We come now to the final section of 1 Corinthians 15. We have been going through this great resurrection chapter. You’re a wonderful congregation to preach to, you love the truth, you embrace the truth with a full heart, and you express so often, as many of you have to me, your joy over what we’ve learned in this chapter. It’s been so encouraging to me. Not everybody is interested in what happens after we die. Most people today, even in churches, seem to be a lot more interested in what goes on here. But for some of us, what happens after death is the most important.
My friend, Daniel Henderson, said the other day, “Isn’t it odd in our prayers that we spend most of time praying to keep people out of heaven who are headed there than we do praying lost people into heaven who aren’t headed there?” I think we sometimes lose sight of the glories of heaven, even as we pray for saints, resisting in some ways the best that God has for them, entrance into His presence.
Now, what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15 is that when we end up in heaven, finally, we will not be disembodied spirits, but we will be resurrected human beings. The skeptics, of course, as we have pointed out, viewed physical resurrection as something of a joke. The idea that the body could rise from the dead seemed ridiculous to them.
That view, that non-resurrection view, had permeated the Corinthian church because it was a part of the philosophy of that place and that time. And some of the believers were having trouble believing in a resurrection. They weren’t having trouble believing in salvation. They weren’t having trouble believing that their spirits would go to heaven, but they were having trouble with the physical, bodily resurrection.
So the apostle Paul writes this monumental chapter to affirm the reality of resurrection. He has presented the evidence of a physical resurrection, and the primary proof of the physical resurrection to the saints is the physical resurrection of the Lord Jesus. That’s how he began the chapter. The evidence for a bodily resurrection is in the resurrection of Christ. He is the prototype.
Then he talked about the importance of resurrection by looking at what happens if there is no resurrection. Christ didn’t rise, we don’t rise; the gospel is useless; preaching is empty, and so forth. Then he talked about the sequence of resurrection. Who comes first? Christ, and then the rest follow. And he talked about the value of resurrection. It takes us into the form which God originally designed that we would be in, fully perfected human beings to express His glory. Then last time, down through verse 49, Paul described the body of resurrection. Gave us some analogies and described a way for us to understand the body of a resurrected believer.
Now, having gone through all of that, he comes to verse 50, and he sweeps us into what is really a very, very elevated conclusion. It is really a thrilling sort of lyrical praise for the great reality of resurrection. In fact, I think verses 50 to 57, and then the final verse added to that, but I think this whole passage must have almost carried the apostle Paul away. This is pure praise. It is a kind of celestial symphony, and we’re going to see that as we look at it. Let me read verses 50 to 58.
“Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Behold, I tell you a mystery. We will not all sleep but we will 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 imperishable and we will be changed. For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality.
“But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, ‘Death is swallowed up in victory. O, death, where is your victory? O, death, where is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin and the power 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 toil is not in vain in the Lord.”
This is elevated language, glorious language, and at the same time highly instructive. Paul’s praise follows four lines: a great transformation, a great triumph, a great thanksgiving, and then a great therefore. Let’s begin with the great transformation.
Verse 50 really sets off the whole passage. “Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.” This is a very important transitional statement. Paul has been discussing the fact that God will design special bodies for eternal living. They won’t be earthly. They won’t be like the body we have inherited from a fallen Adam and Eve. They will be like Christ’s resurrection body.
Look at verse 49. “Just as we have borne the image of the earthy,” that is, we are made in the likeness of fallen man, “we will bear also the image of the heavenly.” “We will have a body like unto His glorious body,” it says in Philippians. In other words, Paul is telling us in this opening statement about the great transformation. We need special equipment for eternal life. This body will not do. “Flesh and blood” is the phrase. It refers to our bodies as currently designed for life on this planet. Our bodies are wonderfully, fearfully made, as the Psalmist said, and they are suited for this life.
Hebrews 2:14 says, “The children share in flesh and blood.” Simply a way to describe the physical body. Flesh sometimes is used in a moral sense in Scripture, but whenever it’s connected with blood, it’s simply referring to a physical body. We cannot enter the heavenly realm in the bodies that we currently have. We must be changed. And that goes back to what I just mentioned to you, Philippians chapter 3, “Our citizenship is in heaven. We wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory.”
We’ll go from being earthy to being heavenly. We must be transformed. Heaven calls for that. In fact, flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God. Sometimes the kingdom of God refers to the salvation realm over which Jesus rules in the hearts of all those who put their trust in Him. It is that kingdom that He emphasized in His preaching, “Enter into the kingdom,” was similar to being saved. Sometimes the kingdom of God refers to the universal rule of God in the universe as He oversees and has authority over everything in the created world, both material and spiritual.
Sometimes the kingdom of God refers to the future thousand-year millennial reign. Sometimes the kingdom of God as a term refers to eternal heaven, the eternal new heaven and new earth, the final state. And that’s what we have here. You can’t enter into the final form of the future reign of God after Christ has collected all who belong to Him – we saw that back in verse 24 – and then He has taken the kingdom and handed it over to God, to God and Father, having abolished all other rule and all authority and power.
That is the eternal state, when all the redeemed of all periods of time, both time as we know it now, the future time of the tribulation, the future time of the millennial kingdom, all those times are over. The new heaven and the new earth is created. All the redeemed are gathered in heaven, all of Christ’s are there, and He then takes them all and gives them to the Father. That’s what we have here, the future reign of God after Christ has handed over to Him the kingdom. So we look at this, then, as the eternal state.
We must go back to verse 42 because there we see the same emphasis of a transformation. The resurrection of the dead is coming, it is sown – that is, our body is a perishable body, raised an imperishable; sown in dishonor, raised in glory; sown in weakness, raised in power; sown natural, raised spiritual. This is simply laying out for us the fact that we must be changed, a tremendous transformation is required. Death is the planting of the seed. We saw the analogy of the seed. And that seed dying, as it were, bursts forth in new life and takes new form.
There are great similarities because our body will be conformed to the body of Christ’s glory, and we know all about His body because He walked and talked on earth after His resurrection for forty days with His followers, and there are many descriptions of their interaction and of His glorified body. Paul has detailed in our last study the characteristics of this new body, imperishable, glorious, powerful, and spiritual.
Now, it raises a question and the question is: What about the Christians that are living when Christ comes? And that question falls on the minds of the readers in Corinth, and Paul assumes it and he assumes it of readers in the future, so he answers it here in the text before us. What happens if you don’t die? What happens if you’re alive when Christ comes? They believed in the return of Christ. He had said that He would return, Acts 1:11. The angel said the same Jesus that you have seen go into heaven shall so come in like manner as you’ve seen Him go.
Himself, our Lord, delineated His second coming, described it in the great Olivet Discourse of Matthew 24 and 25 in particular. So the early believers knew that the Lord was coming. First Corinthians, probably written around the year 55 maybe, it’s just a few years since the Lord has died. And this doctrine of His return is well settled in the life of the church. And so the question, then, comes: What if you’re not dead and the Lord comes, then what happens? Then what happens? Will these people miss the transformation? What about those living at the resurrection?
Let’s look at verse 51, he answers that question. “Behold, I tell you a mystery,” which is another way of saying, “I have new information” – “I have new information.” Mystery doesn’t mean what we think when we say mystery. Mustērion doesn’t mean something that is virtually unsolvable. Mystery in the New Testament refers to something that has been previously hidden, okay? Has been previously hidden. But when the writer says, “I will show you a mystery,” it means that which has previously been hidden will now be revealed.
This is something that in the Old Testament, for example, no one knew. It wasn’t made known to them. It was hidden from them. Now, there is a sense in which we have to understand that God doesn’t tell us everything all the time. Let me give you a little way to think about that. There are some things God doesn’t tell anybody, ever. You understand that, right? Deuteronomy 29:29, “The secret things belong to the Lord.” There are some things He hasn’t told anybody, and maybe we’ll find it out when we get to heaven.
There are some things He reveals to everybody. What would that be? Well, Romans 1, “That which may be known of God is in them” – that is, the path to God, to the recognition that there is a God, and to recognize His eternal power and godhead is built into the very rational faculties of every human being. That which may be known of God is in them so that they’re without excuse if they don’t go back to God because reason will take you there. Every reasoning human being finally has to end up with the fact that there’s God because all reasoning is based on a cause-and-effect continuum.
That’s what thinking is., this produces this, and this produces this, and this produces this. And if you follow it back, you’re going to end up with a need for a primary cause. That’s why the theory of evolution is such a devastating attack on human reason. To say nobody times nothing equals everything is idiotic. It’s insane.
So there are some things that God has revealed to everybody, and one of them is the knowledge that He exists and that He is God and that He is powerful. And also, Romans 2 says that the law of God is written in the heart of every man, and there is an accommodating conscience that works off of that law to excuse or accuse him. So to everyone, God has revealed something, the fact of His existence and His power and the fact of His law, and there are some things that He has never revealed to anybody.
Now, there are some things that God reveals only to His people – only to His people. Psalm 25:14, “The secret of the Lord is with those who fear Him” – the secret of the Lord is with those who fear Him. Or Proverbs 3:32, “The secret of the Lord is with the righteous.” There are things that we who are believers know that no one else can understand. The natural man cannot understand them, they are foolishness to him, they are spiritually discerned and he’s spiritually dead. Jesus (in John 8) said, “Because I speak the truth, you don’t believe me.”
So there are things that He doesn’t reveal to anybody. There are things that He reveals to everyone. There are certain things that He reveals only to His own people. And then, fourthly, there are secrets that He has hidden from everyone for a period of time, including His own people, and finally revealed in the New Testament. Paul himself identifies the fact that he is a preacher of the mysteries, but Paul isn’t the one who introduced that, Jesus is.
Back in Matthew 13, when our Lord was telling the parables to the disciples, He was essentially revealing mysteries to them. Jesus answered them, “To you it has been granted” – verse 11 – “to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven. But to them, it has not been granted,” to the non-believers, it has not been granted, “it is granted to you and you alone.” And so He spoke to the crowd in parables, which were riddles they couldn’t understand.
Now we come to the category of those things which God has hidden in the past from everybody but in the New Testament has revealed to His church, to His people. Now, if you just go to your concordance, look up the word mystery, go everywhere in the New Testament where the word mystery goes, and you’ll uncover what those mysteries are. There is the mystery of iniquity. There is the mystery of the church being Jew and Gentile, together as one. There is the mystery of the indwelling Christ, Christ in you, that’s another mystery. What that means is it has never been revealed until the New Testament.
Well, one of those mysteries is here revealed, and it has to do with the question that is on the mind of the reader: What about the people who don’t die? What happens to them if they don’t get sown in the ground, decompose, and come forth in a new form? What about the people that don’t die? Not all Christians will die. What happens to them? Verse 51, let me give you a mystery. Nobody’s ever heard this until the New Testament. We will not all die, that’s what sleep means, we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed. There’s the answer to the question.
Sometimes when the questions aren’t asked, you can back up to the question, once you hear the answer, and that’s one of those cases in this text. It is absolutely necessary that we all be changed. Why? Because the perishable, back to verse 50, must put on an imperishable form. You can’t take what you’ve got to heaven, and basically aren’t you glad? Aren’t you glad? Can you imagine dealing with what you are eternally?
We will not all sleep. That is to say, the Lord will come and the resurrection will happen at a time when some people are still alive. But we will all be changed. We have to be changed. And by the way, it is not a process – it is not a process. How do you know that? Verse 52, “In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, we’re all going to be changed in a moment.”
That’s an interesting word in the Greek, atomos, from which we get the word atom. The word atomos means that which can’t be divided. That which can’t be cut is atomos. Therefore, it is the smallest. In the Greek understanding, you can’t get anything smaller than that which cannot be divided. So it indicates the shortest possible time. It can’t be divided down. It’s not an hour and it’s not a minute and it’s not a second and it’s not a nanosecond, it’s the smallest possible undividable unit of time. It’s going to happen that fast.
And the analogy is in the twinkling of an eye. That’s not a blink – that’s not a blink, that’s different. This is twinkling. That’s a flash of light, the sudden flash of light on the eye. One writer suggests it would be like a sixth of a nanosecond, the time that it takes for light entering the iris to reach the retina. A microsecond is one millionth of a second. A nanosecond is one thousandth of a microsecond. And the twinkling is one sixth of a nanosecond. That is fast – that is fast. That’s it, folks, that fast. That’s what’ll happen, that fast.
And all that language there is intended for you to understand this is not some kind of transformation that takes time. Now, when does it happen? Well, it happens at the last trumpet – at the last trumpet. There is a passage in 1 Thessalonians chapter 4, verse 16, that describes the same event (the rapture) and you have a trumpet there, and we’ll look at that. This is the trumpet that will be sounded at the rapture.
In the Old Testament and certainly throughout Jewish history, even in times of the New Testament, trumpets are associated with the events of end times. Trumpets were associated in Israel’s history with battles and festivities and triumphs, but they were also associated with the events of the end times. This is the signal for the dead to rise. This is the time when they will be called out of the graves and called up to God. And the transformation will take place in – if our scientific explanation is accurate – a sixth of a nanosecond.
Back in the nineteenth chapter of Exodus, God appeared. Thunder, lightning flashes, thick cloud on the mountain, Mount Sinai, and a very loud trumpet sound so that all the people who were in the camp trembled, and Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God. This’ll be like that, only not frightening. This is a summons trumpet in Exodus 19: Come and meet God. And it is a summoning trumpet here, as well: Come in your glorified body and meet God.
When that happens, in the moment, at the last trump, the trump will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. We’ll be changed. That’s the transformation. That is a glorious thing to think about. It has to be. Why? Verse 53, “For this perishable must put on the imperishable. And this mortal must put on immortality.” “Put on” is a normal word, by the way, for getting dressed. You need a new body to clothe your spiritual being. In the life to come, you’ve got to shed this one and put on a new one.
So Paul says this is something that no one has ever known until the New Testament. Is this the first time it was ever mentioned in the New Testament? No – no. Go back to John 14 – John 14 – upper room, Last Supper with the disciples. Here is the first time this event is mentioned. “Do not let your heart be troubled” – the disciples had troubled hearts because Jesus was going to be taken from them in death. “Don’t let your heart be troubled, believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many dwelling places. If it weren’t so, I would have told you.
“For I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to myself, that where I am, there you may be also.” This doesn’t explain about the transformation, but what it does explain is that there is being a place prepared for us in the heaven of heavens to dwell. “I will prepare a place for you.” “I will” – literally, the word means to ready or to furnish rather than to build.
That’s why we say in the old King James, the idea was, “I go to prepare a place for you,” and people thought, “Well, that’s got to be my house and I’m going to be on Holy Spirit Street, number 8 down the road and to the right or something. No. I’m going to furnish a place. The Lord is not building us a mansion, but He’s furnishing a room in the Father’s house, getting it ready for our arrival. And He will not send for us, by the way, He will come for us. “I will come again and receive you to myself.”
The reason we associate this passage with the rapture is because there’s no judgment here. Christ does come in judgment on the ungodly – destructive judgment, devastating judgment on the ungodly – but there’s no such reference here. This is when He comes to gather His own and take them to the rooms that He has furnished for them in the Father’s house. This is a passage that gives hope and comfort and joy.
And then there is another reference to this event, 1 Thessalonians chapter 4 – 1 Thessalonians chapter 4. First Thessalonians would have been written probably three, four years before 1 Corinthians. First Thessalonians 4, and there’s kind of an opposite issue here to the one in 1 Corinthians 15. The believers in Thessalonica are asking about the Christians that have died. They were already aware of the rapture, and they were wondering if the dead Christians were going to miss the rapture.
The Corinthians, I guess, were wondering if the people who are alive are going to miss the resurrection, the glory of the resurrection, and here, the Thessalonians are wondering if the people who are dead are going to miss the rapture. And so he answers them, verse 15, “This we say to you,” 1 Thessalonians 4:15, “by the Word of the Lord that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will not precede those who have fallen asleep.
“For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with a voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God” – there’s that same trump we saw in 15 – “and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so shall we always be with the Lord. Therefore, comfort one another with these words.” Again, there’s no judgment here, this is not a judgment event, this is not the return of Christ in judgment, neither was John 14, neither is 1 Corinthians 15.
This is an event that is all about comfort, all about encouragement, don’t let your heart be troubled, I’m preparing a room for you, I’m coming to get you. And the trumpet will be blown and the archangel will shout. The word, by the way, “shout,” for a military command. And perhaps He’ll be saying, “Come out.” A one-word command, a shout from an archangel, a blast from the trumpet of God, and God Himself comes down in the form of Christ to gather His people.
Now you can go back to our text. This is the third passage in the New Testament that unfolds this mystery which has been hidden in the past. Here is, then, the sacred secret. A whole generation of believers will, in fact, be alive at the time that Christ comes to raise the dead saints. They will be alive in their natural bodies at the time of the resurrection. But they will be transformed. That’s 1 Thessalonians. “They who are alive and remain will be caught up in the air to meet the Lord.”
They will experience an instantaneous transformation by which they will, in that same sixth of a nanosecond, receive their glorious resurrection bodies without ever dying. That’s why we all say, “We want to be alive at the rapture,” right? As one man said, “I really don’t fear death, I just don’t want to be there when it happens.” We have normal attitudes toward dying, we all understand that. We would all like to go in the rapture together – right? – in that moment, in that flash of light – and for some, that’s exactly what will happen.
And you say, “Well, do you think that’s far away?” It’s nearer than it’s ever been, is that fair? Nearer than It’s ever been. Can’t be too far away.
And so whether you’re dead or alive, there will be a great transformation. We will not all sleep – that is, we’ll not all die – but we will all be changed. The end of verse 52 says it again. “We will be changed.” Verse 53 says, “We must be changed because you cannot live in an imperishable world in a perishable body.” Wonderful, credible, staggering promise, to be able to have a glorified body like the body of Christ who came out of the grave and traverse the infinite new heaven and new earth in a life that the Lord designs for us.
Some people think, “Well, I don’t know if I want to be there forever. That’s a long time.” Give you an illustration, God is perfectly satisfied with Himself. True? God is joy personified. God is satisfaction personified. God is contentment personified. And God is eternal. And we’ll possess all those attributes.
So from the great transformation to the great triumph, verse 54. Here, Paul cuts loose a little bit with his praise. “But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, ‘Death is swallowed up in victory.’” He borrowed that, of course, from Isaiah 25. This is the great triumph. This is the day we wait for. Right now, death is our enemy. Death is certainly our enemy in every sense, and reasonably, we fear it.
One writer said, “There is a preacher of the old school, but he speaks as boldly as ever. He’s not popular, though the world is his parish and he travels every part of the globe and speaks in every language. This preacher visits the poor, calls on the rich, preaches to people of every religion and no religion. And the subject of this preacher’s sermons is always the same. He is an eloquent preacher, often stirring feelings which no other preacher could and bringing tears to eyes that never weep. His arguments, none are able to refute, nor is there any heart that has remained unmoved by the force of his appeals.
“He shatters life with his message. Most people hate him. Everybody fears him. This preacher’s name is Death. Every tombstone is his pulpit, every newspaper prints his text, and every day, more people are part of his message.”
The inevitability of death, it’s an enemy. We fear it. We hide from it. We evade it. We try to avoid it. We mask it. Because it devastates us. It breaks long, loving unions. It leaves unfinished symphonies. It removes people who are greatly needed. It wrecks our tranquility. It is our enemy, and there’s no getting around it.
But when this perishable will put on the imperishable and this mortal will have put on immortality, we’ll all appreciate the words of the prophet that death is swallowed up in victory. When and then and with that he looks forward to the time of this great resurrection event. When the change has been made. When the transformation has taken place. When the resurrection has occurred, death will be completely conquered. That is why in heaven there is no death. The complete destruction of death will be accomplished for the church at the resurrection and the rapture.
Now, after the resurrection and the rapture of the church, there will be a tribulation, and there will be death there. There will be a millennial kingdom of a thousand years, and there will be death there. At the end of that millennial kingdom, all the rebels will be destroyed, and death itself will be abolished with the uncreation of the universe and the creation of a new heaven and a new earth. But for us, for the church, for those who are part of the mystery, death will be swallowed up forever when we are resurrected or raptured.
Swallowing is very strong verb. Death is swallowed up, it speaks of drastic and complete destruction. It is not merely harmed, it is not really leveled, it is not simply destroyed, it is consumed in an absolute and total victory.
The incredible wonder of this triumph gives rise to a taunt in verse 55. This is taunting. “O death, where is your victory? O, death, where is your sting?” Death is addressed in the figure of an animal or an insect armed with a poisonous sting which kills. The word sting is kentron, it refers primarily to bees and snakes. Death’s sting is gone. The blow against death was struck by Christ at Calvary, and there will come a time when that is actualized. It was promised by the work of Christ, it’ll be a reality in the future.
For the church, at the rapture, for the saints of the tribulation when they die, death will be destroyed. For the saints who live through the millennial kingdom, at the end of that, when they die, death’s final destruction takes place. But the language here for the church tells us that at the rapture and the resurrection, death will be completely obliterated. And so death can be taunted fearlessly. Where’s your victory? Where’s your sting?
Then in verse 56, he interprets verse 55. “The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.” It is not death itself that harms. Death has no power. What makes death powerful is sin. Sin is death’s stinger. It’s not death itself. Death has no power unless there is – here’s the key – unforgiven sin. Death has no real power unless there’s unforgiven sin. Then death is really deadly because if there’s unforgiven sin in your life because you haven’t come to Christ and had all your sins forgiven, then death is eternally deadly.
But death has no sting for the Christian. Where’s your sting? We taunt death. Because your only weapon against us is sin and there’s no sin. Why? Because it’s all been paid for, covered, forgiven, and removed. So there’s no sting in death for the Christian. That’s why the Old Testament says, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His holy ones.” It’s a precious event when a believer dies.
The sting of death is sin and the power of sin is the law. This takes us back to Romans 5 and 7. The law of God is the standard that reveals we are sinners. Sin is defined by the law. The law sets the mark that sin misses. The smallest sin unforgiven has the power to kill the soul eternally. So unless your sins are forgiven in Christ, death, when it hits you, will sting you with its eternal kill power. If you know Christ, sin is not an issue, death has no sting. In fact, death is like a welcome friend.
This leads from the great transformation and the great triumph to the great thanksgiving. Verse 57, “But thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” How? Because Christ satisfied every breech of the law. Christ paid the penalty for every law ever broken. He paid the price the law demanded. “The wages of sin is death,” He died to pay the wages. All sin having been dealt with, death has no more sting, and death is a friend.
Paul says, “Far better to depart and be with Christ.” He had no fear of death. And here, he relishes the moment when this perishable will put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality. So death for the believer, because sin is paid for and covered, death is disarmed, defanged. And we can taunt it. Where’s your victory? Where’s your sting? Glorious truth.
The passage ends in verse 58 with, I guess, what I like to call the great therefore. “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord. Therefore, because our resurrection is fixed, this is the big conclusion, because we will rise, it is guaranteed, the law will not condemn us, Christ fulfilled the law for us. Sin will not destroy us. God holds no sins against us – they were all placed on Christ in His death. You will rise, your resurrection is a reality, my beloved brethren.
A flood of affection comes out in that phrase, doesn’t it? The theology of the resurrection, then, becomes a challenge. The speculations about resurrection become very practical, and the sweeping of the mind over these massive truths comes down to our feet and immediate action. Life may be difficult. Being a Christian may be challenging. Preaching the gospel may come with its persecution. But hang in there. Be steadfast. That means stand true – stand true, immovable. Don’t deviate from the gospel, from what you know to be true.
Literally, that word “steadfast” means to be fixed firmly, solidly, settled. It’s a reference to our conviction, to the content of our doctrine, what we believe. Firm up your conviction about the future resurrection.
The Corinthians, remember now, were vacillating on it. Be immovable – immovable. An interesting word from the verb kinein, means to set in motion. And it’s the background of the word cinema from the German Kinos, which is what they call their motion pictures. Don’t move, don’t be in motion, don’t deviate. Be firm and fixed in your doctrine. Reminds me of Ephesians 4:14, “Be no more children tossed to and fro and carried about by every wind of doctrine.” Solid, personal conviction about the resurrection and everything associated with it. Stand firm.
Two: Work hard, always abounding in the work of the Lord because you know that your toil is not in vain in the Lord. Stand firm doctrinally, work hard in ministry, always abounding, perisseuō, overdoing it, overdoing it, overdoing it. This is a good word for all of us who work and pray and give and witness and live and sometimes suffer. Just keep doing it.
If no resurrection, might be no reason to do this. But since there is a resurrection, don’t let anybody take away your conviction about that, and work hard because when that great day comes, you will receive a reward. Your labor is not in vain, it is not for nothing. It is not for nothing.
When the Lord comes, He is going to reward His people. The New Testament talks about all kinds of crowns, all kinds of rewards, all kinds of blessings that the Lord is going to give us. But listen to Revelation 22:12 to sum it up: “Behold, I am coming quickly, and my reward is with me to render to every man according to what he has done.” Hold your ground, your conviction on the resurrection, work hard, there’s a day of reward coming. Let’s pray.
This is all of grace, we understand that, Lord, we certainly know that. We don’t deserve to be saved. We don’t deserve to be transformed. We don’t deserve to be eternally rewarded for the humble service that we render. This is all of grace. What a gracious, loving God you are.
How marvelous is it that we can taunt death because it has no sting? It planted its sting in Christ, and He bore the full punishment and conquered death. It has no possibility of victory over us because all the demands of the law were met by Christ. And so we long for that glorious experience, maybe even that rapture event.
But in any case, whether it’s dead or alive, when resurrection day comes, we’re thrilled with your kindness in the promise of our own resurrection and the glory that you’ve prepared for us. This is only the beginning, we haven’t even begun to imagine what you have prepared for us.
May we be steadfast and immovable in our convictions about our glorious future and work hard, labor to the point of exhaustion, if need be, knowing that there is coming a future reward, which you will give, as Paul said, to all who love your appearing, your presence. We’re grateful for the promises that we hold to. All of this we know is because of Christ, and we give Him all the praise. Amen.