‘Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.’
Here Paul explains that those who have committed their lives to Christ and become His followers and are 'born again' by the power of the Spirit in their inner being, according to Jesus' teaching in John 3, can look forward to one of two things happening. If they are alive at the time very close to the physical and visible return of Christ to planet earth (see John 14:3 and many other passages of scripture) they will be physically changed into the new body that Christ has promised (read 1 Corinthians 15 for more information about the nature of this new body that we can look forward to) and 'caught up to meet the Lord in the air' (1 Thess 4:17). The second thing Paul explains here is that those believers whose physical bodies have gone into the grave can expect the invisible part of their being, their soul and spirit, to be reunited with their new physical body 'first', or just ahead, of those who are 'alive and remain' -then, both those who have been 'dead in Christ' and those who are still alive at that time, will all be reunited with Christ 'in the clouds' and then the scripture says, 'we shall ever be with the Lord'.
Apart from that one particular group of people, and the two exceptions mentioned in the Old Testament, Enoch and Elijah, both of whom were 'caught up' alive into heaven -and in their physical bodies, every other human being who has ever lived has 'died' physically -no exceptions. This includes Moses, who although he appeared with the Lord Jesus and Elijah on the mount of transfiguration (Matthew 17:3), did in fact die before that event. See Deuteronomy 34:5. (For Enoch & Elijah see Genesis 5:24 and 2 Kings 2:11)
The Example of Christ & Paul
The Lord Jesus set us the example in Luke 13:1-5 when He was told about the,
‘Galileans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices’, and also the ‘eighteen, upon whom the tower of Siloam fell, and slew them’.
These were two terrible tragedies involving great loss of life and suffering for their relatives and friends. Jesus however, drew their attention to the really important issue of eternal life by answering,
‘And Jesus answering said unto them, Suppose ye that these Galileans were sinners above all the Galileans, because they suffered such things? I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.’ V2-5.
The truth is, if you have repented and trusted in Christ for salvation, you need not fear anything that life may bring. Why? Because we have the total assurance of the words of Christ Himself,
‘I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?’ John 11:25-26.
This is THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IN THE WORLD. Nothing else comes close. As believers we have the wonderful privilege and opportunity to share the promise of eternal life with all who will listen. Often, the Lord will ‘shake’ us so that we, as believers, will become alert to the need to be ready always to explain the gospel to those around us. That same ‘shaking’ can also give us an ‘open door’ to introduce the subject of eternal life and explain, as Paul did on Mars hill in Acts 17, that every minute of life is given to us,
‘that we might seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after Him, though He be not far from every one of us:’ v27.
The CEV (Contemporary English Version) is helpful,
‘God has done all this, so that we will look for him and reach out and find him. He isn’t far from any of us…’
Often it needs someone, like you and me, to lovingly and sensitively do exactly the same thing as both the Lord Jesus and Paul and explain that we are all sinners and in very great danger of going out into a lost eternity. We need to explain that God,
‘…commands all men everywhere to repent: Because he hath appointed a day in which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom He hath ordained; whereof He hath given assurance unto all men, in that He hath raised Him from the dead.’
The response will be exactly as it was with Paul,
‘And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked: and others said, We will hear thee again of this matter.’ V32.
‘Howbeit certain men clave/joined unto him, and believed: among the which was Dionysius the Areopagite, and a woman named Damaris, and others with them.’ V34.
Let us bear faithful witness to all those with whom we come in contact –arm yourself with good tracts and ‘be ready always’ (1 Peter 3:15).
(Note: Refs from the KJV unless otherwise noted –and emphasis added.)