Contributor: Isekhua Evborokhai
In last week’s study titled The Order of Resurrection, we learnt that because Christ resurrected, He became the first fruit of you and I who will also resurrect! We used the parallels of planting a dead seed and the fruit it bears to explain how different our resurrected bodies will be from our earthly bodies. In today’s study, we shall be looking at the concluding 9 verses of chapter 15. In these verses of scripture, the Apostle Paul concludes his glorious teaching on the resurrection. These closing verses are a climactic song of victory, a kind of symphony. It’s a symphony in three movements. The first movement celebrates the future transformation of our bodies while the second movement celebrates the future termination of sin. The final movement celebrates the future compensation of our work.
VERSES 50 – 53: CELEBRATING THE FUTURE TRANSFORMATION OF OUR BODIES
“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.”
In these first four verses, Paul explains that an earth suit, a natural human body consisting of flesh and blood as we know it, is unsuitable for heaven. Hence, those believers still alive when Jesus returns at the rapture will receive their new bodies by transformation rather than by resurrection. Our earthly bodies made of flesh and blood cannot get into God’s Kingdom. Because perishable bodies are not the right kind to live forever. Our “appearance” and “attire” must meet certain standards to enter heaven! That is the way heaven is. Heaven is a place where there is no pain, no sorrow, no sickness, or death. These perishable bodies that we possess here on earth are not suited for heaven because they are prone to these.
We must receive “imperishable” or “ageless” bodies. They must be changed into a glorified state so that we can live in God’s presence before His perfection, holiness, and beauty.
He goes further to talk about a mystery; something that had not been taught by any other apostle or the Lord Himself; he was referring to a revelation the Lord must have showed him; a newly revealed truth! The “mystery” is what is called the rapture of the church. There will be a generation of Christians that will inherit their glorified bodies without having to “sleep” or die. 1 Thessalonians 4:15
Paul continues his description of the rapture in 15:52a and explains that the transformation of our bodies will take place “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye at the last trumpet.” This transformation will not be a gradual process but instantaneous. You hear the blast of a trumpet, and in the time that you look up and blink your eyes—it’s over.
VERSES 54-57: CELEBRATING THE FUTURE TERMINATION OF SIN
“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.”
The resurrection of dead believers and the transformation of living believers signal the death of death. In verse 55, the apostle refers to Isa 25:8 and Hosea 13:14; two scriptures that both mock death! And then he goes further to show reveal some vital truths in verses 56 & 57.
Death is not supposed to have any power over us; but it is sin that makes death so frightening and the guilt that the law invokes gives sin its destructive power. But since we have experienced redemption from sin by Christ then we can face death without its sting. It would only be a transition from earth to heaven.
This reality ought to cause us to break out in thanksgiving, as Paul did in verse 57 when he said: “but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
The verb “gives” is in the present tense. Literally, God keeps on giving us victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
VERSE 58: CELEBRATING THE FUTURE COMPENSATION OF OUR WORK ON EARTH
“Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.”
Paul concludes his discussion of the resurrection with an exhortation to be faithful in the present; telling us how these truths relate to our daily lives. In this verse, he answers the concerns expressed in verses 1-2
The phrase “my beloved brethren” demonstrates Paul’s love for the Corinthians, despite the deficiencies in their theology and their behavior.31 This should compel us to love one another despite our theological differences. Paul was dealing with Christians that were waffling on their own bodily resurrection. Yet, despite their erroneous theology Paul continued to love them.
After affirming his readers, Paul gives further instructions: What we should be (steadfast and immovable), what we should do, (“abound”) and what we should know (that our labour is not in vain in the Lord.)
1. What we should be: Paul commands us to “be steadfast, immovable.” - Like the Corinthians we are prone to be impatient, easily discouraged, and lazy. We let the circumstances of life blow us out of the water. We allow financial setbacks or job problems to depress us. Yet, Paul says, “Get a grip on the resurrection and on God’s final plan for believers, and you will not be so readily shaken.” We will be firmly rooted in what we know to be true about life and death because we have confidence in the resurrection. It gives solid footing. We won’t be swayed by every idea that comes along about this life and the afterlife. We can stand firm. We know who we are, why we’re here on earth, and where we’re headed in the future.
2. What we should do: Paul urges us to be “always abounding in the work of the Lord.” The verb “abounding” pictures something flowing over the edges on all sides. If we want to hear Jesus say, “Well done, good and faithful servant,” we need to give ourselves fully to the work of the Lord. Consistently and continuously.
3. What we should know: Paul encourages us to know (and keep in mind) that our labour is not in vain in the Lord. so, throw yourselves into the work of the Master, confident that nothing you do for him is a waste of time or effort. He is a Rewarder! (Heb. 11:6, Heb.6:10)
Now that we know that the resurrection brings us to a quality and a dimension of life that is a lifting to a higher, more free, and a more marvellous dimension of existence than we have ever known; we should also remember that death is a tool, and only our enemy on this earth. Just beyond the “curtain”, it becomes our friend. That is why the elderly at the point of death are “mostly” at peace. (The label “Death” is still on the bottle, but the contents are “Life Eternal.”)
Death is not the end of the road; but only a bend. Psalms 116:15 says: “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His (godly ones)”
We should change the way we see death; because the death and burial of our earthly bodies is not an unfortunate circumstance; it is a necessity if you want to enter heaven! God sees death as a passage from earth to heaven for Him to enjoy perfect, eternal, delightful fellowship with each of His redeemed children. And that is how we should see it too; as an opportunity to truly rest from all the hard work and be with God! For Christians, death is a transfer, a promotion; it's on to better things; no more problems. The Bible assures us that death is not a tragedy but a triumphal entry into heaven. Revelation 14:13 says:
'I heard a voice out of Heaven, "Write this: Blessed are those who die in the Master...how blessed to die that way!" "Yes," says the Spirit, "and blessed rest from their hard, hard work. None of what they've done is wasted; God blesses them for it all in the end’
The truth is that even after reading scriptures like these we remain afraid of death because of sin. It is sin that gives death its sting and makes it painful! When death comes, there is nothing we can do about it. But by the life we have lived on earth, we can die by death's sting or use death as a transition-channel to heaven to the beginning of a glorious everlasting life!
Parts of this study was culled from Bible.org