The state of the soul before resurrection


  • Question from MN, USA

    What is the state of the soul or spirit, after the death of the body until resurrection? So often, usually at funerals, you hear that the person in question is now in Heaven with those that have gone before, but nowhere does it state that. Resurrection occurs with the return of Christ and “believers will receive new, immortal, perfect bodies“. I am interested in the time between bodily death and resurrection.

    One of the big problems in the early church, as seen by references in the New Testament, was what happened to the believers who had ‘fallen asleep’ (i.e. died) before Christ’s return. Within New Testament studies, the difference between the earlier books with an emphasis on the imminent return of Christ (parousia), and the later books when it seemed that said return was not going to happen immediately, is frequently referred to.

    Various ideas were proposed. For example, the ideas of ‘limbo’ and ‘purgatory’ as holding areas for souls after death and before the end-times resurrection developed in the middle ages. However, there is no need for a celestial waiting room, when one aspect of God’s nature is considered. If God is eternal, not bound by time, or the restrictions of the physical universe, then this ‘time lag’ becomes irrelevant. For those ‘with God’, chronological time is already wrapped up. Another way of saying this would be to describe death as crossing into another dimension. In that place, outside time, Christ’s return into the physical universe has already happened, the world has ended, judgment day has come. For those still living in the physical universe, all these things are yet to take place.

    It is confusing, but the idea that the ‘God’s eye view’ of the universe is one of past, present and future, underlies several attempts to understand how ‘prophecy’, for example, works. It also means that there is no hanging around for disembodied souls. The deceased are already resurrected and to them it would have felt instantaneous.

    Thanks for your question, MN.

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