What Is the Intermediate State?

J.R. Waller, MBA
Latest posts by J.R. Waller, MBA (see all)

Introduction – The Afterlife Matters

Many believers in Jesus think about what will happen to them after they pass on from this life.

Its normal and important to think about, and doing so helps us put our lives in the proper perspective.

However, it can be easy to stop short of exploring what being with Jesus after death will be like and studying what heaven actually entails. As such, many simply accept that when they die they will be with Jesus and stop there.“A proper and thorough understanding of heaven enables us to serve God acceptably and effectively.”

Such a mindset is fine, at face value, but a shallow concept of the afterlife, like a shallow concept of many things in the Christian life, isn’t often enough to ground us in times of trouble, or help us truly appreciate God’s attributes and plan.

Meanwhile, a proper and thorough understanding of heaven enables us to serve God acceptably and effectively. (Heb. 12:28)

The Importance of Heaven

As Christians, what is important to God ought to be important to us, and heaven is very important to God.

We cannot forget that Jesus came from heaven; it is his throne, it is where he lives and where he is. (Acts 7:49, Prov. 8:27, Heb. 8:1)

Jesus was sent to us from heaven. (Jn. 3:17) He came down to earth to bring to heaven those who would believe in his free offer of salvation. (Jn. 6:38, Jn. 6:31) He did it all so we would be with him and that we might live through him. (Jn. 17:24, 1 Jn. 4:9)

Jesus’s entire mission revolved around his home in heaven, his future kingdom of heaven and preaching and showing us the glad tidings of heaven. (Lk. 8:1)

Therefore, we must know what it means to be heaven-bound; bound for an incorruptible inheritance that’s undefiled, eternal and reserved for us. (1 Pet. 1:4)

Of course, the topic of heaven is a weighty one. Also, we can’t possibly fathom everything there is to know about heaven this side of it, nor are we to. (Rom. 11:33-34)“Jesus’s entire mission revolved around his home in heaven, his future kingdom of heaven and preaching and showing us the glad tidings of heaven.”

Jesus has reserved things for him. Our job is to rest in the fact that only he has authority to know all things and that, when it comes to heaven, that he has special things prepared for those who love him that are far greater than we could ever fathom. (Deut. 29:29, 1 Cor. 2:9)

Nevertheless, God does not keep us in the dark about anything that is important. In fact, he actually reveals much about himself and the afterlife in his word.

In this lesson and in the rest of this series, we are going to look at what the Bible and Jesus have to say about heaven, and in particular about “the intermediate state.”

We’ll learn a working definition of it, study some scripture that backs it up, and examine some objections to it before concluding with a glance at the wonderful blessings that knowledge of it has on our lives.

So, what exactly is the intermediate state?

The Intermediate State: A Definition

The intermediate state is a theological term that refers to the state of believers after they die, and before they are reunited with their prefect, glorified, resurrected bodies at Jesus’s second coming. (2 Cor. 5:8, 1 Cor. 15:12, 1 Cor. 15:51-52, 1 Thess. 4:16-17)

The word intermediate is used intentionally because it is transitory, non-permanent state.

During the duration of the intermediate state the souls of believers who have died from all ages remain in the presence of Jesus in heaven. We will be there spiritually, not physically, yet fully alive and conscious.

Then, Jesus will one day return to bring his bride (his church, all believers from all time) back to him.“The intermediate state is a theological term that refers to the state of believers after they die, and before they are reunited with their prefect, glorified, resurrected bodies at Jesus’s second coming.”

When this happens, each believer, both living and those who have died, will be reunited with their resurrected bodies and will continue to live with Jesus forever, which after the events of the end times are completed, will be in the new heaven and new earth. (1 Cor. 15:51, Phil. 3:20-21, 1 Jn. 3:2, Rev. 21:1)

This later state, which is not transitory but permanent, is called the “eternal state.”

In that state we will continue to live in the house of the Lord for ever. (Ps. 23:6) We will have received and inherited the eternal kingdom prepared for us from the foundation of the world. (Heb. 12:28, Matt. 25:34)

Conclusion

It’s important to understand the afterlife, and while heaven is a weighty topic, God actually reveals much to us about it.

In this lesson we looked briefly at why studying about heaven matters. We saw that heaven matters much to Jesus – he came from there, its his home and he wants us to be there with him.“While heaven is a weighty topic, God actually reveals much to us about it.”

Then we formed a working definition of the intermediate state, a theological term that refers to the state of believers after they die, and before they are reunited with their prefect, glorified, resurrected bodies at Jesus’s second coming.

In our next lesson we will turn our attention to Biblical evidence for the intermediate state, and the wonderful assurance the comes with knowing that when we die we will immediately be with Jesus in heaven.

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