The Lostness of Mankind (Part 3)

The Intermediate State of People without Christ

What does “lostness” mean when unsaved people pass into the next world? What happens when a person, saved or not, dies?

Thankfully, we are not left to vague conjecture on this most important subject. The declarations of the Scriptures, especially the New Testament, are clear—sufficiently abundant and decisive. They lie everywhere upon the surface of the text, precisely designed to supplement the imperfect guesses and feeble hopes of a humanity that naturally longs to know what happens after death.

That the human soul survives the shock of death we can affirm on the authority of the Scriptures. Both Old and New Testament writers fully expected the conscious survival of the soul-apart from the body-after death. With positiveness and directness, Job, possibly the earliest of the Old Testament writers (Job 19:25–27) and the Psalmist (Psalm 17:15; 49:15), declare that the life of the soul does not die when the body dies.

I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. And after my shin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes. Job 19:25–27

The frequent expressions, “gathered to his people” (Genesis 25:17; 35:29; 49:33) and “rested with his fathers” (I Kings 11:43; 14:3 1) do not mean simply that the persons died, for the words are added to statements that properly express that idea. Neither do they mean that the persons were buried in the family cemetery, for this, too, is often stated specifically by the use of a different phrase. The expressions signified to the Hebrews a reunion with their forefathers in the other world, or, as David tenderly expresses it with regard to his deceased child, “I will go to him” (2 Samuel 12:23) The writer of Ecclesiastes, in referring to death, adds, “And the spirit returns to God who gave it” (Ecclesiastes 12:7)—further biblical corroboration of the survival of the human soul after death. 4

Jesus' account of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19–31) is also legitimate and essential to our understanding of what occurs immediately upon death. Note that: Consciousness will continue after death, together with memory and the same instincts and sentiments as characterize people during the present life.

The good will be happy and the wicked miserable, and both from a recognition of their true character and what they deserved.

They will be aware of others' final destinies, as well as their own.

There is no means or possibility of a transition from the condition of the lost to that of the blessed.

All further efforts on the part of God for salvation after death are abandoned. 5

Jesus said to the penitent thief dying beside Him at Calvary, “Today you will me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). Paul anticipated his own death as “be[ing] with Christ” (Philippians 1:23). The writer to the Hebrews saw in “Mount Zion, . . . the heavenly Jerusalem,” not only an innumerable company of angels “in joyful assembly,” but “the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven,” and “the spirits of righteous men made perfect” (Hebrews 12:22–23)

From these Bible references, by no means exhaustive, we can be certain that the soul will be conscious in the disembodied state. The faculties that constitute or belong to the soul—thought memory, feeling, imagination—will remain after death, unaltered and unimpaired in their nature We are also warranted in saying that during this interim period, pending the reunion of soul and body, the saved will be occupied with unalloyed delights of a spiritual nature.

Those, however, destined to everlasting condemnation will suffer misery. As if their present incarceration in the agony of hell's fire was insufficient, they suffer the suspense of their anticipated eternal doom. They are like criminals in the interval between conviction and execution. Theirs is the “fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God” (Hebrews 10:27).

Article 40 of the Church of England, adopted during the 16th century reign of Edward VI, states the case briefly and clearly:

The souls of them that depart this life do neither die with the bodies nor sleep idly. They which say that the souls of such as depart hence do sleep, being without all sense, feeling, or perceiving, until the day of judgment . . . do utterly dissent from the right belief declared to us in Holy Scripture.
The Bible does not give us further detailed information about the intermediate state of either the lost or the saved. This, no doubt, is due to the tentative, temporary nature of this intermediate state. The sacred writers prefer to hasten on to the resurrection state-mankind's final and eternal condition.

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