In the twinkling of an eye
What have been the decisive moments in your life? Can you pinpoint certain choices or “chance encounters” that have shaped your destiny? One single piece of news, good or bad, can change everything. Sometimes our whole world can turn “in the twinkling of an eye.”
When the Apostle Paul coined this phrase, he had an even bigger change in mind. Not just our world, but the world will change…
“in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye… the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.” (1 Corinthians 15:52)
Paul is talking about something absolutely cosmic. The dead will be raised, the curse will be abolished, the whole universe will be renewed. All “in the twinkling of an eye.” How can he be so sure? How can we?
Paul started out as a renowned Jewish scholar. He knew the Hebrew Scriptures (what we might call “the Old Testament”) inside-out. And he’d heard about these Christians claiming to have found the Messiah. They maintained that His name was Jesus, that He died not long ago in Jerusalem and that He rose again from the dead, just as the Scriptures predicted.
But for whatever reason, Paul did not believe them. In fact he made it his life’s mission to eradicate these Christians and their subversive claims. He was on his way to Damascus to destroy some more churches when he had the original “Damascus road experience.” He met the risen Jesus. This was Paul’s life changing moment. Suddenly he realized that Jesus was the long-promised Messiah, that He had died for our sins and He had risen from the dead. The rest of his life was dedicated to spreading this good news.
He planted churches all around the eastern half of the Mediterranean and his letters to the churches make up half the books of the New Testament. The one we’re considering now (First Corinthians) is probably the earliest letter we have from him.
In it Paul lays out the facts…
…that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: And that he was seen… (1 Corinthians 15:3-5)
Paul was one of those who had seen the risen Jesus. But there were also more than 500 other eye-witnesses to Christ. They had seen Him after death and before He returned to heaven.
And so Paul proclaims this good news: Jesus, the Messiah, has gone through death – the death that we deserve for our sins. But, just as the bible had always promised, He has come out the other side into immortal, bodily, resurrection life.
Perhaps though you’re thinking – what does this have to do with the world changing “in the twinkling of an eye”?
Christ’s Resurrection – the World’s Resurrection
Here is Paul’s logic: Since Jesus rose from death, all things will be raised.
Why should that be? Because Jesus is the “firstfruits” of a bumper crop:
Now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept [i.e. “have died”]. (1 Corinthians 15:20)
You might wonder what “firstfruits” are. If a farmer wanted to know the quality of his future harvest, he would sample the “firstfruits.” These were the parts of the crop that ripened first and gave an indication of what was to come. If the firstfruits were poor, the harvest would be poor. If the firstfruits were good, the harvest would be good.
Well Jesus was planted into the ground on Good Friday and He sprouted up renewed on Easter Sunday. He then appeared to hundreds of people as the firstfruits of a cosmic crop. He displayed the quality of the coming harvest, walking with them, talking with them, cooking for them, eating and drinking with them. All who saw Him were awed and overjoyed. In all He did He showed them the kind of resurrection life that He had pioneered. This is what the whole world can look forward to: walking, talking, eating, drinking, communal, joyful, eternal, bodily life, with Jesus at the centre.
Just like a needle pierces through black cloth and comes out the other side, so Jesus passed through death and into immortality. But for “those who belong to Him” (1 Corinthians 15:23) we will be pulled through like thread. Jesus, was the first to come through death, but He guarantees a future beyond death for all who are united to Him.
Yesterday, Today and Forever
On Easter Sunday the world changed forever. But it changed in microcosm. Jesus rose up new at the Head of His world, the Firstfruits of a cosmic crop.
Today, those who trust in Jesus become united to Him. Right now believers share spiritually in His new life. We have His Spirit and His promise of an eternal, physical future.
But, in the twinkling of an eye, Jesus will return from heaven to earth. On that day He will apply His resurrection power to the whole world. And those who trust Him will share physically in His new life.
How do you handle the subject of death? Do you live in denial? Live in fear? Live for now? Jesus gives us another way. He has blazed a trail through death and says to all who trust Him:
“Because I live, ye shall live also.” (John 14:19)
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