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“Heaven” and the Intermediate State

April 11, 2007

A sermon excerpt from way back in the 20th century:

When you say of a believing friend or relative who has died that they have “gone home to be with the Lord”  you are not just uttering a cultural platitude.  It’s not just a Christian cliché.  You are holding on to solid, clear, Biblical truth.  If everything else I will say this morning about the doctrine of the intermediate state confuses you, hold on to this one simple answer to the question:  Where are believers who die between now and the second coming?  Where are believers while they wait for the resurrection of the dead?  They are home with the Lord.  This is a priceless verse.  Remember this verse.  You are going to need this verse someday, write down where it is: 2 Corinthians 5:8  Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.  That by itself is enough for a believer to be confident and of good courage in the face of death.

But it is not enough to satisfy all our curiosity.  And it is good to be curious.  Let’s take out this treasure and look at it.  Let’s search the Scriptures for more information about our future in the presence of Jesus.   First a few verses to confirm what we have seen here, that upon our death we go immediately into the presence of the Lord. 

Php 1:23 I have the desire to depart and be with Christ for that is very much better

Ecc 12:7 The dust returns to the ground it came from and the spirit returns to God who gave it

Acts 7:59 Stephen as he was dying saw Jesus and said “Receive my spirit”

Luke 16:22 “The poor man died and he was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s bosom” This means sitting next to Abraham at the banquet table, like young John resting his head on Jesus’ chest.  Abraham and this poor man are in what Jesus called ”
Paradise” when he spoke to the thief on the cross.  When you die, Angels will come and take your soul to paradise to be home with the Lord.

Other words used to describe this intermediate state between death and the second coming: Sleep. (Our word cemetery comes from this word for sleep) But it’s not sleep in the sense of lack of consciousness, but rest from labor, temptation.  The battle is over, now you are resting up for the great celebration.  But you are still awake.

Revelation 14:13  Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Blessed indeed,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!”

Revelation 6:9-11  When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne.  10 They cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?”  11 Then they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer

They are at rest, yet obviously they are still conscious.  They are aware of the advance of the kingdom on earth.  Certainly they are not omniscient; we should not think of departed saints as somehow “always watching over us”.  But evidently they are allowed by God to see at least some measure of the progress of kingdom, and they cheer on the saints still on the earth (Hebrews 12:1)

Another word used for the intermediate state: Glory.

Ps 73:24, you guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory.  So saying that a departed saint has “gone on to glory” is also more than just a cliché. 

But what about the word heaven?  After Jesus there will be New Heavens and a New Earth, but is it OK to say that we go to heaven before Jesus returns?  Yes it is.

Hebrews 12:22-23  you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering,  23 and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect,”  

When you draw near to God now you are coming by faith (not yet by sight) and joining in the assembly of worshipping angels and saints, who are called the spirits of righteous men made perfect.  And this place is called the heavenly Jerusalem.  When you die, you go to heaven, and then after Jesus comes back, heaven comes down to earth

3 Comments leave one →
  1. May 2, 2007 1:47 pm

    What about hell? It says that hell was prepared for Satan and his demons, but Satan is still currently roaming the World. So do those who don’t go to the “intermediate heaven” go to an intermediate hell, or the actual hell prepared for Satan?

  2. May 2, 2007 2:21 pm

    Yes, there is an intermediate state of being separate from God that precedes the resurrection of the body and the being thrown into the lake of fire.

  3. May 2, 2007 2:59 pm

    What is your argument for that?

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