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What is the intermediate state?

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Question: "What is the intermediate state?"

The “intermediate state” is a theological concept that speculates regarding what kind of body, if any, believers in heaven have while they wait for their physical bodies to be resurrected. The Bible makes it clear that deceased believers are with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:6-8; Philippians 1:23). The Bible also makes it clear that the resurrection of believers has not yet occurred, meaning that the bodies of deceased believers are still in the grave (1 Corinthians 15:50-54; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17). So, the question of the intermediate state is whether believers in heaven are given temporary physical bodies until the resurrection, or whether believers in heaven exist in spiritual/non-corporeal form until the resurrection.

The Bible does not give a great amount of detail regarding the intermediate state. The only Scripture that specifically, but indirectly, speaks to the issue is Revelation 6:9, “… I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained.” In this verse John is given a vision of those who will be killed because of their faith during the end times. In this vision those believers who had been killed are under God’s altar in heaven and are described as “souls.” So, from this one verse, if there is a biblical answer for the intermediate state, it would seem that believers in heaven are in spiritual/non-corporeal form until the resurrection.

The heaven that ultimately awaits believers is the New Heavens and New Earth (Revelation 21-22). Heaven will indeed be a physical place. Our physical bodies will be resurrected and glorified, made perfectly fit for eternity on the New Earth. Currently, heaven is a spiritual realm. It would seem, then, that there would be no need for temporary physical bodies if believers are in a spiritual heaven. Whatever the intermediate state is, we can rest assured that believers in heaven are perfectly content, enjoying the glories of heaven and worshiping the majesty of the Lord.

Recommended Resource: Heaven by Randy Alcorn

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