Risen from the Dust
There is no issue regarding the Resurrection of the Dead that is more confused and confounded by false teachings than its timing. Almost anything that could be said about it, has been said. Part of the difficulty stems from the fact that we can only know the timing of the resurrection relative to other prophetical events in scripture, and there are many different ideas and opinions about when those events occur.
To help us along in this matter, Paul emphatically states in 2nd Timothy, "And their word will eat as doth a canker: of whom is Hymenaeus and Philetus; Who concerning the truth have erred, saying that the resurrection is past already; and overthrow the faith of some" (2nd Timothy 2.17-18 KJV bible). So at the time in which Paul was writing there were false teachers saying that the Resurrection of the Dead had come and gone. Clearly, they were confusing the different types of resurrection spoken of in the Old Testament. Paul warns of their teachings as being heretical, even capable of overthrowing the faith of some. Therefore, based on Paul's statement, we can rule out the resurrection as having happened before or during the time of his ministry.
We can also narrow down the timing of the event by understanding how it relates to three other key events; the return of Christ, the millennium, and something known as the last trumpet. Specifically, what the scriptures reveal is that the first resurrection happens at the return of Christ, which is also at the last trumpet. Then there will be a period of time known as the millennium. The word millennium itself means a span of a thousand years, and it refers to a yet future era when the faithful shall reign with Christ over the world. Only after the millennium will come the second resurrection. So both resurrections are related to the millennium, with the first coinciding with its beginning, and the second coinciding with its ending.
1st Corinthians 15.51-52 are probably the most revealing verses about the first resurrection in all of scripture, informing us on both the nature and timing of the event. In them, Paul gives us a significant clue about the timing of the first resurrection, when he connects it to something known as the last trumpet.
"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 trumpet: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed (1st Corinthians 15.51-52 KJV bible). Breaking down this passage we can better understand its context and subject. Paul says, "we shall not all sleep", meaning that while many will die in the flesh before the first resurrection takes place, some of God's elect or chosen ones will be alive on Earth when it happens. He then says, "we shall all be changed...in the twinkling of an eye", meaning that regardless of whether an individual is alive on Earth or with Christ in heaven, every elect soul will be rapidly transformed into a spiritual body (see ch.15 Resurrection of the Body). Finally, we see that the passage is giving us an important clue as to when the event will occur, "at the last trumpet: for the trumpet will sound". Thus, this changing or metamorphosis will happen at the sounding of the last trumpet.
What is the mystery of the last trumpet? The book of Revelation describes the sounding off of seven heavenly trumpets throughout the tribulation period. Each of the first six trumpets coincides with the supernatural release of plagues upon the people of the world (Revelation 8 and 9). However, the seventh, being the last one, is unique and stands apart from the rest. To understand the deeper meaning of the seventh, or last trumpet, we need to go the Old Testament, which informs us about the historical significance of trumpets within ancient Israel.
In the nation of Israel, the trumpet had several key usages. The trumpet was sounded to mark the passage of times and seasons (Psalm 81.3 and Numbers 10.10), in the veneration of important events and holidays (1st Kings 1.39 and Leviticus 23.24, 25.9), and to initiate the assembling together of God's people (Numbers 10.3 and Exodus 19.13). Perhaps above all, the trumpet was a military instrument, used both defensively and offensively, to warn of an incoming threat or attack (Numbers 10.5-9 and Ezekiel 33.3), and also to signal a rallying cry and call to arms against a particular foe (Amos 2.2, Nehemiah 4.20, and Judges 3.27). All of these uses are important clues that offer us insight into the nature of the seventh trumpet of Revelation. The seventh trumpet will signal a changing of seasons, a gathering together of God's people, and a call to arms for the legions of light.
To help us better understand the seventh trumpet of the end times, the Old Testament provides us with a prophetical precedent in the historical capturing of Jericho. In order to capture that city of depravity, God instructs Joshua, "And ye shall compass the city, all ye men of war, and go round about the city once. Thus shalt thou do six days. And seven priests shall bear before the ark seven trumpets of rams' horns: and the seventh day ye shall compass the city seven times, and the priests shall blow with the trumpets. And it shall come to pass, that when they make a long blast with the ram's horn, and when ye hear the sound of the trumpet, all the people shall shout with a great shout; and the wall of the city shall fall down flat, and the people shall ascend up every man straight before him" (Joshua 6.3-5 KJV bible).
So the army of Israel, along with seven priests bearing seven trumpets, and the ark of the covenant, marches around Jericho once a day, for six consecutive days. They sound the trumpets every day for the six day period (Joshua 6.13). On the seventh day, they march around the city not once, but seven times, and then sound the trumpets. Immediately after this, all the men of Israel let out a great shout, or war cry, and the wall of Jericho comes tumbling down. After the wall falls, it is written that everyone and everything in the city is utterly destroyed in devotion to the Lord (Joshua 6.21). The key here is seven, because it is seven priests, carrying seven trumpets, marching around the city seven times, on the seventh day, that signals the time for the wall to come down. The seventh marks the culmination and resolution of the incident, when the breach is made and all hell breaks lose. For the previous six days only signs are given, but on the seventh day, specifically at the seventh sounding, divine retribution comes to the city of Jericho.
Why does God instruct Israel to march around the city and blow trumpets for seven days? Not for effect, but rather the historical siege of Jericho serves as a prophetical precursor to the future return of Jesus Christ.
First, consider that the leader of the Israelites is named Joshua, which is the English version of the Hebrew Yeshua, which is Jesus' Hebrew name. So the two leaders have the same name. One leads the army of Israel in conquest of the promised land, and the other will lead the army of God in conquest of the entire world. At the seventh sounding of the seven trumpets, Joshua and his men let out a great shout, and the wall of Jericho comes crashing down. He and his men pour forth into the streets, routing the enemy, and laying their city waste. Similarly, at the sounding of the seventh trumpet of Revelation, the heavens will be split open, and the light of Jesus Christ will shine brightly on the entire world. He, along with the sons of God, will charge forth in order to route the enemies of the cross, and establish a reign of eternal righteousness upon the Earth.
Thus, the mystery of the seventh trumpet is that it heralds the return of Christ, when he shall exercise his authority by overthrowing the satanic strongholds of this age, and take what is rightfully his, "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" (Revelation 11.15 KJV bible). At the seventh trumpet, Christ will return to reign forever as King of kings and Lord of lords.
At the sounding of the seventh trumpet the world will enter a period of time known as the Day of the Lord, because on this day, Jesus will purge the Earth of all its wickedness and corruption. For the unbelieving multitudes who deny God and his salvation, the Day of the Lord will be a time of distress and sorrow from which they will not escape. The great seventh trumpet will be blown, and then Christ will appear to cast down their fortifications, and pour out his cup of wrath upon them, "The great day of the LORD is near, it is near, and hasteth greatly, even the voice of the day of the LORD: the mighty man shall cry there bitterly. That day is a day of wrath, a day of trouble and distress, a day of wasteness and desolation...A day of the trumpet and alarm against the fenced cities, and against the high towers. And I will bring distress upon men, that they shall walk like blind men, because they have sinned against the LORD: and their blood shall be poured out as dust, and their flesh as the dung (Zephaniah 1.14-17 KJV bible). At the seventh trumpet, Christ will pour out divine retribution upon the world, ushering in the Day of the Lord.
The people of Jericho thought they were safe and secure from the army of Israel, until their wall came crashing down. Similar devastation will come upon the people of this world when they least expect it, as a thief in the night, "For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail [labor] upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape" (1st Thessalonians 5.2-3 KJV bible). However, God's people have nothing to fear because they are not of this world, but sojourners here, and for them Christ's return will be a relief from affliction, "For after all it is only just for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to give relief to you who are afflicted and to us as well when the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus" (2nd Thessalonians 1.6-8 NASB bible). At the seventh trumpet, Christ will assemble together his people, and punish those who afflict them.
So the meaning of the seventh trumpet is that it will be a call to arms for Christ and his holy ones to execute divine retribution upon the world, and it will herald the birth of a new era, when the Earth is cleansed of all its wickedness and corruption. We can find each of these meanings within the historical destruction of Jericho, an archetypal city of humanity.
We've established the meaning and significance of the last trumpet; that it heralds the return of Christ, and by implication a changing of seasons, and the Day of the Lord. We also know from 1st Corinthians 15.52 that it signals the first resurrection of the dead, "at the last trumpet: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed" (1st Corinthians 15.51-52 KJV bible). So the seventh trumpet, the return of Christ, and the first resurrection all coincide in what will be an extraordinary hour of supernatural upheaval leading us into the millennium.
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