When We Shall All Be Changed

The two sections of Scripture that mention both the trumpet call and the rising of the dead are I Thessalonians and I Corinthians. The timeline was revealed in I Thessalonians. The trumpet in Exodus. I Corinthians tells when we shall all be changed.

It begins with a mystery.

Why a Mystery?

I Corinthians 15:51-52
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: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. 

Some translations read “I tell you a secret.”  But the word ?mystery? denotes much more depth than ?secret?.  Once someone tells you a secret, you know it. With a mystery there is more to the story than what appears at first glance.[i]

It is similar to Jesus saying, ?He who hath ears to hear, let him hear.?  We benefit when we take a closer look.  Every detail bears scrutiny. The more we think on these verses, the more the hope of Christ’s return and our gathering together grounds and inspires us.

We see the same two groups of people in these verses as in Thessalonians ? those who are asleep, and those that remain alive. ?Sleep? in this context is a euphemism for death, where a gentler word masks an unpleasant reality.[ii]

When shall we be changed?

What differs here from the record in Thessalonians? These verses tell us when we shall all be changed. 

The Scriptures were originally written with no punctuation and no verses.  We are glad for those changes! Still, sometimes it is easier to grasp what is being said without the punctuation and verses.

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: for the trumpet shall sound and the dead shall be raised incorruptible and we shall be changed.

See how the shortness of time is being emphasized? Immediately, right after the trumpet begins sounding, the dead will be raised incorruptible. Right after the dead are raised the living believers will receive their new bodies.

Keys to Understanding: Verses

Structure and Correspondence

Structure also helps clarify a verse?s meaning. It shows us how the parts of a verse correspond to one another.[iii]

Verse 52 is an introverted structure. What does that mean?

This verse has six key phrases. We know the structure is introverted because the two central phrases both refer to the trumpet.

Then, we notice the first three tell us when, and the second three tell us what will occur.

The beauty of an introverted structure appears when the corresponding phrases are viewed together. Each pair of phrases, together, speaks of one important concept. For instance, when we merge these pairs together, what do we see?

Keys to Understanding: Structure

A very short time

The twinkling of an eye may be hard to measure, but it is quicker than the blink of an eye. That is how long it will take for the dead to rise after the trumpet sound begins.

In a moment the living believers will be changed. In the first century the word ?moment? was used for something so small that it is indivisible.  It represents something infinitely small.[iv] Today computer scientists measure time in milliseconds, a millionth of a second.

Both of these references to time are figurative, showing emphasis. The time period between the trumpet sounding, the dead rising, and the living changing will be barely perceptible. We shall all be changed in a very short time.

Consider these additional translations:

A Working Translation[v]
Behold, I tell you a mystery. Not all of us will fall asleep, but we shall all be changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye at the last trumpet. In fact, the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.

The International Standard Version
Let me tell you a secret. Not all of us will die, but all of us will be changed? in a moment, faster than an eye can blink, at the sound of the last trumpet. Indeed, that trumpet will sound, and then the dead will be raised never to decay, and we will be changed.

The Weymouth New Testament
I tell you a truth hitherto kept secret: we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the sounding of the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incapable of decay, and *we* shall be changed.

Keys to Understanding: Translations

Next we will learn about our new bodies!


[i] Jon O. Nessle, ?More Regarding Analogies,? from his teaching series The One Body of Original Christianity, September 2019. Currently available on YouTube.

[ii] See Appendix 171 of E.W Bullinger?s The Companion Bible, and his Figures of Speech Used in the Bible (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1968), pp. 684-688.

[iii] See E.W. Bullinger?s explanations in Figures of Speech, p. 374, and How to Enjoy the Bible (London: Samuel Bagster and Sons, Ltd, 1980) pp. 203-207.

[iv] Henry George Liddell and Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1940), s.v. atomos.

[v] Walter J. Cummins, A Journey through the Acts and Epistles (Franklin OH: Scripture Consulting, 2006),  p 326.

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