1 Corinthians 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.”
Paul grabs our attention by telling us that he is going to tell us a “mystery.” This does not mean that we are about to hear a “whodunit.” Nor is his point particularly hard to understand (though there may be things about it we find hard to fathom). Paul is telling us that what follows has to do with the Gospel. This is information about God and his work which can’t be learned from our consciences or from looking at his creation. God must reveal his mysteries to us. This good news about the resurrection is “inside information,” so to speak. It’s not that God wants to keep it a secret from everyone. Rather, it is something people know only after they have heard the word. We are privileged to know something that not everyone is aware of!
This is that good news: we are all going to be changed on the last day when Jesus comes again, “in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.” We won’t suffer a long, drawn out process of purification, like the purgatory some believe in. The Lord doesn’t make you go through a miniature version of hell to make you ready for heaven.
Instead, he brings us instant relief from the waiting process we endure right now. Each day we are painfully aware of the fight with our own sin. Each new day the battle begins as soon as we roll out of bed. We face a new army of temptations, waiting to ambush us. Each day life in a sinful world makes our lives miserable. We go from heartache to heartache, illness to illness, anxiety to anxiety, fear to fear, disappointment to disappointment.
But because Jesus lives, God promises that we will all be changed in an instant. Whether we are dead or alive will make no difference. “For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.” If we are among those whose souls already resting in heaven, whose bodies long ago crumbled into plant food and potting soil, our bodies will change and live again quick as you can wink your eye. If we are still alive on that day, God will miraculously transform our bodies even while we are wearing them.
What will this mean for us? Paul says that we will be imperishable. Jesus death on the cross has purified us and made us free from sin. We aren’t subject to sin’s effects anymore. Even now, our bodies are decaying as we live. Sin is like the rot or decay that makes foods spoil. “One bad apple spoils the bunch.” The rot or decay spreads until none of them are any good. So our bodies also sag, our hair turns colors, our joints wear out, our vision dims, our memory fails—and not only because these things are natural. These are symptoms of sin. The rot, the decay, the spoiling spreads until finally it takes us in death. No amount of artificial preservative can stop it.
That is all going to change. God will remake us imperishable. He will change us so that we can’t spoil anymore. Imagine an existence in which you are always “fresh.” You’ll never wake up in the morning with bags under your eyes because the kids were up all night or the big presentation in the morning gave you fits. Your back won’t ache because you overdid it the day before. Your head won’t pound because you just can’t shake this cold or flu.
All these symptoms of the big decay will be gone. In the resurrection, we will be instantly fresh and new, because God will raise us imperishable.