To gather an understanding of this question, we must look at 1 Corinthians 15:50-53. We, as a whole, face various constraints. There are those individuals who have physical, mental, or emotional debilitations who are particularly mindful of this.
I declare to you, brothers and sisters, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed — in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality (1 Corinthians 15:50-53).
Some people might be visually impaired; however, they can see a better approach to living. Some people might be hard of hearing, yet they can hear the Good News of God. Some people might be weak and lame, yet they can stroll in the love of God.
Moreover, they have the support that those impairments are just transitory, they are temporary. Paul lets us know that all believers will be given new bodies when Jesus returns, and these bodies will be without handicaps, never to become sick again, never to become injured, or die. This is the hope and trust for us to cling to during our time of suffering.
What Does ‘In a Twinkling of an Eye’ Mean?
What Paul is telling us is that our mortal, sinful, and corrupt bodies cannot enter into the Kingdom of God. This earthly body must pass away as we Christians, those who believe and accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior will inherit a new body that is free from all sin, sorrow, sickness, and death.
The significance of these words is accentuated by Paul's first interjection: "Now this I say, brethren" (v. 50). One is to take an uncommon note here “that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable” (v. 50).
Paul alludes to the people who will be living at whatever point Christ will come back to earth. "Flesh and blood" were usually used to signify the living. "Inherit" signifies to get, have, and conveys no uncommon religious importance here. Both the living and the dead will go through change at the return of Jesus Christ; the living will be changed; the dead will be resurrected.
Paul is announcing, “Behold, I show you a mystery” (v. 51). Here he is telling the readers to listen to him and that he has something that is especially important to say. This is another surprising decree. He is uncovering the secret mystery of how our corrupt, temporal human bodies might perhaps enter forever with God.
The simple answer is that they cannot, regardless of whether those bodies are those of believers who have ensured salvation through faith in Christ. Each and every born-again Christian will be changed from their normal human body to their celebrated heavenly body.
This will all happen when Christ returns for His children, as He said in John 14:2-3. The dead in Christ will rise first into a new heavenly body, and we that are alive and remain will be caught up to meet them in the air and be transformed as well.
“We shall not all sleep” (v. 51) proclaims that Christians who are alive on that day will not die yet they will be changed right away. The blast of a trumpet will introduce the New Heaven and New Earth.
The Jewish people would comprehend the meaning of this since trumpets were constantly blown to flag the beginning of incredible events and other exceptional occasions (Numbers 10:10). This is what is called the second coming of Christ. Paul was not implying that it was about to happen at that time.
This transformation will be instantaneous, “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye” (v. 52). It has been referred to as “in the blink of an eye.” This will happen so fast that it defies any type of measurement that can be thought of. It will happen so fast that no one will have time to say, “Jesus is here! There He is!” That time is immeasurable.
How Should Christians Respond to This Change?
Paul says that “changing” will be joined by the sound of a trumpet blasting, something that frequently announced the presence of God in Scripture. This last trumpet symbolizes a conclusion, an ending of something that has taken place.
This final trumpet sound will also announce that God's children will never be isolated from Him again. That trumpet sounding is the Lord’s call to all of humanity as He calls the dead to life. Jesus spoke to the man who had died and had been in the grave for four days, “Lazarus, Come forth” (John 11:43). He will do the same for you and me.
Paul, in discussing the living, says, "We will be changed." This ought not to be interpreted as meaning that Paul expected to be alive when Christ returns. For instance, he utilized "we/us" language to incorporate himself among the people who will be resurrected after death in 1 Corinthians 6:14.
Paul did not profess to know explicitly when Christ would return (Matthew 24:36). This passage lines up with what Paul wrote in 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17. Many believers and denominations depict this occasion as the rapture.
After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever (1 Thessalonians 4:17).
Why Does This Matter?
The last part of this chapter finishes Paul's instructing on the resurrection of Christians: when the last trumpet sounds and Christ returns for the people who have a place with Him.
At that time, all who believe in Jesus, living and dead, will be changed into the celebrated, everlasting bodies that have been promised to us. Death will be forever gone. Death will never be able to hurt anybody again. 1 Corinthians 15:55 says, “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?” (Hosea 13:14; Isaiah 25:8).
Sin brings death, and the law is the power of transgression, however, God has given us the triumph over death by pardoning and forgiving our sins and transgressions through faith in Christ Jesus and by the grace that He bestows unto all who call upon His name. Millard Berquist wrote,
“No passage of Scripture perhaps has been more frequently read beside the open grave, than this one. These wonderful words of comfort and encouragement have brought new strength, courage, and hope to unnumbered hosts. As long as time shall last, Christians around the world will cherish them for their classic beauty, simplicity, insight, and great power” (Berquist, 1960).
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Chris Swanson answered the call into the ministry over 20 years ago. He has served as a Sunday School teacher, a youth director along with his wife, a music director, an associate pastor, and an interim pastor. He is a retired Navy Chief Hospital Corpsman with over 30 years of combined active and reserve service. Chris holds a Doctor of Ministry, an M.B.A., and a B.S. in health administration. Chris and his wife Vicki, of 25 years, reside in Madison, Alabama. You can visit my site here.