And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.
( Luke 23:43 )
Mary asked this question after church Sunday night:
What happens in between dying on the earth and receiving our incorruptible body at the time of the rapture?
Our pastor does not believe in soul sleep based on the passage about what Jesus said to the dying thief. According to Jesus then the day that we die we will be with him in paradise. So how do we understand other NT teaching about Christians falling asleep (dying)?
For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep.
( 1 Corinthians 11:30 )
And what about the passage that says that the dead in Christ shall rise at the rapture?
But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words.
( 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 )
So do we sleep or do we see Jesus on the day we die? And what happens to the body?
Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
( 1 Corinthians 15:50-57 )
We need to be sure that we understand the timing of this before we see what the answer is.
The rapture is before a time called the Tribulation. This is when the plagues of the the Book of Revelation come upon the earth. At the end of the Tribulation the Lord will return from heaven and wage war on his enemies, we will see the battle of Armageddon, and then he will establish the Millennial Kingdom.
The beginning of the Millennial Kingdom is when the first resurrection takes place. This includes us if we die before that and all the Christians who are asleep in the earth.
And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.
( Revelation 20:4-6 )
Those of us who were raptured out of the world before the tribulation will receive our incorruptible bodies and we will live on the earth with Christ for 1,000 years. This is not heaven. Heaven comes later.
But what happens in between dying on the earth and receiving our incorruptible body at the time of the Millennial Kingdom?
This was Mary’s original question. I think I have an answer.
And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held: And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth? And white robes were given unto every one of them; and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellowservants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled.
( Revelation 6:9-11 )
Our souls will be in heaven, we will have white robes to wear because we don’t have our resurrection body yet. Here again we have souls in white robes before the throne of God in heaven:
After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands;
( Revelation 7:11 )
When we die our bodies will go into the ground. Our soul and spirit will go the heaven and be clothed with a white robe and we will serve the Lord with praise. At the end of the tribulation we will receive incorruptible bodies and return to the earth for the Millennial Kingdom.
When the Millennium ends will be when the earth and heavens dissappear like smoke and a new heaven and new earth will come down to us from heaven, there we will live for eternity.