The Spirit and the Body at Death
I find this subject to be a challenging one to study. The following is my best understanding of it.
First, I believe it's important to understand something about the event that is commonly referred to as the "rapture". The word "rapture" does not appear anywhere in the Bible but the event that it represents does. The following two passages speak of the rapture.
"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."
I Corinthians 15:51-53
"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."
I Thessalonians 4:13-18
The passages above tell us that Jesus is coming back for his own. At that time he will raise up the bodies of those saved people who have died and he will change those who are saved and alive. Both groups of people will be caught up together to meet the Lord and will be with him forever.
This new body will be very different from the earthly body that we are familiar with:
"But some man will say, How are the dead raised up? and with what body do they come? Thou fool, that which thou sowest is not quickened, except it die: And that which thou sowest, thou sowest not that body that shall be, but bare grain, it may chance of wheat, or of some other grain: But God giveth it a body as it hath pleased him, and to every seed his own body. All flesh is not the same flesh: but there is one kind of flesh of men, another flesh of beasts, another of fishes, and another of birds. There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial: but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for one star differeth from another star in glory. So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption: It is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power: It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body."
I Corinthians 15:35-44
The term "spiritual body” (above) may be difficult to understand (since we now have a spirit and a body - two different things that are separated at death). My best understanding at this time is that the new body will be inseparable from the spirit and is therefore given this name.
If a born again believer dies prior to the rapture, in what condition are they until the rapture occurs (do they have a body of some sort)? The verse below tells us that a person's spirit returns to God, and their body returns to the earth from which God originally made it.
"Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit
shall return unto God who gave it."
(See Genesis 2:7 for the account of God forming man out of the dust of the ground.)
The verse below indicates that (prior to the rapture) we are either in this present earthy body (while we are alive on earth) or we are absent from this body and our spirit is present with God.
Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord: (For we walk by faith, not by sight:) We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.
II Corinthians 5:6-8
Although there are scripture passages that seem to indicate that believers may have some kind of "interim" body prior to the rapture, it appears to me that when all of the relevant scriptures are considered, there are only two bodies that the believer will ever have: the earthly body and the spiritual body that is received at the rapture. Since we are accustomed to our spirit and physical body existing together, the idea of having a spirit without a body (after death and prior to the rapture) might be troubling. But when we are absent from the body, we will be present with the Lord, something that will be wonderful and which the Apostle Paul (in the passage above) was looking forward to. Let the following words of Christ satisfy the troubled heart:
"Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also."