Do believers who die before the resurrection have a temporary body?

This fall, I will celebrate my 50th birthday. I got saved by Jesus at age 19 and became a Senior Pastor at age 25. So, half my adult life has been spent studying the Bible every week and preaching and teaching the Word of God.

I still find the Bible as exciting, interesting, and humbling as ever. I’m still learning, growing, and changing every week. When the global pandemic hit, I felt compelled in prayer to preach a series on Heaven – something I’ve never done before. I’m learning things I’ve never known, and the good news of forever is strengthening my soul. I pray the same for you.

Until this sermon series, I always assumed that when a believer died before the resurrection, their body was in the ground, their soul was with God, and that there was no possibility of having a physical existence again until the return of Jesus.

That may be true.

That may be untrue.

Right now, Heaven exists in the unseen realm and is just as real as the world we occupy in the seen realm. Much like a Zoom call, Isaiah, Ezekiel, and John all got to communicate with Heaven and see what was happening there. For example, Revelation 6:9-11 says, “I saw…the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne. They cried out with a loud voice, ‘O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?’ Then they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer…”

The departed Christians right now are consciously aware of what is happening both in heaven and on earth. Additionally, they communicate with God and one another. This is an amazing insight.

Even more amazing is that people whose soul is with God, and whose body is in the ground on earth, are given clothes to wear – namely white robes. This seems to indicate that they have physical bodies of some kind.

We tend to think of heaven as a spiritual place without any physical bodies. But we know that there is at least one person in the unseen realm of the spiritual Heaven right now in a body – Jesus Christ (Acts 1:11). Also, we know that Enoch and Elijah in the Bible never died and were taken into heaven still alive, which would put the total of people in bodies in Heaven right now at three or more. Additionally, when Moses and Elijah came down to visit with Jesus and Peter on the Mount of Transfiguration they seemed to show up in bodies. This leaves open at least the possibility that a believer in Jesus Christ who dies could occupy a temporary body of some kind until they raise from death in their eternal body.

What do you think? To be sure, it’s a mystery. But a temporary body seems to be at least a possibility, which makes sense as we were made to live as one person in two parts – body and soul.

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