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The Last Trump

Updated: May 25

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. 1 Corinthians 15:51,52

 

For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. 1 Thessalonians 4:16,17

 

In both passages above, Paul is writing about the close of the Church Age in which the Lord gathers all born-again believers unto himself (both dead and alive) in an event known as the rapture* that takes place just prior to a seven-year period on this earth called the Tribulation or “the time of Jacob’s trouble” (Jer. 30:7), in which the Lord will judge the nation of Israel (Dan. 9:24-27) resulting in their repentance and acceptance of the Lord Jesus as their Messiah; and so “all Israel shall be saved” (Rom. 11:25,26).  

 

To clarify, the rapture is a “seizing away” of all born-again believers. It will be an instantaneous transformation of the body of the believer, in which, “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye,” those in Christ who have died will have their “corruptible” mortal body changed into an incorruptible, immortal body that will be joined once again to their soul and spirit that have been present with the Lord since the moment of their death (2 Cor. 5:8; Lk. 23:43). Whereas, those in Christ who are alive at the rapture will not taste death (1 Cor. 15:51) but will be changed in like manner. The order is: “the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord” (1 Thes. 4:16,17).

 

What does Paul mean, however, by “the last trump” in 1 Corinthians 15:52?

 

To better understand its meaning, the “trump” is not the name of the instrument but rather the sound that the trumpet makes (“at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound”). It is important to clarify also that “the last trump” is not the seventh trumpet of Revelation 11:15. The trumpet judgments in Revelation occur during the Tribulation and are “sounded” by angels (Rev. 8:6) while in contrast the sound from the trumpet relating to the rapture is “the trump of God” (1 Thes. 4:16) that occurs prior to the Tribulation.

 

This “trump of God” will be the sound shouted by the Lord himself as he descends from heaven (1 Thes. 4:16). Afterall, we are told of a voice from heaven sounding “as it were of a trumpet” (Rev. 4:1) and perhaps his shout will express the same to us as it did to the apostle: “Come up hither.” Although believers will hear his voice (Jn. 10:3), the unsaved world will most likely hear a noise like thunder (Jn. 12:29; Job 37:4,5).

 

In order to be the “last trump” there must be more than one trumpet blast. Perhaps we find “a shadow of things to come” in the book of Numbers:

 

Make thee two trumpets of silver: that thou mayest use them for the calling of the assembly, and for the journeying of the camps. Numbers 10:2

 

Historically, the distinctive trumpet blasts described in Numbers chapter 10 were meant to gather the people of Israel for an assembly, set them in motion, go to war (Rev. 19:19), etc. Spiritually, given the church is defined as a “called out assembly”, we could see in this passage a beautiful picture of the rapture, in that the different trumpet blasts signal different groups to begin their journey (Num. 10:5,6). In 1 Thessalonians 4, Paul divides the “assembly” of believers in Christ (Eph. 2:6) into two groups – the dead in Christ from the first century to the present, and those who are alive at the rapture.

 

It seems that there will be an interval between the rapture of the dead (the first trump) and those who are alive (the last trump). If that is indeed the case, we are not told the duration of it but, based on the wording of 1 Thessalonians 4, there will not be much time that will have passed. Will the interval be a few seconds, a few minutes, a few hours?

 

If that is not just hypothetical, and there is a trumpet blast for the dead in Christ to rise, and then sometime after that the “last trump” for those who are “alive and remain,” then that would mean there would be a brief warning before we are “caught up to meet the Lord in the air.”

 

As I was considering this possibility, I asked Sandy, if that was the case, and she had an hour warning before the rapture, what would she do with it? What would you do with it? She responded immediately that she would cherish the last few moments with her family this side of eternity and share the gospel with as many people as possible. Whatever we would do in that last hypothetical hour reveals the priorities in our life. Given we don’t know the day nor hour, and the “day of the Lord” will come like a “thief in the night” (1 Thes. 5:2; 2 Pet. 3:10), what scriptural priorities are currently being lived out in our lives in this moment? Can we with a good conscience say, “Even so, come, Lord Jesus”?

 

*Postscript: Pre-tribulation rapture

 

There are a number of reasons why I hold to a pretribulation rapture. That is, I believe the rapture will occur before the start of the Tribulation and before the Antichrist is revealed. According to this position, the Church will not experience any of the Tribulation. Just a few of the scriptural reasons for this belief are as follows:

·      In the Church Age, all believers are in one body (1 Cor. 12:13) – a saved Jew is no longer a Jew nor a saved Gentile, a Gentile (Gal. 3:27,28); however, in the Tribulation there are Jewish believers and then there are Gentile believers (Rev. 7; Matt. 25:31-46)

·      The tribulation is called “the time of Jacob’s trouble,” not the Church’s trouble

·      The Church is not appointed to wrath; 1 Thes. 1:9,10; 5:9

·      Michael the archangel accompanies the Lord during the rapture (1 Thes. 4:16) because the rapture of the Church signals the beginning of Daniel’s 70th Week (Dan. 12:1) and his renewed dealings with the nation of Israel

·      The word “church” appears nearly twenty times in the first three chapters of Revelation, but is not used again until chapter 22; in the entire description of the Tribulation in Revelation, the word “church” is absent

·      The rapture cannot occur at the same time as the resurrection in Revelation 20 because the resurrection is not called a “mystery” (1 Cor. 15:51,52)

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