50 I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 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 imperishable, and we shall be changed. 53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. 54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” 56 The sting of death is sin, and the power 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 brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.
I like the way the New Revised Standard Version begins verse 50: “What I am saying, brothers and sisters, is this: … .” In other words, Paul is now getting to the bottom line. All of what Paul has been saying boils down to this: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God. The expression, “flesh and blood,” is found only five times in the New Testament (the expression is not found in the Old). It consistently refers to men (mankind), and in the context of our passage, it refers to the natural human body. The last half of verse 50 simply repeats the same truth in different words: “Perishable bodies cannot dwell in an eternally imperishable environment, where perishing is not permitted.”
Many restaurants have a sign in the front window, which reads something like this: “No shoes, no shirt, no service.” This means that one’s appearance and attire has to meet certain standards, or they are not welcome. That is the way heaven is. Heaven is a place where there is no pain, no sorrow, no sickness, or death. These mortal bodies which we possess here on earth are not suited for heaven. The death and burial of our earthly bodies is not an unfortunate circumstance; it is a necessity. Recently, we watched the movie “Apollo 13.” The lunar module (LM), Aquarius, which helped keep the astronauts alive in outer space, had to be abandoned before the astronauts could reenter the earth’s atmosphere. The Aquarius was simply not designed for reentry. It was designed for outer space and specifically for a lunar landing. Our earthly bodies were not designed for the kingdom of God. They have to be left behind, because they are not suited for eternal habitation.
For us to dwell eternally in the presence of God, we must have different bodies. As Paul repeats in verse 53, “this perishable body must put on imperishability, and this mortal body must put on immortality” (NRSV). We cannot dwell in heaven in these bodies. It is just that simple. If we are to dwell in God’s presence for all eternity, we must have imperishable, incorruptible bodies, and that means we must trade in these earthly, perishable bodies.
For those who have died, this will happen at the resurrection of the dead. That is what Paul has been saying in verses 35-49. At the resurrection of the dead, our natural bodies are exchanged for spiritual bodies; our earthly bodies are transformed into heavenly bodies; our perishable bodies are transformed into imperishable bodies. The resurrection of the dead is the means by which bodies unfit for heaven are miraculously transformed into bodies which are perfectly suited for heaven.
But what of those who are alive at the time of our Lord’s return? In verses 51 and 52, Paul adds yet another category, those who are alive at the time of Christ’s coming. The resurrection of the dead is a truth which was revealed in the Old Testament Scriptures (see Job 19:25-27; Psalm 73:23-24; Isaiah 26:19; Daniel 12:1-2). What was not so clearly revealed was the transformation of those who are alive at the time of our Lord’s return. This is what the Bible calls a mystery. A mystery is not a secret which no one has ever heard about before, but something about which some information has been given without being understood. If our earthly bodies are not suited for the kingdom of God, then it is not just dead bodies that need to be raised. We need a transformation of our earthly bodies, whether living or dead.
This is the mystery which Paul now reveals. We shall not all “sleep” (die). Paul uses the term “sleep” just as our Lord did (see John 11:11, 13) because death is not a permanent state. Just as those who sleep “wake up,” so those who die will rise again. But not all men will die. The kingdom of God begins with the return of our Lord to this earth. Those alive at the time of His return will not “sleep,” Paul says, but we shall all be changed. This word is not the word usually rendered “transformed,” but it is a fascinating word. In Romans 1:23 and Psalm 106:20 (105:20 in the Greek Septuagint), the word is rendered “exchanged.” I believe it could be thus rendered in Psalm 102:26 (101:26 in the Septuagint) and Hebrews 1:12. Our bodies will be “changed,” and in fact they will be “exchanged.” Those who are alive get an instant trade-up.
Paul employs two expressions to describe the speed of this change which those living at the time of our Lord’s coming will experience. The second is one with which we are all familiar, the “twinkling of an eye.” The first expression is even more graphic and dramatic. Those of us who are fascinated with computers compare various pieces of hardware in terms of their speed. My first hard drive had an access time of something like 70 milliseconds. The one I now use is right around 10 milliseconds (thousandths of a second). The speed of memory is measured in nanoseconds, billionths of a second. Now that is a very small piece of time. But the word Paul employs is that word which we would transliterate “atom,” and my lexicon defines it as an indivisible moment of time. That’s so small it cannot get any smaller. And that’s how fast the change will occur for those living at the time of our Lord’s return. There will be no one waiting in line for this change!
The sequence of events is spelled out in verse 52. It will begin with the sounding of a trumpet, the “last trumpet.” There is a great deal of discussion about which “trumpet” this is. Dispensationalists think it is a very different trumpet than do the non-dispensationalists. For the moment, let us agree that there is to be a trumpet blast. This blast is something like the starting gun at a race. When the trumpet sounds, things begin to happen. Our Lord returns to the earth (although this is not specifically mentioned here). The dead in Christ are first raised from the grave, the old body being transformed as it is raised so that what was sown as a natural body rises as a spiritual body. After the dead in Christ are raised, those alive at this time are instantaneously changed in body so that their perishable bodies are now imperishable, their natural bodies are now spiritual bodies. In but the twinkling of an eye, Paul says, we become just like those whose bodies have been raised from the dead.
15:50 What I am saying, dear brothers and sisters, is that flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God. These perishable bodies of ours are not able to live forever.NLT After describing the different natures of the two types of bodies—those before resurrection and those after—Paul explained his point. The resurrected bodies have to be different from these present, physical bodies because flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God. These bodies cannot go into God’s eternal kingdom because these present bodies were not made to live forever—otherwise they would. So God has prepared new bodies that will live forever. The resurrection is a fact; new bodies ready for life in eternity is also a fact.
|REASON FOR HOPE
|Everyone faces limitations. Those who have physical, mental, or emotional disabilities are especially aware of this fact. Some may be blind, but they can see a new way to live. Some may be deaf, but they can hear God’s Good News. Some may be lame, but they can walk in God’s love. In addition, they have the encouragement that those disabilities are only temporary. All believers will be given new bodies when Christ returns. And these bodies will be without disabilities, never to die or become sick. Let this truth give you hope in your suffering.
15:51-52 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.NIV With great emphasis Paul passed on to these Corinthians a mystery—knowledge given to him by divine revelation from Christ. This information should transform their lives as they look forward to what God had promised them. If flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom (15:50), then what about those who are still alive at the return of Christ? Paul answered the implicit question. The phrase “we will not all sleep” means that some Christians will still be alive at the time of Christ’s return. They will not have to die before they get their new resurrection bodies. (For further discussion of these new bodies, see 2 Corinthians 5:1-10.) Instead, they will all be changed, transformed immediately, in the twinkling of an eye (see 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). A trumpet blast will usher in the new heaven and earth (Revelation 11:15). The Jews would understand the significance of this because trumpets were always blown to signal the start of great festivals and other extraordinary events (Numbers 10:10). At that time, when the trumpet sounds and Christ returns, the dead will be raised imperishable, out of the graves with their new bodies. Those still alive will be changed, also receiving their new bodies. This change will happen instantly for all Christians, whether they are dead or alive. All will be made ready to go with Christ.
15:53 For our perishable earthly bodies must be transformed into heavenly bodies that will never die.NLT Because “flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God” (15:50 nlt), and because Christians are promised eternal life in God’s kingdom, then their present perishable earthly bodies must be transformed into heavenly bodies that will never die. The perishable bodies will not be thrown away or abandoned; instead, they will be “transformed.” Each person will still be recognizable, will still be the person God created him or her to be, but each will be made perfect with a body that will be able to live forever in the kingdom.
Christ’s Triumph (and Ours) Over Death (15:54-57)
54 But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, “Death is swallowed up in victory. 55 O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” 56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; 57 but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
When these transformations take place, Old Testament prophecy is fulfilled. Paul turns to the prophecy of Isaiah to show that the resurrection of the dead and transformation of the living is, indeed, the same victory over death which he spoke of in verses 20-28. The last enemy to be defeated and abolished by our Lord is death (15:26). This is accomplished by the resurrection of the dead and the transformation of the living. And thus Paul sees this as the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy in chapter 25:
6 And the Lord of hosts will prepare a lavish banquet for all peoples on this mountain; A banquet of aged wine, choice pieces with marrow, And refined, aged wine. 7 And on this mountain He will swallow up the covering which is over all peoples, Even the veil which is stretched over all nations. 8 He will swallow up death for all time, And the Lord God will wipe tears away from all faces, And He will remove the reproach of His people from all the earth; For the Lord has spoken (Isaiah 25:6-8).
Isaiah 25 is about the coming of the kingdom of God. What refreshing and welcome news this would be to those who were about to be sent into captivity in a foreign land. The first 5 verses of chapter 25 describe the defeat and judgment of those nations who have rejected God and persecuted His people. Beginning at verse 6, Isaiah begins to describe the restoration of the nation Israel at the commencement of the kingdom of God, brought about by the return of Messiah. The kingdom is described as a lavish banquet set before the people of God. On the mountain (which looks like Jerusalem) where this banquet is served, God will “swallow up the covering which is over all peoples” (verse 7). This covering may well be a shroud like that which is put over a dead body. If so, this is a symbolic way of saying what will be clearly stated in verse 8, that God is going to swallow up death by His victory. No wonder Paul speaks of death being swallowed up in victory; this is just as Isaiah prophesied.
The distinctive of the prophecy to which Paul refers is that in this text, Isaiah not only speaks of the resurrection of the dead (as we see in 26:19), he speaks of the end of death. Death is done away with. Death is exterminated. Thus, Isaiah’s prophecy is fulfilled in the events Paul describes.
But wait, there’s more (as the television commercial goes). Paul now turns our attention to the words of the prophet Hosea: “I will ransom them from the power of Sheol; I will redeem them from death. O Death, where are your thorns? O Sheol, where is your sting? Compassion will be hidden from My sight” (Hosea 13:14). Isaiah’s words indicate that the coming of the Lord and the resurrection of the dead (including as well the transformation of those who are alive at the time of our Lord’s appearing) is the final defeat of death itself. Paul then uses Hosea’s words to convey the believer’s triumph due to this victory our Lord has won.
This victory will not be understood until we first grasp the grip which death has over men. That death grip is depicted in the second chapter of Hebrews:
14 Since then the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil; 15 and might deliver those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives. 16 For assuredly He does not give help to angels, but He gives help to the descendant of Abraham. 17 Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. 18 For since He Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted (Hebrews 2:14-18).
Of all the obsessions and fears named these days, one almost never hears of the fear of death. Yet it is this fear which makes virtual slaves of all men. The writer to the Hebrews tells us that the devil has a grip on men through their fear of death. Death is the destiny of all men. The Son of God took on humanity, flesh and blood, at His incarnation, and then by His death and resurrection rendered death and the devil powerless. Those who have trusted in Christ need no longer live in fear of death. Death and the fear of death have been swallowed up by the triumph of our Lord over them.
Paul’s taunt seems to reverse matters. Paul asks death where its victory is and where its sting is. Isn’t it just the opposite? Doesn’t Paul elsewhere write that the “wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23)? Yes, this is true, but this is not Paul’s point here. Death is the final enemy of our Lord, and ultimately for us. Does death have the last word? For the Christian, the answer is a resounding “No!” Death has lost its sting and its victory. Death is as frightening for the Christian as a scorpion whose stinger has been plucked out or a deadly viper whose fangs have been removed. This is because our Lord “de-fanged” death in at least three ways.
First, Christ died for our sins.
3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures (1 Corinthians 15:3).
21 But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, 22 even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; 25 whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; 26 for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus (Romans 3:21-26).
8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).
17 Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. 18 Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ, and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, 19 namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were entreating through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (2 Corinthians 5:17-21).
We need not suffer the penalty of death which our sins deserve because Christ suffered that penalty in our place. He died for us, paying the death penalty for our sins. Death has no claim on us because our debt has been paid, by the Lord Jesus Christ.
Second, Christ died to sin. Christ died for our sins, taking our sins, their guilt and punishment, upon Himself and thus freeing us from the penalty for sin—death. Christ also died to sin, so that all who are in Him by faith have been freed from sin’s power:
3 Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? 4 Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, in order that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection, 6 knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, that our body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin; 7 for he who has died is freed from sin. 8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, 9 knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him. 10 For the death that He died, He died to sin, once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. 11 Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus. 12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body that you should obey its lusts, 13 and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. 14 For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law, but under grace (Romans 6:3-14).
Sin has no power over a corpse. Sin overpowers those who are alive (see Romans 7). By dying to sin in Christ, we are delivered from sin’s power over us. Death owned us through sin, our sin. But by faith in Jesus Christ, we have died to sin in Him. Death has no power over us. Death has no claim on us. Death has no victory over us. Death has no sting for us. Think of it. Death no longer owns us; in fact, we own death:
22 Whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or things present or things to come; all things belong to you (1 Corinthians 3:22).
Death cannot keep us from the love of God (see Romans 8:31-39). The only thing death can now do is to hasten the day when we are forever in His presence. Death actually does us a favor:
1 For 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. 2 For indeed in this house we groan, longing to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven; 3 inasmuch as we, having put it on, shall not be found naked. 4 For indeed while we are in this tent, we groan, being burdened, because we do not want to be unclothed, but to be clothed, in order that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. 5 Now He who prepared us for this very purpose is God, who gave to us the Spirit as a pledge. 6 Therefore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:1-6).
21 For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. 22 But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which to choose. 23 But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better (Philippians 1:21-23).
Third, Christ died to the law. If a police officer pulls us over, he cannot write us a ticket for breathing or for humming along with our radio. This is because there is no law against breathing or humming. The only power a police officer has is that power which is given to him by the law. Death’s power likewise comes from the law. The wages of sin is death, and the law defines sin. Thus, to break the law is to be in death’s power. But if there is no law, there is no crime, no sin.
“The power of sin is the law,” Paul has said (verse 56). The law is “holy, and righteous, and good” (Romans 7:12). Nevertheless, sin abuses the law in such a way that it is used to condemn us to death. The good news is that Christ died to the law, and thus those who are in Christ have died to the law in Him—and to its power to condemn us: “Therefore, my brethren, you also were made to die to the Law through the body of Christ, that you might be joined to another, to Him who was raised from the dead, that we might bear fruit for God” (Romans 7:4).
I must remind you that this freedom from death, sin, and the condemnation of the law is only true for the Christian. Death does own the one who is outside Christ, who has never acknowledged his sin and trusted in the work of Christ on Calvary. Think of the rich man in Luke 16:19-31. While death ended the earthly suffering of Lazarus and brought him into eternal blessings, death ended the earthly bliss of the rich man and brought him into eternal torment. Death now made this man an eternal captive, whose plight could not be reversed (see also Hebrews 9:27). And even resurrection was of no use to this man or to his lost family members (Luke 16:27-31). Death had a sting for this rich man; death had a victory. It is only those who are in Christ by faith who can taunt death as Paul does, for it is a defeated enemy.
Once again we must remember that Paul is dealing with things which defy language and baffle expression. We must read this as we would read great poetry, rather than as we would dissect a scientific treatise. The argument follows a series of steps until it reaches its climax.
(i) Paul insists that, as we are, we are not fit to inherit the Kingdom of God. We may be well enough equipped to get on with the life of this world, but for the life of the world to come we will not do. A man may be able to run enough to catch his morning train and yet need to be very different to be able to run enough for the Olympic games. A man may write well enough to amuse his friends and yet need to be very different to write something which men will not willingly let die. A man may talk well enough in the circle of his club and yet need to be very different to hold his own in a circle of real experts. A man always needs to be changed to enter into a higher grade of life; and Paul insists that before we can enter the Kingdom of God we must be changed.
(ii) Further he insists that this shattering change is going to come in his own lifetime. In this he was in error; but he looked to that change coming when Jesus Christ came again.
(iii) Then Paul goes on triumphantly to declare that no man need fear that change. The fear of death has always haunted men. It haunted Dr. Johnson, one of the greatest and best men who ever lived. Once Boswell said to him that there had been times when he had not feared death. Johnson answered that “he never had a moment in which death was not terrible to him.” Once Mrs. Knowles told him that he should not have a horror for that which is the gate of life. Johnson answered, “No rational man can die without uneasy apprehension.” He declared that the fear of death was so natural to man that all life was one long effort not to think about it.
Wherein lies the fear of death? Partly it comes from fear of the unknown. But still more it comes from the sense of sin. If a man felt that he could meet God easily then to die would be only, as Peter Pan said, a great adventure. But where does that sense of sin come from? It comes from a sense of being under the law. So long as a man sees in God only the law of righteousness, he must ever be in the position of a criminal before the bar with no hope of acquittal. But this is precisely what Jesus came to abolish. He came to tell us that God is not law, but love, that the centre of God’s being is not legalism but grace, that we go out, not to a judge, but to a Father who awaits his children coming home. Because of that Jesus gave us the victory over death, its fear banished in the wonder of God’s love.
(iv) Finally, at the end of the chapter, Paul does what he always does. Suddenly the theology becomes a challenge; suddenly the speculations become intensely practical; suddenly the sweep of the mind becomes the demand for action. he ends by saying, “If you have all that glory to look forward to, then keep yourself steadfast in God’s faith and service, for if you do, all your effort will not be in vain.” The Christian life may be difficult, but the goal is infinitely worth the struggle.
“A hope so great and so divine, May trials well endure; And purge the soul from sense and sin, As Christ himself is pure.” Practical Plans
58 Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.
Paul’s concluding sentence contains some very important applications. Let us briefly consider them.
First, the comfort which Paul communicates on the basis of our Lord’s death and resurrection is intended to comfort only Christians. Paul’s sentence begins, “Therefore, my beloved brethren, …” And then he says that their toil is not in vain “in the Lord.” One of the saddest things to observe at a funeral is a preacher giving comfort to non-Christians by using Bible texts addressed to Christians. These words are addressed to Christians, and the hope which Paul speaks of is for Christians only. Death has no power, no sting, to those who are “in Christ.” I must ask you, my friend, do you know for certain that you are “in Christ,” and that you will spend eternity in the presence of God? If not, then receive God’s gift of salvation in the person and work of Jesus Christ, who suffered, died, and rose again in your place.
Second, true doctrine (the doctrine of the gospel, of the resurrection of Christ, of the resurrection of the dead) gives us stability, even in the midst of troubled times and in the face of false teaching. False teaching destabilizes Christians; true doctrine stabilizes us:
3 A man will not be established by wickedness, But the root of the righteous will not be moved (Proverbs 12:3).
24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine, and acts upon them, may be compared to a wise man, who built his house upon the rock. 25 And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and burst against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded upon the rock. 26 And everyone who hears these words of Mine, and does not act upon them, will be like a foolish man, who built his house upon the sand. 27 And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and burst against that house; and it fell, and great was its fall” (Matthew 7:24-27).
1 Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and our gathering together to Him, 2 that you may not be quickly shaken from your composure or be disturbed either by a spirit or a message or a letter as if from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come (2 Thessalonians 2:1-2).
14 As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves, and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming (Ephesians 4:14).
Third, true doctrine inspires diligent service, while false doctrine leads to passivity. The teachings of Scripture related to the second coming (not to mention the remainder of biblical truth) are intended to stimulate our service. There are those who abuse doctrines (such as the sovereignty of God and the second coming) by making them an excuse for passivity. Paul concludes this chapter, devoted to prophecy, by encouraging diligent and persistent service. Let us take these verses in the spirit in which they were intended, which is to motivate us to diligence.
Fourth, the certainty of the coming of the kingdom of God in the future assures us that what we do “in the Lord” in this life is not in vain. The reason we can diligently serve God in this life is that we know that in so doing we are “laying up treasure in heaven.” To die is not vain, but gain. To live is not vain, but gain. If we are “in Christ,” we are willing to suffer any earthly loss, because of the heavenly gain which awaits us:
16 Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. 17 For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, 18 while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).
7 But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish in order that I may gain Christ, 9 and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, 10 that I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; 11 in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead (Philippians 3:7-11).
Several other applications of this chapter come to mind, which I would like to share with you in conclusion.
Faith in Jesus Christ frees us from the fear of death and thus from our slavery to the devil. This truth comes to us from our text in 1 Corinthians 15, as well as from the second chapter of Hebrews. We need no longer be held hostage by the fear of death. Death is a defeated foe.
Death is the way to life, and it is to be the way of life for the Christian. I was initially inclined to think that Paul’s words in this chapter gave us permission to put death out of our minds. We should certainly not worry about death or fear it, but we should not cease thinking about it. Death really is the way of life, both for the apostle Paul and for our Lord.
Let us begin with Paul. Notice how much death and dying is imbedded in his thinking, motivation, and ministry:
9 For, I think, God has exhibited us apostles last of all, as men condemned to death; because we have become a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men (1 Corinthians 4:9).
31 I protest, brethren, by the boasting in you, which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily (1 Corinthians 15:31).
9 Indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves in order that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead; 10 who delivered us from so great a peril of death, and will deliver us, He on whom we have set our hope. And He will yet deliver us (2 Corinthians 1:9-10).
10 Always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. 11 For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. 12 So death works in us, but life in you (2 Corinthians 4:10-12).
9 As unknown yet well-known, as dying yet behold, we live; as punished yet not put to death (2 Corinthians 6:9).
23 Are they servants of Christ? (I speak as if insane) I more so; in far more labors, in far more imprisonments, beaten times without number, often in danger of death (2 Corinthians 11:23).
20 According to my earnest expectation and hope, that I shall not be put to shame in anything, but that with all boldness, Christ shall even now, as always, be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. 21 For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain (Philippians 1:20-21).
24 Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me” (Matthew 16:24).
9 The great multitude therefore of the Jews learned that He was there; and they came, not for Jesus’ sake only, but that they might also see Lazarus, whom He raised from the dead. 10 But the chief priests took counsel that they might put Lazarus to death also; 11 because on account of him many of the Jews were going away, and were believing in Jesus.
12 On the next day the great multitude who had come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, 13 took the branches of the palm trees, and went out to meet Him, and began to cry out, “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel.” 14 And Jesus, finding a young donkey, sat on it; as it is written, 15 “Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your King is coming, seated on a donkey’s colt.” 16 These things His disciples did not understand at the first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things were written of Him, and that they had done these things to Him. 17 And so the multitude who were with Him when He called Lazarus out of the tomb, and raised him from the dead, were bearing Him witness. 18 For this cause also the multitude went and met Him, because they heard that He had performed this sign. 19 The Pharisees therefore said to one another, “You see that you are not doing any good; look, the world has gone after Him.”
20 Now there were certain Greeks among those who were going up to worship at the feast; 21 these therefore came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida of Galilee, and began to ask him, saying, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” 22 Philip came and told Andrew; Andrew and Philip came, and they told Jesus. 23 And Jesus answered them, saying, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains by itself alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. 25 He who loves his life loses it; and he who hates his life in this world shall keep it to life eternal. 26 If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there shall My servant also be; if anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him.
27 “Now My soul has become troubled; and what shall I say, ‘Father, save Me from this hour’? But for this purpose I came to this hour. 28 Father, glorify Thy name.” There came therefore a voice out of heaven: “I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again.” 29 The multitude therefore, who stood by and heard it, were saying that it had thundered; others were saying, “An angel has spoken to Him.” 30 Jesus answered and said, “This voice has not come for My sake, but for your sakes. 31 Now judgment is upon this world; now the ruler of this world shall be cast out. 32 And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself” (John 12:9-32).
This passage is worth a great deal more consideration than given in this lesson, but it illustrates very beautifully how our Lord saw death as the means to the completion of His calling, and to the completion of the calling of those who would be His disciples. In chapter 11, Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead. Many had witnessed this miracle, and many others had heard of it. This caused the enemies of our Lord to seek to solve the problem He posed for them by putting both Lazarus and Jesus to death! But when Jesus made His triumphal entry into Jerusalem, many of those who hailed Him as Messiah did so because of the raising of Lazarus (see 12:9, 17-18). Jesus was, at that moment, at the peak of His popularity.
It was at this point in time that some Greeks approached Philip wanting an audience with Jesus. No doubt these Greeks were God-fearers, those who believed that “salvation was of the Jews.” They sensed that Jesus might be the Messiah, and they wanted to meet with Him. Philip and Andrew didn’t know what to do when these Greeks asked to see Jesus. They did not yet understand the role that death would play in our Lord’s earthly ministry. And so they went to Jesus with this request. I wonder if they thought to themselves, “Wow, this may be our big chance to go international!”
Our Lord’s answer is fascinating, all the more so because of its similarity to Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 15:36-38. In answer to the Greek’s request for an interview, Jesus replies that it is time for Him to be glorified. And then He goes on to say that a grain of wheat cannot bear fruit until it falls into the earth and dies. Afterward, it will bear much fruit. Jesus then applies this principle to His disciples. “He who loves his life loses it; and he who hates his life in this world shall keep it to life eternal. If any one serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there shall My servant also be; if any one serves Me, the Father will honor him” (John 12:25-26). After God speaks from heaven, Jesus goes on to say, “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself” (John 12:32).
Do you see it? It looked as though Jesus would draw the Greeks to Himself by meeting with them in Jerusalem. Jesus refused to do so. Jesus indicated that the way for Him to bear fruit was to die. And then He applied this same truth to His disciples. Those who love their lives will lose their lives; those who hate their lives in this world will keep them eternally. The way Jesus would “draw all men to Himself” was by being lifted up on the cross of Calvary. Jesus taught that the way to life was the way of the cross. By means of His death, burial, and resurrection, we have been given life by faith in Him. Now, as Christians, we are to apply the same principle to our earthly life. We are to take up our cross, to hate our life, to die to self, and in this way, we will obtain life eternal. Here is an entirely unique approach to life. It is one you will never find originating from unbelievers, but you will find it repeatedly taught in the Word of God. Death is a defeated enemy; indeed death is our friend, and our way of life. To God be the glory!
 See also Matthew 16:17; Galatians 1:16; Ephesians 6:12; Hebrews 2:14.
 See Daniel 2:18, 19; Romans 11:25; 16:25; Ephesians 1:9; 3:3, 9; 5:32; Colossians 1:26; 4:3; 1 Timothy 3:9; Revelation 1:20; 10:7; 17:5, 7. Daniel 2 is a good illustration of a mystery because the “mystery” was Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. He knew what his dream was, but he did not know what it meant. This revelation was a “mystery,” which Daniel revealed to him.
 Paul uses the term “we,” which certainly allows for the possibility of Paul and those living in his day being those who were alive at our Lord’s return. Allowing for this possibility does not mean that this was a necessity and that Paul wrongly assumed he would be alive at our Lord’s return. Our Lord had made it clear to His disciples that it would be some time before the kingdom of God was established (see Matthew 24; Mark 13; Luke 21; John 21:15-23).
 Notice also the prophecy concerning resurrection which follows in chapter 26: “Your dead will live; Their corpses will rise. You who lie in the dust, awake and shout for joy, For your dew is as the dew of the dawn, And the earth will give birth to the departed spirits” (Isaiah 26:19).
 Translators differ as to how this verse should be translated. A later edition of the NASB translates Hosea 13:14 this way: “Shall I ransom them from the power of Sheol? Shall I redeem them from death? O Death, where are your thorns? O Sheol, where is your sting? Compassion will be hidden from My sight” (Hosea 13:14). Paul employs these words as a triumphant taunt. Death is mocked, because it has lost its grip.
 William Barclay, ed., The Letters to the Corinthians, The Daily Study Bible Series (Philadelphia, PA: The Westminster John Knox Press, 1975), 159–161.