Q. I can’t seem to find an answer to this question. In 1 Thessalonians 4:16 and 1 Corinthians 15:52, the verses reference the dead rising first during the rapture. I don’t believe in soul-sleep, so I am confused by the word “dead.” I try to make sense of it by thinking those verses refer to the dead, but saved in Christ, rising first and the church being caught up second. But I’m confused as to why God would want to raise up dead bodies. Do you know what I mean? Most of those bodies have long ago rotted away and turned to dust, so what is going to be raised up if their spirits are already in Heaven? Thanks so much for your help!
A. I’ve answered questions like this a number of times before, but they keep coming around so let’s do it again.
When the Bible speaks of a resurrection, it’s always a physical event, involving a physical body. According to 2 Cor. 5:8 the spirits of believers who have died are in Heaven now, but their bodies were buried in the ground where, as you say, they’ve decayed into dust (Genesis 3:19).
But at the time of the Rapture the first thing to happen will be that these spirits will get new physical bodies that are immortal. Immediately after that, the bodies of those believers who are still alive will be transformed from mortal to immortal. This is what is meant by the dead in Christ rising first (1 Thes. 4:16), and the living being changed (1 Cor. 15:52). Then we’ll all be whisked off to our mansions in His father’s house together (John 14:2-3).