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?
When someone dies now, their soul departs for either heaven or hell (later the lake of Fire) and their body remains here. 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. (NASB) 2 Corinthians 5:8
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)
When we speak of resurrection, we are referring to our body obtaining immortality and returning to life someday in the future. When the body does return to life, it will be 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 . . . (NASB) 1 Corinthians 15:53-54
There are four major resurrections in the scriptures. Two of them occur before the Tribulation and two occur after. We say four major resurrections because there are nine resurrections of individuals recorded in the Bible, plus the resurrection of Jesus.
Before The Tribulation
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. (NASB) Matthew 27:52-53
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 notable citizens, walking around.
The next major resurrection will be the rapture. At that time some Christians who had previously died will have their bodies resurrected and united with their spirits in heaven (1 Thess 4:14-16). Their dead bodies will return to life and be transformed into an immortal body. These immortal bodies will be perfect (1 Corinthians 15:51-52). 2 Corinthians 5:1-4 helps us understand that there will be a time delay 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. (NASB) 2 Corinthians 5:1-4
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.
End Of The Tribulation
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 resurrects all of the bodies of those Christians who died during the Tribulation and all of the Old Testament saints. 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. (NASB) Daniel 12:1-2
After The Millennial Kingdom
The final resurrection is for the non-Christians. This final resurrection occurs after the millennial kingdom or Jesus’ 1,000 year reign here 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 20:12-15).
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!