We Shall Not All Sleep

Key Text:  1 Corinthians 15:50-58

I declare to you, brothers and sisters, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.  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.  For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. 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.”

“Where, O death, is your victory?

    Where, O death, is your sting?”

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

 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.

I couldn’t begin to guess how many times I have read these words in public and private; in a funeral service or at the graveside.  They are meant to comfort and encourage.  They proclaim one of, if not the greatest, truths of the Christian faith – death has been defeated.

Oh, Christians die like everyone else.   Physically, we suffer illness, face fear, endure loss, and walk through the “valley of the shadow” as Psalm 23 puts it so well.

But it is one of the bold, controversial; some would say outlandish claims of the faith, that by virtue of our Christian faith, physical death is all that we must endure.  It is, so we claim, just one small step, as difficult as that step may be to take, “through the veil” to the other side where darkness is not tolerated.

The weeks following the great Easter celebration – Eastertide – are the perfect time for us to remember and proclaim this.

The apostle Paul is right.  It is a great mystery, not easily explained.  It is as mysterious as that empty tomb that drove the naysayers crazy two thousand years ago and has been doing so ever since then.

It can’t be rationally explained.

Neither can it be rationally explained away.

“We shall not all sleep.”  What hope there is in those five short words.

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