Many of our readers are well aware that certain future events of prophesy will be announced by trumpets; one or more trumpets sounded by one or more messengers. The purpose here is to distinguish between some of the main events to be announced by different trumpets.
"The trumpet of God" will announce that climactic moment when "the Lord Himself" shall be descending from heaven as the dead in Christ then are about to be roused so that they, together with surviving saints, can be suddenly snatched away to meet the Lord in the air (I Thess. 4:15-17).
Other trumpets—a series of these—will precede and announce the approach of a more remote occasion when our Lord is about to be revealed on earth as He then descends to Mount Olivet, the point of His previous departure (Acts 1:11).
The first of those events which relates to saints who will have been called from the Gentiles is appropriately called the presence of "THE LORD", the title by which He is best known to present-day saints. When He shall be revealed to other saints of a forthcoming era who by that time have been called from a future renascent Israel, that event will become the presence of "THE SON OF MANKIND"—a different title which was never used by Paul in such letters as he wrote to the Thessalonians and Corinthians, for those letters were addressed to Gentiles and not to Israel as a nation. It is well to note that the saints who are to meet our Lord "in air" will be alerted by the (singular) "trumpet of God" while other trumpets to be sounded by numerous messengers will be alerting those future saints from Israel who then will be anticipating His ultimate descent to Mount Olivet. Unless we are aware that the sounding of each trumpet has its own distinct purpose, the effect to us could be a dubious or uncertain sound.
In ancient Israel Jehovah told Moses to make two trumpets of silver; no doubt the only trumpets man ever made strictly to divine specifications; and there were varied uses for those silver trumpets. If only one trumpet was sounded, no others than the princes of Israel were to assemble; but if both trumpets were sounded, all Israel was alerted to respond. The trumpets were to be used as Jehovah told Moses, "in the day of your gladness, and in your solemn days, and in the beginning of your months." Also in case of alarm, as when the nation might be called to war; if only one alarm was sounded, only those camps lying to the east were alerted, but if that was followed by a second alarm, the camps lying to the south were likewise called to battle. Consequently it was moat important for all Israel to understand what the uses of either or both trumpets meant, even at such times when the trumpet call was only for some of them (Num. 10:10). It is no less important that we too should be conversant with the various trumpets of Scripture, lest we might otherwise mistake the significance of one trumpet for that of others.
The next sound now from any trumpet of divine origin will announce the personal presence of our Lord Jesus Christ long before He is revealed to earthly perception. Scripture calls that "the trumpet of God" and it will sound just as our Lord is descending from heaven, not down to earth but "into air." There we observe only one trumpet—no others—though we learn from a parallel text that there will be a succession of trumpet peals from that single trumpet, for we are told that "He will be trumpeting" and one effect of this will be that "the dead in Christ shall be rising first" but only "at the last trump" from that commanding repetition of trumpet sounds (I Cor. 15:51-53). Meanwhile this will also alert those saints who will live and remain until that "presence of the Lord" when they too shall be "changed in the twinkle of an eye" so that all together, as incorruptible spiritual bodies, can be snatched away to meet the Lord in air.
We should not mistake that event as if we were told that our Lord on the same occasion would then continue on to earth, for this is something the Scripture definitely does NOT say; it does say rather that the saints then are to meet Him "in air." Neither should we mistake "the last trump" as if it were said to be "the last trumpet," for the text there indicates only the last in a series of trumpet peals from the same trumpet. Nor should we confuse "the trumpet of God" in Thessalonians and Corinthians with any of the trumpets in Matthew or Revelation, for those in Revelation are identified only by their ordinal numbers; from the first to the seventh. No one of those is said to be "the last trumpet" as the one sounded by the seventh messenger in Revelation is sometimes improperly called (Matt. 24:30,31; Rev. 8, 9 & 11:15).
At the risk of exhausting the reader's patience, these distinctions need to be repeated and emphasized, because some have inferred, mistakenly, that there is no distinction between "the trumpet of God" at "the presence of the Lord" in Thessalonians as compared with "the seventh trumpet" in Revelation when our Lord is about to be revealed to Israel as "the Son of Mankind." This has been compounded into a further error, that Paul's letters to the Thessalonians and Corinthians are concerned with Israel as a nation rather than with saints of the present calling from among the Gentiles. One unfortunate reason for this is based on the misused coincidence that in Thessalonians the saints are said to be "snatched" away and in Revelation 12, relating especially to Israel, the same word "snatched" is used With reference to the male child there said to be "snatched away to God and to His throne." It should be obvious that the word "snatched" does not pertain to the same event in every passage where it may appear, for it is used in one instance concerning Paul where he is said to have been "snatched away into paradise" (II Cor. 12:4) and it is used also on a different occasion concerning Philip after he had ministersd to the Ethiopian eunuch and was then "snatched away" before he was afterward found at Azotus (Acts 8:39,40). The coincidence of finding the same word in both passages definitely does not identify the saints "snatched away" in Thessalonians with anything concerning Israel in Revelation 12, for in other respects the context of each passage differs greatly from that of the other.
We may reasonably assume that all our readers will recognise "the trumpet of God" in I Thess. 4:16 as being identical with some implied trumpet in I Cor. 15:52 which there produces a sustained "trumpeting" until the dead in Christ are roused "at the last trump." The identity of those two passages, each with the other, is unmistakable, because they both concern a "change" of bodies for saints of the present calling who will have survived until that moment—a change from present mortal bodies to bodies immortal. In I Corinthians 15 these are included where Paul says first "we all shall be changed" (verse 51) and they are separately mentioned in contrast to those who will have died where he afterward says "we shall be changed" (verse 53). The same "change" of bodies is implicit in I Thess. 4:15-17 where he mentions the surviving saints as being "snatched (away) together" with those who until then are "the dead in Christ," because this essentially requires a prior change of bodies.
That "change" of bodies is not mentioned at all in connection with any trumpets of Matthew or Revelation—an entirely different context concerning future saints out of Israel and relating not to the presence of THE LORD as such but to the presence of THE SON OF MANKIND. On the other hand, the "change" of bodies in Corinthians and Thessalonians is clearly identified as a like change which appears also in Philippians 3:20-21; a letter written by Paul from the Roman prison and addressed to saints called mainly from the Gentiles, like others called from Gentiles of Ephesus, Colosse and Laodicea, though it matters not at all it some may have been called from the Jews. It is true that some of the saints at Corinth were of Israelitish descent, even as was the former Saul of Tarsus, but all who are "changed" according to Corinthians are of the same calling and have the same destiny as those who are said to be "transfigured" according to the passage quoted from Philippians. The saints at Corinth, whether former Jews or former Gentiles, were then all alike "a new creation" in Christ Jesus (II Cor. 5:17). A "change" of bodies from mortal to immortal according to Corinthians so that such can be "snatched away" according to Thessalonians is equivalent to a transfiguration of bodies in Philippians 3:20-21.
Another reason why "the trumpet of God" in Thessalonians is sometimes confused with the various trumpets in Matthew and Revelation, which latter relate to Israel, is because Paul in Thessalonians has much to say about "the day of the Lord," though in one passage of the King James Version (II Thess. 2:2) this is misrendered as "the day of Christ" but properly rendered as "the day of the Lord" in RSV, CLNT, Rotherham and other modern versions. "The day of the Lord" accords with what is literally "the day of Jehovah" which appears some twenty times in Hebrew prophecy beginning with Isa. 2:12. Thus when Peter spoke of "the day of the Lord" in Acts 2:20 he was quoting a Hebrew prophecy in Joel 2:31. Paul's reference to "the day of the Lord" in Thessalonians has been mistaken by some in either of two ways. There are those who infer that the Thessalonian letters are for Israel rather than for us while others do acknowledge that they are for us but then strangely contend that the surviving saints of the present calling will remain here on earth until Israel's last great affliction in the "day of the Lord." Both those inferences are emphatically wrong but to clarify the matter will require much digression here. For this we need the reader's close attention and we ask your kind forbearance.
Though it is very true that Paul in Thessalonians did have much to say about "the day of the Lord," the reason for his doing so is much different from inferences sometimes drawn from his words. In First Thessalonians Paul had said that the surviving saints, together with those who will have died, shall be delivered at the presence of the Lord when all of them together will meet Him in the air, and the Thessalonians were entreated to "console one another with these words." We are informed, however, that while Paul was personally among them he had taught them things of prophetic truth about Israel which are in full accord with the book of Daniel. This was for the saints' enlightenment then, the same as it is for our enlightenment now, although Paul's letters nowhere say that either the Thessalonians or we would ever share the experience of Israel's last great affliction here on the earth coincident with "the day of the Lord." Obviously that would contradict the revelation of a prior meeting "in air," long before "the day of the Lord" descends on Israel and their last great affliction.
Yet at some time after Paul had spoken to the Thessalonians in person, as we learn from II Thessalonians chapter two, someone else had taught them FALSELY that the day of the Lord had already arrived and that Paul himself had either written or said so; something he firmly denied. This had greatly disturbed the saints, for if it had been true, that would necessarily mean the meeting "in air" at a presence of the Lord had already occurred and they had been left behind! Thus Paul reminded them most reassuringly that the day of the Lord had not arrived. For this he refreshed their memories that while he was yet among them in person he had explained how a future apostasy in Israel must come first and "the man of lawlessness" must be revealed which is all in accord with prophecy in the book of Daniel (II These. 2:3-4). The fact that those two stated preconditions had not appeared was cited as definite proof that the day of the Lord had not arrived. If Paul really had told the Thessalonians that their own deliverance must await the day of the Lord, as some contend, then when others told them that day had already arrived it should have reassured them that their own deliverance was very near which would have been most encouraging. Instead as Paul indicates, they had been "quickly shaken" in mind and "alarmed." This clearly indicates Paul had never said they must await the day of the Lord for the realisation of their expectation; he had said much rather that they would be "snatched away" for a prior meeting "in air."
In First Thessalonians the saints there were told they need not be in darkness about any of this, for Paul said they were sons of "the day." There he referred NOT to the day of the Lord as such but to quite a different day called "the day of Christ" and mentioned only by Paul (Philippians 1:6,10, 2:16). The day of Christ begins with the moment when saints of the present calling are transfigured from soulical to spiritual bodies and snatched away to meet the Lord "in air." We must not mistake "the day of Christ" for "the day of the Lord" or vice versa. "The day of Christ" is characterised by light, even as Paul says, "You are all sons of the light and sons of the day" (I Thess. 5:5), but "the day of the Lord" is called "darkness and not light... even very dark and no brightness in it" (Amos 5:18-20). The day of Christ and the day of the Lord (the day of Jehovah) concern entirely different people and begin at widely separated times.
Paul said also that even though a future day of the Lord would intrude like a thief in the night on a then unbelieving world, the times and eras relating to that was of no special concern to the Thessalonian saints (I Thess. 5:1-3), for he had said just previously that the saints of the present calling are to be snatched away at a "presence of the Lord." For them that is where the "day of Christ" begins which is long before the day of the Lord begins for Israel. The prior deliverance for saints of the present calling agrees also with II Thess. 1:7 where we are told that when the Lord shall be revealed from heaven, inflicting vengeance then on those "not obeying the evangel of our Lord Jesus Christ," the Thessalonian saints will be at "ease" or at rest. For all saints of the present calling such "ease" or rest together with the Lord will necessarily result from the prior meeting "in air," even as Paul had said in his former letter, "Thus shall we always be together with the Lord."
Neither should it seem strange to us that Paul had not plainly told the Thessalonians the day of the Lord was well over two thousand years away which apparently he had not. No doubt he understood Hebrew prophecy as well or better than anyone does today but not necessarily the LENGTH OF TIME required for its then distant fulfilment. Even the length of time which God had predetermined for the present stewardship of His grace in favor of Gentiles apart from and independent of Israel was not necessarily any part of those secrets which had been revealed first only to Paul. Though he did write in same instances as if the time remaining here on earth for saints of that day was relatively short, he also said quite plainly that they had no need of knowing about the times and eras known only to the Lord. We may understand Faul did know that the day of the Lord would arrive very soon before the Lord himself will descend on Mount Olivet and then take direct control of the earth's affairs to reign over the house of Jacob for the eons; a hope so very luminous and transporting that it very reasonably might have appeared then to be even less distant than we know it is now. The towering summit of a high mountain can appear even nearer from afar than the actual remaining distance is realised to be at closer range when it can be viewed realistically in relation to smaller and familiar objects at some lesser but well known distance. In like manner, the length of time required for obtaining the present complement from the Gentiles plus the further time required for the operation and fulfilment of Hebrew prophecy before the day of the Lord can arrive was not necessarily revealed to Paul, nor was it needful for him to know. Perhaps it was rather God's mercy that he should not know and thus not suffer a like distress as when Daniel faintly realised that Gabriel's revelations spelled a long dark and dreadful night of lonely exile for his beloved people Israel. Even among ourselves today there are those who become disheartened and offended when they are told how much time is yet required for Israel's forthcoming renascence, their future apostasy also, and meanwhile the emergence of a new "remnant" because of whom the nation at large will be delivered from its last great affliction in the day of the Lord, although none of that delays our own expectation even for a moment.
The fact that the singular trumpet of God in Thessalonians and Corinthians is restricted to saints of the present calling while the many trumpets in Matthew and Revelation will be of direct concern to future saints out of Israel is well known to many of our present readers, but the span of time which must intervene between our Lord's descent from heaven to meet present-day saints "in air" and His subsequent descent on Mount Olivet to meet different saints out of Israel is not so widely recognized. Until recent years there has been a mistaken tendency to assume only a relatively short interval between those two events. There is a broadly held misapprehension that they may be separated from each other by a time as short as seven years, else only one generation or a century at the most. Any such estimate of the time involved tends to blur one event into the other end to obscure the distinction between "the trumpet of God" in Thessalonians as contrasted with those trumpets in Matthew and Revelation which belong to the latter days of a future independent premillennial era. This was covered at much length in late issues of the former Differentiator, also Instalment two and three of Treasures of Truth; much too long for restatement in present available space. Yet Paul most clearly states, in accord with the prophecy of Daniel, that the future day of the Lord for Israel must be preceded by a further apostasy of theirs. Therefore it becomes self-evident that this requires first the divine reestablishment and operation of a new Mosaic economy with a restored Levitical priesthood which is so very clearly affirmed in Ezekiel 20:33-42. Obviously there could be no apostasy—no "falling away" as the authorized version says—unless there were first a well re-established and operative order to FALL AWAY FROM. There could be no apostasy in Israel from anything existing today.
Without repeating the substance of many former papers to the same effect, one further proof of this is conveniently verified if the reader will first turn to Ezekiel 43:18; then from there onward note how future sons of Levi from the lineage of Zadok will yet offer bullocks and goats in a future sanctuary as the Levites did in ancient times. This essentially precedes the millennial reign of our Lord when those who then will live, and reign with Him are to be BOTH kings and priests in accord with the future Melchisedec priesthood which necessarily supersedes all prior Levitical services characterised by the offering of bulls and goats. It is scarcely conceivable that there will be any further sacrifice of animals after our Lord returns to Israel at His descent on Mount Olivet.
After "the trumpet of God" at the presence of the Lord has then alerted the saints of the present calling, no further trumpet of divine approval will begin to sound until a future era will be drawing to a close. Then the SON OF MANKIND at His presenoe will send forth His messengers with a loud sounding trumpet—presumably one such trumpet for each messenger—and they will assemble the chosen ones of a future renascent Israel "from the four winds." from all the extremities of the heavens, as indicated by a comparison of Matt. 24:30 with verse 3 of the same chapter. Although those trumpets are not for us, we need to observe their relative time and purpose so that we may better distinguish that unique trumpet to which our own hearing should be sensitised and attuned.
From a present dim and distant view of the trumpets in Matthew, they appear to shortly precede and nearly coincide with seven major and dominant trumpets in Revelation, each sounded by one of seven successive messengers (Rev. 8, 9 and 11:15). Of those seven messengers none is said to be Chief like "the Chief Messenger" in Thessalonians. As they in order sound their trumpets at closely timed intervals, each trumpet followed by immediate and pre-announced world calamities, no doubt it will sharpen the expectancy of faithful ones in Israel for the moment then impending when the Son of Mankind is to be revealed following a previous forthshining of His presence.
After the sounding of the seven trumpets, we are told of seven further messengers, though not with trumpets, each having one of seven golden bowls full of the wrath or fury of God. Those bowls are poured out successively; the first one on the land, another on the sea, another on the rivers and springs of water, another on the sun, another on the throne of the wild beast, another on the great river Euphrates, and the last is poured out upon the air (Rev. 15 and 16). Meanwhile we read of still other messengers; one flying in mid-heaven to announce that the hour of God's judgment has arrived, another proclaiming the imminent fall of Babylon the great, and another forewarning all who then will be worshiping the wild beast and his image! but just then a voice out of heaven will be comforting the martyrs of Israel, saying "Happy are the dead who die in the Lord henceforth" (Rev. 14:13).
Here it seems that John in vision had arrived at that breathless moment when the Son of Mankind is about to appear. "I perceived," he said, "and lo! a white Cloud, and on the cloud One sitting, like the Son of Mankind, having a golden wreath on His head." By sharp contrast this recalls the first mention of the Son of Mankind when He said of Himself that then there was no place here on earth for that weary head of His to rest (Matt. 8:20) but now He returns to earth in a triumph of His glory, and the head that wore the crown of thorns is gloriously graced with a golden wreath; thousand thousands ministering unto Him and ten thousand times ten thousand standing before Him (Dan. 7:10).
WHICH TRUMPET? For us, there can be only one; "the trumpet of God" at the presence of THE LORD when He descends from heaven with a shout of command with the voice of the Chief Messenger: when He arrives not on earth but in the air; when in one instant of time "the dead in Christ" are roused incorruptible while the living also are transformed to immortality, and all are snatched away for a momentous meeting with the Lord in the air.
We must not mistake that day of Christ for what then will be even a further distant "day of the Lord." Unlike some of the Thessalonians who had been misinformed and deceived by others, not by Paul, we must not misinterpret present turbulent world events as if these were now a fulfilment of Hebrew prophecy, much as they may resemble future fulfilments when they are due. As of now there can be no fulfilment of Hebrew prophecy until after the present complement from the Gentiles is obtained; not until God (as Jehovah) then later initiates a new exodus of Israel from all nations, to lead them once again in like manner as when He led them out of Egypt at the time of Moses (Isa. 11:11; Jer. 23:7-8).
Meanwhile as Paul assured the Thessalonians of his day, saints of the present era will be at "ease" and together with the Lord, operating as His administrative body of many members while also sharing the peace and tranquility of His vast universal dominion.
Melvin E. Johnson (Treasures of Truth, Instalment Seven, November-December 1972)