A voice like a trumpet

In Revelation 4:1, the apostle John writes, “After this I looked, and there in heaven was an open door. The first voice that I had heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, ‘Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.'”

So, whose voice is like a trumpet?

John hears this voice and recognizes it instantly. It is “[t]he first voice that I had heard speaking to me like a trumpet” (v. 1). This is, of course, the voice of Jesus, who spoke to John many times during His earthly ministry. But now, with the sonic fullness of heaven’s atmosphere, John hears the Messiah’s magnified tones and remembers the sound from Rev. 1:10 as Jesus instructs him to write what he sees to the seven churches in Asia Minor. Some time later the Savior tells John, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this” (v. 1).

Those who hold to a futurist view of Revelation argue that John’s call into heaven is a foreshadowing of the Rapture, which Paul describes as being accompanied by “a shout” from the Lord and “the trumpet of God” (1 Thess. 4:16).

There is some connection between the shouts of Jesus and the opening of the graves;

  • In John 11, Jesus stands outside the tomb of Lazarus and shouts loudly, “Lazarus, come out!” His friend soon emerges from the grave after being dead nearly four days.
  • In Matt. 27:50, just before dying, Jesus shouts with a loud voice and then gives up His spirit. The very next verses record, “Suddenly, the curtain of the sanctuary was split in two from top to bottom; the earth quaked and the rocks were split. The tombs also were opened and many bodies of the saints who had gone to their rest were raised. And they came out of the tombs after His resurrection, entered the holy city, and appeared to many” (vv. 51-53).
  • And, of course, Paul’s teaching about the future resurrection of the saints in 1 Thess. 4:13-18 features Jesus descending from heaven with a shout, resulting in the resurrection of believers whose bodies rest in the graves.

The sound of the trumpet also is significant. Not only are trumpets used to herald kings, alert armies to prepare for battle, and forewarn God’s people of judgment, but Paul tells us a trumpet will sound when it’s time for the church to be called into heaven: “For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we will be changed” (1 Cor. 15:52b). Some argue that Rosh Hashanah, the feast of the Jewish New Year, prefigures the Rapture of the church – a feast in which shofars, or rams’ horns, play a prominent role.

Whether John’s vision in Revelation 4 is indeed a preview of the Rapture, as futurists contend, or simply a unique invitation from Jesus for the apostle to see inside heaven’s throne room, it is clear that that future resurrection awaits all people, and that Jesus is the one who calls the dead from their graves and into judgment. He said in John 5:28-29: “… a time is coming when all who are in the graves will hear His (Jesus’) voice and come out — those who have done good things to the resurrection of life, but those who have done wicked things, to the resurrection of judgment.”

One final note: Lest you think Jesus’ words support the false notion of works-based salvation, Jesus is clear on the requirements for eternal life just a few verses earlier: “I assure you: Anyone who hears My word and believes Him who sent Me has eternal life and will not come under judgment but has passed from death to life” (John 5:24). The “good things” and “wicked things” of verse 29 are merely the fruits of a person’s belief, or lack thereof, in Christ.

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