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Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth (2 Timothy 2:15)
This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men (and women) to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (1Timothy 2:3-4)
Established November 2008 Published weekly on Friday
Hello, and welcome to HBS.
In this last section of 1 Corinthians 15, our Apostle Paul is about to inform these Corinthian saints that their bodies must experience a significant change before they can inherit the kingdom of God. Paul has spent considerable time and ink explaining that it was possible for God to give them bodies different from which they now possess. Here he affirms the need for every Believer’s body to undergo a transformation in order for it to be fashioned like Christ’s body.
Please open your Bible at 1 Corinthians 15:50.
The Mystery of Resurrection
1 Corinthians 15
50: Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable (See 1 Corinthians 6:9).
51: Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep (this is a biblical euphemism for death), but we will all be (what) 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 imperishable (immortal), and we will be changed.
53: For this perishable (body) must put on the imperishable, and this mortal (body) must put on immortality.
54: But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, “DEATH IS SWALLOWED UP in victory (Isaiah 25:8).
55: “O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR VICTORY? O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR STING?” (Hosea 13:14)
56: The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; (Romans 3:20).
57: but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 8:37).
58: Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.
Starting with verse 50, for some reason unbeknownst to me and many others, Paul decided to reveal the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead to the carnal, infants in Christ in Corinth even though earlier in this same letter he said all he could give them was spiritual milk to drink (3:1-3). I rarely offer a biblical opinion, but I will now and again when Scripture supports it. Because some of these Corinthians, for whatever reason, did not believe their bodies would be resurrected (see 1 Corinthians 15:12-13), I think Paul decided this destructive heresy and the arrogant attitude associated with it had to be uprooted from this assembly for the common good. He knew the best way to overcome evil is to shine the Light of truth upon it (John 1:4-5, 14:6; Titus 1:10-13).
Therefore, Paul is unwavering in his argument and for good reason. You see, the resurrection of our body from the dead (just like our Savior’s; the firstfruits) is the very core of our faith; death is not the end, but the beginning of eternal life for a true Believer. Our salvation is just the beginning of this process, as Paul says in Ephesians 2:1: And you (insert your name here, if you’re a Believer) hath he quickened, who were (past tense) dead in trespasses and sins; (KJV)
Paul isn’t talking about a time future he’s talking about now, the moment you and I believed, we went from being dead in trespasses and sins, i.e. spiritually disconnected from God, to being a new creation, an adopted child of God, co-heirs with Jesus Christ, and the indwelt Holy Spirit guarantees that we will receive eternal life in the age to come (1 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:17).
Paul wants these Corinthians to understand the heart of all these heavenly promises is the resurrection! Most people have bills they pay regularly, so permit me to put this in language we can all understand. Salvation comes in installments. You and I we’re saved the very moment we believed the gospel of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4), both in body and in spirit, and the eyes of our soul were opened, praise God. Now we love God and want to walk in His Light while serving Him and others - instead of just ourselves. We delight in His Word and we communicate with Him in prayer regularly. But, we do not yet have salvation in its fullness – that’s a future event. God sealed “the deal” by filling each Believer with the Holy Spirit as a down-payment on our inheritance. Paul explained this Truth to the Believers in Ephesus with these words: Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and anointed us is God, who also sealed us and gave us the Spirit in our hearts as a pledge (or down payment) (2 Corinthians 1:21).
There’s a companion passage in Ephesians 1:12-14: In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation – having also believed, you were (what) sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory.
The day is coming, (and that day is imminent); when we will receive the fullness of our salvation, i.e. when our bodies will be raised in power and we’ll receive our glorified bodies (Romans 6:5; Philippians 3:20-21; Colossians 3:4).
Let’s go to verse 51.
51: Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be (what) changed,
According to Merriam-Webster, the second definition for the word mystery is: something not understood or beyond understanding; an enigma. That’s the way the majority of people interpret its meaning; they apply the “Penn & Teller” principle to something they can’t comprehend, deeming it a mystery. Now, the meaning of the word in ancient time and the way the word is used in the Bible is altogether different. The word mystery in the Greek language is Musterion (pronounced: moos-tay’-ree-on), Noun Neuter, Strongs Greek #3466, and it means – of God, a hidden thing; a secret.
Thus, Paul is about to reveal one of ten mysteries (a.k.a. Church Age Doctrines), a secret, previously kept hidden in the mind of God since the foundations of the earth. I thought I would put these down on paper so you can look them up in your Bible this week:
The Secret of the Gospel of the Grace of God (Romans 16:25-26)
The Secret of the Blinding of Israel (Romans 11:25-27)
The Secret of the Rapture or Resurrection of the Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 15:51-53)
The Secret of the One Body (1 Corinthians 12:12-27; Ephesians 1:22-23; Colossians 1:18, 24,)
The Secret of Heavenly Citizenship (Ephesians 1:3; 2:4-6; Philippians 3:20-21)
The Secret of His Will (Ephesians 1:9-10; Colossians 1:19-20)
The Secret of the Grace of God (Romans 3:28, 6:14, 7:2-6, 8:2-4, 10:4; 1 Corinthians 15:1-4
The Secret of Identification with Christ (Romans 6:3-9; Galatians 2:20)
The Secret of Lawlessness (2 Thessalonians 2:3-12)
The Secret of Faith (1 Timothy 3:8-9)
The secret things belong to God because He is Sovereign. They remain secret until He chooses to reveal them to humanity. The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever, that we may observe all the words of this law (Deuteronomy 29:29).
My parents “limited my knowledge” or chose to withhold certain information from me until they decided I was ready (mature) to receive it and we see this same principle utilized throughout Scripture. God has every right to withhold information from His creation until He decides it’s time to reveal it. But once He reveals something to Believers He expects them to obey or to take Him at His Word– this is called faith.
The mystery (secret) Paul is about to reveal to the church in Corinth is we will not all sleep (die physically), but we will all be changed. I mentioned earlier that Paul spent a lot of time showing these Believers their bodies were going to be raised one day and fashioned after Christ’s resurrected body. It will be like our physical body but different in that it’s going to be a spiritual body suitable for heaven.
If you’re familiar with John’s account, when Jesus Christ suddenly appeared in the locked room with His disciples His glorified body still bore the scars of the crucifixion and the wound from the Roman’s spear was still visible. He showed His wounds to the disciples so that they wound KNOW it was really Him (John 20:19-31). While growing up in the church I’ve listened to a few sermons on this subject and no two were alike. One gentleman said we’d have complete make-overs, which meant my resurrected body would have a full head of hair and I would be young again. I liked the sound of that because I’m old and bald today, but I’ve been teaching this book for 20 years and haven’t come across one Bible verse that says we’re going to experience a “miraculous make-over.” Nowhere in Scripture does it state that at the resurrection people are going to grow hair where it’s needed, become 6’ 2” and handsome, blond, petite, and beautiful, shed unnecessary weight, lose our freckles and warts, have the perfect nose, smaller ears, or exchange our brown eyes for blue eyes.
The reason there will be a change, and not an exchange, is due to the fact that the present body left unchanged cannot inherit the kingdom of God. Paul talked about bodies throughout this entire chapter, and this is stressed in verse 35 where he was challenged with the question: With what body will they come? Paul has shown these folks (and us) that the same body that was sown into the earth will be a resurrected body made up of flesh and bones yet controlled by the Spirit.
Paul uses the term all in this verse and by this he means to say “those living and those who have died.” Now, Paul only writes to Believers, and it’s also quite evident from his writings that he believed the Lord would return in his lifetime. You can see that here as he includes himself in this verse. To say, “we will not all sleep” is to say not everyone in the group is going to die. Some will; some won’t (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). But here’s the thing, whether dead or alive at the Lord’s coming for His Church “we will all be changed.” This must occur in order to satisfy the fact that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God.
I’d like to point out that Paul, as did his colleagues, expected an imminent return of the glorified Christ, however, only God the Father knew the exact timing of this event (Matthew 24:36; Mark 13:32; Acts 1:7). From this we learn that Believers should live every day in light of the fact that our Lord is returning to remove His Church from the earth before the Tribulation begins. God has not destined us (the church, i.e. the Body of Christ) for wrath (1 Thessalonians 5:9). After the Rapture, God closes the door on the Church Age and removes the Holy Spirit from this planet simultaneously (2 Thessalonians 2:6).
If you think this planet is on the “Highway to Hell” now, just wait until after the Church and the Holy Spirit have been removed from it. This knowledge should incite every Believer to “get busy.” You were once lost but now you’re saved, which means someone cared enough to share the knowledge of Jesus and God’s grace with you. Return the favor by paying that forward. Share Jesus and 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 with at least one person each day - for the time grows shorter (Romans 1:16).
Paul goes on to explain when this change in each Believer will occur: in a moment, in
the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable (immortal), and we will be changed (v52). I need to point out “the last trumpet” of verse 52 has nothing whatsoever to do with the seven trumpets of the Revelation. This event isn’t the Second Coming it’s the Rapture of God’s Church, so not one of the Revelation trumpets will have sounded here. They will all sound during “the Great Tribulation” (the last 3.5 years of the Tribulation), but not one of these seven trumpets will sound when the Lord comes for the Body of Christ? Revelation 11:15 simply says, “Then the seventh angel sounded;” while the trumpet of 1 Corinthians 15:52 is called in 1 Thessalonians 4:16, “the trumpet of God.” The term, “the last trumpet,” in 15:52, is a military expression, denoting the trumpet which is sounded at the last, or the close of this dispensation, i.e. to call all the soldiers to assembly or the saints to home.
Paul repeats what he said previously, “we will be changed (v51).” All, both the living and the dead, will be changed simultaneously, at the same moment, when the trumpet sounds. This experience is the resurrection of the saints; not one group at a time, at different intervals, but all bodies will be changed at the same moment in time. Paul’s saying at the Rapture both the living and dead will undergo a necessary change so as to fit them for their new abode in heaven and this transformation will be instantaneous; in the twinkling of an eye. Paul’s talking about a “split-second” in time folks, in less time than it takes to blink one’s eye every Believer will be “out of here.”
All at once, we will be changed; glory, incorruptibility, power; a spiritual body, i.e. we all will be like Christ. There’s no possible way for us to fully comprehend what this means right now on this side of glory – let’s be real! For this perishable (body) must put on the imperishable, and this mortal (body) must put on immortality (v53). Paul’s saying the body that had been sown was corruptible and mortal and there’s been no change in the body of those who are still alive at the Lord’s coming, obviously. But in the twinkling of an eye the perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality in order to inherit God’s kingdom. Thinking on this a bit, right now every Believer, thanks to the indwelt Holy Spirit and God’s good Grace is making changes, removing bad habits, as they move forward in life, not to earn God’s favor but to be more like His Son. But this metamorphosis is so slow. However, when the Lord comes for us, in the twinkling of an eye, this change will be instantaneous – for we will be (instantly) like Him!
Let’s go to verses 54-55.
But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, “DEATH IS SWALLOWED UP in victory. “O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR VICTORY? O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR STING?” (Isaiah 25:8; Hosea 13:14)
With feeling, Paul asks and then answers one more two-fold question referencing Hosea 13:14 specifically, “O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR VICTORY? O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR STING?” Now that’s a profound question, requiring some thought, but our Apostle Paul comes at it from Scripture’s perspective and not man’s. How do we know this? Paul gives the answer in the next verse:
56: The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. It is sin that makes death hurt so much for death is the result of sin. In Romans 3:20b Paul wrote: for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin. In Romans 5:12 Paul wrote: Therefore, just as through one man (Adam; and not the woman) sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men (and women), because all sinned –
In Romans 6:23 Paul wrote: For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Indeed, the sting of death is sin!
O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR VICTORY? What makes the grave so victorious in the end? What gives it its power? The power of sin is the law, said Paul (v56). The Law was given “so that every mouth may be closed, and all the world may become accountable to God” (Romans 3:19b). It always works in favor of the accuser. It does not, in any way, defend the sinner. Thus, says Paul, “the Law brings about wrath…” Without a doubt, “the strength of sin,” or the power that convicts us of sin, resides in the Law.
With the Law, then, pronouncing us guilty, how is it we have victory in death? Paul answers this question in verses 56-57.
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law, but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Paul said the Law brings about wrath. This book says it’s a curse to us but (Behold the underlying Truth) Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us – it is written, “CURSED IS EVERYONE WHO HANGS ON A TREE” – (Galatians 3:13).
The Closing Practical Application
In verse 58 Paul applies to these Believers (and us) in a most practical way, the great truths he has been teaching:
58: Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.
In summarizing Paul is basically saying the Corinthians should retain their hope, for he wrote earlier that there is no need to think there is hope only in this life. He encouraged them to be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord. To be sure doing the Lord’s work here on earth may bring on some degree of “suffering,” as Paul said he risked his life daily for the gospel. I don’t think people are going to be persecuted to that degree here in the USA. However, you may face ridicule and rejection by mentioning the gospel to someone. But remember Paul said your labor for the Lord is not in vain.
This exhortation implies that the daily pressures we all experience have a tendency to discourage us and could, at times, make us feel like “throwing in the towel,” but knowing our glorious future awaits is the answer to all these daily trials! Note the absence of a single negative comment in this exhortation. Paul doesn’t say, “Do not be discouraged; don’t give up, don’t quit on the Lord.” Instead he says, “be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord.” And the reason for this stirring request comes next: “knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.” The best is yet to come!
(To be continued)
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