Our bodies and souls were made to work in unison. Yet, at death, we divide. Part of us returns to the ground and part is immediately present with the Lord (2 Cor. 5:8). When body and soul rip apart, this is the first death (by contrast to the second, see Rev. 21:8). Body and soul were not originally created for separation. Only after sin was the separation introduced: “Dust you are, and to dust you shall return” (Gen. 3:19). This was part of God’s pronouncement of curse, part of our fall. We became divided, in many senses.
Perhaps you have seen the body of a loved one soulless. He or she is there, but not. You see this dear person, but not fully. You bury him or her, but only in part. While we rejoice that those we love, who love Him, are immediately with Lord (Luke 23:43), we remain here without the person we love. Yet, Ecclesiastes 7:2 teaches that for us here now, it is, in a sense, better to endure the funeral than to attend a party; we don’t like to think about death. But when we see body and soul separated in one we love, we know something is wrong in this life, and it enlivens us to gain a better grasp at what. Death is a picture to us of the separation our sin causes from God—telling us that sin is so very not right and not good. The way we tore away from Him in the garden is revisited through death at every funeral; sin leads to being divided. This makes us think, hard, about what is ahead.
In the context of this separation—of the funeral—we receive affirmations from Scripture that body and soul are still both significant to God. Christ took on a human body in the incarnation. And the bodies of believers are referred to as merely sleeping (Acts 7:60). The desire to be apart from the body in order to be with Christ is, of course, desirable at present (Phil. 1:23). But God’s future plan is to reunite body and soul; this is such good news for us who have seen death’s decay on those who have fallen asleep in the Lord. Those who die waiting for Him to return again will be raised first—bodies reuniting to souls (1 Thess. 4:15).
We will not merely be sown back together again with seams that can rip; we will be imperishable (1 Cor. 15:42)—no longer with the possibility for separation. We will be given new bodies. Our present bodies were sown in our mothers’ wombs perishable—sown perishable and in dishonor, for human sin originally caused this capability for their eventual split. At death, our bodies are sown in the ground again, but sown to be raised (1 Cor. 15:42). For God has planned a remarkable transformation of our present, lowly bodies into those resembling His glorious body (Phil 3:21). The cross won this victory. Because we are co-heirs with Christ, we are welcomed in power to the inheritance of a glorious, indestructible future (Rom. 8:17), and we’ll be altogether resurrected from ever returning to dust (Rom. 6:5).
Death on the body of a believing person you love is not lasting for that body or for that person; be comforted and encouraged (1 Thess. 4:18). Body will be reunited with soul; body merely sleeps. Even while body has fallen asleep, the one you love has indescribable joy (Ps. 16:11). Christ’s death and resurrection qualified those who have gone ahead, who are sleeping in the ground—because both descriptions, ahead and sleeping, are true—to share in a holy inheritance (Col. 1:12). This will be experienced on a day when many kinds of reunions will take place, rejoining where original sin first divided.
"But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words."
1 Thess. 4:13-18