Summary: How and where do believes exist between their deaths and Jesus' Second Coming? (Material adapted from Daniel Overdorf's book, What the Bible Has to Say About the Church: Rediscovering Community; chapter 15 Eternally Worshiping, pgs. 386- 390)
Begin by reading Luke 16:19-31
From Rick Kallstrom- A few years ago I preached a message on hell. After the service I walked to the back of the church to shake hands with members of the congregation as they left the church. One individual said to me, “Preacher, I never knew what hell was really like until I heard you preach!” I wonder what she meant by that?
Not talking about hell but the other place tonight.
We have been going backwards in discussing the church’s future. Began by discussing the church’s ultimate existence in the new creation, the New Jerusalem. This morning we discussed the return of Christ that will begin our existence in that new creation, then the resurrection of believers that will accompany the return of Christ. This question lingers in many minds:
Thesis: How and where do believers exist between their deaths and Jesus’ Second Coming?
Immediately present with God
Upon our deaths, and before Christ’s return, we will dwell with God in a spiritual realm. I’m calling this the present heaven. Between our physical deaths and Christ’s return, we will exist without physical bodies.
Around the death of a loved one a Christian might ask where their loved one is right now. At that time unnessary to talk about Sheol, Hades, Soul Sleep or even the best Scripture found in Luke 16, the Rich Man and Lazarus. Take them to this and discuss Abraham’s side, torment, and the great chasm. Simpilist answer is found here: “We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.” 2 Corinthians 5:8, NIV. They are with the Lord and that is enough.
Even Bible is loose with using the term heaven. Sometimes “heaven” is talking about the intermediate state. Scripture provides only sketchy details of this heaven as it presently exists. Many questions surround Luke 16 the rich man and Lazarus. The streets of gold and the gates of pearl are describing the new creation, the New Jerusalem. The Bible does reveal, however, that God (Matthew 5:16), His angels (Matthew 18:10), and those believers who have died (2 Corinthians 5:1) presently live in heaven.
We do know that to be without a body is an undesired state. 2 Corinthians 5:1-4, NIV.
Barnes here says this about “be clothed with our heavenly dwelling”. “To be invested with our spiritual body. We desire to be clothed with that body. We desire to be in heaven (the new creation), and to be clothed with immortality. We wish to have a body that shall be pure, undecaying, ever glorious.” Even those in the “present heaven” are looking forward to resurrection day. Martin Luther said, “It would take a foolish soul to desire its body when it is already in heaven (the new creation).” Those in the present heaven desire a body.
Evidently a great deal hinges upon our being in a body. We are less than human if we are disembodied spirits. That we are born and grow and develop within a personal body that becomes a part of us is no accident.
Jesus came back from the dead in a body. “Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.”” Luke 24:39, NIV. Many imagine that they can lay the body aside and carry on much better. When Paul preached the resurrection of the body to the Greek we see the results: “When they heard about the resurrection of the dead, some of them sneered, but others said, “We want to hear you again on this subject.”” Acts 17:32, NIV.
The soul is wedded to its body, and divorce of this bond is awful to any man or woman. Even though our present body is defiled, to go naked and bodiless is undesirable (2 Corinthians 5:4). For 3 days and 3 nights Jesus ceased to be full man (body and soul), but with the resurrection of his human body He reassumed his human identity, an identity which He will henceforth retain forever. No person is a whole person as a disembodied spirit: for man, the union of spirit and body is fundamental to the establishment of personal identity.
Daniel Overdorf- One afternoon I visited a friend in the hospital- Radford Morris. He suffered from multiple health issues, primarily related to his lungs and breathing. His health had worsened such that the doctors gave little hope of Radford living much longer. His condition led him to increasingly consider the hope of heaven. During our visit on this particular afternoon, Radford described a dream he experienced the night before. He envisioned himself as a small boy. He reached up and grasped a hand. He could not see the face of the one whose hand he held, but as he walked around he told everyone who would listen, “This is my daddy! This is my daddy!” He spoke not of his earthly father, but of walking hand in hand with God.