Question: If the saved go directly to heaven at death, what will rise at Christ's appearing, our bodies?
For more biblical teaching on the subject of the resurrection you may want to check out Bible Gems #129, “Resurrection & Reincarnation” and #150, “Our Age In Heaven.”
The Greek word translated “resurrection” in the Bible literally means, “standing up again.” It is a word picture that conveys the idea that our bodies that ceased to function at death will be reanimated, brought back to life. Fortunately, the bodies that will be raised will be perfect, immortal and imperishable (1Cor. 15:42-50)!
It is the body that is raised from the dead, not the soul, both for the believer and the nonbeliever. It is, after all, the body that decays at death and is in need of resurrecting, whereas the soul enters either Hades to await the Great White Throne Judgment, or else goes to be immediately with Jesus.
For the nonbeliever awaiting judgment, the soul resides in Hades, the realm of the unrighteous dead. Those in Hades will remain there in a bodiless state until after the Millennial reign of Christ is concluded and Satan has been totally and forever defeated. Then, at the Judgment, their bodies will be resurrected (Rev. 20:5). After that, the resurrected person—soul and body—is cast into Hell:
Matt. 5:29 If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.
For the believer in Jesus, death means temporary separation from the body while the soul is present with the Lord. When the apostle Paul contemplated the distinct possibility that he and his companions might be martyred for their faith in Jesus he said:
2Cor. 5:8 We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.
Likewise Job declares a similar confidence that he will see the Savior face to face in the resurrection:
Job 19:25-27 I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes—I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!
This is the miracle of the resurrection—that the body that is raised is still our own recognizable, familiar body! Glorified, yes; transformed and immortalized, yes—but, as Job says, we will see Jesus with our own perfectly sighted eyes and enjoy the wonders of eternity in our own wrinkle-free skin!
God made us physical as well as spiritual beings, designed to inhabit and enjoy His physical and spiritual universe. In the resurrection we will be able to live in both realms at the same time with ease. For the prayer that Jesus taught us long ago will then be our everyday reality:
Matt. 6:10 …your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven!