The Resurrection at the Sound of the Trumpet #6 An Objection Considered
Be sure to read the previous installments in this series, beginning here.
In this installment I want to consider an objection to what we have presented in the previous articles.
Many insist that the passages examined in the previous articles (Isaiah 27:13 / Matthew 24:31 / 1 Thessalonians 4 / 1 Corinthians 15, and Revelation 11) simply cannot speak of the same time and event. One argument offered is that in I Corinthians and I Thessalonians 4 the time statements are simply “accommodative language,” or Paul was using the “editorial we” when he said, “we shall not all sleep” or “those of us who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord.” This is an attempt to obviate the chronological significance of these statements. But it will not work.
First, ask yourself: Had Paul WANTED to indicate that some of the Corinthians would live until the resurrection, would not the PRESENT WORDING of I Corinthians 15:51 sufficiently indicate it? Indeed.
Second, it is the burden of those who insist that the language is editorial and not temporal to prove their point. You cannot glibly wave a hand and dismiss language without strong reason.
Third, consider the traditional interpretation. It says, “we shall not all sleep” means “not all Christians will die” before the resurrection; or “there will be Christians still living” when the resurrection occurs. Now, really, does this make sense? Was it Paul’s purpose to assert the endurance of the church? When one compares this language with Jesus’ promise that some living then would not die until they had seen him coming with the angels to judge every man it is apparent I Corinthians 15:52 is not editorial or accommodative language; it is very personal and temporally significant.
The same may be said of I Thessalonians 4:15,17. Paul says, “WE WHO ARE (present active indicative) ALIVE AND REMAIN UNTIL THE COMING OF THE LORD.” He did not say, “THOSE WHO ARE ALIVE” as if to posit the coming in the distant future removed from himself. And, he did not say “those who will be alive at that time.” He did not positively assert the survival of specific individuals to the parousia; but he definitely asserts his generation as doing so! Again, he did not say, “THOSE WHO ARE ALIVE when Christ comes”; he said, “WE WHO ARE ALIVE AND REMAIN UNTIL the coming of the Lord.” Reader, who is Paul’s “WE”? Accepting Paul’s words as we normally use them demands that the resurrection at the sound of the trumpet was in the lifetime of the first century Thesslonian church.
It is interesting to wonder where the normal argument made by Amillennialists about pronouns and words of proximity goes when this passage is considered. In Matthew 24 it is vehemently argued that one must observe Jesus’ use of the personal pronouns; when he uses “you” he is referring to the disciples and their generation. When he uses “they” or “them” he is referring to the far-distant future.
Likewise, in John 14-16 it is argued by non-charismatics that you absolutely must observe the usage of “you” as applying to the apostles’ receiving the Holy Spirit, and not just everyone. When in I Corinthians 2, Paul says, “we have received…the Spirit which is from God” it is insisted this is speaking of a select group, certainly contemporary. But strangely, when Paul says, “WE who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord” it is insisted he suddenly abandoned his contemporary usage and went abstract. We are convinced “a priori” convictions about the nature of the resurrection at the sounding of the trumpet and eschatology as a whole have forced a denial of otherwise plain language.
Question: From what point do we consider the remaining in 1 Thessalonians 4? Paul said, “we who remain until the coming.” Even more accurately, he said “those of us who are alive and remain until the parousia.” We must give full force to Paul’s “we who are alive.” Likewise, the word remain must be given its proper consideration from Paul’s perspective of “we who are alive.” Those who were alive when Paul wrote were some of those who would remain until the parousia.
Notice that Paul did not say “those who are alive at the parousia.” He said “those of us who are alive” (present active indicative) and remain unto the coming of the Lord.” He was clearly not speaking of far distant believers who might be alive at the parousia. It is only a preconceived theology that refuses to accept the multitudinous NT statements about the imminence of the end that causes one to appeal to the “royal we” or the “editorial we.”
A word here about the usage of the “royal we,” or “editorial we.” Those who appeal to this do not properly understand the term. The “royal we” was used by monarchs “to refer to THEMSELVES in the plural, at least in public.” (Lloyd T. Grosse. and Alan F. Lyster, 1,500 Literary References Everyone Should Know,” Inc. New York; Arco Publishing, 1983), 213).
The “editorial we” is “used indefinitely in general statements in which the speaker or writer includes THOSE WHOM HE ADDRESSES, HIS CONTEMPORARIES, his fellow–fellow-countrymen, or the like.” (The Oxford English Dictionary, Col. XII, Clarendon Press, 1970), 213). All emphasis mine.
The point is, the usage of an “editorial we” does not exclude, rather it INCLUDES the contemporaries of the speaker. To avoid the chronological significance of the passages above by an appeal to Paul’s supposed use of the “editorial we” or “accommodative language” is therefore a futile attempt.
Incredibly, some deny an imminence factor in Revelation. Instead, they insist that what Jesus meant by his promise, “Behold, I come quickly!” was, “When he comes he will not come in slow motion.” (Gary Workman, Freed-Hardeman Lectureship speech, 1991, Freed -Hardeman University, Henderson, Tennessee). In similar fashion, other commentators, to avoid the undeniable imminence of Revelation, go to great lengths– unjustified by context or the lexicons, to alter the meaning of the time indicators. Sam Frost, former preterist, now boasts that he has negated the imminence of fully half of the NT time indicators, and can do so with all of them! It is a sad day when commentators, to sustain their eschatology, must resort to destroying the (undeniable) meaning of an entire vocabulary of temporal words.
In my 2017 formal public debate with Dr. David Hester of Faulkner University, he took an entire presentation to deny that time words are to be taken literally, at least when they are used to speak of the coming of the Lord! (Make no mistake, if Hester were debating a Premillennialist, he would be insisting that “at hand” does not mean 2000 years!). One would be hard pressed to find a presentation so rife with error, or, that more glaringly demonstrated the utter desperation of the speaker. Person after person shared that very sentiment with me after the debate. Such arguments are nothing less than ludicrous.
Was Jesus promising to come in relief of the oppressed, suffering so terribly at the hands of the persecutors, and saying, “Now, I may not come to help you for several thousand years. But boy, when I finally come I will not come in slow motion”? Were the saints to be comforted by how soon Jesus was coming in judgment, or how fast he was going to travel once he got around, or gets around, to coming? We think the answer is obvious to any thinking person.
Of course, if Jesus did not come in the lifetime of the suffering saints and give them relief from that persecution, then the inspired text fails. Furthermore, if he did not come in their lifetime and give them relief from that then on-going persecution, then since they are all dead, there is no need for him to come to give them relief from persecution! See my book, In Flaming Fire, for a powerful and important discussion of the NT doctrine of the avenging of the martyrs at the coming of the Lord. You will be amazed at the evidence!
What we have seen is the Old Covenant background for the promise of the sounding of the Great Trumpet of God. That trumpet was to be blown for the gathering of God’s elect from the “death” of separation from God’s presence and fellowship. We have seen in the New Testament there are only four passages which speak of the sounding of the Trump of God. Each of these passages speaks of the same thing, the gathering of the elect at the resurrection; and each has a very clear time statement with it.
Jesus said the trumpet would blow and the elect would be gathered in his generation (Matthew 24:30-31). It is admitted by almost all amillennialists that this was fulfilled in that generation and the language was apocalyptic and spiritual.
Paul, I Corinthians 15:51-52, said the resurrection would be at the sounding of “The last trumpet”; and not all of them would die before it occurred. In Thessalonians he affirmed the coming of the Lord, and gathering of the saints at the sounding of the trumpet; and he said, “we who are alive and remain until the coming.” We have posed the question of where the Corinthians and Thessalonicans had heard of “THE trumpet” and concluded their knowledge was based on Jesus’ teachings and the Old Covenant. If this is true, and we are convinced it is, since it is admitted Jesus’ prediction in Matthew 24 was fulfilled how can it be denied that I Corinthians and Thessalonians were fulfilled at the same time?
In Revelation John saw the sounding of the seven trumpets, the last being when the dead would be raised and receive their reward. In chapter 22:12 Jesus said he was coming “quickly to render to every man according to what he has done.” Now if it be the case that the sounding of “the last trumpet” was at hand when John wrote how can one postulate it has not yet sounded? Or, how can one admit, as some do, that Revelation is indeed fulfilled, yet there is to be a still future sounding of “the last trumpet,” per their view of I Corinthians 15? Were there to be two “last trumpets”?
We have examined the arguments offered to offset the time statements of the resurrection and trumpet and found them to be inadequate.
I find it impossible to escape the conclusion that either the Great Trumpet of the Lord sounded in that first-century generation or Jesus’ promise failed and man still has no escape from sin, from separation from God. The Good News is, the Trumpet sounded and those in Hades were taken from their separated position and ushered before the presence of God in heaven. In addition, the final barriers between God and man were removed as God took away the last vestiges of “the law” which held the “power of sin.” Man now can be fully justified and live in full assurance that “he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life” (John 5:24). Thank God for the resurrection at the sounding of the Trumpet!