There are two ways to look at it:
• There is an Intermediate Place that people go and await the Final Judgment Day
• There is no intermediate place and people immediately go to the Final Judgment Day
According to the second view there are three main camps
- The Extinction/Re-Creation View—They deny that the soul can exist separate from the body. Therefore, man, in his entirety, goes extinct. At the Final Judgment God recreates man. Some examples of people who hold this view are the Jehovah Witnesses and Seventh Day Adventist. But the Bible teaches that man is dualistic in nature. That is, he is made up of both body & soul (aka spirit). When man dies his soul is the part of him that exhibits his consciousness (Lk 19:19-31; Rev 6:9-11). I would point out that Jesus told the thief on the cross that today he would be with him (Jesus) in Paradise. It is kind of hard to be with someone when you are both dead.
- The Soul Sleeping View—They teach that during the interim (between your death and Judgment Day) your soul continues to exist apart from the body but in a state of unconsciousness (aka sleep). That is, your soul has no awareness of its condition, surroundings, or passage of time. When you wake up it is the Judgment Day. So from your perspective you die and immediately arrive at Judgment Day when in actuality much time has passed. You could liken this to being put under anesthesia for an operation. This view began during the Reformation in reaction to the Catholic doctrine of Purgatory. As I stated above, the soul remains conscious after death (Lk 19:9-31; Rev 6:9-11). When the Bible references death as sleep it is a metaphor to describe the body not the soul (Dan 12:2).
- The instantaneous Resurrection View—As soon as you die you receive your glorified body. Some within this camp teach that you receive your glorified body and await Judgment Day. This group denies the soul’s ability to exist apart from a body. Another group in this camp teaches that when you die you are released from the bounds of time as we know it on earth. Therefore, from your perspective you immediately arrive at Judgment Day with your glorified body. But the Bible consistently connects our reception of the glorified body with Christ’s return (John 5:25-29; Phil 3:20-21; 1st Thess 4:16-17). Furthermore, dying does not release us from experiencing the passing of time. Rev 6:9-10 depicts first century martyrs as wondering how much longer until God avenges them. Jesus told a story that expresses two men who died and experienced time as we do on earth (Lk 19:19-31). Finally, it is impossible for created beings to become timeless. That is only an attribute God can possess.
I find each of these views to fall short of the Biblical picture. In my next blog update I will post on what the Bible really teaches about the condition and location of those who have died before Judgment Day.