(1 Cor. 15:52) The last trumpet?

CLAIM: Paul writes, “In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed” (1 Cor. 15:52). Advocates of a post-tribulational rapture argue that this aligns with the last trumpet in the book of Revelation. Is this the case?

RESPONSE: Before we respond to this view, it is important to note that this is non-essential doctrine. In the end, it is relatively unimportant when the rapture will happen; it is more important that it will happen. This being said, let’s consider this question in 1 Corinthians 15:52.

The symbol of the trumpet is not only mentioned in Revelation. It is also mentioned in Jesus’ Olivet Discourse (Mt. 24:31) and in the OT (Zech. 9:14; Is. 27:13; Ex. 19:16). Therefore, we have to discern which trumpet this is referring to.

It is doubtful that Paul is referring to the last trumpet of Revelation, because the book of Revelation wasn’t even written yet. In fact, it wouldn’t be written for another 40 years. It is more likely that Paul is drawing his imagery from the OT. In the book of Numbers, the trumpet referred to “summoning the congregation” of Israel to “gather themselves” together to “set out” (Num. 10:2-5). In Ezekiel, this was also used as a “warning” to the people (Ezek. 33:1-7).

Both symbols could be in view here. The rapture will be both a time of gathering for God’s people, and it will be a warning to the nation of Israel, who remains on Earth. It is for this reason that scholar Paul Benware writes, “The trumpet of 1 Corinthians 15 is probably called ‘the last’ because it is signifying the completion of a program, namely, God’s dealings with the church on earth.”[1] For more information on the confusing and oft-debated subject of the rapture, see comments on “A Pretribulational Rapture.”

[1] Benware, Paul N. Understanding End times Prophecy: a Comprehensive Approach. Chicago: Moody, 2006. 271.