Pastor's Blog

Pastor's Note - November 17

1 Corinthians 15:18-23 teaches that because Christ was raised bodily, all those in Christ will also experience bodily resurrection. When will this bodily resurrection happen? According to verse 23, “at his coming.” So, we will experience bodily resurrection at the end of this age, at the second coming of Christ. This brings up a theological question that, for the sake of time, we did not address on Sunday. That question is, “What happens to our souls between physical death and bodily resurrection?” It seems for a time that our souls will be departed from our bodies, before bodily resurrection. This has been referred to by Christian theologians as “the intermediate state.” What happens to our souls during this time, and what will we experience? The short answer is we’re not entirely sure! We are sure of a few things. First, we know that those who die in Christ will be with the Lord (see 2 Corinthians 5:6-8; Philippians 1:23; and Luke 23:43). Second, we know the bodily resurrection has not yet happened (see 1 Corinthians 15:50-54 and 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17). Beyond that, we don’t know much. One theory states that we will not experience any intermediate state, because our souls will be “asleep.” In this “soul sleep,” our souls will sleep until the resurrection and final judgment. This theory has been rejected by most Christians, because of the verses like the ones above that state that we will immediately experience presence with the Lord at death (if we are Christians). Of course, another theory is that of purgatory, which is taught by the Roman Catholic Church. As protestants, we reject that for a number of reasons, including lack of biblical support, and the fact that it too contradicts the passages that affirm immediate presence with the Lord (not to mention that an assumed component of purgatory is further purging of sin, which contradicts justification by faith). A third theory is somewhat of a “time travel” theory, which holds that we will immediately go to the experience of final judgment and resurrection. Think of Monopoly and being told to skip forward to “Go.” This is possible because God exists outside of time and space, and thus can take us to judgment and resurrection “outside” of time and space, and the timing of that doesn’t have to correlate with how we experience time on earth. So, none of us would be in any type of sleep or holding pattern, and we would immediately experience resurrection and judgment upon death. I think this theory is possible. A final theory is probably the one we most naturally assume – that we will simply live as disembodied souls in some way, in the presence of the Lord, until final resurrection. In this intermediate state, we may or may not have some type of spiritual body, and in either case still await full resurrection. But, our souls will be awake and conscious, and we will experience either bliss in the Lord, or hell away from Him. This last theory seems to be implied by Revelation 6:9-11 (the souls of the saints under the altar) or Luke 16:19-31 (rich man and Lazarus). This is the most widely held, and probably most likely, view. In any case, we rest on the fact that we can and will have peace in Christ, and one day will be fully restored, both body and soul.

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