Tuesday, 14 April 2015
Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed— 1 Corinthians 15:51
This verse and the next one to come are “rapture” verses. They provide details that, when taken with the other rapture verses of the New Testament, show us the general order in which the rapture will occur within the framework of the greater panorama of redemptive history. Paul’s words here are descriptive in the sense that they depict what will occur. However, they are to be taken literally. One must have rapture theology trained out of them to deny a literal rendering of what they say. When taken at face value they are clear and obvious.
Paul first begins with “Behold.” The word is horao. According to Helps Word Studies it means “properly, see, often with metaphorical meaning: “to see with the mind” (i.e. spiritually see), i.e. perceive (with inward spiritual perception).” This is just what Paul intends with the use of the word because he next says, “I tell you a mystery.”
This word, mystery, is mustérion. In addition to meaning “mystery” it carries the connotation of a “secret, of which initiation is necessary; in the NT: the counsels of God, once hidden but now revealed in the Gospel or some fact thereof; the Christian revelation generally; particular truths or details of the Christian revelation.” In other words, Paul is now explaining something that, until he revealed it to those at Corinth, was completely unknown except to him. It had been revealed to him by God and he was now passing it on for the edification and instruction of the Corinthians, and thus us as well!
And this mystery which is now revealed is that, “We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed…” The meaning is obvious on its surface. Not all believers in Christ will die a physical death (Paul uses the Christian concept of “sleep” to mean “physical death”), but will instead be transformed immediately from the “earthly” to the “heavenly” body that he described earlier.
Paul will continue with his rapture theology to the Corinthians in the next verse and then he will explain why this will occur and the hope which it signifies. In this, other than the fact that there will be living Christians at the time of the event, no specifics concerning that timing are given in this epistle. Rather, it must be discerned by uniting these words with those in other areas of the New Testament.
Life application: Rapture theology is often spoken against by Christian fuddyduddies. Don’t be a Christian fuddyduddy. Instead, accept what the Bible says at face value and know that the Lord will bring the people of His church to Himself. It is the blessed hope of the faithful.
Lord, Your word gives specific details concerning the rapture. It tells us the way in which it will happen, the timing in relation to other events of redemptive history, and who will be included among those changed. It even tells us the speed in which it will occur… in the twinkling of an eye. I’m excited about that and I am prepared. Oh to be with You forever… I’m ready anytime Lord! Amen!