Life After Death

Chapter 3: The Intermediate State (Part 2)

In this Series we are studying what the Bible teaches about what will happen to us when we die? We have seen that death not the end. It is just a journey to the next phase of our existence. The Biblical definition is that Death is the separation of the spirit from the body: “The body without the spirit is dead” (James 2:26; cf. Job 4:10, 1Kings 7:20-22, 2Sam 12:19-23, Luke 8:49-56, 16:22). 2Corinthians 5:8 describes it as being: “absent from the body.” That is, at death, we continue to exist as a spirit, but we no longer inhabit our body. When the spirit leaves the body, at that moment the body dies. Physical death is the state of the body when the soul and spirit are separated from it. However death does not mean extinction, for Jesus said that all the dead: “live unto God” (Luke 20:28). Thus the spirit of man lives on and goes to another place. 
 
 Thus death is simply the departure of the spirit from the body
1. ‘Gathered to his people’ (Genesis 25:8,17, 35:29a, 49:29,33).
 
2. ‘Joined the fathers’ (Genesis 15:15, 47:30a).
 
 3. David said about his baby son by Bathsheba: “Now that he is dead, why should I fast? can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me” (2Samuel 12:23).
 
 3. Paul said: “My departure is at hand” (2Timothy 4:6-8) 
 
 4.  In Luke 9:31 Jesus discussed His death with Moses and Elijah on Mt. Transfiguration: “who appeared in glory and spoke of His decease (literally: His EXODUS) which He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.” His death is described as an Exodus, or Departure, for death was not the end of His human existence, but rather in His death, He would go on a journey, making an exit out of this world into another realm. 
 
 Death is not the end, but the beginning of a new phase of existence!
 
 The Bible teaches that we will go through 3 Phases of Existence: 
(1) THIS LIFE, our spirit living in a mortal body, ending at death. 

(2) The INTERMEDIATE STATE, when our spirit leaves our body at death. We continue to exist, but as a disembodied spirit. It is a temporary state in the interval between death and resurrection.
(3) The ETERNAL STATE starts with our resurrection, when we will be a spirit united to and living in an immortal resurrection body
 
 We have seen many scriptures that teach that after death man’s spirit and soul live on independently from the body. This is called the Immortality of the Soul. The body is mortal (subject to death) because it is made from the earth, but man’s spirit and soul are immortal, because their ultimate origin is from the breath of God. Some groups who claim to believe the Bible deny this teaching, and say that it is just Greek philosophy. Well, yes, that is what the Greeks believed, but it was also what the Hebrews believed, which is why the Hebrew word ‘Sheol’ (the place of departed spirits under the earth) is equivalent to the Greek word ‘Hades’ and so the Greek translations of the Old Testament translate Sheol as Hades.
 
 Actually the Greeks differed from the Hebrews in a more subtle way. They differed over the status of the body and its relationship to the soul. They considered the physical realm and especially the flesh as intrinsically inferior and evil, so when at death the spirit put off the body, they believed it was entering its permanent state, and for it to be eventually clothed in a body again would be a backward step. That’s why when Paul spoke at Athens (the centre of Greek Philosophy) in Acts 17, they were shocked when he preached about the resurrection of the body, when he proclaimed that Jesus was risen from the dead! The Biblical Hebrew belief is that although the body (along with our whole humanity) is corrupted by sin, it was created by God and so it is essentially good and is an integral part of a human being. Thus a spirit without a body is unclothed and incomplete and so this intermediate state is just temporary until we receive a new body from God. Our ultimate eternal state is for our spirit to be clothed with a resurrection body. 
 
 Those who deny the immortality of the soul do so in the face of overwhelming scriptural evidence, as we shall see. Why do they still deny this truth? I believe the reason lies in one common denominator that these groups have. While they claim the Bible as their main authority, they are also bound to the writings and sayings of their founders which they revere almost as much as scripture. They believe their founder has restored truth that the rest of the Church has lost, so this now makes them the one true church. Having built their identity in this way it is very hard for them to question the beliefs of their founders and admit they are fallible and change their doctrine when it disagrees with the Bible. 
 
 So they are emotionally committed to maintain the beliefs of their revered founders even when it plainly contradicts the Bible. The only safe approach is to take the Bible as our sole authority for doctrine, and test all other religious teachings against God’s Word,and refuse to allow the writings and sayings of any other religious leader to have anything like the same authority as scripture, whether they be a Pope, Ellen White or Charles Russell!These groups teach teach soul-sleep, that we will not experience any intermediate state because the soul cannot exist apart from the body. They say at death the soul sleeps, it is unconscious, awaiting the resurrection day. Now it is true that the death of a believer is often described as ‘sleep' (John 11:11-14, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-15, 5:10; 2Samuel 7:12, Acts 7:60, 13:36, 1Corinthians 11:30, 15:6, 18,20,51; Matthew 27:52), but this refers to the body, not to the soul, since the soul does not sleep. So sleep refers to the body which looks as if it is asleep. The term is used to show there is a temporary suspension of physical activity (but the spirit continues). Sleep indicates that death is temporary, and that the body will awake in the resurrection morning (1Thess 4:16). There is no intrinsic problem with spirits operating without bodies (for example God and angels are spirits without physical bodies).
 
 As we consider the scriptures on what happens to believers at death it will be abundantly clear that Bible does not teach SOUL-SLEEP, but that the soul continues to live and be consciousness after death. 
 
 We have seen from Luke 16:19-31 and Luke 23:43 that believers go to Abraham’s bosom or Paradise, where they are welcomed by their spiritual father Abraham and are fully conscious in their disembodied state with memories and emotions. The Jews believed Abraham to be in the highest place of happiness. So when the Lord spoke of Lazarus being in Abraham’s bosom they would understand He was referring to a state of bliss. Paradise means ‘the garden of delights’ and describes the state of the righteous resting in conscious comfort and bliss. Revelation 2:7 promises believers access to the Tree of Life which is in the Paradise of God. 
 
 Paul describes believers in this Intermediate State as being ‘unclothed’, that is without a body (2Corinthians 5:4), and in a state of conscious happiness, which is far better than anything this life can offer, for he says that it is far better than being alive in the body in this world (Philippians 1:23). So far as our personal experience of the Lord and blessedness is concerned, it is far better to be with the Lord in Heaven, even if we are unclothed, but as far as our usefulness to the Lord and our bearing fruit for eternity is concerned, it is better to abide in the body (Philippians 1:21-26). 
 
 Before the Cross, Paradise was in Hades under the earth, but at the resurrection Jesus relocated Paradise with all the believers to heaven, so that now when a believer dies he goes straight to heaven.
 
 In Matthew 16:18 Jesus prophesied that Hades would have no power to hold a Church-Age believer in it clutches. 
 
 This is confirmed in 2 Corinthians 12:2-4: “I know a man in Christ who 14 years ago, whether in the body I do not know, or whether out of the body I do not know, God knows -such a one was caught UP to the third Heaven..... he was caught UP into Paradise and heard inexpressible words.”  
 
 Notice that when his soul left his body he was still conscious. He did not go down to hades, but rather he went up to heaven, for Paradise, the abode of the righteous dead is now in heaven. (Now someone might say he could not tell if he left his body or not, so that does not prove that a spirit continues to have conscious life when it leaves the body. However, notice that Paul considers it a real possibility that he was in conscious existence as a spirit out of his body, so he clearly believed that we continue to exist as a living spirit when we leave our body at death). 
 
 Believers are escorted to Paradise by angels (Luke 16:22), or even by Christ Himself for Christ's promise in John 14:2,3 can be applied to the moment of our death: “I go and prepare a place for you, and I will come again, and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.” When Thomas asked: “how can we know the WAY (to Heaven)”(v5), 

Jesus did not say: “I will show you the Way (to Heaven)”, but instead He said: “I AM the WAY (to Heaven)” (v6), which means: “I AM the WAY. I will take you there personally.”In 2Peter l:13-14, Peter describes his approaching death: “While I am in this tent (body) I stir you up by reminding you; knowing soon I (my spirit) must put off my tent (body)....” 
 
 Notice how Peter distinguishes between himself (I) and his body. He describes his body as a tent, a temporary dwelling place. I have a house, I live in my house, but I am not my house. So if I leave my house so that it becomes uninhabited, it becomes a dead thing, but I do not cease to exist. Likewise my body is not the real me. The real me is a spirit made in the image of God. I am a spirit who lives in a body and when I leave my body it becomes a dead thing but I live on. I have just changed location. In fact in v15 he describes this event as his departure. So at death the spirit-soul puts off and lays the body aside, but it lives on. 
 
 *Acted illustration. Another Biblical analogy for the body is that it is like clothing that we wear around our spirit. As our clothes follow the movements we make, revealing the presence of a living being within, so the body expresses the actions of our spirit and reveals the presence a living spirit within. Death, when our spirit puts off our body, is just like when we put off our clothes. They fall lifeless to the ground, but we continue alive as before, except we are unclothed. Now this is not an ideal state and it is just temporary, for soon we desire to put on new clothes. Likewise when we put off our body we will be unclothed (naked) and we will earnestly look forward to the resurrection when God will clothe us again with a new eternal resurrection body. The present state is temporary, because this body is like a weak tent, it is clothing that will soon wear out. The intermediate state where we are unclothed is also temporary, for this is not how God created man to be. The eternal state is to be clothed with a new body, eternal in the heavens, that is strong and permanent like a house compared to the weak, temporary tent we presently live in. 
 
 This is exactly the teaching of Paul in 2Corinthinians 5:1-11: 
 Notice the clear distinction between US (our spirit) and the house we live in (our body). We are not destroyed when our house is destroyed, but we live on awaiting a new and better house:
 
 v1 “For we know that if our earthly house, this tent (our body), 
is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens (the resurrection body). 
 v2 For in this (present body) we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our (permanent) habitation which is from heaven, 
 v3 because, having been clothed, we shall not be found naked. 
 
 Our future desire and hope is not to be a disembodied (naked) spirit, although we may have to be that for a while, but to be clothed with our resurrection body - our permanent house from heaven.
 
 v4: For we who are in this tent (mortal body) groan, being burdened, not because we want to be unclothed, but further clothed, that mortality may be swallowed up by (resurrection) life.” In this body we do not desire to be a disembodied spirit, but to be clothed in a glorious, eternal, incorruptible resurrection body.
 
 v5 Now He who has prepared us for this very thing (physical resurrection) is God, who also has given us the Spirit as a guarantee (that He will do it).” The Holy-Spirit within us is God’s deposit within us that guarantees He will one day soon make good on His promise to complete our salvation by clothing us in a resurrection body. Even now the Spirit will give life to our mortal bodies if we call upon Him (Romans 8:11). On that day the Spirit will release the very same power within us that raised Jesus’ body from death and transformed it into an immortal resurrection body, and we will receive a immortal, indestructible glorious body that is just like Christ’s resurrection body (Philippians 3:21). Praise God!
  
 v6: So we are always confident, knowing that: while WE are at home IN THE BODY, WE are (physically) absent from the Lord Notice again that WE are distinct from our body. The body is our dwelling place. Without it we still exist. We are spirits who live in a body. While we are in the body, it keeps us physically on earth so that we are absent from the Lord in heaven and cannot see Him: v7: For we walk by faith, not by sight. 
 
 But when a Christian leaves his body he goes straight into the presence of the Lord in Heaven, and sees Him face to face: 
 v8: We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord. This proves that when we leave our body, we don’t cease existing, our soul does not go to sleep, but we change location. We leave the earth and immediately go into the conscious immediate Presence of the Lord who is in Heaven. We are well pleased to do this because we will be in a state of greater blessing in the Presence of the Lord, actually seeing Him, rather than just seeing Him though the eyes of faith as we do now. To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord!- you can not say it much clearer than that!
 
 v9: Therefore we make it our aim, whether present (with the Lord) or absent (from the Lord), to be well pleasing to Him. 
 v10: For we must all appear before the Judgement Seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. Knowing that any time soon we will be resurrected and stand before the Lord to give an account and be judged for how we have lived our Christian lives and to be rewarded for how faithful we have been, helps to motivate us to live lives pleasing to Him. 
 
 v11 Knowing therefore, the fear of the Lord, we persuade men. Paul considers this judgement to be a fearful event for it will be a searching judgement in which all our thoughts, motivations, words and deeds will be evaluated and in which all hidden things will be revealed. This motivates Paul to obey God with all his heart and in particular to fulfil the Great Commission of persuading men of the truth of God’s Word. The fear or terror of the Lord could also be applied to God’s even more terrifying judgement on unbelievers so that knowing what what will happen to those who die in sin, Paul earnestly desires to bring as many as he can to salvation.  
 
 Philippians 1:21-24: “To me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I live in the flesh, it is for the fruit of my labour: yet what I will choose I know not. I am torn between the two with a desire to depart (this body) and be with Christ: which is FAR BETTER. But abiding in the flesh (in his body) is more needful for you.”
 
Notice that to die is not non-existence, but to die is gain. He says: ‘to live is Christ’ (to know and experience Him spiritually), but to die is gain. This must mean we will enter into an even greater knowledge and experience of Christ. He describes this life as him (his spirit) living in the flesh (his body), and he describes death, not as an end, but as a departure from this earth to be with Christ 
in heaven, which is not just better for us, but FAR BETTER! Even though we won’t yet have a body we will be in a state of conscious blessedness that far exceeds anything we can know in this life. However the advantage of remaining in the body is the opportunity to be fruitful and productive in serving the Lord, whereas in the intermediate state we won’t have these opportunities but will be in a state of rest, waiting for the next stage of God’s programme.
 
 Revelation 6:9-11 reveal believers (who are to be martyred in the Tribulation) in Heaven, being conscious and at rest in the intermediate state between death and resurrection: 
“When He opened the 5th Seal, I saw under the altar (in Heaven)
the souls of those who had been slain for the Word of God and for the testimony which they held. And they criedwith a loud voice, saying, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” Then a white robe was given to each of them; and it was said to them that they should rest a little while longer, until both the number of their fellow servants and their brethren, who would be killed as theywere, was completed.” 
  
 Hebrews 12:22-24 reveals who is now alive in Heaven, and we see that it includes all the believers who have died in the Lord:
“But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem (our citizenship is now in Heaven).
 
 Who else is in Heaven now?: 
(1) to an innumerable company of angels, 
 
(2) to the general Assembly and Church of the Firstborn,
who are registered in Heaven (are you registered as a citizen 
of Heaven, is your name written in the Lamb’s Book of Life?), 
 
(3) to God the Judge of all, 
 
(4) to the spirits of just men made perfect (the Old Testament saints are now in Heaven! They were forgiven and justified by faith, but were only made perfect (born-again) through Christ’s death and resurrection. Then He could bring them out of Hades and into Heaven with Him when He rose from the dead and ascended to Heaven). 
 
(5) to Jesus the Mediator of the New Covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that ofAbel.” 
 
 Thus the inhabitants of Heaven today include all the believers who have died in the Old Testament and in the Church-Age. Moreover they are all alive and not asleep!  
 
 *Final challenge: We have an exciting hope. When we leave the body we will be present with Lord in bliss, which is far better, then we will a glorious resurrection! What a wonderful Saviour who has made this all possible. So let us show our love for Him by living a life that pleases Him, remembering that soon (at any time, at a moment’s notice) we will have to stand before His Judgement Seat and give an account to Him of how we have lived our life and used our time and our gifts.

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