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.

By Paul Simrell

The Reverend Paul W. Simrell has served for over thirty years in a variety of congregational and institutional settings. He is a recognized minister with standing in the Virginia region of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada and is nationally endorsed by the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) for specialized ministry in both pastoral counseling and chaplaincy. Ordained in 1982, he has served congregations in Kentucky, Texas, Florida, and Virginia. He currently serves as the pastor of Elpis Christian Church, a small, historic congregation located just a few miles west of Richmond, Virginia. “Elpis” is the Greek word for “expectant hope.” He is a graduate of the University of Florida and Lexington Theological Seminary and has done advanced clinical training in chaplaincy and pastoral counseling at the University of Kentucky Medical Center in Lexington, Kentucky, Children’s Medical Center and Parkland Hospital in Dallas, Texas and the Virginia Institute of Pastoral Care in Richmond, Virginia. He is a Certified Pastoral Counselor, an ACPE Practitioner, a member of the American Association of Christian Counselors, and a member of Spiritual Directors International. He is a Certified Facilitator of the Prepare-Enrich relationship assessment and skills-building program and served as a volunteer chaplain for over twenty years with the CJW Medical Center campuses in Richmond, Virginia. His avocational interests include playing the piano and drawing. He is very happily married to his wife Elizabeth Yeamans Simrell, a free-lance writer, who is also a Certified Facilitator for the Prepare-Enrich program. Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton

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