First Corinthians 15--The secret revealed
Oct 04, 2017
The image of the heavenly and the image of the earthy is described by Paul in terms of clothing and in terms of housing. It is the container in which our conscious being lives and expresses itself. First the earthy expression, and later the heavenly, is the divinely-appointed order. The path by which we may obtain the heavenly garments is revealed in the feast days, for there are three main steps to full salvation: Justification, Sanctification, and Glorification.
We are given whatever years we have in this life time to mature through the first two steps in order to qualify for the third. No one can begin this journey apart from fulfilling the feast of Passover—that is, by being justified by faith in the blood of the Lamb. No one can mature during this journey apart from fulfilling the feast of Pentecost—that is, by learning obedience to the word of God and to the leading of the Spirit.
It requires endurance to finish the course, and even Paul did not presume to have attained the goal in the early part of his ministry (Philippians 3:13). But as he reached the end of his life, he was assured that he had indeed attained the crown (2 Timothy 4:7, 8). Even so, Paul died without receiving the glorified body, because he had to wait for the rest of the body of overcomers. As Hebrews 11:39, 40 says, those who died in faith, having completed their journey, could not receive the promise apart from those who were yet to become part of that overcomer body.
39 And all these, having gained approval through their faith, did not receive what was promised, 40 because God had provided something better for us, so that apart from us they should not be made perfect.
In other words, the promise of God to give us a glorified body is to be given to a body, or “squadron,” (1 Corinthians 15:23). The promise does not trickle out to individuals before the time of the First Resurrection, for again, as Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 4:15, “we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord shall not precede those who have fallen asleep.”
If past generations could not receive the promise apart from us, and we cannot precede them, then we must all receive the promise together in squadrons. Nonetheless, as we have shown, there is more than one squadron, because there is more than one resurrection. The promise of God is to all, but not all will receive it in the first squadron. The promise is not fulfilled in anyone’s life without going through the same steps in the same journey.
That journey begins with faith (Passover), followed by obedience and spiritual maturity (Pentecost). Those who fail to achieve such maturity will have to achieve it in an age to come. One way or another, however, the promise of God will be fulfilled, for He is able to bring all of mankind into subjection under His feet. If God were unable to overcome the resistance in the will of men, He should not have made such promises in the first place. But we know that God is able, and that His glory will cover the earth (Numbers 14:21).
The Bodily Transformation
Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15:51, 52,
51 Behold, I tell you a mystery [musterion, “secret”]; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, 52 in a moment [atomos, “atomically”], in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.
Paul tells us that when the last trumpet sounds, two things will happen, although here he does not tell us the order in which these two things will occur. For the order of events, we must see 1 Thessalonians 4:15, where the dead rise FIRST, followed by the transformation of those who are alive at the time of the trumpet. But here in 1 Corinthians 15, Paul tells us that the trumpet will raise the dead, but that “we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed.”
In other words, the living overcomers in that generation will not need to be raised from the dead, simply because they are not among the dead. Hence, the trumpet blown on the feast of Trumpets (Rosh Hoshana) will raise the dead, but not the living. The living will be “changed,” or transformed from one condition to another.
When will the living overcomers be changed? Paul gives the order, but not the precise timing here. The timing is revealed in the feast days themselves. Trumpets is for the dead, Tabernacles is for the living. The feast of Tabernacles comes two weeks after Trumpets. Hence, the dead will be raised first on the first day of the seventh month (Rosh Hoshana), while the living overcomers will be changed two weeks later on the fifteenth day of the seventh month (Succoth).
When the dead are raised, they will have to wait yet a while longer for the living to be transformed into the image of Christ, so that they can truly be unified into one body in the fullest sense. Perishable bodies are incompatible with imperishable bodies.
Tabernacles, then, will change the bodies of the living overcomers, so that the two groups can become one complete body of overcomers. Yet this body will still lack its Head. In the only biblical example of Christ keeping the feast of Tabernacles, we see in John 7:14 that Jesus showed Himself in the temple in “the midst of the feast.” That seems to prophesy that Christ will appear in the midst of the feast of Tabernacles of some year.
By studying the story of Jesus’ coming in John 6:19, and by correlating the eight signs in the book of John with the eight days of Tabernacles, we may conclude that Christ will come on the fifth day of Tabernacles. After all, when Christ came to the disciples in the midst of the lake, Peter went out to meet Him in order to escort Him to the boat. This fifth sign in the book of John pictures the coming of Christ on the fifth day of Tabernacles. This sign is then interpreted in John 7 in the manner in which Jesus kept the feast of Tabernacles, arriving in the midst of the feast.
It is therefore my belief that Christ will come in the midst of Tabernacles, specifically on the fifth day of the feast in some year. We will know the year when we see the feast of Trumpets fulfilled. When the dead are raised, then we can be confident that the transformation of the living overcomers is imminent, followed by the coming of the Head to join the perfected body.
When the body is perfected and complete, then the complete body will be presented faultless to the Father in heaven on the eighth day of Tabernacles. The presentation of the sons of God can come on no other day than the eighth day, according to the law. Exodus 22:29, 30 says,
29 You shall not delay the offering from your harvest and your vintage. The first-born of your sons you shall give to Me. 30 You shall do the same with your oxen and with your sheep. It shall be with its mother seven days; on the eighth day you shall give it to Me.
Hence, also, the sons of Israel were circumcised on the eighth day and thereby presented to God through covenant. This has now been upgraded to a better covenant, but the eighth-day law still applies, though on a new level. At the feast of Tabernacles, the New Creation Son will be brought fully to birth, and that corporate Son will be presented to the Father on the eighth day, as the law commands and prophesies.
So in the order of events, we see the birth of this corporate Son on the first of Tabernacles, the presentation of the Son on the eighth day, and the manifestation of the Son (or “sons of God’) afterward. The sons of God must be manifested to those on earth who were not part of the first squadron. Their presence will prove to the world that the promise of God is real, and they will be living testimonies to guide the nations into the same experience a thousand years later.
The Promise of God
Paul says essentially that the “secret” (or mystery) is the path of Sonship. It is the path that all must take in order for the promise of God to be fulfilled. Here in 1 Corinthians 15:51, the secret is that we will receive a glorified body—that is, “we shall all be changed.” This is the promise of God. It is a bodily change. It is something that the dead have not received, regardless of their condition after death.
Whether they are in heaven or remain in the grave, according to one’s doctrinal view, it is certain that they “did not receive what was promised” (Hebrews 11:39). Even going to heaven at death is not the promise of God, regardless of how glorious this may be. The promise is a glorified body. The promise is to become “priests of God and of Christ” (Revelation 20:6). The promise is to gain access to both garments (Ezekiel 44:19), so that the overcomers may minister to God in their linens and to men in their woolens.
In Revelation 6:11 the dead martyrs are each given “a white robe” (that is, linen). This is the heavenly garment, but they are not given the glorified body, which is made of wool. Hence, these martyrs seem to be blessed, but they do not yet receive the promise of God until they are raised, joined with the rest of the body, and presented to the Father. Only then can they begin to minister to men in the outer court (in earth), dressed in glorified “wool.”
The Atomic Change
Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:52 that we will be changed “in a moment,” that is, in the atoms (atomos). The Greeks understood this word philosophically to mean the smallest particle which could not be further subdivided. It was a word used often by Epicurus in the third century B.C. Modern scientists adopted the term, thinking that atoms could not be subdivided. Of course, now we know that atoms too can be split, so the term is somewhat of a misnomer today. But in Paul’s day the Epicureans were materialists who believed that even the soul was made of matter. In that, they differed from other philosophers who thought that the soul was spiritual.
The point is that atomos was understood to be a physical term, and that is how Paul used the term as well. He was talking about a bodily change in the physical atomic structure of matter itself. Hence, this is the “secret” of the promise of God. It is a bodily transformation, an atomic change. The secret is not how to get rid of these atoms or to divorce ourselves from the body in order to live in a purely spiritual state in heaven far above the earth. The secret is how to do an atomic change in the body, so that we, as sons of God, may lawfully minister to those remaining in the outer court, as Ezekiel puts it.
Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:53,
53 For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality.
Your spirit is already immortal and “incorruptible” (KJV). Your New Creation Man cannot sin, because it is begotten of God, as 1 John 3:9 literally tells us. Hence, it is that which is mortal that must put on immortality. It is that which is yet corruptible that must put on incorruption. This is the body, not the spirit. The promise is for God to change the body in its atomic structure.
This is part 113 of a series titled "Studies in First Corinthians." To view all parts, click the link below.