Victory Over Death
1 Corinthians 15:50 Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption. 51 Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed-- 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. 53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. 54 So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: "Death is swallowed up in victory." 55 "O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?" 56 The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 58 Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord. (NKJV)
In this chapter, Paul is responding to some false teaching in the church in Corinth. The false teaching was that some teachers were denying the bodily resurrection of Christians.
So Paul, in this chapter, is correcting this false teaching. Chapter fifteen is, perhaps, the most comprehensive study of bodily resurrection in the entire Bible.
In the previous passage, Paul answers two questions that he anticipates from the false teachers that deny a bodily resurrection. The questions are “How are the dead raised up? And with what body do they come?" (v. 35).
Now, in this passage, Paul continues to expand on the second question regarding the characteristics of the resurrected body. Our resurrected bodies are similar to our earthly bodies, our flesh and blood bodies, but different (v. 50a).
Our earthly bodies “cannot inherit the kingdom of God” (v. 50b). They are not suitable for the afterlife, and thus they return to dust after our spirits leave them. They are not suitable because they are corruptible, meaning they are subject to disease and death (v. 50c).
On the other hand, our resurrected bodies are suitable for the afterlife. They are suitable because they are incorruptible, they are not subject to disease or death (v. 50d). Our resurrected bodies never become diseased and they live forever.
Next, Paul tells us “a mystery”, something that has never been written of in the Old Testament Scriptures (v. 51a). However, Paul previously wrote on this subject in Thessalonians 4.
The mystery is that not everyone will ”sleep”, meaning not everyone will die (v. 51b). But everyone will “be changed” (v. 51c).
This verse does not teach the doctrine of “soul sleep”, that there is a period of time after our bodies die that our soul goes to sleep while waiting for our resurrected body. Paul clarifies this later when he writes that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord (2 Cor. 5:8). At death our spirit leaves our body and we are immediately with the Lord in Heaven.
The change Paul refers to in verse 51 occurs at the Rapture. The Rapture is when the Lord returns in the sky and all the dead and the living Christians are be caught up with Him in the sky. God’s “last trumpet” will sound at this time and “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye” the Rapture will happen (v. 52a).
At the Rapture the dead will be raised “incorruptible”, with their resurrected bodies (v. 52b). Then those Christians who are still alive will “be changed” into their resurrected bodies (v. 52c). All this will occur instantaneously.
The corruptible bodies must become incorruptible, meaning our earthly bodies must become resurrected bodies (v. 53a). Our “mortal” bodies must become “immortal” bodies (v. 53b).
When this process happens the prophecies "Death is swallowed up in victory” (Is. 25:8) and “O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?" (Hos. 13:14) are fulfilled (VV. 54-55).
Bodily resurrection takes the sting out of death. Christians have no need to fear death, there is no sting to death. For the Christian death means victory.
However, non-Christians do experience the sting of death. This sting is the burdened conscience of unforgiven sin (v. 56a).
“The strength of sin is the law” (v. 56b). The law, the Bible, informs us of sin and its penalty. It is the strength behind sin.
Unfortunately, those who do not read the Bible may not know what behaviors are sinful and the penalty of those behaviors. They do so at their own peril.
Those of us who are Christians give “thanks” to God for our “victory” over death (v. 57). Our victory has been achieved, not through our own efforts but, “through our Lord Jesus Christ”, who died on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins.
This penalty for our sins is eternal life in Hell. Since Jesus paid our penalty, Christians spend eternity in Heaven in the presence of God.
Paul concludes this passage by exhorting Christians on to action in four ways. In this way we put actions to our word of thanks to God.
First of all we should remain “steadfast”, or firm (v. 58a}. This means that we should be strong in character against sin in our lives.
Secondly, we should be “immovable” (v. 58b). This means that we should be incapable of being moved from our place in right relationship to God. We should not be swayed by those who would lead us away from God, or by difficult circumstances in our lives.
Next, we should be “always abounding in the work of the Lord” (v. 58c). This means that not only should we be working for the Lord, but we should be working in abundance.
Finally, we should be inspired in our work by the knowledge that our works are “not in vain” (v. 58d). Our good works help to build the Kingdom of God. Also, we are rewarded in Heaven by the good works we do on earth.
As Christians we have victory over death, because our sins have been forgiven and forgotten by God, They have been cast as far as the east is from the west. The result is that we are assured of eternal life in Heaven when we die. That is our victory.
In response, we should show our thanks to the Lord for our victory. We show our thanks by remaining strong in our faith and working to build His Kingdom.
Online Bible Commentary