Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed – in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality …
(T)hanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (verses 51-53, 57)
Paul has been asserting, with great passion, the reality of the resurrection, doing so because some of the Corinthians had thrown doubt on this central teaching. Such resurrection-denial is disastrous to faith, Paul says, for it implies that Christ himself has not been raised, leaving believers with no future hope whatsoever.
“If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men” (verse 19).
But before the ink is even dry on that hopeless possibility, Paul sweeps it all aside by nailing down firmly the simplicity of the historical truth: “Christ has indeed been raised from the dead.” Yes! This means we, too, have hope.
But what does that hope look like?
It’s clear in the Gospel accounts that after the resurrection Jesus was somehow different. The locked doors of the Upper Room were no impediment to his entry – he suddenly appeared right in the midst of the gathered disciples. Nor was he always immediately recognized – witness the experience of the Emmaus Road disciples and Mary Magdalene in the Garden. His goings, as well as his comings, seemed to be unrestrained by physical limits, as those Emmaus disciples discovered when he suddenly vanished from their dinner table. Yet he had a body that was real, tangible and functional – no mere illusion. He could be perceived with the eye (as up to 500 at one time bore witness), touched with the hand (as the offer to Thomas makes clear), and when he ate a piece of fish he demonstrated he was neither ghost nor apparition.
Paul sees all of this as evidence of a “spiritual” body rather than merely “natural”, a “heavenly” body as opposed to merely “earthly.” The resurrection body has a different order of splendour, being imperishable, glorious and full of power. This is the reality.
And this is our own hope, in Jesus. He is the “firstfruits” of resurrection (verse 20; see also Colossians 1:18), being that first taste of harvest, guaranteeing the rest will be fully realized. It turns out we, ourselves, are that coming harvest.
It’s guaranteed. It will happen. No doubt. In a flash. In the twinkling of an eye. As the trumpet sounds. In that instance, whether we’ve passed through death already or are alive and well on planet Earth, we will be changed, transformed, re-made like Jesus. In that instance we will step into resurrection reality. Finally, we will be clothed in a body that is imperishable, indeed immortal.
This is our hope. Death will forever be conquered. Weakness and frailty and perishability will be eternally set aside. We will be like him. Victory is in Jesus.
Praise his name.
Lord Jesus, I affirm the reality of your resurrection. You are the Victor. You have indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of the coming harvest. This is my hope. Praise your name.
Reflect: Remind yourself of a favourite Easter hymn or worship song. Sing it to yourself all day. Revel in the words. Christ is risen! Risen indeed, Hallelujah!