is poem written around 700 A.D., which I have modified some:
"The day of resurrection—Earth, tell it out abroad!
[This] Passover of gladness—[God's goodness ever laud!]
From death to life eternal, [from mortal to immortality;]
Our Christ has brought us over with hymns of victory!
Now let the [saints] be joyful; let [heaven] her songs
Let [all those 'round God's throne sing] triumph, [the
redeemed who are] therein!
Let [all hosts forever] their notes of gladness blend
For Christ the Lord has risen, and our joy shall have no
end!" (modified John of Damascus)
We've been looking at the great chapter about the
resurrection: 1 Corinthians 15. We've seen how it is
essential to the Gospel, we've heard Paul swing the sword of
truth as he explained the awful consequences and upheld the
glorious truths, we've heard Paul debate using argument
after argument to prove its reality. And Paul concludes in
verse 58 that since the resurrection is true, then
Christians should be steadfast and immovable in their
beliefs and industrious in their actions to serve God and to
honor Christ. This sermon's theme is: Be an
industrious church! Paul wraps up this longest chapter
in Corinthians with four actions to challenge us.
First of all, Paul wants us to realize in impossibility!
Let's read verse 50: "Now I say, brethren, that flesh and
blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption
inherit incorruption." Paul says that it is impossible
for our human nature to live in heaven! It is
impossible for this body of corruption to exist in a new
dimension of incorruption! Remember, the Corinthian brethren
that the body was evil, and they feared having a raised
human body. But we have already seen how Paul used a
horticultural argument, and an environmental argument, a
transformational argument, and a scriptural argument to show
us that our resurrected bodies will not be our human bodies!
They are going to be transformed so that they will be like
Jesus' immortal glorious body! In fact, remember how
Paul describes these transformed as incorruptible, glorious,
powerful, and spiritual (v. 42-43)! Realize an
impossibility! How wonderful it is to know that we
will not have to wrestle with the sins of the flesh in
heaven because the flesh will be no more! The flesh
will be surpassed by something better that will be in the
image of Christ (v. 49)! And did you notice the
verb—“inherit”? Heaven will be God's gift to those who
are obedient and faithful! And then did you notice
that the nature of this inheritance is incorruption?
This reminds us of Peter's words in 1 Peter 1:4 where Peter
describes all Christians' inheritance as "incorruptible,
undefiled, and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven
for you." Someone put it this way: "We are going to
live on and on [in a place that endures forever and ever.]
We shall outlast all the suns and stars of space. We
shall live [eternally] beyond the reach of sin and death in
a tumult of joy indescribable, unspeakable, and full of
glory" (Philips)! Human beings won't live in heaven;
only transformed beings will live in that never ending
glorious new dimension. In Revelation 21:1-3, the
inspired apostle John writes: "Now I saw a new heaven and a
new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had
passed away. And there was no more sea. Then I,
John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of
heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her
husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying:
'Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He shall
dwell with them, and shall be His people." Now listen,
since there will be a new heaven, a new earth, a new
Jerusalem, there will have to be a new body fitted for new
environment as well (just as we saw before in v. 39).
Realize in impossibility! Be an industrious church!
Next, understand a mystery! Let's read verses 51-52:
"Behold, I tell 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 trumpet. For the trumpet will sound,
and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be
changed." Paul explains what is going to happen in the
future. The what of the mystery comes first: not all of us
are going die (for Christians, death is called just a
temporary sleep); some will be alive when Christ returns.
All of us, however, will have our human bodies changed or
transformed. Let's look at Hebrews 1:10-12: "You,
Lord, in the beginning laid the foundation of the earth, and
the heavens are the work of Your hands." But now
notice what is going to happen to those heavens. "They
will perish, but You will remain; and they will all grow old
like a garment; like a cloak You will fold them up, and they
will be changed." Jesus is going to change the
heavens, but He will remain the same! That word for
"change" is Hebrews is the same word that we find regarding
our resurrected bodies. They also will be changed!
Note also that our text says ALL shall be changed.
There is no special group involved in a rapture in Paul's
expression. The how of the mystery comes next: in a
moment, in the twinkling of an eye. The transformation
of our bodies will not be a long and drawn out process.
In fact, the word of moment is "atomo" from which we get our
word "atom". The word atom literally means “something
that cannot be cut”. Paul uses it here to show a
division of time that cannot be cut; it will happen suddenly
and instantaneously! In the twinkling of an eye or in
a split second! Understand the mystery! The when of
this mystery is considered next: at the last trumpet.
This verse just underscores what is stated in other verses
as well. Let's look at Matthew 24:31 where Jesus says:
"And He [Jesus] will send His angels with a great sound of a
trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the
four winds, from one end of heaven to the other." Paul
himself also paints a similar picture in 1 Thess. 4:16-17:
"For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout,
with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God.
And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who
are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them
in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we
shall always be with the Lord." When God's trumpet
sounds, all the righteous will be transformed, both those
resurrected from the dead as well as those who are alive.
And they won't spend any more time on this earth; both
groups will be transformed and united in the air to live
with God forever in heaven! Paul finishes with a recap of
the mystery: the dead saints will be raised incorruptible
and then those still alive at Jesus' return will be changed
as well! Just as that lowly caterpillar which changes
into a beautiful butterfly over time, we to shall be changed
to have a body which is more glorious, and our
transformation will take place is split second! This
revelation from Paul is the true wisdom of God! Isn't
this good news that others we know and love need to hear so
that they can have hope at the grave? Understand the
mystery! Be an industrious church!
Next, comprehend a necessity! Note verse 53: "For this
corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must
put on immortality." Paul uses a parallelism here,
which means he states the same idea twice. Why would
anyone want to state the same idea twice? For emphasis
and to underscore the certainly that we must be changed!
In fact, Paul is going to state how this transformation has
been prophesied in the next few verses. In other
words, God has decreed and affirmed that this is going to
happen! You have God's word on it, and God will not
lie nor has ever broken His promise, that your earthy body
will be transformed into a glorious, powerful, spiritual
body like Christ's! Comprehend a necessity! Notice the
verb in this passage; it's the words "must put on".
"Must" means that it is a necessity. If an elder were
to call me and say, "Paul, you must get to the Pharr funeral
home; there has been an awful tragedy!" That
means I'd better not dilly-dally around, nor continue to
work at the office, nor start making photocopies. It
is necessary and imperative that I get to the funeral home
post haste to offer comfort to a family in crisis.
This is just the flip side of realize an impossibility.
If human beings cannot inherit heaven, then of necessity, it
is imperative that that our human nature be changed.
What's corruptible must become incorruptible, and what
mortal must become immortal! "John Jay was a delegate
at that first continental congress. At a very young
age, Jay was one of the smartest and most respected lawyers
in the colonies. In the early history of U.S.
government, Jay was responsible for single-handedly averting
a war with England through his diplomacy. It seemed
that everything Jay touched turned to success. Then in
May 1802, after 28 years of marriage, his wife Sarah became
very ill. As her condition worsened and her death was
near, John and their children gathered at her bedside.
When death came, the famous and powerful father felt weak
and defeated. With his children by his side, he turned
to the Bible for strength and began reading. Just
guess what passage he read? It's the one we're reading
today. When he closed the Bible, with tears in his
eyes, he spoke to his children and assured them from God’s
word of the promised reunion they all would have in that
great day with their beloved Sarah” (Rennau). Only the
Bible's promises can bring true peace to our souls!
Comprehend a necessity! Be an industrious church!
Next, rejoice in Christ's victories! Let's read verses
54-58: "So when the corruptible has put on incorruption, and
this moral has put on immortality, then shall be brought to
pass the saying that is written: 'Death is swallowed up in
victory.' 'O death, were is your sting? O Hades,
where is your victory?' The sting of death is sin, and
the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God
who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
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." Death certainly has
a sting to it. The word "sting" is also used in
connection with bees and scorpions. With the death of
one of my most cherished college teachers this past week, I
once again experienced the pain death brings. But when
the day of transformation comes (and note again it's "when"
not "if"), one of God's prophecies found in Isaiah 25:8 is
going to be fulfilled and made a reality: "Death is
swallowed up in victory!" To swallow up is to do away
with completely (Johnson)! "Do not marvel at this; for
the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will
hear His voice, and come forth—those who have done good, to
the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to
the resurrection of condemnation" (John 5:28-29). "Victory
at last! Victory indeed! Victory forever" (Philips)!
Rejoice in Christ's victory over death! Christ also is
victorious over Hades. One commentator thought the
resurrected dead would be taunting: "O Death, where is your
sting?" because they have transformed, and death will no
longer will have a hold on them. And then those who
are still alive and transformed will taunt: "O Hades, where
is your victory?" because they will escape having to endure
the place of dead (Philips). Revelation 20:14-15
affirms: "Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of
fire. This is the second death. And anyone not found
written in the Book of Life was cast into the fire."
Rejoice in Christ's victory over Hades! Next, Christ
has been victorious over the law, and we can share in that
victory today! "The sting of death is sin, and the
strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God
who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!" Law
(referring to the old covenant), sin, and death are the
terrible trio that have ensnared mankind from the Garden of
Eden. Jesus' death, however, has brought a new
covenant and provided mankind victory over sin and death.
Notice what Paul writes in Romans 8:1-6: "There is therefore
now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do
not walk according to the flesh, but according to the
Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ
Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.
For what the law could not do in that it was weak through
the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of
sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the
flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be
fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but
according to the Spirit. For those who live according
to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but
those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the
Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death, but to be
spiritually minded is life and peace." Rejoice in Christ's
victory over the law, sin, and death! Someone has noted that
"the Christian life is characteristically a life of victory"
(Morris). But there is still one further victory seen
in verse 58: “… always abounding in the work of the Lord,
knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord."
"The word 'abounding' carries the idea of exceeding the
requirements, of overflowing or overdoing.... Because God
has so abundantly overdone Himself for us who deserve
nothing from Him, we should determine to overdo ourselves in
service to Him, to whom we owe everything" (MacAuthur).
Err on the side of doing more for the Lord, not less.
And when do the work of the Lord, that work will not be
useless because we have already seen how God is going to
reward us in the end! So this is victory over emptiness.
Most people spend their whole lives dedicating their labor
to activities, and sporting events, and organizations, and
to a thousand other things that don't really matter all that
much. Jesus has challenged us to help others get to
heaven; now there's labor that can make an eternal
difference! When you work for Christ by spreading His
teachings, edifying His people, saving His lost sheep, and
bearing persecution for His name, you know that you too are
going to share in Christ's ultimate triumph! Rejoice
in Christ's victory over emptiness! " But thanks be to
God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!"
Rejoice in all of Christ's victories! Be an
There a theological school in Chicago that hosts a picnic
each year and invites a popular lecturer to speak. One
professor came and spent 2 1/2 hours attempting to prove
that the resurrection of Jesus was a lie. He quoted
liberal books and scholars to prove his point and then asked
for questions. An older man spoke up, "Dr. So and so,"
he asks, taking an apple out of his sack and beginning to
eat it, "I have a simple question." Cruch, cruch! "I
haven’t read any of those books you talked about." Munch,
munch! "I can’t recite the Scriptures in Greek."
Crunch, crunch! "I don’t know anything about those
philosophers named Neibuhr and Heidegger." Munch,
munch! Then he held up the core of his eaten apple for
a moment. "All I want to know is this: This apple I
just ate, was it bitter or sweet?" The professor
paused and then responded, "I cannot possibly answer that
question, I haven’t tasted your apple, sir." The old
man dropped the apple core into his sack and said, "Neither
have you tasted my Jesus!" The audience of over 1,000
erupted into applause and cheers, and the professor left the
platform (McGraw). We can't make it into heaven as we
are now, but God is going to change that. If He's
transformed our lives when we became Christians, a
transformed resurrected body perfectly suited for a new
dimension of existence is going to be no problem for Him as
well! Rejoice in Christ's victories over death, over
Hades, over the law, and over a life of emptiness!
After all that He's done and is going to do for us, let's be
an industrious church for Him!
Let's pray: “Father, we thank You for the great chapter and
for the truth that our bodies will be changed and take on
immortality! Help us to live looking forward to that
day of transformation. Thank You for the great hope
that You have given us: a new earth, a new heaven, a new
Jerusalem, and a new body! In Jesus’ name, Amen.”
God wants to give you victory through Jesus! Won't you look
beyond the moment to that day when we'll see King Jesus on
the clouds and hear that final trumpet call! Will that
be a moment of fear or a moment of joy for you? Will
you share in the condemnations or in the victories that
Jesus, the righteous Judge, will pronounce? Will you
be part of the goats or the sheep? Make Jesus your
Lord by being immersed into His name to be forgiven, then
labor each day doing the Lord's work, and you will rejoice
in the victory! Thanks be to God who gives us the
victory through our Lord Jesus Christ! “Let [all hosts
forever] their notes of gladness blend for Christ the Lord
has risen, and our joy shall have no end!” Taste that
sweet victory which Jesus offers!