The Trumpet Eschatē
Before we move on to the sounding of the seventh trumpet, it would be good to consider some questions concerning the seven seals and the seven trumpets and the horrific events that they unleash upon the earth. It is my opinion that those Christians who are still living on the earth at the inception of the series of the seals and the trumpets will not be rescued out of the earth before the devastations begin.
We earlier read that the Apostle Paul, in writing of the last days, spoke of the sounding of “the last trumpet,” when, he said “the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed” (1 Corinthians 15:52). Jesus also spoke of a “great trumpet” when his angels “will gather His elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other” (Matthew 24:31).
If the trumpet to which Jesus referred is the same as the one Paul spoke of when he talked about the catching up of the believers (which I believe to be the case), it seems that up until this time there has been no secret and silent rapture of Christians. That rapture is to come at the “last,” or the seventh trumpet.
I think that it is a mistake to place what Paul calls “the last trumpet” (1 Corinthians 15:51-53) at any time period or at any point before this seventh trumpet, and by that also saying that the living Christians of the earth will be called up to heaven before the devastations occur on the earth in the first half of the period of the tribulation period. In assuming this, one could not really call any earlier trumpet the “last” trumpet.
As I previously mentioned, these trumpets of Revelation are the only ones in Scripture to which Paul could possibly be referring. In addition to this, the fact that these trumpets are in a series of seven and that it would be the seventh one that would logically be called “the last” gives credence to this opinion. This seems to be especially true since the word that Paul used for “last” (eschatos), has the sense of the last of a contiguous series.
It is true that we have pointed out that the book of Revelation is not completely sequential in its structure and that the narrative sometimes returns to an event already passed, reviewing it in another vision and from another perspective. Nevertheless, with the breaking of the seals, the sounding of the trumpets, and later with the seven bowls of wrath, the accounts are written as if they were occurring in chronological sequences.
John uses words that show order and progression: when one trumpet sounded, “then” the next sounded, “after this I saw,” or “after these things.” Also, the mere numbering of the seals, trumpets and bowls indicates succession. Consequently, to return to the question of the last trumpet of Revelation (the seventh), it would also seem that Christians would still be present on the earth up to the time of its sounding.
If the seventh trumpet is the same trumpet of which Jesus and Paul spoke (which I believe to be true), then we must conclude that this is the time in which the angels will gather together the elect from the four winds and when the dead in Christ will be raised. This is also the point when the living believers are caught up into the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, as Paul had written to the Thessalonians (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17).
If this is not this same last trumpet, if there is yet another after this one, we have nothing revealed to us about it. To the extent of what has been written in the Scriptures, this seventh trumpet of Revelation is the last trumpet.
The Witnesses in the Time of the Nations
The “third woe” is the same as the seventh trumpet. We will read about this momentarily, but we should understand at this point that the third woe and the seventh trumpet occur accompanied by an earthquake and after the two witnesses ascend into heaven.
I have mentioned that the two witnesses are given 1,260 days, in which to prophesy. Using the thirty-day month (which is called the prophetic month), this works out to forty-two months. This is the same as three and one-half years and is sometimes worded that way. This means that the two witnesses must have had their time of ministry in the first portion of the tribulation and probably entirely in the first half of the seven-year tribulation.
We are not told if the forty-two months that the holy city will be tread underfoot by the nations, which was foretold in the measuring of the outer court of the temple, coincides with the forty-two months of protection given to the two witnesses. However, I think that they likely do coincide. Also, as I have just mentioned, these events are all probably entirely within the first half of the seven-year tribulation.
This is the same period in which the Christians are suffering persecution. We shall see in the next vision given to John that there are some things that would suggest that the chronology of the events places the moment of the conclusion of this forty-two month period right at the midpoint of the tribulation. These forty-two months are also the same period of authority given to the antichrist that I mentioned earlier, and which we will again see shortly in the vision of The Woman, the Child, and the Dragon.
As we remember, the followers of Christ will have suffered greatly in the first part of the tribulation because of persecution against the Christians. Most will have been killed because of their identification with Jesus Christ. This was before any received the “seal of God” on their foreheads to protect them (Revelation 7:3). Those who eventually did receive the seal of God, (the 144,000), may have only been given this protection for the last five months or so of this first half of the tribulation, or at least this time of protection is sometime between the breaking of the sixth and the seventh seal.
However, as I also have mentioned, the two witnesses received the protection of God during this entire, three and one-half-year period, even when many others were suffering great persecution. This fact, I think, will have been a great encouragement to the Christians of that time when they see that God is still in power, despite all the horrendous events taking place around them. Of course, they are also witnesses to the grace of God. Even in this time of horrendous events happening throughout the world, God continues to provide the means for any who would seek Him to find answers.
The Seventh Trumpet
The seventh trumpet is about to sound. But even though the strong angel said there would be no more delay, I am going to ask your indulgence to wait a bit longer. Before we learn what is told of this trumpet in the book of Revelation, perhaps it would be good to look again at what Jesus said about this trumpet, to which he was referring:
But immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken, and then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory.
And He will send forth His angels with a great trumpet and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other. (Matthew 24:29- 31 NAS)
Jesus spoke of these things occurring “immediately after the tribulation of those days.” As I mentioned some Sundays ago when I spoke of the Olivet Discourse, this period of tribulation is referring to the portion of the tribulation through which the Christians of that coming day themselves will endure.
However, it was not the people of that coming day to whom Jesus was speaking when he said these things. He was speaking to his disciples on the Mount of Olives. He was speaking to his followers who were living in the first century.
As Jesus was telling them this, he knew that it would not be these same individuals (his listeners of that day), who would experience these prophesied events. Rather, it would be his future followers who would be alive at the time when these things would actually take place.
But the disciples on the Mount of Olives that day did not know this. For all that the disciples knew, these words and this preparation were for them, personally. We should take it in the same way, for neither do we know when these events will begin to take place.
The fulfillment of the first part of this prophecy spoken by Jesus (where he mentioned events in the sun, moon, and stars), we have already seen in the book of Revelation by both the breaking of the seals and the sounding of the trumpets (although there is more to come in the pouring of the bowls of wrath). With the sounding of the fourth trumpet, we saw that “a third of the sun and a third of the moon and a third of the stars were smitten, so that a third of them might be darkened and the day might not shine for a third of it, and the night in the same way” (Revelation 8:12 NAS).
The Sounding of the Seventh Trumpet
But now, true to the word of the strong angel, there would no longer be delay. For millennia, God has sent judgment upon the nations in an attempt to demonstrate to them their need to submit themselves before the mighty and loving Creator of them all. This has been God’s intention from the beginning. Even in these final hours, we can see that it remains his intention.
After the sixth trumpet had sounded and great judgment had fallen upon mankind, we read that “they did not repent of their murders nor of their sorceries nor of their immortality nor of their thefts” (Revelation 9:21). Despite these unrepentant ones, later, after another great earthquake that killed seven-thousand people, there were some who “were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven” (Revelation 11:13).
This was the earthquake that was associated with the ascension of the two witnesses. If this indicates that after the earthquake and after seeing the witnesses ascend into heaven, some of the people of the earth finally submitted to God, they indeed were saved by the skin of their teeth. Alas, despite all the horror that they had already seen, John writes that even greater trials are about to come upon the earth.
Actually, there are several events that take place around the time of this earthquake. Along with the seven-thousand deaths, a tenth of the city of Jerusalem falls, which may be the cause of the deaths. Also, it is at the time of this earthquake that we hear of the long-awaited sounding of the seventh trumpet. It is not clear if the trumpet sounds right at the time of the earthquake, or if it immediately follows it. Possibly, the trumpet actually sounds immediately before to announce not only this earthquake, but also the many events that will happen.
This is the trumpet of which Paul writes when he says that “the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed” (1 Corinthians 15:52). Here we also see that “the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God” (1 Thessalonians 4:16).
In this last writing of Paul, he also speaks of the dead in Christ who will first rise out of their graves, and of the believers who are still alive and present on the earth, being caught up to together with those who had just risen from the graves, all to meet the Lord in the air.
This is not the return of Christ to the earth to set up his rule upon the earth. As we see from our verse in Thessalonians, the Lord does descend, but not all the way to the surface of the earth. Instead, it is the believers who rise up to meet him.
For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 ESV)
The actual return of Christ to the earth will come at a later time. We shall look at those events as we progress in our study. For now, we see that as the seventh trumpet sounds, we see the reaction of both “the tribes of the earth” (the nations) and the “elect” (the servants, prophets, saints, and those who reverence God).
The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, which said: “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign for ever and ever.”
And the twenty-four elders, who were seated on their thrones before God, fell on their faces and worshipped God, saying: “We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty, the One who is and who was, because you have taken your great power and have begun to reign.”
The nations were angry; and your wrath has come. The time has come for judging the dead and for rewarding your servants the prophets and your saints and those who reverence your name, both small and great—and for destroying those who destroy the earth. (Revelation 11:15-18 NIV)
The Opening of the Temple of God
At this point, John says, “the temple of God which is in heaven was opened” (Revelation 11:19). At the opening of the temple, the Ark of the Covenant was seen within the temple.
The Ark of the Covenant, as we know it in the Old Testament, was a chest made of acacia wood and laminated with gold. The lid of the ark was of pure gold with two figures of cherubim. Cherubim are winged, angelic beings, and are often seen in association with the worship of God. This golden lid with the cherubim was called the “mercy seat.”
It was from this mercy seat that God told Moses, “There I will meet with you, and from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim that are on the ark of the testimony, I will speak with you about all that I will give you in commandment for the people Israel” (Exodus 25:22 ESV).
It is because of this that the ancient Israelites looked upon the mercy seat as the dwelling place of God. The Ark of the Covenant was the only piece of furniture that was located in the most holy place in the temple. It was behind the veil that separated the rest of the temple from the holy of holies.
At the appearance of the ark, great powers in the atmosphere were unleashed. There, the scene became extremely active with flashes of lightning, rumblings and peals of thunder, an earthquake, and a great hailstorm.
As we can see, the events surrounding the sounding of the seventh and final trumpet are many, and each one is extremely remarkable. It is perhaps because of all these things happening concurrently or in very quick succession that, despite all that God had demonstrated earlier in the tribulation, there are some who finally at this point, “give glory to the God of heaven” (Revelation 11:13).
Satan’s Time of Liberty Comes to an End
At the blowing of the seventh trumpet, loud voices in heaven declare that, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ and He will reign forever and ever” (Revelation 11:15 NAS). We also again hear of the twenty-four elders, who worship God by saying, “You have taken Your great power and have begun to reign” (Revelation 11:17 NAS).
The wording of this, saying that God has begun to reign, might seem to indicate that our present age will have come to an end at the blowing of the trumpet, and Christ will have begun to set up his earthly reign in the millennium. This way of putting it would seem to place the seventh trumpet at or near the end of the seven years.
But this is merely an indication that with the blowing of the seventh trumpet, Satan’s time of dominance on the earth will have come to an end. All that occurs in the second three and one-half years of the tribulation period is under the control of God. Certainly we will see that Satan is still active and inflicts great terror in the second half of the seven years, but he is in his dying throes.
The authority given to Satan to tread the holy city underfoot, along with the authority given to the beast (which we shall see in the next vision), will have ended at this point. From the blowing of the seventh trumpet and on, the time of God’s wrath will have come. This will be in the second half of the tribulation period.
Subsequent to the blowing of the seventh trumpet are the pouring out of “the seven bowls of God’s wrath.” These were shown to John in yet another vision, one that we shall look at when we study the sixteenth chapter of Revelation.
When we do make that study, we will see that when John was given the vision of the seven bowls, he first reports that he saw that “the temple of the tabernacle of testimony in heaven was opened” (Revelation 15:5). This event seems to place the beginning of the seven bowls of wrath somewhat at this same time as the blowing of the seventh trumpet when John says that with the seventh trumpet, “the temple of God which is in heaven is opened” (Revelation 11:19).
Comparisons with the Plagues of Egypt
Although I believe that the Scriptures seem to indicate that it is during the first half of the tribulation that many Christians will suffer a great deal from the persecutions of Satan and the world, and many (I believe most) will be martyred, this will not be true of every last Christian throughout the entire period.
In our study of the breaking of the seven seals that had sealed shut the book given to the Lamb of God to open, we saw that the sixth seal was different from the previous five in one major regard. The great devastations unleashed on the earth from the first five seals, including the four horsemen of the apocalypse, were brought about by the fact that Satan had been allowed by God to act. But the sixth seal was different. With the sixth seal, the people of the earth realized that a power greater than Satan was at work. These judgments will be brought on by the wrath that comes from God Himself.
The men of that day will try to hide in the caves of the mountains and call to the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of the One seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb. For the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to withstand it?” (Revelation 6:16-17).
I also have previously mentioned that the reading of all of these judgments is some ways reminiscent of the plagues brought upon Egypt during the days of Moses. At that time, the Egyptian plagues caused just as great a devastation on a local level as do the disasters of Revelation on a worldwide scale. But, I also noted that the devastation at that time in Egypt was not indiscriminate. While the Egyptians suffered from swarms of insects, the death of their livestock, a deadly hailstorm, thick darkness that could not be penetrated by light, and the death of their firstborn children, God protected the Israelites from these plagues (Exodus 8:22; 9:6, 26; 10:23; 11:7).
In like manner, we see the “seal of God” being a protection for many of the Christians in the tribulation, namely for the 144,000. However, despite the protection afforded to this number, we also saw that in the earlier part of this period there already have been many martyrs. These deaths occurred before the time that God sealed the 144,000 to protect them from harm.
It is important to note that the deaths of the Christians killed before this time cannot be attributed directly to the judgment of God, since these were Christians who were persecuted by the antichrist—not by God. Their deaths would not be the result of the wrath of God, for as Paul wrote, “God has not appointed us to suffer wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 5.9).
Again, referring to the Israelites during the time of Moses, although they had been protected from the plagues sent by God, they were not protected from the persecutions of Pharaoh. This was because, as God had told Abraham long before, the Israelites were to be “enslaved and oppressed” by Pharaoh.
For reasons that we do not completely understand, God permitted this to happen. In much the same way, the Christians as the people of God in the last days will also suffer at the hands of the evil forces in the initial stages of the seven-year tribulation. We might venture to guess some reasons why God might do this, but I did also bring up the example of Job, the righteous man of the Old Testament whom God allowed to be severely tested by Satan. In similar manner, allowing this experience in the last days to act as a purification of God’s church may seem a likely motivation, but in fact, we do not know the full reason.
All that we can say with certainty is that it will be permitted by God. However, when the greater devastation and judgment is about to happen, God does not allow it until his people have been sealed. With their sealing, they are protected by God as the Israelites also were in the land of Egypt.
Up to this Point
The last of the seven trumpets finally has sounded. From the wording of what is told to us about this event, in many ways it seems as if it is indeed the culminating episode of the present earth. However, as we had to wait for the sounding of this last trumpet until other events took place, so we shall have to wait again. When the loud voices from heaven and the twenty-four elders declare that God has begun to reign, we must recognize that there are still many events that will follow.
However, in another sense, what they say is the reality. It is similar to the experience of Jesus when he breathed his last on the cross and sighed, “It is finished” (John 19:30). He did not mean that there was nothing more that was to happen in establishing his kingdom. We ourselves are the witnesses to the truth that the reality of the finished work on the cross is still being played out in terms of time. While the fact of the work is accomplished, we are still witnessing the chronology of the events that must happen.
With the seventh trumpet, the nations may be enraged, as the passage tells us, but the time has come for their judgment and destruction. And for the bond-servants, the prophets and saints, and all that fear God—the trumpet announces their time to receive their reward. The temple of God, which is in heaven, is opened, and there the Ark of the Covenant appears.
I shall proceed with this assumption. With all of these fulfillments of the words of Jesus and of Paul, it seems as if this present age passes with the seventh trumpet. Nevertheless, the visions of John do not end here. At this point, we will enter into a whole new series of events. The events into which we will next look however, do not follow the seventh trumpet chronologically. We will begin to look at that next week—The Second Vision of the Last Days, or, The Vision of the Woman, the Child, and the Dragon.
Training in Righteousness
We have worked our way through the opening of the seven seals of the book that only the Lamb of God was authorized to open. We saw the devastations that the breaking of each seal brought upon the earth. We have also heard the sounds of the seven trumpets and learned of the great destruction of the things of the earth and of the heavens—things which we have always considered unshakable.
In the words of the Apostle Peter, “The heavens will disappear with a roar, the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and its works will be laid bare” (2 Peter 3:10 BSB).
We have also learned that except for the very last of these testings and judgments, the Christians who are still alive on the earth will be present during those times.
How are we to react to this reality? If those events should actually begin to happen, are you prepared spiritually to endure the fury of Satan as he is given freedom to act on the earth?
Paul writes of the times leading up to the events that we have studied: “But understand this,” he says. “In the last days terrible times will come. For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, without love of good, traitorous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. Turn away from such as these!” (2 Timothy 3:1-5 BSB)
When we read of the great persecutions of those future days, we must ask ourselves how are we to prepare for times such as these. If these days should come upon us, how will we endure?
If we think that today we can live our lives in any manner that we choose by befriending the ways of the world and letting the culture of the world decide what our values should be, but then suddenly change but then when the times of testing come, we are lying to ourselves. If we think that we will suddenly be strong in our faith and our belief in God when the persecution begins, we been deceived.
Spiritual preparation in some ways is no different than physical preparation. No serious athlete sits on his couch all day, eating potato chips and drinking beer and watching sports on TV. He or she knows that if they are to compete in their sport, it takes discipline and it takes training. They cannot live a life of self-indulgence and then expect to run a marathon or complete in an iron man competition.
One of the worst of the damages our current pandemic has brought to us is not in our physical health, but in our spiritual health. Many Christians have become just like that potato-chip-eating-beer-drinking athlete, except in reference to their spiritual lives. They sit in their pajamas at home on Sunday mornings and watch their TV preachers and they think that they are being strengthened spiritually.
Spiritual training is much more than that. Both Paul and Peter write of this.
Paul says, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for instruction, for conviction, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, fully equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17 BSB).
Peter writes, “Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to conduct yourselves in holiness and godliness as you anticipate and hasten the coming of the day of God, when the heavens will be destroyed by fire and the elements will melt in the heat” (2 Peter 3:11-12 BSB).
So it is for each of us. If we cannot live this sort of life in the comfort of our own day, we cannot expect that we will be strong when God allows Satan to test our faith. As the prophet Jeremiah put it, “If you have raced with men on foot and they have worn you out, how can you compete with horses?” (Jeremiah 12:5 BSB)
“The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber…Let us lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Instead, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the desires of the flesh” (Romans 13:11-14 BSB).
“But in keeping with God’s promise, we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells” (2 Peter 3:13 BSB).