Behold! I tell 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 trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. 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.”
“O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
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.
(1 Corinthians 15:51-58 ESV)
In the Authorized Version (1611), part of this passage reads, “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.”
Corruption, as the word was understood in the early 1600s, was synonymous with spoilage and decay. We don’t much think about the background of words, but this is a good one to meditate on. When we talk about perishable foods today, the word doesn’t quite convey the flat-out disgust we feel when we come in contact with (and here’s another antiquated word) “carrion” – a dead carcass. In order for something to have “seen corruption,” it has to have been dead for a good long while.
A few years ago Jama and I were sitting on the deck behind our house having dinner with friends on a pleasant summer’s evening. The table was very close to the edge of the deck, which itself was at ground level. About half way through dinner I glanced down at the ground, and there was the carcass of a dead squirrel. Its front legs were raised up near its face, which bore a horrified look. Discussing it later, we all agreed that look was the last thing that squirrel experienced before our dog Truman finished him off. Needless to say, none of us really had much appetite after that. The squirrel had seen corruption, indeed.
And isn’t that what we all fear about death? It isn’t hell that we’re afraid of, though I suppose we ought to be. Most of us are far more afraid of corruption because we so associate our soul with our body. I know people who visit the graves of departed loved ones and speak to the ground, fully believing that is where the person is. But for the Christ-One, for the Christian, what happened to Jesus is promised to happen to you. They said of Jesus, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here. He has risen!”
Jama and I are only in our mid-50s, and yet we already feel like our bodies are falling apart. Partly, that’s our own fault for not getting more exercise. But we are being prepared to move on. We are being convinced daily that this body is not our home. As Paul says, “our commonwealth is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior.” My hope is not in heaven, though. My hope is in Jesus. Whatever heaven may be, I’ve been promised that by simply placing my trust in him, I will be with him in Glory.
As the old hymn says,
Change and decay, in all around I see
O Thou, who changest not, abide with me!
What gets me out of bed most mornings isn’t another day in the paradise that is this world. I can get pretty cynical just feeling whatever new ache my body presents me with. But there is One who knows the aches – who has known every ache the body, heart, and mind have to offer – and who rose… above all that. When I remember him, I get out of bed. I stretch. I smile. I shake off the approaching corruption of body and join him in the adventure that is an endless “Today!” of the soul.