A querist asked:
Is it the fate for those righteous that die (the dead from the past and those of us who die in the future, basically everyone who has ever lived except for those that are still alive at the time of His coming) to go to heaven to wait for the end, until the time all of us will come back to get our spiritual bodies?
Let’s begin with defining what is death. James 2:26 says that the body is what experiences death, and death happens when the spirit leaves the body. Before the cross both the spirits of both the righteous and unrighteous went to Hades. These spirits remained there until Jesus descended into Hades at His death and preached to the spirits in prison there (I Pet 3:19). When Jesus ascended in Acts 1, “he led captivity captive” (Eph 4:8) all the souls that believed His preaching. The “captivity” that Jesus led to heaven was the collection of souls of the servants of God that until Jesus’ resurrection (Mt 27:52-53) had been in the Devil’s prison in Hades (I Pet 3:19-20). Jesus led into heaven those souls of the righteous that He spoiled from the Devil when He rose from the dead. He entered heaven at His ascension (Acts 1:10, Dan 7:13) at the head of a mighty train of the redeemed (Eph 4:8) that He had purchased with His own blood (Acts 20:28) and wrested as spoils of war from the clutches of the evil one (Lk 11:22).
The souls of the redeemed that died before the cross entered heaven with Christ when He ascended on high. The souls of the righteous that die in the Lord after Christ’s ascension do not descend into Hades but depart to be with the Lord (II Cor 5:8), probably with the help of the angels (Lk 16:22). The souls of the wicked dead and deceased unbelievers remain in punishment (Lk 12:48, 16:24) in Hades (the unseen realm of the dead in the bowels of the earth; the Devil’s realm) until the general resurrection (Rev 20:12-13). The souls of the dead remain aware of their surroundings, and possess the form of men, but have very little tangibility. The righteous dead in heaven await the reuniting of their souls with their reconstructed material bodies (Ezk 37:7-10, Rom 8:11).
I fear that the term “spiritual bodies” may evoke in many the idea of some sort of etherial, ghostly, largely intangible “body” that is indistinguishable in any real way from a ghost. My understanding of “spiritual body” is that it is a fleshly body that supports the inward man (the spirit) instead of warring against it, as is presently the case (Ro 7:23-24). Because the new body supports the inward spirit, the new body, though it is tangible flesh, is a “spiritual body”. Jesus’ resurrected body, though different (Jn 20:19, Lk 24:31, I Cor 15:52), was tangible flesh (Lk 24:39, I Jn 1:1-3). When we rise, we will, like Christ (I Jn 3:2), rise in flesh and bone bodies:
Romans 8:11 But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.
The essence of the resurrection is the reuniting of spirit and body (Jas 2:26), and the revival of the body. The spirit never dies. The body is what dies when the spirit leaves it (Jas 2:26). The resurrection IS the revival of the body. A ghostly “body” (an oxymoron) is not the body that is in the grave, and the dead body risen to life must maintain its tangibility, even as Jesus’ did, in order to be like Him. Jesus’ still has and ever will have a tangible flesh and bones body, and so will we, if we are counted worthy to walk with Him.