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51Listen, I will tell you a mystery! We will not all die, but we will all be changed, 52in 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 will be changed. 53For this perishable body must put on imperishability, and this mortal body must put on immortality. 54When this perishable body puts on imperishability, and this mortal body puts on immortality, then the saying that is written will be fulfilled:

“Death has been swallowed up in victory.”


“Where, O death, is your victory?

Where, O death, is your sting?”

56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

58 Therefore, my beloved, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the work of the Lord, because you know that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.


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51. Behold—Calling attention to the "mystery" heretofore hidden in God's purposes, but now revealed.

you—emphatical in the Greek; I show (Greek, "tell," namely, by the word of the Lord, 1Th 4:15) YOU, who think you have so much knowledge, "a mystery" (compare Ro 11:25) which your reason could never have discovered. Many of the old manuscripts and Fathers read, "We shall all sleep, but we shall not all be changed"; but this is plainly a corrupt reading, inconsistent with 1Th 4:15, 17, and with the apostle's argument here, which is that a change is necessary (1Co 15:53). English Version is supported by some of the oldest manuscripts and Fathers. The Greek is literally "We all shall not sleep, but," &c. The putting off of the corruptible body for an incorruptible by an instantaneous change will, in the case of "the quick," stand as equivalent to death, appointed to all men (Heb 9:27); of this Enoch and Elijah are types and forerunners. The "we" implies that Christians in that age and every successive age since and hereafter were designed to stand waiting, as if Christ might come again in their time, and as if they might be found among "the quick."

52. the last trump—at the sounding of the trumpet on the last day [Vatablus] (Mt 24:31; 1Th 4:16). Or the Spirit by Paul hints that the other trumpets mentioned subsequently in the Apocalypse shall precede, and that this shall be the last of all (compare Isa 27:13; Zec 9:14). As the law was given with the sound of a trumpet, so the final judgment according to it (Heb 12:19; compare Ex 19:16). As the Lord ascended "with the sound of a trumpet" (Ps 47:5), so He shall descend (Re 11:15). The trumpet was sounded to convoke the people on solemn feasts, especially on the first day of the seventh month (the type of the completion of time; seven being the number for perfection; on the tenth of the same month was the atonement, and on the fifteenth the feast of tabernacles, commemorative of completed salvation out of the spiritual Egypt, compare Zec 14:18, 19); compare Ps 50:1-7. Compare His calling forth of Lazarus from the grave "with a loud voice," Joh 11:43, with Joh 5:25, 28.

and—immediately, in consequence.

53. this—pointing to his own body and that of those whom he addresses.

put on—as a garment (2Co 5:2, 3).

immortality—Here only, besides 1Ti 6:16, the word "immortality" is found. Nowhere is the immortality of the soul, distinct from the body, taught; a notion which many erroneously have derived from heathen philosophers. Scripture does not contemplate the anomalous state brought about by death, as the consummation to be earnestly looked for (2Co 5:4), but the resurrection.

54. then—not before. Death has as yet a sting even to the believer, in that his body is to be under its power till the resurrection. But then the sting and power of death shall cease for ever.

Death is swallowed up in victory—In Hebrew of Isa 25:8, from which it is quoted, "He (Jehovah) will swallow up death in victory"; that is, for ever: as "in victory" often means in Hebrew idiom (Jer 3:5; La 5:20). Christ will swallow it up so altogether victoriously that it shall never more regain its power (compare Ho 6:2; 13:14; 2Co 5:4; Heb 2:14, 15; Re 20:14; 21:4).

55. Quoted from Ho 13:14, substantially; but freely used by the warrant of the Spirit by which Paul wrote. The Hebrew may be translated, "O death, where are thy plagues? Where, O Hades, is thy destruction?" The Septuagint, "Where is thy victory (literally, in a lawsuit), O death? Where is thy sting, O Hades? … Sting" answers to the Hebrew "plagues," namely, a poisoned sting causing plagues. Appropriate, as to the old serpent (Ge 3:14, 15; Nu 21:6). "Victory" answers to the Hebrew "destruction." Compare Isa 25:7, "destroy … veil … over all nations," namely, victoriously destroy it; and to "in victory" (1Co 15:54), which he triumphantly repeats. The "where" implies their past victorious destroying power and sting, now gone for ever; obtained through Satan's triumph over man in Eden, which enlisted God's law on the side of Satan and death against man (Ro 5:12, 17, 21). The souls in Hades being freed by the resurrection, death's sting and victory are gone. For "O grave," the oldest manuscripts and versions read, "O death," the second time.

56. If there were no sin, there would be no death. Man's transgression of the law gives death its lawful power.

strength of sin is the law—Without the law sin is not perceived or imputed (Ro 3:20; 4:15; 5:13). The law makes sin the more grievous by making God's will the clearer (Ro 7:8-10). Christ's people are no longer "under the law" (Ro 6:14).

57. to God—The victory was in no way due to ourselves (Ps 98:1).

giveth—a present certainty.

the victory—which death and Hades ("the grave") had aimed at, but which, notwithstanding the opposition of them, as well as of the law and sin, we have gained. The repetition of the word (1Co 15:54, 55) is appropriate to the triumph gained.

58. beloved—Sound doctrine kindles Christian love.

steadfast—not turning aside from the faith of the resurrection of yourselves.

unmovable—not turned aside by others (1Co 15:12; Col 1:23).

the work of the Lord—the promotion of Christ's kingdom (Php 2:30).

not in vain—as the deniers of the resurrection would make it (1Co 15:14, 17).

in the Lord—applying to the whole sentence and its several clauses: Ye, as being in the Lord by faith, know that your labor in the Lord (that is, labor according to His will) is not to be without its reward in the Lord (through His merits and according to His gracious appointment).