In the twinkling of an eye: I Corinthians 15

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Today’s reading: I Corinthians 15-16.

“Life is hard, and then you die.” So goes the widespread mantra of the world, echoing the “under the sun” despair of Solomon. Paul has an answer for that depressing slogan: “Stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” Our work is not in vain because it bears eternal fruit, and because we will be there in eternity to reap the rewards of our work.

So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. I Corinthians 15: 42-44

As the famous sermon goes, “It’s Friday, but Sunday’s coming!” Our mortal bodies can be compared to a seed which bears little resemblance to the mature plant into which it will grow. Now we groan with all creation, but resurrection day is coming when the perishable will put on the imperishable and the mortal will put on immortality. Therefore we have hope.

Why is there a resurrection day? The simple answer to the reason for resurrection is that we will be raised just as Jesus was raised. Jesus the first fruits, then all those who belong to him. The more profound answer is that we are raised to demonstrate Christ’s victory over death. “For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death.”

What will happen on resurrection day? 1) Whether living or already dead, we shall all be changed in a moment, in a twinkling of the eye. Our souls are already immortal, but on that day our bodies will be made immortal and fitted for eternity as well. 2) We shall become like Jesus, for we shall see him as he is. (I John 3:2) 3) We shall meet Jesus in the air and be with him forevermore. (I Thess. 4:17) 4) We shall become like angels, and sons of God. (Luke 20: 34-38) 5) We shall receive eternal life, glory (which can include such things as beauty and perfection), power exceeding that of our current mortal bodies, and a spiritual nature that contrasts with our current merely physical nature.

When will resurrection day be? Jesus said it would be on the last day. Paul says it will be at the last trump. In the Old Testament the trumpet blew to gather the children of Israel in their ranks to move with the tabernacle through the wilderness, and the last trumpet call was the call to start marching forward. The “last trump” also reminds us of the Feast of Trumpets. At that time, in the fall of the year, the Jews prepared for the highest holiest days in a time of repentance. The trumpet blew daily for the thirty days prior to Yom Teruah (now called Rosh Hoshanah). They believed the gates of heaven were opened at that time to allow the righteous to enter. Yom Teruah was the day no man knew, for it was not declared until two witnesses could see the new moon. On that day the trumpet was blown repeatedly, a total of 100 times. The last trump is called the Great Blast, or Tekiah Gedolah, and it signaled the opening of heaven. Could it be that Jesus will return, that resurrection day will be, during the time of the Feast of Trumpets? Many believe that as the spring feast days (Passover, First Fruits, Pentecost) were fulfilled during Jesus’ first appearance, that the fall feast days will be fulfilled when he returns. Christians have different opinions about the timing of resurrection day in relation to the Great Tribulation, but all who believe in the Millennium as described in Revelation 20 would agree that the resurrected believers will reign with Christ on earth for those 1,000 years that immediately follow the tribulation.

O the seed that was sown in weakness
Shall then be raised in pow’r
And the songs of the blood bought millions
Shall hail that blissful hour;
When we gather safely home in the morning,
And night’s dark shadows fly,
What a shouting on the shore when we meet to part no more,
Changed in the twinkling of an eye. – Fanny Crosby

You do not weep because your father, brother, wife, husband, has ascended to heaven – you would be cruel to weep about that. None of you weep because your dear mother is before the throne; but you weep because her body is in the grave, because those eyes can no more smile on you, because those hands cannot caress you, because those sweet lips cannot speak melodious notes of affection. You weep because the body is cold, and dead, and clay-like; for the soul you do not weep. But I have comfort for you. That very body will rise again; that eye will flash with genius again; that hand will be held out in affection once more. Believe me, I am speaking no fiction. That very hand, that positive hand, those cold, clay-like arms that hung down by the side and fell when you uplifted them, shall hold a harp one day; and those poor fingers, now icy and hard, shall be swept along the living strings of golden harps in heaven. Yea, you shall see that body once more. – Charles Spurgeon

Image by Desirae on Flickr, CC by-nc 2.0

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7 thoughts on “In the twinkling of an eye: I Corinthians 15

  1. Otherwise, what do people mean by being baptized on behalf of the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized on their behalf? 1 Corinthians 15: 29

    What on earth is Paul talking about? Saint Francis de Sales shared his thoughts:

    This passage properly understood evidently shows that it was the custom of the primitive Church to watch, pray, fast, for the souls of the departed. For, firstly, in the Scriptures to be baptized is often taken for afflictions and penances; as in St. Luke chapter 12 (12:50) … and in St. Mark chapter 10 (10:38-39) … in which places our Lord calls pains and afflictions baptism. This, then, is the sense of that Scripture: if the dead rise not again, what is the use of mortifying and afflicting oneself, of praying and fasting for the dead? And indeed this sentence of St. Paul resembles that of 2 Maccabees 12:44: It is superfluous and vain to pray for the dead if the dead rise not again (St. Francis de Sales, 368).

    • The nature of this practice seems to be lost to us. One commentator suggested that some may have been baptized knowing they would soon die for their faith, thus a baptism for the (soon to be) dead.

      • If you listened to Father Newman’s homily, you would have heard the cutting thought, baptizing your children was a potential death invitation for them. What parent would wish that upon their progeny, unless they knew it was the path to salvation? Would you bring your child to church today for baptizism, knowing there was a 50% chance it was a death sentence? The early Christians did. They knew it was that crucial.

  2. Would you bring your child to church today for baptizism, knowing there was a 50% chance it was a death sentence? The early Christians did.

    Perhaps lacking the homily, I’m afraid I don’t understand the reference: at what time has it ever been true that an additional half of baptized children died, relative to their peers?

    • Eric was saying that in the early days of Christianity, when persecution was so great, that believers risked their lives when they baptized themselves or their children.

  3. Pingback: Bible Daily Devotional – In the twinkling of an eye: I Corinthians 15 | ChristianBlessings

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