Pictures of the End Time
“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.”
—1 Thessalonians 4:16, NKJV
The “voice of an archangel” and the “trumpet of God” (1 Thessalonians 4:16) emphasize the divine authority behind Paul’s description of Jesus’ return. The images and pictures Paul uses for the end time overlap with those of other Jews of his time, though he omits most elements found in contemporary Jewish descriptions. What Paul does describe especially matches Jesus’ picture of the end time (trumpet, clouds, angels, times and seasons, sudden destruction).
Jewish readers familiar with the Old Testament recognized the importance of trumpets for gathering the assembly, sometimes to battle. Gentile readers probably knew the Roman use of trumpets to gather troops or to send signals in battle. Most relevant, Jewish tradition, as emphasized in a daily synagogue prayer, portrayed the gathering of Israel in the end time as accompanied by the sounding of a trumpet.
The highest archangel, according to Jewish tradition, was Michael (Daniel 10:13), who was also the special patron for Israel. Each nation had a guardian angel, but Michael was especially powerful, as the guardian though, for Paul, Jesus fulfilled this function Himself (1 Thessalonians 4:16).
The “shout,” conjoined with the trumpet, may picture the battle cry offered by a commander. The Old Testament sometimes portrays God as a divine warrior, occasionally mentioning His battle cry (Isaiah 42:13).
Jesus’ teaching about the end time (Matthew 24) is probably the background for Paul’s own teaching, which he claimed was by “the word of the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:15). As Jesus described the coming Son of Man, He applied to Himself a variety of end–time descriptions that the Old Testament and Judaism normally reserved only for God (Matthew 24:30, 31). Similarly, Paul applies these same descriptions to the coming Christ.
What images do you picture when Jesus returns?
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