Let’s look first at 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17, “But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus.  For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.” (NASB)

When a believer on the Lord Jesus Christ dies, his soul and spirit go immediately to be with the Lord.  2 Corinthians 5:8 gives us that assurance.  “We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be ABSENT FROM THE BODY AND TO BE PRESENT WITH THE LORD.”  While the soul and spirit ascend into glory, the body is buried.  When the Lord Jesus returns to rapture His church, He will bring the soul and spirit of those who have died with Him to be re-joined with their bodies.  They will ‘rise first’ and join the living saints in being ‘caught up together’ to meet the Lord in the air.  Notice that at this coming, the Lord Jesus does not come completely to the earth, He comes to the air.

What if the body has been cremated rather than buried?  What about the bodies that have been buried for thousands of years?  What about the bodies eaten by animals or lost at sea?  Thankfully, the Lord has answered that question for us. 2 Corinthians 5:1-2 tells us, “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.”

“The earthly tent which is our house” speaks of our bodies that are made for dwelling on the earth.  If that body is torn down, or dissolved, the Lord has an eternal body for us to inhabit.  We read about that in 1 Corinthians 15:42-44, “So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown a perishable body, it is raised an imperishable body; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.”  When our perishable bodies, no matter the condition they are in, are raised, they are raised imperishable.

We further read in 1 Corinthians 15:51-53, “Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will 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 will be changed. For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality.”

The Lord told Adam (and us) in Genesis 3:19, “By the sweat of your face you will eat bread, till you return to the ground, because from it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”  As soon as death occurs, the body begins to decay until it is reduced to dust.  The Lord knows where every particle of every body is.  He is able to put the bodies back together and change them into bodies that will never perish, or decay…bodies that are fit to live in Heaven with Him forever.  (368.6)