Friday, December 5, 2008

In the Twinkling of an Eye

I have undergone so much change in the last two weeks that I am tempted to start a new blog in illustration of my personal growth. I have entered an entirely new phase of thoughtlife.

Instead of illustrate however, I stated and decided to go no further.

At a church planting intensive in Seattle a few weeks ago I was inspired. I also heard a guy talk about non-manipulative intentionality. He also spoke about spending two hours or so per week in a coffee shop, learning the names of the baristas, saying hello to them often, and praying for them silently to himself (but sincerely to God).

I have decided to start learning all of the names of the baristas at Java. I know most of them anyway, I might as well go all the way (and I already spend way more than two hours per week there). I have also begun trying to say hi to each of them. Soon I will say hi to each of them by name. Someday I might consider praying for them too ;).

I met a man named William the other day.

I said hello to William today. Then later on I went back to refill my tea cup with hot water when I found myself caught in the conversational crossfire of him and another young man who frequents Java and other downtown venues, whom I happen to know. I inquired into their topic of conversation and William explained it to me. He then described himself as spiritual, but not religious ("could mean anything" I thought).

Later William came and sat down next to me (and Chris), and I learned that he used to be a missionary with YWAM, but had an encounter with God that changed his worldview. We proceeded to have an intelligent, dynamic (meaning two-directional) discussion about grace, inerrancy, and spirituality. I think he is a universalist who denies inerrancy, but he demonstrates a phenomenal amount of knowledge about the text of the Bible and the content of the faith of most evangelicals. He seems to have a view of grace that is just about right (more right than most evangelicals in my estimation), and he puts good works in their proper place. He is passionate and articulate.

We exchanged phone numbers. I chuckled inside because I didn't expect to find a friend so quickly using thing "just learn a guy's name and say hi" method.

We also discussed 1 Cor. 15:52:
in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.
I am not sure of when the concept of verses was applied to this particular letter that the Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians, but it sure makes reading a single one awkward.

You start in the middle of a sentence.

Which to me is telling. How can you even begin to understand the message of this, or any, "verse" (whatever that is) devoid of its context?

William seems to think that this verse isn't about a future resurrection from the dead that individual believers will experience. He thinks it is about a "resurrection" from the "dead" that can happen inside each of us during our lifetimes. He talks poetically and philosophically about the "twinkling" part.

William, if you ever read this, know that I am glad we met and I anticipate learning from you, telling you stories, listening to you, exchanging ideas, being sharpened by you, sharpening you, and enjoying a non-manipulative but intentional friendship with you. This is not an excursus on why I am confident that you are wrong, nor is it preparation for an attempt at forcefully converting you to my worldview.

This post is an unorganized reflective story about my day and about this phase of my life. You happen to be a part of it.

Not to say that I don't think I have somethings correct, or that some of those things are very important for you to come to believe.

Anyway it was my stated opinion that "twinkling" in this passage is merely a statement of the time it will take for our resurrection bodies to be transformed. To be honest, to me it seems obvious that Paul was writing to the Corinthians about what will happen when Jesus comes back. Those who will have already been dead at the point of Jesus' return will be raised and transformed. And those humans who are living at the time will also be transformed. This transformation will take place as quickly as one blinks! Check it:
But someone will ask, ​“How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?” You foolish person! ​What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. And what you sow is not the body that is to be, but a bare kernel, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain. But God gives it a body as he has chosen, and to each kind of seed its own body. For not all flesh is the same, but there is one kind for humans, another for animals, another for birds, and another for fish. There are heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is of one kind, and the glory of the earthly is of another. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory.

​So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonor; ​it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. Thus it is written, ​“The first man Adam became a living being”; ​the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. But it is not the spiritual that is first but the natural, and then the spiritual. ​The first man was from the earth, ​a man of dust; ​the second man is from heaven. As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven, ​so also are those who are of heaven. Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven.

I tell you this, brothers: ​flesh and blood ​cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Behold! I tell 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 trumpet. For ​the trumpet will sound, and ​the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality.
When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:
​“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
​“O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”
The sting of death is sin, and ​the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, ​who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

-1 Cor. 15:35-50 (ESV)
There is a lot going on in this passage, and much of it is no doubt difficult to discern at first, since we don't all understand the historical context in which this letter was written. I want to be sensitive to that.

The MW Collegiate Dictionary (11th Ed.) defines the dative noun "twinkling" as "the time required for a wink", and "the instant’s duration of a wink".

The Strong's entry for the Greek work translated "twinkling" in this passage is
4493 ῥιπή, ῥοπή [rhipe /hree·pay/] n f. From 4496; GK 4846 and 4856; AV translates as “twinkling” once. 1 a throw, stroke, beat. 2 a moment of time.
Wiersbe explains that the Greeks at the time rebutted the early Christians conception of the resurrection by pointing to what happens to a physical body after death - bodies turn to dust, and oftentimes trees or other things use the matter from decomposed bodies to grow. How can all that matter be collected again such that a body can be resurrected? He says that
Paul’s reply to this kind of reasoning was very blunt: “You fool!” Then he made the important point that resurrection is not reconstruction. Nowhere does the Bible teach that, at the resurrection, God will “put together the pieces” and return to us our former bodies. There is continuity (it is our body), but there is not identity (it is not the same body).

Paul knew that such miracles cannot be explained, so he used three analogies to make the doctrine clear.

Seeds (vv. 35–38, 42–48). When you sow seed, you do not expect that same seed to come up at the harvest. The seed dies, but from that death there comes life. (See John 12:23–28 for our Lord’s use of this same analogy.) You may sow a few grains of wheat, but you will have many grains when the plant matures. Are they the same grains that were planted? No, but there is still continuity. You do not sow wheat and harvest barley.

Furthermore, what comes up at the harvest is usually more beautiful than what was planted. This is especially true of tulips. Few things are as ugly as a tulip bulb, yet it produces a beautiful flower. If at the resurrection, all God did was to put us back together again, there would be no improvement. Furthermore, flesh and blood cannot inherit God’s kingdom. The only way we can enjoy the glory of heaven is to have a body suited to that environment.
Paul discussed the details of this marvelous change in 1 Corinthians 15:42–48. The body is sown (in burial) in corruption, because it is going to decay; but it is raised with such a nature that it cannot decay. There is no decay or death in heaven. It is buried in humility (in spite of the cosmetic skill of the mortician); but it is raised in glory. In burial, the body is weak; but in resurrection, the body has power. We shall be like Jesus Christ!

Today, we have a “natural body,” that is, a body suited to an earthly environment. We received this body from our first parent, Adam: he was made of dust, and so are we (Gen. 2:7). But the resurrection body is suited to a spiritual environment. In His resurrection body, Jesus was able to move quickly from place to place, and even walk through locked doors; yet He was also able to eat food, and His disciples were able to touch Him and feel Him (Luke 24:33–43; John 20:19–29).

The point Paul was making was simply this: The resurrection body completes the work of redemption and gives to us the image of the Saviour. We are made in the image of God as far as personality is concerned, but in the image of Adam as far as the body is concerned. One day we shall bear the image of the Saviour when we share in His glory.

First Corinthians 15:46 states an important biblical principle: first the “natural” (earthly), and then the “spiritual” (heavenly). The first birth gives us that which is natural, but the second birth gives us that which is spiritual. God rejects the first birth, the natural, and says, “You must be born again!” He rejected Cain and chose Abel. He rejected Abraham’s firstborn, Ishmael, and chose Isaac, the second-born. He rejected Esau and chose Jacob. If we depend on our first birth, we shall be condemned forever; but if we experience the new birth, we shall be blessed forever...

We must remember that this discussion was not written by Paul merely to satisfy the curiosity of believers. He had some practical points to get across, and he made them very clear in 1 Corinthians 15:29–34. If we really believe in the resurrection of the body, then we will use our bodies today to the glory of God (1 Cor. 6:9–1

-Wiersbe, W. W. (1996, c1989). The Bible exposition commentary (1 Co 15:29). Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books.
And what's a discussion of the resurrection without commentary from last generation's revolutionary good ol' boys from Dallas Theological Seminary? They help out here by emphasizing the theological symmetry between Adam and Jesus that Paul's writing draws from (as well as adding some free, insightful tidbits):
15:44b-49. Discussion of the contrast between Adam and Christ (mentioned earlier in v. 22) is resumed here. Adam exemplified the earthly (v. 40) natural body (the word trans. being, v. 45, psychē, is related to psychikos, which is trans. natural in v. 44). Adam gave his nature to all who followed him (the man without the Spirit is the natural [psychikos] man; cf. 2:14). The last Adam, Christ, exemplifies the heavenly spiritual body (15:22) which those who belong to Him (v. 23; cf. 2:15) will likewise assume at His coming from heaven (cf. Phil. 3:20-21). The full harvest will be like the firstfruits (1 Cor. 15:23; cf. Col. 1:18). First the seed must die; then the spiritual body will emerge...

The dead in Christ will first be raised, and then the living will be instantaneously transformed. The trumpet, as in the Old Testament, signaled the appearance of God (cf. Ex. 19:16). It is the last blast for the church because this appearance shall never end (cf. 1 Cor. 13:12). (There is no basis for posttribulationists equating this trumpet with the seventh trumpet in Rev. 11:15-19. The trumpets in Rev. pertain to judgments during the Tribulation, whereas the trumpet in 1 Cor. 15:52 is related to the church.)

15:53-54. Like the dead (vv. 42-43), the living will exchange the temporal and imperfect for the eternal and perfect (cf. 13:10). For those who belong to Christ, death’s power will be removed.

15:55. As in the allusion to Isaiah 25:8 (1 Cor. 15:54), Paul again recalled an Old Testament passage which prophesied the cessation of death (Hosea 13:14). (The recollections were adapted by Paul and do not correspond exactly to any of the extant Gr. or Heb. texts.) The apparent victories of Satan, in the Garden of Eden (Gen. 3:13) and on Golgotha (Mark 15:22-24) were reversed on the cross (Col. 2:15; Heb. 2:14-15) and vindicated in the resurrection of Christ. From the vantage point of the certain resurrection of the saints, Paul voiced his taunt against death and Satan...

15:58. Paul’s doctrinal declarations led to practical directives and this chapter’s conclusion was no exception. The Corinthians were urged to stand firm in the apostles’ teaching (v. 2), unmoved by the denials of false teachers (cf. Eph. 4:14). This certainty, especially concerning the Resurrection, provided an impetus to faithful service (cf. 1 Cor. 3:8; Gal. 6:9) since labor in the resurrected Lord is not futile (kenos, “empty”; cf. 1 Cor. 15:10, 14, 17, 30-32).

-Walvoord, J. F., Zuck, R. B., & Dallas Theological Seminary. (1983-c1985). The Bible knowledge commentary : An exposition of the scriptures (2:545). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
I maintain skepticism concerning some of the points various commentators make regarding this passage, but the majority of commentators whose reputation, credentials, and methodological presuppositions resonate with me seem to be of the consensus that this passage is about Jesus coming back to earth (the way He ascended into heaven: bodily! Cf. Acts 1:11), and about the future resurrection and transformation of those under grace (both dead and alive).

I find it interesting that our resurrection is compared to Jesus' (indeed He is the first of us!), and Jesus Himself made sure that those who saw Him after the Resurrection knew that He had been raised bodily (He ate fish, and insisted that "...a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have..." Luke 20).

The resurrection will be funky.

I hope William and I get to hang out. I don't care if we talk about the resurrection. At least, I don't care if we talk about it right away. I have no agenda. At least, not any manipulative or hidden one. And whatever it is that I do have, it is not without a genuine attraction to his personality.

Um, I have more to ramble about. I don't feel like elaborating on my view of election, but I feel like I owe it to Brandon. I think there are some other explanations I "owe" to people who have commented on this blog.


Sorry guys. I know it disappoints.


  1. Dear Kettle,
    Your blog is very long.

  2. "How can you even begin to understand the message of this, or any, "verse" (whatever that is) devoid of its context?"


  3. I think it might be difficult for you to avoid responding to rebuttle. If I had time and inspiration, I would compose a Swingrover-esque, lengthy response to this blog. Although I agree with you, I would unreasonably but articulately and reasonably agrue with all your arguments and toast points.
    How THE F do you spell rebuttel? Is there, like a silent letter up in there? I don't want to dictionary dot com this ish, cuz I should totally know it. Dude, the other day, I couldn't remember how to spell "table." I KNOW RIGHT? It just looked so off kilter and askew.
    The word verification on this blog is "proon."


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