1Corinthians 15:51-53 Behold, I shew 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 trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.
At this point Paul gets everyone’s undivided attention; he tells them that he is going to reveal to them a secret, something that God has not revealed to anyone before. The Greek for sleep states, “to slumber, to decease, be dead.” It’s obvious that in the context of this passage the reference is to physical death. Paul is telling this body of believers that not everyone is going to die. Also in context, Paul is sharing this revelation with people who have trusted Christ as Savior. The exciting new truth—“we shall be changed….to put on immortality.”
One of the first things I notice is that Paul seemed to think that he could be part of that group—“we shall not all sleep.”
The next truth revealed is that whether dead or alive, the believer will be changed, made different. The question begs, “What kind of change?” Our mortal, corruptible bodies will be made immortal (eternal) and incorruptible (not subject to decay or depravation).
There are so many other questions that this truth poses, such as how and when? Paul gives a general answer to both in verse 52.
• In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye – an instant, less than a second
• At the last trump – I did quite a bit of study on this in conjunction with my topical study of the rapture. Suffice it to say that many scholars have given varying explanations regarding this trumpet. I want to share with you a few paragraphs from that study as quoted from Renald Showers that make good sense to me.
“1Corinthians 14 talks about the trumpet from a military perspective, so it would appear that thought would be continued in chapter 15. In Bible times, “when they went to war, they had a “last trump” that would be blown that would tell the fighting men, ‘Your time of fighting is over. It is time for you to go home and rest.’ A ‘last trump’ ended their time in the warfare.”
There were also two trumpets related to guard duty. “They had a first trump that signaled when a man was to start his watch…then they had a ‘last trump’ which signaled that his time on guard duty was over and it was time for him to go home.” The comparison to the Christian is obvious.
“The fact that Paul, when he mentions the last trump, doesn’t explain to the Corinthians what he meant by that indicates that they understood what he meant by ‘the last trump.’ They were very familiar…with that terminology of ‘the last trump’ signals used for Roman soldiers, whether their fighting is done or their tour of duty on the watch is over for that day.” [end Showers quote]
I recently learned that the trumpet is blown each morning of the month preceding Rosh Hashanah. During Rosh Hashanah 100 notes are sounded with the trumpet each of the two days. It is observed two days because of the difficulty in discerning the new moon; therefore, the date from year to year is unknown. It seems that there could be a possible application to the rapture--but only time will reveal the truth.
1Corinthians 15:54 “So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.”
When this transformation takes place, then the child of God will realize what it means for death to be swallowed up in victory. It would seem from the human perspective that at death man meets ultimate defeat. For the child of God, however, it is the seed that germinates into victorious, everlasting life!
Where was this written? In the book of Isaiah.
Isaiah 25:8–9 “He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from off all faces; and the rebuke of his people shall he take away from off all the earth: for the LORD hath spoken it. And it shall be said in that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, and he will save us: this is the LORD; we have waited for him, we will be glad and rejoice in his salvation.”
In context the prophet is talking about the time that the Lord comes to establish His kingdom and all Israel turns to Him in faith for salvation. Paul is declaring the truth of that prophecy also to be applicable to the body of believers resurrected to immortality before that time.
1Corinthians 15:55-56 “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law.”
If we embrace this truth, we can face death without fear and looking forward to our future. It is our sin that subjects us to death, and it is the law that reveals how bound we are by sin. Death has no sting when you know that you face an eternity in the presence of God. The law can impart no strength to sin in one who has embraced God’s grace.
1Corinthians 15:57-58 “But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.”
The child of God, however, has gained the victory over sin and death through the sacrifice of our “Lord Jesus Christ.” This truth should motivate us to serve the Lord in spite of all the temptations the flesh and the enemy may throw our way. It should encourage us to persevere through the tough times and strengthen us to make the hard choices such commitment may require. It should fill us with such gratitude that we “abound” or are characterized by a life of service in doing the work of the Lord. There is no sacrifice that we can make in serving the Lord for which the reward will not be far greater.