March 27, 1941
“Behold I shew you a mystery.” A mystery in the Bible is something never before developed, an unrevealed truth about to be revealed. There are several in the New Testament, and each one brings to our knowledge something that had not been known before. In this blessed chapter of realities we have made known the blessed truth of the resurrection of our bodies.
If you read 1 Corinthians 15 carefully, you will see that it covers more ground than any other chapter in the Bible. It covers the whole period from the cross to the destruction of the last enemy which is death (ver. 26). Moreover it is the great resurrection chapter, a truth so bitterly denied even in those days. When speaking to the Sadducees Christ said, “You do err, not knowing the Scriptures, nor the power of God.” The power of God is resurrection. He is not the God of the dead but of the living. It may surprise you that many today deny this truth, and even some who claim to accept the Bible as the Word of God. The devil is clever, and if he can rob us of that truth he has robbed us of everything. To prove his point the apostle cites seven proofs of the resurrection. First of all, Christ rose the third day according to the Scriptures. He put the Scriptures at the head of the list, and rightly so. The other proofs are the testimony of Cephas, the twelve, five hundred brethren, James, all the apostles, and last of all Paul.
“And last of all He was seen of me,” says Paul. He placed the Scriptures first and himself last. On that never-to-be-forgotten Damascus Road Christ met Saul of Tarsus, and He said, “Why persecutest thou Me?” He did not ask him why he persecuted Peter or the Church, but, “Why persecutest thou Me?”—a risen and glorified Christ.
Paul never lost sight of that vision. After forty years it was still clear before him. What made Paul the wonderful man that he was? Every Christian has been baptized into Christ and made a member of His Body, and as the physical body responds to the dictates of the mind so we as members of His body are subject to the dictates of the Holy Spirit. What wonderful people we would be if we responded fully and immediately to the call of the Spirit! Paul did, for that vision was ever before him. If you are to be a man of power you must know Christ, where He is. If you are to be a converted man you must know Christ where He was—on the cross.
You see, in addition to the “last of all,” there is a “first of all.” What is the first of all? “For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures.” I ask you, dear friends, Have you ever considered this first of all? There is life in a look at the crucified One before there can be power in a look at the glorified One. I believe it would make different Christians of us if by the power of the indwelling Spirit we would fix our gaze on the glorified Man at God’s right hand. That will change me to His likeness—gazing upon Him. It is not stargazing. It is viewing the living Man in glory. Paul could never forget that look. “Last of all He was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time.”
Elijah said to Elisha, “Before I leave you, tell me what you would like.” “A double portion of thy spirit,” was Elisha’s answer. “If you see me when I am taken, you will have it, but if you don’t, you won’t,” was the promise given. Elisha saw his master because he meant to. I am very glad if you read your chapter today, but have you seen His face? I ask myself the same question. That is what will change me to His moral likeness—gazing on Him. Gazing on His moral perfection, His Deity, His undefiled humanity, enthroned on the right hand of the Majesty on High. Paul saw that vision, and he never lost it. In writing to the Philippians he could say, “I press towards the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”
Let us look now at verse 45 of our chapter. “The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening Spirit.” The head of every man is the Lord Jesus Christ. We get that in chap. 11:3. He is the firstborn of creation; He is also the head of every converted man. The last Adam— a quickening spirit. Much has been said about the victorious life. Beloved friend, you have it if you are a Christian. Every believer on earth has the victorious life, but not every believer is always victorious. When did Christ give to His own that life? you ask. Read John 20.
When our Lord arose He had no graveclothes on Him. Lazarus had. “Loose him, and let him go,” commanded the Lord. The Lord however was free from all these encumbrances. He was ever master of the situation, and when in the evening He presented Himself before them, He breathed upon them and said, “Receive ye (the) Holy Ghost.” He breathed into them His own victorious life. Just as God breathed into Adam the breath of life, and he became a “living soul,” so Christ breathed into His disciples the Spirit of life. Every believer has this life of power and victory.
The first Adam—a living soul. The last Adam—a quickening Spirit. “The second Man” (ver. 47) means He supersedes the first; “the last Adam” (ver. 45) means there is no one as head after. The last Adam is Christ, and He has breathed into you that life if you have believed the gospel. There is no need for the injunction, “Loose him and let him go,” for the graveclothes are gone. He, who went down into death and triumphed has freed you from them and given you the victory. Romans 8:1 puts it this way: “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus.” His life is a victorious one, a life with no fetters to it, a liberated life. May I go where I like? No! You may go where He likes. You have liberty to follow Him, to glorify Him, to manifest Him. I repeat, dear Christian, every Christian has that life, and there is no other life. It makes you free to serve Him, to honor Him, to follow in His footsteps. Remember that that life can never be annihilated, but goes on forever and forever. The last Adam—you are of His genealogy. We stand in association with Him, and He is a life-giving Spirit.
That is not all, dear friend. Just as we are liberated now and freed spiritually, so in a coming day we will be free from this body of corruption. We are going to have a glorified body. “For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.” Here it is, “Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump.” Now the twinkling of an eye cannot be done in stages. The transition is immediate.
“At the last trump.” This is taken from the practice of the Roman Army and it is not uncommon with Paul to use such expressions to bring out his meaning. The Roman Army had three trumps. At the first trump the soldiers picked up their belongings and got ready; at the second they took up marching positions for the advance; and on the third trump they started off. The first trump has been sounded. It is the gospel. We have heard it, how Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, brought us forgiveness of sins and made peace with God. Have you heard it? Are you packed up and ready? The first trump is the gospel that brings salvation. I hope, dear girl, that you know your sins are forgiven. I hope, dear boy, that you are saved, and are resting on the finished work of the Lord Jesus. You of riper years say, “I heard the trump fifty years ago, and packed up for glory.” Praise God for all who can say they are packed up and ready to go.
Then I heard the next trump and formed ranks with the other Christians. How many of them? EVERY ONE who is a son of faith. The house of God is one. The Body of Christ is one. The brethren are one. You may call them narrow or tight, you may call them what you like, but they are sanctified by the Spirit of God. Beloved, we should walk with everyone who is sound in the faith and godly in life. When we hear the second trump and respond we fall in with everyone who is really Christ’s. But now we are waiting for the third, the last trump.
There is nothing in Corinthians about the meeting in the air. That is in Thessalonians. We shall meet Him in the air, that is true. We are going to a great open-air meeting, and I hope you will be there. If you are not, there is no heaven for you after that. In Corinthians we have a mystery unfolded. “Behold I shew you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump.” It is possible, dear friends, blessedly possible, that the last trump may be heard before tomorrow morning comes.
“I’m waiting for Thee, Lord,
Thy beauty to see, Lord,
I’m waiting for Thee, for Thy coming again.
Thou art gone over there, Lord,
A place to prepare, Lord,
Thy home I shall share at Thy coming again.
E’en now let my ways, Lord,
Be bright with Thy praise,
Lord, For brief are the days e’er Thy coming again;
I’m waiting for Thee, Lord,
Thy beauty to see, Lord,
No triumph for me like Thy coming again.”
I hope, dear friend, we are on the tiptoe of expectation. Don’t tell me about the revival of the Roman Empire or the Antichrist for the moment. The Lord is coming before that. Those things will come to pass in their allotted time, but the first thing is the blessed Lord is coming again into the air. Are you ready for the last trump? Are you saved? Are your sins forgiven? Can you say by the grace of God—“I am saved”?
“Behold, I shew you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed.” Isn’t it wonderful? We shall be changed. We shall be like Him. We shall be with Him, where He is. He was in many places during the first day after His resurrection— at the tomb, in Jerusalem, on the Emmaus Road. Now He is risen. He has a spiritual body, a heavenly one, and we shall be like Him. God meant it to be so. He wants His people to be like His blessed Son. We shall not enter into the fullest enjoyment of what this means until He comes and transforms this material body of ours into one like His very own. Do you remember when you were saved? How your heart glowed! How you longed to see His blessed face! You longed to be in His presence and to share His glory! Is it so with you now? I greatly fear we lose sight of that blessed hope and wander off into a labyrinth.
A little girl was crossing the ocean and on the way over a Christian lady spoke to her. When asked about the Lord Jesus Christ the little child had to say she didn’t know about Him. The Christian sat down and told her the whole story of the birth and life of our Lord Jesus Christ and at the end she said, “Then they killed Him.” “Killed Him! Why did they do that?” cried the little girl, and she began to weep. “But He is not dead now. He is alive, and He is coming back some day to take those who are His to be with Him for ever. We shall meet Him in the air. Will you be there?” When the ocean journey came to its end the little girl called goodbye to the Christian and said, “Farewell. I shall be there.”
Will you be there? Your wife will be there. Will you? Is everyone in this Hall tonight saved? I shall be there. “We shall not all sleep, but shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump.” Be ready, dear hearer.
Perhaps you ask the question, What kind of a Christian should I be? Read the last verse of our chapter. “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.” My friend, your heart should be where Christ is, and it should be your constant delight to serve Him. “Be ye stedfast”—not half-hearted. Let nothing distract you, and go in for the work with all you have.
Now we come to our final point: “The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death” (ver. 26). Death is destroyed at the coming of the Lord for all Christians. Verse 55 reads, “O death, where is thy sting?” It is gone, for death has no power over us when Christ comes. He triumphed over death and the grave. The victory was His. There is no death in the Father’s House. No undertaker can be found there. Can we not exclaim, “Thanks be unto God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
“Jack the Ripper,” a depraved maniac, terrified the women of London years ago. He murdered women in cold blood in the back streets of that city. He can’t kill any one now, for he is dead. The last enemy to be destroyed is Death. Death and Hell are to be cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. There is no death in heaven. What then is the end for the Christian? It is eternal life. It is not the coffin, nor is it the funeral, nor is it even the grave. The end is everlasting life with the Man who triumphed over death and hell.
But I must speak plainly. There is no death in the lake of fire. It burneth for ever and ever. That fire is never quenched, and all who fail to flee to Christ for salvation will find their eternal abode there. Oh, sinner, let me urge you to claim Christ as your Saviour now. For the believer it is everlasting life, for the Christ-rejector it is everlasting torment, and your choice is made here on earth. You can escape hell by fleeing to Christ.
Not all or every Christian shall be on the Father’s Throne. Christ will occupy the throne when He reigns in the Millennium. Then as King of kings and Lord of lords He will reign a thousand years. At the end of that time He hands back to His Father the kingdom, but in the end we shall reign with Him. What a wonderful day that will be when we shall reign with Him and be like Him. We will praise Him throughout eternity, giving glory to Him who sits upon the throne. That, my dear fellow-believer, will be our happy portion for ever and ever. Amen.