Every morning at 5:55, bugle fanfare echoes across the quiet streets of my neighborhood. It’s First Call, a signal to the troops that morning has arrived. Five minutes later, Reveille sounds. Reveille, which originates from the French word "wake up,” began as a way to rouse military personnel at dawn. At Fort Jackson, in my home city of Columbia, South Carolina, Reveille also signals the raising of the flag.
Trumpet calls are not unique to the United States military. They go back to the dawn of civilization. When God summoned Moses to Mount Sinai, he used thunder, lightning, and a trumpet call (Ex. 19:19). Leaders used trumpets made of rams horns to assemble the Israelites for holy days (Lev. 25:19), gather troops for battle (Num. 10:4), and direct battle maneuvers (Judges 3:27). Buglers traditionally go ahead of troops into battle to provide a rallying point.
During times of war, the bugle is the voice of the general leading the charge.
General Daniel Butterfield, a Civil War soldier with the Union army, loved bugle calls. Because troops would often get confused on the battlefield as to which call belonged to their battalion, Butterfield composed his own calls unique to his regiment.
In 1862 he took a French bugle call that had gone out of fashion, rearranged the notes, and re-purposed it. He used this call to signal “Lights out,” to the troops. Within days of introducing it, the call, composed of only 24 notes, spread through the ranks. Within weeks, the entire Union army was using the melody to signal the close of the day.
At 11 p.m., if my windows are open and the night is still, I can hear the soothing sound of “Taps” playing in the darkness.
First Thessalonians 4:16-17 tells us of the trumpet blast that will sound at the time of Christ’s coming:
“For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.”
First Corinthians 15:52 gives additional details about this glorious day:
“In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.”
Ft. Jackson no longer uses a lone bugler to sound the 14 calls that announce everything from mealtime to lights out. Instead it has a very effective public address system that residents in nearby neighborhoods like mine have insisted is too loud.
I love to hear the bugle calls. I listen for them in the early morning and in the late evening. They remind me that even while I sleep, soldiers are protecting me and my country from harm.
I also listen for the trumpet call to end all trumpet calls—the one that will announce the return of Christ to take his bride, the church, home. Hoping one day to hear this call reminds me to make the most of every day and live in light of Christ’s return. It also reminds me that even while I sleep, God is working out his purposes in the world and preparing me to spend eternity with him in heaven.
If you know Christ as Savior, these truths are yours as well. In the words of the apostle Paul, “Comfort one another with these words.”
What about you? Are you eagerly anticipating the sound of the trumpet and Christ’s return, or are you dreading the day of his coming? Are you living for Christ and making the most of every day, or are you living for yourself and wasting the life God has given you?
Make no mistake, the trumpet will sound, and we will all give an account of ourselves before God. Will you be ready?
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