Mystery Revealed – The Manner of Our Resurrection
Paul reveals in a powerful way a mystery hidden before this time in the New Testament age: the manner of our resurrection.
1 Corinthians 15:50-53 (NKJV)
Our Final Victory
50 Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption. 51 Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed— 52 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. 53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.
Our sinful bodies are incapable of entering the heavenly realm. While we have been saved by God’s grace, we still live in a sinful nature in our current bodies. Salvation does not annul the fact we continue in sin once we are saved. Therefore, our bodies have to be replaced so we can be prepared to have an eternal life. The corruption, our sinful nature in that we presently live in cannot be a part of the incorruptible, perfect kingdom of God. But Paul begins to explain how that replacement will take place by saying he is revealing a mystery to the church of Corinth. Here the word ‘mystery’ means a truth of God’s plan which was hidden from our understanding until an appointed time it was to be revealed. Paul was given the opportunity to reveal 8 different mysteries to the church. This mystery here is one of those hidden truths: The manner of the resurrection.
To start, Paul tells us that we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed. Sleep in Paul’s day was an euphemism for physical death. Because death of a body resembled someone sleeping. Just as today we politely say someone has passed away or have gone home. Paul goes on to say, ‘we will not all die.’ We, the believers in the church will not all experience physical death. Of course, we know up to this point so far everyone has died and are asleep as Paul says. And we can see that in God’s plan some will escape the physical death experience.
Whether alive or dead all of us must be changed. The Greek word for changed can also carry the meaning of being exchanged. We all must exchange our current bodies for eternal bodies. Those believers who bodies are dead physically in the first death will at some later point receive a new body. And for those who are still alive at that moment, these Christians new bodies will be exchanged for their old bodies without first experiencing a physical death. Paul says this exchange will happen incredibly fast, virtually instantaneously. And he tells us this will occur in the twinkling of an eye. Twinkling is the brief flash of light reflected by a person’s eye. At the moment we exchange our old body for our new body if will be instantaneous, as if no time has passed us by. Paul goes on to say all this will happen at the last trumpet. This is a reference to a last trumpet sounding, which any practicing Jew in Israel would instantly know its origin. It is referring to the Jewish feast of Trumpets or Rosh Hashanah. Rosh Hashanah is the first of the Fall feasts on the Jewish calendar. This feast begins with a series of trumpet blasts and ends with one long and great blast called the Tekiah Gedolah. Paul’s reference to this trumpet indicates that the Feast of Trumpets is fulfilled by the resurrection of the Church. This is not a reference to the trumpet judgments during the first half of tribulation found in the Book of Revelation. And since this book was written by Paul before the Book of Revelation was written by John, we are able to conclude that this knowledge was not known by the Corinthian Church and most likely neither did Paul have any knowledge of the coming trumpet judgments of tribulation. And so Paul says ‘the trumpet’ as if he expected the church in Corinth to know about this particular trumpet. And in that day, Paul and the church would have know the only trumpet he was speaking of would have been the last trumpet blown at Rosh Hashanah. And when the last trumpet associated with Rosh Hashanah blows, the resurrection will begin.
Those Christians who are dead when this moment arrives are the first ones to receive their new eternal bodies. Until this happens those who have died are without a physical body since their body is dead. They are existing as spirits only. For them they are present in the heavenly realm with Christ waiting for this day of resurrection to receive their new eternal bodies. But for now they are existing in spirit only. Once raised , that is raptured, they will receive their imperishable bodies. And following them those who are still alive will experience the exchange of their old bodies for their new imperishable bodies. Paul explains this process in more detail in a later letter written to another church in Asia Minor.
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 (NKJV)
The Comfort of Christ’s Coming
13 But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus.
15 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. 16 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. 17 Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore comfort one another with these words.
In Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians he reassures the church that those who have
already died in faith will not be left out of the resurrection. And he said they will actually be the first ones raised. And those who remain will join the others as they are caught up to meet Christ in the clouds in their new incorruptible bodies.
This process is such that it permits some believers to skip over the physical death. Why has God set this order this way? Let’s explore the possible reasoning of this. First think of it as being about numbers. Paul has said the church (Gentiles) is a temporary means to bring Israel into jealousy. We as the Gentile church get what Israel could of had and therefore we exist for a time to picture the kindness of the Lord to a stubborn and disobedient Israel. However, Paul goes on to say once the Gentile church reaches it’s appointed number, the church has met it’s purpose and must end.
Romans 11:25 (NKJV)
25 For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.
It is when the fullness (or complete number) of Gentiles has been reached, the church will be removed from the scene. And the sudden rapture of the church is set to bring that moment into reality at an appointed number being reach in the Gentile church. God is not waiting for the last Christian to die naturally. It is all according to His timing that He will simply bring the end. With this, it instills a sense of urgency and brings unpredictability to the when this event will come to being. Think, if God waited until all Christians had died, then there would be no reason to be watching for the Lord’s return and much less for us to be prepared for that moment. Simply put, we would be just waiting for our deaths and that would drive far less urgency than it should. Jesus warned us that His return for the Church is an always present possibility. One which we must be ready for at any time.
Matthew 24:42-44 (NKJV)
42 Watch therefore, for you do not know what day your Lord is coming. 43 But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into. 44 Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.
We need to be mindful that our being taken up will be a surprise and we have a good reason to be attentive to the Lord’s commands while we wait. We need not to take anything for granted and set our mind every day to please Him.
Paul gives praise to the Lord for His plan to put an end to our mortality.
1 Corinthians 15:54-57 (NKJV)
54 So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.”
55 “O Death, where is your sting?
O Hades, where is your victory?”
56 The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
You can see that God’s plan of redemption in Christ promises that His death and resurrection has won the victory over our enemy Death. However, that victory won’t be evident to us personally until our own death has been conquered. And the rapture is the moment when death is swallowed up forever. Imagine, if you can, that death will be forever removed from your thinking and imagine a day when you will never be troubled again because your mortality and the mortality of all the believers around you is completely removed from your mind. Paul tells us the sting of death is sin. The instrument (stinger) of death’s attack is our sin. And if our sin is the ‘stinger’ it is what sent death into our flesh. And the power of that stinger comes because of God’s Law. The power of the Law is in it’s ability to condemn men for their sin. But Christ granted us victory by meeting the requirement of the Law and also paying the penalty it required for sin…he won our victory over death. Thanks be to God for winning this victory for us!
“The author’s biblical interpretations and conclusions presented in this document rely on original teaching used by permission of Verse By Verse Ministry International (VBVMI). The author’s views may not represent the views of VBVMI, it’s Directors or staff. Original VBVMI teaching may be found at http://www.vbvmi.org.”