We're going into the imperishable world, and we're going into the immortal world, and what is perishable and what is mortal cannot come there.
That is the great transformation. It may sound morbid, but have you ever thought about what it's going to be like at your funeral? How will your friends and family feel? What will they understand about your eternal destination? Well if you're a Christian, your funeral can be a time of joy, an opportunity to praise the Lord.
That can happen if your family knows exactly where you have gone and what it's like there. Points to consider today on Grace To You as John MacArthur continues his series called The End Is Not The End, a biblical look at death and what comes after it. So follow along now in 1 Corinthians 15 as John begins the lesson. Skeptics, both ancient and modern, have argued against the truth of resurrection, scoffing at the idea that the body which disintegrates in the grave, or which is virtually destroyed in a fire, or the bottom of the sea, or some other way, could ever rise from the dead. So Paul writes this chapter, this massively important chapter of 58 verses to help us understand the resurrection. We've looked at the evidence of the resurrection. We've looked at the importance of the resurrection. We've looked at the sequence of the resurrection. We've looked at the incentives of the resurrection. We've looked at the implications of the resurrection. And then in our last look, we looked at the very body of resurrection, and we did that, you remember, starting in verse 36 or so, 39 or so, and going down to verse 49. So we have looked at the resurrection in all these ways. Now when we come to verses 50 to 58, we come to the conclusion of Paul's treatment of the resurrection.
There are four lines to follow here. There is first the great transformation, then the great triumph, then the great thanksgiving, and then the great therefore. That's just a way that we can break it down so that we can access with some level of understanding its wonderful truths. So let's begin with the great transformation that takes place in resurrection. Verse 50, "'Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.'"
This is a transitional statement from the prior section. You can't take the perishable inside the imperishable realm of eternity. Flesh and blood refers to our bodies as now designed for life on this earth, and we know very well what that means. We know what it is to live in flesh and blood. Hebrews 2 14 says, "'The children share in flesh and blood.'"
That's just a way to describe our physicality. Now physicality, as we have it in this world, cannot inherit the kingdom of God. It can't be taken into God's realm. Flesh is often used in the Scripture in a moral way, such as in Romans chapter 7 and other places. But here it's not used in a moral sense. Whenever it's combined with blood, it simply means physical, physical.
Flesh and blood is simply a reference to our physicality. We cannot enter the heavenly kingdom the way we are. You say, wait a minute, in the Old Testament Enoch did and Elijah did. This is true.
You have those two. But I will promise you one thing based on this verse alone. Something happened between the time they left here and got there, because flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God.
We must be changed. What is the kingdom of God? Here it refers to more than just living in God's spiritual kingdom. It has reference to the future heavenly kingdom. If you go back to verse 24 in chapter 15, it's when we come to the end and Christ hands over the kingdom to the God and Father when He has abolished all rule, all authority, all power, and He reigns and has abolished the last enemy, it is death. It's taking us all the way into that kingdom which follows this life, the future reign of Christ in the kingdom that is eternal.
This is the concept here. The resurrection becomes necessary because we are creatures of flesh and blood, and corruptible cannot inherit incorruptible, and perishable cannot live in an imperishable world, and flesh and blood is not suited to the realities of eternal heaven. Consequently, we need a radical transformation.
A radical transformation must take place. Death becomes, then, like the planting of the seed that bursts forth in new life after the resurrection. The apostle Paul used that illustration earlier in the chapter.
The transformation is really described in verses 35 through verse 49, and here he's just reminding us of it, that it is necessary, it is necessary. So that poses a question, that poses a question. And apparently the question in the mind of the apostle Paul as he thinks about how the Corinthians and others are going to respond to this is, what about, what about believers who are living when Christ comes?
What about them? What's going to happen to them? If they haven't died, do they have to die in order to experience this transformation?
Do they have to be put into the ground and decompose before this can happen? Paul responds to that question by launching into this lyrical paean of praise in verses 51 to 57. There is to be a complete transformation of all believers, he says, dead and living, dead and living. Those people who are alive at the time that Christ returns and brings about the resurrection, what happens to them we find out in verse 51.
Behold, I tell you a mystery, we will not all sleep. We're not all going to die. Not all believers are going to die. Some will be alive when Christ returns and raises His people. We will not all die, but we will all be changed. You see, that answers the question. If you're alive when the Lord comes for His church, even though you haven't died, your body hasn't decomposed, on the way up you will have an Enoch-Elijah experience.
You will be transformed. Now why does Paul say, I tell you a mystery? What's mysterious about this? Well, mystery in our culture is very different than misterion in the Greek, and it's used in the New Testament.
This is not something hard to figure out. This isn't a riddle. Mystery in the New Testament means something previously unknown, now revealed. Something, some truth, some reality, previously unknown, now revealed.
What do you mean previously unknown? Not clear in the Old Testament. Not clearly revealed in the Old Testament, but clearly revealed in the New Testament. Jesus calls New Testament teaching the mysteries of the kingdom, the things that were hidden in the past and are now revealed.
Just to kind of give you a context to think about that. God has some secrets He never reveals to anybody. That's Deuteronomy 29, 29, the secret things belong to the Lord. There are some things that God knows that we will never know in this world, some secrets we will never understand. On the other hand, God has some secrets He reveals to everyone, to everyone.
In fact, Romans is very clear that God has made Himself known in the world. He has made that which is true about Him evident to everyone since the creation of the world, His invisible attributes, eternal power, divine nature have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so there without excuse. There are some things God's revealed to no one. There are some things God's revealed to everyone. And then there are some things that He reveals only to His own people. Like Psalm 25, 14 puts it this way, the secret of the Lord is with those who fear Him.
Or Proverbs 3, 32, His secret is with the righteous. And Jesus follows up on this in Matthew by saying, these things have been hidden from the world and they're revealed unto you. God has some secrets hidden from everyone, some secrets revealed to everyone, some secrets revealed only to His people, and some secrets revealed only in the New Testament. They are the mysteries Paul speaks of often and our Lord spoke of in Matthew 13.
It's just kind of a footnote. When you read about a mystery in the New Testament, you're reading about something hidden in the past, now revealed. There are a number of them identified as mysteries. Christ in you is called a mystery, the Messiah dwelling in a person. The church is a mystery, Jew and Gentile, one in the church is a mystery. Iniquity is a mystery in the sense that the unfolding of evil as revealed in the New Testament was not known before.
And one of the mysteries is revealed here. Here it is, we will not all die, but we will all be changed. We will not all die, we will all be changed. We have to be changed because we can't go to heaven like this.
This isn't suited for that. We, we, all Christians, Paul speaking collectively, all of us gathered up in that pronoun in a collective sense, we will all be changed, we will not all die. When does this happen, this change? First Thessalonians, chapter 4, describes this event, verse 13, 1 Thessalonians 4, 13.
And here the question is the opposite question. The question with the Corinthians was, what if you don't die? How can you be resurrected and changed? Here the question of the Thessalonians was, what if you die and Jesus comes and you're dead? And he says, we don't want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, about those who died, so that you will not grieve, as do the rest who have no hope. The Thessalonians were worried that believers who had died would miss the coming of Christ.
He says, no. If we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will not precede those who have fallen asleep. They're going to come first, then the ones that are alive are going to be next. The Lord will descend from heaven with a shout. The voice of the archangel, the trumpet of God, the dead in Christ will rise first.
Oh, okay, so what's going to happen to the people that died? Their resurrection is going to be first, and then those who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so shall we always be with the Lord. That is the great resurrection, and it occurs at an event that we call the rapture, the catching up of the saints. And you notice there that it happens when the Lord comes from heaven. There's a shout, there's a voice of the archangel, there's a trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ rise first in their resurrection bodies. Those who are alive are caught up in the air, and they're made eternal. They're given an eternal body on the way up so that they can meet the Lord in the air and be with Him forever.
Now go back to 1 Corinthians, and let me add this. Is this a process? No, it is not a process. It is not a process. And I'll show you verse 52 to make it pretty clear, it happens in a moment.
It's not a process. The resurrection of the dead is not like the slow growth of a seed. I remember reading about an ancient king who had lived a wicked life, and he wanted to make sure that he would never have to come out of the grave to stand before his judge, his God.
So he made sure that his tomb was made out of concrete covered with a massive marble slab so that he would never have to come out to face judgment for his sins. As history went on, the seed somehow got in a crack, and over the years a tree grew and burst the sarcophagus to bits. Just a little seed can do that.
But this is not that. Let me show you. In a moment, that is the word atomos from which we get atom, atom, a-t-o-m. What is an atom? In the Greek language, an atom is that which cannot be divided.
I know. I'm not going to get scientific here. I know about neutrons and protons and electrons. But an atom is a single unit. It is the indivisible unit. It is that which cannot be divided. It indicates then something that can't be any less than it is. It can't be any smaller. It can't be any faster.
It can't be any shorter. It is the indivisible unit. So this transformation, this resurrection of those that are dead, and this transformation of those that are alive happens in a moment that atomos actually means that which cannot be cut, the shortest possible time. In fact, it is like the twinkling of an eye. That's not a blink. Blinking is different than the twinkling. What is the twinkling of an eye? And by the way, your eye moves faster than any other external part of your human body. But this is not how fast your eye moves. This is not blink, this is twinkling. And what it means essentially, it comes from a Greek word used of the most rapid movement possible.
Now how can I explain this? Someone said it would be like one-sixth of a nanosecond, because it's referring to the time for light to enter the iris and hit the retina. What is one-sixth of a nanosecond?
Well a microsecond is one-millionth of a second, a nanosecond is one-thousandth of a microsecond, and the twinkling is one-sixth of a nanosecond. This is really fast. That's it, folks. That's how fast you're going to be changed. Isn't it interesting that we are told this? You say, well, this is good news.
It is good news. When is it going to happen? Verse 52 says it'll happen at the last trumpet. Didn't we read about a trumpet in 1 Thessalonians? It'll happen at the last trumpet. The trumpet will sound, and in a sixth of a nanosecond will be completely transformed. Now when it says the last trumpet, it doesn't mean the absolute last trumpet that will ever sound in all of God's redemptive history, because even after the trumpet that is the last trumpet before the resurrection, even after that, we know during the time of the tribulation period after we're already caught up and raised to glory, we know there's a tribulation period on earth, and we know that God will judge the earth, and those judgments, those judgments will be the outflow of seven seals, and out of the seventh seal will come seven trumpet judgments.
So there will be more trumpets. But this last trump is the last trump that the church identifies as the moment of its transformation and resurrection. It is called in 1 Thessalonians 4 16, as we read, the trumpet of God. There will be a shout from the Lord.
There will be the voice of the archangel. There will be the blast of that trumpet, and in the sixth of a nanosecond the dead will rise and we'll be caught up, and all of us changed on the way to heaven. In the Old Testament, the New Testament, in the teaching of our Lord, even in contemporary Judaism trumpets are associated with events, significant events, significant events that gather the people.
They're associated with events that bring about festivity and victory and triumph. This is the trumpet that is the signal for the dead to rise. It calls us all to God. You will remember, I think back in Exodus 19, the people of Israel were summoned to come and meet God by the blowing of a trumpet. Isaiah 27 says that God's going to gather Israel in the end time by the blowing of a trumpet. So this is the end as we will experience it, the church of Jesus Christ. The end for us will be taken out. Judgment will be unleashed on the world as the book of Revelation lays it out. During that seven-year period of judgment, Israel will be saved. The end of that time, judgment will come again.
He'll return with Christ, and He'll set up His thousand-year kingdom followed by the eternal state. Please notice, end of verse 52, we will be changed, we will be changed. We have to be changed because the perishable cannot put on the imperishable, the corruptible cannot put on the incorruptible.
It's the exact same word used in Hebrews 1-12, and like a mantle, you will roll them up. Like a garment, they will also be changed, but you are the same. The heavens will change when God creates a new heaven and a new earth. That will be a dramatic implosion of the universe as we know it in an unbelievable atomic holocaust to be replaced by a new heaven and a new earth, no doubt with the same speed that we will be changed.
It has to be this way. Verse 53 reminds us, for this perishable must put on the imperishable, this mortal must put on immortality. You have to have a different body to be in heaven.
This one's no good there. I like the idea of put on, put on, the normal word for getting dressed, the normal word in the Greek language for putting on clothes. With that in mind, go over to 2 Corinthians, chapter 5, a familiar, wonderful chapter, verse 1, 2 Corinthians 5. We know that if the earthly tent, which is our house, is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.
So the next body is a house made by God, a building from God, not made with hands, not humanly produced, and it's eternal. In the present house we groan, longing to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven. We want to put it on, verse 3. We want to put it on so we'll not be found naked. But we're in this tent, verse 4, we groan, being burdened. We don't want to be unclothed. We don't want to go off into space and be lost in some cosmic nothingness.
We want to reappear, clothed, so that what is mortal is swallowed up by life. That is the promise. This is Grace to You with John MacArthur.
Thanks for being with us. Along with teaching here on radio, John also serves as chancellor of the Masters University and Seminary, and our current series is showing you why the end is not the end. Now John, about death and resurrection, you said that the eternal destinies of believers and non-believers will differ. Of course, we understand that. But you also said that even the moment of death, the experience of passing from this life to the next, is fundamentally different.
So explain what you mean by that. Well, obviously, for the believer, it is a moment of glory. I think about Stephen, who was dying under the crushing stones in the book of Acts as they stoned him to death, and he saw the Lord standing at the right hand of the throne in heaven. I think, and I've been on deathbed scenes with believers enough to know there is a settled peace, there is a calm, there is a joy, there is an anticipation. People write about the fact, and even comment about the fact that heaven seems to be opening. There's a sense of calm in their hearts as they enter into the presence of the Lord. On the other hand, I've seen the tormented agonies of someone dying without Christ, and there's darkness, and there's fear, and there's dread, there's horror, sometimes there's cursings, crying out. It's not to say that you actually experience something, but I would have to believe that based upon what Scripture says, as a Christian passes out of this world, there is a little bit of overlapping of this world to the next, and you begin to feel the joy of what is coming.
That wouldn't be true in an instant death, but if it can be anticipated, there will be a sense of what's coming, and I think there's a sense of dread. I've read many testimonials of atheists and godless people who are dying, and they're horrible experiences as they come to the reality of the end of their life without any kind of hope. But it's not the issue of what's happening when you die, it's the issue of what happens after you die that has to be addressed, because you will live forever. And that's what we've been trying to say in this series, you're going to live forever. Why in the world would you cling to your sin in this life and forfeit blessing forever?
That is a terrible exchange. Why would you not abandon your sin, confess Jesus as Lord, and enter into eternal bliss? Don't sacrifice the eternal on the altar of the immediate.
That's right. Thank you, Jon. That is a helpful reminder. And friend, keep in mind, we are able to air messages like today's, messages that show people how they can escape death and enter into God's kingdom, because listeners like you support this ministry. To help take the gospel to men and women across the globe, make a donation when you contact us today. You can mail your tax-deductible gift to Grace To You, Box 4000, Panorama City, CA 91412, or you can call us toll-free at 800-55-GRACE. You can also donate online at GTY.org. And thank you for helping us strengthen people and churches in your community and throughout the world. Again, to partner with Grace To You, call 800-55-GRACE or go to GTY.org. And friend, to learn even more about what happens to believers after they die, a great compliment to Jon's current radio study is his book titled, The Glory of Heaven.
It shows what the Bible clearly reveals about heaven and what heaven is like and the blessings you'll enjoy there for all of eternity. And like most of our resources, it's available at 25% off the regular price until June 8th. To place your order, call 800-55-GRACE or go to our website GTY.org. Now for John MacArthur and the entire Grace To You staff, I'm Phil Johnson. Thanks for making this broadcast part of your day and make sure you're here tomorrow when John looks at your future resurrection and how that should affect your worship today. Don't miss the next half hour of unleashing God's truth in one verse at a time, on Grace To You.
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