The Unveiling of Jesus Christ
The Concordant Version
THE SEVENTH TRUMPET
THE SEVENTH TRUMPET is the third woe (Rev.11:14). It ushers in the kingdom. It is not only the culmination of God's indignation against the nations, but includes the era of Israel's resurrection and reward, and the judgment of her apostates, who are blighting the earth. It is described in general terms rather than specific occurrences, for it seems to include within its scope the closing judgments of the succeeding section, which gives us the religious redemption of the earth. The very brief outline of this trumpet (Rev.11:14-18) is disappointing unless we magnify each statement to its proper proportions and fill in the suggestive hints which abound.
The seventh trumpet marks the greatest crisis in human history. It is the turning point of the eons. Three evil eons come to their culmination, two blessed eons commence their course, when the seventh messenger blows his final blast. Man's day meets its full end: Yahweh's day comes into full swing. No wonder heaven is jubilant. Earth's sovereignty passes from man, the dupe of Satan, to the Son of Man, the Christ of God. Evil and sin and all its attendant train of sorrow and woe have had their day and are now restrained. The golden age, the hope of all humanity since Adam's sin, is heralded by the seventh trumpet's sound. The world kingdom becomes our Lord's and His Christ's, and He shall be reigning for the eons of the eons! Amen!
This is not "the millennium." The saints have become so loose in their manner of speaking of these great themes that we have lost the significance and power of these great unfoldings. Almost every reference to the period of time which includes the thousand years is called "the millennium," just as nearly every mention of the great kaiser of the end time term him the "anti-christ." God has various names for him, each of which should be used as occasion demands. And the Lord speaks of the coming eon and its time periods in a variety of ways. Prophetically, it is the day of Yahweh, the Lord's day (1:10). Religiously, the saints of the Circumcision live and reign with Christ the thousand years, or the millennium. This refers to Israel as the priest nation. As such their reign is limited to that part of the day of the Lord which follows the resurrection and precedes the loosing of Satan. The reign of the saints is not limited to the millennium, but their reign as priests is thus confined.
There is no mention of the millennium in the prophetic or political sections of the apocalypse. Only in the religious section, where Israel's sacerdotal ascendancy is the theme, does this period occur. It speaks of the time when Israel will not only reign over the nations for Yahweh, but bring the nations near to Yahweh. After the thousand years the nations revolt. In the new earth, they need no priests to bring them near, for God Himself tabernacles with them (21:3), and the temple with its ritual is no longer present (21:22). But the kingdom is by no means limited to the millennium. It is for the eons of the eons. It commences before the millennium and lasts long after it has passed into history. The thousand years are only an episode in the kingdom's early career.
The same reflections apply to the eonian kingdom. It does not last forever. It is limited to the eons. In its religious phase, it ceases with the thousand years. In its political phase, it closes with the conclusion of the eons. Only its paternal post-eonian phase is eternal. Priests will not stand between mankind and God forever. Rulers shall not govern their fellowmen for God endlessly. Christ, the great Melchisedec Priest, remains such until priesthood is done with "to a finality" (Heb.7:3). He reins only "for the eon" (Heb.7:17). Yet He shall be reigning "for the eons of the eons" (11:15). The kingdom itself, after He gives it up to the Father (1 Cor.15:24), has no consummation (Luke 1:33). It only is eternal.
The point we wish to impress on our readers at this crisis is that the fearful judgments which we have been considering are not only introductory to the millennial reign, but to the much longer and more lasting dominion of the saints during both of the last eons. Never again will Satan and mankind grasp the reins of government. The single attempt after the close of the millennium (not at its close), will be summarily suppressed. These judgments are final. They place the scepter in the hands of Christ, not, indeed, forever, but until He hands it over to His Father. So long as rule lasts, so long as it is necessary for man to restrain his fellows, dominion will remain in the hands of Christ, Who will associate the saints of the Circumcision with Himself in the government of Israel and the nations on the earth.
The coming of Christ is the commencement of the kingdom. And yet there is no direct intimation, under the seventh trumpet, that He has come. Had we been writing this part of the apocalypse, we would certainly have brought Him to earth in all His majesty at this juncture, either by vision or direct assertion. His coming is implied by His reign and by His awards to His servants. There is one special implication which is of extraordinary interest. The twenty-four elders address God thus "Who art and Who wast" (11: 17). If we compare this with His full title, "Who is and Who was, and Who is coming" (1:8), we are struck with the fact that the last clause is omitted. He is no longer the Coming One! False reverence has made much of the title Yahweh, of which this is but an amplification. The latest scholarship actually proposes to translate the title as "the Eternal." Here we are given the key to its true significance.
Yahweh is the title of Deity which relates Him to time, or rather, to the eonian times. He is not the "Eternal," but the eonian God (Rom.16:26). It was not His name before the eons, nor will it be applied to Him when they are past. It is transient. Its future tense retires when the kingdom comes. He cannot be spoken of as One Who is coming after He has come, at least not in any deliberate amplification of the tetragrammaton. When God becomes fully known by all His creatures, when He becomes their All, the rest of this title will survive only as a memory. It, together with His other august appellations, will be submerged in the affectionate term of family relationship. He will be the universal Father. The change from Creator to Father is the goal of the eons.
Another indication that Christ has come is found in the statement that the era has come for "the judgment of the dead." Few, indeed, but will take this as the punishment of the dead. Unfortunately, the English word judgement has, by its contact with human affairs, taken on a vindictive tinge. We ought to have a new word which is neutral. The "judgment of the dead" here referred to is explained as giving the wages due to His slaves the prophets, and to the saints, and to those fearing His name (11:18). Now it is evident that the prophets and saints and fearers of His name must be raised from the dead before they can receive their wages, and this does not occur until at least seventy-five days after His coming, according to Daniel's prophecy.
There is a decided and delightful contrast between the seventh trumpet of the Unveiling and the "last trump" which will call us to be with the Lord. Some have attempted to identify them on the ground that each is a last trumpet. But things having the same name are not by any means necessarily identical. Christ and Satan are each called a lion, but who would make that a mark of identity? Some have been misled into teaching that the white horse rider of the first seal is the true Messiah, instead of the false, because he is like the One Who is called "The Word of God" (19:13). The fact that the seventh trumpet is the last of this series should lead us to contrast it with the last trump for which we listen.
The word "last" like the word "first," is not an absolute, but a relative term. The seventh is not even called a "last" trumpet, though, of course, it is the last of this series. Every time a trumpet is blown there is a "last trump," a final blast. There is sufficient similarity between the blast which brings in the kingdom and the trump of God which transfigures us to afford a striking contrast, but not the least basis for identification. Indeed, they are so dissimilar in detail that it is surprising that anyone should even consider the possibility that they should refer to the same event. We cannot do better than to meditate on the differences between them and to note the gracious advantages which are ours in Christ Jesus.
The seven trumpets are blown by seven messengers. Who the seventh messenger is we do not know, nor is it of any moment. We, however, are looking for no one but our Lord. We read "He will be trumpeting" (1 Cor.15:52). Again "the Lord Himself will be descending from heaven with the shout of command, with the voice of the chief Messenger, and with the trumpet of God" (1 Cor.4:16). He comes not, as the song says, "with angels attending," but alone. He is Himself the Chief Messenger, and He it is Who blows the trumpet of God. It is a pity that our versions suggest that an archangel accompanies Him. None is needed. To us, He comes in the solitary sublimity and majesty which becomes the Head of the body, His ecclesia. Were we the "Bride," He might send some messenger for us, as Abraham did for Rebecca. But we, like the Thessalonians, are waiting for God's Son out of the heavens ...Who rescues us from the coming indignation (1 Thess.1:10).
There is a very precious quality in this thought. In coming to the earth to bless Israel, He will come with myriads of mighty messengers, as is befitting the entry of a Conqueror and a King. In coming for those who have a celestial allotment He does not even descend to the earth, but meets us in the air, to which He calls us to ascend. No messenger's voice would ever wake the dead. No archangel could change the living. Christ alone is competent for this, and He needs no assistance from angelic powers. There is a delightful intimacy suggested by this solitary tryst, which accords deliciously with the transcendent grace which not only saves us, but which makes us the continuous recipients of His favor. We look for Him alone, our Saviour, our Lord, and our Head, and desire the presence of none other.
The contrast grows the more we inquire into it. The Unveiling was given by and through an apostle of the Circumcision, for John was one of the three most prominent of the twelve. Its message is especially for the elect nation. No one can even begin to understand this Unveiling unless this is first acknowledged. The kingdom ushered in by the seventh trumpet is the sovereignty of Israel over the other nations. We can have no part in this. In connection with it we read that "the nations were angered" (11:18). How unlike our blessed expectation!
The Corinthians and the Thessalonians, to whom Paul wrote concerning the trump of God, were of the Uncircumcision. They could not possibly connect his words with the seventh trumpet, for the Unveiling was not written until long afterward, and by an apostle who was not sent to them. Before Paul ever went to these places he was separated (Acts 13:2) to a special service, and the leaders among the Circumcision recognized his ministry for the nations. When he came to Thessalonica he first went to the Jewish synagogue, but the Jews, with a few exceptions, would not have his message. Yet a vast multitude of the reverent Greeks believed (Acts 17:1-9). To these, he wrote his first epistle. In it the small sprinkling of Jews is ignored, for only the gentiles could turn back to God from idols (1 Thess.1:9).
It is difficult to imagine a more unlikely time and place for a revelation concerning the seventh trumpet. Paul is the last one we should expect to reveal truth intended for the Jews. The gentiles in Thessalonica are the least likely to be its recipients. The Thessalonians were sorrowing for their dead. What consolation could be found for those of the nations in connection with the seventh trumpet? Instead of linking them on to the Lord's coming to the Circumcision, he gives them the opening intimation of that grand and glorious expectation which is ours in Christ Jesus. Just as he had hinted at justification at Pisidian Antioch, and later developed it in his Roman epistle, so now he gives the nations the first glimpse of His coming for them, in accord with the redundant grace into which they are called. Like all Paul's revelations, this is developed in later epistles. It goes from glory to glory. In first Corinthians, he explains more fully concerning our bodies, which will be able to rise into the air to meet Him when He comes. In Ephesians he refers to it as a prior expectation (Eph.1:12). This is the distinguishing feature of those to whom that epistle is written. In Philippians, it attains its greatest glory in the transfiguration of our bodies to conform them to His glorious body.
The seventh trumpet was no secret. The resurrection and reward of Israel's saints, the doom of her apostates, and the anger of the nations is all foretold in the Prophets and the Psalms. But Paul, in his epistle to the Corinthians, tells them a secret. That is the change from an earthly, soulish body to a celestial, spiritual body, in the twinkle of an eye at the last trump. No such change is needed for Israel's saints. Their bodies remain terrestrial, in accord with their place and portion. Such a change is absolutely necessary for those who rise to the air to meet the Lord, as the Thessalonians, or those who receive a celestial allotment, as in Ephesians.
The seventh trumpet covers a considerable space of time. Several months, at least, are needed to include all that occurs under it. But here we have a totally different thought. The last trump is not a prolonged blast, but a short, sharp note of but an instant's duration.
Paul's epistles are a unit. All that he wrote is to and for the nations, and is concerned with the present administration of God's grace. His earlier unfoldings are preparatory for his latest revelations. His ministry to Israel is given us in the book of Acts, but it does not invade his epistles. Here we have the divine line drawn between that which pertains to us and that which relates to the Davidic kingdom. The difference between Acts and the Pauline epistles written at the same time is often very striking. Thessalonians is a good example. In Acts, he goes into the synagogue and seeks to reach the Jews. The vast number of believing gentiles is a side issue. But we can read his letters to the Thessalonians through without being aware that there is a Jew in Thessalonica. It is all for the nations.
The highest and latest revelation, given in the Ephesian group of epistles, cannot be understood apart from the earlier unfoldings. Ephesians itself has only one brief reference to our Lord's return. This is altogether unintelligible unless illumined by the light of the Thessalonian and Corinthian letters. How did the Ephesians come to be in a state of prior expectancy (Eph.1:12) unless they knew the "word of the Lord" sent to the Thessalonians and the "secret" revealed to the Corinthians? Besides, the "mystery" or secret of Ephesians consists of a modification of truth revealed in Paul's earlier epistles. It was no secret that the nations were the body of Christ. That is found in Romans (12:5) and Corinthians (12:12). The secret is that this body has now become a joint body (Eph.3:6). The nations have been partakers, now they become joint partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus, through the evangel of which Paul had already been the dispenser (Eph.3:6,7).
The greatest contrast remains. "The last trump," for which our ears are attuned, is inexpressibly glorious in its grace. That blessed blast may find many of us drowsing, unmindful of His promise. Will we forfeit our place and privilege? Not so! For this is the climax of His grace, and all who are members of His body will be called to meet their Head. None of us could meet Him in these bodies of humiliation without dire dread and deep despair. We could not bear the glory of His presence in these sin shattered carcases. But ere we rise to greet His glory we ourselves will be transfigured. We will meet Him with bodies like His own! Weak and worn, diseased and dishonored, racked by pain, dying, by degrees--such is our present lot. But then all sorrow and pain and shame will give place to joy and pleasure and glory in the presence of the Glorious One. There is no grace to compare with this on earth beneath or heaven above; nor will revolving eons e'er again see such transcendent favor.
But when the seventh trumpet sounds God is indignant and the nations are angry. Israel alone receives the rewards of faithful work. Grace there is, of a sort, but not unmixed with law. And it is all on earth, a glory terrestrial, while we enjoy unmerited glory, celestial, supernal.
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