|INTERMEDIATE STATE |
Condition in which the deceased exists between death and the resurrection or final judgment. The brief comments of the Bible about this subject have led to much difference of opinion.
Views Concerning the Intermediate State Some have understood the phrase “sleep in Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 4:14) to suggest that the soul is unconscious during this time. Martin Luther made statements which suggest that after death the righteous sleep without an awareness of the passage of time. Jesus awakens them at the resurrection. This interpretation seems to contradict Paul's conviction that after death he anticipated conscious fellowship with Christ (Philippians 1:23).
Others have emphasized the possibility of a second opportunity for receiving the gospel message during this intermediate period. An interpretation of
1 Peter 4:6 following this system would emphasize that the dead receive an opportunity to hear and respond to the gospel. This view overlooks the fact that the “dead” in
1 Peter 4:6 might be believers who had responded to the gospel while they were living but were now dead.
Biblical Insights about the Intermediate State Although the Bible does not provide detailed teaching concerning the intermediate state, it does provide teaching from which we can draw legitimate inferences. The conditions of the righteous and the unrighteous provide a lesson in contrasts.
Believers appear in a state of rest. This rest does not refer to inactivity but to the joy of achievement and accomplishment (Hebrews 4:10;
Several passages clearly indicate that believers are alive and conscious in the presence of God (Matthew 22:32;
John 11:26). Paul expressed the hope of being with Christ in
Philippians 1:23 and in
2 Corinthians 5:8. In
Luke 23:43 Jesus assured the repentant thief that He would be with him in paradise. The term “paradise” comes from a Persian word which means “park” and is another way of referring to the blessedness of the presence of God. See Paradise.
Even though the believer enjoys life, rest, and the presence of God, there is still a sense of incompleteness. Paul centered his hope on the resurrection (Philippians 3:10-11).
The unbeliever is pictured during the intermediate state as separated from God. The separation involves a removal from the blessing of fellowship with God. In this condition God keeps the wicked in a state of punishment until the time of final judgment (2 Peter 2:9).
The wicked also are seen as alive and conscious. Although the parable of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31) has many symbolic features, it clearly suggests a state of conscious existence for the wicked.
The term “Hades” is a general reference to the location of the dead between the time of physical death and resurrection. The King James Version has translated this term as “hell” or “grave.” Sometimes the term is a general reference to the grave and may allow for the presence of even the righteous (Acts 2:27,Acts 2:31;
1 Corinthians 15:55). On other occasions Hades refers to the place of the wicked dead (Luke 16:23;
Revelation 20:14). See Hades; Hell; Resurrection.
Thomas D. Lea