“Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep… Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ… The trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality.” 1 Corinthians 15:20,23,52-53 (ESV)
There is much confusion among followers of Jesus as to what happens to us after we die. Much of 1 Corinthians 15 is concerned with that topic, and unfortunately, it is probably this section that makes us most confused!
Most of us expect to be in heaven right away after we die, and these verses make it sound like we will not be, that we will have to wait until Christ returns (“at his coming” and “the trumpet will sound” tell us this is about Christ returning to earth).
However, other passages make it sound like we should expect to be with Jesus right away (2 Corinthians 5:8; Philippians 1:21,23; Hebrews 12:23; Revelations 6:9; Luke 23:43). The way to understand this is that we will indeed be with Jesus in heaven right away when we die, but at that time we will be spiritual beings. When Christ returns, we will put on imperishable bodies, which is what this particular chapter is talking about — the time at which we will get imperishable bodies similar to what Jesus received when He ascended.