Copyright © 2012 Robert B. Thompson. All rights reserved.
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
It is a marvel to me that the central hope of the Scriptures, which is the resurrection from the dead, has been successfully eclipsed by the unscriptural doctrine of the “rapture.” The rapture is not a resurrection. It is an ascension into Heaven. It therefore is not a part of redemption in that it occasions no change in the individual.
Even I Thessalonians chapter four, which one might consider as a foundational passage of the “rapture” doctrine, speaks of the saints being caught up into the air, not into Heaven. I believe it must be clear to any Bible scholar that the support for the rapture comes from the desires of people to escape the problems of earth, not from any Bible passage — Old Testament or New Testament.
The saints will be caught up into clouds in the air, the Bible says. It reminds us of Jesus being caught up until a cloud received Him out of their sight. It seems to me likely that when the saints are caught up in clouds, into the air, they probably will at that time pass into the spirit world, just as Jesus did.
But what we term “Heaven,” where the Father’s Throne is, is just one city, the heavenly Jerusalem, in the vast spirit world. I believe it is unlikely, though not impossible, that the newly resurrected saints will be caught up to Zion. In fact, according to the Book of Hebrews, we already have come to Zion, the city of the living God.
We must be resurrected and be clothed with our house from Heaven before we are caught up to meet the Lord in the air. The dead in Christ, who return with Jesus, shall rise first, Paul wrote. This means they will be resurrected. Those who are living on the earth when the Lord returns will pass from death to life.
After that — maybe forty days later, as in the case of the interval between the Lord’s resurrection and His ascension — they will be caught up in the clouds to be with the Lord.
I Corinthians chapter 15 tells us several things about the resurrection of the saints. This chapter does not mention the catching up, only the resurrection. I notice that the resurrection seldom is mentioned in today’s preaching, unless it is referring to the resurrection of Christ two thousand years ago.
If we are to think clearly about the resurrection, we must understand that the resurrection and the catching up are two entirely separate events. The resurrection is an act of redemption, the destroying of the last enemy. The catching up is not an act of redemption, merely a demonstration of the power of the age to come.
The fact that the resurrection is seldom mentioned in today’s
preaching, added to the fact that the “resurrection chapter”
Our being caught up to Heaven poses no threat to the kingdom of Satan. But the resurrection marks the end of his power over people. Therefore, we would expect that Satan would fight the doctrine of the resurrection and support and encourage the doctrine of the “rapture.”
but has now been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel, (II Timothy 1:10)
The great hope of the Gospel of the Kingdom of God is immortality, which was lost because of the disobedience of Adam and Eve. “Redemption” means to gain back what was lost. The purpose of the Christian redemption is to regain access to the Tree of Life, that is, to acquire immortality.
Can you see what a difference there is between the hope of leaving the earth and going to Heaven in order to be removed from the tribulations of the world, and becoming immortal?
So we have been deceived by the great deceiver. He knows that people who accept “grace” as a substitute for godly behavior, and who are missing what God is doing in the present hour while they are waiting to die and go to Heaven, will never become new creations of righteous behavior. It is righteous behavior that God loves and Satan fears and hates.
A trick has been played on us. We have been promised that we will go to a mansion in Heaven where there are no more tribulations (we trust), whereas Christ came and died so that we might become new creations of righteous behavior clothed with immortal bodies.
Would you rather reside in a mansion in the spirit world, having a spirit form and an unchanged personality, or would you prefer to be changed into a life-giving spirit, be clothed with a Spirit-fashioned body, and judge, bless, and govern God’s creation alongside the Lord Jesus? Remember, God will honor your decision. He will give you the desires of your heart.
The Apostle Paul preached the resurrection from the dead. He never once preached a “rapture” of the believers, nor was he setting aside everything that he might attain to such a withdrawal of Christian believers from the earth so they might escape Antichrist and the Great Tribulation.
if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection [Greek: out-resurrection] from the dead. (Philippians 3:11)
Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, (I Corinthians 15:1)
The remainder of chapter 15 is about the resurrection of the saints and the related resurrection of Christ. This was Paul’s Gospel, not a “rapture.” The Corinthians saints were standing in the hope of the resurrection.
by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. (I Corinthians 15:2)
We will find as we go along that Paul was arguing against those who maintained that Christians would not be raised from the dead. Paul insisted that Christ did rise from the dead and that we also shall be raised in like manner. Some of those who were disputing the resurrection may have been the Gnostics, who would not accept that a physical Messiah came to earth and then returned to life after having been crucified.
For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, (I Corinthians 15:3)
The death of the Lord Jesus on the cross of Calvary is the foundation of the Kingdom of God. Without the authority gained by the blood atonement, nothing else in the Kingdom of God would have been possible. Without the blood of the Lamb, we could not overcome the accuser. God is ready to establish a new world of righteousness, a kingdom of righteousness, love, peace, and joy. But such a kingdom would not be possible apart from the blood atonement.
and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, (I Corinthians 15:4)
Perhaps Paul was referring to the type of Jonah who was in the belly of the whale three days and three nights. According to my understanding, there is also the fulfillment of the Jewish feast of Firstfruits, which took place on the third day of Passover Week.
and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve.
After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep.
After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. (I Corinthians 15:5-7)
I like to think about this period of time, between Christ’s resurrection and His ascension. I am hoping we too will have such an opportunity for fellowship and for whatever else we want to do, after we have been made immortal and before we are caught up into the air.
After His resurrection, the Word of God was in immortal flesh when He appeared to Peter and the twelve, and then to five hundred of the brothers. Remember the two on the way to Emmaus? There may have been many others. The Bible says that after Christ’s resurrection, many of the dead saints arose and visited people. I am looking forward to a similar experience.
For I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. (I Corinthians 15:9)
God had in mind to designate Saul of Tarsus as the one who would explain the transition from Moses to Christ. Therefore, He permitted Paul to persecute the early Christians. It appears Paul never forgot that, and so did not succumb to the temptation to view himself as some great person. His numerous tribulations and afflictions helped the Apostle to remain humble.
But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me. (I Corinthians 15:10)
Notice the use of the term “grace.” Today, the term is used to mean an alternative to both righteous behavior and obedience to Christ and His Apostles. However, the word is used in the New Testament to mean Divine enablement that helps us do God’s will. God never, never would issue a covenant that waived His moral standards. We are greatly deceived in this!
Therefore, whether it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed. (I Corinthians 15:11)
This is a wholesome attitude for Paul to take. In actual fact, none of the other Apostles or teachers were given the understanding of redemption that God gave to Paul. Paul understood this but avoided exalting himself.
God is preparing to entrust His saints with the power of the seven thunders, mentioned in Revelation chapter ten, so they may give one last testimony to the nations of the earth of the soon coming of the Kingdom of God. Perhaps this is why God’s witnesses of Revelation chapter 11 are clothed with the sackcloth of humility. If we are not to destroy ourselves with such spiritual authority, we must adopt the attitude of Paul. We are only intelligent dust. It is Christ alone who is to be exalted, and Christ will turn all the glory back to the Father from whom all power comes.
Now if Christ is preached that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? (I Corinthians 15:12)
I am not acquainted enough with Church history to know what group was contesting the resurrection of the believers. From what is said here, it sounds as though they had accepted that Christ was raised from the dead, but were denying that Christians would be raised from the dead.
The error today seems to be that there is no need for Christians to be resurrected because they are going to be caught up to Heaven just as they are.
But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen. (I Corinthians 15:13)
Paul is implying here that if Christ has been raised from the dead, then we too will be raised from the dead. We will gain immortality.
And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. (I Corinthians 15:14)
The above is a remarkable statement. Apart from the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, our faith is vain. Paul here is still arguing against those who were claiming that Christians will not be resurrected. He is saying that if Christ has not been raised, we have no hope in the Gospel. And if Christ has been raised, then we too shall be raised.
Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up—if in fact the dead do not rise. (I Corinthians 15:15)
As I write these words, I am thinking of how God’s people of today are deceived. They do believe that God raised Christ from the dead, and while I am writing today, they are celebrating Easter. Where we are departing from the Bible in our day is by ignoring the resurrection, which is our central hope, and substituting a catching up to Heaven. We are not preaching our hope of immortality but going to Heaven to live in a mansion for eternity.
This is not merely theological confusion. It is having a detrimental effect on the way we conduct our Christian lives. Instead of pressing forward in Christ each day, striving to attain to the resurrection that will occur when the Lord Jesus appears, we are waiting to go to Heaven in a rapture. This clearly is not scriptural and is making Paul’s testimony of pressing toward the resurrection irrelevant. Yet Paul said we should have the same mind as he.
For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. (I Corinthians 15:16)
The proof that we will be raised from the dead is that Christ has been raised from the dead. If we are not to be raised, then Christ has not been raised from the dead.
And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! (I Corinthians 15:17)
Notice how important Christ’s resurrection is. It is the fact of His resurrection that guarantees God has forgiven our sins.
who was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification. (Romans 4:25)
If God had not accepted the blood atonement made on the cross, He would not have raised Christ from the dead. The hope of the demons would have been realized — that Christ would still be in Hell and we still would be guilty of our sins.
Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. (I Corinthians 15:18)
This is an interesting thought, isn’t it? If Christ has not been raised from the dead, those who have died in Christ are no longer alive in the spirit world. The people in Paul’s day did not think as we do, that our loved ones are in Heaven waiting for us. They had been taught the Kingdom of God, not eternal existence in a mansion in Heaven.
So Paul is not referring to their being in a mansion in Heaven, but about their still being consciously alive in the spirit world, waiting for the Kingdom of God so they can achieve immortality and live once again on the earth.
The idea here is, if Christ has not been raised from the dead, the deceased Christians are nonexistent. We do not think in these terms, but this is what Paul stated — “have perished.”
If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable. (I Corinthians 15:19)
We might say that since we hope in Christ, we can look forward to a happier existence in Heaven. But this is not what Paul is saying. He is pointing out that if we have believed that our hope in Christ was confined to our present life, we are to be pitied.
You see, Paul did not think of eternal residence in Heaven in a mansion as being the hope of the Gospel. Paul’s desire was for the redemption of his body so he would be free from sin and be able to live righteously.
So he was not thinking about life in Heaven. He was thinking about immortality. The idea is that we have hope in Christ in the present life. But more than this, we can look forward to the time when Christ returns and we will be able to continue our life in an immortal state.
Included in this hope is that we will live once again in an immortal state
in Paradise on the earth — which God ordained in the beginning. The
Bible does not speak of a kingdom of God in Heaven but of a Kingdom of God
on the present earth, and then on a new earth, when the royal priesthood
But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. (I Corinthians 15:20)
Here we see how Christ’s resurrection and our resurrection are tied together. Christ is the Firstfruits of the harvest of saints who will be raised from the dead when He appears.
For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. (I Corinthians 15:21)
Physical death came upon mankind because of the disobedience of Adam and Eve. Resurrection from the dead, that is, immortality, eternal physical life, will be restored to man because of the obedience of Jesus.
It is difficult for us to think clearly about death and life, because (perhaps through the influence of the religion of Gnosticism) we consider our redemption to be one of bringing our spiritual nature to the spirit world, to some kind of spirit paradise.
However, the Christian Gospel is not directed primarily toward bringing our spiritual nature to Heaven. We were not created in Heaven; we were created in the physical world and that is where we belong. The purpose of the Divine redemption is to restore immortality to us so we can enjoy the physical creation.
This is the Good News — not that we will be redeemed spiritually, but physically. The salvation of our inward, spiritual nature is one of teaching our inward nature righteousness, holiness, and stern obedience to God so we can be trusted with immortal bodies. The great redemption that is ahead for us is immortality in our bodies.
The prize is an immortal body. But an immortal body cannot be attained to until our inward nature is filled with Christ and totally obedient to Christ, which is the same as obedience to God. So we are looking forward to life once again on a physical, although purified, earth from which the curse has been lifted.
We will enjoy our new life for eternity, because we will be a life-giving spirit in an immortal body in a paradisiacal environment. This is our future and our hope.
For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. (I Corinthians 15:22)
Remember, we are speaking of physical death and physical life. We are so accustomed to a gospel points toward eternal life in Heaven in a spirit form that it’s difficult to keep in mind that this chapter is speaking of the body. As in Adam all die physically, so in Christ all will be made alive physically.
But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming. (I Corinthians 15:23)
Since we know that we are speaking of Christ returning to life physically, then the above verse must be speaking of our coming to life physically. This shall take place when the Lord returns.
Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power. (I Corinthians 15:24)
The doing away with all government that is not of Jesus Christ will finally be completely accomplished. This is the establishment of the Kingdom of God, the rule of God in Christ. It also is the spiritual fulfillment of the Jewish Day of Atonement, which has begun and will continue until the final resurrection and the coming down from Heaven of the new Jerusalem to the new earth.
Since the time when the angels rebelled against God, the issue has been that of lawful power against unlawful power, of good against evil. It is a spiritual battle between spiritual titans. But God shall prevail, and immortality shall be the reward of those who through Christ overcome all unlawful power.
Notice that Christ, when He has put down all unlawful rule, shall deliver up the Kingdom to God the Father. The Christian churches have known about Christ, to a certain extent, and perhaps even less about the Spirit of God. But the day is coming and even now is upon us when we will become acquainted with the Father.
For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. (I Corinthians 15:25)
God has given all authority and power to His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Christ has been commissioned by the Father to subdue all of Christ’s enemies. This is good to know, isn’t it? In our day it appears that Satan is having his way in the earth. This is not true. Christ is in absolute control by the unchanging will of God. We will see this revealed more clearly some day!
The last enemy that will be destroyed is [physical] death. (I Corinthians 15:26)
We can see then that our battle is against physical death. First our inward spiritual nature must be aligned with God’s Word. God is accomplishing this by writing His eternal moral law in our mind and heart. This is another way of saying that Christ, the eternal Word of God, is being formed in us.
When this has been accomplished, we will be entrusted with an immortal body that seeks righteousness, holiness, and obedience to God. This is the redemption of the body of which Paul spoke.
One of the follies of the “rapture” teaching is that is does not insist that Christ be formed in us before we are lifted up to Heaven. It does not even recognize that we are fighting against an enemy that must be conquered before we are resurrected. And it seems evident that we must experience resurrection before we are caught up to Heaven along with those who have returned with Jesus!
“Flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God”! It is no wonder people become so angry when we say the rapture doctrine is not scriptural. It is Satan in them who would like for all Christians to go to Heaven and leave mankind for him and his demons to play with. Satan does not want them gaining immortality and returning with Jesus to install the Kingdom of God on the earth. Satan hates righteousness, and he will fight desperately if he perceives there is a chance that the believers will see through the “grace” message and begin to confess and turn away from their sins.
For “He has put all things under His feet.” But when He says “all things are put under Him,” it is evident that He who put all things under Him is excepted. (I Corinthians 15:27)
I wish that all Bible teachers, who maintain that the Father and Christ are the same Person, would read the above verse. God the Father has put all things in subjection under the feet of Christ. But the Father is excepted. He is not put under the feet of Christ. How then can people say that the Father and Christ are the same person? This makes sense?
Now when all things are made subject to Him, then the Son Himself will also be subject to Him who put all things under Him, that God may be all in all. (I Corinthians 15:28)
Christ shall be subject to the Father, who put all in subjection to Christ. The end result is, the Father is All in all. Clear enough.
Otherwise, what will they do who are baptized for the dead, if the dead do not rise at all? Why then are they baptized for the dead? (I Corinthians 15:29)
Again Paul is verifying that the dead shall be raised. As far as the believers being baptized on behalf of the dead, there is no scriptural basis whatever for this practice. Paul had a way of using the beliefs of people to prove his own argument. “The Cretans are always liars,” and this sort of thing. I don’t believe he is saying we should be baptized on behalf of dead people. Rather, he is asking those who are being baptized on behalf of dead people, that if they are being baptized on behalf of dead people, why are they doing this if the dead will not be raised? As to being baptized on behalf of the dead, this will not work. The meaning of water baptism is that: we have turned away from our life in the world; we have been crucified with Christ; we have entered the Life of Christ as being part of His new Life. How could you do this on behalf of someone who is dead? This is not reasonable.
And why do we stand in jeopardy every hour?
I affirm, by the boasting in you which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily.
If, in the manner of men, I have fought with beasts at Ephesus, what advantage is it to me? If the dead do not rise, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die!”
Do not be deceived: “Evil company corrupts good habits.” (I Corinthians 15:30-33)
Remember that Paul still is arguing that Christ actually has been resurrected and we also shall be resurrected. He is saying that he was leading a dangerous life in the hope that no matter what happened to him, he could look forward to the resurrection.
If there is to be no resurrection, he would not have fought with beasts at Ephesus. He might just as well abandon himself to eating and drinking if he is not going to be raised and be required to answer for his behavior.
When he speaks about not being deceived, and evil companionships corrupt good morals, I expect there were people who were claiming that there will be no resurrection and for this reason there was no need to live a righteous, disciplined life.
I remember once we were traveling across country in an automobile. There were four adults in the car and one child. We were dirty, tired, and bedraggled. We also were hungry. It was in the late afternoon. We still had several hours drive to reach our destination. We stopped at a restaurant. We felt embarrassed in leaving the car and going out in public. So we said, “Let’s go in no matter how we look. They will never see us again.”
It is that way with the resurrection. We might have done some things that we would not like people to know about. We might think, “So what! They will never see us again.” Oh no? We all are going to be raised from the dead in the Day of Resurrection. At that time our behavior may become public knowledge, whether for good or for bad. Daniel speaks of being raised to “shame and everlasting contempt”! We can’t hide. They will see us again!
Awake to righteousness, and do not sin; for some do not have the knowledge of God. I speak this to your shame. (I Corinthians 15:34)
I would think that the verse above would be sufficient to convince any sincere believer that current “grace” teaching is a deception. The way we live may have the effect of bringing people to God or turning them away from God.
But someone will say, “How are the dead raised up? And with what body do they come?”
Foolish one, what you sow is not made alive unless it dies. (I Corinthians 15:35,36)
This is an interesting thought. Paul is reminding the questioner that a seed that is sown will not come to life unless it dies. I don’t believe we usually think that we right now are sowing our present body to death in Christ so that one day it may be raised.
And what you sow, you do not sow that body that shall be, but mere grain—perhaps wheat or some other grain. (I Corinthians 15:37)
The idea here is that when a farmer sows seed, he does not sow the mature stalk but just a seed. Again, Paul is stating that our present body is as a seed that is being sown as we die in Christ.
But God gives it a body as He pleases, and to each seed its own body.
All flesh is not the same flesh, but there is one kind of flesh of men, another flesh of animals, another of fish, and another of birds.
There are also celestial bodies and terrestrial bodies; but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another.
There is one glory of the sun, another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for one star differs from another star in glory.
So also is the resurrection of the dead. The body is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption. (I Corinthians 15:38-42)
There are all sorts of seeds that grow into all sorts of bodies. This is true of our present body. It is being sown as we pursue our discipleship. What we are sowing will come forth in the Day of Resurrection. What is not commonly understood, I believe, is that the kind of body that will appear in the Day of Resurrection will depend on what we have sown. This is clear in the New Testament:
- If we have sown to our sinful nature, we will reap corruption.
- If we have sown to the Spirit of God, we will reap a body of Divine Life.
At the Judgment Seat of Christ, we will receive back what we have done during our lives, except for sinful actions that we have confessed to Christ as sin and have, with His assistance, resolutely turned away from. Otherwise, it will be present in the body that clothes our resurrected flesh and bones in that great Day.
If you have been a liar, and have not confessed and turned away from this practice, the body you receive in the Day of Resurrection will reveal that lie in your personality. If you have been a lust-filled immoral person, that is what will be seen in your body. If you have been filled with murderous rage, that is what you will look like.
As we sow we shall reap. This is a Kingdom law, and grace will not affect it. We have an opportunity in the present hour to denounce and renounce in Christ what we do not want to come up in the Day of Resurrection. If we do not take advantage of the provision God has made for us to turn away from our sins, we will meet them in the Day of Resurrection.
We Christians in America need to be warned of this relationship between what we are doing today and what we will look like in the resurrection. The god we preach in America is too soft. He is not the Consuming Fire of Israel, the true God. We have created a god in our own image!
It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power.
It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body. (I Corinthians 15:43,44)
Can you observe from the passage above how weak and unscriptural the “rapture” teaching is? The rapture teaching does not suggest any difference in us, only a change in location. The resurrection presents massive changes in us — from dishonor to glory, from weakness to power, from a natural body to a spiritual body. Paul is stating that our natural body has a spiritual counterpart that will appear in the Day of Resurrection.
And so it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being.” The last Adam became a life-giving spirit. (I Corinthians 15:45)
The verse above is one of the most important in the entire Bible. The Lord Jesus Christ is the Tree of Life. He was the Tree of Life in the garden in Eden. Now as He is formed in us, we are becoming trees of life. In God’s time, God will use us to bring the Life of Christ to the “dead sea” of mankind.
When I returned, there, along the bank of the river, were very many trees on one side and the other.
Then he said to me: “This water flows toward the eastern region, goes down into the valley, and enters the sea. When it reaches the sea, its waters are healed. (Ezekiel 47:7,8)
We will be planted next to the River of Life in the new Jerusalem. There, the citizens of the new earth can come and be renewed in God’s Life, and also be healed of their sicknesses by our “leaves.” We will bring forth with joy water from the wells of salvation. The wells of salvation will be present in us because the Throne of God will be in us. To change from a living soul to a life-giving spirit means we will be given a body that has been fashioned by the Spirit of God from the deaths and resurrections we faithfully have pursued during our discipleship.
Thus, the kind of resurrection we will have is being determined by our behavior and decisions today. This should be our goal, as it was the goal of the Apostle Paul, and we should be laying aside everything else and pressing toward it with all our determination.
However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural, and afterward the spiritual. (I Corinthians 15:46)
If we are to enter such a marvelous spiritual inheritance, we first must behave in such a manner that we are qualified and competent to receive the inheritance. The Apostle Paul told us that if we continue to yield to our sinful nature, we shall not inherit the Kingdom of God. First the natural. Then the spiritual.
The first man was of the earth, made of dust; the second Man is the Lord from heaven. (I Corinthians 15:47)
God understood from the beginning that He created man to be His Throne, and to fulfill the numerous roles and tasks of the kingdom God has in mind. The building of the Kingdom is God’s reponse to the rebellion of Satan and his angels. God knew when He created Satan that Satan would fall through pride and self-will. God did not cause Satan to fall, but God knew he would. Satan’s fall was just one step toward the creation of an everlasting kingdom with the Word as its head.
I suspect that God created the different kinds of dinosaurs and other extinct creatures so that when He created man, the rebellious angels would not immediately understand what God had in mind. Or perhaps He wanted to study animal physiology as in a sort of laboratory.
In any case, man is at the center of what God is doing. Even the Lord Jesus Christ refers to Himself as Son of Man. Man, through Christ, is destined to rule the creation of God. He is also to be the Throne of God so God can live among His sons and daughters.
Noting that the elaborately ornamented Satan fell through pride and self-will, God put His new race in animal bodies — the naked apes, as someone said. Rotherham terms our outer form “the body of our humbling.” And that is its purpose — to humble us. To teach us humility, and that we must become part of Christ if we are to accomplish God’s will in our life.
We are destined to be in the image of Christ, first internally and then externally. If you want to observe the external likeness of Christ, read Ezekiel chapter one. That is what a son of God Almighty is supposed to look like, not a naked ape.
God put us in a frail animal body so He could teach us the way a son of God should behave. It is no picnic, I tell you, to go through all our appointed sufferings in an animal body. We are so utterly helpless compared with what a son of God should be. But if we remain faithful to God, our end will be glorious.
As was the man of dust, so also are those who are made of dust; and as is the heavenly Man, so also are those who are heavenly.
And as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly Man. (I Corinthians 15:48,49)
If we remain faithful to God, not breaking out of the prisons in which He places us, bearing our cross after the Master as cheerfully as we can, then in the Day of Resurrection, we will bear the image of the heavenly. We can get some idea of the image of the heavenly in the appearance of Jesus in Revelation chapter one.
and in the midst of the seven lampstands One like the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the feet and girded about the chest with a golden band.
His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes like a flame of fire;
His feet were like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace, and His voice as the sound of many waters; (Revelation 1:13-15)
“Well,” you might protest, “I never could look like that!”
Let’s take a look at what Paul said: “And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.” What is it going to be? Are you going to believe the Bible, or not? Make your choice. I have made mine. If God said it, I believe it, and that settles it!
Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood [a human] cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption. (I Corinthians 15:50)
Here is an obvious error in the “rapture” teaching. Some pastors have their members jump up and down next to their pews, preparing for the rapture. Are the people going to be caught up in their Sunday clothes and go through the roof of the church? It is not unlikely that there are factions in the assembly. Are they going to maintain their factions while they are in the air on their way to Heaven? If there are people in the church who have not forgiven a fellow believer for some disparaging remark that has been made, are they going to go to Heaven and bring their malice and unforgiveness with them? How about the gossipers; are they going also? How about those who are practicing fornication or adultery? Are they on their way to the Sunday school picnic in Heaven? I do not believe pastors are thinking when they tell their congregations that any day now, without any significant change in their behavior, they are going to be caught up to a spirit world about which they know little or nothing.
In any case, Paul said “flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God.” Corruption cannot inherit incorruption.
So here we are, in our animal bodies, flying up beyond the clouds to live in the unknown spirit world. We do not care particularly what it is like, just as long as we don’t need to continue in the tribulations of the world. We have never experienced resurrection. We are still bound with the sins of the flesh. This is not reasonable, to say the least.
Personally, I do not believe we would get past the ceiling of the church. Heaven would welcome victorious saints, but not casual church attenders. So I guess one percent of the congregation would become invisible and the rest of the congregation would wonder what happened to them.
Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall 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 incorruptible, and we shall be changed. (I Corinthians 15:51,52)
I think this passage is used to prove that we need not make an effort to change our behavior now, because we will be transformed when the Lord returns. This chapter is speaking of the resurrection of the body, not of the inward nature. The following verses will demonstrate this fact.
The dead shall be raised incorruptible and we shall be changed. This shall take place in a moment. This will happen at the last trumpet, the time of the return of the Lord with the shout of battle.
God is well able to remove in a moment our sinful nature from us. But it is by resisting and putting to death the deeds of our sinful nature that the conquering personality is formed. The Apostle Paul spoke, in Philippians chapter three, of the effort he was making to attain inwardly to the resurrection. It is obvious that we cannot be clothed with immortality until our inward nature also has been resurrected in Christ.
Think of the battle we have with worldliness. Think of the battle we have with the lusts and passions that dwell in our flesh. Think of the battle we have with our self-will and rebellion against Christ. Why cannot these three areas of sin, that exist in most believers in Christ, be changed in a moment? Why cannot worldliness, lust, and self-will be removed from us in the twinkling of an eye? The reason is, we were born with these sinful tendencies so we might have pressures to overcome. It is in the overcoming of the forces that seek to prevent our doing God’s will that a militant righteousness is formed in us.
God is developing leaders who will be able to install and maintain Paradise once again on the earth. This is why He places us in animal bodies, and why we have all these evil forces to overcome. If God were to remove them all at once, without any effort on our part, we would not have the iron scepter of righteousness created in us. We would be as Adam and Eve were — innocent, without the wisdom and strength necessary to overcome sin and self-will.
You might imagine there will be no sin in the world to come. But as long as angels and people have wills, sin is possible. This will be true throughout eternity. The only solution to the possibility of sin in the future is the creation of a governing priesthood, an army of judges as it were, that will prevent angels and people from falling into sin.
For this reason, God will not remove the sinful nature of most people, including the physical land and people of Israel, until He has His army of judges formed. Nor will God give a member of the army of judges, of the royal priesthood, a body in the likeness of Jesus Christ until He is certain that individual will not set out to destroy the creation in his or her self-will and personal ambition.
Satan was blameless until sin was found in him. He produced his own pride and rebellion. Satan’s rebellion did not come from outside but from within him. Thus, any angel or any one of God’s children can succumb to pride and rebellion, and must be governed by saints in whom the iron rod of righteousness has been formed, and in whom obedience to Christ has been perfected.
Only the overcomers will inherit the gifts and roles found in Revelation chapters 2-3. Those who overcome, through Christ, the enemies that come against them, will inherit all things. They shall be God’s sons and He shall be their God.
This does not mean everyone else will be cast into the Lake of Fire. Rather, those two chapters are referring to God’s firstfruits, His royal priesthood, His rulers, for whom God is making all things of the creation work together for good.
A dog can be trained by putting meat in front of him when he is hungry and teaching him not to touch it until a signal is given. God is using much the same technique by putting us in animal bodies that have a sinful nature, a nature passed down from our rebellious ancestors. In God’s Presence there is fullness of joy. He wants to be sure we will not disobey Him by grasping joy when it is not appropriate.
There can be no solution to sin and rebellion until God has a kingdom of rulers who will prevent rebellion from ever occurring again in the creation. I believe we all can see the wisdom of this and the reason for it.
For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. (I Corinthians 15:53)
What a wonderful thought that some day we will not be housed in a sinful body. We will be free from selfish ambition, living in immortality in Paradise.
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.” (I Corinthians 15:54)
Can you see how the passage above is totally different from the “rapture” deception? This is a desirable change in us, not just a change of location. Our resurrected flesh and bones will be swallowed up by a body from Heaven, a body that reveals in itself the kind of person we have become.
“O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?”
The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. (I Corinthians 15:55,56)
Death is an enemy that must be overcome, first in our inward nature, and then, when Jesus appears, in our outward nature, our body. This is our goal, the marvelous hope and future of the Gospel of the Kingdom. Death has no sting for us. He who is redeeming us is more powerful than the spirit of death. When Christ has forgiven the guilt of our sins and their power to compel us to act in disobedience to God, death cannot harm us; the Lake of Fire no longer has authority over us.
The power of sin is the eternal moral law of God — which being inscribed in our minds and hearts. Sometimes we are taught that there is no law that governs the Christian except the law of love. This is not true. The Words of Christ and of His Apostles are our laws, as the Holy Spirit of God interprets them to us and guides us in obedience to them. Sin derives its strength from these many laws. When they are disobeyed continually, we are heading toward corruption and destruction in the Day of Resurrection.
But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (I Corinthians 15:57)
As the Apostle Paul taught us, “We are more than conquerors through Christ.” There is no power as great as that of God, and He has entrusted His authority and power to His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. When we obey the Son, listening to Him carefully at all times, obeying Him diligently, we have no need to fear Satan or his demons.
Every one of us can be an overcomer, a victorious saint, and receive all the gifts and roles promised to the overcomer. But we must desire this position with all our heart. There can be no compromise, no lack of diligence. To be a member of God’s firstfruits requires that we put all that we are into the effort. To be one of God’s rulers is open to all, but it appears there are few who are intent on pleasing Christ to that extent.
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. (I Corinthians 15:58)
With the hope of the resurrection in mind, we are to keep on serving the Lord as we have been, meanwhile attending to the needs of our families. Anyone who neglects his family while he is reading His Bible, or praying, or serving in the church, is not pleasing to God. Each one of us can be a victorious saint and at the same time take care of his loved ones as he should. If we will set our hand to this, we will have a better resurrection.
Women received their dead raised to life again. And others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection. (Hebrews 11:35)
(“The Resurrection”, 3095-1, proofed 20211029)