Thursday, May 26, 2011

Method of Communication (Rev. 1:1).

Christ “communicated it by His angel to His bond servant John” (1:1). The word communicated is the Greek word is esemanen meaning to give a sign, indicate, and translated in the KJV as signified. Osborne says it means to make it known by symbolism.[1] However, it also has a more general meaning of make known, declare, or manifest, as reflected in the NASB.

There is no question that Revelation makes a heavy use of symbols. It has been observed that the presence of symbols has led to two extremes: One has led to the idea that the existence of these symbols “shows that this book cannot be understood and must simply be interpreted in terms of a general conflict between good and evil, the good winning out in the end.”[2] The other extreme is it leads to unchecked speculation and sensationalism, which in some instances led to date-setting of upcoming events.[3] Both of these extremes are to be avoided.

To many students of the Word the use of symbols in Revelation has led to the faulty assumption that nonliteral interpretation is intended. For example Beale says, “The predominant manner by which to approach the material will be according to a non-literal interpretive method.”[4] However, “a symbol is a representative and graphic delineation of an actual event, truth, or object.”[5] Reality lies behind every symbol.

Prophetic symbolism can be interpreted normally, by the customary use of language. By normally and customary, we mean by grammatical-historical methods. This method includes coming to understand the intention and understanding of the writer; the understanding of the reader in his day; and the significance (or application) of the text. While this is generally known as the literal method, this does not mean wooden literalism (as some accuse), but to understand the passage “in the context of the normal, usual, customary, tradition ranges of designation which includes ‘tacit’ understanding.”[6] Symbolism is a part of normal, usual, customary part of language. In other words, one follows the normal, customary rules of language. If it is symbolic, it is to be governed by the rules relating to the understanding of symbolic language. Osborne is correct in his statement that “there is a false dichotomy between ‘literal’ and ‘symbolic’ in many circles.”[7] The meaning is not found in the interpreter’s mind, but within the Biblical text. Symbolism represents something that is literal otherwise the symbol has no meaning. Avoid the extremes. “The revelation given to John, symbolic though it may be, is to be interpreted just as one would interpret the rest of the Bible” notes Thomas.[8] Chafer tells us that “Bible terminology is always the simplest of any literature, where symbolism is employed in the text, it will, almost with exception, be so indicated.”[9]

The three main rules for the interpretation of symbols are:[10]

  • Immediate context. The immediate context, if not revealing the symbol, gives key clue to what the symbol means. Stanton observes, “When a symbol or sign does appear in the Revelation, it is often plainly designated as such in the immediate context, together with what the symbol represents.”[11] An example of this is Revelation 20:2 where the dragon, that old serpent is identified as the Devil, Satan.
  • Remote context. When the immediate is not clear, the meaning might be seen in another context by similar or analogous symbols used elsewhere in prophecy. Thus, “times and times and half a time” (Rev. 12:14 with Dan 7:25, 12:7) along with Daniel’s 70th week (Dan. 9:26-27). Tan goes on to say, “In instances where the meaning of a symbol is not readily understood, one must withhold decision on the case until contexts, parallel passages, and the harmony of prophetic symbolism have been consulted.”[12] These things must not be overlooked.
  • “It must be noted that not every word-picture in prophecy is a symbol. Many of these are plain, everyday figures of speech.”[13]
The agent is an angel, which passed on the communication to John, although this was not exclusive (cf. Rev. 6:9-17). Kistemaker reminds us that “an angel is a messenger, never a revealer.”[14] The prominent idea is a messenger, an instrument of communication used by God. Angels acted as the messengers of God in many instances. They communicated the Law (Acts 7:53; Gal. 3:19; Hebrews 2:2), and the Word to Daniel (Dan 7:16-27; 8:16-26; 9:20-27; 10:1-12), Zechariah (Zech. 1:9; 2:3; 4:1; 5:5; 6:4, 5), Mary (Luke 1:11-20) and Joseph (Matt. 1:20-21). The angel was sent to show John the contents this book.

[1]  Grant Osborne, REVELATION, 55.
[2]  Tony Garland, THE TESTIMONY OF JESUS CHRIST, 1:55.
[3]  Ibid, 55.
[4]  Gregory K. Beale, THE BOOK OF REVELATION, 51.
[7]  Osborne, 15-16.
[8]  Robert Thomas, REVELATION 56.
[9]  Lewis Sperry Chafer, SYSTEMATIC THEOLOGY, IV:259.
[10]  Tan, 163.
[11]  Quoted by Tan, 163.
[12]  Ibid, 164.
[13]  Ibid, 164.
[14]  Simon J. Kistemaker, NTC: REVELATION, 77.

Monday, May 23, 2011


[I pray that] the eyes of your heart may be enlightened…” (1:18a NASB).

The translators of our text have added the words, “I pray that,” for the sake of style and clarity. It should be pointed out that NASB translation may or may not be the best translation of the text. There is a debate on how to render this text syntactically. Hoehner boils the controversy down to two major alternatives.[1] One is to take it to part of the request, as does our translation (NASB, NIV, NEB). The second major alternative makes it an ancillary thought to the request, “the eyes of your understanding being enlightened” (KJV, NKJV), as a stated fact that has already occurred. Many commentaries opt for the second alternative.[2] Lincoln admits “the syntax is not clear.”[3] Best states the enlightenment is probably another gift (v. 17, give),[4] thus a part of the request.

This phrase best seems to explain the reason Paul prays for this work of the Spirit to be given them; it was for their enlightenment of not just truth, but Christ. Paul is praying not for the emotion by using the word heart, but the enlightenment of the intellect (or mind).  Heart must be taken as the center of personality and the thought process which is to be enlightened. The Greek word means to give light or to illuminate. Revelation is the method used by the Spirit; enlightenment is the fruit of His work. Enlightenment is a perfect participle, indicating a completed act which carries continuing results. This means once the moment of insight comes, it continues. It is not just the insight and enlightenment of facts, but that of insight in knowing Christ personally and intimately as one is enlightened and grows in the knowledge of Him. Thus this enlightenment is that of sanctification, not salvation. Salvation is only the start of this sanctification or enlightenment.  Enlightenment comes not through the facts of the Word, but by the Holy Spirit’s insight and disclosure of the knowledge of the person of Christ.

Lloyd-Jones reminds us that in this prayer three principles can be induced:

1) We in this life shall always need the enlightening work of the Holy Spirit.

2) Spiritual knowledge is progressive.

3) We should always pray for the enlightening of our understanding.[5]

[1]  Hoehner, EPHESIANS, 261-262 for details and arguments.
[2]  Hoehner, Lincoln, Campbell, Wuest.
[3]  Lincoln, EPHESIANS, 47.
[4]  Best, EPHESIANS, 40.
[5]  Lloyd-Jones, PURPOSE, 366-368.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

REVELATION 1:1 - Soon?

“The things which must soon take place” Rev. 1:1.

 The Greek text reads: ha dei genesthai en tachei—literally, “the things which it is necessary [must] to happen [occur] with swiftness [shortly].”[1] Two things must be looked at in this passage:

  • First is the idea of necessity. The Greek word dei is an impersonal verb indicating necessity, often translated “must.”  It denotes the certainty of fulfillment of the divine purpose (cf. Dan. 2:29, 45; Matt. 24:6; 26:54). It is added with the word genesthai meaning to happen or come to be. Thus, the revelation that is given is assured. Jesus used the same Greek words in Mark 13:7 of the beginning of sorrows. He declared they “must take place.” It is binding! Likewise, God repeats the phrase in Revelation, not once, but for three things (1:1, 4:1, 22:6). The events of this revelation is a divine necessity, they must take place. “Scripture cannot be broken” (John 10:35).

  • Second, the meaning of the Greek phrase en tachei, translated in our text is soon. This has caused much debate among Bible students between two meanings—soon and quickly. There is no question the Greek word is a neuter noun meaning swift, quick, or speed,[2] and should be translated shortly, quickly, or speedily. The English work tachometer comes from this Greek word. The word also refers to a “very brief period of time, with focus on speed of an activity or event, speed, quickness, swiftness, haste.”[3] It can carry the idea of imminence. The question is, should this be taken in this context as immediate future, imminent, or quick succession?

In examining the word in the New Testament, we find it occurs additionally in the following texts:

  • Luke 18:8 –“He will bring about justice for them quickly.”
  • Acts 12:7 –“Get up quickly.”
  • Acts 22:18 –“Make haste, and get out of Jerusalem quickly….”
  • Acts 25:4 –“He himself was about to leave shortly.”
  • Romans 16:20 –“The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.”
  • 1 Timothy 3:14 –“I am writing these things to you, hoping to come to your before long [shortly].”
  • Revelation 22:6 –“the things which must soon take place.”
Of these texts, there are only two clear passages (Acts 25:4; 1 Tim. 3:14) that can only be understood as closeness in time. Three clearly are to be understood as speed, the things will happen fast, speedily, which may or not be soon in time (Luke 18:8; Acts 12:7; 22:18, Rom. 16:20). The other could go either way (Rev. 22:6). Even if we take the word to mean soon, it does not mean in the immediate future or time. This is evidence by looking at the Greek text of the Old Testament (LXX). The Greek word tachos is found in Isaiah 13:22 speaking of Babylon’s fall to the Medes. Isaiah declares “Her fateful time also will soon come and her days will not be prolonged.” Sounds like this would happen in the immediate future or at least in the next few years after the prediction. However, it was written 700 BC, but the events happened almost 200 years later in 539 BC. Thus, there is prophecy to confirm that the phrase in a prophetic context does not mean the immediate future, but can span a period of time until it reaches fulfillment. Ice notes that the word is “more properly interpreted as qualitative indicators” describing how Christ will return and the events that surround the event, i.e. in quick succession.[4]

The immediate future is the idea that the Preterist insist upon. They hold that John’s events had to happen soon after John wrote the Revelation. They, therefore, see fulfillment either in the events of 70 AD, or in the downfall of Domitian, or the fall of the Roman Empire. If that is true, where was the Abomination of Desolation, the Antichrist, or the Second Coming of Christ? There are no indicators or identifiable history of these events between John and the fall of Rome. The idea of immediate future in Revelation 1:1 does not hold water, for the bucket has two great holes: time and history. Two thousand years has pasted and there is no confirming history to back up the claims of fulfillment of events in this book. If the prophecies of the First Coming were literally fulfilled and identifiable in history, so must the events surrounding the Second Coming. The events of 70 AD do not fill the bill, nor does any other historical time or event up to this time.

The understanding of time in this passage has been taken in three valid major views:

  • God’s viewpoint of time. This view holds that God is beyond time, and what is short to Him is not short to us. Supporters appeal to 2 Peter 3:8, where 1000 years is as a day to the Lord. God is not limited to time as man is. It is hard for me to understand this view. While it is true about God, God is giving this prophecy to man and in man’s language. It is difficult to see that the reader would understand it in God’s perspective. There does not seem to be any indication that man should take it to mean anything different from his normal understanding or soon or speedily.

  • Imminency. A more popular way of understanding this time issue from the prophetic viewpoint does not necessarily mean in a few years of time. Thomas notes, “The purpose of en tachei is to teach the imminence of the events foretold, not to set a time limit in which they must occur.”[5] They are imminent because they are next on God’s prophetic program. Mounce says “The most satisfying solution is to take the expression ‘must soon take place’ in a straightforward sense, remembering that in the prophetic outlook the end is always imminent. Time as chronological sequence is of secondary concern in prophecy.”[6] Osborne observes, “The language of imminence intends to draw the reader into a sense of expectation and responsibility, a sense meant to characterize every age of the church.”[7] In other words, in prophetic language the future is always viewed as imminent without the necessity of it happening immediately. This view fits within the dispensational framework, for surely the Rapture is imminent, which makes these events of Revelation imminent as well since the Rapture is the event that is the kick-off for these things to start the prophetic clock.

  • Speed. While the imminent view has merit, suddenness of the events retains the original meaning of the Greek word. Walvoord holds this writing: “That which Daniel declared would occur ‘in the latter days’ is here described as ‘shortly’ (Gr., en tachei), that is, ‘quickly or suddenly coming to pass,’ indicating rapidity of execution after the beginning takes place. …A similar word, tachys, is translated ‘quickly’ seven times in Revelation (2:5, 16; 3:11; 11:14; 22:7, 12, 20).”[8] The events will be implemented rapidly. These events will both happen speedily and with certainty, once the appointed time arrives. This seems to deal with the word more adequately.

    This understanding of the word as referring to speed or swiftness does not deny imminency. Just because something is delayed does not deny imminency. It is my view that the present dispensation delayed the coming of the Messianic Kingdom. The Church, the body of Christ was a mystery that is revealed by the Apostle Paul (Eph. 3:1-10). The Church age will end with the Rapture (1 Thess. 4:13-18). That does not mean the Kingdom has not been imminent for over 2000 years. The Rapture of the Church has always been imminent. If the Rapture is imminent, so are the events that start the swift process revealed in Revelation. Thus, the events that bring in the earthly kingdom have been and are presently imminent as well with the Rapture. The Rapture inaugurates the events leading to the Messianic Kingdom. The Rapture can take place at any time, thus the process of these events could start at anytime. Once the Rapture occurs, the events of the Messianic Kingdom will start and the events of Revelation will take place quickly.

[3]  Mark L. Hitchock, “A Critique of the Preterist View of ‘Soon’ and ‘Near’ in Revelation, BIBLIOTHECA SACRA, October 2006, 470.
[4]  Thomas Ice, “Preterist ‘Time Texts,’ THE END TIMES CONTROVERSY, 102.
[5]  Thomas, REVELATION, 1:56.
[6]  Robert Mounce, THE BOOK OF REVELATION: REVISED, 41. Also see Mark L. Hitchcock, “A Critique of the Preterist view of ‘Soon’ and ‘Near’ in Revelation.” BIB-SAC, October 2006. 467-478.
[7]  Grant R. Osborne, REVELATION, 55.
[8]  John F. Walvoord, THE REVELATION OF JESUS CHRIST, 35. 

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


The revelation of Jesus Christ has different functions:

  • To exalt Jesus Christ. The Gospels portrays Jesus coming in humiliation, but now in Revelation He comes in glory. Its purpose is to reveal Christ in His glory. It centers upon His Sovereignty. As Garland points out: “Within the book of Revelation, God’s sovereignty is demonstrated by His powerful intervention in the events of history.[1] John centers not simply on end time events, but Christ’s person, power, and plan for the future at it relates to Old Testament prophecy.

·         It is to be understood by His bond servants! The book is not sealed from our understanding (Rev. 22:10). God’s desire is for us to understand His overarching plan, which He ties together in this last book. It is not veiled, nor sealed, but an open revelation for us to see how He brings all things together in the end.  God, who cannot lie, is going to fulfill His Word to His Old Testament saints. In fact, those who study this book are promised a blessing, not confusion (1:3). Remember all Scripture is profitable (2 Tim. 3:16), including this book.

·         To motivate worship. It has been observed that the book of Revelation has a strong emphasis on worship.[2] It pictures continual worship of the Lord in the heavenlies (Rev. 4:8) and notes the worthiness of Christ to be praised (Rev. 4:11; 5:8-12). The angels declare his blessing (Rev 7:11-12), the elders give thanks (Rev 16:18), and hallelujahs ring out in Revelation 19:1-8. At the end of the book, the angel declares to John, “Worship God” (Rev. 22:9).

·         To call one to faithfulness in spite of circumstances (Rev. 2:5).

·         To declare the arrival of God’s Kingdom. In the Gospels the Kingdom is at hand, in the book of Revelation it arrives. With the coming Kingdom comes opposition climaxing in judgment and redemption. By necessity it foretells events that surround His coming to set up the Kingdom. It makes clear that the earthly Kingdom will arrive, it can not be prevented. God is sovereign and will do what He has set out to do. Revelation declares that the Kingdom will be fulfilled. It is a book of victory.

It is a major argument for the completion of the canon (the Bible). Old Testament prophecies culminate and are fulfilled in Revelation. It confirms the prophecies of the Old Testament, and the teaching of our Lord on the Mount of Olives (Matthew 24). It provides the culmination of the spiritual conflict of the ages, showing it ends in victory. It not only enlightens us about end time events, but also comforts and encourages us to carry on the message of grace, as it is still the day of salvation.

[2]  Merrill Tenney, INTERPRETING REVELATION, 199-200.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011


Related to genre, but not the same, is the character the book of Revelation. Revelation is Jewish in character. One of the points of opposition to John’s authorship was that the book is too Jewish. However, the Apostle John was Jewish and the book is tied to the Old Testament. Bullinger clearly points this out by making the following points: 
·         The book contains Hebrew idioms, expressions, words and phrases.
·         The book is full of imagery from the Old Testament—the Temple, Tabernacle, the Ark of the Covenant, Incense, and Priests. All belong to Israel.
·         There are 285 references to the Old Testament, more than any other book in the New Testament. [Bullinger, E.W., THE APOCALYPSE, Samuel Bagster & Sons, London, 1972, 4-7]
He concludes, “It is undoubtedly written about the people of the Old Testament who are the subjects of its history. These will understand it as Gentile Christian can never hope to do.[p.7]. One could omit the epistles, and read the Old Testament and Gospels and still understand Revelation. That is how heavily it is tied to Old Testament prophecy. The book of Revelation does not stand alone. The understanding of Revelation relies on the massive body of prophecy that was revealed by the Old Testament prophets. 
There is no prophecy in this book that relates directly to the dispensation of grace and the Church, the body of Christ. Revelation does not refer to any Pauline revelation of the dispensation of the Mystery (Grace). It looks beyond the present dispensation and the Church, which is raptured before the culmination of prophecy (1 Thess. 4:13-18; 1 Cor. 15:51-52). The Church was a mystery hid until it was revealed to Paul (Eph. 3:1-10). The church started with the revelation of the mystery and ends with the mystery of the Rapture. The rapture takes place before the spiritual rebirth of Israel and the coming of the Tribulation that ends with the prophetic Second Coming of Christ. 

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Wilkerson on the Prosperity Gospel

“They have wronged the poor and needy. They are wolves who substituted cash for the cross. These are money-mad preachers….Jeremiah 5:27: ‘Their houses are full of deceit. Their sin has become great and they’ve become rich. They’re fat and sleek but they don’t heed the cause of the orphans, that they may prosper; they do not defend the rights of the poor…’”
– David Wilkerson

Friday, May 6, 2011


In the last half of the 20th Century one of the new fields of study of the Bible is genre criticism. This classifies books of the Bible according to literary genre, and has affected how some have interpreted the Bible. In general, the books of the Bible are classified in 14 types of literary genre: Apocalyptic – Revelation; Biography - Abraham, Moses David; Psalm – Psalm 19, 119;  Exposition – Hebrews;  Narrative - Genesis, Ezra, Acts;  Oratory - Acts 7;  Parable - Matthew 13:1-53;  Pastoral - Psalm 23;  Poetry – Psalms; Prophecy - Isaiah, Ezekiel, Daniel; Proverb – Proverbs;  Satire - Ezekiel 34;  Tragedy - Lot, Samson, Saul; and Wisdom Literature - Job, Ecclesiastes. [Swanson, Erick W., “The Genre of Revelation” electronic media, www. Theological Studies. org.] The recent trend is to classify the book of Revelation as apocalyptic.
The problem with this sort of system is that it lumps the whole book into a classification that may or may not be exact. Revelation is a good example. Almost everyone agrees that the book contains apocalyptic, prophetic, and epistolary elements. However, by the classification as apocalyptic, derived from Revelation 1:1, many have made it the overriding understanding. “Genre classification has affected how scholars have interpreted various NT books, particularly the last book of the NT” observes Thomas. [EVANGELICAL HERMENEUTICS: THE NEW VERSUS THE OLD, 323.]   Many have used this as an excuse to promote a nonliteral or allegorical interpretation of the book. The term apocalyptic applies broadly to a group of Jewish writings that existed between 200 BC and 100 AD.
However, we must ask ourselves if this is valid? What does the genre apocalyptic contain? What are its features?  There are five characteristics of Jewish apocalyptic literature. [Erik W. Swanson, THE GENRE OF REVELATION, 7-10]
·         It is revelatory. Revelation came not by the Word of God, or a prophet, but entirely though dreams, visions, and heavenly journeys. Discovered or revealed are hidden secrets, solution to the evil, and the coming of the kingdom through these visions.
·         It is pseudonymous. While some prophets did write anonymously, none are seen as pseudonymous. They used their real names. In Jewish apocalyptic literature they attributed their works to already established prophets—Adam, Moses, Isaiah, Baruch, Solomon, and Ezra.
·         It is symbolic. Apocalyptic writers built on the symbolism of the Old Testament prophets, and go beyond the O.T. symbolism to greatly elaborated apocalypses. Symbolism plays a major role in this genre. “Symbolism became pervasive, extreme, and even grotesque” in the Apocalyptic writings. [Swanson, 10] This further expands the imaginative elements of apocalyptic literature.
·         It is pseudo-predictive. The prophet stood in the present and proclaimed future historical and eschatological events as revealed to them by God. Apocalyptic literature is always eschatological, and foretells future events that arise, not out of the present situation, but breaks into the present. [Robert Mounce, REVELATION, 3]. It sees prophecy was ex eventu, after the fact.
While this genre is dualistic, good versus evil, in which God wins in the end, two other features must be pointed out. First, Jewish apocalyptic writings are pessimistic concerning the present time. They have a sense of despair, that nothing but evil reigned in the present. They lost all sense of God’s activity in present history. The sense of hope is lost. They became unconcerned about the connection of the present history with eschatology. Second, it was ethically passive. There was no sense of sinfulness, nor need of repentance. To “the apocalyptists the present age is evil and without meaning” observes Mounce [Revelation, 7]. It sees Israel as righteous before God and was interested in consoling and sustaining the remnant, rather than judging the nominally religious.

Does this genre capture the essence of the book of Revelation? While there are similarities—revelatory, symbolic, dualistic, and visionary—these are not sufficient to say that the book is apocalyptic in the sense of the Jewish apocalyptic literature. Differences abound. These include:
·         Lack of pseudonymity.  Revelation was written by a living author who identified himself, and was known by his audience.
·         Lack of pessimism. Revelation is optimistic. Why? Swanson answers: “Because for John, the critical point in history is not in the future, at the end, but in the past, at the Cross. The Lamb that has already been slain dominates John’s writing. God’s people conquer Satan and the problem of evil ‘by the blood of the Lamb’ (Rev. 12:11)[Swanson, 19]. Victory is provided in history, and is worked out by the obedient suffering of God’s people (Rev. 12:11; 15:2). God is working in history; He is active and gives hope to the present by means of the gospel. God is not waiting to interject His kingdom into history, but is activity working His plan for history with the earthly kingdom as the climax.
·         Strong presence of ethical demands. While the apocalyptic genre centers upon comfort, it does not give a sense of ethical living in the present. Revelation however greatly differs and places strong ethical demands on God’s people. Repentance is a keynote of chapters 2-3 (2:5, 16, 21-22; 3:3, 19). People are called to evangelize others, so they may drink of the water of life (22:17).
There can be no question that the apocalyptic genre does not the fully capture the essence of the book of Revelation. While it may have characteristics of the genre, it is not central form of the book. Form should not have priority over content. One aspect that is often overlooked is how did John view his writing? Was it apocalyptic? No it was not. John classifies his own work as that of prophecy (1:3; 10:7, 11; 22:7, 10, 18-19). This is vital to the understanding of this great work from the pen of John the Apostle. To the extent that Revelation is prophetic, one should expect some information about future historical events. That is exactly what we find. As prophecy it is identified with the Old Testament writings of Isaiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel, all of which have some characteristics of what is called the apocalyptic genre included in them, but are not classified as such, they are classified as prophecy. There is no valid reason to classify Revelation differently. As Osborne observes: “The value of recognizing the prophetic nature of the book underscores that John is not merely producing his own epistle (like Paul or Peter) but is the prophetic channel of a message directly from God and Christ. The origin of this book is not his fertile imagination but God himself[Grant R. Osborne, BECNT: REVELATION, 13]. John considers himself as a prophet writing prophecy. Revelation is distinct from apocalyptic genre, although using aspects of it; Revelation’s true genre is Prophecy. Like OT prophecy, this views the judgments of God in history as a foretaste to the final judgment. John stands at the end of the line of God’s prophets, foretells what God is doing in history and gives the capstone of history as the coming kingdom of God and the appearance of the King, Jesus Christ. Garland however reminds us, “As all interpreters ought to be quick to recognize prophecy was never given primarily for it predictive content. It was always given with an emphasis on motivating it hearers to repent and return to God[Tony Garland, THE TESTIMONY OF JESUS CHRIST, 1:36].



A Vital Principle—15:50

After dealing with those who have died, Paul now turns his attention to those who are alive at the time of the resurrection. He begins with a vital principle—the natural cannot inherit the eternal.Now I say this brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; not does the perishable inherit the imperishable” (1 Cor. 15:50). Flesh and blood” refers to our mortal, natural bodies; our present humanity. There can be little question that “flesh and blood = the perishable” in this context. It must be changed, because the perishable cannot inherit the imperishable. As Garland notes: “’Flesh and blood’ represents what is corruptible, and what is corruptible cannot stake a claim on what is incorruptible.[David Garland, BECNT: 1 CORINTHIANS, 740].  This principle states the reason why God must change us from the natural state to the inculpable state.

The Mystery of the Translated Body Revealed—15:51-53.

Paul now reveals the mystery of what will happen to those who are alive at the time of the resurrection and rapture of the church. Four facts are revealed:

  • Not all Christians will experience death (cf. 1 Thess. 4:15). Death is not inevitable for the believer.
  • All believers will be changed. The Greek word is allosso meaning to “make other than it is, to transform.”
  • The change will be swift and complete. It will be in a moment of time.
  • This change is a necessity. The word “must” speaks of a divine necessity. The natural must become spiritual. Harry Bultema’s comments on verse 53 are worth repeating:
“The corruptible stands for the saints sleeping in the graves, while the mortal stands for the living who have death in themselves. There is an equal necessity for both to be radically changed. We see time and again that the men of God melted away and dropped to the earth as dead men when a visitor from Heaven met them. The strong and holy men of God like Ezekiel, Daniel and John on Patmos, melted away before the heavenly majesty and glory. The mortal cannot stand the weight of Heaven’s glory [Notes on 1 and 2 Corinthians, 153].

Like the dead, the living will exchange the imperfect natural body for the perfect eternal spiritual body of the resurrected.


The words “when…then” of verse 54 refer to the time of the resurrection and translation. The word “then” is emphatic and points back to the moment “when” the event happens. At that time we will have victorious bodies. The ultimate triumph will be ours. This victory involves:

Fulfillment of Prophecy—15:54 cf. Isa. 25:8.

The promise of resurrection will be a reality. It is not simply that death is destroyed; for the child of God, death’s destruction is reversed. Our bodies are raised and restored as a spiritual body. We will have victory over death as our Lord did when He came out of the tomb.

Victory over Death—15:55 cf. Hosea 13:14.

Death has a temporary victory; it wins the battle, but not the war. It has an appointment that will be kept by most of us (Heb. 9:27). The resurrection will overcome death. Death is only temporary. We will win the battle, and death has lost the war. We will experience victory over death.

Victory over sin and the Law—15:56-57.

Death is the sting of sin; the law is the power of sin. The law brought condemnation, not life (2 Cor. 3:7). No one could be justified by it; it only brought the knowledge of sin (Rom. 3:20). Victory over sin and the law comes only “through the Lord Jesus Christ.”


The word “therefore” gives the conclusion to belief in the resurrection. Paul ends the chapter with a practical directive. The words “be ye”; it is the verb ginomai and means “become ye.” It is an exhortation. Doctrinal truth always leads to practical outcome, the exhortation to action which is described by three words:

  • First, FAITHFUL, as indicated by the words “steadfast” and “unmovable.” To be steadfast means to be firmly planted, implying a fixed position of faith. It is to be unmovable, not tossed around or turned aside from our faith. The truth of the resurrection should lead us to be faithful to our Lord.
  • Second, ACTIVE,--“always abounding in the work of the Lord.” We are not to be idle in our faith. We are called to be diligent in the work of the Lord. Vine tells us about the phrase the work of the Lord:

    It is to be distinguished from work for the Lord. The Lord’s work is that which He gives us to do. Much may be done for Him which we imagine to be service rendered to Him, but which is not conformed to His will and, therefore, is not His work in reality. The motive may be sincere and the activity constant, but we need to be sure that what is done is according to the Scriptures of truth, for only that can be work given by Him to be wrought” [FIRST CORINTHIANS, 227].
  • Third, KNOWLEDGE, knowing their labor is not in vain. Labor that is of the Lord, done in His will, by His Word working through us, will not be in vain. The word vain is the Greek word kenos, meaning empty in quality, as well as in results. Only service that is done “in the Lord” will have true quality and fruitfulness. It will be rewarded in the resurrection