What Really Happens “in the Twinkling of an Eye?”
By Wayne Fowler
Isn’t it interesting how we can read a passage of Scripture that we have read and meditated on many times, and then suddenly, the Lord opens our eyes to a greater revelation concerning that passage than we could ever have anticipated? If you have had an experience like that, you never forget it. That new revelation becomes your “possession” from that moment. I cherish each of these priceless revelatory jewels.
With or without a personal revelation from the Lord, it’s easy sometimes to miss what the Lord says so simply in His Word. Many times, it’s because we have made an invalid assumption that colors our understanding of what should be easily understood through a simple reading of the text. (And we’ve all done it, so no one is immune to this approach to the study of God’s Word.)
A relevant example of this is comes from his letter to the Church at Corinth, where Paul, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, is revealing the mystery of the Rapture of the Church to them:
1 Corinthians 15:51-53: Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed—in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality.
Based on these verses, I have heard a number of commentators and others comment on this event from the standpoint that the entire thing happens simultaneously “in the twinkling of an eye.” And who hasn’t seen movie and advertisement scenes of the mass of humanity, including all Christians, just going about their daily lives when all of a sudden, “Blink,” and all of the born again Christians have just disappeared? What happened to the Trump of God? What about the voice of the Archangel? The loud command from Jesus?
The little misstep that I believe is occurring is supposing that the entire process takes place instantly. But, Scripture doesn’t say that. Perhaps it's conditioning by others that continue to repeat the same point? Maybe. While I am not attempting to be dogmatic about it, I believe it is perfectly reasonable to expect that the only thing that takes place “in the twinkling of an eye” is the change from our corruptible mortal bodies to the incorruptible immortal ones. The rest of the explanation is to give the sequence of events leading up to when that instantaneous change occurs. Let’s take a look at a few passages.
In context, the passage in I Corinthians 15 relates the fact that our mortal bodies have to be changed to be fit for the Kingdom of God. Paul then goes on to tell us the secret that those living Christians, at the "Rapture," will have this change occur instantly. He then tells us where in the process that instantaneous change occurs. Finally, we are told the reasoning for the change. Scripture verses are from the NIV translation.
51 Listen, (Here is a secret from the Lord) I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed—
52 (How fast will this change occur?) in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye,
(When will this change occur?) at the last trumpet.
(In what sequence will this change occur?)
1) For the trumpet will sound,
2) the dead will be raised imperishable,
3) and we will be changed.
53 (Why will this change occur?) For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality.
The companion passage (I Thessalonians 4:15-17) perfectly equates with the "process" or procedure in greater detail on all points (without discussing how fast the change occurs):
15 (Here is a secret from the Lord) According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep.
16 (In what sequence will this change occur?)
1) For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with
the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God,
2) and the dead in Christ will rise first.
3)17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with
them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.
We can find this same pattern in the Old Testament as well. Exodus 19 is a symbolic representation (I believe) of how the Rapture will take place.
16 On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightning, with a thick cloud over the mountain, and a very loud trumpet blast. Everyone in the camp trembled. 17 Then Moses led the people out of the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. 18 Mount Sinai was covered with smoke, because the Lord descended on it in fire. The smoke billowed up from it like smoke from a furnace, and the whole mountain trembled violently. 19 As the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke and the voice of God answered him. 20 The Lord descended to the top of Mount Sinai and called Moses to the top of the mountain. So Moses went up…
In the context of these verses, if we agree that this is a clear symbolic reference to the Rapture with Moses as a type of the Church, where would the change “in the twinkling of an eye” occur? In between the Lord calling Moses to the top (we are changed in the twinkling of an eye) and Moses went up!
If we look at Revelation 4:1 from the standpoint that it also signifies the Rapture of the Church, as many do, we once again see the same order of events culminating with the instantaneous change of the body as the last step in the process:
1 After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. And the voice I had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.” 2 At once I was in the Spirit…
So, what do I propose we can practically expect will happen when that glorious moment (that is SO close now) occurs? Jesus will begin by bursting onto the scene, descending from heaven into our atmosphere through a “doorway” that He has opened. Next, we will hear the Trump of God "wax louder and louder." At the end of the blast, with our Lord Jesus giving us the command to "come up here," we will THEN have our bodies instantly changed and will meet our Lord in the air. And with our Lord Jesus we will all pass through the doorway into heaven.
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!