Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:
‘The Twinkling of an Eye, Before the Trumpet’s Sound’
© October 29, 2017 by Steve Mickelson
Announcements and Call to Worship; Prayer
Opening Hymn #288: Amazing Grace! How Sweet the Sound
Prayer and Tithing Hymn #572: Praise God from Whom All Blessings
Responsive Reading #644: Christ and Immortality (- from 1 Corinthians 15)
Message by Steve Mickelson: ‘The Twinkling of an Eye, Before the Trumpet’s Sound’
Let us pray…
Welcome to BLCF Church’s Sunday Morning Praise and Worship Service. Our lesson today is entitled: ‘The Twinkling of an Eye, Before the Trumpet’s Sound’, a study based upon a question sister Olivia asked last Sunday: “What happens to the Spirit of the saved, between the death of the body and the time of the resurrection?” a time frame described in the Scriptures as the “twinkling of an eye” that takes place just before the “trumpet’s sound.”
Depending upon the day our Lord and Savior, Christ Jesus returns, this period of time could last a second or thousands of years, and it is during this time that our spirit will abandon its earthly body for a heavenly body. We will exchange our form, from one that resembles the man of dust, (Adam), to the man of the Spirit, (Jesus). When Jesus returns, our spirit leaves the mortal vessel that it occupied until the death of that vessel and move on to occupy a new immortal body.
The question is what happens to the human soul between the instant we draw our last breath, in our current body, and that instant when we occupy the new form that the Lord has prepared for us.
Before we examine this twilight period between the mortal and immortal, let us examine what the Bible calls the resurrection into a heavenly body as described in 1 Corinthians 15:35-58 (ESV):
The Resurrection Body
35 But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?” 36 You foolish person! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. 37 And what you sow is not the body that is to be, but a bare kernel, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain. 38 But God gives it a body as he has chosen, and to each kind of seed its own body.39 For not all flesh is the same, but there is one kind for humans, another for animals, another for birds, and another for fish. 40 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. 41 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.
42 So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. 43 It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. 44 It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. 45 Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”;[a] the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. 46 But it is not the spiritual that is first but the natural, and then the spiritual. 47 The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. 48 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.49 Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall[b] also bear the image of the image of the man of heaven.
Mystery and Victory
50 I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 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. 53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. 54 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.”
55 “O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”
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 beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.
The new body that Jesus provides for us is not subject death or deterioration caused by sin, as the Lord’s sacrifice has allowed us to exchange the mortal body for a new one that is immortal.
Understanding this new immortal form that awaits the resurrected believer may be a challenge, when one attempts to define it or understand from the mortal perspective, as was the problem encountered by the Sadducees in Matthew 22:23-33 (ESV):
Sadducees Ask About the Resurrection
23 The same day Sadducees came to him, who say that there is no resurrection, and they asked him a question, 24 saying, “Teacher, Moses said, ‘If a man dies having no children, his brother must marry the widow and rise up offspring for his brother.’ 25 Now there were seven brothers among us. The first married and died, and having no offspring left his wife to his brother. 26 So too the second and third, down to the seventh. 27 After them all, the woman died. 28 In the resurrection, therefore, of the seven, whose wife will she be? For they all had her.”
29 But Jesus answered them, “You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God. 30 For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven.31 And as for the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was said to you by God: 32 ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not God of the dead, but of the living.”33 And when the crowd heard it, they were astonished at his teaching.
There is no need for marriage and procreation to perpetuate those who are immortal. Not only will believers be raised from death to an immortal form of existence, but the countenance that is bright as the sky above, and those responsible for the leading others to salvation will shine as brightly as the stars above, Daniel 12:1-3 (ESV):
The Time of the End
12 “At that time shall arise Michael, the great prince who has charge of your people. And there shall be a time of trouble, such as never has been since there was a nation till that time. But at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone whose name shall be found written in the book. 2 And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. 3 And those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above;[a] and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.
Dr. Ralph F. Wilson argues that we would be mistaken, if we think that this period that the souls of the departed exist only to slumber in the dust, while waiting the appointed time that the Lord returns to be awakened in his article which discusses the implications of a Soul Sleep Doctrine:
Implications for Soul Sleep – by Dr. Ralph F. Wilson
(from This Day You Will Be with Me in Paradise – Luke 23:43)
A few Christian groups teach a doctrine known as “soul sleep.” Essentially, the doctrine holds that at death the soul “sleeps” and is not conscious until the resurrection. Indeed, there are a number of times when “sleep” is used as a euphemism for death.14 But three passages make it quite clear that the soul is not unconscious until the resurrection:
“Today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43)
“We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.” (2 Corinthians 5:8)
“I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far.” (Philippians 1:23)
As a reward for faith, our Lord promised us the same type of resurrection from death by way of the Holy Spirit as His experience after His crucifixion. While his body was dead in the flesh, Jesus’ was alive and active in the spirit, as we read in 1 Peter 3:18-22 (ESV):
1 Peter 3:18-22 (ESV)
18 For Christ also suffered[a] once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, 19 in which[b] he went and proclaimed[c]to the spirits in prison, 20 because[d] they formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water. 21 Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22 who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him.
Professor Joe Rigney interprets this passage of Scripture from 1 Peter 3:18-22, as follows:
Where Did Jesus Go When He Died?
(by Joe Rigney – Professor, Bethlehem College & Seminary)
“Following his death for sin, Jesus journeys to Hades, to the City of Death, and rips its gates off the hinges.”
What, then, does this tell us about where Jesus was on Holy Saturday? Based on Jesus’s words to the thief on the cross in Luke 23:43, some Christians believe, that after his death, Jesus’s soul went to heaven to be in the presence of the Father. But Luke 23:43 doesn’t say that Jesus would be in the presence of God; it says he would be in the presence of the thief (“Today you will be with me in paradise”), and based on the Old Testament and Luke 16, it seems likely that the now-repentant thief would be at Abraham’s side, a place of comfort and rest for the righteous dead, which Jesus here calls “paradise.”
Following his death for sin, then, Jesus journeys to Hades, to the City of Death, and rips its gates off the hinges. He liberates Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, John the Baptist, and the rest of the Old Testament faithful, ransoming them from the power of Sheol (Psalm 49:15; 86:13; 89:48). They had waited there for so long, not having received what was promised, so that their spirits would be made perfect along with the saints of the new covenant (Hebrews 11:39–40; 12:23).
After his resurrection, Jesus ascends to heaven and brings the ransomed dead with him, so that now paradise is no longer down near the place of torment, but is up in the third heaven, the highest heaven, where God dwells (2 Corinthians 12:2–4).
Now, in the church age, when the righteous die, they aren’t merely carried by angels to Abraham’s bosom; they depart to be with Christ, which is far better (Philippians 1:23). The wicked, however, remain in Hades in torment, until the final judgment, when Hades gives up the dead who dwell there, and they are judged according to their deeds, and then Death and Hades are thrown into hell, into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:13–15).
While believers in the Resurrected Christ are raised from the grave to be sanctified from the punishment for their sins, those who have turned away from God, including Satan, face the same, as described in Revelation 20 (ESV) :
The Thousand Years
20 Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding in his hand the key to the bottomless pit[a] and a great chain. 2 And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, 3 and threw him into the pit, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he might not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were ended. After that he must be released for a little while.
4 Then I saw thrones, and seated on them were those to whom the authority to judge was committed. Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. 5 The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended. This is the first resurrection. 6 Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years.
The Defeat of Satan
7 And when the thousand years are ended, Satan will be released from his prison 8 and will come out to deceive the nations that are at the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them for battle; their number is like the sand of the sea. 9 And they marched up over the broad plain of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city, but fire came down from heaven[b] and consumed them,10 and the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.
Judgment Before the Great White Throne
11 Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them.12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. 13 And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done.14 Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. 15 And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.
We must take heart in the Lord’s promise that we will be accompanied forever: in this life, in the twinkling of an eye after death, and after our own resurrection. Jesus has assures us, that we will exist in the company of a Spirit who never slumbers or sleeps, John 14:15-17 (ESV):
Jesus Promises the Holy Spirit
15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper,[a] to be with you forever,17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be[b] in you.
What will our spirit do while waiting between death of our natural bodies and the resurrection of our new spiritual bodies? Pastor Peter Slofstra provides us with an explanation of God’s Amazing Grace, with a little help from C.S. Lewis:
God’s Amazing Grace
“Lent Sermon Series on the Words of the Cross.” – Luke 23:43
(from Sermon by Reverend Peter Slofstra Pastor of Hope Fellowship, Courtice)
The question is this: When a person dies, where does he go and when does he get there? Does he enter a state called “soul sleep” until Jesus returns? Does he go to a place called purgatory, an intermediate place until he is ready to move on? Does he go instantly to heaven? And how can that be since Jesus has not come back yet and the new earth and paradise has not yet been restored?
It helps to remember that Jesus’ concept of “today” is very different from ours. When Peter wrote about the Day of the Lord and tried to reassure Christians who were impatient to see Jesus come back, he said: “But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.” (II Peter 3:8) In other words, time is a human construct, a linear experience of seconds, minutes, hours, day, weeks, months and years. Eternity, on the other hand, is a divine experience, a constant living in the now that holds past, present and future in the same moment.
When a Christian dies, he enters eternity and immediately arrives at that moment where Jesus is coming and paradise is restored. Like pushing through the fur coats in the wardrobe and tumbling into Narnia, the believer who dies in the Lord instantly arrives there. In the meantime, those who are left behind continue to measure their experience with clocks and calendars, constrained by the schedules and routines that we are forced to keep.
Is this just a fantasy, a human attempt to express the inexpressible and understand a divine reality that we can never grasp? Perhaps. But there is also the Bible which says, “According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep.” (II Thessalonians 4:15) In other words, like people who sleep and are oblivious to the passing of time, waking up in what seems like a second later while others put in a full shift at work, those who die in the Lord wake up instantly at the moment of Christ’s second coming to join those who happen to be still alive when he returns. In The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, C.S. Lewis captures this beautifully at the end of the story when the four children who grew into adults in Narnia tumble back out of the wardrobe only to find themselves back at the precise moment in time when their adventure first began!
It really is true that to God a thousand years is like a day. The comfort we have is that our loved ones are with the Lord today in eternity even though we are still waiting for that Day to arrive in human time. Isn’t it incredible that we may picture them in paradise right now!
Let us pray…
Closing Hymn #581: There’s a Sweet, Sweet Spirit
Benediction – 1 Corinthians 15:56-57:
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.