Lesson 39: "We Shall All be Changed. . ." (I Corinthians 15:51)
I Corinthians 15:45-59
Paul's Missionary Journey Epistles. This is lesson #39. Welcome again! Near the end of our last lesson we read v.35-44; Paul's quote illustrating the arguments some were advancing against the resurrection of the dead at Corinth. I asked you to re-read and study those verses, i.e. Paul's answer to their questions, before coming to this lesson. Undoubtedly you have asked yourself these very same questions and pondered similar things, many times in the past. To believe in the resurrection of the dead does not relieve our curiosity to know more about such things. It is very natural to want to know more; so learn all you can. The Holy Spirit in Paul's inspired letter to the Corinthians here has preserved for us the answer to some of our own questions. I tried to point out near the end of our last lesson that since the time of Paul we have learned there is a natural microscopic genetic blueprint unique to every individual coded into the very tissue of that person. Very little is understood about this really. More is being learned every day. But god has allowed us to decipher enough of His system to help us solve certain medical problems in this life. Perhaps there is much more stored in these tidbits of matter than we presently realize. If so much is stored and preserved in such a microscopic and unique way; is it not possible that much more information is recorded similarly in heavenly places as well? Obviously, since the Corinthians understood even less about the natural biological makeup of such things than we do; Paul's illustration and explanation is very general. First, tune-in v.35 sharp and bright. Paul points out that the skeptics were asking two principal questions: (#1) "How are the dead raised up?" and (#2) "with what body do they come?" Now, take the time to get those two question burned into your memory. How" and with what body" Both of these questions, (in the mind of the skeptics), undoubtedly posed an impossibility. How did Jesus arise from that borrowed tomb of Joseph of Arimathea on that early Sunday morning? How? Well, I don't understand all the details; but, I believe he did. With what body did he come froth? Again, I don't understand that. How could he suddenly re-appear in a locked room? However, it's obvious; on the road to Emmaus (Luke c. 24) and on other occasions; his resurrected body was so much like that body in which Jesus had walked the hills and plains of Palestine for thirty three years that others could not see any real difference. Thomas was convinced. Yet Paul grants in his discussion, here (v.44), that two different bodies are involved. The first he calls the natural body, the second a spiritual body. Then finally at the end of v.51 and again at the end of v.52; Paul says plainly, "we shall be changed." What changes will occur? Well, he doesn't elaborate and I must not speculate. The Lord can take care of that! I trust him! I don't have to understand it. V.36-37-38 is Paul's reply to the first question of the skeptics: "How are the dead raised up?: The apostle simply points out that they had observed something just as spectacular all their life as they planted cereal grain year after year. A naked grain of wheat was planted in the common soil of Palestine (or Achaia) and the germ hi that little seed came forth as another plant. HOW was a new plant so spectacularly raised up from that little decaying grain of wheat? You see, they didn't have an answer as to HOW, you see. When Jesus arose from the dead; He proved the process. If we commonly accept one process by faith; why can't we accept the other by faith? Then in v.39-40-41, Paul got into the second question, "with what body do they come?" I suppose the underlying question here had to do with retaining individual identity in such a resurrected body. How can we be changed, as Paul puts it in v. 51, and it still be us, so-to-speak. So, in v.39 Paul said: "All flesh is not the same flesh." God knows how to retain identity. Wheat doesn't change to barley in the planting and germination process. Even the cereal grains retain their identity. You can sow a million bushels of wheat and not one grain will change to barley. The protein of a man is different than that of a beast or a fish or a bird. Birds don't turn to fish; monkeys don't turn to men. Each retains it's identity during the reproduction process. Everything is individualistic! Even the leaves and the snowflakes retain their identity; no two are alike. It's true with the islands and the land masses of the earth; i.e. terrestrial bodies; no two are alike. Now, look at v.42! "So also is the resurrection of the dead." Read that again! "So also is the resurrection of the dead." Do you get it? God will retain our identity in our resurrected body; you don't have to worry about that. Certain aspects will be changed to accommodate the new spiritual environmental necessity, Paul grants that; but, it will still be the same us in a better body. Then in the new sentence that begins in the last part of v.42 and ends in the first half of v.44; Paul reviewed certain likenesses in the illustrations he had used. Our natural human body is sown in corruption very much like the cereal gram i.e. dead, lifeless, and food for the worms. Our decaying human body becomes the most detestable and abhorrent thing known to man. Yet, just like the cereal grain; it'll come forth at the resurrection a clean and beautiful thing adapted to it's environmental needs. Do you see how that explains, "So also is the resurrection of the dead?: Then a second likeness; Paul says "sown in dishonor...raised in glory", i.e. the body dies and decays away. But in contrast the resurrected body will be a glorious thing. Number three is "weakness." The dead human body becomes lifeless, no motion, no response, no strength, hi contrast the resurrected body will have even greater powers than the old natural body. Then, finally, (#4), the two bodies are different. So, for clarity, Paul states categorically (v. 44), "There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body" or resurrected body.
Then in v. 45-50, Paul shows this conformed to O.T. scripture. Let's read v. 45-50, are you ready" Paul said (v. 45) "And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit. Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual. The first man is of the earth, earthy: the second man is the Lord from heaven. As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy: and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly. And as we have born the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly. Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption."
You recognize (I trust); that Paul went back to his comments in v.21-28 about Adam, the first man, and extended and expands that discussion here in light of his intervening illustrations. In v.45, Paul makes reference to Christ as "the last Adam", this is verified in v.47. In the resurrection; Paul could see a similar order. First the natural and then the spiritual. V.49 is pretty much a restatement of the last sentence in v. 44, and thus a summary of that thought. In v.44, he used the words "natural body" and "spiritual body," In v.49, he used "image of the earthly" and "image of the heavenly" to summarize the same thought. This change in body is necessary (v.50) because of environmental necessities. The natural body cannot function is the spiritual realm. In Paul's illustrations, he assumed in each case that the natural body would be terminated hi death and then resurrected hi the new spiritual body from the state of the dead. However, there is one exception. Paul discussed that exception in v. 51-53. Those living at Christ's second coming will not die and therefore are the exception. Let's read v. 51-52-53. Her we go, beginning in v. 51: "Behold, I show 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." Alright, the natural body we know, in this life, is not fitted for and therefore cannot operate in the realm of our celestial inheritance. For those who die before Christ's second coming; this change in body will take place simultaneous with the resurrection, i.e. they will die and be put in the grave in the "natural body" (as it's called in v.44) and they will be raised when Christ returns in the new "spiritual body", just like waking up to a glorious new day with a new body, I suppose. However, those that are still living when Christ returns, (i.e. the exception to Paul's illustrations, as we have said); will be changed from the natural body to the spiritual body also. V. 51-52-53 are very revealing on this point, read it close. Please recall also what Paul said to the Thessalonians! "For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him" [i.e. those that have died before Christ's second coming, god will bring with him, that's I Thess. 4:14]. But here at the end of v.52, we learn that those God shall raise from the grave, on the resurrection day, will receive their new body (i.e. the spiritual body, v.44) at the very same time they are resurrected from the dead. Then, the next verse in Thess. Said: "we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep." That is, both will be processed the same, the living and the dead. The one shall have no advantage over the other, which was good news to the Thessalonians. Remember? Paul explained the resurrection to the Thessalonians like this: "the Lord himself shall descent 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: 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." Thus, on that occasion, Paul did not go into this change of body business. But, here in Corinthians Paul went into more detail. Notice that Paul told the Thessalonians: the dead in Christ "shall rise first; THEN we which are alive and remain shall be caught up..." But, here in v. 52 Paul said it would happen to both (the living and the dead) "in a moment." The, he describes that "moment" as "in the twinkling of an eye." Thus, I would infer that for all practical purpose both will occur together; if there is a batting of the eye difference in timing; we won't argue about that. Now, what will happen? Get it straight! Put thine eyes upon v.52 and gaze hard: "the dead shall be raised incorruptible, AND we shall be changed", i.e. it will happen to the dead and the living at the same tune. On both occasions, Paul mentioned the trumpet sound. This is a pretty precise description; when you get it in focus. So, Paul didn't just tell those at Corinth, (who said there was no resurrection of the dead:) that they were wrong, absolutely wrong; Paul told them just how that resurrection would be and answered their objection back in v.35, "with what body do they come?"
Alright, let's read the next four verses, v. 54-55-56-57, Paul jumped on to things following the resurrection for a moment. After the resurrection occurs; things are going to be different. Let's read these four verses. Are you ready" Beginning in v.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. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is they victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God; which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ."
We'll save the last verse, v.58, for later. Right now, take just a moment and try to think of this sudden change that will take place in a twinkling of an eye. BAM! It's past! You have a new body! No pain, no tears! Will that body breathe? There will be no flesh and blood! (V.50). Did you catch that? I suppose there are many, many differences in a natural body and a spiritual body. There'll be no more opportunity to be baptized into Christ. In I Cor. 11:26, Paul said, "as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord's death till [till when? till] he come." So, there will be no more opportunity to take the Lord's supper. In the parable of tares, back in Matt. 13:49, Jesus said: "The enemy that sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels..." Get the picture? No more opportunity for salvation. In John 12:48, Jesus said: "He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the words that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day." Well, as I said, this change is beyond our comprehension. But, one change that Paul thought abut and undoubtedly Paul knew would interest those at Corinth who rejected the resurrection of the dead, was death itself. After that moment, after that great and sudden change there will be no more death; that chilling enemy that began with Adam and Eve hi the garden; that enemy that has plagued all mankind ever since. That enemy, called physical death, will cease after the resurrection. Physical death is not applicable to that glorious spiritual body in which we shall suddenly find ourselves. Paul quoted from the Old Testament prophet Hosea (Hos. 13:14) "Death is swallowed up hi victory, O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is they victory?" Think of all the influence that physical death has had upon mankind over the centuries. At the resurrection, death will cease. Rev. 20:14 says, "death and hell were cast into the lake of fire." The word "hell" in Rev. 20:14 is the Greek word: "hades", meaning simply the unseen world, translated by some "the grave." You see, that great storage place of the dead (called hades) will be empty. After the resurrection, everyone will be in a new spiritual body. That great empty warehouse called "hades" will be destroyed. There'll be no need for it. In the Hosea verse Paul quoted from, it also says, that "repentance" will be hidden from the eyes of the Lord. Thus, repentance will also be a thing of the past. How does that great victory come? Look at v.57! Paul said, "thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." and then finally, in v. 58, Paul said in essence, brethren let's get started. "Therefore", i.e. here is the conclusion: "my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord." That's like saying, brethren, if you';ll think this over and get that resurrection business in focus; you won't have any trouble deciding where to spend your time or how to spend your tune. Let's get at it. And so I say, have a good day!