Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, 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 will be changed. For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality. 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. “O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR VICTORY? O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR STING?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
– 1 Corinthians 15:50-57 (all caps quoting Isaiah 25:8 and Hosea 13:14)
All of the New Testament documents – including, of course, 1 Corinthians – were written in the first century, before the coming of the kingdom of God (also known as the Second Coming of Christ). All the writers anticipated the coming of this kingdom. The prophets of the Old Testament had long prophesied of the time that God would act in power and magnificence to redeem His creation which the sin of Adam and Eve – and the sins of all their descendants – had marred.
As you’ve probably heard me say before, this glorious kingdom came in the spiritual dimension shortly after all the New Testament texts were written. That’s why they all look forward to it, but don’t announce it as having come.
In the instant of the coming of the kingdom of God, Sheol (Hades) – the place of the dead – was emptied out and all its inhabitants taken to heaven. Ever since that moment, people who die go up to heaven instead of down to Sheol (Hades). It’s at that moment that the prophecy of Isaiah was fulfilled (“Death is swallowed up in victory”) and Hosea’s taunt was made effective (“O Death, where are your thorns? O Sheol, where is your sting?”).
That is, it’s in the coming of the kingdom of God that human death was transformed from a curse to a blessing.
(Remember that prayer is more about listening than talking. Use the words below to start yourself, but then allow time to reflect more on the Scripture above before you say the “Amen.” During that time of quiet reflection, let God shape your thoughts and wait for a sense of peace to come. That’s your signal to say “Amen” and go forth to the day.)
Lord, thank You for the generosity of Your antidote to death…(this is where you remain quiet to let Him work in your thoughts)… Amen.
(All scriptures, unless otherwise noted, are taken from the NASB.)