‘Listen, I tell you a mystery: we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed’ (1 Corinthians 15:51 NIVUK)
This verse is often put up in church crèches, however, that’s not quite what Paul had in mind. He is telling us a mystery. This doesn’t mean something which is mysterious or weird, rather it means something that has been hinted at in the past in God’s revelation, but was hidden and muffled, and is now open and to be declared. Paul says, ‘we shall not all sleep,’ which is a euphemism for death, but ‘we will all be changed’ – we will all be transformed. In other words, we shall get a resurrection body whether we die or not.
Can you imagine what this will be like? Joni Erickson Tada, herself a quadriplegic, puts it like this:
I still can hardly believe it. I, with shriveled, bent fingers, atrophied muscles, gnarled knees, and no feeling from the shoulders down, will one day have a new body, light, bright, and clothed in righteousness—powerful and dazzling. Can you imagine the hope this gives someone with a spinal-cord injured like me? Or someone who is cerebral palsied, brain-injured, or who has multiple sclerosis? Imagine the hope this gives someone who is manic-depressive. No other religion, no other philosophy promises new bodies, hearts, and minds. Only in the Gospel of Christ do hurting people find such incredible hope.
Our resurrection bodies will be imperishable, immortal, beautiful, powerful, and will be perfectly Spirit-filled. Paul doesn’t mean non-physical. He means our resurrection bodies will be perfectly filled with the Spirit, and therefore permanently Christ-like, physically, and spiritually. Just think about Jesus’ body after he rose from the dead, and you have a good picture of what a resurrected body looks like. He spoke, ate, drank and was recognizable – so he wasn’t a ghost, but he was also able to appear to his disciples in a locked room
Paul’s purpose in telling us about the resurrection is not just to satisfy our curiosity about what our future is going to be like. Instead, he gives this explanation of the resurrection because he wants to strengthen the church:
‘Therefore, [because of what you know about the resurrection] my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labour in the Lord is not in vain.’ (1 Corinthians 15:58)
Paul wants the church to stand firm and be unmovable as it abounds in the Lord’s work. Why? Because the resurrection of Jesus and thus our resurrection is real. We are not just living for this world but a wonderful future. With all we experience in this life it is incredibly comforting to know that there is so much more to come.
Father, strengthen me to live faithfully for you as I look forward to my transformation and participation in the new heaven and new earth.
Have a good week standing firm in the Lord.