July 13, 2013
Commentary on First Corinthians
By: Tom Lowe
Topic #9: The Problem of the Resurrection of Christ and of Believers, 1 Corinthians 15.1-15.58


Lesson 9.6: The Mystery of the End-Time
 Scripture: 1 Corinthians 15.51-15.58


1 Cor 15.51-15.58 (KJV)

51 Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,
52 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. 53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.
54 So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.
55 O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?
56  The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law.
57 But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
58 Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.


We have no reason to give up because Jesus has conquered sin and death! If you really believe in the resurrection and return of Jesus, verse 58 will characterize your life. The best is yet to come, so let us give Him our best now.



51 Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,

“Behold” is a word that calls attention to that which immediately follows; it conveys the thought that it is of great consequence, and therefore people should stop what they are doing and listen to the speaker. It is used 1342 times in the King James Bible.

I shew you a mystery;
This is not the first time Paul talked about mysteries; earlier in this letter he mentioned it as it relates to the wisdom of God—“But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory” (1 Cor 2:7; NKJV).

What is a “mystery?” For our purposes a “mystery” is something which had not been revealed in the Old Testament but is now revealed in the New Testament. It is something which you cannot learn through the senses of seeing and hearing. And it has not entered into the heart of man—that is, it is not something many would have thought of. It is a fact which must be revealed by God. Furthermore, the word, as it is used here, does not mean that it is unintelligible, but only that they did not know it until now. Perhaps it would have been clearer if Paul had stated it this way: "I now communicate to you a truth which has not been brought into the discussion, and in regard to which no communication has been made to you." There had not been a revelation on this subject; although the Pharisees understood that the dead would rise, yet they do not seem to have made any statement in regard to the living that would remain after the dead had risen. And perhaps the subject had not engaged the attention of the apostles, because the Lord Jesus had not spoken directly to them about the subject. Then here, Paul says that he was about to communicate a great truth, which until then had been unknown, and additionally, he would settle a major issue on which there had, as of yet, been no revelation. In fact, this is in response to the third subject of inquiry in the chapter—the question was “What will become of those who are alive when the Lord Jesus shall return to raise the dead?” This was a logical inquiry, and the answer was supposed to be difficult. Paul, however, answers it directly, and says that they will undergo an instantaneous change, which will make them like the dead that shall be raised.
We shall not all sleep,
Here he tells them something that had been concealed from them or unknown to them until then—that all the saints would not die, but all would be changed. Those that are alive at our Lord’s coming will be caught up into the clouds, without dying—“Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord” (1 Thess 4:17; NKJV). We are not all going to go down through the doorway of death. “But we shall all be changed.” Whether you die or don’t die, you must still be changed. Sometimes we hear people say, “I hope I am alive when Christ returns, so that I will just go into His presence.” Well, before any of us can go into His presence, we’ll have to be changed.

“We” refers to Christians; a category that includes all believers together, those who were alive then as well as those who were to live afterwards. The following comments may, perhaps, remove some of the difficulty related to the interpretation of this passage. The objection which has been raised at this point is that Paul expected to live until the Lord Jesus returned and that meant that he expected that the world would end soon, and that he was mistaken about this, and could not have been inspired. To this we offer the following comments:
1. He is speaking of Christians per se—of the whole church of Christ that had been redeemed by the Savior—of the entire mass of humanity that would one day enter heaven; and he groups them all together, and connects himself with them when he says, "We shall not die.” When the whole discussion is considered it becomes apparent that he is not referring only to those whom he was addressing at that time. The argument relates to Christians—to the church at large; and the announcement that he made is for that church, that was to be raised up on the last day.
2. Paul did not believe that the Lord Jesus would return soon or that the world would soon come to an end. This is apparent from a statement he made in the first epistle to the Thessalonians, which is very similar to this verse. In 1 Thessalonians 4:15, he uses language remarkably similar to that which is used here: “For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep.” This language was interpreted by the Thessalonians to say that the world would soon come to an end, and that produced a state of alarm within the congregation. To correct this, Paul took special pains to show, in his second epistle to them, that he did not mean any such thing. He showed them (2 Thessalonians 2) that the end of the world was not near; that very important events were to occur before the world would come to an end; and that his language did not imply any expectation on his part that the world would soon terminate, or that the Lord Jesus would soon come.
3. Similar language occurs in other places in the New Testament, and with a similar significance. For instance, John says, “Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour” (1 John 2:18; NKJV). And in Hebrews it says, “Has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds” (Heb 1:2; NKJV). But the meaning in both places is not that the world would soon come to an end. The Old Testament prophets spoke of a period which they called "the last days" (See Isaiah 2:2, Micah 4:1), as the period in which the Messiah would live and reign. They were writing about the last dispensation under which the world would end; a period during which the Messiah would reign, which would end human existence forever. But it did not mean that this was to be a short period; or that it might not be longer than any one of the former dispensations. This was that which John spoke of as “the last hour.”
4. I do not think that the doctrine of inspiration suffers as a result of this, since the apostles were ignorant of the exact time when the world would end, and perhaps even of the period in which it would take place; didn’t Jesus say that He didn’t know and that the only one who did was God Himself. The following thoughts are offered on this subject to show that the claim of inspiration did not extend to the knowledge of this fact.
a. They were not omniscient, and it is no more of an absurdity in supposing that they were ignorant on this subject than in regard to any other.
b. Inspiration included the order of future events, but not the date. There is no place in the Scriptures where the time when the world would cease is given.
c. The Saviour specifically said that it was not intended that they should know when future events would occur. Therefore, after His ascension when He was asked whether He would now restore the kingdom to Israel, He said, "It is not for you to know the times or the seasons which the Father hath put in his own power” (Acts 1:7).
d. The Saviour said, that even he himself, as man, was ignorant in regard to the exact time in which future events would occur. "But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father" (Mark 13:32).
e. The apostles were in fact ignorant and mistaken in regard to the time of the occurrence of at least one future event, the death of John—“Then this saying went out among the brethren that this disciple would not die. Yet Jesus did not say to him that he would not die, but, "If I will that he remain till I come, what is that to you?" (John 21:23; NKJV). At the time John wrote these words he did not understand just what Jesus meant. But the testimony of ancient history is clear on this point; and though there have been many idle assumptions about this passage and about the fate of John, yet no fact of history is substantiated better than that John died and was buried at Ephesus.

There is, therefore, no digression from the generally accepted doctrine of inspiration, in supposing that the apostles were not inspired on these subjects, and that they might be as ignorant about them as others were. The proper order of events they state truly and exactly; God did not, for wise reasons, intend to make known the exact time.

Jesus Christ repeatedly overturned the enemy, Death, and robbed Death of its sting (1 Cor. 15:26; 2 Tim. 1:8–10). After Lazarus’ dead body had been in its grave for four days, Jesus prayed, and then called Lazarus back to life (John 11:1–44). When Jesus arrived at the house of Jairus, He found the ruler’s twelve-year-old daughter dead. He took the child by the hand and told her to arise. To her parents’ astonishment, she came back to life (Mark 5:38–42). Jesus stopped a funeral procession in Nain. He touched the open coffin of a widow’s only son and commanded him back to life. Then Jesus presented the living son to his mother (Luke 7:11–15).
In Scripture, death is often connected with sin (Rom. 6:23; 5:12–21). Death was considered a curse when it occurred to someone in the prime of life or to a childless person.
Death has two stages: 1) The permanent cessation of all bodily vital functions and the separation of the spirit and soul from the body (James 2:26); and finally 2) Resurrection in Christ (Is. 26:19). Through His death and resurrection, Jesus gives to all hope for everlasting life (John 5:24).


Death will never appear in the regions to which our Lord will carry his risen saints. Therefore let us agree in the full assurance of faith and hope, that in the midst of pain, and in the prospect of death, we may think calmly on the horrors of the grave; assured that our bodies will sleep there, and in the mean time our souls will be present with the Redeemer. Not all believers will sleep (“die”); there will be some on the earth who will be alive when Christ comes but we can all be assured of one thing…

but we shall all be changed,
All who are alive when the Lord Jesus returns shall undergo a change to make them ready to enter their new abode in heaven; it will make them like those who shall be raised from the dead. “We shall all be changed;” the living who meet Christ, as well as the dead who are raised up. Both groups shall be made immortal and incorruptible.

“We shall all be changed;” but how will that come about? This change will be instantaneous, (See 1 Corinthians 15:52) because it is obvious that God can just as easily change the living as He can raise the dead; and since the affairs of the world will have come to an end, there will be no need for those who are alive at that time to be removed by death, and it would not be appropriate for them to go down an lie in the grave for a period of time. The ordinary laws, therefore, by which men are removed to eternity, will not operate in regard to them, and they will be removed at once to their new abode.

This was a mystery, but now it is revealed—that we shall not all sleep; we shall not all die; but we shall all be changed: this was something the Jews did not suspect. But since flesh and blood cannot inherit glory, and all shall not be found dead at the Day of Judgment, then all must be changed—undergo a change that that will cause their bodies to become spiritual, like the bodies of those who shall be raised from the dead. The putting off of the corruptible body and the putting on of an incorruptible one by an instantaneous change will, in the case of "the quick (living)," be equivalent to death, which is appointed to all men—“And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment” (Heb 9:27; NKJV). Enoch and Elijah were exceptions to the rule. The "we" implies that Christians in that age and every successive age were supposed to wait in anticipation, living as if Christ might come again while they are living.

52  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.

In a moment,
“In a moment” or in the smallest particle of time. Mr. Webster defines the word: “an indefinitely short period of time; instant.”—a period of time which cannot be reduced or divided: A single instant; immediately. It will be done instantaneously. The Greek word is “en atomo” from which we get our word “atom.” Scientists made a big mistake when they called that little fellow an atom. They thought they had found the smallest particle of matter, and now they can cut up the little atom like an apple pie. It would have been better if we had named it a “stoicheion,” which means “a building block.” Actually, Simon Peter uses this word in his second epistle when he says that the elements (stoicheion) shall melt with a fervent heat. And he wasn’t even a scientist; he was a fisherman. But the Spirit of God knew a little about science!

The bodies of the living shall be altered, as well as the bodies of those that are dead; and this will occur in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye—both expressions indicate the suddenness with which it will happen. Is there anything almighty power cannot achieve? That power that calls to the dead and makes them live can surely abruptly change the living; and they must be changed as well as the dead, for the reason that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God. This is the mystery which the apostle explains to the Corinthians: “Behold, I show you a mystery;” or bring to light a truth that was dark and unknown before.

in the twinkling of an eye,
This is an expression also denoting the least conceivable duration of time. The suddenness of the coming of the Lord Jesus is in another place compared to a thief that comes in the night; “As a thief in the night,” an expression which indicates that it will begin unexpectedly—“But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, and the elements will be dissolved with fire, and the earth and the works that are upon it will be burned up” (2 Peter 3:10; RSV). The Greek word rendered "twinkling," means a throw, cast, jerk, as of a stone; and then a jerk of the eye, i.e., a wink. In the twinkling of an eye and as quick as a man can wink are expressions which show that this mighty work is to be done by the almighty power of God, the same way He does all his works; He speaks, and it is done. The resurrection of all the dead, from the foundation of the world to that time, and the change of all the living upon earth shall take place in the twinkling of an eye. How long is that? Is a twinkle when the lid goes down or when it comes up, or is it both of them? Well, it simply means in a moment, in a fraction of a second. There won’t even be time to say, “Here He comes” or “He is here!”

Here the apostle makes known a truth that was unknown before, which is that the saints living at our Lord’s second coming will not die, but be changed, and that this change will be made in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye,

at the last trump:
We do not know the date, but we do know how the arrival of the Lord will be announced. This great event is described in 1 Thessalonians 4:16: “For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first.” Will there be trumpets there? No, it is His voice that will be like a trumpet. Can we be sure of this? In Revelation 1:10, John, who was exiled to the Isle of Patmos, wrote, “I was in the Spirit on the Lord ’s Day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet.” He turned to see who it was, and he saw the glorified Christ. It is the voice of the glorified Christ that is like the sound of a trumpet. That ought to get rid of all this foolishness about Gabriel blowing his horn or blowing a trumpet. I don’t think Gabriel even owns a trumpet, but if he has one, he won’t need to blow it. The Lord Jesus is not going to need the help of Gabriel. Do you think the Lord Jesus needed Gabriel to come and help Him raise Lazarus from the dead? Can you imagine the Lord Jesus at the tomb of Lazarus saying, “Gabriel, won’t you come over here and help Me get this man out of the grave?” How absolutely foolish! The Lord Jesus will not need anyone to help Him. When He calls His church, their bodies will come up out of the graves.

The time for this glorious event is designated as, “at the last trump.” It is given that title because it signals the end of the present age. It is His last call, and it is for His saints only. It is already too late for unbelievers. They will shortly stand before the Lord Jesus, and I do not think they will have anything to say before He passes sentence on them, because we are told in Romans 1 that they will be “without excuse.”

for the trumpet shall sound,
There are at least two opinions regarding the proper interpretation of this part of the verse. The FIRST says, “It is the loud summons of all the living and all the dead, to come and appear at the tribunal of Christ, and it is the signal for the close of all earthly things.” Here the apostle confirms the substance of the tradition which holds that there shall be the sound of a trumpet on this great day; and there are other scriptures that teach the same thing: see Zechariah 9:14; Matthew 24:31; John 5:25; 1 Thessalonians 4:16: in the latter case, the apostle treats this subject among the Thessalonians, as he does here among the Corinthians. Christ will call His own with a loud voice, and a trumpet will announce the end of the world.

The Lord will come in person to receive the church with the sound of a trumpet, and His voice will be like that of an archangel. He will not need any help to gather His church together. He died for the church, and He will bring it together. The ELECT are the saved who have come to faith in Christ by the grace of God and are gladly anticipating their Lord’s return. On His last call to mankind, He will call the dead back to life. He said, “… Lazarus, come forth” (John 11:43). Someday He will say to me, “Tom, come forth.” And He will also call you by name.

The SECOND opinion is based on the words of the Lord Jesus, “And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his ELECT from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other” (Matt 24:31; KJV). The ELECT spoken of in this verse is the nation Israel. The prophets in the Old Testament foretold of a miracle that would bring the Jews back into their land. (This is not the church which is going to be caught up out of this world to meet the Lord in the air. Angels are not connected with the Rapture.) When He says that the “angels … shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other,” we can be sure that He is talking about the nation Israel—ministering angels have always been connected with Israel.

and the dead shall be raised incorruptible,
The little worn “and” means that it will happen “immediately, in consequence.” When Christ returns, the dead in Christ will be raised first—at this summons the graves shall open, and the dead saints shall rise incorruptible. They will have a new body similar to the resurrection body of Christ and they will never die again.

When this clause and the next are considered together there are two groups in view. The first group is “THE DEAD shall be raised incorruptible,” and the second is “WE shall be changed.” The term “dead” refers to those who have died in Christ—“Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live… Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice” (John 5.25, 28; KJV). What does He mean when He says, “the hour … now is”? Well, we’re in that period of the hour that is coming. Verse 28 makes it clear that the hour has not yet arrived, but “the hour is coming.” The whole thought is that we are living in the period or the age or the dispensation that is moving to the time when “the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live.”

If we are in the period of the “hour that is coming,” then what does He mean that it also “now is”? Who are the dead who hear His voice now? In John 11 where we have the incident in which Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, you will remember that He said to the two sisters at the time of the death of Lazarus, “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” (John 11:25–26; KJV). Does “Though he were dead” mean the person that is in the grave hears? No, no, this is referring to spiritual death! Death means separation from God. The hour is coming when those who are in the grave shall hear His voice and shall live, but the hour is now when those who are spiritually dead hear His voice and live. Paul wrote to the Ephesian believers that they had been dead in trespasses and sins. That is the spiritual condition of everyone. But then, “he that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death [out of spiritual death] unto life,” the life that He gives. So in verses 25 and 28 He is talking about two separate things. The time is now when Christ gives spiritual life. The hour is coming when He will raise the dead out of the grave.

and we shall be changed.

The term “we” refers to those who are still living at the time of the Rapture. They are the living saints who will be changed to the same incorruptible state—“Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord” (1 Thess 4:17; KJV). All the church, the saints of past ages, and the saints of the last age, shall ascend together to meet the Lord. “So shall we ever be with the Lord.” That glorious meeting shall never end.
1. Observe the sequence of events on this glorious day, but first note that there are two resurrections that are to occur in the future, which are inclusive of "all that are in the graves" (John 5:28). These are distinguished as "of life" (1Co 15:22, 23; 1Th 4:14-17; Rev 20:4) and "of judgment" (John 5:28, 29; Rev 20:11-13). They are separated by a period of one thousand years (Rev 20:5). The "first resurrection," that "unto life," will occur at the second coming of Christ (1Co 15:23) when the living and dead saints of the O.T. and church ages will meet Him in the air (1Th 4:16, 17). The martyrs of the tribulation, who also have part in the resurrection (Rev 20:4) are raised at the end of the great tribulation
2. Jesus, in all the dignity and splendor of His eternal majesty, shall descend from heaven to the mid region, what the apostle calls the air, somewhere within the earth's atmosphere.
3. Then the shout or order, shall be given by Christ for the dead to arise.
4. Next the archangel, as the herald of Christ, shall repeat the order—Arise, ye dead, and come to judgment!
5. When all the dead in Christ are raised, then the trumpet shall sound as the signal for them all to flock together to the throne of Christ. It was by the sound of the trumpet that the solemn assemblies, under the law, were convened.
6. When the dead in Christ are raised, their vile bodies shall be made like his glorious body.
7. Those that are alive shall be changed, and made immortal.
8. These shall be caught up together to meet the Lord in the air, and join the dead, who were raised first.
9. We may suppose that the judgment will now take place, and the books opened, and the saints judged out of the things written in those books.
10. The eternal states of the living and dead saints having been determined, they shall be taken to His eternal glory, and be forever with the Lord.
11. After a thousand years the "resurrection unto judgment" John 5:29 occurs. The resurrection-body of the wicked dead is not described. They are judged according to their works, and cast into the lake of fire. Rev 20:7-15

53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.
He gives the reason for this change: “For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.” How else could the man be equipped to inhabit the incorruptible regions, or be made fit to enjoy the eternal inheritance? How can that which is corruptible and mortal enjoy what is incorruptible, permanent, and immortal? This corruptible body must be made incorruptible; this mortal body must be changed into immortal, in order for the man to be capable of enjoying the happiness planned for him. Note, It is this corruptible that must put on incorruption; the ravaged material that must be transformed and raised again. What is sown must be quickened. Saints will come in their own bodies, not in other bodies—“But God giveth it a body as it hath pleased him, and to every seed his own body” (1 Cor 15:38; KJV). This is how Paul said it will be in the resurrection. Every one shall have his own, i.e. his proper body—a body which shall belong to him, and be tailor-made for him. The wicked shall not rise with the body of the righteous or with a body adapted to heaven; nor shall the saint rise with a body adapted to perdition. The new body will be unique in that it will be fit and appropriate for the character of him who is raised. The argument here is designed to meet the inquiry “HOW should the body be raised;” and the reply is, that there is nothing more remarkable and impossible in the doctrine of the resurrection than in the fact constantly before us, that grain that seems to rot sends up a shoot or stalk, and is reproduced in a wonderful and beautiful manner. The body will be raised in a manner similar to this; and the illustration that Paul gives meets all the difficulties which some see in the fact of the resurrection. It cannot be shown that one is more difficult than the other; and since the facts of plant life are constantly passing before our eyes, we should not think it strange if similar facts shall become obvious in regard to the resurrection of the dead.

Notice the word “must”—it is emphatic. We cannot go to heaven as we are now. We cannot go to heaven with the old bodies we have. We wouldn’t be able to see what is really up there, nor could we hear the music. Our bodies are quite limited. We are almost deaf and blind as far as heaven is concerned. Even here on earth there is so little of the spectrum that we actually see and so little of the sounds that we actually hear. If we went to heaven in these old bodies, we would miss half of what was taking place. And, my friend, when I go up there, I don’t want to miss a thing! Therefore I’m going to need a new body. “This corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.”

“Must put on” as it is used here means, to go in, to envelope, to put on as a garment; and when it is applied to the soul the meaning is, in a manner of speaking, to be clothed with, or invested with a body; and here it means, must be endued with, or furnished with. It is the same as saying that this corruptible must become incorruptible, and this mortal must become immortal. We must cease to be corruptible and mortal, and must become incorruptible and immortal—“For we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened: not for that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life” (2 Cor. 5.4; KJV). Creation is groaning and God’s people also groan (Rom. 8:18–23), yearning for the Lord Jesus to come again. We do not want to die and leave our “houses”; we want these bodies to be “clothed with” the glory of God from heaven (1 John 3:1–2). Paul longed to see Jesus come in his lifetime and so should we. The righteous that remain till the coming of Christ, shall be changed immediately, and endowed, as Enoch and Elijah were, with incorruption and immortality. It is necessary that a change should take place, either by dying and then being raised, or by being changed without seeing death; for we cannot enter heaven as we are now.

Flesh and blood cannot inherit glory; therefore, there must be a refinement by death, or a change without it. For this corruptible body must give place to the incorruptible body; the mortal body to an immortal one. One must be “put off,” the other “put on”—“For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven” 2 Cor 5:2; KJV). The idea is that we are subjected to so many trials, afflictions, pain, and suffering in the present body that we earnestly desire to own that body which shall be free from all susceptibility to suffering. Paul’s desire for that pure, spiritual, and undecaying body which was to be the eternal abode of his soul in heaven was so great that he speaks of it as a house, a more permanent and substantial dwelling than a tent, or tabernacle.

IMMORTALITY  is exemption from death; the state of living forever. Thus, immortality is the opposite of mortality, or being subject to death. In the Bible, the word “immortality” refers primarily to the spirit, but is also used to describe the resurrected or transformed body.
The biblical concept of immortality is rooted in our creation in God’s image and likeness (Gen. 1:26–27). God is spirit; as the Eternal, God is also immortal (1 Tim. 6:16). So the reference in Genesis is not to bodily form but to spiritual nature. “And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being” (Gen. 2:7). God made people to live forever, physically and spiritually. At death the body returns to dust (Gen. 3:19), but the spirit lives on.

54 So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.

 So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality,

“So when” points forward to that future glorious world when all that Paul has mentioned shall have been accomplished. There are two groups represented here; but both groups are alike in that they are corruptible and mortal. That to which both groups are changed is likewise the same, designated as incorruption and immortality.

then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written,
“Then shall be brought to pass” refers to something the apostle is about to say; something that shall be completely accomplished. In other words, his words shall be entirely fulfilled; or this event shall meet all that is implied in these words.

“The saying that is written” means what is written, or the record which is made. The saying is, of course, the next clause: “Death is swallowed up in victory.”  These words are quoted from Isaiah 25:8—“HE WILL SWALLOW UP DEATH IN VICTORY; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from off all faces; and the rebuke of his people shall he take away from off all the earth: for the LORD hath spoken it;” and the fact that Paul quotes them here, and the context in which they stand, prove that they had reference to the times of the gospel, and to the resurrection of the dead.

Death is swallowed up in victory.
He lets us know what will be a consequence of this change of the living and dead in Christ: “Then shall be brought to pass that saying, Death is swallowed up in victory;” or, “He will swallow up death in victory” (Isa. 25:8). Because mortality shall be then swallowed up of life (2 Co. 5:4), and death perfectly subdued and conquered, and saints for ever delivered from its power. The conquest of death shall be such that it shall disappear forever in those regions to which our Lord will bear his risen saints; and therefore the saints will sing their song of triumph. Then, when this mortal shall have put on immortality, will death be swallowed up forever. Christ hinders it from swallowing his saints when they die; but, when they rise again, death shall, as far as His saints are concerned, be swallowed up forever. And upon this destruction of death, they will break out into a song of triumph. This is the victory of the Resurrection.

Death has a sting today, even for the believer, in that his body is to be under its power until the resurrection. But then the sting and power of death shall cease forever. Here, death is personified and represented as a devouring being, swallowing up all the generations of men; but by the resurrection of the body and the destruction of the empire of death, God is represented as swallowing up death. What a glorious time it will be, when the inhabitant of the eternal kingdom will never again say, I am sick; when God shall have wiped away all tears from off all faces, and when there shall be no more death. The idea is that the power and dominion of death shall be entirely destroyed, or brought to an end. This is the final victory, the victory over death. This time must come. Hallelujah! The Lord God Omnipotent reigneth.

55 O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?

O death, where is thy sting?
This is the exclamation of a man who has been contemplating the devastation of death; who seems to be thinking about his past life, and suddenly he recognizes the glorious truth, that a complete and final triumph has been obtained for HIM over this great enemy, DEATH. It is a triumphant notion which bursts upon his mind as it contemplates the fact that the work of the second Adam has repaired that which the first Adam so severely damaged, and that man is redeemed; his body will be raised, and he does not need to fear death, any more. But that is not all, there is more. Death is not only beaten; it shall not only shut down, but all of the damage it has done shall be repaired; and glory and honor shall cover the body of man. Nothing I could say can add to the beauty and force of the language in this verse; and the best way to see its beauty, and to enjoy it, is to sit down and think about DEATH; of what death has been, and has done; of the millions and millions that have died; of the earth strewed with the graves of the dead; of our own death; the certainty that we must die, and of our parents, and brothers, and sisters, and children, and friends; that all of them must die--and then to grasp the truth, in all its splendor, that the time will come when CHRIST SHALL PUT AN END TO DEATH AND WE WILL RISE FROM THE GRAVE, NEVER TO DIE AGAIN. Can anyone that contemplates such a glorious prospect refrain from giving voice to this shout of triumph, “O death, where is thy sting?”

Death has lost its sting because we are to look way out beyond death. It is a doorway that opens up the vast regions of eternity. It starts us down the hallway, not of time, but of eternity. But I don’t like going through that door, because it is usually painful. But we will all have to pass through that door, unless Jesus returns first.

We should now look into the meaning of the apostle's expression—“O death, where is thy sting?” The word which is rendered STING (κεντρον) denotes a stinger, dagger, or a goad (a rod or staff with an iron point, for driving cattle). Therefore, a STING means the hurt done by scorpions, bees, etc. Here it stands for a venomous thing, or weapon, possessed by DEATH (personified) and used to destroy life. The idea is derived from the venomous sting of serpents, or other reptiles, which is very destructive and painful, and may cause DEATH. The apostle, having contemplated the effect of DEATH exclaims “O death, where is thy sting,” as if it was taken away or destroyed.

This may have been quoted from Hosea 13:14—“I will ransom them from the power (Heb. Hand) of the grave; I will redeem them from death: O death, I will be thy plagues; O grave, I will be thy destruction: repentance shall be hid from mine eyes.” Here it is the triumphant shout of the apostle as he sees by faith the final victory over death. Hosea said it about the nation Israel, but we can apply it to this verse, if we see the prophet in the person of the Redeemer, "O death, I will be thy plagues;" I will destroy your reign and kingdom. The Prince of life will lie under your power for a time, so that He may destroy that power.

O grave, where is thy victory?
A “GRAVE” is a place where the dead are buried. In general, the Hebrew people buried their dead in graves much as we do today, except that they were not as deep. In towns and cities the burial grounds were situated outside the city limits (Luke 7:12; John 11:30). Evidence of this may be seen today in the many graves in the Kidron Valley east of Jerusalem and at the Essene community overlooking the Dead Sea. Plain stones or a stone slab were used to cover the grave as a safeguard against animals and to mark the burial place (2 Sam. 18:17). In some instances hewn stones were used. Occasionally expensive pillars were used as memorials (2 Kin. 23:17), such as the pillar Jacob erected over Rachel’s grave (Gen. 35:20), which today is marked by a building over the traditional site.

Natural caves were often used as family burial sites. The most famous of these is the cave of MACHPELAH (Genesis 23), which was purchased by Abraham for this purpose. A building constructed over its location may still be seen in Hebron (Gen. 23:2).

Wealthy people, such as Joseph of Arimathea (John 19:38–42), sometimes cut a family tomb out of solid rock. To cover the entrance, a large circular stone in a groove was rolled in front of the entrance and sealed. The “Garden Tomb” outside Jerusalem is a good example of this type of burial site.

“O grave! where is thy victory” is the second part of the exclamation voiced by this man that has been contemplating the mystifying subject of DEATH. Where is your victory now? What has become of it? Where are the spoils and trophies of your victory? It is not the GRAVE that is meant here, but HADES or HELL, which is represented as a prison. “Once we were your prisoners, but the prison-doors burst open, the locks and bolts were forced to give way, our shackles were knocked off, and we were released forever. Captivity is taken captive. The imaginary victor is conquered, and forced to resign his conquest and release his captives. Hell can never triumph again. The chains of death cannot hold us and we are pardoned, at liberty, and will never again be hurt by death, or imprisoned in Hell.’’ In the time it takes to blink the eye, the power of death, and the conquests and spoils of the grave are gone; and, as for the saints, all signs of them are gone. Where are they? They will rise, when they become immortal, to the honor of their Saviour and the praise of divine grace: they shall glory over vanquished death. Hades, which we have translated here as grave, is generally understood to be the place of separated spirits.

Hades, the grave, and hell are all properly called the place of the dead. The words bring to mind a place of darkness; the world, or abode of the dead. According to the Hebrews, Hades, or sheol, was a vast subterranean receptacle, or abode, where the souls of the dead existed. It was dark, deep, still, awful. The descent into it was through the grave; and the spirits of all the dead were supposed to be assembled there; the righteous occupying the upper regions, and the wicked the lower.

The "where" implies their past victorious destroying power and sting obtained through Satan's triumph over man in Eden, which enlisted God's law on the side of Satan and death and against man—“Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned…For if by one man's offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.)…That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 5:12, 17, 21; KJV)—is now gone forever. The souls in Hades being freed by the resurrection; death's sting and victory are gone.

Death is an awful monster. However, Christ has been down through the valley of death. Just as the ark went down into the Jordan River and over to the other side, so Christ has gone down through the waters of death for me, and He tells me, “I’m your Shepherd. Remember, I not only lead you through this life, but I’ll lead you through the deep waters of death, and I will bring you into eternity.” So like a little child I’m afraid, but I’ll put my hand in His nail–pierced hand, and He will lead me to the other side. “O GRAVE, WHERE IS THY VICTORY?” Since the dead are to rise; since all the graves are to give up all that dwell in them; since no man will die after that, where is its victory? It is taken away. It is despoiled. The power of death and the grave is vanquished, and Christ is triumphant over all.

Although it is commonly believed that Hosea 13.14 is Paul’s inspiration for this verse, he probably did not intend this as a direct quotation; but he spoke as a man naturally does who is familiar with the language of the Scriptures, and used it to express the sense which he intended, without meaning to make a direct and literal quotation.

56  The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law.

THE STING OF DEATH IS SIN and Paul would answer “and yet am I forgiven.” THE STRENGTH OF SIN IS THE LAW, and Paul would exclaim “and yet I am pardoned.”

The sting of death is sin;
Now, the apostle explains himself: death could not have entered into the world if sin had not entered first; it was sin that not only introduced death, but has armed him with all his destroying force; the goad or dagger of death is sin; by this both body and soul are slain. All men die, because all men are sinners—“Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned” (Romans 5:12; NKJV).

THE STING OF DEATH is the sting which death causes; that which he uses to achieve his objective; that which he uses to inflict death; or that which is the cause of death. There would be no death without sin. If there were no sin, death would not bring such horror and fear, because why would innocence be afraid to die? What has innocence to fear anywhere in a universe belonging to a just God? The fact, therefore, that men die, is proof that they are sinners; the fact that they feel horror and fear, is proof that they feel they are guilty, and that they are afraid to go into the presence of a holy God. If this is taken away, if sin is removed, of course, the horror, and remorse, and fear which are produced by it will be removed also. Here the apostle personifies death, as if it was a living being, which makes use of sin to inflict death, or as the instrument, with which he inflicts mortal agony. Sin gives venom to his dart: this alone gives death the power to hurt and kill. The idea is that sin is the cause of death. It introduced it; it makes it certain; it is the cause of the pain, distress, agony, and horror which follow it. Had there been no sin, men would not have died. Unpardoned sin, and nothing else, can keep anyone under his power. THE STING OF DEATH IS SIN; but Christ, by dying, has taken out this sting. He has made atonement for sin; he has obtained remission of it. It may hiss therefore, but it cannot hurt.

and the strength of sin is the law.
 “The strength of sin is the” pure and holy “law” of God. Paul has illustrated this idea at length in Romans 7:9-13. He probably made this statement in order to get the attention of the Jews, and to show that the law of God had no power to take away the fear of death; and for that reason, the gospel was needed because it was the only thing that could remove the fear of death. The Jews insisted that a man might be justified and saved by obedience to the law. But here Paul shows that it is the law which gives sin its severity, and that it does not tend to subdue or destroy it; and that that power is seen most strikingly on the death-bed in the pangs and horrors of a guilty conscience. Therefore, the gospel was needed because it alone could remove the cause of these horrors, by taking away sin, and allowing the pardoned man to die in peace.

The law of God forbids all transgressions, and sentences those who commit them to eternal death. Sin gets its controlling and binding power from the law. The law curses the transgressor, and provides no help for him; and if nothing else intervenes, he must continue forever under the curse of death. “For the law produces wrath; but where there is no law, neither is there violation” (Romans 4:15; NABWRNT). THE LAW PRODUCES WRATH. Eventually failure to keep the law imposes penalties which bring to the law-breaker the wrath of God. BUT WHERE THERE IS NO LAW, NEITHER IS THERE VIOLATION. Paul appears to be drawing on a current legal maxim in the Roman Empire (“no penalty without law”), when here, as in 5:13, he claims that sin is not imputed where there is no law. The law simply declares what is right, and requires conformity to it. But the law does not give either power to obey it or atonement when it is not obeyed.

“The strength of sin is the law;” but the curse of the law is removed by our Redeemer’s becoming a curse for us—so that sin is deprived of its strength and sting, through Christ, that is, by his incarnation, suffering, and death. Death may seize a believer, but cannot sting him, cannot hold him in his power. There is a day coming when the grave shall open, the bands of death be loosed, the dead saints revive, and become incorruptible and immortal, and put out of the reach of death for ever. And then will it clearly appear to them that death will have lost its strength and sting; and all by the mediation of Christ; by his dying in their place. By dying, he conquered death, and ruined the grave; and, through faith in Him, believers share in his conquests. They often rejoice beforehand, in the hope of this victory; and, when they gloriously arise from the grave, they will boldly triumph over death. Note, It is altogether owing to the grace of God in Christ that sin is pardoned and death disarmed. The law puts weapons into the hand of death, to destroy the sinner; but the pardon of sin takes away this power from the law, and deprives death of its strength and sting. It is “by the grace of God, through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, that we are freely justified” (Rom. 3:24).

“The sting of death is sin.”
It is sin that has the real stinger.
“The strength of sin is the law.”
The law is the mirror that shows us we are sinners.


57 But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

What the law could not do, because it is law, (and law cannot provide pardon), is done by the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: He has died to slay death; He has risen to bring mankind out from under the empire of Hades. He has
 done all this through His mercy; and eternal thanks are due to God for this unspeakable gift. He has given us the victory over sin, Satan, death, the grave, and hell. We did not contribute anything to this victory—“O sing unto the LORD a new song; for he hath done marvellous things: his right hand, and his holy arm, hath gotten him the victory” (Ps 98:1; KJV). No man can take credit for this victory. It comes through our Lord Jesus Christ.

The triumph of the saints over death should cause us to praise God: “Thanks be to God, who giveth us the victory through Christ Jesus, our Lord.” The best way to express all our joy is to make it contribute to the praise of God. We enjoy our blessings in a holy manner only when God has received glory for giving them, and this really improves and increases our satisfaction. Then we are conscious of having done our duty and enjoyed our pleasure. And what can be more enjoyable than the saints’ triumph over death, when they shall rise in a glorified body? Then they shall rejoice in the Lord, and be glad in the God of their salvation, and their souls shall magnify the Lord. When he shows such wonders to the dead, what could prevent them from arising and praising Him?—“Will You work wonders for the dead? Shall the dead arise and praise You?” (Psalms 88:10; NKJV). Those who remain under the power of death cannot offer praise; but the conquests and triumphs of our Lord will certainly tune the tongues of the saints to thankfulness and praise—praise for the victory (it is great and glorious in itself). How did we get the victory? Was it because we are smart and clever and are overcomers? No, the victory is given by God through our Lord Jesus Christ; a victory obtained not by our power, but the power of God; not given because we are worthy, but because Christ is worthy, and has by dying obtained this conquest for us. Speaking of the tribulation saints, Revelation 12:11 says that they overcame Satan by the blood of the Lamb. That is the only way any of us will overcome.


58 Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.

This verse may have been inspired by 1 Corinthians 1:9. “GOD IS FAITHFUL [Oh, how faithful He is], BY WHOM YE WERE CALLED UNTO THE FELLOWSHIP OF HIS SON JESUS CHRIST OUR LORD.” I have been called into the fellowship of His Son. Paul has already told us in this epistle that all things are ours. He said that Paul and Apollos and Cephas and the world and life and death and things present and things to come are all ours, and we are Christ’s. Life is ours, and I want to enjoy life. Death is ours, because we have the One who got the victory over death. Things present and things out yonder in the future are all ours. We are more than conquerors through Him who loved us!

Therefore, my beloved brethren,
“Therefore” points back to the great and glorious truths which have been revealed to us regarding the resurrection. Paul has finished his teaching on this important subject, so he brings it to a close by encouraging them to stand firm in their faith, which ought to result from truths so glorious, and from hopes so elevated as these truths are sure to reveal. The statement is so clear that it needs little explanation; it so obviously follows from the argument which Paul had pursued, that there is little need to attempt to emphasize it.

be ye stedfast,
Be ye steadfast means to be firm, strong, and confident in the faith, in view of the truth that you will be raised up. Be not shaken or agitated by the strife, the temptations, and the cares of life. Be resolute in the faith, and do not let the power of sin, or the literalism of philosophy, or the tricks of the enemy of the soul, seduce you from having faith of the gospel, which must include faith in the resurrection. “Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless” (2 Peter 3:14; KJV). Christ’s Christians should practice self-denial and be suspicious of ourselves, and submit to the authority of Christ, before we can wholeheartedly receive all the truths of the gospel, therefore we are in great danger of rejecting the truth. And we should reject all the opinions and thoughts of men that do not line up with the law of God. Those who are led away by false doctrine, temptation, covetness, etc., fall from their own steadfastness. If we want to avoid being led away, we must seek to grow in all grace, in faith, and virtue, and knowledge. We must try to know more about Christ so we can be more like him, and love him more. This is the knowledge of Christ, which the apostle Paul reached after, and desired to attain.

The guidance which the apostle gives is threefold; the first thing he says is BE YE STEDFAST, firm, inflexible in your faith in the gospel; that gospel which he had preached and they had received, namely, That Christ died for our sins, and arose again the third day, according to the scriptures, and firm in your faith in the glorious resurrection of the dead, which, as he had shown, had a close and necessary connection with the Savior’s death. "Do not let your belief in these truths be shaken or toppled. They are undeniable, and of the greatest importance.’’ Christians should be STEDFAST believers in the resurrection of the dead. It is obviously founded on the death of Christ. Because he lives, his servants shall live also. And it is very important, because one who does not believe in a future life will be open to all manner of self-indulgence and wrongdoing. It is easy to assume from this that we may live like dumb animals, and eat and drink, for to-morrow we die.

The second bit of guidance Paul gives them is; you should be UNMOVABLE, namely, in their expectation of this great privilege of being raised incorruptible and immortal. Christians should not be moved away from this hope of this gospel (Col. 1:23), this glorious and blessed hope; they should not renounce or give up their happy expectations. They are not useless, but solid hopes, built upon sure foundations; the purchase and power of their risen Saviour, and the promise of God, who cannot lie. These hopes shall be their most powerful resource and help when they are under all the pressures of life, the most effective antidote for the fear of death, and the most compelling motive for diligence and perseverance in Christian duty. Note, Christians should live with the firm expectation of a blessed resurrection. This hope should be a firm and sure anchor for their souls—“Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast, and which entereth into that within the veil” (Heb. 6:19; KJV). As an anchor holds the ship when the storms are raging, so this hope holds the soul stedfast.

UNMOVABLE and steadfast are very close in meaning, except it is probably a stronger expression than the latter. It is used here to mean, do not let anything shake your faith or move you away from this hope of the Gospel which is given to you. The idea is can be expressed in this way: What I tell you I receive from God; your false teachers cannot say that: you may unshakingly confide in everything God says—“If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister” (1 Colossians 1.23; KJV). Paul’s point is that we have been reconciled—it is an accomplished fact. So if you are a child of God today, you will continue in the faith, grounded and settled. You will not be moved away from the hope of the gospel which you have heard.

always abounding in the work of the Lord,
The final instruction is for them TO ABOUND IN THE WORK OF THE LORD, and to ALWAYS serve Him by obeying His commands. They should be diligent and unrelenting in their work, and in striving for perfection; they should be continually making advances in true godliness and ready and willing to do every good work. The most joyful duty, the greatest diligence, and the most constant perseverance, distinguish those who have such glorious hopes. Can we abound too much in zeal and diligence in the Lord’s work, when we are assured of such abundant compensation in a future life? What enthusiasm and resolution, what faithfulness and patience, should those hopes inspire! Note, Christians should always be growing in holiness and abounding in the work of the Lord. But if you ever do too much for the Lord, let me know; but I do not think you ever will.

THE WORK OF THE LORD is the promotion of Christ's kingdom—“for he nearly died for the work of Christ, risking his life to complete your service to me” (Php 2:30; RSV). Epaphroditus gambled his life recklessly in the service of Christ and in his devotion to the Apostle Paul. The "WORK OF THE LORD" here means, that which the Lord requires; all the appropriate duties of Christians. Paul exhorts them to practice every Christian virtue, and to do all that they could do to further the gospel among men.

What does it mean to be ALWAYS ABOUNDING IN THE WORK OF THE LORD? The work of the Lord is obedience to his holy word; every believer in Christ is a workman for God. He that does not work to bring glory to God and good to man, is not acknowledged as a servant of Christ; and if he is not a servant, he is not a son; and if not a son, then not an heir. And he must not only work, but ABOUND in that work; always doing more that he has done before; and not doing it for a time, but always; beginning, continuing, and ending every act of life to God's glory and the good of his fellow-men.

forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.
FORASMUCH AS YE KNOW (Greek, Knowing) addresses the Corinthian’s knowledge of the subject—you know it by the arguments which have been made for the truth of the gospel, and by your deep conviction that that gospel is true. For Paul it was more than faith. It was knowledge. It was the sure conviction that one day he would share in the glory of the resurrection.

YOUR LABOUR IS NOT IN VAIN, for the reason that it will be rewarded. When you die, it does not mean that you will never live again. There will be a resurrection, and you will be appropriately recompensed at that time. What you do for the honor of God will not only be rewarded with an approving conscience and with happiness here, but it will be met with the glorious and eternal rewards of heaven. You shall have a resurrection unto eternal life: not because you have labored, but because Christ died and gave you grace to be faithful.  That the doctrine of the resurrection is true is so very important, therefore Christians should be firm in sticking to it, and not let themselves be moved by the unfounded and false objections of so called philosophy. They should remember that if the dead do not rise, then Christ did not rise; and if Christ did not rise, their faith is in vain, and they are still in the power of sin. But since Christ has risen, and since his resurrection demonstrates the power that will raise His people, and guarantees it, what is more natural and proper than for them to give themselves fully to the work of the Lord? But you must not only work, you must labor—put all your strength in it, and work and labor for the Lord—under his direction, and by his influence; because without him you can do nothing. And this labor cannot be in vain, for the reason that those who serve God have good wages; they cannot do too much nor suffer too much for so good a Master. If they serve him now, they shall see him hereafter; if they suffer for him on earth, they shall reign with him in heaven; if they die for his sake, they shall rise again from the dead, be crowned with glory, honour, and immortality, and inherit eternal life.

Those that deny the resurrection want to make your faith appear vain—“And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain…And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins” (1 Co. 15.14, 17; KJV). Perhaps you belong to a church which denies that Christ arose from the dead. If Christ is not bodily raised from the dead, then our preaching is vain. Not only that, but our faith is vain also. You might just as well drop your church membership. It’s no good. There is no reason to go to church or to hear a sermon if Christ is not raised from the dead. If Christ is not raised, then, my friend, you are a lost, hell–doomed sinner, and that is all you can ever be. If Christ be not raised, every one of us is still in our sins.

IN THE LORD probably means, "Your labour or work in the Lord, that is, in the cause of the Lord, will not be in vain." And the idea of the whole verse is that the hope of the resurrection and of future glory should stimulate us to make great and self-denying efforts in honor of Him who has revealed that doctrine, and who plans to graciously reward us there. Other men are influenced and eager to labor by the hope of honour, pleasure, or wealth. Christians should be excited to toil and self-denial by the prospect of immortal glory; and by the assurance that their hopes are not in vain.