“Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye at the last trumpet.” (I Corinthians 15:51).
Most Christians are familiar with this verse and what it describes. It is the time that precedes our Lord’s return. When those of us who have been reborn into the Kingdom of God and follow our Lord Jesus, make the final transition into a new life with Him.
The Apostle knew His return could occur at any time, and his writing suggests he believed Jesus would return in his lifetime. Every generation since has felt the Lord’s return would happen in their lifetimes as well. Their documented lifestyle and writings indicate such.
Christians in the ages proceeding ours had two reasons to think this way. One, the ‘signs of the times.’ During His earthly ministry, Our Lord mentioned these ‘signs’ in many parables, and every Christian longed for our Lord’s return. Secondly, it was only natural for those seeking the Lord’s return to find similarities between the signs of the times and the times in which they lived.
Although the parables used different circumstances and could be relating to any era, they all relayed the same warning. There will be a time when the end finally comes, and those ready will experience this moment of change, while those unready will only witness the transformation.
The exact time of the Lord’s return is unknown to those in this world or the spiritual world. For centuries now, men have tried to pinpoint the precise time, and all have failed. “No man knows the day or the hour,” yet we continue to create timetables to determine the day. But it’s not wrong- to look at the ‘signs of the times,’ if it keeps us ready for His return.
Today, the faithful interpret the ‘signs of the time’ as a warning of our Lord’s imminent return and strive to be ready, looking forward to this transition, while many others fail to heed this warning. We must never forget the parables our Lord spoke of concerning His return. No matter the people or places in those parables, the end was the same. It would come in a moment, a moment so quick it could only be described as a ‘twinkling of an eye.’
I believe this warning, the finality of this moment, and how quickly it occurs should be a warning heeded daily by all. You see, some will experience this ‘moment’ individually. Today your life could change just as suddenly as the ‘twinkling’ of an eye, and this change could be your last second in this life.
It would be remiss of me not to mention Pauls’ choice of words in this passage. The noun ‘twinkling’ carries a little more refined meaning than ‘blinking’ would. While blinking is something that happens when your eyes close momentarily, twinkling represents something seen while your eyes are wide open. This word is only used once in the Bible. It literally translates as ‘a jerk of the eye,’which is quicker than a blink, indicating that when this occurrence happens, no one will miss it.
You’ll see it, you won’t be able to claim you missed it while your eyes were closed for a split-second, you saw it, but you failed to grasp the importance of what you saw.
It doesn’t have to be a life-ending event; it could be an event that changed the future of your life. Even if this change in the course of your life was unrecognized at the time, it still was a defining moment. Considering our past, how many of us can remember specific times and choices that did change our lives? Many, I’m sure. Some of those memories are fond and still bring joy when we think about them.
While others, looking back, are quite the opposite. They are not pleasant memories, and we wish they hadn’t been part of our lives. Our lives are full of ‘I wish I hadn’t done so and so.’ Or ‘if only I had done this or that;’ all regrets of the past.
Some choices we make, we can correct. We get a second chance, as it were. When we are allowed to correct those errors in our lives, we should not hesitate to do so. But with our Lord’s return, once the trumpet sounds, the time for second chances is no more. The time of change has passed, and no matter what you wish for, it is too late.
The story of Noah and the construction of the ark are a stark reminder of the long-suffering grace of God’s love and the finality of God’s judgment. God’s judgment came the moment the door of the ark shut, leaving those who ignored God outside of the ark with no chance of salvation.
Can you imagine the ridicule Noah and his family faced every single day they were obeying God’s word? It must have taken decades to complete the ark’s construction. Those who mocked Noah failed to recognize what was going to take place. They carried on with their lives with no belief in their impending destruction. When they did see their end, it was too late. There were no last-minute rescues, no last-second chances.
God’s long-suffering grace does have an end, yet many don’t believe it. They might say they do, but their lives tell the opposite. If you ask them, ‘do you believe the Lord could return today,’ they would likely say ‘yes.’ But their daily plans and routines suggest they expect the Lord’s return will be some other day. And should the Lord’s return happen, they foolishly believe they would be smart enough to see it and could change in time.
What a grave error this is! When that moment comes, there will be no time to change, no time to prepare. The change should have already come as well as the preparation for that moment. Too often think of the Lord’s return and that final moment as a group-related event. And while the Lord’s return will be a worldwide event, we must also consider it a personal matter.
What if we narrow the participants in this event to just two, you and the Lord Jesus, which is precisely how this moment needs to be thought about, individually. Not a day goes by that we don’t hear of someone’s passing. Death from a heart attack or death from an accident happens daily. Do you think there was any forethought of this by the victims before it happened?
No one starts the day with the foresight of impending doom, but it still happens. No one driving to work or on some personal errand thinks they will die in a car wreck on the way, but it happens. Looking at it from this perspective, it becomes all too personal. Whatever others think or do does not affect what has just transpired in your life. Your end has is reached, and neither you and anyone else can change it.
There are things you and I do in life that we cannot undo. There are things we say which cannot be unsaid. No matter how sorry we are, no matter how much we regret what we did or said, we cannot change them. Bad choices happen so fast, in the twinkling of an eye, yet the results of those words and deeds will last the remainder of our lives.
The grace of our Lord is urging us to pay attention to the ‘signs of the times.’ Not so much to be able to map out the course of future events precisely, but as a warning that your trumpet, the one that’s calling you, may sound at any moment. Are you ready? If not, why not? Don’t make the mistake of thinking this event needs to happen, or the other event needs to happen before the Lord’s return. He may call you this very day regardless of what you believe must transpire beforehand.
God’s word and the Holy Spirit are urging us to be ready now! Perhaps God is calling you to come to him. To accept his calling and turn your life over to Him completing your preparation. For many, this calling will come in a moment. Do not turn away from that moment of hearing and accepting God’s call to repentance, for it may never come again. The awareness of that call may never again be as strong as it is right now.
Perhaps you can see that calling, as a glimmer, like a twinkling in your eye. You see it. It’s real. It’s true, don’t blink to make it pass, focus on it!
God will call, but not forever. The door will eventually shut, and then it’s too late. There are some false doctrines that prayers can be offered on your behalf by those still alive once you die. This teaching is a myth! Prayers for the benefit of the dead are lies and are not scriptural.
We may have received all of the warnings we will ever get. It doesn’t matter if ‘we are ready;’ it matters if ‘you are ready. In Mathew 24, Jesus uses several parables about the end coming, and most of them are individual warnings.
“Then there will be two men in the field; one will be taken and the one will be left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and the other one left.” (Mathew 23:40-41).
These verses show the coming of your trumpet, calling, or end to be an individual matter. When Paul told the Christians at Corinth, “behold I show you a mystery,” he did so with joy, looking forward to that split-second event. The readiness of our lives as Christians should illustrate our absolute belief in the surety of this verse.
Will you be in the group of remorse or those looking forward to the fulfillment of Jesus’s return?
When that day comes, many will have the fleeting awareness ‘I’m not ready.’ But alas, it will be too late. Meaningful events happen in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye. You will not be able to say I blinked and missed it, no you saw it and ignored it.
Are you ready? If not, why not? If not now, when?