1 Corinthians 15:51-52
Posted December 12, 2015
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 imperishable, and we shall be changed.
The looming age old question that no person can escape: what happens after death? Do we cease to exist? If we live on, what becomes of us? If there is life after death, or life after life as we know it, what shape does that life take on? In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul speaks to the resurrection of Christ and in turn the effects of His resurrection on others, in particular those who are in Christ. He declares to us that he is going to tell us a mystery, and this mystery has to do with what will happen when Christ returns to those who belong to Christ (1 Corinthians 15:23). The ESV Study Bible clarifies his usage of the word mystery. “Mystery as used in Scripture refers to the revelation of something that was previously hidden or known only vaguely but now is more fully made known.” The mystery Paul tells us is that upon Christ’s return, two things are certain:
We Shall Not All Sleep
First, Paul first tells us that when Christ returns not everyone will sleep. At initial glance, this might sound a bit bizarre. This isn’t a reference to those who have a hard time getting to bed at night, but rather is a reference to death. Paul is telling us that at the time of Christ’s return (“the last trumpet”, “the trumpet will sound”) some will not be sleeping. In other words, some will still be alive to see the day of Christ. There was a real expectation and anticipation in Paul for the Second Coming, or the Second Advent of Christ, and we should join Paul in that longing!
We Shall All Be Changed
Though some will be alive, Christ’s return bears an effect not just the living but also the dead. Every ear, from the one above the ground to the ear buried 6 feet under, will hear that last trumpet blast! What will come next after this trumpet blows? 2 things: the dead in Christ will be raised and all will be changed. Those bodies who had slept & passed away, showing they were perishable, would be raised as imperishable and changed. Though all of us have expiration dates on our mortal bodies, the day is coming when all of us will be raised to life again and changed into Christ’s glorious likeness. NT Wright commented:
“We shall be transformed. It will happen in a flash, in a great act of new creation, echoing round the cosmos like the blast of a great trumpet. When this happens, the ancient story which the Bible told in a thousand different ways will come true: the story of creation reaching its intended goal; the story of the enemies being defeated (Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Syria and many others – and now the ultimate ones, sin and death); the story of God’s victory, the creator’s victory, over all the forces of chaos and destruction.
Death has claimed a victory, and the pagan world shrugs its shoulders and acknowledges it. The Jewish world at its best declares that God remains the creator and will do a new thing. The Christian message is that he has already done the new thing in the Messiah, Jesus, and that he will do it for all Jesus’ people through the power of the spirit. And in that new thing death and decay will be gone, swallowed up for ever.”
Friends, for those in Christ death (or in Paul’s words, “sleep”) will not have the last word! Upon Christ’s return, we shall be raised and changed! Be of great hope this Advent season.
Song by Cam Huxford IV and Shay Carlucci (of Ghost Ship).
Artwork by Amy Fuller.
Devotional by Joel Limpic.