WHAT DOES “AT THE LAST TRUMP” MEAN IN 1 CORINTHIANS 15:52?
by Shawn Brasseaux
Is there such an event as a “pre-Tribulation Rapture?” If so, it is asked and/or contended, then why does the Apostle Paul link the Rapture’s timing with the seventh trumpet judgment of the seven-year Tribulation? (Or, we must interject, does the Apostle really link the two events at all?) Dear friends, in this day and age of “itching ears” and multitudes of religious charlatans willing to stroke them, we need to look at the Bible passages, and allow the Holy Spirit to show us what to believe. While there are many opponents of and misconceptions about the Rapture, the issue that is under discussion in this study is the timing of the Rapture with respect to the Revelation’s trumpet judgments. Let us not take anyone’s word for it, and let us not arrive at a conclusion until we first arrive at the pertinent Bible verses!
Sometime ago, an individual replied to one of our Bible studies about the Rapture by emailing me the following:
“In a moment at the LAST Trump.. Matt24 says ‘at the end of the tribulation, so does Mark 13;’ at the end of the tribulation we shall see him coming in the clouds. Luke 21 says what? at the end of the tribulation he shall decend, Please don’t be an unprepared believer. But guess what, it gets worse, the anti-christ will overcome us and many will get their heads cut off! I once was a pre-trib paperback book false teacher follower. I’d like to challenge you to look at … or another website to see what they use as evidence for their stand on preparing for the post-trib rapture.”
Dear friends, I must be honest here: this man’s language is typical of the absolute theological silliness rampant in so many Christian circles. I have never, ever read a single “paperback book” about the Rapture, and I have never, ever derived my theology from novels, “Christian” bestselling authors, and the like. The only reason I have ever believed in a pre-Tribulation Rapture is because I read verses in my Bible and believed the verses. I understand why people entertain a “post-Tribulation Rapture;” they have their verses too. As the above quote demonstrates, they grab Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21, ignoring the contexts that these verses delineate Christ’s coming for Israel (“the Second Coming”). They assume that that coming of Christ in the Four Gospels is the coming of Christ that Paul wrote of in his epistles. There is no careful survey of the contexts, just Bible skimming and repeating, on their part. As the above quote also proved, one argument these people use is to claim that Paul associated the timing of the Rapture with the trumpet judgments of the book of the Revelation. In this Bible study, we will look at verses and their contexts, and see what the Bible really says. Then, we can place our faith in the words of God rather than believe the words of men.
THE THESSALONIANS, THE TRIBULATION, AND THE RAPTURE
The Bible student will find it quite fascinating that the Holy Spirit through Paul warned long ago, “But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope” (1 Thessalonians 4:13). Verses 14-18 then discuss how there is coming a day when the Lord Jesus Christ will leave heaven, come to the skies of planet Earth, quickly snatch His people (Christians) and bring them to their home in the heavens, and there they will serve Him forever. The Rapture is a glorious event that should comfort Christians (verse 18), and yet, the Holy Spirit knew that there would be people—even professing Christians—who would be totally ignorant of the Rapture, who would be so confused that they could not give a Scriptural definition of it. That was 2,000 years ago! Today, we have all sorts of “experts” and “authorities,” even within the professing church, who are denying the Rapture, robbing us of the comfort the Rapture-hope is to provide. They are conflating the Rapture with Christ’s Second Coming after the seven-year Tribulation, or claiming it is a “pre-wrath (mid-Tribulation) Rapture,” et cetera. Ignorance! Ignorance! Ignorance! Despite the Bible providing clear testimony, there are millions and millions who still wonder exactly what God would have us to believe and do. Yes, it is as if the Bible was never written at all. What a sad, sad, commentary!
The Christians in Thessalonica were greatly suffering for their stand in sound Bible doctrine (1 Thessalonians 1:6; 1 Thessalonians 2:14-16; 2 Thessalonians 1:3-7; 2 Thessalonians 3:13). Satan was determined to discourage and/or destroy these faithful saints; he wanted to silence their testimony, their stand in preaching the message of God’s grace and His Word rightly divided as the answer to true Christian living. In fact, the language of Scripture is that Satan’s policy of evil was operating so intensely in Thessalonica that some of these precious saints had already been murdered for the Gospel’s sake! (1 Thessalonians 4:13-14 is the reply to those who were wondering what happened to the souls of their deceased brethren in Christ.)
Bearing in mind their intense persecution, we understand why the Thessalonians were then misled to believe that they were suffering because they were experiencing God’s wrath, the seven-year Tribulation (2 Thessalonians 2:2ff.). The Apostle Paul wrote two epistles to them —1 and 2 Thessalonians—to remind both them and us that the Rapture will occur before the seven-year Tribulation (just as Paul had told them in person some time earlier; 2 Thessalonians 2:5). Remember, “God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 5:9). “…Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come” (1 Thessalonians 1:10). “Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him” (Romans 5:9). We in Christ will never face any of God’s wrath—hell, the lake of fire, or the seven-year Tribulation—because Jesus Christ already suffered God’s wrath on our behalf. It is that simple. The Apostle wrote to the Thessalonians to reassure them that they were not living in those horrible seven years. See, there was confusion regarding the timing of the Rapture, nearly 20 centuries ago.
Today, religionists, those who still ignore the dispensational layout of Scripture, and who still completely disregard these simple Bible truths, and who still attempt to advance their denominational traditions. They twist the Scriptures to cause us to believe that we Christians will go through some or all of the seven-year Tribulation (just like the false teachers who were bothering and confusing the saints in Thessalonica!). They combine instructions God gave one group in history with instructions God gave another group of people; they are quoting Scripture and are still leading so many astray! They grab Israel’s verses and claim, “Ours! All ours!” Friends, spiritual larceny, stealing God’s promises to other people and making those promises fit us, is certainly an unsound method of Bible handling. Beloved, we need to beware of these people. We will continue to allow the Scriptures to demonstrate that the mid-Tribulation or post-Tribulation Rapture belief they want us to adopt is greatly flawed.
THE TRUMPET JUDGMENTS OF THE REVELATION
The judgments of the seven-year Tribulation are three groups of seven—the “seals” (Revelation 6:1–8:5), the “trumpets” (Revelation 8:6–11:19), and the “vials” (Revelation 16:1-21). We read the Apostle John’s words in Revelation 8:2: “And I saw the seven angels which stood before God; and to them were given seven trumpets.” The last of these trumpets—the so-called “seventh trumpet”—is sometimes assumed to be associated with the Rapture. We want to now focus on that last trumpet judgment.
The last of the trumpet judgments is meted out in Revelation chapter 11: “ And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever.  And the four and twenty elders, which sat before God on their seats, fell upon their faces, and worshipped God,  Saying, We give thee thanks, O Lord God Almighty, which art, and wast, and art to come; because thou hast taken to thee thy great power, and hast reigned.  And the nations were angry, and thy wrath is come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that thou shouldest give reward unto thy servants the prophets, and to the saints, and them that fear thy name, small and great; and shouldest destroy them which destroy the earth.  And the temple of God was opened in heaven, and there was seen in his temple the ark of his testament: and there were lightnings, and voices, and thunderings, and an earthquake, and great hail.”
FOUR DIFFICULTIES WITH LINKING THE “LAST TRUMP” WITH THE REVELATION’S TRUMPET JUDGMENTS
- The Bible’s language in the Revelation, when referring to the last of the trumpet judgments, is not “seventh trumpet” or “last trump” but “seventh angel” (Revelation 10:7; Revelation 11:15). It is illogical to link the term “seventh angel” (or even “seventh trumpet”) with the expression “last trump”—these terms describe a spirit-being, an instrument, and a musical sound, respectively. No one could confuse these diverse terms unless they had an agenda to promote. The Bible’s terminology should be noticed and not abused; it should not be twisted out of context to make it say something it did not say.
- There is nothing in 1 Corinthians 15:52 about a “last trumpet” (musical instrument); the language is “last trump” (the sound of the musical instrument). In fact, there is one trumpet—“the trumpet”—in 1 Corinthians 15:52 making at least two sounds; Revelation involves seven trumpets making seven different sounds in succession at various To combine 1 Corinthians 15:52 with the Revelation is to fabricate a connection; it is to see a relationship that the Holy Spirit never made in His Word.
- The Apostle John would have mentioned the Rapture in Revelation, right in the context of the seventh angel sounding his trumpet (Revelation 11:15-19). He did not! In fact, Revelation 10:7 speaks of “in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he shall begin to sound”—the seventh angel’s trumpet blast is not in an instant as the trumpet sounds in 1 Corinthians 15:52. In John’s mind, he was writing about things that had no relation to the Rapture whatsoever. We can search the Scriptures in vain looking for a catching up of believers into heaven, in the time period of the trumpet judgments. The Holy Spirit through the Apostle John never made the connection, and if we want to be sound in our Bible understanding, we should not make that connection either.
- In 1 Thessalonians 4:16, which sits in the companion passage of 1 Corinthians 15:51-58, we read about “the trump of God.” At the Rapture, God is the Person blowing the trumpet, and God is causing this trumpet blast to sound. The trumpets of Revelation, as we have already seen, involve angels blowing trumpets. There are no angels blowing trumpets during the catching up of the Church the Body of Christ. Only one angel, an archangel, is mentioned in reference to the Rapture, and this archangel is speaking, not blowing a trumpet (1 Thessalonians 4:16).
SO, WHAT DOES “AT THE LAST TRUMP” REALLY MEAN?
With all of the foregoing verses and comments now under consideration, we understand that “at the last trump” is unrelated to the trumpet judgments of the book of the Revelation. Let us closely examine the passage of the Bible term in question. Dear friends, note how the context will define the phraseology for us.
We read in 1 Corinthians 15:51-58: “ 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.  For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.  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.  O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?  The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law.  But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.  Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.”
Note how the Apostle Paul wrote that he was writing about a “mystery” (verse 51). It was not an event in Israel’s prophetic program. It was a “mystery,” something kept secret until Jesus Christ first revealed it to the Apostle Paul (cf. Romans 16:25-26; Ephesians 3:1-5; Colossians 1:25-27). No apostles or prophets prior to Paul wrote about what he proceeded to discuss in the above passage. This is more proof that this coming of the Lord Jesus Christ was not His Second Coming in wrath to conclude the seven-year Tribulation, for, years or centuries before Paul was even converted, the Old Testament prophets, and even Jesus in His earthly ministry, spoke of His Second Coming (Job 19:25-27; Daniel 2:44; Joel 2:15-17; Zechariah 4:1-4; Matthew 24:27-31; Mark 13:26-37; Luke 21:27-36; Jude 14-15; et al.). The coming of Christ in 1 Corinthians 15:51ff. was a special coming, one kept secret until Paul learned it from the resurrected, ascended, and glorified Jesus Christ, and then wrote about it in 1 Corinthians and 1 Thessalonians.
When 1 Corinthians 15:52 says, “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,” this is talking about a very quick event. The word “trump” is the blast (sound) that a trumpet makes, and the expression “the last trump” indicates there are at least two blasts, or two sounds, of the trumpet. If we are mindful of the context, we understand why two blasts are necessary. There are two groups of people being resurrected—deceased Christians first, and living Christians afterward. In other words, one trumpet blast is to resurrect deceased Christians and another trumpet blast is to transform living Christians.
You should especially note how the term “last trump” is linked not to the entire event of the Rapture (as the mid- or post-Tribulation-Rapture people assume), but is limited to the transformation of the living Christians. “ We shall not all sleep [die physically], but we shall all be changed [transformed],  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 are living Christians given new glorified bodies at the Rapture? “At the last trump.” This means that deceased Christians are resurrected just prior, or, by extrapolation, “at the first trump.” Again, there is nothing in the passage about “seventh trumpet, “last trumpet,” or “seventh angel.” We do not read about trumpets (plural), but “the trumpet” (verse 52)—there is one trumpet, not seven! Noting what is not present in a verse or passage is just as important as noting what is present.
Beloved, we need to be very candid. There is such ignorance—oh, such a shame, such ignorance!!!—about the Rapture of the Body of Christ, the catching up of the Church of this Dispensation, when Jesus Christ returns to remove His Body from this planet. It is especially pitiful that people who do not study or believe the Bible quite regularly appear to be Bible authorities (and are heralded as such by people equally destitute of Bible understanding). When people confuse the term “at the last trump” with the so-called “seventh trumpet” judgment of the seven-year Tribulation, there is bound to be confusion and heartache. However, when we just look at the Bible and read it, we can rejoice in its simple truths and throw away everything else!
Today, Father God is currently forming the Church the Body of Christ by the Gospel of the Grace of God. When no one else wants to rely exclusively on the Lord Jesus Christ’s dying for our sins, shedding His sinless blood, His burial to put away our sins, and His resurrection to give us a right standing before God (1 Corinthians 15:3-4; cf. Romans 4:24-25); God will conclude our Dispensation of Grace and return to Israel’s program, resuming it where He paused it nearly 20 centuries ago. When the Church the Body of Christ is caught up into heaven, there will be one trumpet emitting at least two sounds; one sound to call the deceased Christians to life in new bodies, and the other blast to transform and assemble the living Christians in new bodies, so they can all be brought up into heaven with Jesus Christ. In contrast, the book of the Revelation involves seven angels and seven trumpets, and they involve God’s wrath on sinful mankind, particularly the nation Israel. The Rapture involves God causing a trumpet sound; angels are blowing trumpets and causing some of the judgments described in the Revelation. No thoughtful Bible student could ever honestly conclude that the language of 1 Corinthians 15:52 is even remotely connected to the events of the seven-year Tribulation. The terms are different and should not be confused, or we will become confused.
To cause the Church the Body of Christ to endure most or all of the seven-year Tribulation is to completely ignore the dispensational nature of the Bible. It is to completely confuse the purpose of the seven-year Tribulation with what God is currently operating today in our Dispensation of Grace. It is to confuse the nation Israel with the Church the Body of Christ. It is to muddle up and obscure the simple Bible truths associated with the glorious catching up of the Church the Body of Christ. It is to “wrest the Scriptures” (2 Peter 3:15-16), to destroy the simplicity and clarity of the Holy Bible. May we guard against such Bible mishandling, and may we rejoice in God’s pure Word!
» Why should I believe in a pre-Tribulation Rapture? (LINK TEMPORARILY UNAVAILABLE)
» Are the Rapture of the Church and the Second Coming of Christ the same event? (LINK TEMPORARILY UNAVAILABLE)
» What is the purpose of the seven-year Tribulation? (LINK TEMPORARILY UNAVAILABLE)