This World is Not My Home

The Celestial City

[Jesus said,] “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” Matthew 6:31-34 (NKJV)

“If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.” Colossians 3:1-2

Soldiers, we are in difficult times as the Lord’s return draws near. God told us that perilous times would come and evil would grow worse and worse. (II Timothy 3:1-4) Jesus said, “Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near.” (Luke 21:28)  Fellow soldiers, when this fight is over we will finally return to the home of beloved brothers and sisters who have gone on before us. Our earthly land will fade into a distant memory when we see our Savior face to face.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in ChristEphesians 1:3

 

This World is Not My Home

by J.R. Baxter, Jr. (1887-1960) *

This world is not my home I’m just-a-passing through

My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue

Angels beckon me to heaven’s open door

And I can’t feel at home in this world anymore

Chorus

Oh Lord you know I have no friend like you

If heaven’s not my home oh Lord what will I do

Angels beckon me to heaven’s open door

And I can’t feel at home in this world anymore

They’re all expecting me that’s one thing I know

I fixed it up with Jesus a long time ago

He will take me through though I am weak and poor

And I can’t feel at home in this world anymore

[Chorus]

Over in glory land there’ll be no dying there

The saints all shouting victory and singing everywhere

I hear the voice of them that’s gone on before

And I can’t feel at home in this world anymore

[Chorus]

 

J.R. (Pap) Baxter, Jr. (1887-1960) was a Southern Gospel composer and publisher who grew up in De­Kalb Coun­ty, Al­a­ba­ma. In 1926, he bought part of what be­came the Stamps-Bax­ter Mu­sic and Print­ing Com­pa­ny, one of the most suc­cess­ful Gos­pel mu­sic pub­lish­ers of the ear­ly 20th century. Bax­ter ran the com­pa­ny’s Chat­ta­noo­ga, Ten­nes­see, of­fice un­til Stamps’ death in 1940, then moved to Dall­as, Tex­as, to run the main of­fice. Af­ter Bax­ter’s death, his wife, Clarice, ran the bus­i­ness un­til she died; it was then sold to Zon­der­van Publishing.

Southern Gospel music originated in songs sung by slaves who came to Christ after the Great Awakening. Because of their unimaginably harsh lives under slavery, a common theme of gospel singers was their joyous expectation of freedom from suffering, pain, tears, and poverty when they crossed the Jordan River into the heavenly Promised Land. Hymns such as “This World is Not My Home” were sung with happy anticipation that the slaves’ current misery was only temporary and soon they would see their Savior in that Holy City, New Jerusalem!

 “And I [John] saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.” Revelation 21:1-4

Look up and fight on!

 

Heavenly Colonists

For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.” (Philippians 3:20-21 NKJV)

Readers of Paul’s letter to the Philippians would have appreciated the same term as their citizenship in the city as a Roman colony. Philippi of Macedonia was made a Roman colony after the Battle of Philippi in 42 B.C. when generals Mark Antony and Octavian released some of their veteran soldiers, probably from Legion XXVIII, to colonize or “Romanize” the area. The Macedonian city was proudly known as “Little Rome” by its inhabitants.

One historian defined a colony as:

“A community of people who share common roots, pursuits, meanings, and values. Even though colonists settle in a distant and sometimes hostile place, they continue to live under the control and in the spirit of their home country. No matter how far away the residents of a colony may be planted, they continue to remember, respect, and repeat the standards and stories of their native land.”

James Moffatt, in his commentary on Philippians 3:20, suggested that Christians should think of themselves as living in “a colony of heaven.” Paul’s application seems to be this: Because of our new birth in Christ we have a new citizenship. We are heavenly colonists placed here by God to live a certain way even though we are in the midst of an unholy culture that is hostile to all that we believe and hold dear. As representatives of another “country” we are ambassadors called to represent the Lord Jesus Christ before our neighbors, coworkers, and anyone we meet.

“But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.” II Peter 3:10-13 

Believers are citizens, colonists, of heaven now. Our heavenly passport is genuine, stamped, and sealed by the Holy Spirit. Are we ready to travel as soon as God calls us to our real home?

“I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world…Jesus answered [Pilate], ‘My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here.’” John 17:14; 18:36

I’m a Pilgrim

Abraham the Sojourner in Canaan

“By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise; for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.” Hebrews 11:8-10 (NKJV)

“Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain. You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.” James 5:7-8

Below is the song of a traveler with his eyes set on his true home. He dares not be delayed or stray from the path that leads upward to a place prepared by his Savior who waits to welcome him with open arms. Never forget, fellow soldiers, that this world is not our home. Our earthly citizenship, with its ties to family, friends, church, town, or country, cannot compare to that heavenly city where we will spend eternity together.

 

I’m a Pilgrim

(First verse and chorus)

I’m a pilgrim, and I’m a stranger;
I can tarry but a night,
Do not detain me, for I am going
To where the fountains are ever flowing.

There the glory is ever shining!
O, my longing heart, my longing heart is there,
Here in this country so dark and dreary,
I long have wandered forlorn and weary:

[Chorus]

There’s the city to which I journey;
My Redeemer, my Redeemer is its light!
There is no sorrow nor any sighing.
Nor any tears there, nor any dying.

[Chorus]

Farewell, dreary earth, by sin so blighted,
In immortal beauty soon you’ll be arrayed!
He who has formed thee will soon restore thee!
And then thy dread curse shall never more be.

[Chorus]

* From The Southern Zion’s Songster; Hymns Designed for Sabbath Schools, Prayer, and Social Meetings, and the Camps. Published by the North Carolina Christian Advocate Publishing Company, 1864.

Originating as hymns of white Protestant churches following the Great Awakening, Southern gospel music expressed a revival of Protestant Christianity in rural areas during the early 19th century before the Civil War. In the South, this movement was spread by horse-riding preachers in camp meetings where the proprieties of polite society gave way to spirited singing and other forms of lively religious behavior. Southern gospel music, although based on Protestant hymnody (hymn singing), blended hymns with folk songs and black gospel music.

The lyrics for I’m a Pilgrim vary in old hymnals, but historians agree that songs of this type were typical of early Southern gospel music after the Great Awakening. The gospel tune popularized on the 1940’s as a bluegrass ballad titled, I am a Pilgrim, was a precursor to country music.

“Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God.’” Revelation 21:2-3

Roman Citizenship in the New Testament

Roman citizenship ceremony

And as they bound him with thongs, Paul said to the centurion who stood by, “Is it lawful for you to scourge a man who is a Roman, and uncondemned?”

When the centurion heard that, he went and told the commander, saying, “Take care what you do, for this man is a Roman.”

Then the commander came and said to him, “Tell me, are you a Roman?”

He said, “Yes.”

The commander answered, “With a large sum I obtained this citizenship.”

And Paul said, “But I was born a citizen.” Acts 22:25-28 (NKJV)

During New Testament times there were many ways to become a Roman citizen (civitas) with the most common being acquired by birth if both parents were Roman citizens. Emperors and generals could also grant citizenship and especially for a price. Soldiers who were not citizens (either conscripts or foreign-born auxiliaries) were awarded citizenship, a land grant, and an annual pension after twenty-five years of service. The official document certifying citizenship was called a diploma, a bronze tablet, composed of two parts, sealed together. On the outside of the front panel was written that the individual had obtained citizenship and on the back were notary seals with the names of witnesses. Inside, to avoid counterfeiting, both tables carried the text of the outside of the plate. Only a magistrate could break the seals and any tampering invalidated the document. A copy of the diploma, also in bronze, was sent to Rome and kept in the Campidoglio archive.

Roman diploma

Beginning in the reign of Julius Caesar (c. 48 B.C.), Roman colonies and free cities were established outside the Italian peninsula and all residents were granted citizenship. Roman civitas had also been extended to provincials of client states who swore allegiance to Rome. Finally, granting Roman citizenship to soldiers and native populations in provinces hastened the pace of Romanization in the Empire.

The Apostle Paul was a Roman citizen by birth, and Tarsus in Cilicia, where Paul was born, was a free city (Acts 21:39). The Emperor Pompey made Cilicia a Roman province in 64 B.C., and the capital, Tarsus, was a free city from the time of Augustus. Although it is unknown exactly how his parents became citizens of Rome, Paul was a Roman citizen by birth, which was a privilege many did not have. Some could buy Roman citizenship, but it was pricey (see Acts 22:28). The privileges of citizenship explain how Paul escaped flogging in Acts 22:25–27 and was able to appeal for a hearing before Emperor Nero in Acts 25:10–11.

Acts 22:25–27

God used the Apostle Paul’s background for His glory, and Paul testified that “God . . . set me apart from my mother’s womb and called me by his grace” (Galatians 1:15). With his Jewish upbringing and knowledge of Greek culture and philosophy from his time in Tarsus, Paul was prepared for ministry to both Jews and Gentiles throughout the Roman world. Paul’s status as a Roman citizen by birth benefited him greatly as he traveled on his missionary journeys to fulfill Jesus’ words that he would be a “chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel.” (Acts 9:15).

As believers we have dual citizenship – an earthly domicile where we have temporary residence and a heavenly home where Jesus promised that we will spend eternity with Him.

“Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.” John 14:1-3

NEXT WEEK – Heavenly Citizenship

 

Fight the Good Fight With All Thy Might

Fight the good fight of the faith

“And [Jahaziel] said, ‘Listen, all you of Judah and you inhabitants of Jerusalem, and you, King Jehoshaphat! Thus says the LORD to you: ‘Do not be afraid nor dismayed because of this great multitude, for the battle is not yours, but God’s. II Chronicles 20:15

“Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.” Ephesians 6:10

 

Fight the Good Fight With All Thy Might

by John S.B. Monsell  *

Fight the good fight with all thy might;

Christ is thy strength, and Christ thy right:

lay hold on life, and it shall be

thy joy and crown eternally.

Run the straight race through God’s good grace,

lift up thine eyes, and seek his face;

life with its way before us lies,

Christ is the path, and Christ the prize.

Cast care aside; upon thy Guide

lean, and his mercy will provide;

lean, and the trusting soul shall prove,

Christ is its life and Christ its love.

Faint not, nor fear, his arms are near;

he changeth not, and thou art dear;

only believe, and thou shalt see

that Christ is all in all to thee.

* John Samuel Bewley Monsell (1811-1875) was educated at Trinity College in Dublin and served as a chaplain and rector of several churches in Ireland after his ordination in 1835. Transferred to England in 1853, he became rector of Egham in Surrey and was rector of St. Nicholas Church in Guilford from 1870 until his death (caused by a construction accident at his church). A prolific poet, Monsell published his verse in eleven volumes. He wrote thee hundred hymns including “Worship the Lord in the Beauty of Holiness,” “Christ is the Foundation,” and “Soon, Soon, and Forever Our Union Shall Be.”

Stay alert! Grab your sword! Fight on!

 

Fight the Good Fight

Fight the good fight of (the) faith

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.

II Timothy 4:7 (NKJV)

Fight the good fight of [the] faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.”

I Timothy 6:12

Whether or not the Apostle Paul meant a military metaphor in the verses above is debatable. He often uses the Greek word “fight” for a literal conflict or struggle. Clearly he means it in both verses above in a figurative sense, but the verse in II Timothy likens the Christian life to a wrestling match because the second half of the verse is about running in an athletic event. The verse in I Timothy is also figurative, but the allusion is less clear.

I believe it is possible for “fight” in both verses to be interpreted as military conflict or battle if Paul is mixing his athletic and military metaphors. An example where he does exactly this is Ephesians 6:12-13:

“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.”

Ephesians 6:12-13

The writer of these verses in Ephesians, Paul in his own words and literary style under inspiration of the Holy Spirit, compares spiritual warfare to wrestling (v. 12) and in v. 13 tells his readers to take up belt, breastplate, shoes, shield, helmet, and sword to wage this warfare. Two metaphors are used to convey the same idea.

Spiritual warfare is a struggle which requires all our energy and strength. God has given us defensive and offensive weapons to fight such as truth, righteousness, peace, faith, salvation, and the Word of God. Paul tells Timothy how to fight the good fight of the faith  in I Timothy 6:12 when he follows his command with, “lay hold on eternal life…” Our eternal life began when God saved us by faith alone in His Son. That is a static truth and the result of faith.  But it’s not enough simply to possess eternal life. To fight the good fight, and wrestle our foe to the ground, we have to grasp hold of eternal life with both hands.  “Taking hold” requires faith plus obedience ( 1 Timothy 6:14).

“Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy. Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share, storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.” I Timothy 6:17-19

Stay alert! Lay hold of eternal life! Fight the good fight!

Shall We Gather at the River?

The illustration above depicts Julius Caesar crossing the River Rubicon on his way to Rome. Once Caesar did this in 49 BC, he and his men were committed to overthrowing the Roman Republic that had lasted for 700 years. Today, “crossing the Rubicon” refers to an individual or group committing itself irrevocably to a risky course of action, similar to the modern phrase “passing the point of no return.”

Salvation is a step of faith, believing that the holy, sinless Son of God will save me from sin through His substitutionary, atoning death on the cross. It is faith that what the Bible says about sin, salvation, and the Savior is true and that my very life depends on it. Jesus said this to a woman when He asked her for a drink of water from a well: “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.” (John 4:13-14 NKJV)

As fellow-soldiers, we have assurance that God will keep His Word and that our eternal destiny depends only on His faithfulness and not our own. As fellow-soldiers, fellow-laborers, and fellow-servants, we will meet together at a river one day in the New Jerusalem and spend eternity at the foot of the throne of God. Will you meet us there at that river?

E. W. Long’s Illustrated History of Hymns and their Authors says this about our “Battle Hymn” for today:

“On a very hot summer day, in 1864, Robert Lowry was seated in his parlor in Brooklyn, NY. It was a time when an epidemic was sweeping through the city, and draping many persons and dwellings in mourning. All around friends and acquaintances were passing away in large numbers. The question began to arise in the heart, with unusual emphasis, ‘Shall we meet again? We are parting at the river of death, shall we meet at the river of life?’ ‘Seating myself at the organ,’ says he, ‘simply to give vent to the pent up emotions of the heart, the words and music of the hymn began to flow out, as if by inspiration:—
‘Shall we gather at the river,
Where bright angel feet have trod?’”

 

Shall We Gather at the River?

by Robert Lowry

Shall we gather at the river,

Where bright angel feet have trod;

With its crystal tide forever

Flowing by the throne of God?

Refrain

Yes, we’ll gather at the river,

The beautiful, the beautiful river;

Gather with the saints at the river

That flows by the throne of God.

On the margin of the river,

Washing up its silver spray,

We will walk and worship ever,

All the happy golden day. [Refrain]

Ere we reach the shining river,

Lay we ev’ry burden down;

Grace our spirits will deliver,

And provide a robe and crown. [Refrain]

Soon we’ll reach the shining river,

Soon our pilgrimage will cease;

Soon our happy hearts will quiver

With the melody of peace. [Refrain]

“And he shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.”  Revelation 22:1-2

 

Fellow Soldiers

…my brother, fellow worker, and fellow soldier

“Yet I considered it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother, fellow worker, and fellow soldier, but your messenger and the one who ministered to my need;”  Philippians 2:25 (NKJV)

“Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother, To Philemon our beloved friend and fellow laborer, to the beloved Apphia, Archippus our fellow soldier, and to the church in your house:”  Philemon 1:1-2

 

Roman military soldiers, especially front-line infantry, closely identified with their units; many were “branded” with their legion number or name. Veterans could immediately identify another veteran after they left service by the legion number or name branded on their arm. The historian Stephen Ambrose coined a term for soldiers—“band of brothers.” Today’s military describes unit cohesion as “…the bonding together of soldiers in such a way as to sustain their will and commitment to each other, the unit, and mission accomplishment, despite combat or mission stress.”

As Christian soldiers we are spiritually united to other believers through an unbreakable bond—we are all one in Christ! “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28) Members of a local assembly call one another “brethren” because of our unbreakable bond – not just as family, but as an indivisible, organic unit who work together as a spiritual body. “For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another.” (Romans 12:4-5)

This was the bond that the Apostle Paul had forged with many men and women who helped him in his ministry. He named many of them in his epistles as an indication that the bond between them mirrored that of soldiers who fight side-by-side, share a foxhole, march in the rain, and sleep in dark forests. People like Epaphroditus and Archippus were called fellow soldiers; Titus, Timothy, Clement, Marcus, Aristarchus, Demas, and Lucas were fellow workers; Epaphras and Tychicus were fellow servants; Aristarcus a fellow prisoner. The Apostle Paul was close to these believers with whom he shared special bonds of friendship and suffering.

Today, the bond among believers is stronger and deeper than those formed by soldiers or people who work together. Our bond is secured by the Holy Spirit and cannot be broken. (Ephesians 1:13, 4:30; II Corinthians 1:22) Our common, binding tie with other believers is the fellowship that we have with the Lord Jesus Christ. “…that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.” (I John 1:3)

Stay alert! Stay together! March on!

 

 

The Bugle Call

“Listen to the sound of the trumpet!”

The Roman Army bugle (trumpet) gave signals to soldiers while marching in formation or on the battlefield when their commander wanted them to move in certain directions as a unit. Thousands of troops maneuvered at a single command to execute their leader’s will.

The Bible demonstrates that God uses trumpets to announce major events about His will and intentions for believers. The verses below illustrate how God initiates His sovereignty over history in commanding the Rapture, warnings about the coming Day of the Lord, and the regathering of Israel at the end of the Great Tribulation.

“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.” I Corinthians 15:51-52 (NKJV)

Blow the trumpet in Zion, And sound an alarm in My holy mountain! Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble; For the day of the LORD is coming, For it is at hand:”  Joel 2:1

“Also, I set watchmen over you, saying, ‘Listen to the sound of the trumpet!’ But they said, ‘We will not listen.’” Jeremiah 6:17

“Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.”  Matthew 24:30-31

The battle hymn below is a “call to arms” for Christian soldiers to prepare for spiritual warfare which we must fight without rest until the trumpet signals that the battle is over and we are called to meet the Lord Jesus in the air!

The Bugle Call

Lyrics by James Summerfield Bitler, Sr. *

Hear the bugle calling,

Come without delay;

Every man be ready

For the fight today.

Do not sleep in danger,

Do not hesitate;

Rouse you up, O soldiers,

For the foe is great.

Refrain

Hear the bugle calling,

Calling you and me;

Awake, ye soldiers of the cross!

Hear the bugle calling,

Calling you and me,

Come without delay;

Rouse you up, O soldiers,

For the fight today!

Hear the bugle calling,

Time is going fast;

Men are dying ’round you,

Life will soon be past!

Seize the moment quickly,

Speak the word just now;

Trust the Lord to guide you,

He will show you how. [Refrain]

Hear the bugle calling;

See, it calls for you!

Don’t say there are others,

That will never do.

For your place, my brother,

Others cannot fill;

You must do your duty,

Do it with a will! [Refrain]

*  James Summerfield Bitler, Sr. (1852–1926) grad­u­at­ed from Ohio Wes­ley­an Un­i­ver­si­ty around 1870. He be­came a well-known ev­an­gel­ist, liv­ing in Ohio, In­di­a­na, Il­li­nois, Mis­so­uri, and Ne­bras­ka. At the time of death, he was pas­tor of the First Me­thod­ist Epis­co­pal Church in Ham­den, Ohio.

Stay alert! Listen for the trumpet!

 

The Military Trumpet

Sound the trumpet – prepare for battle!

 

“But now, brethren, if I come to you speaking with tongues, what shall I profit you unless I speak to you either by revelation, by knowledge, by prophesying, or by teaching? Even things without life, whether flute or harp, when they make a sound, unless they make a distinction in the sounds, how will it be known what is piped or played? For if the trumpet makes an uncertain sound, who will prepare for battle? So likewise you, unless you utter by the tongue words easy to understand, how will it be known what is spoken? For you will be speaking into the air.”

I Corinthians 14:6-9 (NKJV)

 

Both the Old and New Testaments contain a total of sixty references to a “trumpet.” In the Hebrew Bible the context makes it clear that the trumpet is either a ram’s horn (shofar) blown for holy days and feast days; a coronet for special events like royal coronations; or a musical instrument to accompany a choir in Solomon’s Temple. The fall of Jericho recorded in the Book of Joshua mentions the ram’s horn trumpet being blown as the ark and the army circled the city before the walls fell. (Joshua 6:3ff)

A trumpet in the New Testament has a mostly prophetic significance as either a ram’s horn or some other type of loud instrument. It is used to announce key future events such as the Rapture of believers (I Thessalonians 4:16); the gathering of the elect at Jesus’ Second Coming (Matthew 24:31); the last trumpet at the resurrection of the saints (I Corinthians 15:52); revelations in Heaven to the Apostle John (Revelation 1:10; 4:1); announcement of the last three trumpet judgments (8:13) and specifically the sixth trumpet judgment. (9:14)

All of this is by way of prologue to say that in I Corinthians 14:8 the distinct sound of a “trumpet” (or “bugle” in some translations) is not like the blast of a ram’s horn that marks the beginning of an important event like a festival, feast, coronation, or judgment. The trumpet here is a military signaling device [see illustration at top] that a field commander would use to send instructions to his distant troops during a battle. It was loud and the dozen or so different sounds were distinct enough to be understood amid the chaos and tumult of the fighting.

Two bugle signals that many of us might recognize are “Reveille” and “Taps.” Reveille is a loud, energetic tune sounded in quick time to wake sleeping soldiers. The sound says, “Wake up! Get moving!” Taps is a slow, melancholy tune to honor the death of a soldier and ends in a sorrowful note of tears for the fallen soldier. Each trumpet sound marks a completely different mood or tone that is easily identifiable.

The metaphor of a Roman military trumpet makes the Apostle Paul’s point in I Corinthians 14:8 that speaking in tongues is not some gibberish or monotonous sound that conveys no real information. Biblical “tongues” to which Paul refers here and Luke mentions in the Book of Acts, were distinct languages that people understood clearly.

“And when this sound [speaking in tongues] occurred, the multitude came together, and were confused, because everyone heard them speak in his own language. Then they were all amazed and marveled, saying to one another, ‘Look, are not all these who speak Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each in our own language in which we were born? Parthians and Medes and Elamites, those dwelling in Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya adjoining Cyrene, visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs—we hear them speaking in our own tongues the wonderful works of God.’ So they were all amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, ‘Whatever could this mean?’” Acts 2:6-12 (NKJV)

Any so-called “tongues” which impart no information or which nobody can understand are not Biblical and not to be allowed. Paul (by inspiration of the Holy Spirit) used a military trumpet to illustrate something about Biblical tongues that can be understood and applied today.

Sound the trumpet! Grab your weapons! March on!