The changing of a caterpillar into a magnificent butterfly is probably the most remarkable process in nature. Scientists still scratch their heads about many of the details. The transformation of a human body into a heavenly one is even more mysterious.
Caterpillars are made to crawl along the spindly stalks of the plants they devour. Butterflies flutter gracefully from flower to flower, sipping nectar each time they alight. In the same way, human bodies are designed for a tough physical world; our new bodies will be suited to heaven. When Corinthian Christians asked Paul to explain the mechanics of human resurrection, he pointed out that earthy bodies are completely different from heavenly ones. One day, believers will share the heavenly nature of Jesus, the Last Adam and the Second Man.
Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will 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 will be changed. For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality. But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, “Death is swallowed up in victory. (1 Corinthians 15:50-54)
Regardless of whether or not we die before Jesus returns, every one of His followers will be changed instantly when the last trumpet sounds. Paul used two interesting Greek words. The word athanasia, meaning immortality, is a negative form of the word for death. In other words, in our immortal state we will be immune from death. Aphthartos means imperishable or free from decay. Some Bibles use the word, “incorruptible.” Elsewhere, it is listed as one of the attributes of God, the King eternal, immortal, and invisible (1 Tim. 1:17). When Jesus comes, our human existence will be metamorphosed into a heavenly life form, suited to dwelling with God forever.
Like every biblical mystery, the mystery of resurrection is accessible, like an unlocked door waiting for us to turn the handle and enter. Grasping the mystery requires faith and the wisdom of God; the Spirit must reveal it. This final biblical mystery presents the biggest challenge but has a magnificent reward.
Holding on to the hope of resurrection, while looking death in the eyes, is the ultimate test of our faith. But Christians can view death like the cocoon of a caterpillar. It is a temporary dormant state, a preparation, a waiting period. When Jesus returns, we will burst out like a bright new butterfly.
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