From many theological stand points there is an expectation of a literal trumpet blast from heaven that should sound globally to announce the return of Christ to the earth. This is based on repeated passages in scriptures about the sound of a trumpet.
One thing for sure that has to be seen is that when we let scriptures interprete scriptures we will have a good foundation for proper Biblical exegesis which in turn would help the church to understand the mind of God. Biblical interpretation should not be from our own cultural application but those metaphors should be seen as meant to those to whom is was primarily written through the lens of their own culture.
The sounding of the trumpet is not first of all a New Testament phrase. A second thought on how the 1st century church lived would make us understand that they understood God’s plan through the fulfillment of Old Testament shadows and prophecies.
We find in Isaiah 27: 12-13
“And it shall come to pass in that day that the Lord will thresh, from the channel of the River to the Brook of Egypt; and you will be gathered one by one, O you children of Israel. So it shall be in that day that the great trumpet will be blown. They will come, who are about to perish in the land of Assyria, and they who are outcasts in the land of Egypt, and shall worship the Lord in the holy mount of Jerusalem.“
What do we see here at the sound of the trumpet:
– A Regathering
– A reunion
This regathering is for the scattered people of God back into his presence to enjoy their union with Him based on His covenant with them.
It is also important that we realize that the book of Isaiah gives us prophetic insight into the ministry of the Messiah and the effect of His reign on the earth.
In Isaiah 11 the prophet spoke of the day when the ensign would be raised, Gentiles would be saved, and “It shall come to pass in that day that the Lord shall set his hand again the second time to recover the remnant of his people who are left from Assyria, and Egypt, from Pathros…He will set up a banner for the nations and will assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth”
v.12. The dispersed would come for “There will be a highway for the remnant of his people who will be left from Assyria, As it was for Israel in the day that he came up from the land of Egypt” v.16.
This separation is likened to death. When man died spiritually he became an outcast even in the garden of Eden. This separation extended its reach to life after days on earth that man could not return to the presence of God.
So these outcasts being prophesied to be regathered when spiritually dead (separated) to covenant. The Messiah would restore them back to God. Something no man could achieve in their sinful flesh. This is the imagery employed by the prophets in the voicing of prophecy.
Hence we see the prophet declare in Isaiah 59:1-2.
1 Look, the LORD’s hand is not too weak1 to deliver you;
his ear is not too deaf to hear you.2
2 But your sinful acts have alienated you from your God;
your sins have caused him to reject you and not listen to your prayers.
Those who were scattered abroad were DEAD. This death is SEPARATION FROM GOD’S PRESENCE IN THE HOLY LAND! Israel’s sin had caused her to be SEPARATED from God. As they were estranged from the promises in the covenant, they were driven into foreign countries as slaves. Israel existed only in fellowship with God in their land, city, and temple. Once they broke covenant, they experienced separation. So DEATH in this prophetic context can be defined as SEPARATION!
But inspite of her sins and her Apostasy God always sought ways to restore her back to fellowship. The promise of deliverance is rampant in the prophetic books. So we see in Isaiah 25 God’s promise of deliverance which would be at a great banquet will be prepared for the faithful and he will destroy the veil of destruction; “he will swallow up death forever, And the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces; the rebuke of His people he will take away from all the earth” 25:6-8.
This explains why Jesus gave parables of people being invited to a banquet. This banquet was to take place at Mount Zion. They had to leave Mount Sinai to be there. But many of them gave excuses and remained on that Old mount which kept them in bondage.
In Chapter 26 of Isaiah he offered peace to the repentant which would lead to resurrection.
It is said His enemies are dead and will not arise, yet of God’s “dead” it is said, “Your dead shall live; together with my dead body they shall arise. Awake and sing, you who dwell in the dust…” v.19.
These “dead” are those taken into captivity by the invaders. Those raised were to come back into fellowship based on covenant with them (Israel)
This same pattern is reflected in Ezekiel’s prominent vision of the valley of dry bones which is seen in chapter 37. The vision finds its background in the context of Israel’s Babylonian captivity, a type of what occurred in AD70.
God interprets the vision for Ezekiel and us to take precedence: “these bones are the whole house of Israel…They indeed say, `Our bones are dry, our hope is lost, and we ourselves are cut off.’’ (vs 11) But God promised, “Behold, O my people, I will open your graves and cause you to come up from your graves, and bring you to the land of Israel.” (vs 13)
This confirms that Israel’s return from captivity is seen as a resurrection from the dead because they are being returned to God’s fellowship in His land.
So when we compare scriptures we see that at the sound of the Trumpet of God, His elect would be gathered from the “grave” of captivity and restored back to life and fellowship with Jehovah.
I submit to you that the Apostles in the New Testament saw the sounding of the trumpet of God as the time for the raising of the dead from captivity to be gathered to life with God.
So in Jesus famous prophecy about the destruction of Jerusalem in Matthew 24 we see Him say in vs 30-31,
“they will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. 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.”
Jesus is speaking of a forth coming judgment, which he linked to the trumpet of God, and the gathering of God’s elect from the four corners of the world.
Now tell me what do you think would be in the mind of his Jewish audience. An audible trumpet sound? No.. not even close.
Notice Jesus did not say that the trumpet would sound at the end of the world but at the end of an age. What age? The Mosaic age that was enshrined in the laws and temple there in Israel. The trumpet was to sound in the fulfiment of that great prophecy in their time.
“Truly I say to you this generation will not pass away until all things take place.”
When Paul wrote about the resurrection in I Corinthians 15, he said
“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…” v.52.
Keep in mind that the Apostle spake based on his Jewish background understanding of the fulfillment of Old testament prophecies as it related to Israel. There is a consistency in which he explained things and events even as it related to the sound of the trump.
The apostle describes it as “THE LAST TRUMPET” and this will agree with the book of Revelation and the sounding of the 7 trumpets.
Paul clearly states that the resurrection at the sounding of the last trumpet would be the fulfillment of the prediction found in Isaiah 25:8; the same context of the sounding of the great trumpet of God for the gathering of the elect from their “graves” separated from God. This time Paul explains that the resurrection of which he speaks of was in connection the strength of sin, which is “the law”. The law was a veil that could not bring people close to God and it stood as a handwriting written against and hence they could not experience the life of God. So at the passing away of the law and its institution there would be a resurrection.
Paul explains further in verse 51 when he says, “we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed.”
This resurrection would be an experience for all both dead and living. It simply meant that every cause of separation was taken away and there was absolutely no reason for the dead to be apart from the Lord.
So in I Corinthians 15 we find from Paul the idea of Christ’s coming, judgment, the sounding of the trumpet, and the gathering of the elect, which is the resurrection which was to occur in that generation. It sounds very much like what Jesus spoke about in Matthew 24.
The trumpet in I Thessalonians 4:15-17
In this text Paul reinterates his earlier message of Christ’s coming, the sounding of the trumpet and the resurrection,
” For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet; and the dead in Christ shall rise first” v.16.
Just like 1 Corinthians we see Paul affirm the sounding of the trumpet at the resurrection and the Lord’s coming before that generation passed!
Then the Apostle John gives us a similar truth which maintains the consistency in Revelation.
Beginning with chapter 8 John saw seven angels having seven trumpets. In chapter 10 John was told, “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.” The seventh trumpet, the LAST TRUMPET, was the time for the final fulfilling of the Old Covenant prophetic word!
In chapter 11:15-18 we see,
“And the nations were angry, and thy wrath is come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that thou shouldest give reward unto thy servants the prophets, and to the saints…” v.18. The sounding of the last trumpet was the time for the resurrection of the dead, for judgment.
When was all this to happen? Over and over again John writes that his vision “must shortly come to pass” 1:1-3; and that “the time is at hand. This was fulfilled in that generation and now based on those fulfilled prophecied, the consummation of the new covenant has brought the believer to be place where he cannot be afraid of separation from the Father. Now in this new heaven and earth, the Father has descended to make His dwelling in us and as such resurrection has occurred and is no longer a promise in the future.
As Paul declared we shall all be changed. This change has taken place and now we have switched places. This is the Good News, when the Trumpet sounded, those in Hades were taken from their separated position and ushered before the presence of God in heaven. No believer at death would ever go there again. This is because the final wall of partition between God and man has been removed as God took away the last trappings of “the law” which held the “power of sin that led to death. Now this victory of the sound of the trumpet.