1 Corinthians 15:50-58
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 ó 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. 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. 58: 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."
Starting in verse 50, Paul is giving a summary of what canít and what can inherit eternal life, defined here as ďthe Kingdom of God.Ē A great change will take place in the bodies of believers, both living and dead, at the time of the Lord's return.
Verse 50: "Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption."
Paul is taking up the subject of the transformation that will take place in the bodies of believers, both living and dead, when the Lord returns. He starts with the statement that flesh and blood canít inherit the kingdom of God.
Our present bodies just wouldnít be suited for life in an environment where corruption is unknown because our earthly bodies are corrupt. Theyíre subject to disease, deterioration, decay and death. The real problem lies in how our bodies, the bodies of the living believers, can be made fit for heaven and the eternal state.
This verse has made it plain that flesh and blood canít inherit the kingdom of God, so the present body we have could never enter heaven. Since our present bodies that are subject to disease, decay, and decomposition, they wouldnít be fit for life in a state where there is no corruption. Then, how can the body of the believer become suited for life in heaven?
In plain language, this means "There is no way we can become righteous before God through anything we can do." Our bodies are corrupt and human resources just arenít able to attain any redeeming value in the eyes of God.
Scripture calls our corrupt human nature "flesh and blood" and scripture states elsewhere that flesh and blood may win us the approval of men but it has no value toward obtaining eternal life in the sight of God. Jesus said, in Luke 16:15, ".. that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God."
Take that verse seriously. It comes from Jesus himself. It agrees exactly with what Paul is saying here. Flesh and blood canít do anything of value to gain entrance into the kingdom of God.
When Jesus told Nicodemus that to attain the Kingdom he had to start all over and be "born again" he had a hard time understanding it. He was a highly respected religious leader in Israel, but Jesus said to him, "You must be born again," John 3:7. Jesus was telling him that, in his present state, no matter how good he was, he wasnít fit for the kingdom of God.
When the Corinthians got this letter from Paul, Iím sure they wanted to know how they could make their lives worthy in God's sight. If you canít work for it, how can you get anything that is enduring beyond this life? Paulís answer, is, "It's a mystery."
Verse 51-53: "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."
A biblical mystery is a truth that was previously unknown, but now is revealed by God. He revealed it to the writers and they in turn made it known to us in the scriptures, so the answer to the mystery is found in these verses.
Not all believers will experience death.
Some will be alive when the Lord returns.
But whether we have already died or if we are still alive,
our bodies are all going to be changed.
The truth of the resurrection appears in the Old Testament
so thatís not the mystery.
The mystery, the fact previously unknown to men,
is that one generation of believers wonít die,
theyíll go up at the Lord's return
along with those who have already died in the faith.
This fact is what had never been known before.
This is going to take place instantly, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. The last trumpet here does not mean the end of the world, itís the Lordís call for the saints of the church age to join Him in heaven. Itís the trumpet of God, mentioned in 1 Thessalonians 4:16, and it will sound when Christ comes to meet us in the air. When that trumpet sounds, the earth and the sea will give up all those who have died trusting in Christ. All living believers at that time will answer the call also. Weíll all be changed, weíll be incorruptible, and weíll spend eternity in heaven.
Can you imagine what that will be like? Itís so mind boggling that we can hardly take it in.
Just think, Christ wanted us to spend eternity in heaven with Him so bad that He died on the cross for our sins and now Heís coming back for us
and is going to meet us in the air.
Verse 53 refers to the corruptible, those whose bodies have returned to the dust. They will put on incorruption. It also refers to the mortals, those believers who are still alive at the time of the Lordís return will become immortal.
That explains the mystery. A mystery in scripture is a truth that our human mind could never discover, and that no amount of research or study on the part of human beings will ever unravel. And this mystery is a direct result of the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. Itís the change we anticipate happening to us as believers when Christ returns for His own.
The resurrection of Jesus from the dead is the most remarkable act that ever took place on this earth. The result of it, Paul says, is that there is a change coming for us. This change means that our bodies will take on the opposite characteristics to what they now have in this life.
Our bodies are fitted for time and have serious limitations but that will be changed. This corruptible body must become an incorruptible body. This mortal body, subject to death, will become immortal and unable to die.
That change is coming at the "trump of God." That is what we often call "the Rapture," when our Lord returns to meet us in the air.
1 Thessalonians, Chapter 4:16-17. "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: 17: 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."
Verses 54-55: "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 grave, where is thy victory?"
The final victory for the believer will come when the dead in Christ are raised and the living changed with them. Then weíll know the meaning of the statement in scripture that "Death is swallowed up in victory."
Verse 55 may well be suggesting that the believers will taunt Satan as we rise to meet the Lord in the air.
Death has lost its sting.
The grave has lost the battle.
Death no longer holds any terror
for those who know their sins have been forgiven and they can stand before God, accepted in the Beloved.
Weíll be well on our way to spend eternity in heaven with our blessed Redeemer.
There is something about speaking at a Christianís funeral that, to me, is neither depressing nor final. Certainly there is sorrow as we say good-bye to a loved one but our sure hope of spending eternity together is a wonderful promise for us at such a time. We know the separation is only for a short time.
I recently attended the funeral of an old friend who was a veteran of the U.S. Navy. As we passed from the chapel, the organist struck up a resounding rendition of ďAnchors Aweigh!Ē It was exciting to visualize that the casket we followed only carried my friendís worn out body on itís final voyage to the grave. His soul had already docked on heavenís shores. My heart could only say; "O, death, where is your sting? O, grave, where is your victory?"
Verse 56: "The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law."
When sin came into the world, death came with it. If it wasnít for sin, death would have no sting for anyone. The law defines sin for us and we know from the law that we are all guilty. We are afraid to die if our sins are unforgiven. If sin is on the conscience, death is terrible, itís the beginning of eternal punishment. On the other hand, if we know our sins are forgiven, we can face death with confidence.
The strength of sin is the law, and the law condemns the sinner and pronounces judgment on all who fail to meet God's holy precepts.
Hebrews 9:27: "And as it is appointed unto men once to die,
but after this the judgment:"
There will be a judgment
at the Great White Throne of God
for those who reject Godís offer of salvation
and all verdicts in that court will be ďguilty as charged.Ē
The sentence there will be eternity in hell.
Judgment for those who accept Godís offer of salvation
based on the finished work of Christ on the cross
will be at the Judgment Seat of Christ. All verdicts there will be ďnot guilty by reason of Christ paying the penalty for us on the cross.Ē
Itís only natural to be afraid of death because it is an unknown, and we have no control over it. But the good news that comes from the resurrection of Jesus following His crucifixion, is that this power of sin is broken. Godís provision to deal with our sin is still available as of this writing. He has not promised it for tomorrow. In 2 Corinthians 6:2, we read; ďbehold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.Ē
God sent His Son to die on the cross
as an atonement for our sins and full forgiveness
is free to all who will confess
their need and accept His Son, Jesus Christ,
as their Lord and Savior.
With that provision, we are no longer helpless,
God has changed us.
Verse 57. "But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ."
We are promised victory over death and the grave
through faith in Him.
Death canít keep us from heaven
and so it is robbed of its sting.
The Son of God won the victory over Satan and death and hell
for us by His death for our sins there on the cross.
Notice that our victory over sin is put in the present tense. It doesnít say "who gave us the victory." It says "thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." That means a Christian can lay hold of the grace of Jesus Christ every day. Heís not a former Savior who lived twenty centuries ago. He is alive, I know because I meet Him and talk to Him every day. When I have failed Him and sinned, I can go to Him in prayer and be forgiven, all because of the victory He won for me on the cross. I am forgiven and am given a clean slate to start over again from that moment. I will not have to face Godís judgment.
Verse 58: "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."
Wherever you see a "therefore" in Scripture you have to stop and see what itís there for. Here itís pointing out that, in view of the certainty of the resurrection and the fact that faith in Christ is not in vain, we should be steadfast and immovable in our faith, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that our labor is not in vain in the Lord.
The truth of His resurrection changed everything.
It provides hope of a resurrection for the believer,
a new heavenly body,
and the promise of eternity in heaven
with our wonderful Savior.
Do you know this risen Lord as your Savior today?
If youíre not sure,
just bow down to Him now
and accept the wonderful forgiveness
He bought for you by His death for your sins.