Studies in 1 & 2 Corinthians
14. 1 Corinthians 15:51-58 - Death Defeated
A dramatic change
In eternity, we will not need blood to circulate oxygen to our muscles. Flesh and blood is rooted in the biochemical world, where nothing lasts forever. Life based in chemical reactions cannot be eternal. The kind of flesh that decays cannot inherit the eternal realm.
There must be a radical change, and change is exactly what the gospel promises. “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.”
At the return of Christ (verse 23), we will all be made alive. We will rise to meet him, and we will be with him forever (1 Thessalonians 4:14-17).
Paul uses one more metaphor: “For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality.” We will not be a soul clothed with a perishable body — we will have a body that never decays. The resurrection body will never die, never grow weary, never wear out.
The great victory (verses 54-58)
“When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory’” (Isaiah 25:8). In the resurrection, death will have been defeated.
Paul mocks his enemy with words similar to Hosea 13:14: “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” Where is your power now? All your work has been undone.
“The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law,” and these three worked against us: the flesh led us into sin, and the law condemned us to die. But it has all been reversed in Jesus, who conquered sin in the flesh, and conquered death on behalf of us all.
Our enemies have been defeated, as Paul exclaims: “But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” The resurrection of Jesus is not just good news for him — it is also wonderful news for us, because the reason that he went through his ordeal is to rescue us from our enemies. He gives the victory to us!
Paul concludes: “Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” No good deed will be forgotten. There are eternal consequences for all our work — even actions as small as giving water to a thirsty person.
There is a resurrection, and there is an afterlife — and that gives tremendous meaning to this life as well.
Author: Michael Morrison, PhD