“Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption. 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. 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 thy 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. 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.”
“Mystery” is revelation that was not given in previous times. It is something “which was kept secret since the world began, But now is made manifest” (Ro. 16:25-26).
The mystery in 1 Corinthians 15 is the revelation of THE RAPTURE and particularly the instant glorification of living saints at the Rapture.
- The Rapture is the two-fold event of the resurrection of the dead in Christ and the transformation of the living (“the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed,” 1 Co. 15:52). This is the Rapture described in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17.
- The Rapture will happen “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye.” “Moment” is the Greek atomos, from whence the word “atom” is derived. The Rapture will occur instantaneously. There will be no warning. There will be no opportunity to make further preparation. It is an event that must be prepared for beforehand by salvation and service (for reward).
- The Rapture will happen “at the last trump.” This is the trump of 1 Th. 4:16. The trumpet that will sound at the Rapture of the church-age saints is not the same as the trumpets that will sound in Revelation as judgments on this world or the trumpets that sound in reference to Israel. The church is not a part of these other programs. The church’s last trump is when she shall finally be congregated together to the Lord. “There is no basis for posttribulationists equating this trumpet with the seventh trumpet in Revelation 11:15-19. The trumpets in Revelation pertain to judgments during the Tribulation, whereas the trumpet in 1 Co. 15:52 is related to the church” (Bible Knowledge Commentary).
- “We shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.” “Incorruptible” means that the resurrection body will be incapable of sickness and disease. “Immortal” means incapable of dying. “Shall be raised” and “shall be changed” are future passive. God will do it.
The Rapture is sure (1 Co. 15:49-52).
- The Rapture is as sure as the Word of God. “Shall” is repeated five times in this passage: “we shall also bear the image of the heavenly ... we shall all be changed ... the trumpet shall sound ... the dead shall be raised ... we shall be changed.”
The Rapture is cause of praise to God. “Death is swallowed up in victory” (1 Co. 15:54-57).
- This amazing passage on the resurrection concludes with a passionate note of praise to God.
- In 1 Co. 15:54, Paul cites Isaiah 25:8, “He will swallow up death in victory.” Isaiah 25:1-12 is a prophecy of the destruction of the present Gentile kingdoms and the establishment of Christ’s kingdom. Isaiah speaks of death swallowed up in the future tense, while Paul speaks of it in the aorist indicative, which is action that is past.
- In 1 Co. 15:55, Paul makes a reference to Hosea 13:14, “I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death: O death, I will be thy plagues; O grave, I will be thy destruction: repentance shall be hid from mine eyes.” Here, God promises to ransom Israel from the power of the grave, and He will do it by Himself becoming death’s plagues. God Himself paid the full penalty for sin required by the law.
- Paul triumphantly addresses death and the grave. He personifies them as if they are animate and pronounces victory over them. Death and the grave have held sway over mankind for 6,000 long years. “... by one man’s offense death reigned” (Ro. 5:17). One by one, the descendants of Adam have lived their short lives and been carried away by death in the myriad of its terrible forms. We live our lives with the certainty of death waiting in the wings. In this revelation of the resurrection, Paul sees the end of death, and he is exultant.
- “The sting of death is sin.” Death is the wages of sin (Ro. 6:23). Christ took the sting of death upon Himself in our place.
-“The strength of sin is the law.” This is explained in Romans 4:15, “where no law is, there is no transgression,” and Romans 5:13, “sin is not imputed when there is no law,” and 1 John 3:4, “sin is the transgression of the law.” The law of God brings guilt (Ro. 3:19) and curse (Ga. 3:10). “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us” (Ga. 3:13).
- He gives thanks to “God.” It is God alone who has wrought salvation for fallen sinners. All is of God. He planned it and carried it out. Man has done nothing and can do nothing. It is 100% God’s grace.
- The victory is “through our Lord Jesus Christ.” The Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world (1 Jo. 4:14). He is Lord; He is Jesus the Saviour; He is Christ the Anointed of God, the fulfillment of Bible prophecy; He is ours. He is the Lord Jesus Christ for all who receive the gospel.
- The revelation of victory over death shows the glory of the gospel of Jesus Christ and the glory of the Bible that reveals it. Non-Christian religions do not offer any such victory. Human philosophy does not understand death and has no victory over it. Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychiatry, wrote, “And finally there is the painful riddle of death, for which no remedy at all has yet been found, nor probably ever will be” (The Bible Exposition Commentary). Pagan religions do not offer victory over death; they offer only an uncertain and vague “hope” through works and rituals. Only through the Bible can we understand the cause of death and where man goes after death and how to have certain victory over death through faith in Jesus Christ.
The Rapture explains how that flesh and blood will inherit the kingdom of God and how that corruption will inherit incorruption (1 Co. 15:50).
- The Corinthians thought they were already in the kingdom (1 Co. 4:5-8). “Because the underlying problem causing the denial of the resurrection was a view of the present earthly body as already fit to enter the kingdom. Paul expressed his thought two ways (15:50). ‘Flesh and blood’ could not inherit the kingdom. Did anyone think it could? Yes, the Corinthians did, as 4:5-8 indicated. Their problems with resurrection seem to indicate an ‘I’m already in the kingdom’ attitude” (Everyman’s Bible Commentary).
The Rapture is a source of great encouragement and motivation to godly Christian service. “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” (1 Co. 15:58).
- The Rapture is a very important doctrine. Bible prophecy is not given merely to enlighten the intellect and satisfy our interest in the future; it is given to sanctify. The doctrine of the Rapture is to motivate God’s people to stay awake spiritually and to stay busy in the work of preaching the gospel to lost souls before it is too late. The doctrine of the Rapture is repeated throughout the New Testament, and it must be taught and emphasized in every church.
- Paul addresses the “beloved brethren.” One must be saved to have these promises, to have the hope of this future, and to live this life.
- “Be ye.” This is present imperative active. It is a command, and it is a command to be doing this in a continuous, repeated action.
- “steadfast, unmovable.” “Steadfast” is the Greek hedraios, “from hedra, seat, chair.” It is translated “settled” (Col. 1:23). The believer is to remain perfectly settled in his faith in Christ, like sitting down in a chair and refusing to move. He is steadfast in God’s Word and God’s truth and God’s will and God’s promises. Steadfast describes the believer’s commitment to Christ and His will. I am committed; I am settled. “Unmovable” describes the believer’s determined resistance to every force that would move him out of God’s will: the seductions of the world, the attacks of the devil, the lies of false teachers, persecution, suffering, discouragement, fear. The words “steadfast, unmovable” mean nearly the same thing and are repeated by way of emphasis. A great many saints have been steadfast, unmovable. We think of Noah, Abraham, Moses, Joshua, Deborah, Hannah, Samuel, Ruth, David, Elijah, Peter, John, Paul, Timothy, Aquila and Priscilla. They put their faith in God and were never moved away. On the other hand, many were not steadfast. Lot was moved by his covetousness (Ge. 13:10-11). Esau was moved by a bowl of soup (Ge. 25:34). Demas was moved by his love for this present world (2 Ti. 4:10).
- “always abounding in the work of the Lord.” The Christian life is not just standing in the faith and not being moved; it is being busy in God’s work. There is a great work for God in this present world, and every child of God has his part. There is a good, and acceptable and perfect will of God (Ro. 12:1-2). There are the works “which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10). There is praying work and worship work and church work and soul winning work and home making work and fathering work and mothering work and parenting work and works of holiness and works of separation and works of compassion and and works of edifying the brethren and many other works that are spelled out in the New Testament Scriptures. There is ambassador work in preaching the gospel (2 Co. 5:20). There is work building up the church (Eph. 4:16). There are spiritual gifts and ministries to be exercised (Ro. 12:3-8). There is priestly work (1 Pe. 2:5). Note the words “always abounding.” Every saint is to be always engaged in the work of the Lord, not part time, not once in a while. Every saint is to be abounding in the work of the Lord. This is the opposite of lazy, lukewarm, half-hearted, half-committed. This is sold out Christianity. This is true discipleship. Christ did not take the sting of death and purchase salvation so that the redeemed could continue to live their lives for themselves. “Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works” (Tit. 2:14).
- “forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.” This is a great encouragement, and it has encouraged multitudes of saints as they have walked through this fallen world. God’s work is the only work in this world that is guaranteed successful. Labor in Christ is not in vain because it is blessed by God in this present life and it has eternal reward. It is sanctified in Christ and therefore acceptable to God. No matter what happens or how things “look,” just keep believing God’s Word, just keep serving Him; remain steadfast, don’t be moved.
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