But let me reveal to you a wonderful secret. We will not all die, but we will all be transformed! It will happen in a moment, in the blink of an eye, when the last trumpet is blown. For when the trumpet sounds, those who have died will be raised to live forever. And we who are l iving will also be transformed. For our dying bodies must be transformed into bodies that will never die; our mortal bodies must be transformed into immortal bodies. Then, when our dying bodies have been transformed into bodies that will never die [and our mortal bodies have been transformed into immortal bodies], this Scripture will be fulfilled: “Death is swallowed up in victory.1 Corinthians 15:51-54
Paul shares a secret with the Corinthians. Something that clearly they didn’t know till that point. Either it was hidden from their eyes (a secret) or it was not understandable to them (a mystery). Either way Paul makes it clearer, although he does use a euphamism. Literally he says “we shall not all sleep but we shall all be changed”. “Sleeping” is a euphamism for dying. Paul says we will not all die. Not all of us will die. Meaning: Some of us will die but not all of us. Who does he mean? Some among the Corinthians or is it wider than that? Remember he has been talking about us having heavenly bodies. Clearly that will happen when Christ returns. There are some among us Christians who will not die, those who remain at the final generation before Christ coming. This indeed is an amazing thought.
It is clear that this is what he is talking about because he goes on to say, It will happen in a moment (a blink of an eye) when the last trumpet is blown. This casts the scene at the consummation of the age and beginning of the millennium. Oh not the 1999 – 2000 millenium. That’s nothing. This is the millennium ushered in when Christ returns. At that moment, following the rapture (which Paul doesn’t elaborate on here, he saves that for the letter to the Thessalonians (See 1 Thess 4:14-5:4) not all will die. Some will be caught up to Christ in the rapture and escape death. However in this letter Paul doesn’t elaborate any further. His focus here appears more on the transformation that will take place because the context is him talking about the nature of our heavenly bodies. Paul is consistent with the theme that is in his mind.
We will be raptured and transformed! The bodies of those who experience this will be transformed into heavenly bodies. At that moment death will be swallowed up in victory. The ultimate victory over death will be accomplished. It won’t just be for the Last Adam (Christ) but will be for all those who are his. At this point I need to make a note that there is debate over the “we” intended here. In Indonesian terms is it “we – kita” (inclusive 1st person plural) or is it “we – kami” (exclusive 1st person plural)? It could be both. Meaning it could refer to Christians, the followers of Christ, or it could refer to all who are alive at the time. There is debate over this but personally I feel Paul is referring to the believers.
There is another controversy surrounding the fact that some manuscripts have a different reading. Many of the old manuscripts and Fathers read, “We shall all sleep, but we shall not all be changed”; but this is plainly a corrupt reading, inconsistent with 1Thess 4:15 and 4:17, and with the apostle’s argument here, which is that a change is necessary (1Cor 15:53). Some of the oldest manuscripts and Fathers. some copies read, “we shall all rise again, but we shall not all be changed”, The Latin Vulgate has “all will rise again”. The sense of course is that both just and unjust will stand before the judgement seat of Christ but all will not be changed into a state of glory. But Paul is only speaking of the saints, of whom it is true, not only that they shall rise again, but shall be changed from corruption to in-corruption; wherefore this cannot be a true reading.
Others read the words thus, “we shall all die, but we shall not all be changed”; and so the Ethiopic version and the Alexandrian copy seem to have read; which is just the reverse of the text, and arises from a wrong sense of Heb 9:27 where it is not said, it is “appointed unto all men”, but “unto men once to die”; from which rule there has been some exceptions, as the instances of Enoch and Elijah show; and there will be more at the time of Christ’s coming, they will not die as men ordinarily do, and continue under the power of death, but they will be changed at once from corruption to in-corruption, from dishonour to glory, from weakness to power, from being natural to be spiritual bodies; this change all the saints will undergo, whether dead or alive, at Christ’s coming; the dead by a resurrection from the dead, and the living by a secret and sudden power, which will at once render their bodies, without separating them from their souls, immortal and glorious.
What the various readings indicate is that there was some difficulty for the early church to accept the plain reading of the text in Greek. The standard reading is what we have recorded in the main text of Scripture. Not all will die but all (Christians) will be transformed. I am so glad that Christianity has not tried to hide variant readings by burning all the other readings. The transmission of the text is plain and available to all who care to study it.
This all reminds me of a song:
“Got a brand new story though you’ve heard it a time or two. About a Prince who kissed a girl right out of the blue. Hey this story ain’t no tale to me now. The Prince of Peace has given me life somehow. Do you know what I mean?”
Annie Herring and the Second Chapter of Acts. [The 2nd Chapter of Acts is the name of a Christian group not a reference to Scripture for those of you who were not alive then.]
Yes that is right, this stuff is all like a fairytale, which is why it generates some degree of controversy and disbelief. The fact is it is true. These things will take place. The prophetic will become history – it is written.Ian Vail
Don’t worry about the world ending today. It’s already tomorrow in New Zealand.Ian Vail