Do you believe that this statement by the apostle Paul is literal? If so, how is a trumpet involved in the resurrection of dead humans?
“The trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised” is a quote from the apostle Paul from the King James Version of the Bible. Is it meant to be taken literally?
Yes. In fact, not only is this a literal event, but it is going to be so tremendous that one of God’s seven annual holy days points to this future time.
The quote in context
Let’s quote (from the New King James Version) the entire sentence Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15:51-52:
“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 incorruptible, and we shall be changed.”
Notice the future tense of this wording. When Paul wrote this, many members of God’s Church had already died. According to the Bible, they did not go to heaven (see John 3:13; 8:21; 13:33; Acts 2:29, 34). They were still dead in their graves.
Chapter 15 of 1 Corinthians describes the time when they will be resurrected from their graves. Actually, the entire chapter is about the resurrection of the dead, beginning with Jesus Christ’s own resurrection: “But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Corinthians 15:20, emphasis added throughout).
Awakened at the last trumpet
“Sleep” is used throughout the Bible as a metaphor for death because, even though there is no consciousness in death (Ecclesiastes 9:5, 10), it is temporary. In the future God will awaken every person from death.
Christ’s resurrection from the dead was in A.D. 31. When will the resurrection of His deceased servants be? “At the last trumpet.” If there is a last trumpet, then there must be other trumpets that will sound before it. So, we are looking at a time when multiple trumpets will sound in succession. This takes us to the book of Revelation.
The trumpets of Revelation
“And I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and to them were given seven trumpets” (Revelation 8:2). “So the seven angels who had the seven trumpets prepared themselves to sound” (verse 6).
What follows in Revelation chapters 8 and 9 is the sounding of the first six trumpets, each in succession and each corresponding to yet another cataclysmic event upon the earth. These all lead up to the end of this present evil world.
Christ returns at the last trumpet
Then in chapter 11 we read of the seventh (and last) trumpet sounding. “Then the seventh angel sounded: And there were loud voices in heaven, saying, ‘The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!’” (Revelation 11:15).
This is the time of the return of Jesus Christ to begin reigning over the earth. It is the same time Paul is referring to in 1 Corinthians 15, when “the dead will be raised.” Those who are raised from their graves at this time will then begin reigning on earth with Christ.
“Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years” (Revelation 20:6).
The Feast of Trumpets
The role of these seven future trumpets—in the ending of this world and arrival of God’s Kingdom and its King (Jesus Christ)—is so profoundly important that God instituted a holy day focusing specifically on this part of His great plan.
This holy day is the Feast of Trumpets. It is listed in Leviticus 23, along with God’s other feasts (also called holy days or festivals), which are all called “the feasts of the LORD” (verse 2).
Many Bibles have the heading “The Feast of Trumpets” above verse 23. More detail is added in verse 24: “In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall have a sabbath-rest, a memorial of blowing of trumpets, a holy convocation.”
There are numerous prophecies about end-time events, and most of them are in the Old Testament. Likewise, most of God’s laws, including His holy days, are contained in the Old Testament, and Jesus Christ never abolished them (see Matthew 5:17-19). The Church of God continued observing the feasts of the Lord in the New Testament, as it does to this very day.
God’s festivals outline God’s plan
Not only are God’s festivals still relevant for today, they outline God’s plan for the future. In fact, God’s festivals, in the order He instituted them to be observed, correspond perfectly with the progression of His plan as revealed in His Word.
To see how the festivals and steps of His plan correspond, see our article “The Seven Feasts of the Lord” and chapter 6 of our booklet How to Understand Prophecy, which includes a chart that lines up these events.
The Feast of Trumpets and the seven trumpets of Revelation
The Feast of Trumpets points to future events that will be the most earth-shaking in human history, as Jesus intervenes to bring an end to the destructive reign of Satan (John 14:30; 2 Corinthians 4:4; Ephesians 2:2; 1 John 5:19; Revelation 12:9, 12) immediately prior to His return.
Revelation chapters 8 and 9 summarize the events that will unfold during the first six trumpets. Then comes the last trumpet, which itself contains many profound events, described in Revelation 11:15-19 and chapters 15 and 16.
The last trumpet
The last trumpet includes the much-longed-for return of Jesus Christ to earth, as confirmed by the angels in Acts 1.
“Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight . . . [Then two angels said] ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.’ Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem” (verses 9, 11-12).
So, we even know where Christ will touch down upon the earth—the Mount of Olives. For more details surrounding His arrival there, read the prophecy in Zechariah 14 and our article “Where Will Jesus Return?”
The first resurrection
When Christ returns, He will also resurrect His saints. “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17).
Christ left the earth in a cloud (Acts 1:9) and foretold that at His return people would see Him coming on (and in) the clouds (Luke 21:27; Matthew 24:30; 26:64; Mark 13:26).
And, as we saw earlier, Revelation 20:6 calls this the “first resurrection” and shows that the resurrected saints will “be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years.”
All these dramatic future events are contained within the meaning of the Feast of Trumpets. To learn more about this special festival, read our article “The Feast of Trumpets: Alarm of War, Announcement of Peace.”
And to learn about the other festivals God instituted for us to celebrate—and how to keep them—read our article “Biblical Festivals: Does God Want Us to Celebrate Them? Why?” and our booklet From Holidays to Holy Days: God’s Plan for You.