Q) I have a question as of now, nobody has gone to heaven except Jesus? Are all the dead in a type of coma till the first resurrection? Are the dead clueless of things going on?
A) These are terrific questions. Let’s take a look at what scripture has to say.
We know from scripture that there are two heavenly states where we will live. First, there is a spiritual heaven where we will exist outside of our bodies until the resurrection. Once we are resurrected, the earth will be restored to its original glory before the fall of mankind, and will be heaven on earth. Therefore, while spiritual heaven must be great, it gets better when we are given a physical heaven on earth.
The intermediate state is the time in which the spirit, or soul, of the believer exists between physical death and the resurrection of the body. Though the Bible does not have a whole lot to say concerning the intermediate state of the believer, there are some basic conclusions we can make.
Ecclesiastes 12:7 – and the dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it.
Hebrews 12:23 – to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the Judge of all, to the spirits of the righteous made perfect,
Therefore, based on this, the spirits of departed believers are with the Lord.
Luke 23:43 – Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
At death, the spirit of the believer enters into Christ’s presence. Jesus promised the dying robber on the cross that he would be with Him immediately after death.
2 Corinthians 5:8 – We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.
Philippians 1:23 – I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ,which is better by far; 24 but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body.
The Apostle Paul also taught that believers would be in Christ’s presence upon their death.
John 17:24 – “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.
Jesus talked about believers being with Him in the next world.
However the intermediate state is not the place of final reward for the believer. Final rewards will occur after the resurrection – which is still future. Though Christians who die go to be with the Lord, this is not when they receive their final reward, or their resurrection body.
John 5: 28-29 – “Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice 29 and come out—those who have done what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned.
Believers are in a state of awareness after death. Jesus told the religious leaders in His day that God was the God of the living. He reminded them what God had said to Moses.
Matthew 22:32 – ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’?He is not the God of the dead but of the living.”
And in Luke Chapter 16 we read about a man who is in the afterlife and is very aware of his condition.
Though the intermediate state is a place of waiting, it is also a place of activity.
Revelation 7:15 – Therefore, “they are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence.
Though we have some information from the Bible on the intermediate state, it is not something that is emphasized. The hope of the believer is the coming of Christ. It is at that time the dead are raised in a glorified body, judged, and receive their rewards. The intermediate state is only a short interval between this life and the fullness of God’s promises. Hence the lack of emphasis.
I believe that lack of emphasis is intentional on God’s part. For example Paul was not allowed to tell what he had experienced. If we knew exactly how wonderful it was, we probably would not be content to remain for one more hour on the earth. Being with the Lord will truly be an incredible experience!
2 Corinthians 12:2-4 I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know—God knows. 3 And I know that this man—whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows— 4 was caught up to paradise and heard inexpressible things, things that no one is permitted to tell.
Therefore, based on all of this, I conclude that:
1. Upon death, the soul or spirit of the believer goes immediately to be with God.
2. The Bible also says the believer goes to be with Christ in the presence of the Lord.
3. Believers are alive and conscious in this state.
4. Though it is not their final reward, it is a place of rest, waiting, activity, and holiness.
5. Paul, who was caught up in the presence of the Lord, says that he heard inexpressible things that a person is not allowed to communicate.
6. Although believers have a natural curiosity about the intermediate state, Scripture focuses on the time when Christ returns. At that time He will raise and judge the dead, and then set up His everlasting kingdom.