Dialogs and Commentary

The Last Trumpet

An email by Dean VanDruff answering a question concerning our understanding of references to "the last trumpet" and "the thief in the night".

Trumpet--in Hebrew, a Shofar--is generally a Ram's horn.

If you have never heard one blown, it is at once a fearful and exciting experience. It moves the emotions like few other sounds. Musically, it strikes you as being slightly off-key, yet perhaps on-key in a key you have never heard. It is filled with both pain and pleasure. It is not much like a modern, smooth trumpet. It is more like a very discordant fog-horn.

The first time I heard an actual Shofar blown I was shot through with an interesting combination of fear and excitement. It was as if every nerve in my body was on edge. Surely such a sound could only be a portent of something very significant! No wonder Jericho fell... <smiles>

I suppose someone who has been in the military (I have never)--especially a pre-modern military campaign--would have a deeper-seated response to a trumpet blast. Yet still, the human instinct reacts to the particular discordant tone of a Shofar even if not trained by military drill or painful wartime experience.

Let me double-click in reflection on this emotion for a moment as concerns "the last Shofar". Hearing the sound of a Shofar is like the culmination of what you have hoped for and prepared for, yet at the same time you have feared. It means the moment of battle is here--something you both were looking forward to and dreading.

Joel 2:11(NIV) The Lord thunders at the head of his army; his forces are beyond number, and mighty are those who obey his command. The day of the Lord is great; it is dreadful. Who can endure it?

I liken the feeling to getting married. There is a sense of fear as well as a sense of joy. A feeling of, "That which I have greatly hoped for and longed for is now come upon me," coupled with, "That which I have greatly feared and been in anxiety over is now come upon me." Both consummation and dread are present, creating a sense of trembling expectation. If you can picture this emotion, this is what the Shofar brings. A sense of NOW!--ready or not!

If you have ever heard a Shofar, you will know what I mean. If not, picture the soldiers in the movie "Glory" just before they charged the fateful hill.

And we are talking about the last trumpet.

2 Peter 3:10-13 (NKJ) But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.

This "thief in the night" image is connotative of the wedding night in the Jewish marriage tradition--an oft used type by Jesus. The groom puts down a deposit for his bride [hint--2Cor 5:5] and goes off to build a house [Jn 14:3]. As hormones might lead the groom to skimp a bit and cut corners, it is the Father who decides when the home is befitting of the family name [Mr 13:32]. Then, when the place is finished, the groom goes off to fetch his bride--who has been waiting all along. In Jewish tradition, this is generally done at night. Also a tradition is that the "best man" blows a Shofar on a nearby hill, only moments from the bride's chamber. This has two practical benefits: 1) it allows a moment--if just that--for the bride and her attendants to not be caught in an immodest state by a reveling wedding band, and 2) it awakes the village to the start of a week-long wild wedding party.

For the symbolic fulfillment of this, we are gaining much more than a Husband and a new home--leaving the old behind. What is left behind will be utterly destroyed and what lies ahead is beyond human comprehension. Let us not glance by this point, but consider it deeply.

Mal 3:2 (NRS) But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner's fire and like fullers' soap;

This will, indeed, be the ultimate and last Shofar blast. And our emotions will be deeply moved as we enter into that which we have both feared and longed-for. And the Shofar will be the starting signal...

Mark 13:31 (NIV) "Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away."

And, to some degree, all we Christians know what this means. We have entered in, just a little, to the insight and meditation of the Kingdom of God coming in power. The elements melt... no more gardens or interior decorating or trinkets or toys or favorite clothes. A new earth is made--and this is the hope we have--but the old is radically judged, including these bodies that lived in it. Again, we know this will happen someday. And yet there will be a trumpet blast that will herald the event, and whose knees will not knock when they hear it?

Scripture captures this dichotomy between hope and fear most vividly in connection with this...

Amos 5:18-20 (NRS) Alas for you who desire the day of the Lord! Why do you want the day of the Lord? It is darkness, not light; as if someone fled from a lion, and was met by a bear; or went into the house and rested a hand against the wall, and was bitten by a snake. Is not the day of the Lord darkness, not light, and gloom with no brightness in it?

For who is completely--yet--disconnected to love for this world? And for all that means, the Last Trumpet will surely be a day of dread. The only things that will survive what comes after that trumpet will be that which is included in God Himself--"in Christ". All else will pass away--a pretty phrase... but terrifying reality when it comes.

Zeph 2:3 (NIV) "Seek the Lord, all you humble of the land, you who do what he commands. Seek righteousness, seek humility; perhaps you will be sheltered on the day of the Lord's anger."

For me, the "last trumpet" is not an academic study of end-times trivia. It is an expectation of all that human history is heading for. It will sweep away every human emotion as only a Shofar blast can.

This is it... is the inescapable meaning.

Ready or not. The moment you have been waiting for--and also dreading--is upon you.

Prepare to meet your God.

That is what the Last Trumpet means.

2 Cor 5:2-5 (NIV) Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling... For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened,.. to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. Now it is God who has made us for this very purpose and has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.

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