The resurrection of the body is probably the most debated teaching in the Bible. During Christ’s time, there were those who did not believe in the resurrection, spirits or angels. Jesus made many arguments for the resurrection of the dead which were later expounded upon by the Apostles. The Apostles clearly taught that believers will be raised.
Knowing that He who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and will present us with you.
(2Co 4:14 NAS)
The clearest teaching on the resurrection was by Paul in 1st Corinthians chapter 15. Paul makes it very clear that, the dead are raised as a spiritual body, the body is imperishable, that flesh cannot inherit the Kingdom of God, the dead do not sleep, and that at death we are raised from the dead. Not only do believers get raised from the dead, unbelievers as well will be raised.
Those who die will not sleep
To sleep means to remain dead. Not simply to die but to be in the state of death. There are many Old Testament examples of the usage of sleep as meaning death.
Consider and answer me, O LORD, my God; Enlighten my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death,
(Psa 13:3 NAS See also Dan 12:2; Psa 90:5)
Jesus referred to death as sleep.
This He said, and after that He said to them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I go, that I may awaken him out of sleep.” The disciples therefore said to Him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover.” Now Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought that He was speaking of literal sleep. Then Jesus therefore said to them plainly, “Lazarus is dead,
(John 11:11-14 NAS See also Luk 8:52; Mat 9:24; Mat 27:51-53)
Paul makes it clear that, at death, people do not sleep; but, are raised from death.
Behold, I tell you a mystery; we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,
(1Co 15:51 NAS)
Simply put, while our body does die, we will not remain dead.
The body decays but the Spirit is resurrected
When we die, our body goes through the normal decay process. This is totally different that Christ. Christ’s body did not decay or see corruption. We will.
then the dust will return to the earth as it was, and the spirit will return to God who gave it.
(Ecc 12:7 NAS See also Gen 3:19; Psa 104:29; Psa 146:4)
“And as for the fact that He raised Him up from the dead, no more to return to decay, He has spoken in this way: ‘I will give you the holy and sure blessings of David.’ “Therefore He also says in another Psalm, ‘Thou wilt not allow Thy Holy One to undergo decay.’ “For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep, and was laid among his fathers, and underwent decay; but He whom God raised did not undergo decay.
(Act 13:34-37 NAS)
This does not mean when we are raised we do not have a physical body.
Resurrection has a physical body
At death, God transforms the body from an earthly state into conformity with the body of His glory.
Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we shall be. We know that, when He appears, we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him just as He is.
(1John 3:2 NAS See also 1Co 6:13-14; Phil 3:20-21)
This means we will have a body "similar" to Christ’s body. We are raised imperishable and immortal.
Behold, I tell you a mystery; we shall not all sleep, but we shall 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 shall 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. “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law;
(1Co 15:38-56 NAS)
This transformation happens at the time of death and not in some future event.
We live our lives waiting for redemption
There are many statements in the Bible that show we are waiting for redemption. There is no holding place for the dead that are awaiting their resurrected body in the future.
And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body.
(Rom 8:23 NAS)
so that you are not lacking in any gift, awaiting eagerly the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ, who shall also confirm you to the end, blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.
(1Co 1:7-8 NAS See also 1Pe 1:4-5; Eph 4:30)
There have been many explanations brought forth, such as "Abraham’s Bosom", trying to reconcile a future bodily resurrection. Unfortunately, there is not passage in the Bible that states there is a holding place where people await their resurrected bodies. This concept is forced into the Bible.
Resurrection at the time of death
There are plenty or passages that show judgment and the resurrection occur at the time of death.
And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment, so Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, shall appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him.
(Heb 9:27-28 NAS)
Death must come first before resurrection. Many Christians quote Paul to prove that people who are not dead are resurrected to heaven.
However, when reviewing the context of the passage, it appears Paul is talking about the order of operations in regards to the resurrection. Those who die are resurrected at death first. He is letting them know they will be resurrected at death and that they will not sleep. He is not teaching a future rapture.
You must die to be resurrected
The Bible is very clear however, that, you must die to be resurrected. It is absurd to say something that was not dead was resurrected. The definition of the word means to "to come to life again."
But someone will say, “How are the dead raised? And with what kind of body do they come?” You fool! That which you sow does not come to life unless it dies; and that which you sow, you do not sow the body which is to be, but a bare grain, perhaps of wheat or of something else.
(1Co 15:35-37 NAS)
How can something come to life if it was never dead in the first place?
Jesus says the resurrection was during the Old Testament
Jesus clearly taught that the Old Testament saints were raised from the dead at death.
“But regarding the resurrection of the dead, have you not read that which was spoken to you by God, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob?’ He is not the God of the dead but of the living.”
(Mat 22:31-32 NAS Mar 12:18-27; Luk 20:27-37)
Looking forward to what lies ahead
Paul talked about his impending death and how he was "reaching forward to what lies ahead" which is the resurrection from the dead.
I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish in order that I may gain Christ and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained it, or have already become perfect, but I press on in order that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
(Phil 3:8-14 NAS See also 2Ti 4:6-8 NAS)
Being absent from the body present with the Lord
Paul clearly taught that, at death, we are absent from the body and present with the Lord.
For we know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For indeed in this house we groan, longing to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven; inasmuch as we, having put it on, shall not be found naked. For indeed while we are in this tent, we groan, being burdened, because we do not want to be unclothed, but to be clothed, in order that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. Now He who prepared us for this very purpose is God, who gave to us the Spirit as a pledge. Therefore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord– for we walk by faith, not by sight– we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord. Therefore also we have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.
(2Co 5:1-10 NAS See also Phil 1:20-23)
The thief on the cross was raised to heaven at death
Another instance of death then resurrection is the thief on the cross.
“And we indeed justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” And he was saying, “Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!” And He said to him, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.”
(Luk 23:41-43 NAS)
The thief did not go to some holding area. He went to Paradise which is with God in Heaven.
Lazarus and the Rich man were raised during Christ’s ministry
Another passage that shows the resurrection happens at death is the parable of the Rich man and Lazarus.
“Now it came about that the poor man died and he was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s bosom; and the rich man also died and was buried. “And in Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and saw Abraham far away, and Lazarus in his bosom. “And he cried out and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue; for I am in agony in this flame.’
(Luk 16:22-24 NAS)
Christ is showing that, at death, there is no turning back or second chance. One will be raised to paradise and the other to damnation.
Saints were raised at the time of Christ’s resurrection
There is also the instance where there were saints who were raised from the dead at the time of Christ’s resurrection.
And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit. And behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom, and the earth shook; and the rocks were split, and the tombs were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; and coming out of the tombs after His resurrection they entered the holy city and appeared to many. (Mat 27:50-53 NAS)
Christ stated "I am the resurrection and the life"
When Martha’s brother Lazarus died, Christ negated her statement of the resurrection as being a far away future event.
Martha said to Him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me shall live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” She said to Him, “Yes, Lord; I have believed that You are the Christ, the Son of God, even He who comes into the world.”. . .
And when He had said these things, He cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth.” He who had died came forth, bound hand and foot with wrappings; and his face was wrapped around with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”
(John 11:24-27, 43-44 NAS)
Christ clearly equated the resurrection with eternal life and showed that the resurrection was at His discretion.
The resurrection on the last day and eternal life
There are many passages that state, raising up at the last day and eternal life are the same event.
“And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day. “For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him, may have eternal life; and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.” . . .
“No one can come to Me, unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day.. . .
“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life.
(John 6:39-40, 44, 47 NAS)
Christ promised that those who are His people will be raised at the time of their death and have eternal life.
The resurrection of righteous and wicked
Not only are believers raised at death; but, those who are not saved will be raised to everlasting damnation.
“But this I admit to you, that according to the Way which they call a sect I do serve the God of our fathers, believing everything that is in accordance with the Law, and that is written in the Prophets; having a hope in God, which these men cherish themselves, that there shall certainly be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked.
(Act 24:14-15 NAS)
This resurrection is the final judgment all humans will experience at death.
NOW is the resurrection of the righteous and the wicked
The resurrection is not a long far away event; but, an event that is happening now. It has happened, is happening, and will continue to happen till the end of the world.
“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life. “Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear shall live. “For just as the Father has life in Himself, even so He gave to the Son also to have life in Himself; and He gave Him authority to execute judgment, because He is the Son of Man. “Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs shall hear His voice, and shall come forth; those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment.
(John 5:24-29 NAS)
Now judgment is upon this world; now the ruler of this world shall be cast out.
(John 12:31 NAS)
At the time someone dies, they are resurrected to appear before Christ at the judgment seat in heaven.