All who love the prophetic Scriptures are familiar with the Rapture passage 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” (NKJ).
I was reading an article in the March issue of Midnight Call magazine which pointed out that people in Paul’s day would have recognized the implications of the term “last trumpet” from observing the Roman army. When the Roman army broke camp to move on, a trumpet would sound three times. The first trumpet blast signaled a command to take their tents down and prepare to depart. The second trumpet was a command to assemble into their regiments in preparation to leave. The third trumpet was the signal to move out.
This historical context intrigued me as I considered how it might apply to the Rapture of the Church. It occurred to me that perhaps the Rapture will not be the event that by itself launches the world into chaos. Indeed, “God is not a God of disorder but of peace” (1 Corinthians 14:33, NIV). So instead of the Rapture causing a bunch of accidents with suddenly driverless cars crashing into things, perhaps our departure will be more orderly.
On another occasion Paul addressed the Rapture, he said, “but you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief” (1Thessalonians 5:4, NKJ). I had always taken this passage to mean that we can know the season of the Lord’s return for us by the signs indicating the Tribulation is near. But a literal interpretation of this would be that the Lord will tell us when we need to prepare to leave earth. God certainly revealed to His followers that He would be taking Elijah to heaven, see 2 Kings 2:1-11. God taking Elijah to heaven has often been seen as one of the Old Testament types of the Rapture.
Given that God will announce to His followers that they need to get ready to be taken to heaven, I doubt we’ll be given much warning. There will not be time to complete any unfinished business that God has called us to. How long did it take for a Roman soldier to pack up their gear? I experienced a similar thing in the U.S. Army Field Artillery when a battery got the command to “march order.” Things generally happened pretty fast because the better soldiers anticipated that command and were ready which we certainly should be ourselves as good soldiers of Christ (2 Timothy 2:3-4).
If the three trumpets associated with the Roman army breaking camp apply to the Rapture, then the first one might be an audible command from Jesus to His followers that we should immediately stop what we are doing and go to a place He specifies. This, for example could keep a Christian pilot from taking a planned flight so that there would be no pilot-less aircraft falling from the sky. Jesus might call His followers to assemble at various places like a particular home, some church campus or to meet other West Texas Christian travelers at a near-by rest stop (since I'm on the road a lot).
The second trump might be a call for the various assemblies of Christians to pray in preparation to leave the planet. This would be a good last opportunity for followers of Jesus to ask forgiveness for anything that has hindered our fellowship with the Lord before we meet Him face-to-face. It is actually a good practice to stay “prayed-up” in this regard because having a last opportunity to ask for forgiveness is still speculation on my part. And there will certainly be other things on our minds that deserve prayer the last minutes before we know we are about to leave earth. Like for loved ones we fear are about to be left behind. God is sovereign and He answers prayer; no telling how many people might be saved by God’s grace just prior to the Rapture.
I imagine the third (last) trump to be like what the Apostle John experienced: “after these things I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven. And the first voice which I heard was like a trumpet speaking with me, saying, ‘Come up here’” (Revelation 4:1). This passage is widely accepted by Bible scholars to be a type of the Rapture so I fully expect to hear God’s voice clear as a trumpet calling me to join Him in heaven.
The Church Age began with an assembly of believers in Jerusalem at Pentecost; I wouldn’t be surprised if it is concluded similarly but with many multitudes of assemblies everywhere on earth… “out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation” (Revelation 5:9). At Pentecost, Peter explained the supernatural events by quoting prophecy in Joel 2:28, “it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, that I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your young men shall see visions, your old men shall dream dreams” (Acts 2:17). It will not surprise me if all true followers of Christ receive some sort of direct revelation such as where to assemble just prior to the conclusion of the Church Age.
How the Lord will conduct the Rapture is what I consider “somewhat educated” speculation on my part. I’m sure I’ll be surprised by how it actually takes place. But this analysis makes sense given the historical context and I believe God is revealing more things about end times events than any generation has ever experienced… “But you, Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book until the time of the end; many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase” (Daniel 12:4).
If God does call us to immediately cease our activities in preparation for the Rapture, I’d expect only true followers of Jesus to hear that command. As God called Paul on the Damascus road, those with him knew that something supernatural was occurring, but only Paul heard what Jesus said (Acts 9:3-7). Only those prepared to meet Jesus will be invited to “come up here.” Those who love their life in this world will miss the Rapture; “remember Lot's wife” (Luke 17:32). And as Jesus said, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62).
Given everything going on in this world today, it behooves us to be ready to leave here by making sure we are in a healthy relationship with Jesus. “Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man” (Luke 21:36). “And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:24-25).
As I heard a man who loved the prophetic Scriptures once say, “there are so many signs of the Lord’s soon return that I’m no longer watching so much as I’m listening.” In this day, all followers of Jesus need to stay ready to say, “speak, LORD, for Your servant hears!” (1 Samuel 3:9).