The Last Trumpet / The Last Day– #3
In our first two installments #1 #2 we have focused on the OT source of the prophecy of the end time gather at the sound of the Trumpet (Isaiah 27:13). I have shared with you that there was virtual unanimous agreement that this passage was a prediction of the final fulfillment of the Feast of Harvest / Ingathering / Sukkot. This has profound implications for our understanding of the “last day” resurrection. If it is true that Isaiah 27 foretold the last day / last hour resurrection, then since that ingathering was undeniably posited at the time of the judgment of Jerusalem, the temple and the people whom the Lord had created, this demands that all of the “resurrection at the last day” prophecies in John must be placed in that context as well.
In the last installment I demonstrated the direct parallels between Matthew 24:29-34 and 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. This means that since Matthew 24:31 is a direct citation of Isaiah 27:13, 1 Thessalonians 4, just like Matthew 24 and Isaiah 27, must be posited at the time of the first century judgment of Jerusalem and the temple.
In this installment I want to look closer at 1 Corinthians 15 and Paul’s statement that the resurrection would be at the sounding of “the last trumpet” (v. 52).
I propose that Paul’s reference here is, just like Isaiah 27, a direct allusion to the coming, imminent fulfillment of the Feast of Harvest (i.e. the Feast of Booths / Sukkot), the last of Israel’s feast days. We find allusions to those feast days earlier in 1 Corinthians 15:20: “But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.” This reference to Christ as the first fruit of the harvest is taken directly from Leviticus 23 and the discussion and description of Israel’s festal calendar. To think that Paul, immersed in Torah and the hope of Israel, was discussing the end time harvest, but that he had no reference, no thought, to the fulfillment of Israel’s typological, eschatological feast days, is surely untenable. Paul never divorced his eschatology from the hope of Israel.
Keep in mind that we have already demonstrated that Christ’s passion / resurrection, i.e. Passover-Pentecost was the fulfillment of the first four of Israel’s feast days. It is then, a miscarriage of exegesis to divorce Paul’s discourse on the resurrection from that festal context. After all, the first fruit imagery demanded the harvest. In fact, the ingathering of the first fruit actually said that the harvest had begun. And Paul alludes directly to that, “then those who are Christ’s at his coming… then comes the end.” This “end” is the time of the harvest, but, it is not, as most imagine, the end of time, or the end of the (endless) Christian age. It is the end time harvest – of the Old Covenant age (Matthew 13:39-43). It is the fulfillment of the Feast of the Harvest / Sukkot / Tabernacles.
This is actually problematic for the traditional views of eschatology. We are told that Jesus’ physical resurrection demands a physical resurrection of all people of all time. Yet, as just suggested, the gathering of the first fruit meant that the time for the resurrection had arrived! Thus, in Revelation 14, we find reference to the 144,000 saints. They are the first fruit of those redeemed from among men (14:2f). They are the first generation of Jewish believers, as the first fruit. We are immediately then told that the time of the harvest had arrived (Revelation 14:14f). It would happen at the judgment of Babylon, and the angel of God was told to proclaim, “The hour of her judgment has come” (Revelation 14:6-8). It is ludicrous, in agricultural terms or imagery, to even envision- much less suggest – the gathering of the first fruit, but then having to wait 2000 years for the harvest!
To return to the point just made, if it is true that Christ’s physical resurrection demands the physical resurrection of every human who has ever lived and died, then since the first fruit harvest demands that the harvest has begun, where are all of the dead corpses that have come out of the grave since the in-gathering of the first fruit? This is not a facetious or irrelevant question or issue. Yet, you cannot find anyone (that I am aware of) that deals with this conundrum in any substantive way. So, to reiterate, the gathering of the first fruit demands that harvest has begun. Where then, are all of the human corpses that have been raised from the dead over the last 2000 years?
It is often argued that while it is true that the first four feast days were fulfilled on time, nonetheless we are still waiting on the fulfillment of the final three. This suggestion is ironic to say the least, especially when it is made by Amillennialists and Postmillennists who eschew and condemn the Dispensational “gap doctrine.” (Mountains of documentation could be offered on this but I will note take the time or space to do so).
So, what we have is that the Amillennial and Postmillennial writers castigate the Dispensationalists for inserting (so far) 2000 years between the 69th and the 70th week of Daniel 9, but what do they then do? They insert a gap of (so far) 2000 years between the fulfillment of Pentecost and Rosh HaShanah, Yom Kippur and Sukkot! They insert a gap of 2000 years between the gathering of the first fruit and the harvest. We thus have the right to ask: What is the substantive difference between the “gap doctrine” of the Dispensationalist and the “gap doctrine” of the Amillennial and Postmillennial commentators?
The justification for such a gap is offered by men such as Kenneth Gentry. Commenting on Matthew 25 Kenneth Gentry says, “The NT suggests long “seasons” before Christ returns, (Mt. 25:5, 19; Acts 1:7; 2 Timothy 3:1; 2 Peter 3:4-9). Postmillennialism does not hold to the imminency of Christ’s return.” (Kenneth Gentry, He Shall Have Dominion, Draper, VA., Apologetics Group, 2009), 225, n. 28).
Of course the irony here is that there are a host of NT passages that speak of the imminence of Christ’s coming – his parousia – as imminent (James 5:8f / 1 Peter 4:5-17 / Hebrews 10:37 / Revelation 1:1-2; 22:6-20), but Gentry claims that those imminent parousia texts do not speak of the “real” coming of the Lord at the so-called end of time. His basic argument is that the real coming/ parousia was not near, but that the Lord’s coming in AD 70 was at hand. To say that this is presuppositional is a huge understatement. Be sure to get a copy of my book: AD 70: A Shadow of the “Real” End? for a thorough refutation of the claim that AD 70 was a foreshadowing of the yet future end of the current Christian age.
And there is something in Matthew 25 that totally falsifies Gentry’s claims. Notice that in v. 5 we have the so-called “delay” which Gentry suggests has extended for two millennia. What Gentry conveniently overlooks (or ignores) is that in v. 6, we find this: “And at midnight a cry was heard: ‘Behold, the bridegroom is coming; go out to meet him!’”
So, after that proposed delay – and the text gives not a hint of a 2000 year delay– late in the evening the cry went out “‘Behold, the bridegroom is coming!” In other words, the cry of the coming of the Bridegroom did not go out until the coming of the Bridegroom was near! It was at hand; it was coming soon; it was shortly to come to pass. This is important.
Throughout the NT we find the warnings of the imminent coming of the Son of Man, as we have seen. And the later in that generation it became, the more urgent and imminent the call: “And now, in a very, very little while, the one who is coming will come and will not delay” (Hebrews 10:37). And in Revelation 22:17– “The Spirit and the Bride say, ‘Come!” Yet, according to so many commentators, we are still supposedly in the “delay” period. But these verses– and there is a host of others, show that any time of “delay” to match Matthew 25:5 was now over, the time for the coming of the Bridegroom had arrived! This means that since the coming of the Bridegroom was the time of the Wedding – the time of the resurrection- that the “last day” resurrection was truly imminent in the first century.
If in fact the last three of Israel’s feast days – which foreshadowed the judgment, the parousia and the resurrection on the “last day” – at “the last hour- have not been fulfilled, logically that demands the following, as just suggested:
- There has been, so far, a 2000 year gap between the fulfillment of Pentecost and the judgment.
- The fulfillment of the three final feast days failed – or it has been “postponed” – at the very least protracted. To suggest that the fulfillment of the first four feast days was “right on time” but that the fulfillment of the last three has been delayed– or even re-scheduled – for 2000 years surely smacks of a good bit of theological desperation, theological gymnastics and rationalization. To claim that the forty day interim between Pentecost and Rosh HaShanah has now extended for two millennia is more than a “stretch”- to say the least.
And here are just a few of the problems that this suggestion raises:
☛ Scripture affirms that the judgment– the fulfillment of Rosh HaShanah – was at hand in the first century, as AD 70 approached– James 5:6-9.
☛ Scripture affirms that the second appearing of Christ for salvation– to consummate the atonement– was coming ‘in a very, very little while” and without delay (Hebrews 10:37).
☛ Scripture affirms that the (“the” time, i.e. the appointed time) for the resurrection, the judgment of the living and the dead had arrived (1 Peter 4:5-17).
- If the fulfillment of the last three feast days, is still future then of scriptural and logical necessity– EVERY JOT AND EVERY TITTLE OF THE LAW REMAINS VALID AND BINDING TODAY! Jesus was emphatic, explicit and undeniably clear on this in Matthew 5:17-18: Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.
The point here is that following Pentecost, the NT writers were patently anticipating the imminent fulfillment of the last three of Israel’s feast days. They taught that those last three feast days were still – post-Pentecost– shadows of the good things about to come:
So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ.
It is to be noted that Paul uses the present active indicative when he says that those feast days “are a shadow.” He does not say that they had been, or that they once were. He says they “are” a shadow of the good things “about to” (from μελλόντων – present participle, from mello, meaning about to be, to be on the point of- See the Lexicons and Grammars). Paul’s statement here agrees perfectly with Hebrews 9:12, 24f and Hebrews 10:1-2 which also say that the Law was – when Hebrews was written– a shadow of the good things about to come. The writer uses the present active indicative to speak of the law having a shadow. Again, not a past tense, but a present.
What is so significant about Hebrews 10:1 and its statement that the law was, when written, a present tense shadow of the good things about to come, is that this was said to give the reason why Christ had to appear the second time. There is, of course, no chapter division at chapter 10. In 9:28 we are told that Christ was to appear the second time, and in chapter 10:1 we have the reason why: “for the Law having (exon) a shadow.” That “for” (from gar) is causitive. It is saying, “here is the reason why Christ must appear the second time. He must appear the second time because the Law has a shadow of the good things about to come.”
What was that shadow of the good things about to come that the writer had in mind? Well, he had just described the typological / foreshadowing actions of the High Priest on the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur- the second of the last three feast days). The priest killed the sacrifice. He entered the Most Holy, and he came out to proclaim salvation to the people. And the writer says that just like the earthly high priest, Jesus had appeared (at the end of the ages) to sacrifice himself (9:26). He had entered the MHP (v. 24). And he was coming out of the MHP to bring salvation (9:28). (It is to be noted that the Priest did not extend his time in the MHP. To do so created panic among the waiting crowds (compare Luke 1:21). Of course, Hebrews continues the discussion of the coming of Christ to bring salvation and says, “And now in a very, very little while (hosan, hosan micron) the one who is coming will come, and will not delay” (10:37). Lamentably, the great majority of commentators say that Christ has delayed his coming.
To suggest that the writer envisioned a 2000 year gap between Christ entering the MHP and his coming again for salvation is to make a claim that has no merit textually, contextually or in any way. There is no hint of a clue of a suggestion of such a gap / delay. That is truly a specious suggestion that has been created because of presuppositional concepts concerning the nature of Christ’s coming.
So, what we have is very powerful evidence indeed that the NT writers were anticipating the very imminent, soon coming fulfillment of the judgment, the parousia and the harvest / resurrection. This falsifies the suggestion of a 2000 year gap between Pentecost and Rosh HaShanah – and the fulfillment therefore of Sukkot. That being true, it demands that the last day / last hour resurrection of John, of 1 Corinthians 15, 1 Thessalonians 4, Revelation 20 cannot be extrapolated for 2000 years without doing violence to the text, the contexts and the linguistics of these passages.
With the fact that the NT writers were clearly anticipating the imminent fulfillment of the last three of Israel’s calendric feast days this sets the stage for our understanding of the “last trumpet” which, as we shall see, was the seventh trump. This background will help us set the resurrection within the proper context. After all, if the last feast day, Sukkot, foreshadowed the resurrection, which all rabbinic and scholarly sources agree that it did, then the fact that the end time harvest was near means that Israel’s festal calendar was nearing its consummation. Thus, for instance, when Paul alluded directly to the festal calendar in 1 Corinthians 15, and did so within the framework of his, “we shall not all sleep” affirmation, we do an injustice to exegesis when we ignore both the Jewish feast days and that temporal delimitation.
So, what I am proposing is that Paul’s reference to the first fruit (of the harvest) and the last trumpet, are undeniable allusions to, and echoes of the Jewish festal calendar. As a Jew thoroughly immersed in the festal world and its typological meaning it was perfectly natural – and Biblical- for Paul to be anticipating the fulfillment of all of those feast days. See again Colossians 2:16-17 which proves this beyond dispute.
In our next installment we will turn our attention to Revelation and its teaching on “the seventh” trumpet, which was the last trumpet and the doctrine of the resurrection on “the last day / the last hour.”
In the meantime, be sure to get a copy of my book, The Resurrection of Daniel 12:2: Future or Fulfilled? Be sure to mention that you read this post and I will refund your shipping!