by A.E. Knoch

        "THIS we are saying to you by the word of the Lord, that we, the living, who are surviving unto the presence of the Lord, will by no means outstrip those who are put to repose, seeing that the Lord Himself will be descending from heaven with a shout of command, with the voice of the Chief Messenger, and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ shall be rising first. Thereupon we, the living who are surviving, shall at the same time be snatched away together with them in clouds, for meeting the Lord in the air. And thus shall we always be together with the Lord"
(1 Thess.4:15-17).

        Until a beloved brother in Christ and in the Lord, F. H. Robison, requested me to set forth the difference between the "trumpet of God" in this passage and the seventh trumpet in the Unveiling of Jesus Christ (Rev.11:15) I had never noticed the fact that the seventh trumpet does indeed loom up in the background of this passage, and probably gave rise to the peculiar form in which it is cast. One would suppose, from the emphasis, that the Thessalonians had been told that, at the presence of the Lord, the living will outstrip the dead, and that He will not blow the trumpet, and that the dead will not rise until later, at another time, and that the meeting will be on the earth. And so they had, no doubt, been informed, for this is just how it will be when the Messiah returns to Israel. What Paul now tells them is quite the reverse of that which he had said before, hence he insists that it comes from the Lord.

        In our quotation we have italicized the emphatic statements which are in striking contrast to the course of events when the seventh messenger introduces the reign of Christ over the world kingdom by his blast. It is difficult to account for the striking form in which the apostle expresses himself unless we keep this in mind and note that he is concerned to show that he is not speaking of the presence of the Lord at the commencement of the kingdom, when the living will outstrip those reposing, and the Lord will not blow the trumpet Himself and the dead will not be rising first, and will not be snatched away at the same time with the living, and they will not meet Him in the air. Practically every particular clashes with the occurrences when this seventh trumpet sounds.

        First of all, why should Paul insist that he was saying this by the word of the Lord? Had he been speaking from himself? Was not all of this epistle inspired? The statement seems purely emphatic, and is introduced because what he is about to say regarding the presence of the Lord for the nations is in contrast to the presence of Christ for Israel. Doubtless he was well acquainted with the close of Daniel's prophecy. That he had instructed them along these lines is clear from his question in the second epistle: "Do you not remember that, being still with you, I told you these things?" (2 Thess.2:5). Then he had told them that the resurrection would occur some time after the presence of Christ. Now he wishes them to receive a further revelation somewhat similar, but not to be confused with that which he had already given. This is a new truth, which he had not told them previously.

        The close of Daniel's prophecy seems to give us a clear idea of some of the principal events at the epiphany or presence of Christ when He comes to set up the kingdom. This will occur three and a half years--twelve hundred sixty days--from the middle of the last heptad, commonly called "Daniel's seventieth week." But everything connected with the kingdom does not take place at once. Thirty days later (1290 days from the same starting point) the offering that was stopped is resumed. Forty-five days after this (1335 days) seems to be the time set for the resurrection of Daniel and the kingdom saints. Thus the living saints, who have gone through the tribulation, will enter the kingdom seventy-five days before the dead are raised.

        Is not this what Paul has in mind when he insists that we, the living, who are surviving unto the presence of the Lord, will by no means outstrip those who are put to repose? This is precisely what will be the case in Israel, and, up to this time, this was the only resurrection of the saints of which they could have heard. Does not this account for the emphatic double negative, NOT NO, by no means? Here was a new revelation, a presence of the Lord in which the dead do not come behind the living. If Daniel and the saints with him are "blessed" though they must wait (Dan.12:12), how much more blessed are those who do not need to wait, but arise immediately! They do not even wait until the Lord touches the earth, but are drawn to Him by the magnetism of His presence while He is in the air. Thrice blessed are those who are put to repose in this day of grace!

        But why is this? If Christ is present on earth at His epiphany, why do not the saints rise to greet Him? But we must remember that the mere presence of Christ does not raise the dead. If that were so, all would have been raised when He was here in humiliation, or, at least, after His own resurrection, before His ascension. His word is needed to recall the dead to life. And, at the seventh trumpet, the blast is blown by a messenger, not by Christ Himself. No messenger can raise the dead, no matter how long or loud he blows. The seventh trumpet is also the third woe (Rev.11:14). It does not bring life, but death; it works no weal, but woe. Hence it is not fitting that the Living One should blow this trumpet. Nor is it meet that it should recall the dead to life.

        The scenes at the beginning and end of this administration are often confused in the minds of the saints. And this is not strange. Every great change or readjustment is bound to bring with it a period more or less chaotic. In Berlin, where some of this is being written, they are cutting through two grand boulevards, one north and south, the other east and west, right through the heart of the city. Some of it needs no change. "Unter den Linden" remains as it was. Yet in one spot a whole block of magnificent houses was pulled down to make an open place. The confusion was quite orderly, yet it was there, and even the well- informed could not say just how everything would be. So it was in the beginning of this administration. A grand boulevard had to be cut for grace right through from beginning to end.

        Yet the confusion at the end is even worse, partly because it is still future, while the beginning is past, but more because it is not merely a peaceful readjustment, but a great battle line, darkened by His dreadful indignation and the din of destruction. Here are no clear limits, for it is the twilight between night and day. We cannot say this moment is in man's day, for he is still ruling, nor can we reason that the same moment is in the Lord's day, for He is thundering, but it is a time like no man's land, which belongs to both sides until the issue is decided. I would not stake off an exact boundary here. Reasoning is useless on such vague "premises."


        As we have seen, in the kingdom the living meet the Messiah first, and the dead do not rise until seventy-five days later. Unlike our upward call, His presence in Israel will at first call for sorrow. All the tribes of the land will be grieving over Him (Rev.1:7). It will not be a scene in which the dead would be welcome or happy. Hence there is a delay, as in the case of Joseph's brethren, until the affairs of the living have been adjusted, and normal relations are restored between them and their great Deliverer. After that the dead are raised in Israel, and the thousand years' reign commences.

        In this way two periods of a thousand years' duration are formed, one commencing seventy-five days later than the other. Satan will be bound at the epiphany of Christ, so will be loosed before the saints have completed their term of office. His insurrection, after he has been loosed, lasts as long as the time between Christ's presence and the proper commencement of the kingdom administered by the saints. This seventy-five day delay is in strong contrast to the course of events when the Lord comes for us. Then the resurrection comes first, though we who survive are by no means left behind, for both unite in rising to meet our Lord in the air.

        But why should there be this difference? The answer is simple -- grace. The kingdom on earth is introduced by judgment, and this demands time for its execution, even where the saints are concerned. No such preliminaries are needed with us, for we are vivified first, before we are called upon to give an account of our actions in the body. With them He appears to those who await Him (Heb.9:28). They may feel the force of His indignation in the bowls. In the brief period following His advent, the living saints receive their wages (Rev.11:18) and the living nations are judged (Matt.25:31-46). But we are not appointed to indignation, but to the procuring of salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, the One dying for our sakes, that, whether we may be watching or drowsing, we should be living at the same time, together with Him (1 Thess.5:9,10).

        Grace removes the differences between us. Were resurrection a matter of merit, some of us would fall far behind, while some, I am sorry to say, feel that they should be raised at the time of their decease, if not soon after. But grace is a great leveler. There will not be a split second of priority in the resurrection. We will all be first! None will be last! In Israel the circumstances are such that the resurrection of the faithful of old is not due until the kingdom has been inaugurated.


        The reason why the living will not outstrip those who are reposing is found in the precious word Himself. In the work of woe, of devastation and death, He sends seven messengers, but in His prior presence, which Paul is now presenting for the first time to the saints, the Lord Himself will not only descend from heaven, but will Himself blow the trumpet, so that the effect will be the opposite of the woe trumpets. His is the voice that even the dead can hear! Indeed, it affects them first. Instead of waiting for two months or more, they are first to feel the vivifying power of His voice, and catch up with the living as they are snatched away from the earth into the air. And He it is Who blows the trumpet of God, not another!

        It is possible that the Greek text of 1 Corinthians 15:52 is idiomatic, and so does not determine who does the trumpeting. It may be translated "it will be trumpeting," if we ignore the fact that it is grammatically active voice, so does not blow itself. Perhaps a small leeway is left to the bias of the translator. This is indicated in the sublinear by the fact that the He is printed with a small e, not a capital E:. And I am certainly partial in my judgment in this matter. A trumpet is usually sounded by someone, so it is only a question of who does it. In this case it will rouse the dead, and I challenge anyone in the universe, apart from Christ, to do it! I have heard many a trumpet sound. Earth will hear the terrible blasts of the seven messengers at the time of the end. But no dead are roused! When these come forth I am reminded that He alone has this honor. All shall hear His voice, and not another's! Whose voice but His can rouse the dead?

        The Authorized Version and Revised Version rendering, however, "the trumpet shall sound" seems to indicate that the Greek reads "the trumpet shall trumpet," for they translate the verb trumpet as sound elsewhere. Let it be clearly understood, then, that the only rendering to which no objection can be raised on the score of bias is "He shall be trumpeting." This is active voice in English, as in Greek. The grammar cannot be criticized. But if we render the word "it shall be trumpeting" we should have an object. Either it must be trumpeting something, or the verb becomes middle, not active, in its significance. The trumpet trumpets itself. Hence, if we translate it in place of He we say that this is not literal but a figure of speech, in which the active voice is used for the middle. The context or the interpretation may compel us to do this. But we should not do it until we are compelled.

        Trumpets sound. This is what the Scriptures actually say in several passages (Matt.24:31; 1 Cor.14:8; Rev.8:13). In these the Authorized Version and the CONCORDANT VERSION agree. But they also trumpet. This word does not seem to have been in use as a verb in early English, so the Authorized Version renders it sound a trumpet (Matt.6:2; 1 Cor.15:52) or simply sound (Rev.8,9,10, 11). In doing this they blot out a distinction which the CONCORDANT VERSION seeks to preserve. Now in English the verb sound is often middle in signification. We can use it as active, "He sounds a trumpet;" as passive, "a trumpet is sounded;" or as middle, "the trumpet sounds." This accounts for the unusual rendering of the Authorized Version. Having lost sight of the Trumpeter, they let the trumpet itself rouse the dead without His help.

        Sound or blow a trumpet is found in the Septuagint, and is there expressed by trumpet a trumpet, or trumpet in a trumpet (1 Sam.13:3; 2 Sam.2:28; Isa.27:13; Jer.51:27; Ezek.7:14), hence it could easily have been used in 1 Corinthians 15:52. But as it is not we cannot fully endorse the Authorized Version rendering today, although it is difficult to see how they could have avoided using the phrase in their days, if trumpet was not used as a verb. But they could just as well have rendered it "He shall sound a trumpet," as to change it to the middle, "the trumpet shall sound." Happily they did not change the next verb, "they shall be raised" to "they shall rouse," and thus ascribe this wondrous work to human beings. Is it not evident that He Who rouses is the One Who blows the trumpet?

        Beloved reader, do you think that Gabriel, or any other messenger can rouse the dead? Do you look for the voice of the seventh messenger to recall you to life? Its blast will blight those who are blighting the earth (Rev.11:18), but not a soul will respond from the unseen. And let me confide to you a private opinion of mine which you may wish to share with me. If the messenger who blows the seventh trumpet were Christ, He might empty the tombs of Israel, and the resurrection would occur ahead of time! No! No! Trumpets have blown and more will blow, but the dead will hear them only when He will be trumpeting. It is not the trumpet that has the power, nor the sound that has authority, but the One Who does it. He and He alone is able to vivify His beloved saints.


        What is trumpeted? In the Unveiling the trumpet is not used to give any orders, but is a symbol of warlike destruction. No one is given any order, or commanded to act. But this is just what characterizes the trumpet which will not only recall the dead to life and mobilize them and the living, but will order them to ascend to Him. This command is given by means of the voice of the Chief Messenger, through the trumpet of God. It tells us what to do. It is like the shout of an officer to his men, "Forward, march!" Only with us it will be more like, "Live! Arise! Ascend!" Is this the third woe? I do not find it so!


        There was a time when I thought that Gabriel or some other "angel" would accompany our Lord and serve with his voice on this occasion. But, in other places it is plain that the dead, like Lazarus, will hear His voice. This opened to my gaze a new glory of our Lord. I had never thought of Him as an "angel," even though He seems to be the "Angel of the Covenant" of the Hebrew Scriptures. But now I see that, when He comes to us, He comes as a Messenger from God, and such He is above all of the "angels." He is the Chief Messenger. His voice alone can cope with this tremendous task. Not merely must it cover the earth, but it must vivify the saints. He may have given His disciples authority to raise the dead when the kingdom was heralded, but no one has that power now. And they did not vivify, but died themselves, and need His power to give them life eonian. Let us listen for His voice, not another's!


        This is the trumpet of God! May we never confuse it with the trumpets of doom which fill the earth, with its most fearful inflictions! May we be preserved from identifying it with the third trumpet of woe, which stands at the summit of earth's sorest sorrows! Can there be any greater contrast than the death-dealing deeds done under the trumpets of woe, in one of which a third of mankind is killed (Rev.9:18), and the trumpet of God which brings incorruptibility to untold myriads of the reposing believers, immortality to millions of surviving saints, and power and glory inexpressible to both? We need only to change "trumpet of God" to "trumpet of woe" in our passage to see how utterly flagrant and false it would be. We could not console anyone with a trumpet of woe (1 Thess.4:18)!


        To us, with our outlook, it seems strange that the dead should not rise for more than a month in the millennium. And it also seems unnecessary to insist so strongly that the dead will not be left behind at that time. It seems a matter of course. Why not? But, in view of the previous teaching of the Scriptures and the order of events in the day of the Lord, it is well that this is made so clear. It is also a wholesome restraint on us, who are so inclined to make the dead rise long before and go to heaven or some twilight intermediate bourne, as flitting shadows unknown to God's revelation.


        Here we find a fine fault in the literary language of the Scriptures. "At the same time" "together" is tautology, redundancy, excessive verbiage, a fault all who study rhetoric are taught to avoid: But, like many bad things, it may be used for good. Lawyers use it so as to avoid leaving a legal loophole. The Scriptures usually repeat for the sake of emphasis. Here, it seems, we have both. The point is important. Large "movements" in Christendom deny that the dead will be caught away at the same time together with the living at the presence of the Lord. Hence its emphasis is more than justified and the "fault" is found to be a highly finished literary feature.



        When the Son of Mankind comes He will dispatch His messengers (not necessarily "angels") with a loud-sounding trumpet, and they will assemble His chosen ones from the four winds, from the extremities of the heavens to their extremities (Matt.24:31). There are no dead here. They are not snatched away from the earth but gathered together on it, from every place under the heavens. He is on the earth, and they are gathered to Him there. When He comes to us we perform a feat which none of the kingdom saints could accomplish. If He came only to the air, they could not meet Him there, and ever be with Him thus. But we will float and rise above the earth like the vapor that is drawn up by the presence of the sun. And thus shall we always be together with Him. This would ruin the whole millennium if it applied to Israel. They will have Him in the land and on the throne of David, not in the air.


        In the kingdom all will remain on earth. Neither revelation nor reason will grant any of the kingdom saints a journey into the air, to meet the Lord there. His feet shall stand upon the mount of Olives. I feel quite certain that I have stood close to the place where He will descend, if not upon the very spot, for I made a point of wandering about the southern end of the mount of Olives in order to visualize the scene as vitally as possible. But when the trump of God shall sound we will not only be vivified but changed, so that He will not need to descend to the earth to meet His saints. They will not be struck down by the last woe trumpet, but carried aloft in clouds by the transforming power of His grace, on their way to the celestial allotment which He has prepared for them.


        The figure of clouds is well chosen. I hesitate to spread a figure out beyond its proper bounds, so only suggest the following. Some have found it difficult to see how we could always be with the Lord, when He is to be on the earth. A single question may clear that up. Where are the clouds? Are they in the air or on the earth? It is quite possible for a cloud to be both. Clouds on the ground, which we call fogs, are in the air quite as really as those above a high mountain peak. The ground is not their place, but they can descend if occasion demands. In the intricate and eventful history of the universe our Lord will not be confined to the earth nor banished from it. So will we be also. But we will be independent of it, and with Him -- and that is more than we can say of the most deserving of the saints in Israel, or on the earth. I, for one, am content to be WITH HIM ALWAYS.

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