The Last Trump

adapted from PCC Prayer Meeting Exhortation on 9 Sep 2011

51 Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 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” (1 Corinthians 15:51-52).

First Corinthians is not the first letter of Paul to the Corinthians, but it was his first inspired letter to them. In chapter 5 of this letter (5:9), Paul refers to an earlier letter which he wrote to the Corinthians. This letter has not been preserved. It is not an inspired letter. First Corinthians is the first of the two inspired letters which Paul wrote to the Corinthians.

1st Corinthians was written with two main purposes in mind.

First, it was written to address some problems in the Church at Corinth that were brought to Paul’s attention by those who met with him at Ephesus. Paul spends six chapters dealing with these problems.

But from chapter 7 onwards to the end of the letter, Paul begins to deal with some questions that the leaders of the church posed to him, probably through a letter which was brought to him by three men from the church: Stephanas, Fortunatus and Achaicus (1 Cor 16:17). This section of the letter has a very distinct structure, for Paul deals with the questions that were posed to him point by point with each point beginning with the word ‘Now’: Chapter 7:1—“Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman”; Chapter 7:25—“Now concerning virgins…”; Chapter 8:1—“Now as touching things offered unto idols…”; Chapter 12:1—“Now concerning spiritual gifts…”; etc.

In this study, as part of our series on the Great and Precious Promises of God, we want to look at a promise of God which the Apostle highlights in answer to a question posed to him by the Corinthian Church. Paul deals with the question in chapter 15, where in verse 12, he asks—

“Now if Christ be preached that He rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead?” (1 Cor 15:12)

Apparently, there were some in the Corinthian Church who believed in the Resurrection of the Lord but doubted the Resurrection of the dead. Paul explains that the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead is intricately connected to the doctrine of the resurrection of Christ. For this reason, if the dead rise not, Christ did not rise and Christianity is a hoax. Then he explains how the resurrection is part of the redemptive plan of God that centres on the Lord Jesus Christ. But finally, after a thoroughly convincing dissertation on why there will be a resurrection, Paul, filled with confidence and triumph in his heart, exclaims:

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

We have already considered these words of promise briefly when we studied the promise of the General Resurrection in the book of Daniel. But now the Lord helping us, we want to spend a little more time to meditate on what is promised. Our text lends itself to three questions: (1) When will the Resurrection occur? (2) What will happen on Resurrection Day? (3) What is the significance of the Resurrection Day?


1. When will the Resurrection Occur?

Paul says:

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.

When will the resurrection occur? It will occur ‘at the last trump’. What is the last trump? Well, there is no other reference to the last trump in the Scriptures except in Revelation 11:15ff in the vision of the trumpet judgement. It is unlikely that Revelation was already written at the time that Paul wrote 1 Corinthians in around A.D. 55.

However, it can hardly be doubted that Paul’s last trump corresponds to the 7th trumpet in John’s vision.

The last trump will be sounded on the Last Day, even the last day of the present period of redemption. It does not refer to a day of the secret rapture as some claim. In the language of Scripture, the Last Days refers to the days between the incarnation of Christ and His second coming; but the Last Day refers to the day of His coming again victorious as Judge and King.

Elsewhere in 1 Thessalonians 4:16, Paul says—

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…

This last trump will signal the Day of the Resurrection of the dead. It will also be a day of judgement by the Lord who shall return as Triumphant King on that day.

In the vision of John in revelation 11, when the 7th angel sounded, the multitude cried: “The kingdoms of this world is become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of His Christ; and He shall reign for ever and ever” (Rev 11:15).

Christ, in other words, will be revealed, on that day, as the King of kings and Lord of lords, and every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord.

This day will not mark the beginning of a thousand years of peace on earth as taught by the premillennialists. The language of Scripture suggests, rather, that sin and rebellion will completely be eradicated on that day and Christ will reign forever and ever.

There will not be a revolt after 1000 years. There will be no embarrassment to Christ that His subjects were unhappy with His reign and could be persuaded to try to overthrow His kingdom by the wicked one.

No, no! Christ is the Perfect King. With Christ on the throne, there will be no unwilling or grudging obedience. There will only be love, reverence and gratitude. Sin, suffering and death would be completely eradicated. All His subjects in that day would have been resurrected or translated so that they would serve Christ perfectly.

This day, the day of the Last Trump would the last day of the fallen world as we know it today. It would mark the beginning of glorious eternity.

When would this day be? We do not know. The Scripture no where reveals when this day would be. The Lord Himself has said: “But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but My Father only” (Mt 24:36).

All we are told is that this day is coming, and we must be prepared for it. When the Scripture tells us that He would come as a thief in the night, it is not to say that He will come secretly, but that He would come at an unexpected time. His return would not be announced ahead of time.

Like the five wise virgins, we must be prepared at any time to meet our Lord. We must not be as the foolish virgins who were looking forward to seeing the groom but were totally unprepared.

We must be prepared for that last trump and the day of the resurrection by faithfully living for Christ today.

But now…


2. What Will Happen On Resurrection Day?

Paul highlights three things in our text.

First of all, the trumpet shall sound (v. 52). Now, those believe in the secret rapture will say that this trumpet is not literal or that it would only be heard by believers.

Well, I don’t know whether the trumpet will be literal, but the way that the Apostle Paul writes about it suggests that it will be a signal that is heard by all. This is why he does not only refer to the last trump, but he says specifically that the trumpet shall sound.

I believe it would be a great noise that all the world will know distinctly that this is the day of resurrection and judgement.

As the trumpets sounded at the giving of the 10 Commandments on Mount Sinai, so now the trumpet would sound as men, women and children would be summoned to be judged against God’s Law.

But more than that, the trumpet will be as it were, a signal for the elect of Christ to gather unto Him:

The Lord says in Matthew 24:31—

And He shall send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.

It is not a secret signal, but a great sound. For “for the trumpet shall sound” says the Apostle Paul. Whether or not a literal trumpet will sound, it appears to me that it will be an event known to all.

But secondly, upon the sounding of the trumpet, the dead in Christ shall be raised. They would be raised with an incorruptible body.

Elsewhere in the Scripture we are taught that unbelievers would also be raised, but they would be raised with a corruptible body fitted for eternal punishment. Paul does not mention the resurrection of unbelievers in this passage because his emphasis is on the death and resurrection of those who are in Christ.

But now the third thing that happens on this day of the last trump is that the living would also be transformed.

Paul had earlier spoken about how the dead must be raised with a glorious body—for the corruptible cannot inherit the incorruptible. But now the question that we would naturally ask is: What about those who are alive at the day of the resurrection?

Paul answers in verse 51—“51 Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed

While God has appointed that the natural course for believers would be to die and then be raised incorruptible at the last day, He has appointed that those who are alive when Christ comes would not need to go through death. In an instant, in the twinkling of the eye, their natural body will be transformed into a resurrection body. Corruption will be replaced by incorruption; mortality will be replaced by immortality.

Here then are the three things that Paul highlights in our text: The trump will sound; the dead in Christ will be resurrected; and those who are alive in Christ will also be transformed.

What a great and glorious day that will be! All the promises of God will find their complete fulfilment on this day.

But…


3. What is the Significance of Resurrection Day?

Paul says:

54 So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. 55 O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?  56  The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

This day of resurrection, in other words, will be the day of the death of death.

On this day, the prophecy of Isaiah that death will be swallowed up in victory will be fulfilled. This day “the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from off all faces; and the rebuke of his people shall he take away from off all the earth” says Isaiah (Isaiah 25:8).

Likewise on this day, the prophecy of Hosea would be fulfilled and death would lose its sting completely:

55 O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?56  The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Death is painful because of sin; and sin is destructive because it is a breaking of the law. But thanks be to God, Christ died to pay for our sin, and He gives us victory over indwelling sin by the Spirit working in us.

Well, by the appointment of God, we do not have full victory over sin in this life. And death serves to remind us that we are sinners.

But the day is coming when death will be completely eradicated. This is the day of the resurrection. This is the day when the trumpet shall sound.

From that day onwards, sin shall no more trouble the children of God—whether it is their own sin or the sin of others. Sin shall no more separate between us and God and so hinder our communion with God.

From that day onwards, death shall no more trouble the children of God—whether it is their own death or the death of loved ones. Death shall no more separate us and our loved-ones and hence hinder our communion with one another.

Sin and death will be completely eradicated! We shall have complete victory over sin and death. “Thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.


Conclusion

Well, what shall we say to these things? The Apostle Paul gives us an inspired application:

58 Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.

I don’t know about you, but I can fully appreciate what the Apostle is saying. The work of the Lord is often unrewarding. If you have a job or a business, and you work hard, you will get paid for your labor. In Christian work, you will generally not get paid, unless you are supported by the church. And not only do you not get paid, but you will often get the sense that your labors are not appreciated. Under such circumstances, it is easy for us to feel that our labors are in vain. And if this feeling keeps haunting us, how can we ever serve with joy? How can we be a positive witness for Christ?

It is no wonder then, that at the end of his glorious treatment on the hope of the resurrection, the Apostle Paul reverts to a simple application to encourage to labor on. Our labors are not in vain! Christ will return. We will be raised from the dead. Our labors will be recognised by the Lord.

The Lord Jesus has said:

“And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be” (Rv 22:12).

Therefore, your labor is not in vain in the Lord. Therefore serve Him gratefully and cheerfully, beloved brethren and children.

The day of the Lord is coming. Let us think about the day often that we may watch and be prepared for it. If the day does not come in our lifetime, we will still need to meet our Savior. It would be foolish to look forward to the Second Coming but not be prepared to meet Second Comer. We must be prepared not only by the faithful use of the means of grace, but also by faithfully walking with the Lord, and faithfully using the talents that the Lord has given us to serve Him. Amen.