Q. I seem to remember you doing this before, but would you explain again what happens when people die? Exactly what is a resurrection and when does it happen?
A. At the time of death, the spirit leaves the body. The dead body is buried and decomposes. This has always been so. Before the cross, the spirits of all the dead went to Sheol, called Hades in Greek. Since the cross the spirits of believers go straight to heaven upon death (2 Cor. 5:8). Unbelievers still go to Hades.
A resurrection occurs when these spirits are reunited with new physical bodies that are similar in appearance to their old ones but have none of its defects (1 Cor. 15:42-44). Some Old Testament faithful were resurrected with Jesus (Matt. 27:52-53). The rest will be resurrected at the time of the 2nd Coming (Daniel 12:1-2).
The dead from the Church Age will be resurrected at the rapture of the Church (1 Thes. 4:16-17) Living Christians will receive perfected physical bodies at the same time, and we’ll all be taken to Heaven together. Tribulation martyrs will be resurrected at the time of the 2nd Coming (Rev. 20:4) and all unbelievers will be resurrected at the end of the Millennium, 1000 years later, to be judged (Rev. 20:11-15).