tradition, on Rosh Hashanah the destiny of the righteous, the tzaddikim (צַדִּיקִים), are written in the Book of Life (סֵפֶר הַחַיִּים), and the destiny of the wicked, the resha'im (רְשָׁעִים), are written in the Book of Death (סֵפֶר הַמֵּתִים). Most people, however, won't be inscribed in either book, but are given ten days -- until Yom Kippur -- to repent before sealing their fate. If a person turns to God and makes amends to those whom he has harmed, he may be given another year to live in the following (Jewish) year. On the other hand, if he does not repent, then the decree will be given that he will die during the coming year... In other words, though the books are "opened" on Rosh Hashanah, our deeds during the first ten days of the new year will determine whether we are written in the book of life or the book of death. The ten days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are therefore accorded special sanctity and are called Aseret Yemei Teshuvah - the "Ten Days of Repentance." These are days that call for sincere personal repentance (i.e., תְּשׁוּבָה, "turning to God") so that the divine decree will be given for our good.... As Abraham Heschel wrote, "No word is God's final word. Judgment, far from being absolute, is conditional. A change in man's conduct brings about a change in God's judgment" (Heschel: The Prophets, 194).
As Messianic believers, we maintain that Judgment Day has come and justice was served through the sacrificial offering of Yeshua for our sins (2 Cor. 5:21). He is both the perfect fulfillment of the Akedah of Isaac as well as the High Priestly avodah of the Yom Kippur sacrifices. Indeed, Yeshua is the "propitiation" or "expiation" for our sins. The Greek word used in Romans 3:25, 1 John 2:2, and 1 John 4:10 (i.e., ἱλαστήριος) is the same word used in the LXX for the kapporet [cover of the ark of the covenant] in the Holy of Holies which was sprinkled with the blood of the sacrifice on Yom Kippur. "For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified" (Heb. 10:14). Those who are trusting in Yeshua as their Atonement before the Father are thereby declared tzaddikim and their names are written - and sealed - in the Book of Life.
The "Day of Judgment" for our sinful and wayward lives has come in the Person of Yeshua the Mashiach, blessed be He. All those who truly belong to Him are written in the "Lamb's book of life," or Sefer HaChayim (Phil. 4:3; Rev. 3:5; 13:8; 17:8; 20:12, 15; 21:27; 22:19). We do not believe that we are made acceptable in God's sight by means of our own works of righteousness (Titus 3:5-6), but that does not excuse us from being without such works (as fruit of the Holy Spirit in our lives). The Scriptures clearly warn that on the coming Day of Judgment (יוֹם הַדִּין), anyone's name not found written in the Book of Life will be thrown into the lake of fire (Rev. 20:15). "Not every one who says to me 'Lord, Lord' will enter the Kingdom of Heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven" (Matt. 7:21). Moreover, all Christians will stand before the Throne of Judgment to give account for their lives (2 Cor. 5:10). "Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is" (1 Cor. 3:13). Life is an examination, a test, and every moment is irrepeatable. Every "careless" word we utter will be echoed on the Day of Judgment (Matt. 12:36-37). Our future day of judgment is being decided today....
Yom Adonai - the Day of the LORD
The Spring Festivals (Passover, Firstfruits, and Shavuot) have been perfectly fulfilled in the first coming of Yeshua as Mashiach ben Yosef, and the Fall Festivals (Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and Sukkot) will be fulfilled in His second coming as Mashiach ben David. Since the first advent fulfilled all of the spring mo'edim to the smallest of details, we believe that His second advent portends similar fulfillment as revealed in the fall mo'edim.
After the summer of harvest (John 4:35), the very first Fall festival on the Jewish calendar is Yom Teruah (i.e., Rosh Hashanah), which is a picture of the "catching away" of kallat Mashiach (the Bride of Christ) for the joyful time of the wedding feast and the Sheva Berachot (seven "days" of blessing that follows the marriage ceremony). Then will come the Great Tribulation that culminates in Yom Adonai - the Day of the LORD (יוֹם יְהוָה). The heavenly shofar blast heard at Sinai will be reissued from Zion. First will be the gathering together of those who follow the Mashiach (i.e., those declared tzaddikim because of the merit of Yeshua's sacrifice), and then God's war against Satan and the world system will begin, culminating in the coronation of the King of King of Kings - Melech Malchei Ha-Melachim (מֶלֶךְ מַלְכֵי הַמְּלָכִים).
Rosh Hashanah (or better, Yom Teruah) is therefore a sacred time that has prophetic significance for the Messianic believer, since it commemorates both the creation of mankind by the LORD as well as the "calling up" of the new creation at the behest of Yeshua, when the sound of the heavenly shofar inaugurates the anticipated End of Days (1 Cor. 15:51-54; 1 Thess. 4:15-18). It also prefigures the coming Day of the LORD and Great Tribulation period that marks God's judgment on an unbelieving world...
The King is Coming!
The King is coming, the King is coming! Have you heard the news? We must prepare for His soon arrival! For Christians and Messianic Jews, the month of Elul and the preparation for Rosh Hashanah reminds us to be ready for the soon appearance of Yeshua our LORD. Though we do not know the exact day or hour of His return to possess His kingdom on earth, we are commanded to watch and be ready for His soon appearance. And with the appearance of the Great King will come great judgment. Let's be ready to appear before this awesome King, chaverim, by turning to Him now and trusting in His redemption and love for us... Shanah Tovah!