CHAPTER XXII.

The Sound of a Trumpet

It was only the other day that I found myself doing it again . . . . listening! Not listening to the sounds which constantly surround us all, but listening in the silence for something else. It is one of my chief pleasures to be away in the hills, far from the noise of man and his traffic, and here where the clouds roll high over sun-dappled landscape and the wind stirs softly among the short grass there comes the kind of blessed stillness in which one fully expects to hear it. .. . the sound of a trumpet! It was Joseph Conrad who wrote that the peace of God begins a thousand miles out from shore, although we know better than that, for it can garrison our hearts amid the most discordant clamour of earth, but we can appreciate his meaning, for the further away from man we can come and the closer to unspoilt nature, the nearer do our spirits seem to God. I remember, a brother recounting to me how he once saw the Aurora Borealis, when the whole of the northern sky was lit up with an indescribable glory of constantly changing colour; it was so wonderful, he said, that he waited expectantly to hear the trumpet of God.

But we ought to be listening for it all the time, for no man knows when it will sound. We are often exhorted to watch and to wait, and well we may, but surely above all we ought to listen. We should all be familiar with the truth that we shall be snatched away," but the evidence of Scripture seems to indicate that this will not be a sudden snatch which will alarm or bewilder us, we shall be alerted by the sound of a trumpet.

This, to me, seems a very exquisite touch of the Divine grace. We are exhorted in whatever we do to do it as unto the Lord, but there are many things which we all have to do in the course of daily life which are far removed from the high things of the spirit, things which, however innocuous, would not find us in the posture or attitude of mind we should wish to adopt in the presence of our Lord at this rapturous moment of our experience of Him. It would be well within the power of God to ensure that when this secret hour should dawn every one of His saints, through the activity of Holy Spirit, would be in an anticipatory and receptive mind in which to meet this great moment. . . this may well be the purpose of the warning trumpet, it comes first, before the snatching away, so that at the first note of it we can drop all things of earth and turn un hindered attention to Him.

There is a beautful triple logic about the promise :--

  1. The trumpet shall sound.
  2. The dead shall be raised incorruptible.
  3. We shall be changed.

There is something uniquely attractive about the sound of a trumpet. All through the Scriptures there are indications that our God approves of the sound of music, but of all the instru ments available, it is the trumpet which He indicates as particularly His own. It is not just any of the trumpets which we know from the Unveiling will be used by his dread messengers, it is His own particular trumpet, "the trumpet OF GOD." Our Lord, we are told, descends from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the Chief Messenger, and with the trumpet of God. The eagerness of the Lord to greet His saints (would that it were matched by their eagerness to meet Him) is shown by the fact that He uses the voice of the Chief Messenger to give the shout of command and the trumpet of God for the clarion call, leaving Him the delight of raising the dead and changing the living to His own glorious likeness.

Now we know from other Scriptures that events which follow the snatching away of the Body of Christ will also be heralded by trumpets, so when the Apostle Paul uses the phrase "the last trumpet" he must have in mind that there will be a fanfare of music from the trumpet, on the last note of which the mighty power of God will come into operation and bring about an event unprecedented in history, an event which baffles the imagination.

"The dead in Christ shall rise first." This is surely how it should be, they should be first and we should not preceed them, for they have waited longer than we have for this most precious moment, and with a faith more severely tested than that of those who are living and remain. They have died in faith, not having received the promises. So long as we live we imagine that we have some control of events, we are aware that we have spiritual contact with our Lord. We are praising Him, but the dead know not anything. Their faith has been completely centred in the ability of God to raise the dead; if He cannot or does not they are lost for ever in corruption. If, as we believe, in life everything for us depends on God, how much more are we dependent upon Him in death! And we who are living and remain will see this corruptible put on incorruption, and this mortal put on immortality. We shall see death swallowed up in victory! "If we believe that Jesus died and rose again," writes Paul to the Thessalonians, "thus also those who sleep will God, through Jesus, bring forth with Him," a fractional priority only, but still a priority. For we, the living who are surviving, shall at the same time be snatched away with them to meet the Lord in the air.

So we shall be changed! This will be essential if we are to ascend into the air, but the change will be radical. We shall all be changed, says Paul when telling the secret. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed. This is the moment when our bodies of humiliation will be changed to conform to His glorious body by the effectual working of that power which enables Him to subdue the entire universe unto Himself.

One can wonder whether the dead will hear the trumpet, whether the triumphant fanfare will continue long enough for them to be aware of it as dead ears are vivified and changed to immortal " ears that hear" in a truer sense than ever before. My impression is that it must be so and that many a saint who believes these truths will pass from life into death with ears straining for the note that will recall him from death into life. And to his comprehension this will be immediately, for in the unconscious state of death he will be totally unaware of the passing of time, and the last moment on earth will seem to synchronise with the first moment in the Lords presence, to be with Him for evermore.

How much men lose through unbelief! The events of which we speak are recounted by our Apostle several times, amplified and clarified so that no one should be under any doubt about them, but most professing Christians even if they do not accept the Devils lie that man has "an immortal soul," still remain in a state of confusion and uncertainty as to the next conscious moment after death. Even those who believe in a "second coming" (a pointless procedure if man has an im mortal soul) confuse their own destiny with that of Israel, looking for the fulfilment of prophecies which in fact have no connection with believers from among the Gentiles in this present day of grace. They are looking for this, and watching for that, when in fact we should all be listening.

One Bishop of the church, moralising about this Scripture, wrote "We can dismiss the idea of a literal trumpet." This, of course, is in accord with the prevailing religious habit of saying that the Scriptures never mean what they say but are capable of some sort of private interpretation according to the whimsies of whoever may happen to be speaking. I wonder, what is a "literal" trumpet, and where did the speaker obtain his private information that God would not use one? We are not informed as to the precise construction of the trumpet of God, nor from which mineral deposits in His far flung universe He would make it. When the Lord instructed the Israelites to make two trumpets for the Tabernacle He chose hammered silver. Now a silver trumpet sounds a particularly sweet note, and such a sound would be entirely in keeping with the moment which we antici pate. The clarity and purity of its note is a distinguishing mark of the trumpet as compared with other musical instruments and nobody who appreciates music can fail to be thrilled by the trumpets in Handels immortal "The trumpet shall sound "-- wonderful words set to wonderful music, the Saints Song of Deliverance beside which all the cheap "Gospel Choruses" pale into insignificance.

Whether or not the trumpet be "literal," its sound will be literal enough. When God appeared at Sinai there was, we are told, a loud blast of the trumpet, so that the people were terrified, and "the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder." This was the trumpet of God, which in our turn we shall hear; we shall not miss the summons, it will grow louder and louder until even the most otherwise-preoccupied believer will hear it, and at the last blast we shall be changed. Here is high drama--we may think that our earthly lives are placid and uneventful; that God is silent and never reveals His power ; and so it may be, to accord with this period in which spiritual blessings have the pre-eminence, but at the end, whether we live or die we shall have a wonderful experience of His mighty power "to usward who believe." What its effect upon the remainder of mankind may be, we do not know. Judging by subsequent history prophetically revealed it may only be a nine days wonder for the majority. But for us it will be the wonder of wonders, the beginning of life with Christ for ever, the clothing-upon with our house not made with hands.

Surely we should be on the alert.. . . listening.

"Trumpeter, what are you sounding now?
Is it the call Im seeking?
'Cant mistake the call; said the trumpeter tall,
'When my trumpet goes a-speaking.
I am calling them home.
Come home !

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