But what about those who are living at the Coming of Christ? Must they die in order to have resurrection?

by Lim Chong Teck

One of the speakers during the recent Restoration Seminar made the observation that unless a person/body dies he cannot be resurrected. That discussion comes from the passage found in 1 Cor. 15:36: “Thou foolish one, that which thou thyself sowest is not quickened except it die”.

In view thereof some have asked the question, “And if it be so what about those who are still alive when Christ returns? Must they die first in order to be resurrected and also to have a new body?”

Primary thoughts

Paul was addressing the problem that some had said that there is no resurrection from the dead (Verse 12).The context in which he is addressing are what about the people who have died. Can there be a resurrection? By what power/means? What kind of body would we have since all had returned to dust?

Verse 35 says: “But some man will say, How are the dead raised up? and with what body do they come? And then in verse 36 Thou fool, that which thou sowest is not quickened except it die.”

Paul was trying to tell them the fact that death is not the end of all things and there is “resurrection “in the seed that died. And he used an illustration of nature that through seed dying comes new life. In verse 37 it says: “And that which thou sowest, thou sowest not that body that shall be; but bare grain, it may chance of wheat, or of some other grain.”

Verse 38 tells us God has the power to give this body and to every seed its own body.

This clearly indicates to us that the dead will possess a new body in the resurrection. Each seed will have its own body indicating everyone will have his own individual body.

Some of the Corinthian Christians could not comprehend this resurrection; hence Paul used nature to describe it.

But what about those who are living? Must they die to have resurrection?

The answer can be found from reading of 1 Cor 15: 51-57:

1 Cor 15:51-53: “Behold, I show you a mystery, We shall NOT ALL SLEEP, but we shall All BE CHANGED. In a moment, in a twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be RAISED INCORUPTIBLE, and WE shall BE CHANGED. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.

Verse 51: (Not all sleep) tells us at the coming of Christ some will be alive (cf 1 Thess. 4: 15-17) but ALL will BE CHANGED tells us both the dead in Christ and those in Christ who are alive will be changed.

Verse 52: tells us the sequence of this change. First the dead in Christ will be raised incorruptible and then we who are alive at His Coming shall be changed.

Verse 53: the dead will be raised from corruption to incorruption and those who are alive at His Coming and as the bible put it mortal (that means can die) will put on immortality (cannot die).

So in both instances of the dead and those alive at His Coming, death will be conquered by firstly the dead will be raised, i.e from corruption to incorruption. And secondly the living at His Coming who can die, i.e mortal, will be changed to immortality. And so verse 54 -56 tells us that it is when both of these happened i.e. when the dead are raised and the living no longer dies than death would have been conquered unequivocally. This victory over death is given by God through Christ.

From the above we can conclude that those living at His Coming will overcome death by putting on immortality.

The bible is so clear in the language it uses that it leaves no room for doubt about the bodily resurrection on the last day and the change that will take place for the dead and the living.

And a reading from 1 Thessalonians 4: 16-17 tells us the dead in Christ shall rise first and we who remained i.e. alive at the time of his return will be caught up with them and together, we will be with the Lord forever more.

The bible is clear about what happens to those in Christ on the return of Christ. Those who are dead will be raised to put on incorruptible and together with those who living who will be changed to immortal, will be with Christ.

Another important thing to note is that both of them will be with the Lord forever more. This state has eternity in mind. And the body that we will have is not flesh & blood (1 Cor 15:50) but a glorified body (Philippians 3:21)

So those that are living when Christ comes will have their mortal (bodies that can die), changed to immortality.

Secondary thoughts

It is very important how we understand the bible. The immediate context must first be considered and then followed by other relevant context. The clear passages must be relied upon to explain the difficult passages. And the scriptures will interpret itself.

Sometimes a problem arises when we put a question that we think is all inclusive and read the question with only one possibility and worst if it is put to suit our teachings.

Example 1.

Mark 16:16 He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved but he that believeth not shall be damned.

Can we conclude therefore that He applies to All (every human) who do not believe shall be damned?

Yes & No. Yes, “All” who have the ability to believe but do not will be condemned. No, babies are not included although the reading does mean everyone. Simply because babies cannot believe or decide that they want to be baptized. Believe & baptism is personal faith & personal decisions.

Example 2

Roman 3:23: “ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

“All man” of the past, present and future are included. However all man excludes Jesus for he had no sin. “All” excludes babies & little children for they do not understand what is good and evil. And you have Matt 18:3, 19:14 to tell us the fact that they are safe. Those who are born mentally handicap and even as they grow to adulthood are exempted as they cannot understand.

We understand what the “All” means by the explanation of other scriptures.  We should let the bible explain itself and for us to accept it without trying to twist/press hard upon something to justify what we believe.

And from this example when we press the “All” to include everyone then babies will need to be baptized for remission of sin. And from there we will question what about unborn babies? Since they cannot be baptized so they may not be a living soul hence abortion permitted?  Or should we baptize the pregnant mother and thus baptize the child also?

And when we read John 3:3-5 that UNLESS one is born of water and spirit he cannot enter the kingdom of God, we need to understand the context of that “everyone” before we include babies for baptism or even force someone to be baptized to enter the kingdom of heaven.

And other passages like Luke 13;3 & 5 unless you repent you will likewise perish.  “Unless you” means everyone, yet it would be applicable only to the person who is able to repent. One needs to be a sinner in order to repent. Did Jesus need to repent? What about babies? According to Eze 18:20, babies do not bear the sins of their fathers: “The soul that sinneth, it shall die: the son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son; the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him.”

Therefore if other scriptures have explained to us a difficult passage and have given exemption or exclusion or inclusion then let it explain itself.

So in the matter of the statement use in 1 Cor. 15: 36 “Thou fool, that which thou sowest is not quickened EXCEPT it die.” is explained by another passage in 1 Cor. 15: 51-57 as to what will happen to those living at the Coming of Christ. We don’t need to push the “except”. In fact what 1 Cor 15:36 stresses is that resurrection is inevitable.

One could also say that perhaps those living at His Coming will have an accelerated death and then resurrected, all in a twinkling of an eye. But we should stick to how the scriptures explain that the mortal bodies will be changed to immortality. No need to push. Just let the scriptures tell it as it is.

We can see the sum of God’s word is truth (Psa 119:160) therefore other scriptures can provide us with a better understanding.