Does All Mean All – Depends

Does all mean all? Typically we would say yes. But if you asked me how many people came to our Bible Party and I said, we were all there, does all mean all? (And yes, I have had Bible parties)

A lot of times people read portions or specific texts in scripture, see words like all, and attribute the text to mean everyone – in the world. That is also how people get “messed” up or confused with scripture or they do not understand what God is telling them from his word.

I am guilty of this too. You know when Jesus said we have to come to God with child-like faith? When I first read Luke 10:17 – 20 I thought Jesus was talking about real snakes and scorpions. It wasn’t until later I understood he was referring to the powers of the enemy, Satan. And Jesus made that clear after he said serpents and scorpions but it never clicked back then.

Luke 10:17-20 KJV  “And the seventy returned again with joy, saying, Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through thy name.
[18] And he said unto them, I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven.
[19] Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you.
[20] Notwithstanding in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven.”

So people sometimes read scripture and look at the text and misapply the verse or text because they do not put the verse in “context”. What is context? By definition context is the parts that precede and follow the subject matter. Which brings me to an example.

There was a panel of four men  knowledgeable in scripture. These men were doing a question and answer session, from an audience, answering questions about the scriptures. So a man asks a question about 1 Corinthians 15:51. The man quoted the scripture. 1 Corinthians 15:51 KJV
  “Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,”

The man focused on the last part of that verse and the word “all“. The man then said to the panel, does the verse say “all”? The panel said yes. The man said that means everyone.

The man determined from that scripture that all meant all and therefore, he determined everyone is going to be changed and go to heaven. The panel explained to the man that he was mistaken. And quickly the man responded, doesn’t all mean all? The panel tried to use an example of a baseball team. A worldly example also known as an object lesson.

The panel said if the coach of a baseball team asks the manager who is coming to the meeting and the manager says all of us, does all mean all? You could tell from the man’s response, he did not understand. And so goes the object lesson.

One of the keys to understanding scripture is to let God explain his word with his word. Worldly object lessons can not teach a scriptural truth and that is why Jesus spoke in parables. An object lesson focuses on the object but a parable focuses on the message, the teaching, the moral of the story.

A better way to explain the man’s question, letting God explain his word to this man, using God’s word would go something like this. Yes sir, typically all means all however, all can also mean all of a specific group and let me show you how. Whenever you don’t understand something from scripture, let God explain it to you through his word. Let’s look at the verse you mentioned.

1 Corinthians 15:51 KJV  “Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,”

Who wrote the book? Paul, right? Yes. So Paul is saying, behold I shew you – who is the you? The church at Cornith, the Corinthians, right? Yeeessss (as he starts pausing). We shall not all sleep – who is the we? The man pauses. Okay, I say, let’s find out. Let’s look at the beginning of the chapter to see who Paul was speaking to.

1 Corinthians 15:1-2 KJV  “Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand;
[2] By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.”

Notice Paul says “brethren”. We know scripture never says Paul had brothers in the flesh. Then Paul says about these brethren that he preached the gospel to them and they received the gospel and are saved. So who is Paul writing 1 Corinthians 15 to? Believers not the world. Not all people in the world, but believers who are saved, would you agree?

And let us confirm Paul is writing his letter to the Corinthians who are saved believers and not to all who are in the world, okay? Ok. Look at 1 Corinthians 1:1-2 KJV  “Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother,
[2] Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours:”

Notice Paul identifies himself as an apostle of Jesus Christ by God’s will, not his own will. Notice Paul has someone with him, Sosthenes. And verse two confirms 1 Corinthians 15:1  when Paul says “Unto the church of God which is at Cornith“. Paul then says to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints. Now we know beyond any doubt that Paul was speaking to believers and only believers in Christ, correct? Yes.

Not only does 1 Corinthians 15:1 tell us Paul is speaking to believers in Christ only, but the beginning of the letter addresses the letter to believers in Christ and only believers. So when we go back to your verse, verse 51 –

1 Corinthians 15:51 KJV  “Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,”

We can confidently say, Paul is telling believers we (all believers alive) shall not all sleep. (Sleep is die in the flesh. Look at Lazarus in John 11:11 – 14.) But we shall all be changed. Does God mean the whole world? No, the letter and text is for believers only, those saved by the gospel of Jesus Christ. In plain English God is telling believers, through Paul, there is a time coming when believers at that time will not die in their flesh but instead will be changed.

And one other point, when you said all will go to heaven, now you know the text is for only believers but notice the word heaven is not in that verse. You are assuming heaven but God did not say heaven anywhere in that verse or the verses before and after that verse. To understand scripture we can not put words in that are not there and we can not assume words that are not there. We have to stick to what is there and confirm those words with other similar verses to get an understanding on some issues.

Friends, when we try to explain spiritual matters with worldly object lessons I fear we add to confusion. We have to take God at his word and when we don’t understand something, search it out like treasure, silver and gold. Ask God the Holy Spurit to give you understanding every time you read scripture  ( it is part of the Holy Spirit’s job). Until next time.

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