According to the Christian faith, our ultimate home is the eternal house built for us in Heaven, with earth being a temporary home that can be destroyed at any moment. While some Christians believe in a holding place before final judgment, others are not as convinced. Little is known about the intermediate state and its possible existence, leaving believers with the age-old question: how soon after death do you go to Heaven?
There is no specific timeline of how soon people will go to Heaven after death. Depending on the denomination of the Christian faith, there are varying opinions. While some believe that we must go through the intermediate state, others opinion that we immediately ascend to be with the Father upon death.
Expect to gain great insight into the concepts of the intermediate state, purgatory, the New Earth, New Heavens, and the new bodies Christians receive in the afterlife. This article also uses relevant Bible quotes to support the different schools of thought. You will learn something new and thought-provoking.
What Happens in the Intermediate State When a Christian Dies?
Not all Christians believe in the intermediate state, but for those that do, it is a period between physical death and resurrection of their bodies from the dead. Death is the separation of soul and body where the physical body deteriorates and the soul continues in consciousness. Some Christians believe believers’ souls shall be in bliss while non-believers’ souls shall be in torment during this time (Luke 16:22-26). The intermediate state is implied to be a temporary holding place before we face the final judgment and go to the eternal lake of fire or the new Heaven and earth.
Our physical bodies will resurrect then. According to Corinthians 15:50-54 and 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17, this resurrection is yet to come. There is the belief that in the intermediate state, the souls are spirits and do not have physical forms. This is because of Revelation 6:9, which says, “When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained.” In the intermediate state, just like in the New Heaven, it is believed that there will be unlimited access to God. Revelation 22:4 is used to support this notion. It states, “They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads.”
Do Christians Go to Purgatory Before Going to Heaven?
Different denominations of the Church have different views on the concept of purgatory and whether or not people go there upon death. Let’s examine these opinions. To begin with, purgatory is described as a state of suffering where the souls of sinners undergo the expiation of their sins to enter Heaven. The Roman Catholic Church is one group of believers that trust in the existence of purgatory. They rely on a verse from one of the Apocrypha.
The Apocrypha is a collection of books that are accepted by the Roman Catholic faith but are rejected by Protestants. 2 Maccabee is one such book, and in 2 Maccabees 12:45, it reads, “Therefore (Judas Maccabeus) made atonement for the dead so that they might be delivered from their sin.” This has been inferred to mean that there is a possibility for one to be expunged of their sins upon atonement even after death. Catholics are, therefore, encouraged to pray for the dead. They also use 1 Corinthians 3:15 which states “If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.”
Opponents of the idea of purgatory use the argument that Jesus Christ already died on the cross and paid for our sins (Romans 5:8 “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us”) Protestants believe that purgatory defeats the purpose of Christ dying on the cross for us and the entire concept of salvation.
Do Christians Wait for The New Earth and New Body in Heaven After They Die?
Many believers think we will have to wait for the New Heavens and Earth. We will also have to wait for our new physical bodies. Revelation 21:1-4 describes the New Heavens and New Earth which will be physical. 2 Peter 3:13 also references the New Heavens and New Earth, “But, according to his promise, we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness truly resides.” According to the concept of the intermediate state, we will have to wait till Christ returns for our souls to transition to the New Heavens and for us to get our new bodies.
Look at Philippians 3:20, “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” and Jude 1:21, which says, “Keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life.”
On the other hand, some Christians are confident that we do not have to wait to get to the New Earth and receive the gift of our new bodies. 2 Corinthians 5:8 is used to support this idea. It reads, “We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.” This has been taken to mean that immediately we die, our souls immediately transcend into the place that the Lord has prepared. Our souls are not left in a state of limbo and homelessness. Philippians 1:23 can also be quoted as it says, “I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far .”According to some, the departure (death) Paul refers to is a direct gateway to be with Christ. A wait is not mentioned in these verses and so according to some Christians and denominations, there is no waiting period between death and the New Heavens and our new bodies.
What Does the Bible Say About Death and Heaven for Believers?
A special place called Heaven where Christians go to after death is referenced plenty of times in the Bible. 2 Corinthians 5:8 says, “We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.” This has been taken to mean that when the soul is away from the body (death), it will go home (Heaven). John 14:2-3 also speaks of the many rooms in Heaven where one goes after death. It reads, “My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me so that you also may be where I am.”
Abraham also acknowledged Heaven in Hebrews 11:10 “For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.” 2 Corinthians 5:4 also speaks of Heaven and reminds us that earth is a temporary dwelling, “For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.” As for what Heaven will be like, Revelation 7:15-17 gives a good description. It says, “Therefore, they are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence. Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat down on them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
- What Happens When a Christian Dies?
- What Is the Intermediate State?
- What Do You Believe About the Intermediate State?
- The Intermediate State
- What Does the Bible Say About Purgatory?
- What Does the Bible Say About Purgatory?
They say that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, right? Being raised by Christians significantly impacted my life since I started professing Christ from a young age. My passion for the Christian faith made me pursue a degree in Religious studies and a Masters in Theology. I am a believer and pastor dedicated to spreading the word of God. I have been in the Christian ministry for over a decade and am currently ministering in Life Christian Church. I have also been privileged to teach 4 Christian courses in a college and university. Please check the About Us Page for more details.