15:50 Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption. 51 Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed— 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. 53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. 54 So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory."
Paul here is talking about two groups of people. When Jesus returns (which he here refers to as the last trumpet (see 1 Thess. 4:13-18)) there will be billions of people sleeping in their graves but there will also be billions more who are alive, who have not died. The dead who went to sleep believing in Jesus will awake with brand new bodies, different bodies, bodies ready and equipped for the journey home. Paul calls these bodies incorruptible and immortal. He also reminds us that those still alive when Jesus returns aren't keeping their old bodies either. In an instantaneous flash we will have new ones, incorruptible and immortal. Bodies that can travel through space. Bodies that won't age or wrinkle. Joints that won't wear.
There is a commonly held belief even among Christians that we are immortal now. This is not taught anywhere in the Bible. In fact very much the opposite is taught. In his letter to Timothy, Paul clearly states that only God is immortal. For anyone unclear on the word, mortal means able to die and immortal means cannot die. The Bible says the wages of sin is death, not eternal life in a different place. The Bible says death is a sleep in which our thoughts perish and we have nothing more to do with anything that is done under the sun. The notion that dead people can return or talk to us from beyond the grave is pure deception. They are fully and completely asleep. They know nothing. The passage of time is immaterial to them. When Jesus returns it will be for Abraham as if he blinked. One moment he was old and feeble and dying and the next instant he will be more healthy and alive than he ever was in his previous life and traveling through the air to meet the same Jesus he had talked with so many times. The thousands of years that passed between his death and his resurrection were just a moment to him.
Read Hebrews 11. It's a beautiful chapter that takes a panoramic view of the history of humanity. It names the most famous of those who chose to believe God and serve Him by faith and the various experiences they had. Notice how the chapter concludes:
"39 And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise, 40 God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us."
It's simple. We're all going Home together. Abel is still sleeping. Noah is still sleeping. Abraham is still sleeping. They are not in heaven. They are not yet immortal. They have yet to receive the promises of life eternal, of a new body, of a home in heaven with God. God decided this brilliant plan whereby it will feel instantaneous yet we'll all be there together at the same time. Husbands who died first don't have to watch their widows grieve or wait a decade or more for them to arrive. Parents don't have to wait decades for children and grandchildren to arrive in heaven with them or watch them go through the suffering this life can and does bring. Imagine if my mom who died 6 years ago had had to watch my nephew die at 5 years old and then watch my sister and brother-in-law and our entire family suffer his loss. Could she enjoy heaven?
God's plan is infinitely better. We live. We sleep. We all go home together when the war is over. No more tears. No more pain. No more sickness. No more death.
New bodies, a new start, a forever Home, and best of all we get to meet Him face to face and find out He is infinitely better than we dared imagine...