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God’s Word for You

1 Corinthians 15:51-52 In the blink of an eye

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Tuesday, August 1, 2023

51 Behold, I tell you a mystery! We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the blink of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.

The mystery Paul explains is how, on the last day, the change will come about for those who have not died. He has just explained that no one who has the mere animal body, flesh and blood, can enter into heaven. The spiritual body must come from the natural body. For the dead who will rise, this will be a part of what Jesus does when he calls us from our graves. But what about those who witness the return of Christ coming down out of the clouds on that final day?

It seems likely that the Corinthians were being troubled by rumors about this. Greek philosophy hated the flesh. The idea was that the flesh must be left behind, and that only the spirit would be able to be truly good, pure, and so on, in eternity. Therefore, if someone were caught in the upheaval of the last day, which “will close on you unexpectedly like a trap” (Luke 21:34), what would happen to the people who had no opportunity to die, in order to shrug off the physical body?

The mystery, Paul explains, is this: Not everyone will sleep in death. Some will live to see the very end. But there will still be a change for those people. But did some people have a strange, sad idea about these last living people? Did they assume that those people would live in some sort of grey limbo, with their dead loved ones already in Paradise, but that they would need to carry on with their lives until finally they began to die, one burying the other, until at last the final human being would die of age or grief or accident, and be unburied, so that Christ would only need to step onto that final graveyard to raise the dead?

Not at all. Those who have not yet died will simply be transformed; changed. It will happen quickly, so quickly that the process itself will not even be noticed or felt. It will all take place in a moment, less than a second of time, “in the blink of an eye.” The blast of the trumpet will sound, and the person whose ears hear that trumpet in the land of the living will be transformed into their eternal form without defect or fault before that very same trumpet blast is over.

Here is an excellent place to consider, for those who wish it, the chronology or order of things as they will take place on that day. We do not really need to know this or commit it to memory, as if we will be required to take charge of the schedule once Christ appears. Many have died and many will still die without knowing this but who will be with our Lord forever in heaven. Yet Paul gives this to us for our comfort, so that we are confident that whatever can be revealed to us about the last day has indeed been revealed already.

  1. First, Christ will appear suddenly and unexpectedly in the clouds in the very same form in which he ascended into heaven (Acts 1:11). He will sit on his throne of majesty in great glory, and he will have come to judge the living and the dead as the apostles and prophets declare and as we confess in the creed (Acts 10:42; 2 Timothy 4:1; 1 Peter 4:5; Daniel 12:2).
  2. The angels (who will come as his messengers, helpers, and servants) will sound the trumpet blast (Matthew 24:31; 1 Thessalonians 4:16).
  3. The voice of Jesus Christ will resound, all-powerful and with all his mighty strength, and he will call the dead from their graves. What Paul said about faith we can ascribe to Christ on the Last Day: “Wake up, O sleeper! Rise from the dead!” (Ephesians 5:14).
  4. His voice will rouse all of the dead from their graves, from the sea, or wherever their remains have settled (Revelation 20:13). They will stand before Christ for judgment.
  5. Those who have been found alive at that moment of Christ’s return will be changed “in a moment, in the blink of an eye.”
  6. Both those who have been raised and those who have been changed will then stand before God for judgment, the good separated from the wicked, on his right and left, as Jesus proclaims (Matthew 25:33) and as the prophet testifies (Ezekiel 34:17).

Paul says all of this to us for our comfort, and it is only for the Christian to hear and take to heart. An unbeliever will understand none of these things—and truly, a believer cannot fully comprehend them. How little we grasp of the interlacing and interworkings of the soul with the body, of what it could be like for a body to be without a soul in death, and for how the body and soul will be rejoined but (praise God in the highest heaven forever and ever!) without sin and its consequences! But for our joy and our comfort, the Apostle has given us a little glimpse into the glories that will happen, if for no other reason than this: So that we can walk with quiet footsteps in the graveyards of this earth where our loved ones lie buried, or visit the seaside that looks out to where a ship or a plane was lost, or some similar place, and we can know with perfect certainty that our loved ones will emerge and appear once again, alive, smiling, with godly joy, and happy to see us and our other loved ones, and to shout and sing the praises of our saving God together, forever, without end.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim Smith
About Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please visit the St. Paul’s Lutheran Church website.


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