The Nature of the Intermediate State
- It is temporary. That is why it is called the intermediate state. Nobody is in the final Heaven or Hell yet (more on that in Friday's blog post). When we die now we still experience torment or bliss (see point 5 below) but it is not Heaven or Hell. The souls of the departed are in this intermediate state until Judgment Day, when God will call all men out of the grave to the Judgment Seat and judge the nations (Matt 25:33ff). It is then and only then that we go to Heaven or Hell.
- The soul is in a state of bodilessness. That is, naturally man was created dualistic (body & soul union). Death is not part of the original creation and thus for the soul to be separated from the body is unnatural. But when we die our souls detach from our physical bodies. But this doesn’t mean we are without form or substance (2nd Kings 6:15-17; Matt 17:3ff).
- The soul is the seat of consciousness. While on this earth our bodies are conscious. We have five senses to examine the world. But after death our bodies are no longer animate. In fact, this is the background for why the Bible describes death as sleep so much. It is metaphorical language describing the state of our physical bodies not our souls (Matt 17:3; Luk 16:19-31; Rev 6:9-11, et al.)
- We experience time. Notice that in Lk 9:30-31 Jesus’ death was future to Moses & Elijah. When Samuel was brought back from the dead (spiritually not physically) to talk to Saul he spoke with an awareness of time (1st Sam 28:19). There are those who debate about time and eternity. That is, they say that when we die we are not bound by earthly time anymore. But I believe this is an argument from silence at best for the Bible doesn’t say that. Furthermore, the few allusions we do get in the Bible seem to imply that people who have died are aware of earthly time tables. Even if they do not experience time according to earthly time (I think they do), they must still experience time in some sense. Timelessness is a quality only God does & can possess. Man is a created being and thus will always have the experience of a beginning. Timelessness by its very definition is without beginning or end. Therefore, man cannot possibly know what it is like to be timeless.
- You are either in torment or bliss; there is not a third option. In Luke 16:19-31 Jesus tells us a story about two men who died. It does not matter if this is a parable or a real story for parables are supposed to communicate spiritual truths to us. One man went to bliss and the other to torment. 2nd Peter 2:9, Matt 25:31-33 (see also 25:34-46), John 5:28-29, et al. distinguish two groups of people. For those who are wicked this bodiless state is torment. For those who are righteous this bodiless state, while unnatural, is preferable to our current state of body/soul union on earth (2nd Cor 5:8; Phil 1:21-23). The reason is because while here we are still contaminated with sin and live in a sinful environment. But when we die we are in Paradise (Lk 23:43). This place, although wonderful, still has the presence of some sorrows (Rev 6:9-11; 21:4). But it is still better to be there with the Lord than here on earth. The reason is because ultimately we know our fate is then sealed to spend eternity in our final resting home (Heaven) when our souls are reunited with our glorified bodies and we are with God in eternity.
In my next blog post we will discuss in further detail the location of the dead. There we will see that nobody goes immediately to Heaven or Hell upon death. Tune in Friday to learn more about the Intermediate State.