“I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall 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 shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality.” – 1 Corinthians 15:50-53
A central doctrine (belief) of the Christian church is the resurrection of the dead in Christ. Last weekend we celebrated the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. Jesus is called the “firstborn from the dead” (Colossians 1:18). This means that Jesus is the first to overcome death – never to die again. The good news of the message of Jesus Christ is that by faith through the grace of Jesus Christ, our sins might be forgiven, and we might pass from death into life. The promise made by Jesus is that those who believe in His name will have eternal life (John 3:16). What does it mean to have eternal life? Most people are so focused on this life, they think little of any life to come. However, the life to come was the central hope and clear end goal for the authors of Scripture (Hebrews 11:13-16, John 14:1-6).
Paul writes clearly that when a Christian dies, their soul goes to be with the Lord (Philippians 1:21-24, 2 Corinthians 5:8). But in accord with the resurrection body of Christ, Scripture tells us that in our eternal state we will also have resurrection/glorified bodies similar to Jesus. “Our citizenship is in heaven, and from it, we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like His glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to Himself” (Philippians 3:20-21).
This passage points out a few very important things. First, we will enter eternal life by the power of our Savior the Lord Jesus Christ. Second, by His power, He will transform our lowly (earthly and dying) body to be like His resurrection body. Paul says “like” because it will be similar, but not the same. In what ways it will be similar, we are not told. Third, “transformation” implies something new and better being made from something old. Similar to the risen Jesus, Scripture implies that our resurrection bodies, though different, will be recognizable as “you.” The disciples knew the risen Jesus was different, but they knew it was Him (Luke 24:36-43). When Peter, James, and John saw Moses and Elijah with the glorified Jesus on the mount of transfiguration, Moses and Elijah were not disembodied spirits. They were radiant and glorified, but recognizable as the men they were in life.
For the believer in Jesus, death is a passage to eternal life – the putting off of the perishable and the taking up of the imperishable. At the second coming of Jesus, every Christian will be “changed” – they will be transformed to have a resurrected body that will never die. Paul speaks at length comparing the earthly body to the resurrection body in 1 Corinthians 15:35-49. Our current earthly bodies will die, are perishable, are dishonored by sin, are weak, and made of the “dust” of the earth in the image of mankind. In contrast, our heavenly resurrected body will be eternal (never dying), imperishable, glorious, powerful, heavenly, spiritual (not of this world), and in the likeness of Jesus.
In summary, theologian Wayne Grudem states, “Christ will return and raise from the dead the bodies of all believers for all time who have died, and reunites them with their souls, and changes the bodies of all believers who remain alive, thereby giving all believers at the same time perfect resurrection bodies like His own.”
Let us serve Jesus faithfully until the last trumpet sounds!