May 28, 2009

Longing for the Last Trumpet 
by Mike Pohlman, Editor, Christianity.com

Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.
1 Corinthians 15:51-52

Grandpa Erickson was a Navy man. That’s why there was a flag ceremony at his gravesite last Saturday. Having served in the South Pacific during WWII, Grandpa Erickson was appropriately honored with the playing of “Taps” on the trumpet and a “Final Salute” by two representatives from the United States Navy. The presentation of the American flag to his beloved wife Carol left few eyes dry.

I had the privilege of conducting the gravesite service—no little pressure given that we’re talking about my mother-in-law’s dad. The pressure, however, was welcome as the funeral gave me the opportunity to offer comfort to a grieving family.

I began my brief remarks by recognizing the two distinct emotional currents that undoubtedly flowed through the couple dozen people gathered namely, sorrow and joy.

We experience sorrow at the loss of a loved one because deep down we know death is not the way it’s supposed to be. Therefore, we grieve. But as Christians we do not “grieve as others do who have no hope” (1 Thess. 4:13). Death will not have the final word; there is hope beyond the grave for those, like Grandpa Erickson, who die in Christ.

We hear this hope, for example, when Jesus says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death” (Jn. 8:51). A staggering promise, indeed.

I concluded my portion of the service by acknowledging the Navy representative that would come forward to play “Taps” on the trumpet. “As beautiful as this will be,” I said, “I want to point us to another trumpet—one that will sound grander and more glorious than anything we can imagine.”

It’s what the Apostle Paul calls the “last trumpet.” The thought of it was, in part, the inspiration behind Handel’s “Messiah.” And yet, as beautiful as Handel’s symphony is, I imagine the last trumpet will make Handel’s work sound like a garage band in comparison.

For the last trumpet is what announces the second coming of the Lord Jesus. This trumpet will herald the return of the King of kings and Lord of lords—the time when the dead in Christ shall rise to sing, “Death is swallowed up in victory!” What a choir this will be! It’s the sound that will usher in the new heavens and the new earth, and that climactic moment when every knee shall bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. This is the trumpet sound I long to hear.

Intersecting Faith & Life: Ask yourself some probing questions today like, “Am I viewing my current circumstances in the light of eternity?” “What things in my life might be hindering me from longing for the last trumpet?” “What am I doing to help others see life in the light of eternity?”

Further Reading

2 Corinthians 4:7
The Bible and the Future, Anthony Hoekema
Heaven, Randy Alcorn