This argument is used both by mid-tribbers and post-tribbers (both those who believe the rapture is in the middle of and at the end of the tribulation). The idea is that the "last trump" of 1 Corinthians 15:52 must be identical to the seventh of the seven trumpets in Revelation 11:15. First, we will look at several reasons why these two trumpets cannot be the same and then we will look at the significance of the phrase, last trump, as used in 1 Corinthians.
Here are some differences between the two trumpets.
- The trumpet of the church age is called the "trump of God" (1 Thessalonians 4:16). The trumpet of Revelation is the trumpet of the seventh angel (Revelation 11:15).
- The trumpet of the church age is singular. There is no mention of a series of trumpets. The trumpet of Revelation is the seventh of seven. The phrase, last trump, has a different significance as we will see later.
- In 1 Thessalonians 4, the trumpets calls the dead to life. The seventh trumpet of Revelation occurs after a resurrection occurs (Revelation 11:12).
- The trumpet of the church age comes as a blessing. The trumpet of Revelation comes with judgment and is called the third woe (Revelation 11:14).
- The trump of the church age sounds in "a moment, in the twinkling of an eye" (1 Corinthians 15:52). The seventh trumpet of Revelation sounds for "days" (Revelation 10:7).
Simply put, there is no real connection between the "last trump" and the seventh trumpet. Another factor comes in the writing of the two books: 1 Corinthians and Revelation. 1 Corinthians is generally dated around 59AD and Revelation is commonly dated about 96AD. That means that the writing of these two books was separated by about 37 years. The seventh trumpet was not in the context of what Paul was saying in 1 Corinthians 15 or in 1 Thessalonians 4. It had not yet been revealed. However, the "last trump" must have had some sort of significance to the Christians to whom Paul spoke.
So, why did Paul refer to the calling up of the New Testament saints at the rapture as the last trump? The logical context for this phrase is to be found in the Old Testament. If there was something there that could relate to the idea of a last trump, then that would make sense to the people of the time. Paul was not referring to a revelation that would not be given until most of the people to whom he was writing would be dead. He was referring to a picture they had ready-made in the Old Testament text. Let us see what we can find there.
In Numbers 10:1-10, the Lord gives Moses the laws concerning the use of trumpets. They were used to call the assembly together, to announce the time to begin their journeying, to go to war, and other various purposes. Numbers 10:5-6 tell of the use of the trumpets to command the Israelites to go forward when they were to take their journeys in the wilderness. These verses mention that the camps on the east side go first and the camps on the south side go second. The other camps are not mentioned here, but they are mentioned in Numbers, chapter two.
In Numbers two, all of the tribes of Israel are placed around the tabernacle in four camps. The order given is east first, south second, Levites and the tabernacle third, west fourth, and north last. As you can see, the first camps of Numbers two match the two camps mentioned in Numbers 10:5-6. The Numbers 10:5-6 passage is obviously an abbreviation for the calling of all the camps to go forward. Although the phrase, last trump, is not mentioned Numbers, the trumpet that sounded to call the last camp (the north camp) to go forward would be the last trump. That would be when everyone in the camp was called to go.
You can see how this picture would be so powerful to the early believers. The last trump indicated that the entire congregation was now on the move. That is the picture that Paul is using in 1 Corinthians 15:52; not a revelation that would not be given for almost 40 years. Just as the last trumpet call in the wilderness meant that the entire congregation was on the move, so the last trump at the time of the rapture will indicate that the entire church of the redeemed is called up: both the living and the dead (1 Thessalonians 4:15-16).