An Imperishable Body

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” (vv. 52b–53).

- 1 Corinthians 15:50–58

As God’s revelation progressed, the old covenant people increasingly understood that the Feast of Trumpets was not given to them simply as an end in itself but as a foretaste of things to come. Just as God once summoned the people to Mt. Sinai via trumpet (Ex. 19:13) to hear His voice and just as He summoned the people the seventh month via trumpet to hear His Word in Genesis 22 (Lev. 23:23–25), so too would He sound the trumpet one last time and gather all nations for judgment (Ps. 98). That day would be a day of sorrow for unrepentant sinners but one of rejoicing for everyone who trusts in the Lord’s promises, Jew and Gentile alike.

For the faithful old covenant saint, the rejoicing on the final day would include the resurrection of the dead, as it was inconceivable that God could let the bodies of His people rot in the grave forever (Matt. 22:23–33). The physical order, as Genesis 1:31 explains, was very good in its original state; therefore, there is no reason for the Creator to do away with His good creation at the final judgment. Instead, the universe will be redeemed. Salvation, as one theologian has said, is not about getting a sparkly clean soul that floats around on the clouds of heaven playing harps for eternity; rather, salvation is completed in the glorification of the believer’s whole body so that redeemed men and women can live forever in a new heaven and a new earth (Isa. 25; 65:17–25). “Those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt” (Dan. 12:2).

The resurrection of Jesus is proof that this final day is coming. He is the firstfruits of those who have died in faith (1 Cor. 15:20), and the full resurrection harvest of His people is yet to come. Israel’s hope in the Feast of Trumpets has begun to be fulfilled, and now we wait only for that last trumpet blast and the final resurrection of all the dead. This day is coming, says the apostle Paul: “The trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed” (v. 52). Because of the remaining presence of sin, our bodies cannot stand before the Father and survive, but when we are glorified we will be free from sin completely, its presence eradicated, and we will be able to survive the presence of our holy God. This is our greatest hope: “Made like him, like him we rise” (Charles Wesley, “Christ the Lord Is Risen Today”).

Coram Deo

The last trumpet sound will be music to the ears of the redeemed, but it will be a cacophony to those who have refused to submit to the one, true Lord of all. Wicked and righteous alike will be raised, the former to eternal destruction and the latter to life everlasting. Understanding this truth gives urgency to our evangelism and encourages us to press on, knowing that any suffering we face will not last forever.

Passages for Further Study

Jeremiah 51:1–58
Zephaniah 1
Zechariah 9:14–15
1 Thessalonians 4:13–18

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