Question: I am confused about “the dead in Christ shall rise”— what does that exactly mean? Does our physical body actually rise and meet our soul and spirit?
Response: Romans:8:23 tells us, “And not only they, but ourselves also, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, that is, the redemption of our body.”
This explicitly speaks of the redemption (that is “resurrection”) of our bodies. There is coming a time when our earthly bodies shall rise, and indeed, our spirit and soul will be rejoined to that body, now changed. In 1 Corinthians:15:51, Paul writes, “Behold, I show you a mystery: We shall not all sleep; but we shall all be changed….”
“Sleep” is a metaphor used in Scripture for death, in which the body is unresponsive, similar to a person sleeping. Paul noted that not everyone will experience physical death in this life, because at the Rapture, some will meet the Lord in the air. But all will experience the change to their bodies. Much as the Lord’s human body was changed after the resurrection (He entered a room without using the door - Luke:24:36), so, too, shall our earthly bodies be raised.
Those who know the Lord can take encouragement from the testimony of the patriarch Job, who had an assurance of resurrection. “And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God” (Job:19:26). And we can have the assurance that though our bodies may be “destroyed,...yet in [our] flesh shall [we] see God.”
It’s amazing how many cults and aberrant religions specifically deny the physical resurrection of the body. On Mars Hill, Paul was instructing the philosophers and religionists who gathered there. They listened to his message until, we read in Acts:17:32, “when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked: and others said, We will hear thee again of this matter.”
Yes, indeed, our bodies shall rise and be inhabited by our spirit and soul. And until that time arrives, whether through death or life, Paul wrote, “[May] the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians:5:23).