“And we shall be changed.” (1 Cor.15:52)
The concept of “change” is very ancient. In fact it is found in the oldest of this world’s literature, the Book of Job. Even though it is sometimes rather difficult to get an exact translation of parts of Job, due to its extreme age, and the manner in which people spoke in those days, there is clear evidence of resurrection. Job was certain about that, and were it not so, it is doubtful he could have endured his hardships so resolutely.
“O that You would hide me in Sheol, that You would keep me concealed until Your wrath has passed by, that You appoint me a set time, and remember me! If a man die, shall he live again? All the days of struggle I will wait, until my change comes. You will call, and I will answer You, for You long for the work of Your hands.” (Job.14:13-15)
And again, later, he had this to say – (verses immortalised in Handel’s “Messiah”,) “I know that my Redeemer lives, and that He shall stand in the latter day upon the earth, and after my skin has thus been destroyed, then in my flesh I shall see God, Whom I shall see for myself and not a stranger, even though my heart faints within me.” (Job 19:25-27)
Years later David tells us that he understands the same glorious truth. “As for me, I shall behold Your face in righteousness. I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with Your likeness.” (Psalm 17:15)
And later still, Daniel received word directly from the mouth of the Archangel Gabriel which cannot be misunderstood concerning resurrection. “At that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince who stands for the children of your people, and there shall be a time of trouble such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time, and at that time your people shall be delivered, every one found written in the book. And many from among those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to age-lasting life, and some to shame and age-lasting contempt.” (Daniel 12:1-2)
What do these passages tell us? There is no doubt that resurrection life was known from the earliest times. One might reasonably suppose that Adam and Eve would have understood it from the days of their sorrow and expulsion from Eden. It is my belief that this must have been so, otherwise the whole purpose of existence would be meaningless. The sentence, “In the day that you eat thereof, you will surely die” was judicially carried out. They lost their pristine glory, and before the first millennial day expired, they were buried in the earth. If that was all that God told them, then like Paul millennia later, they would have been “of all men the most miserable.” No, I believe God imparted the truth of resurrection life, and gave man hope for the future.
Notice how Job refers to “the change.” He expects a call, and he expects to be able to answer it in his new body. He also says that his Redeemer will stand upon the earth in the last days. Once again we see the importance of this earth in the economy of God. The Millennial Rest of 1,000 years will be a time of government known as “the Kingdom of Heaven.” Although directed from heaven, and heavenly in character, it will be centred on this earth. Who will rule? The Overcomers of the First Resurrection, who will “live and reign with Christ a thousand years.” (Rev.20:4) And if this is so, we must ask ourselves, who will they rule over? The millions on this earth. Christ’s Kingdom will replace all other kingdoms and dominions throughout the world, and in those days, as Isaiah prophesied, “when Your judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness.” (Isa.26:9) The Millennium, although a time of peace and rest, will essentially be a time of judgment. But the word judgment must not be confounded with condemnation, as is commonly thought. God’s judgments are all righteous judgments, and where He sees righteousness manifested in human behaviour, it will be honoured and rewarded, quite the opposite of what often happens in the world now.
David speaks about being satisfied in resurrection by his transformation into a degree of likeness of His Lord. Like Job, he longed for the day when he would be able to look on the Lord’s face. That would be the ultimate satisfaction. So many of God’s children have had this same longing, and so often they have wanted to celebrate it in song. I am reminded of two in particular, and see no reason why the words should not be displayed here.
“We shall see His lovely face, some bright golden morning,
When the clouds have rifted, and the shades have flown;
Sorrow will be turned to joy, heartaches gone for ever,
No more night, only light, when we see His face.”
(Norman J. Clayton)
“When mine eyes behold the King in His glory, so resplendent with the light of His love,
How my heart will leap with joy, and with singing, I shall join the ransomed chorus above.
O it doth not yet appear what we shall be, but we know we shall be like Him at last,
In His image we shall some day awaken, when the cares and trials of earth are all past.
That great day shall come, O Christian, believe it, we shall see Him as He is over there,
Blessed hope that fills our souls with all comfort, blessed vision that fulfils every prayer.
When mine eyes behold the King in His glory, then new beauty in my Lord I shall see,
I shall reign for ever more with my Saviour, with the Son of God who died for me.”
(A.H. & B.D. Ackley)
Turning now to Gabriel’s words to Daniel, we find even more information to help us in this inquiry. He speaks about Michael “standing up.” The occurrence of this expression is found liberally scattered throughout the very difficult chapter 11 of Daniel, in which various world rulers “stand up,” in other words, come to power. The fact that the Archangel Michael stands up, signifies a change from human to heavenly rule. The result of this “standing up” is the Great Tribulation. Why so? Because once the Kingdom of God is manifested, it will be a time of tremendous conflict on earth. However, during this conflict, resurrections will occur, and the important thing to notice is that some will be raised to age-lasting life, whilst others will be raised to “shame and age-lasting contempt.” This may come as a surprise to those who have the future all mapped out according to commonly accepted evangelical eschatology.
During that Great Tribulation “some of those of understanding shall fall, to try them and purge them, to make them white, even to the time of the end, because it is yet for a time appointed.” (Dan:11:35) I know there is a sharp division between those who believe in a “pre-trib. rapture” and those who believe in a “posttrib. rapture,” but it seems to me that the beginning of the Kingdom of God is going to be a very troubled time. The powers of evil are not going to be vanquished in a day. But something is going to happen which is totally unexpected on earth. People will appear in resurrection bodies. They will be able to administer righteous judgment. They will be hated by those who love darkness rather than light, and will often be assaulted, even shot at, by those who find their presence an embarrassment to their clandestine ways. But the Lord’s “Rose of Sharon” is indestructible. No bullets are effectual, no assault capable of causing harm. Indeed those who perpetrate such crimes against them will find their actions boomerang on their own heads.
But during this same time, the Lord will raise to (ordinary human) life certain people from the past who have a task to put right certain grievous wrongs from their former life. Such men as Darwin, who will have to persuade people against his devilish theory of evolution, and Mohammed, who will have to persuade the Moslem world that he has been the author of untold evil through the Koran, and many others. They will certainly be received with the utmost contempt by mankind in general, but God will give them the opportunity of putting right their own individual wrongs. This is seldom understood, but I have seen it expressed in “The Bible Study Monthly”, a British journal of exposition that has been circulating since the 1930s. A series of articles may be found there, entitled “In the Land of Beginning Again.” One of the characters presented is that of Herod the Great, and what it will be like for him in resurrection, and how he pays for his many sins.
And so we must now pass on the passage in the New Testament where the word “change” is used, namely 1 Cor.15:52. “In a moment, in the wink of an eye, . . . the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.”
The Greek word for “change” is ALLASSO. To get a better impression of what it means, we can refer to three other passages in the N.T. where the verb occurs. First of all, Acts 6:14. “We have heard him [Stephen] say that this Jesus of Nazareth shall destroy this place, and change customs which Moses delivered to us.” The implication was that Jesus would exchange existing Mosaic legislation for something different.
Romans 1:23. Paul speaks about those who “change the glory of the incorruptible God into an image like to corruptible man, etc.” Here again, we find the idea of one thing being exchanged for another.
Finally, Hebrews 1:12. Paul speaks about the heavens and the earth, “and as a mantle you will roll them up, as a garment they will be changed.” This reminds us of Revelation 21:1 “I saw a new heaven and earth.” The former heaven and earth had at that time been exchanged for a new heaven and earth.
In all of these passages, the exchange process is from like to like, not like to unlike. We remember in the story of Aladdin there were “new lamps for old.” The lamps were not being exchanged for something totally different. It was new lamps for old lamps. And so when Paul speaks about us being “changed” he does so by teaching that the old human body will be exchanged for a new resurrection body. It is like to like. Our Lord’s resurrection body was like His human body. He was recognisable, even though He possessed qualities that were not present in His human state. This is the teaching about our “change.”
Finally in this number we notice that the “exchange” takes place “in the wink of an eye.” Yes, when the Lord’s time arrives those who are marked out for resurrection will suddenly become aware that this has happened, and from that moment everything will begin to be different. You will notice that I am not speaking about being whisked up into the air in a white dress. I am talking about a process that takes place right here at ground level without it being recognised by others immediately. However, the rationale behind that must wait unto next time.