What Does 1 Corinthians 15:51 Mean?

Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed,

1 Corinthians 15:51(NASB)

Verse Thoughts

We have a wonderful assurance of victory over death because Christ gained a victory through His bodily resurrection. When Jesus rose from the grave, He broke the power of death and hell in the lives of ALL who are identified with Christ and positioned IN Him.. all who are saved by grace through faith in Him - all who have been born of the Spirit of God and have received a NEW and eternal life in Christ. 

The fifteenth chapter of Corinthians is a passage that gives hope in the hearts of all who are saved by grace through faith. It sets out, systematically, WHY Christians have an assurance of victory over death and what we can expect when the time comes for us to meet our Maker.

Paul begins by proclaiming the gospel of grace, by which we are saved - that Christ died for our sins, was buried and rose again, according to the Scriptures. He described Christ's many post-resurrection appearances.. to Peter, to the twelve and to many other followers. He pointed out that if Christ had not risen from the dead and remained in the grave, our faith would be worthless - but we serve a risen, ascended, and glorified LORD.

He identified Christ as the first-fruit from the grave. Others may have been raised from the dead for a time... like Lazareth and Jairus' daughter, but Christ alone rose from the dead, never to die again! Our position in Adam guaranteed death and hell, for as in Adam all die. But he also disclosed the glorious truth that in the same way all IN CHRIST will be made alive - resurrected from the dead. We not only identify with His death (sins forgiven) but also His resurrection (life eternal). Hallelujah!

Paul continued by addressing the issue of our fallen nature as well as our new nature in Christ. While living in this mortal body we will continue to have a sin nature that will lust against our new nature. The former will do nothing but sin while the latter "cannot sin" as John the apostle taught us, "because he is born of God - born of the Spirit and declared righteous before the Father".

Eventually, the last enemy of our soul to be destroyed will be death - after Christ has put every enemy under His feet, during His wonderful reign in the millennial kingdom.. as King of kings and Lord of lords. Our heart rejoices as Paul continues to teach that Jesus will one day hand the redeemed creation back to God... and then, he continues by describing the wonderful new body with which we will one day be clothed.

The old, mortal body is a temporary tent, that houses our spirit and soul.. but at the resurrection, we will be clothed in a new, eternal, immortal covering. How we praise God that ALL who are born of Him have become a heavenly people - a spiritual body - called and chosen of God. We are a royal priesthood, a holy nation, and God's own special possession, to the praise of His glory.

Paul explained the reason for a new spiritual body is that flesh and blood can neither enter God's holy place nor inherit the kingdom of heaven. But after we are resurrected from the dead, we will not only be saved from the PENALTY of sin and its POWER over us... we will also be set free from the PRESENCE of sin, when our old, sin nature will be fully discarded for the new, sinless nature of Christ - 'the new life' we received at salvation.

FINALLY, Paul is ready to make his great, climactic proclamation - "Behold, I tell you a mystery. We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed..."  Despite it being appointed for men to die once because we are sinners who are born in sin, he delivers a wonderful truth, that was hidden from earlier generations. Not every Christian will face death. Not every believer is doomed to the grave. We will not ALL die. We will not ALL sleep in the grave. There is a generation of Christians that will witness the coming of Christ in the clouds, and be caught up into heaven with His resurrected saints.. when He comes to take us to be with Himself. 

Not every member of Christ's body will feel the icy fingers of death on their throat nor sleep in a grave, BUT we will ALL be changed...changed into the likeness of Jesus - changed from mortal to immortal. We will be changed from living in a perishable body to being clothed in an imperishable one. Changed from living by faith, to seeing Christ face to face, as we are transformed into His lovely likeness.

"Now I say this, brethren", Paul announces, "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. The dead will be raised imperishable. We will be changed. The perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality. And when this has happened we will be able to cry out in unison 'DEATH IS SWALLOWED UP in victory. O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR VICTORY? O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR STING?'"

Let us rejoice and be glad as we watch and wait in holy anticipation for this blessed hope, and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour, Christ Jesus our Lord. Let us celebrate this marvellous truth from the apostle Peter -"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead." Hallelujah! Praise His holy name.

My Prayer

Heavenly Father, what a glorious hope we have in Christ Jesus our Saviour. Thank You that He came to rescue sinners like me from death, hell, eternal condemnation and separation from You. Thank You that Christ died to pay the price for my sin and thank You also that He ROSE from the dead and conquered death and hell for all who will believe on His name. How I praise You that my salvation does not depend on what I have done but on all that Christ has done for me and I look forward, in holy anticipation for the day when the dead in Christ shall be raised and we who are alive and remain will be caught up with them and be with Jesus forever. Thank You that death has been swallowed up in His victory and that I am identified with Him - praise His holy name, AMEN.

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