The Seventh (Last) Trumpet – As previously discussed, the seventh (last) trumpet referenced in Revelation 11:15-19 appears to set in motion the sequence of events (seven bowl judgments) that will end with Christ’s return and the establishment of His Kingdom here on earth. Some believe that this is the same trumpet referred to in Jesus’ Olivet discourse in Matthew 24:31 and by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:51-52 and 1 Thessalonians 4:16. Still others believe that there is no basis for equating these trumpets with the seventh trumpet in Revelation 11:15–19. The trumpets in Revelation pertain to
judgments during the Tribulation, whereas the trumpet in the other passages relate to the elect or the church.(1)
• The Seventh Angel’s Trumpet – The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, which said: “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign for ever and ever.” And the twenty-four elders, who were seated on their thrones before God, fell on their faces and worshiped God, saying: “We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty, the One who is and who was, because you have taken your great power and have begun to reign. The nations were angry; and your wrath has come. The time has come for judging the dead, and for rewarding your servants the prophets and your saints and those who reverence your name, both small and great— and for destroying those who destroy the earth (Revelation 11:15-19).”
This trumpet follows the previous six, which included various judgments on the earth and its inhabitants. The seventh trumpet appears to be followed by the seven bowls judgments, which are more severe than the trumpet judgments. Many believe that the seventh trumpet divides the first half of the seven-year period (Tribulation) from the last half (the Great Tribulation). Those holding to a mid-tribulation Rapture would equate the seventh trumpet here with the last trumpet signaling the Rapture of the church that they believe is described in 1 Corinthians 15:51-52.
Since the kingdom of God is discussed immediately following the trumpet, others see this as ushering in the termination of the kingdoms of the world as Daniel anticipated (see Daniel 7:14), with the establishment of God’s Millennial Kingdom following the judgment of the world’s final kingdoms.(2) Under this view, the following chapters of Revelation are viewed as doubling back to retrace the same ground covered in earlier chapters, but from a different perspective.(3)
Still others harmonize these two interpretations. They see the seventh trumpet introducing and including the seven bowl judgments of the wrath of God revealed in chapter 16, while chronologically reaching to and culminating in the return of Christ.(4) John brings us to the point of Jesus’ return, but he is not yet ready to describe the actual coming of the King of kings and Lord of lords. Sadly, there is more to relate regarding “the beast that comes up from the Abyss” to make war with the two witnesses and the people of God. It begins an awful forty-two-month period of persecution (the Great Tribulation) that John must now describe.(5)
• A Loud Trumpet Call – At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory. And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other (Matthew 24:30-31).
The trumpet here clearly signals a visible (“they will see”) appearing of Christ (the Parousia) seen by both those who are saved and the lost. It also signals the gathering of the elect. Some would claim this would indicate that the Rapture and the Parousia occur simultaneously. Of course, the elect mentioned here could be a reference to only those who are saved during the Tribulation years and not to the Church, which may have been Raptured earlier (pre-tribulation or mid-tribulation).
• At the Last Trumpet – Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed – in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed (1 Corinthians 15:51-52).
This trumpet appears to be distinguishable from the trumpet in Matthew 24:30-31, since there is no specific reference to a visible return by Christ.
Pre-tribulationists – would also distinguish it from the trumpet in Revelation 11:15-19, since that trumpet occurs after some of the events that occur during the Tribulation.
Mid-tribulationists – would equate this trumpet with the one in Revelation 11:15-19, signaling both the Rapture of the Church and the beginning of the second half of the Tribulation (the Great tribulation).
Post-tribulationists – would equate this trumpet with the one in Revelation 11:15-19, since it is called the last trumpet. The invisible Rapture is immediately followed by the visible return of Christ accompanied by those just Raptured.
Amid this “great debate” concerning the timing of the Rapture, Tribulation periods and the Parousia, one must be careful to not lose sight of a pivotal point of this text that is not open for debate. Christ is coming back for his saints! Living saints will be changed and departed saints will be raised imperishable. Our resurrection body will be one that is adapted (“we will all be changed”) to its new spiritual environment. The physical body is weak, dishonorable, and perishable. It will be raised in Christ as spiritual, glorious, powerful, and imperishable. With genuine excitement Paul shared his real hope: the transformation of the dead who will be raised. Those alive at Christ’s coming will also be transformed “in the twinkling of an eye.” Thanks to the victory of Christ, death will be finally abolished. This is great encouragement for all believers to persevere faithfully in the Lord’s service, knowing that our “labor in the Lord is not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:58).(6)
• The Trumpet Call of God – We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever (1 Thessalonians 4:14-16).
This text is viewed similarly to 1 Corinthians 15:51-52, with all three Rapture (pre, mid, post tribulation) viewpoints weighing in.
Simultaneous – Those espousing the post-tribulation view see great significance to the pairing the royal “coming of the Lord” with “meet the Lord in the air.” The Greek word used for meeting normally referred to emissaries from a city going out to meet a dignitary to escort him back to their city.(7) Thus, they are able to harmonize the Rapture and the Parousia as nearly simultaneous events, and not separated by part or all of the Tribulation.
Separated – Pre-and mid-tribulationists would counter by claiming that the Rapture (meeting Christ in the air) can take place at any time (is imminent); but the Parousia (returning with Christ) will be preceded by certain signs (is not imminent).(8) This allows, some say requires, the Rapture and the Parousia to be separated by a passage of time (all or part of the Tribulation period).
Like 1 Corinthians 15:52, we must not lose sight of the context of this passage and the message Paul wished to convey. The Thessalonians were troubled about the state of believers who died before the Lord’s return. Paul assures them that these believers are not lost, nor will they miss out on His return. They will be with the Lord and reunited with other believers.(9) Judaism traditionally associated the resurrection of the dead with the end of the age and the inauguration of the kingdom. Paul’s first century readers would likely assume this connection in the absence of a direct statement to the contrary.(10)
The resurrection of the dead, especially if dead for a very lengthy period, poses a great problem to the faith of many. Perhaps that is why Paul stressed that this revelation came from Jesus Christ Himself and that it is as certain of future fulfillment as Jesus’ resurrection is a fact of historical fulfillment. The God who created the universe out of nothing with a mere command is fully able to reassemble the decayed (burned, eaten) bodies of all His saints in a moment of time.(11) Christians should find encouragement:
Resurrected – That Christians who have died will be resurrected to join the living saints with the Lord Jesus when He comes.
Precede – That they will in fact precede those who are alive in that day.
United – That those who are alive will be united with them.
Forever – That they will all be with the Lord forever.
Not only should Christians not grieve like unbelievers, but followers of Christ can also eagerly look forward to that great day. This is the great hope of the Church, to see the Lord and be united with Him forever. It is this hope that every believer in this Age should anticipate. It is a blessed hope (Titus 2:13) with respect to the dead in Christ as well as for the living!(12) All of this is true whether the rapture occurs before, during, or after the tribulation and should be a common source of encouragement (1 Thessalonians 4:18), hope and unity among all three camps.
Mystery Accomplished – In the Bible, a mystery is a sacred secret, a truth hidden to those outside but revealed to God’s people by His Word (Matthew 13:10–12). The “mystery of God” concerns the age-old problem of evil in the world. Why is there both good and evil in the world and why has God not done something about the evil? Of course, the Christian knows that God is not the source of evil and that He did do something about it at Calvary when Jesus Christ was made sin and experienced divine wrath for a sinful world. We also know that God is permitting evil to increase until the world is “ripe” for judgment (2 Thessalonians 2:7, Revelation 14:14–20). Since God has already paid the price for sin, He is free to delay His judgment until the time of His choosing. He cannot be accused of being unjust, unconcerned or rash. The signal for this mystery’s completion is the sounding of the seventh trumpet.(13)
The mystery may also be associated with the establishment of God’s kingdom on earth. “His servants the prophets” is generally considered to be a reference to the Old Testament prophets, although it may also be a reference to prophets of the Gospel and Epistles. Either association is possible if the mystery is related to this kingdom (see Amos 3:7).(14) The reference, therefore, is not necessarily to hidden truth but to the fulfillment of many Old and New Testament passages which refer to the glorious return of the Son of God and the establishment of His kingdom of righteousness and peace on the earth. God’s purposes may not be apparent (a mystery) in many of the world’s current events and in a world where Satan is permitted to continue in power. But the time will come when Satan will no longer be in power and the predictions of the Old and New Testament prophets will be fulfilled. Then the knowledge and truth of the Lord will become apparent (Jeremiah 31:34).(15)
Up Next – Sweet in the mouth and sour in the stomach.
- Lowery, D. K. (1985). 1 Corinthians. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 2, p. 546). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
- Barry, J. D., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Mangum, D., & Whitehead, M. M. (2012). Faithlife Study Bible (Re 11:15). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.
- Cabal, T., Brand, C. O., Clendenen, E. R., Copan, P., Moreland, J. P., & Powell, D. (2007). The Apologetics Study Bible: Real Questions, Straight Answers, Stronger Faith (p. 1902). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.
- Walvoord, John F. (1985). Revelation. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 2, pp. 956–957). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
- Dockery, D. S., Butler, T. C., Church, C. L., Scott, L. L., Ellis Smith, M. A., White, J. E., & Holman Bible Publishers (Nashville, T. . (1992). Holman Bible Handbook (p. 799). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.
- Dockery, D. S., Butler, T. C., Church, C. L., Scott, L. L., Ellis Smith, M. A., White, J. E., & Holman Bible Publishers (Nashville, T. . (1992). Holman Bible Handbook (p. 695). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.
- Keener, C. S. (1993). The IVP Bible background commentary: New Testament (1 Th 4:16–17). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- Wiersbe, W. W. (1992). Wiersbe’s expository outlines on the New Testament (p. 602). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
- Barry, J. D., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Mangum, D., & Whitehead, M. M. (2012). Faithlife Study Bible (1 Th 4:14). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.
- Keener, C. S. (1993). The IVP Bible background commentary: New Testament (1 Th 4:16–17). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- Constable, T. L. (1985). 1 Thessalonians. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 2, p. 704). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
- Constable, T. L. (1985). 1 Thessalonians. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 2, p. 705). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
- Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 2, pp. 597–598). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
- Barry, J. D., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Mangum, D., & Whitehead, M. M. (2012). Faithlife Study Bible (Re 10:7). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.
- Walvoord, John F. (1985). Revelation. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 2, p. 954). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.