On this final Sunday of the liturgical Church Year, our thoughts turn to Christ’s final appearing, to the arrival of the King of Kings, to the sweet comfort of which Paul wrote in Romans 8: “So then, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
What will happen to us in that moment when He returns? Here is how St. Paul so elegantly puts it in 1 Corinthians 15:
51 Look, I tell you a mystery. We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the blink of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 53 For this perishable body must put on imperishability, and this mortal body must put on immortality. 54 But once this perishable body has put on imperishability, and this mortal body has put on immortality, then what is written will be fulfilled: Death is swallowed up in victory. 55 Death, where is your sting? Grave, where is your victory? 56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ! 58 Therefore, my dear brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the Lord’s work, because you know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.
Here is a mystery, something hidden, which God now whispers in our ear. We would not know it if He Himself had not told us on the pages of His Book.
We will not all sleep. We will not all be in our graves when Christ comes again. Some will still be living on earth. Whether in our graves or still alive at His coming, we shall be changed, in a moment, in that indivisible twinkling of an eye when the angel puts his lips to the trumpet for the final blast.
We shall be given imperishable bodies fit for life with God for all eternity. Our souls, already safe and happy in the hands of Jesus since the day we died, shall be rejoined to our glorified bodies to dwell in God’s real and substantial “new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells.” (2 Peter 3:13).
We shall rise up to hold death in holy contempt. We shall shout in victory over the grave. The sting of sin shall be forever drained of its pain and poison. The power of the law shall no longer scratch our conscience, accuse our hearts, muddy our memories. Washed in the blood of the Hero born of woman, we shall rise never to die. We shall prevail in glory. We shall sing: “Thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!”
Knowing and believing this, we shall stand steadfast. We shall let no heartache of this life move us. We shall give ourselves fully to the work of the Lord. We shall hold to His word that nothing we do for Him shall ever be for nothing. We shall, with the old poet, John Donne, taunt the defeated foe:
Death be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so,
For, those, whom thou think’st, thou dost overthrow,
Die not, poor death, nor yet canst thou kill me…
One short sleep past, we wake eternally, And death shall be no more, Death thou shalt die!