Visions Of The Kingdom

If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you know that I have trouble thinking of eternity in terms of how it will affect me. Every time I read Revelation, I’m riveted by John’s descriptions of multitudes (both angelic and human) surrounding the throne of the Lord to praise and worship Him!

The beloved hymn, “Holy, Holy, Holy,” puts those scenes before us as a preview of that magnificent eternal worship. As we sing it, we anticipate the tremendous joy of praising God with every saint who ever lived as well as with the angels. How can that fail to fill you with abundant joy?

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

According To Scripture: Study #16 On The Resurrection

According to Scripture

As I predicated last Monday, I’m a little bleery-eyed from watching the Red Sox win the World Series last night. But I won’t let that stop me from writing about something far more exciting and glorious!

So let’s look at 1 Corinthians 15:50-58 as a whole, and then examine the first four verses of the passage.

50 I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 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 shall be changed. 53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. 54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:

“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
55 “O death, where is your victory?
    O death, where is your sting?”

56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

58 Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. (ESV)

At last, Paul moves from giving proofs for bodily resurrection to giving reasons for changed bodies as well as briefly explaining the wonderful process of that change. As Barnes writes, the Lord changes our bodies because it is indispensable that He do so.

Since our earthly bodies suffer from the corrupting influences of sin, he explains in verse 50, they lack the capacity to function in the incorruptible realm. Earlier verses have already made this point. In our present state of weakness and decay, it’s unthinkable that we should inherit an incorruptible kingdom.

When Paul says he will tell them a mystery in verse 51, he by all means does not mean secret knowledge for the spiritually elite! Rather, he’s turning the tables on the Gnostics, informing them that he knows something that their secret wisdom evidently hasn’t taught them. This knowledge was hidden from previous generations, but Christ has revealed it.

In 1 Thessalonians 4:15, he declares this same mystery, affirming that he received it “by the word of the Lord.” Their reason, which they prided themselves on, never would have reached the conclusion that we will be changed. Yet 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17 teaches precisely that promise.

This promise, however, is not about the resurrection of the dead. It is about the rapture of living Christians. The comment that we shall not all sleep makes this point clear. Therefore, the implications of Christ’s resurrection take on an added dimension that the Corinthian Gnostics hadn’t considered.

Verse 52 offers further details on the transformation of our bodies. The last trumpet that Paul mentions signals the close of our earthly existence and the beginning of our eternal life in resurrected bodies. At that glorious moment, the dead will be raised in the imperishable bodies that Paul has been describing throughout this chapter. But in addition to their resurrection, the living will be changed.

Both miracles will occur instantaneously. The transformation of our bodies in the rapture will be as instantaneous as a wink, which the Greek word translated as “twinkling” denotes. Christ’s Second Corning will be sudden, surprising us like (to borrow Peter’s phrase in 2 Peter 3:10) a thief in the night. Paul describes this moment in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17. We can look forward to this moment with joyful anticipation!

Perhaps we best understand the concept of a perishable body putting on the imperishable in verse 53 by looking at 2 Corinthians 5:2-4. As Christians, we know that there’s so much more than this present life offers.

As earlier verses have indicated, our earthly bodies, being corrupted by the effects of sin, simply aren’t suited for eternal life in the perfect new heavens and new earth. Consequently, we must be clothed in new, imperishable bodies.

What a wonderful thing to contemplate this week! And as we finish our study next Monday, we’ll see a victory that makes the World Series look downright boring.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

According To Scripture: Study #12 On The Resurrection

According to Scripture

Thank you all for your patience while I took a two month break from writing this Bible Study on 1 Corinthians 15. In July, we finished studying Christ’s resurrection and its implications regarding our own resurrection at His return. Now Paul shifts the conversation to the nature of our resurrected bodies.

35 But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?” 36 You foolish person! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. 37 And what you sow is not the body that is to be, but a bare kernel, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain. 38 But God gives it a body as he has chosen, and to each kind of seed its own body. 39 For not all flesh is the same, but there is one kind for humans, another for animals, another for birds, and another for fish. 40 There are heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is of one kind, and the glory of the earthly is of another. 41 There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory. ~~1 Corinthians 15:35-41 (ESV)

As we see in verse 35, Paul now addresses practical reservations regarding bodily resurrection. The question as to what kind of bodies we will have come either from immature believers or, as implied by Paul’s harshness in verse 36, from skeptics trying to disprove the doctrine through ridicule. Whatever the motives, the two main questions are:

  • How are the dead raised?
  • What is the resurrection body like?

Gill believes that the first question betrays cynicism, and most likely a determination to show the absurdity of resurrection. That cynicism gives rise to the question of the form decomposed bodies could possibly take upon resurrection. But, as Jamieson, Fausset and Brown point out, such questions should be answered by appealing to God’s power rather than from human philosophies (as Jesus did in Matthew 19:26, Mark 10:27 and Luke 18:27).

As we come to verse 36, we are startled that Paul bluntly calls anyone who would raise objections such as these a fool. The Corinthians, because they prided themselves on their worldly wisdom, must have been even more startled. And Paul intended to startle them! His harshness brings out the idea that their supposed intellectual wisdom crumbles into idiotic babble (Romans 1:22).

As Barnes observes, they appeal to personal experience and their deductions from nature as evidence that bodily resurrection is ludicrous. But Paul turns the tables by holding up an example from nature that exposes their objections. Contrary to their arguments that a dead body simply returns to dust, Paul likens the body to a seed that must die and be buried in order to produce life (see John 12:24).

In verse 37 Paul expands on his analogy by comparing the natural body that we sow through burial to a seed (or kernel) planted in the ground. A kernel of grain, for example, grows into an entire stalk of wheat, flax or barely, complete with husks, leaves or blades. Obviously a tiny seed looks considerably different than a fully developed plant!

With this simple illustration, the apostle demonstrates the fallacy of their reasoning, thus striking at their pride. If they had reasoned more carefully, they would have realized that crops come from decomposed seeds, so that nature itself testifies to the truth of resurrection.

We’ll close today’s study with verse 38, which definitely leads me into worship! God gives everything the type of body that pleases Him. Just as He is pleased for a seed to have a different body than a plant, so He is pleased for a natural body to be different than a spiritual body. I love this testimony to God’s sovereignty, don’t you?

Barnes brings out the point that God, rather than impersonal laws of nature, determines the assignment of bodies. By His design, a seed has a different body than a fully developed plant and a natural body is different than a spiritual body. Possibly, Paul thinks of Christ’s words in Mark 4:26-29. Human reason only understands so much of how a seed is transformed into a plant. How much more limited we are in understanding how God transforms our earthly bodies into heavenly ones!

Lord willing, next Monday we’ll dig into verses 39-41 to deepen our understanding of our resurrection bodies. Between now and then, please leave comments and/or questions here, on the Facebook page or on Twitter. Thank you.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

They Enjoy Their Own Cleverness

OpenBible John 1How many times have people ridiculed you for believing the Bible? Have they questioned your sanity or acted surprised that you believe serpents  speak and messiahs rise from the dead? Yeah, and you’re probably already bracing for such uncomfortable conversations at Thanksgiving gatherings. So maybe I can offer a little perspective to help prepare you for conflicts around the adult table.

Ladies, we’ll resume our Monday Bible Studies on 1 Corinthians 15 pretty soon. Before you accuse me of a non sequitur, hear me out. I started working through verse 35 this morning, and I had some immediate thoughts on it that made me think about the ways some non-Christians (particularly those who are openly belligerent) try to derail us when we share the Gospel with them. Look at the verse with me.

But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?” (ESV) 

Okay, I didn’t get very far into my study today (I had a stressful situation last night that kept me from getting adequate sleep), so I don’t have as much of a handle on the verse as I will when we actually work through it. But the small amount of study I did reminded me that often people who raise objections to our beliefs honestly think they’re helping us understand why Christianity is intellectually untenable.

You’ll recall that Paul wrote 1 Corinthians 15 in response to those who denied the doctrine of bodily resurrection. In the first 34 verses, the apostle provided legal evidence that Christ rose from the dead. Then he argued that Christ’s resurrection ensures the resurrection of believers. Verse 35 transitions to the rather childish challenge to prove the doctrine by giving specific details.

In other words, these skeptics think they’ve poked holes in Paul’s theology. They remind me of neighborhood kids who tried to prove that I was intellectually disabled by peppering me with impossible arithmetic questions that they themselves couldn’t answer.

“What’s 97,043 plus 32,017?” they ask.

I’d admit I didn’t know, and watch their smug grins steal over their little faces. With perhaps a little sadistic pleasure, I’d give them a minute to savor their cleverness before asking, “So what is 97,043 plus 32,017?”

Though I in no way recommend such a smart alec retort to non-Christians who fancy that their arguments blow holes in our Christian faith, I do want you to realize that they trust in their own cleverness. We must pray that the Holy Spirit will open their eyes the truth before they face the Lord in judgment. At that time, they won’t feel quite so clever.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

A Blind Woman With Amazing Vision

“Visions of rapture now burst on my sight,” wrote Fanny Crosby in arguably her most famous and most beloved hymn. Once you realize that Fanny Crosby lost her sight in early childhood, you can’t help but feel startled by this poignant lyric.

Fanny saw what so many of us routinely overlook. She fixed her gaze steadfastly on the Savior and His return. I fear that, even as we sing her words believing that we cherish them, we rarely see their power. We close our eyes to the astonishingly beautiful promise that He will come again and gather us to Himself! We busily focus on temporal matters, willfully blind to the eternal glories that await us in His kingdom.

Listen again to this familiar hymn. Let a simple blind woman open your eyes to the wonders of our Savior and the blessed assurance of His eternal kingdom.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Growing Old Gracefully? Don’t I Wish!

Woman's Head Profile Oval FrameDo you ever find yourself doing exactly what you always promised yourself you’d never do? The classic example, of course, is suddenly hearing your mother’s words (the exact words you vowed you’d never utter) come flying out of your mouth. Yeah,  it horrifies you when it happens, and you mentality kick yourself for days afterwards. What got into you? How humiliating!

I’d decided in my mid-thirties, that I’d age gracefully. I cut my hair to an age-appropriate length soon after turning 40, and traded in my lacy ruffled blouses for more tailored clothing. I even combated my feelings of jealousy when younger women started doing the types of ministry that had once belonged to me, realizing that I’d had my turn.

For quite a while, I was actually doing pretty well at transitioning from middle age to being a <gulp> senior citizen. Actually, I was quite delighted to Continue reading

Saturday Sampler: July 29 — August 4

2006_0719DownTownCrossJuly060010Leslie A definitely hits the bullseye with her Growing 4 Life blog post, What Is Your Litmus Test? Oh boy, do I wish every pastor in the world would read her words from the pulpit!

In How God Speaks To Us Today, Tim Challies draws from the first four chapters of Hebrews to demonstrate God’s chosen method of communication. He doesn’t go with the popular teachings on this subject, but instead lets Scripture inform him. Maybe more of us should follow his example of discernment.

Since John and I are currently reading Revelation together, The Book of Revelation Is Not About the Rapture by Richard Gilbert in Core Christianity caught my attention. You might find this article encouraging if this Biblical book intimidates you.

Arthur Fedlier BustI’m not a fan of either Pope Francis or the World Council of Churches. Leonardo De Chirico’s August post in Vatican Files, 152. “Either Ecumenical or Proselytizer”? No. There is a Better Option exposes the joint attempt to keep Christians from proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

I’d hoped Albert Mohler would comment on last weekend’s Revoice Conference, so I was glad to see Torn Between Two Cultures? Revoice, LGBR Identity, and Biblical Christianity appear in my inbox. He certainly presents an insightful analysis of the conference and its ramifications.

My Charismatic friends won’t like Why There is No Such Thing as the Gift of Tongues in The Cripplegate, but I think they ought to consider the arguments that Eric Davis FAO Shwartz Bearmakes.

You’ve got to admire Michelle Lesley for courageously writing Women Preaching: It’s Not a Secondary Doctrinal Issue. She’ll undoubtedly get flack for her firm stand on this matter. The thing is, she’s absolutely right!

Thankfully, Denny Burk weighs in on last weekend’s infamous conference in St. Louis with Revoice is over. Now what? I have a few minor reservations about his article, but I include it here because of his extensive work on the topic of human sexuality.

Todd Pruitt, in his post for Mortification of Spin, adds to the analysis of the Revoice Sacred CodConference by writing Same Sex Attraction, Temptation, and Jesus. He’s watched more of the conference videos than I have, and therefore can address one disturbing aspect that I didn’t know about.

Elizabeth Prata leaves us with An Encouragement befitting her blog’s title, The End Time. With all the garbage going on within evangelicalism, essays like this offer sweet comfort.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin