In 1 Cor. 15:52, Paul used a term “Last Trumpet” which is not found elsewhere in the Bible. Read this article to see what he likely meant by this term; and what he DIDN’T mean.
DOES THE LAST TRUMPET = THE SEVENTH TRUMPET?
If the timing of Matt. 24:31 is the greatest misunderstanding of nearly everyone who considers end time events, the “last trumpet” is probably the second greatest misunderstanding.
1 Corinthians shows that the resurrection and rapture both occur at the last trumpet:
In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. (1 Cor. 15:52 NASB, emphasis mine)
1 Thessalonians shows that these events are associated with the trumpet of God.
For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. (1 Thess. 4:16 NASB, emphasis mine)
From this equality, we can deduce (without a doubt), that the last trumpet is also the trumpet of God since the resurrection and rapture are both associated with the blowing of this trumpet.
Now, the vast majority of post-tribulation rapture proponents believe that the seventh trumpet of Revelation is the last trumpet because it the final trumpet mentioned in Revelation. However, THIS IS IMPOSSIBLE.
In 1 Thessalonians 4:16 that the last trumpet is referred to as the trumpet of God. In Zechariah, we read,
Then the Lord will appear over them, and his arrow will go forth like lightning; the Lord God will sound the trumpet. (Zech. 9:14)
Both 1 Thess. and Zech. support that it is God who blows the last trumpet. Yet the seventh trumpet is blown by an angel and not by God:
Then the seventh angel sounded [Gk: splazio, meaning “sounded his trumpet”]; and there were loud voices in heaven. (Rev. 11:15 NASB; emphasis mine)
Thus the seventh trumpet cannot be the last trumpet because an angel blows it rather than God. Let’s state that again, because it is very important.
The Last Trumpet Cannot Be the 7th Trumpet of Revelation because God blows the Last Trumpet and an angel blows the 7th Trumpet
Also we must remember that 1 Thessalonians was written nearly a generation earlier than Revelation. Neither the readers of Paul’s day nor Paul himself would have had a reference in Revelation to make sense out of the term “last trumpet” if this post-trib. theory was truly was the meaning. This would mean that no one alive receiving Paul’s letter of 1 Cor. would have any idea what he meant by this reference. This is almost impossible to imagine. And this would also make it the only specific Scripture reference in the Bible to a future revelation. The pattern of scripture is to refer back to past references and build upon them not forward to yet unwritten ones.
For both of these reasons, the 7th Trumpet cannot be the Last Trumpet.
What about Rev. 11:17-18?
Author Michael Snyder, in his recent book The Rapture Verdict (2016), claims the statement made by the twenty-four elders after the blowing of the seventh trumpet indicates the resurrection and rapture happen at that point.
You have taken your great power and have begun to reign. And the nations were enraged, and your wrath came, and the time came for the dead to be judged, and the time to reward your bond-servants the prophets and the saints and those who fear your name, the small and the great, and to destroy those who destroy the earth. (Rev. 11:17–18 NASB, emphasis mine)
The Greek verbs in this passage (have taken, were enraged, came, etc.) are in the aorist indicative and according to proper Greek grammar (Intermediate Greek Grammar by Mathewson) indicate past action which continues. These are not actions happening at that moment as Mr. Snyder claims. Rather, they are a summary list of actions that previously occurred during the final three and a half years of the Seventieth Week. The reference to “the nations were enraged” refers to Psalm 2:1 and the abomination of desolation at the midpoint of the Seventieth Week. God then responded with his resurrection and rapture (the judging of the dead and the rewarding of the saints). Then God’s wrath began to be poured out. Finally, the seventh trumpet depicts Jesus being crowned king while he and the saints are still in heaven and prior to Armageddon. Hence, the claim made by Mr. Snyder related to his understanding of the timing of the rapture after the seventh trumpet judgment appears to be incorrect yet a third time.
If the “last trumpet” isn’t the seventh trumpet of Revelation, what is it? Paul used the Greek term eschate for last. This is the same term from which we get eschatology (meaning the study of end things or end times.) This term is found four times in John 6:39-54 in reference to the “last day.” Could we call the “last trumpet,” the eschatological trumpet or last day trumpet? Perhaps that is best.
But, frankly, we can only speculate on what Paul meant by “last” when he called this trumpet the “last trumpet.” There are several theories.
A Pretrib. Last Trumpet
Pretrib. expert, Dr. Renald Showers, had this to say about the last trumpet
When you study the Roman army and some of the Greek armies and even the Jewish army back in Bible times, when they went into war, they had a “last trump” that would be blown that would tell the fighting men, “Your time of fighting is over. It is time for you to go home and rest.” A “last trump” ended their time in the warfare.
– Renald Showers
I don’t disagree with Dr. Showers completely, and this concept is consistent with any rapture theory. However, a biblical or Hebraic understanding of “Last Trumpet” makes the more sense than a Roman or Greek concept. We will look into this in the next section.
A pretrib. misunderstanding, however, is that the trumpet is only heard by believers. There is absolutely nothing in the primary texts that say only believers hear the trumpet.
For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. (1 Thess. 4:16)
In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. (1 Cor. 15:52)
Also notice that it isn’t the rapture that’s said to happen in “a twinkling of an eye,” but rather the raising of the dead and the changing of believers into resurrection bodies.
Both of these things (that only believers hear the trumpet and that the rapture happens in a blink of an eye) are pretrib. “myths” not based on Scripture at all.
A Yom Teruah “Last Trumpet”
In the first century, the term “last trumpet” was a Jewish idiom that meant a specific trumpet blast on the Feast of Yom Teruah (Feast of the Blowing of Trumpets). It was the final, long blast of the trumpet on that day. Although Christians today rarely celebrate the seven “Feasts of the Lord” (Heb: mo’edim) and are unfamiliar with the various terms and idioms associated with them, believers in the first century were very familiar with these holidays (Holy days) and idioms like the “last trumpet.”
Yom Teruah, which is also known as Rosh Hashanah, is the Feast of the Blowing of Trumpets, including the long, last trumpet blast on that day (tekiah gadolah, literally “great sound of a trumpet”). Jesus referred to this trumpet blast directly by saying,
And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds” (Matt. 24:31 NKJV, emphasis mine).
It just makes sense that this is the last trumpet. It is associated with the rapture (the gathering together of the elect) and it happens on the “last day.” Now this isn’t the last day of Daniel’s 70th Week, but the last day of this age. Just as the disciples asked, “What will be the sign of the end of the age?” The events of Matt. 24:31 occur on this “last day.” An entire year of trumpet and bowl judgments follow this last day and transpire prior to the end of Daniel’s 70th Week.
In Jewish thought, there were three trumpet blasts on mo’edim. The first trumpet was blown on Pentecost (Shavuot) and the last trumpet was blown on Yom Teruah. The jubilee trumpet was blown on Yom Kippur of Jubilee years to announce the Jubilee. So when Paul referred to the last trumpet in 1 Cor. 15:52, this may have been a specific reference to Yom Teruah and the tekiah gadolah. The readers of his day would be familiar with both our Lord’s revelation in Matthew and the idiom related to the mo’edim.
Silver Trumpets or Ram’s Horns
Another theory is that the “Last Trumpet” is foretold in the book of Numbers.
The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Make two silver trumpets. Of hammered work you shall make them, and you shall use them for summoning the congregation and for breaking camp. And when both are blown, all the congregation shall gather themselves to you at the entrance of the tent of meeting. (Num. 10:1-3)
The gathering together function of these trumpets has an obvious “rapture” related aspect. These trumpets were also used to sound an alarm in the time of war.
And when you go to war in your land against the adversary who oppresses you, then you shall sound an alarm with the trumpets, that you may be remembered before the Lord your God, and you shall be saved from your enemies. (Num. 10:9)
This recalls the dual function of the Day of the Lord, safety for God’s people when they are gathered together and an announcement that God is about to pour out his wrath on his enemies.
These dual functions of gathering and alarm are mentioned in the prophets.
Blow a trumpet in Zion; sound an alarm on my holy mountain! Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble, for the day of the Lord is coming; it is near. (Joel 2:1)
A day of wrath is that day, a day of distress and anguish, a day of ruin and devastation, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness, a day of trumpet blast and battle cry against the fortified cities and against the lofty battlements. (Zeph. 1:15-16)
Blow the trumpet through the land; cry aloud and say, ‘Assemble, and let us go into the fortified cities! (Jer. 4:5)
All of these references speak of the eschatological (or last days) trumpet of God. Notice the timing of these trumpets however:
On the day of your gladness also, and at your appointed feasts and at the beginnings of your months, you shall blow the trumpets. (Num. 10:10)
This certainly doesn’t preclude any of the Feasts or Yom Teruah which is both the first of the month, first of the year, and also a Feast.
We have seen that the last trumpet is definitely the eschatological trumpet of God, definitively blown by God on the Day of the Lord, at which the dead in Christ rise in the resurrection, and at which the believers are transformed into resurrection bodies.
We have seen various “myths” are definitively untrue; the 7th Trumpet isn’t the last trumpet and there is no evidence that the last trumpet is only heard by believers.
We have also seen that there are several theories about what type of trumpet is blown and when it’s blown, but at the present time, these are still considered speculation.