1 Corinthians 15:51-58
Behold, I show you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,…
If "flesh and blood" is "corruption," and cannot inherit "incorruption," what then? Educate the present body to the offices of the mind; let every function do its legitimate work, and every organ be faithful to the organism; refine, beautify, ennoble it by all natural and providential agencies; it is, nevertheless, "flesh and blood," and inherits "corruption." No such corporeal structure could go to heaven unchanged. The earthly body of Jesus Christ, which was fully adequate to the pro-resurrection state of humiliation, sorrow, death, and fitted him to show forth the Father, bad yet to be changed by the resurrection before he, though "holy, harmless, undefiled," could ascend to the dominion of the universe. If, then, our "flesh and blood" be so debased by its mortality, by its animal connections, by its habits and functions, "Behold, I show you a mystery," a truth once concealed but now revealed by the Spirit, that those who are alive when Christ comes at the last day "shall all be changed." No graves shall open to receive and then restore them. Land and sea shall give up their dead, and, simultaneously therewith, the living shall be instantly transformed, rising out of their mortality and corruption into immortality and incorruption. What a scene here for picturesque description! But the apostle was too wise and reverent to indulge his imagination. The sublimity gathered no images about itself. Words for its splendid conceptions were not asked, nor were poetic transports suffered to obtrude on the awful glory of the hour. Yet there was speech, yet there was rapture, and the utterance and the feeling partook in full measure of the grandeur of the occasion. It was not the voice of imagination and its emotions, but the voice of pure and devout passion that exclaimed, "O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?" The battle has been fought, the victory won; and the victory is most glorious in this, that it is the gift to God to us, and a gift "through our Lord Jesus Christ." For what would a deliverance from mortality and debasement be to a Christian if won by his own arm, and what would heaven be if it were an outgrowth and final efflorescence of earthly culture and progress? "Through our Lord Jesus Christ:" this is the joy of the triumph, and this the heart of heaven. And "therefore" follows with the exhortation to his beloved brethren to be constant, enduring, abundant in the Lord's work, since they were well assured that their devotion to this labour, with its burdens, cares, and sacrifices, could not be "in vain in the Lord." It is a "therefore," indeed, and such a one as he had never bad an opportunity to use before, nor would ever find just such an occasion to repeat. The thanksgiving, the tender appeal, the entire outburst, stands alone among all those effusions with which his grandest hours are imperishably associated. It has happened again and again that in some grave crisis of a nation, or when the fortunes of the human family seemed to be touching an epochal period, there has been some Demosthenes or Burke to plead for the hope of a better future for the state; or some Savonarola, Luther, Knox, Hilton, to lift up a prophetic voice in behalf of the Church. But it fell to the lot of St. Paul to write the fifteenth chapter of the First Corinthians, to make an argument proof against every assault, to set forth the argument with such force and in such amplitude as to bring nature from the vegetable and animal kingdoms about us and from the remote heights of the firmament, so as to put her testimony in alliance with his logic in favour of the most precious of all truths, the doctrine of a perfected and immortal humanity in the Lord Jesus Christ. Nor can it be irreverent in us to borrow the language of his own exultant faith and say, "Thanks be to God, which giveth" to Christianity the "victory" over materialism and false spiritualism. Body is the meeting ground of matter and mind; they have met, they have united; they separate to meet again in a nearer and holier fellowship, and they meet to be together forever. Soul is spirit in its rudimentary life, in the childhood of thought and beauty and affection, in a state of trial and discipline, but its instincts, greater incomparably than its abilities, show their prophetic outreachings towards the infinite and eternal. So far as our dim reason can perceive, a fully developed spirit could not exist in a mortal body, nor a soul exist in an immortal body. Soul and body, each "natural" for this life; spirit and a "spiritual body" for the "kingdom of God." "Thanks be to God." - L.
Parallel VersesKJV: Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,