As forecast in our August issue, a paper is now presented discussing the trumpet of God (1. Thess. 4:16) and its alleged identity with the trumpet used by the seventh angel in the Revelation. This theory, which identifies "the trumpet of God" and "the last trumpet" with what its exponents always call "the seventh trumpet," has won so many adherents that it is high time for us to destroy it once and for all. So far as I am concerned, the only problem it presents is how an identification so fanciful, indeed absurd, could have convinced so many of the ablest students of Scripture. It is well that we should have an object lesson of how easy it is to be misled by surface appearances.

Just as this was being completed, my attention was drawn to a booklet by one F. W. Pitt, who makes the interesting point that if Paul had meant the trumpeting of the seventh angel when he wrote of "the last trumpet," "it is certain his words had no meaning for the church of his day, for the book of Revelation was not written till nearly thirty years after Paul died, so that he would hardly use words that had no meaning for himself or his contemporaries." He adds, with a touch of sarcasm gently spiced with understatement: "There must be room for a little common sense even in interpreting the inspired word."

There is a good deal of force in Mr. Pitt's argument; but I do not stress it because it claims a knowledge of dates which as a matter of fact we do not possess. Yet it is worth noting, as, if there had been any gap at all in time or space between the two writings, matters would have been as he suggests.

He also makes the following assertion,
which I am unable to verify:

However, both these points should be regarded as secondary. The primary arguments set out in the paper on the trumpets are those which should determine our conclusions. If in themselves they carry conviction, the secondary arguments will serve to reinforce conviction; but they should always be recognized for what they are: of no more than secondary importance. That is why they are here deliberately presented separately, and only for the sake of completeness; for they deal with disputable evidence, whereas the paper in this issue is concerned to present only irrefutable facts. So if they should turn out to be invalid, they can be set aside, and no harm is done. If they are valid, they merely reinforce what is already amply strong enough.

Mr. Pitt's remark about common sense arouses my keen sympathy. Evidently he, also, has suffered much from the follies of expositors who are deficient in that great gift. That so just, and so biting, a reproof should be necessary ought to make us blush for shame; for few of us are in this matter completely free from guilt.

Vol. 20 New Series April, 1958 No. 5
The Trumpet of God

Generally those who identify "the seventh trumpet" of the Apocalypse with "the last trumpet" of 1. Cor. 15:52 and "the trumpet of God" of 1. Thess. 4:16 do so in quite a casual sort of way, as if it were merely an incidental point in the discussion of when the fulfilment of 1. Thess. 4:13-17 is to take place. The identification is taken for granted.
As one advocate puts it:

Truly a fine piece of wishful thinking! Others note the resemblances between the trumpets, such as they are, but skate lightly over the differences. Yet if they were right the controversy would be finally and conclusively settled in their favour. The fulfilment of 1. Cor. 15:52 and 1. Thess. 4:13-17 would be placed securely within the time-series set out in the Apocalypse, and all doubt would be at an end. Why, then, are some so cautious in their treatment of this argument while others bolster it up with all sorts of special pleading? Can it be that they are not so sure as they pretend?

In our August, 1954 issue (Vol. 16, No.4, p. 153) I summarized the evidence on this question; but it would be as well to enlarge on this summary now.

First: the word seventh, hebdomos, occurs nine times, five of which are in the Apocalypse: the seventh seal (8:1), the seventh angel (10:7; 11:15; 16:17) and the seventh (21:20) referring to the jewels. Nothing is said of "the seventh trumpet." This may be regarded by some as a quibble, but it is nevertheless a fact which we ought not to ignore; particularly as it immediately knocks all the point out of the specious argument that "Scripture only speaks of seven trumpets to come." In fact, the precise number is nowhere defined.

Second: if the activities of the seventh angel are studied, it will be seen that none of them are accompanied by the descent of the Lord Himself from heaven or any rising of the dead or, indeed, any archangel voice.

Third: last (eschatos) need not mean "seventh" in 1. Cor. 15:52. Seven verses before (v. 45) "the last Adam" is the second and is explicitly contrasted with the first. This is a minor point, but not without significance. It is easy to perceive that there might be several blasts, of which only the last would take effect. An examination of the occurrences of this word will show that it can and sometimes does mean the last of a series.

Fourth: the context of Revelation 10-17 is utterly and completely different from that of 1. Cor. 15:52 and 1. Thess. 4:13-17; and there simply is no common ground between them at all. The context of the seventh angel's trumpeting is all judgment and destruction, lightnings and earthquakes; that of the passages in the two epistles is all grace and peace and reward for God's saints.

Fifth: the part played by the angels in Matt. 24:31 is entirely different from that of the archangel in 1. Thess. 4:13-17.

Sixth: we cannot restrict 1. Cor. 15:20-58 to "the former resurrection" of Rev. 20:6.

Seventh: nowhere in the Thessalonian Epistles or in 1. Cor. 15 is any reference to "the secret of God" of Rev. 10:7. What this last means is not, perhaps, easy to say with reasonable certainty, owing possibly to residual confusion in our minds from such expressions as "The Church of the Mystery" and "The Secret Economy"; but, even so, it is hard to discern any rational association between Co1. 2:2 and Rev. 10:7. Those whose case implies one must be hard put to it to devise a better argument. Paul nowhere says that what they call "the present dispensation" is "The Mystery" or even any secret, or that it is called anywhere "The Mystery of God."

Eighth: The trumpeting of the seventh angel is preceded by an ascension, not followed by one as in 1. Thess. 4:16, 17. This is the ascension of the two witnesses (Rev. 11:12). In that hour is a great earthquake, and we are told: "The second woe passed away. Lo! the third woe is coming swiftly! And the seventh angel trumpets. . .." In all this we perceive major events in rapid succession. There is nothing even remotely like this in 1. Thessalonians.

To put it bluntly, if the fearful happenings of the first six trumpetings were to precede this "trumpet of God," it was most disingenuous of Paul, not to say dishonest, to have so carefully concealed the fact from the Thessalonians. The trumpet blast has always been the normal way of giving a short and swift summons to a scattered host. There is therefore nothing surprising in finding it in I. Cor. 15 : 52 and I. Thess. 4 : 16. Actually, there would have been more to explain if it had been left out. So when examined the specious argument falls to pieces. Yet it has value in affording us a most striking example of how a "cast-iron certainty" may on critical examination prove to be a hopeless fallacy. The "time mark" which is claimed so confidently to fix "The Last Trump" does nothing of the sort. Thus, the only feature advanced to place 1. Corinthians 15 and 1. Thess. 4:13-17 within the time-series of Hebrew Prophecy has turned out to be worthless for that purpose.

It all amounts to this. Here in 1. Thess. 4:13-17 is an event which is not tied in any way to any other events prophesied in Scripture. There in the Hebrew Scriptures and in Matthew 24, 2. Thess. 2 and the Apocalypse are events which all form part of a defined series connected up with Daniel's Seventieth Seven, and severed from any prolonged period in which Israel is "lo-ammi" (not God's people). Is it likely, is it even at all reasonable to suppose, that this event unanchored to any times and seasons, should yet form part of that series so firmly chained together? The only rational answer is, definitely, "No"; and the boast quoted at the start of this paper firmly and decisively underlines the fact.

A point not generally noticed is that the identification of the trumpets of 1. Cor. 15:52 and 1. Thess. 4:16 with the trumpeting of the seventh angel in the Revelation depends on the theory that our snatching away is not to occur until the days of the latter trumpeting, since there is no other sort of evidence for their identification. It therefore cannot fairly be adduced to support the theory. But even if the theory could be proved correct on other grounds, we would still be faced with the difficult and distasteful task of explaining away somehow the discrepancies involved in identifying the trumpetings; although I have yet to find any adherent of the theory who has accepted the obligation and attempted to face them. The identification is calmly assumed and the discrepancies coolly ignored. This sort of thing is part of the penalty unavoidably incurred by those who invent artificial systems.

R.B.W Last updated 4.11.2005