Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. But each in his own turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him. ~ 1 Corinthians 15:20-23
“Tell me again, when exactly does my soul go to heaven, and when will my ‘fallen asleep’ body be ‘awakened’?” These realities are revealed in God’s Word. The truth is known as all passages are interpreted in the light of the rest of Scripture and all totally agree.
Today’s verses from God’s Word point out that “death” came into the perfectly created world when Adam disobeyed God. Death is essentially the separation of people from God caused by sin. There are three separations that the Bible calls “death.”
“Spiritual death” is separation from the one true God. It is the absence of saving faith; it is unbelief, idolatry. God told Adam, “When you eat of it [the forbidden fruit] you will surely die,” and Adam and Eve did die spiritually. (See Genesis 2:17; 3:7-12.) But by the grace of God they believed the promise of a Savior. The Holy Spirit’s gift of faith is “spiritual life.” It is a living and active trust in the Triune God. Jesus is the Messiah, the only Savior from sin’s just punishment.
“Physical death” is the temporary separation of the soul from the body. At death, the body remains on earth to be interred (buried) and the soul (the person) goes immediately to heaven or to hell by the just verdict of God. (See Hebrews 9:27.) The bodies of all the dead, believers and unbelievers, will be raised at the Last Day to reunion with their souls. That is resurrection reality. (See Acts 24:15)
“Eternal death” is separation from God in the everlasting torment awaiting all sinners who have not trusted in Jesus as the only way to heaven. (See John 3:16-18; 14:6)
In today’s reading, the apostle Paul addresses Christians, people spiritually alive with faith in Jesus. He writes about physical death. First, Jesus’ risen body, alive again Easter morning, proves that his life and death were accepted by the Father as payment for the sins of all mankind. Jesus conquered death! So he says, “Because I live, you also will live” (John 14:19).
Jesus rose as the “first-fruit,” like Israel’s “first-fruit” offering to God before the rest of harvest was gathered. It will be your body’s “turn” on the Last Day when all departed believers’ bodies will rise as the resurrection “harvest.” Then, with body and soul gloriously reunited, we will join believers still alive, and instantly transformed (1 Corinthians 15:51-52), to live eternally in “a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.” (See 2 Peter 3:13.) That’s the resurrection reality! Praise God!
Prayer: Father, help me see the dark realities of death in the shining reality of my risen Savior, Jesus. Amen.