1 Corinthians 15:51, 52, describes the two parts of the resurrection of the saints. “We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at [during] the last trump.” The “last trump” is the last in a series of seven trumpets mentioned in Revelation. The sounding of these six trumpets is not literal, since loud, heavenly trumpet blasts would have historically been heard by the whole world. Thus, the six trumpets and the last trumpet are symbolic.
1 Thessalonians 4:16 and 17 describe the raising of the saints at Christ’s second presence. There is a period of time between the resurrection of the “dead in Christ” and the living saints being caught up. “For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven…and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them…to meet the Lord…”
This teaches that Christ first resurrects the saints who are “dead”, having fallen asleep in death since his first advent. “Then” (afterward, Greek epeita, “thereafter”) the living saints are “caught up” to meet the Lord.
However, the phrase “caught up together with them” does not denote the time, but rather the place of their being together. In 1 Thessalonians 5:10, the same Greek word, hama, is translated “together”. Here it clearly denotes place. “That whether we wake or sleep (in death), we should live together with him.”
Revelation 14:13 gives us the time element of the resurrection of the saints who are alive at Christ’s return: “Blessed are the dead (all saints) which die in the Lord from henceforth (after Christ returns):…that they may rest from their labors; and their works do follow them.” All the saints, even those living today, are, in this text, considered “dead.” (“Ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.” Colossians 3:3)
As already noted, those saints who have slept in death before Christ’s return will be raised first. However, each Christian living during Christ’s second advent will first need to be faithful unto death (Revelation 2:10). Then, at each one’s death, he or she will be changed in the twinkling of an eye without sleeping in death. Each, at the instant of his death, will be raised to immortality.