This Biblical Christianity website encourages people to know and to live, God’s Word; thus enabling us to live now as God intended for us to live, and preparing us for eternal life in God’s kingdom.
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First of all, our dying is something very special in the sight of God, something He is involved in and places great importance upon; something that He has complete control over and works out for the very best. "Precious (important and no light matter) in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints (His loving ones)" (Ps. 116:15). "We are assured and know that [God being a partner in their labor] all things work together and are [fitting into a plan] for good to and for those who love God and are called according to [His] design and purpose" (Rom. 8:28).
Jesus gave what seems to be an actual account, not a parable, concerning two who had died and gone to Hades. "There was a certain rich man who [habitually] clothed himself in purple and fine linen and reveled and feasted and made merry in splendor every day. And at his gate there was [carelessly] dropped down and left a certain utterly destitute man named Lazarus, [reduced to begging alms and] covered with [ulcerated] sores. He [eagerly] desired to be satisfied with what fell from the rich man's table; moreover, the dogs even came and licked his sores. And it occurred that the man [reduced to] begging died and was carried by the angels to Abraham's bosom. The rich man also died and was buried. And in Hades (the realm of the dead), being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far away, and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried out and said, Father Abraham, have pity and mercy on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame. But Abraham said, Child, remember that you in your lifetime fully received [what is due you in] comforts and delights, and Lazarus in like manner the discomforts and distresses; but now he is comforted here and you are in anguish. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who want to pass from this [place] to you may not be able, and no one may pass from there to us" (Luke 16:19-26).
The people that Jesus mentioned in this account were conscious, aware of their surroundings and effected by them. Although they no longer had physical bodies, they spoke in terms related to them in order to explain what they were experiencing in their soul and spirit. A good explanation of how we develop when in a physical body is that our mind and/or spirit directs our physical brain to use our physical bodies to interact with people and our surroundings in such a way as to develop or form our soul or the person that we eventually become. When we die, our body is buried and our soul and spirit go to be with the Lord; when the Lord Jesus comes for His Church our bodies will be resurrected and changed to be like His (1 Cor. 15:35-58).
The Scriptures presented and considered in this article appear to indicate that before the death of Christ, Hades was the dwelling place of all those that died, but when Jesus rose from the dead, and before he ascended to the Father, He went into Hades and presented Himself as the promised Messiah of the Old Testament prophets, and took those who had previously been dwelling in the comfortable side of Hades, called Abraham’s bosom, into the presence of the Father. On the cross Jesus said to the repentant thief "Today you will be with Me in Paradise" (Luke 23:43). Another states, "For Christ [the Messiah Himself] died for sins once for all, the Righteous for the unrighteous (the Just for the unjust, the Innocent for the guilty), that He might bring us to God. In His human body He was put to death, but He was made alive in the spirit, in which He went and preached to the spirits in prison, [the souls of those] who long before in the days of Noah had been disobedient, when God's patience waited during the building of the ark in which a few [people], actually eight in number, were saved through water" (1 Peter 3:18-20). And another states, "Therefore it is said, When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive [He led a train of vanquished foes] and He bestowed gifts on men" (Eph. 4:8).
Although, my comments, in the above paragraph can’t be shown by Scripture to be an absolute certainty, they do seem to be consistent with the whole of Scripture and with what Nelson’s Bible Dictionary has to say at the end of this article.
Following these events, all those who died went immediately into the presence of Christ, since Paul states if given his choice, he would rather be absent from the body and thus present with the Lord. "For me to live is Christ [His life in me], and to die is gain [the gain of the glory of eternity]. If, however, it is to be life in the flesh and I am to live on here, that means fruitful service for me; so I can say nothing as to my personal preference [I cannot choose], but I am hard pressed between the two. My yearning desire is to depart (to be free of this world, to set forth) and be with Christ, for that is far, far better; but to remain in my body is more needful and essential for your sake" (Phil. 1:21-24). It was not something that Paul feared, but something he looked forward to as being more united and alive to Christ than ever before. We will be more alive, in the glory of eternity, than anything we have ever experienced.
This awareness after death in the presence of Christ is illustrated in the book of Revelation. "When the Lamb broke open the fifth seal, I saw at the foot of the altar the souls of those whose lives had been sacrificed for [adhering to] the Word of God and for the testimony they had borne. They cried in a loud voice, O [Sovereign] Lord, holy and true, how long now before You will sit in judgment and avenge our blood upon those who dwell on the earth? [Gen. 4:10; Ps. 79:5; Zech. 1:12.] Then they were each given a long and flowing and festive white robe and told to rest and wait patiently a little while longer, until the number should be complete of their fellow servants and their brethren who were to be killed as they themselves had been" (Rev. 6:9-11).
Paul tells us that this new, real life is a living reality even now. "If then you have been raised with Christ [to a new life, thus sharing His resurrection from the dead], aim at and seek the [rich, eternal treasures] that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. [Ps. 110:1.] And set your minds and keep them set on what is above (the higher things), not on the things that are on the earth. For [as far as this world is concerned] you have died, and your [new, real] life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, Who is our life, appears, then you also will appear with Him in [the splendor of His] glory. So kill (deaden, deprive of power) the evil desire lurking in your members [those animal impulses and all that is earthly in you that is employed in sin]: sexual vice, impurity, sensual appetites, unholy desires, and all greed and covetousness, for that is idolatry (the deifying of self and other created things instead of God)" (Col. 3:1-5).
When we go to be with the Lord, everything about life will be enhanced and quickened, and we will be given additional knowledge about our God and our new living environment and how to live in it. "Love never fails [never fades out or becomes obsolete or comes to an end]. As for prophecy ( the gift of interpreting the divine will and purpose), it will be fulfilled and pass away; as for tongues, they will be destroyed and cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away [it will lose its value and be superseded by truth]. For our knowledge is fragmentary (incomplete and imperfect), and our prophecy (our teaching) is fragmentary (incomplete and imperfect). But when the complete and perfect (total) comes, the incomplete and imperfect will vanish away (become antiquated, void, and superseded). When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; now that I have become a man, I am done with childish ways and have put them aside. For now we are looking in a mirror that gives only a dim (blurred) reflection [of reality as in a riddle or enigma], but then [when perfection comes] we shall see in reality and face to face! Now I know in part (imperfectly), but then I shall know and understand fully and clearly, even in the same manner as I have been fully and clearly known and understood [by God]" (1 Cor. 13:8-12).
The following is from Nelson's Illustrated Bible Dictionary.
INTERMEDIATE STATE – The period between a person's death and the final resurrection at the end of time.
The Bible does not have a great deal to say about the intermediate state; its emphasis is upon the return of Christ, the final judgment, and the eternal state of man. What it does say is sketchy and open to various interpretations.
The New Testament sometimes describes the act of dying as a "falling asleep" and the state of death as a "sleeping" (Matt. 9:24; 11:11; 1 Cor. 15:20,51). In 1 Thess. 4:13-15, the apostle Paul speaks of "those who have fallen asleep," "those who sleep in Jesus," and "those who are asleep." This should not be understood as "soul-sleeping"-a reference to the dead in an unconscious state. Death as sleep is a widely used biblical concept signifying rest from earthly care and labor, as is true of natural sleep (2 Peter 3:4).
Jesus' story of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31) represents the rich man as conscious and tormented in Hades and Lazarus the beggar as conscious and blessed in Abraham's bosom. This passage of Scripture is a parable, which means that every point should not be pressed too far. The parable suggests that immediately after death the righteous are rewarded and the unrighteous receive punishment. The final degrees of both reward and punishment, however, are determined only at the final judgment (Rev. 20:11-15).
On the cross Jesus said to the repentant thief "Today you will be with Me in Paradise" (Luke 23:43). The word paradise is of Persian origin. It suggests an orchard, park, or garden. The apostle Paul spoke of being "caught up into Paradise" (2 Cor. 12:4), evidently equating heaven and Paradise. In the Book of Revelation the crucified and resurrected Christ declared, "To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God" (Rev. 2:7). The overall sense of these references identifies Paradise with heaven, to which the righteous go immediately after death.
The apostle Paul's clearest treatment of the intermediate state is found in 2 Cor. 5:1-8: "For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens" (v. 1). From this passage it is difficult to see Paul anticipating an unconscious, or even subconscious, state after death. He ends this passage by declaring, "We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord" (v. 8). No in-between or intermediate state seems to be in mind here. In another place Paul says that when the Lord returns, "God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus" (1 Thess. 4:14). This implies that believers who have died are with Jesus now.