“So we are always confident and know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. For we walk by faith, not by sight. In fact, we are confident, and we would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.” (CSB – Read the chapter)
Last time we looked at this thing Paul said about being away from the body and at home with the Lord being preferable to remaining here. It’s the kind of statement that naturally draws some attention to itself. What’s it mean?
Well, what Paul means here isn’t totally clear. There are some folks who have spent a lot of time thinking through it, though, and most of them over the centuries have suggested this as the most probable understanding. Paul is talking about what guys who’ve spent a lot of time just thinking about God call the “intermediate state.” Okay, well…what’s that?
Paul is pretty clear that when Christ returns, everyone who follows Him is going to get a resurrection body. We’ve mentioned this over the last few days and even in this post. But, that very obviously hasn’t happened yet. So…what happens between when we die now and that wonderful day? That is the question that started this whole series of posts, isn’t it? The answer: The intermediate state.
The intermediate state is the period of time between our physical deaths and our resurrection. We don’t know a lot about it, but we do know a few things from what Paul says here and a general survey of the Scriptures.
The first is that we do indeed die physically as long as our Lord tarries. These bodies will wear out. But, the second thing we know is that our spirits are eternal. They do not die when our bodies do. This means that there will be some amount of time during which we will exist as spirits without bodies. This disembodied existence is the intermediate state. It is intermediate because it is not going to be our final state. We were created with body and spirit. The unique combination of those is what makes us human. We won’t be complete as God created us to be until we have it.
We long for this state, as Paul says here, only in the sense that we will be more fully in the presence of Christ in this state than we are now. But, we will be aware of our incompleteness in this state. We will still long to be made whole.
What else can we say? Well, from Luke 16 and Revelation 5 we know we will still have some sort of awareness of what’s going on back here with the people we have left behind. How thorough this will be is not clear, and but for a couple of hints in the Scriptures, there’s no indication we will be able to communicate between the two places. Also, whether we enter this intermediate state in Christ or not will be permanent. There will be no post-death opportunities to switch sides, so to speak.
This is about the total of what we can say. The bigger question is what this means. It means that for followers of Jesus, physical death is not something to fear. We will be with Jesus. This is why we long for it as Paul says here.
So…is death something that brings you fear, or a calm assurance that something better is coming than what you know now? If the former, there’s an easy way to fix that: accept Jesus’ offer of life. Let Him into your life to be your Lord and Savior. He is waiting to receive you.