Bible Question:

I understand that Christians will receive their resurrection bodies at the rapture. Does this include the Old Testament saints? For unbelievers, is it after the 1,000 year kingdom? At what point in time will believers who die during the seven year Tribulation be resurrected?

Bible Answer:

Our primary question is, “Are the Old Testament saints resurrected at the rapture?” However,  this study will show there are five major resurrections taught in the Bible.  But first, it is important to understand that when someone dies now, their spirit departs for either heaven or hell (later the lake of Fire) and will remain there forever.  When Christians die, their spirits meet the Lord in heaven.

. . . we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord. 2 Corinthians 5:8 (NASB)

When non-Christians die, their spirits go to hell and will eventually go into the Lake of Fire which burns forever (Revelation 20:13-15). Jesus told us in Matthew 25:46 that everyone lives forever. The only question is where will you live?

And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life. Matthew 25:46  (NASB)

The Five Major Resurrections

When we speak of resurrection, we are referring to our spirits becoming clothed with an immortal body that cannot be destroyed. 2 Corinthians 5:1-3 helps us understand that in a sense we are “naked” after we die since we will not have our immortal body, but at the resurrection we are clothed with an immortal body. 1 Corinthians 15:53-54 describes our new bodies as being immortal.

For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality. But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality . . . 1 Corinthians 15:53-54 (NASB)

There are five major resurrections in the scriptures, in addition to nine resurrections of individuals recorded in the Bible, and the resurrection of Jesus. Two of of the five resurrections occur before the Tribulation and three occur after. .

Resurrections Of All Men and Women

First Resurrection – At The Resurrection of Christ

The first major resurrection has already occurred. It occurred just after Jesus’ death. The apostle Matthew tells us that many of the Old Testament saints were resurrected and walked around Jerusalem.

. . . and the tombs were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; and coming out of the tombs after His resurrection they entered the holy city and appeared to many. Matthew 27:52-53 (NASB)

I can just imagine how the people in Jerusalem reacted. Many must have finally understood who Jesus was when they saw their dead relatives, or maybe their once deceased, notable citizens, walking around.

Second Resurrection – At The Rapture

The next major resurrection occurs at the rapture. At that time those Christians who had previously died will have their bodies resurrected and be united with their spirits. That is the message of 1 Thessalonians 4:14-17.

For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. 1 Thessalonians 4:14-17 (NASB)

The word “sleep” in this verse does not refer to literal sleep but to physical death. For example, when Lazarus died, Jesus told the disciples that he had “fallen asleep” (John 11:11-12). But when the disciples did not understand, Jesus explained that He was referring to Lazarus’ actual death (John 11:13-14). 1 Thessalonians 4:14-16 says those believers who have previously died will be resurrected at the rapture before those believers who are currently alive.

1 Corinthians 15:51-52 describes what happens at the rapture.

Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 1 Corinthians 15:51-52 (NASB)

At the rapture all believers, both past and current, will obtain immortal bodies, also known as resurrection bodies.

2 Corinthians 5:1-4 helps us understand that there will be a time delay after we die and before we receive our resurrection bodies.

For we know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For indeed in this house we groan, longing to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven . . . For indeed while we are in this tent, we groan, being burdened, because we do not want to be unclothed, but to be clothed, in order that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. 2 Corinthians 5:1-4 (NASB)

When Paul says that he does not want to be unclothed, he is referring to the time that his spirit will not have a body while it is in heaven waiting for the rapture to occur.

Third & Fourth Resurrections – Before The Kingdom

At the end of the Tribulation, Jesus Christ will return with all of the Christians who died during the church age and were raptured prior to the tribulation period (Revelation 19:11-15). After He defeats the armies of the anti-Christ (Revelation 19:19-21), Jesus then at the beginning of the establishment of the kingdom resurrects all of the bodies of the Old Testament saints (Revelation 20:4) and those Christians who died during the Tribulation (Revelation 20:4).  Revelation 20:4 includes the Tribulation saints.

And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given to them. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of the testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received the mark upon their forehead and upon their hand; and they came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. Revelation 20:4  (NASB)

The prophet Daniel predicted that the Old Testament saints would be resurrected when he said,

And there will be a time of distress such as never occurred since there was a nation until that time; and at that time your people, everyone who is found written in the book, will be rescued. And many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life, but the others to disgrace and everlasting contempt. Daniel 12:1-2 (NASB)

Fifth Resurrection – After the Kingdom

The fifth and final resurrection is for non-Christians. This final resurrection occurs after the millennial kingdom or the one thousand year reign of Christ on earth (Revelation 20:4-6). All non-Christian men and women will go into the Lake of Fire. There they will suffer forever (Revelation 20:11-15).

Conclusion:

When will the Old Testament saints be resurrected? The answer is actually given in the Old Testament in Daniel 12:1-2. These saints receive their bodies after the Tribulation is over. It is important to remember that these souls are already in heaven enjoying God. What a great joy it will be to be with God! It is recommended that you read “When are the Old Testament saints resurrected?” You will find Scripture verses about the resurrection of the Old Testament saints.

Suggested Links:

The Resurrection (Daniel 12:2)
When are the Old Testament saints resurrected?
When and where does the Goat and Sheep judgment occur?
Why were people resurrected when Jesus died?
Promise of Future Resurrection
Prophecy of The Future
Who are the nine people in the Bible that were raised from the dead?
What happened to the saints who were resurrected from the graves?