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The Last Trumpet

At the last trump is a phrase often ignored.

“Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.”
(Acts 1:11, KJV)

“so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation.”  (Hebrews 9:28 NKJV)  Christ came once to give his life as a ransom for those who believe.  He will return a second time to complete our redemption, to end Satan's rule on earth and with a rod of iron to restore God's will on earth as it is in heaven.  Two advents; not more.

The link between Christ's return and the great tribulation.
21 "For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be."  (Matthew 24:21, KJV)
29 "Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken:
30 "And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory."
31 "And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other."  Matthew (24:29-31 KJV)

The book of Revelation is one subject; the revealing of Jesus Christ.  His words to the churches and his return to earth and events which follow are given in chronological succession.   When does Christ return to gather the elect?  Some suggest Revelation 4:1 is when this happens.  This text clearly states John is called up to heaven, not the entire body of the elect.  The scripture never designates John as a type of the church.  Some view the book of Revelation as an allegory and deny a chronological succession.  An examination in light of scripture alone is necessary and helpful to provide clarity.

Many new testament references to Christ’s return mention a trumpet sounding and a shout or voice speaking.  The Bible is not a book of accidental coincidence and the Holy Spirit speaks exactly therefore attention must be given to the phrase “at the last trump”.  This phrase is an essential component of the narrative of the Lord’s return.  “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:” (2 Timothy 3:16, KJV)  This presentation explores how this phrase fits into the scriptural timing of the end times.  This is not a study of every event or verse that pertains to our Lord’s return.  No one can know the exact day or hour of his return.  It is offered for consideration and contemplation.

The disciples asked Jesus when he would return.  Many are still asking today.  The question and Jesus’ answer is recorded in Matthew chapter 24 where Jesus gave details of events concerning his return and how his followers can discern the times when this will happen.   “the disciples came to Him privately, saying, "Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of your coming, and of the end of the age?  "And Jesus answered and said to them: "Take heed that no one deceives you.”  (Matthew 24:3-4 NKJV)

Jesus began his answer with a warning.  The history of the visible church since the Lord ascended to heaven shows how needed it remains.  The doctrine of the Lord’s second coming to earth has become obscured by theories invented by theologians over the millennia.  Some theories such as amillennialism are clearly and profoundly false because it denies God’s plainly written word. A system of theology which divides the body of Christ into two parts uses elements of the original view (known today as historic pre-millennialism) within their new interpretation.  The early church believed the words of Christ and his disciples.  Further study on the different views is found an earlier chapter at http://thegospelworks.org/views.html.

The words of Jesus are essential to any conversation about his second coming.  “Jesus said to him, I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6, ESV2011)   Jesus is pure truth.  God’s word is pure, absolute unchanging truth.  There is no truth apart from God.  Genesis records how Satan added one word to God’s word thereby altering the meaning.  Satan added “not” to God's warning.  God told Adam if he ate of the tree he would surely die.  Satan added “not” to God’s word and told Adam if he ate of the tree he would “not” surely die.  How easy but dangerous to taper with God’s word.  Paul wrote to the church at Corinth, “But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God.” (2 Corinthians 4:2, ESV2011).  Tamper means to alter or falsify, usually in a secret or dishonest manner.  This describes the actions of Satan. It is never right or safe to add to or take away or ignore or change God’s word in any manner,  God’s word is pure truth.  It must be taken as written and handled with care lest the way of Satan enter into our meditations.

 "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.”  (Matthew 24:31 NKJV)

“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 KJV)

The apostle Paul wrote that Christ’s return will be announced “with the trump of God” and the dead in Christ will rise first.  Paul wrote there is a successive order to resurrections.  “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive but each one in his own order: Christ the first fruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming.  Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power.” (1 Corinthians 15:22-24 NKJV).  A general resurrection of all the dead at one time is not taught in scripture.  Christ first, his saints at his return and the wicked dead at the end of Christ’s one thousand year reign upon the earth when he delivers the kingdom to the Father.  This is plainly revealed in Revelation chapter 20.

“Behold, I tell 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 trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.”  (1 Corinthians 15:52 NKJV).

Paul reveals “a mystery” in his first letter to the Corinthian church; the resurrection of the elect and Christ’s return at “the last trumpet”.  Jesus said in Matthew chapter 24 that when he comes again the elect will be resurrected and taken up to be with him.  The return of our Lord and the resurrection of those in him are simultaneous. This is also recorded in 1 Thessalonians chapter 4.  In his first letter to the Corinthian church Paul said the resurrection of Christians will take place at “the last trumpet”.  Since the resurrection of Christians and Christ’s return occur at the same time then the phrase “at the last trumpet” is supremely important to understanding the sequence of events that relate to Christ’s return.

Some believe “the last trumpet” is allegorical, poetic or a generic term not to be taken literally.  The sound of a trumpet at the time of our Lord’s return is mentioned many times in the new testament.  The Holy Spirit was specific, “the last trumpet”.  Why would the Holy Spirit say “last” unless He meant “last”?  This statement is not allegorical, poetic or a generic term but a specific reference to “the last trumpet” which will announce Christ’s return and the resurrection of those in Christ.  To disregard this phrase is to open wide the door of misunderstanding regarding important facts relevant to the return of Christ to earth.  “Last” simply means last, final, finish.  The phrase must be taken literally.  To do otherwise would be to believe God uses irrelevant words.

Paul writing to the church in Galatia demonstrates a principle of understanding scripture.  “Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ.” (Galatians 3:16 KJV).  Individual words of scripture are important.  Whether the word is singular or plural is essential to correct understanding.  This principle is known as verbal plenary inspiration.  Verbal means God breathed the words and plenary means every word.  Therefore “the last trumpet” is important to a correct understanding of Christ’s return to earth; every word.

Can we afford to ignore “the last trumpet”?   Should we dismiss “last” as lacking importance?  The answer is NO to these questions for anyone seeking to understand Jesus' return.  Creeds, theologians and scholars should be given little attention but the word of God should be believed as written.  A degree from a prestigious seminary or university is worthless if a person does not believe the word of God as written.

The word of God tells us the “last” (meaning final, finish) trumpet heralds Christ’s second coming.  To be designated “last” establishes the fact that more than one trumpet is involved in the narrative of our Lord’s return to earth.  Where can we learn more about these trumpets?  When does “the last trumpet” sound?  As always only the written word of God should be used to establish doctrine.

Beginning in Revelation chapter 8 an announcement is made about seven angels with seven trumpets that signal a series of judgments upon the earth.
1 “And when he had opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour. 
2 And I saw the seven angels which stood before God; and to them were given seven trumpets.”
3 And another angel came and stood at the altar, having a golden censer; and there was given unto him much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne.
4 And the smoke of the incense, which came with the prayers of the saints, ascended up before God out of the angel’s hand.
5 And the angel took the censer, and filled it with fire of the altar, and cast it into the earth: and there were voices, and thunderings, and lightnings, and an earthquake.
6 And the seven angels which had the seven trumpets prepared themselves to sound.
(Revelation 8:1-6, KJV)

"5 And the angel which I saw stand upon the sea and upon the earth lifted up his hand to heaven,
6 And sware by him that liveth for ever and ever, who created heaven, and the things that therein are, and the earth, and the things that therein are, and the sea, and the things which are therein, that there should be time no longer:
7 But in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he shall begin to sound, the mystery of God should be finished, as he hath declared to his servants the prophets.”  (Revelation 10:5 - 7 KJV)

“And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever.”  (Revelation 11:15 KJV)

In 1 Corinthians 15:52 Paul revealed the mystery that the resurrection of the elect will happen at the last trumpet.  John, writing exactly as he was shown, said that the last of the 7 trumpets would signal the mystery of God would be finished or completed.  Paul wrote that it is to be  “with the voice of the archangel” (1 Thessalonians 4:16).   Michael is called the archangel in Jude verse 9.  The scripture is the breath of God the creator, therefore it is crucial that the words of scripture not be ignored nor dismissed as irrelevant.

John the apostle clearly states what happens when the last of the seven trumpets sounds; the mystery of God is completed.  The disciples asked what would be the sign of Christ’s coming and of the end of the age?  In Revelation 11:15 the age will end when the kingdoms of earth “become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever.”   Clearly it states “the kingdoms of this world” will become “the kingdoms of our Lord” .  Christ will indeed literally rule upon this earth when he returns.  Remember when Jesus taught his disciples how to pray? “thy kingdom come, thy will be done in earth as in heaven”.  (Matthew 6:10, KJV)

New testament references to the mystery of God?

“And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ:”  (Ephesians 3:9)

“Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints:  to whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory:”  (Colossians 1:26-27)

“That their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgement of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ;”  (Colossians 2:2)

“Withal praying also for us, that God would open unto us a door of utterance, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in bonds: that I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak.”  (Colossians 4:3-4)

“And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.”  (1 Timothy 3:16)

“But in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he shall begin to sound, the mystery of God should be finished, as he hath declared to his servants the prophets.”  (Revelation 10:7)

“And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever.”  (Revelation 11:15)

“Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power.  For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet.”  (1 Corinthians 15:24-25, NKJV)

The apostle John was given the revelation that the kingdoms of this world become the kingdoms of Christ at the sound of the seventh or last trumpet.  Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 “the voice of the archangel” announces the return of Christ and the resurrection of the dead in Christ and believers who remain alive shall be changed.  All new testament writers agree on the events of Jesus’ return because their knowledge came from God himself.  Each adds details to the narrative giving us a more complete understanding of the whole.

“…….at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.”  (1 Corinthians 15:52)

4 “And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.
5 But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection.
6 Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.”  (Revelation 20:4-6, KJV)

Some believe the first resurrection is spiritual and occurs in heaven and events in Revelation 20 describe the only physical resurrection which includes everyone who has died.  This view is not founded in scripture.  Why does the Holy Spirit assign the designation of first to resurrection of those who are in Christ?  Simply because it is the first after that of Jesus himself (“each in his own order”).  The scripture is clear that those who are part of the first resurrection are free from the second death therefore it cannot include the resurrection of the wicked dead.  The first death is physical and the second death is the lake of fire.

A parenthetical note about methods of interpretation.  This was explained earlier in methods.  Those who view Revelation in general and chapter 20 especially as spiritual or allegorical assert that it requires a “different” method of interpretation.  What authority declared a different method is necessary; and who decides what passages require it?  There is no precedent in the canon of scripture to warrant a different method.  When a person refuses to believe the scripture as written then a technique must be found to annul the plain reading of scripture.  A different method becomes necessary to justify an unwillingness to believe God’s word as written.  The different method is then used to deny that God meant what he said in order to fit a passage into a preconceived doctrinal view.  Believing God's word distinguishes the disciple from the pharisee.  The depraved human heart using human intellect is skilled at inventing schemes (definition: a statement that evades the question by cleverness or trickery) to avoid believing the words of God as he spoke them. 

Every person will be raised from the dead but not at the same time.  Only those in Christ will receive a new body when resurrected.  The dead who are not resurrected at his return will not receive a new body.  “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”  (Matthew 10:28)  These will will be raised after the 1000 year reign of Christ on earth and have their body and soul cast into hell.

Jesus said, "And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other."  (Matthew 24:31) 

Luke said, "So likewise ye, when ye see these things come to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is nigh at hand."   (Luke 21:31) 

Paul said, “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) 

Paul also said,  “For 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.   Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.”  (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 NKJV) 

The writer of Hebrews said, “For yet a little while, and he that shall come will come, and will not tarry.”  Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him. (Hebrews 10:37-38, KJV)

John said, “But in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he shall begin to sound, the mystery of God should be finished, as he hath declared to his servants the prophets.”  (Revelation 10:7, KJV) 

“Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints:  to whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory:”  (Colossians 1:26-27, KJV)

Christ in us is a spiritual relationship at present. When the Lord returns we will receive our new body.  At that time our redemption will be complete and the mystery of God will be complete. “And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.” (Ephesians 4:30, KJV)   When the “day of redemption” occurs our relationship will become incarnate or corporal and we will be present with the Lord for eternity.

“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.” (I Thessalonians 4:17, KJV)

Several New Testament writers make known to us the return of Christ.  This narrative is a single unified whole.  Each writer adds more detail thereby giving us a more complete understanding of the whole.  It is not hidden but revealed as John said in the opening of Revelation; “The revelation of Jesus Christ” (Revelation 1:1).  No need to look for a hidden meaning when the whole has been revealed.  Believing God’s word as written is edifying thus we grow in grace and knowledge.

Changing scripture to accommodate a man devised scheme of theology is destructive of sound doctrine and eternally dangerous to those who do so.   “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15, ESV2011)   “Do your best to present yourself to God as an approved worker who has nothing to be ashamed of, handling the word of truth with precision.” (2 Timothy 2:15, ISV)  The word of God is a sword therefore we must do our best to handle it rightly with precision.  “take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God,”  (Ephesians 6:17, ESV2011)  God’s word is eternal and unchanging and he requires us to believe it to gain his approval.

God has not revealed everything to us but he has revealed all we need to know while living on earth.  What a wonderful blessing to simply believe God’s word as it is written.  It is unnecessary, confusing and dangerous to invent persons, events or words not in the context.  We should imitate the noble Jews of Berea who “received the word with all eagerness, examining the scriptures daily to see if these things were so.” (Acts 17:11 ESV)  They sought confirmation in the scriptures.  Abraham believed the words of God.  Can the same be said of us?

Confidence should be placed only in God’s word as written.  Creeds and systematic theologies put together by men are worthy of little confidence because these can be misleading.  Only God establishes doctrine through his written word.  “One Lord, one faith, one baptism,”   (Ephesians 4:5)  Seek to understand God’s word by means of the Holy Spirit who guides us to all truth.  “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.” (John 17:17, KJV)