The scriptures tell us that when a man dies he goes to the grave. We see this in Psalm 146:4 where it says, “when their spirit departs, they return to the ground; on that day their plans come to nothing,” and in Ecclesiastes 3:20 it reads, “all come from dust and to dust all return.” The person in the grave is not alive nor aware of anything. Ecclesiastes 9:5,10: “…the dead know nothing…for in the grave, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom.” The dead do not have thoughts in the grave, so they would not feel “trapped.” What is the hope for man if when he dies he ceases to exist?
The dead will remain in the grave until their resurrection. God has promised a resurrection to all – the righteous and the unrighteous. Part of that promise includes a heavenly resurrection for the Church and a resurrection here on Earth for everyone else. These resurrections occur at different points in God’s plan. The Church is raised first in heaven after Christ’s return (since the beginning of his second presence). The rest of mankind is raised on Earth during Christ’s kingdom. Let’s look at the scriptures that support these points.
John 5:28, 29, “a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out…” Acts 24:15, “…there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and the unjust.”
The Church (those who have dedicated their life to serving God and have been faithful unto death) will be resurrected first in heaven (Revelation 20:6). 1Corinthians 15:49,53 explains, “And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly…For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.”
Afterward, the rest of mankind will be raised on earth, and their natural bodies will be restored to perfect health. (See Isaiah 35.) The Apostle Paul details the order of the resurrection of mankind in 1 Corinthians 15:23, “every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming”. Thus, Jesus was raised first, then the Church is raised, and then afterwards (after Christ’s kingdom begins) the rest of mankind.