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What is the Last Trump of 1Cor 15:52?

  

In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. (1Cor 15:52)

 

The question of what exactly is the last trump has puzzled many.  Some have concluded that it is the seventh trumpet spoken of in Revelation 8:2, 10:7 and 11:15.  Others believe that the last trump is the trumpet of Matthew 24:31. However, these explanations cannot be right for a number of reasons.

 

First, the last trump of 1Corinthians 15 plainly refers to the Rapture of the body of Christ.  If the last trump corresponds to the seventh trumpet of Revelation or the trumpet of Matthew 24:31, then the body of Christ must endure through the majority of the tribulation.  However, the body of Christ cannot be subject to the tribulation because God has not appointed the body of Christ to wrath.

 

For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ,

Who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him.  (1Thess 5:9-10)

 

Second, since the body of Christ is a mystery hid from ages and generations (Col 1:25-27, Romans 16:25-26), its ultimate fulfillment cannot be found in the prophetic program that has been spoken of since the world began (Acts 3:20-21).  Moreover, Paul specifically says in the verse immediately prior to the discussion of the last trump that he is referring to a mystery (1Cor 15:51).  

 

Third, for those who believe in a literal interpretation of the scriptures, it cannot be ignored that a "trump" is not the same thing as a "trumpet."  The difference is not simply one of spelling but of meaning.  While the word "trump" can be a variant of trumpet, it can also be used in an archaic sense to refer to the blast of a trump (Compact Oxford English Dictionary).

 

It should not be overlooked that scripture uses the word "trump" only twice.  Both uses are in Paul's epistles (1Cor 15:52, 1Thess 4:16), and both contexts refer to the catching away of the body of Christ in the air, commonly called the Rapture.  Therefore, to understand how the word trump is used in 1Corinthians 15:52, a careful study of the parallel passage in 1Thessalonians 4 is helpful.

 

1Thessalonians 4:16 indicates that the Lord descends from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God.

 

For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:  (1Th 4:16)

 

When the Lord descends, he brings with him the deceased saints who were saved during the dispensation of grace.

 

For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.  (1Th 4:14)

 

In 1Thessalonians 4, Paul divides the body of Christ into two categories: (1) saints who are deceased at the time of the Rapture and (2) saints who are alive and remain.  It is clear that the first category, those saints who are dead in Christ, shall rise before the second category, those saints who are alive on the earth at the time of the Rapture.

 

For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:  (1Th 4:16)

 

After the dead in Christ are risen, then the saints who are alive are caught up together with the deceased saints in the clouds.

 

Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.  (1Th 4:17)

 

This order of events is entirely consistent with the use of the word "prevent" in 1Thess 4:15.

 

For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep.  (1Th 4:15)

 

Paul uses the word "prevent" in its original sense of meaning "to come before."  1Thessalonians 4:15 indicates that those who are alive shall not come before them which are asleep, which is consistent with the passage's indication that the dead in Christ shall rise first and then those which are alive and remain.

 

In short, 1Thessalonians 4 clearly establishes the following order of events:

 

1.      The Lord descends with the trump of God bringing with him those who sleep

2.      The dead in Christ rise first

3.      Those which are alive and remain are caught up

 

With this chronology in mind, let us review 1Corinthians 15:52: 

 

In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.  (1Cor 15:52)

 

One way to read this verse is that at the time of the last trump, three things occur: (1) the trumpet shall sound, (2) the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and (3) we shall be changed.  However, it is clear from 1Thessalonians 4 that these three events do not occur simultaneously.  The proper way to read this verse is that  it follows and confirms the exact order of events set forth in 1Thessalonians 4:

 

1Corinthians 15

1Thessalonians 4

the trumpet shall sound

The Lord descends with the trump of God

the dead shall be raised incorruptible

the dead in Christ shall rise first

we shall be changed

those which are alive and remain are caught up

 

With this understanding of the proper order, 1Corinthians 15:51-52 becomes clear:

 

Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,

In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.  (1Cor 15:52-52)

 

When Paul says "we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed," he is plainly referring to the category of saints which are alive and remain.  Since it is clear from the order of both 1Corinthians 15 and 1Thessalonians 4 that the last event to take place is the catching up of those who are alive, it naturally follows that such event would correspond with the "last trump," i.e. the last sounding of the trumpet that begins to blow when Christ descends to Rapture the body of Christ.  Thus, the last trump is simply the last sounding of the trumpet that blows when Christ returns for his church.

 

 

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