THE INTERMEDIATE STATE
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1-22-56 8:15 a.m.
Now, the sermon this morning is a continuation of the message of last Sunday morning. I wish all of us could have been here. I would think that almost all of us were. The thesis of the message last Sunday morning is this: that we are redeemed in our spirits when we trust in Jesus. We’renot going to be saved; we are saved already. We are not going to have eternal life; we have eternal life already:
"If any man be in Christ he is
– already –
a new creation: old things
– and that includes death and the grave –
are passed away;and all things are become new."
[2 Corinthians 5:17]
"He that believeth in Me hath everlasting life."
"Thy brother shall rise again."
"I know he’ll rise at the resurrection at the last day."
"No," said Jesus, "not that"
– Not some other day. Not some other time –
"I am the resurrection and the life . . .
"He that liveth and believeth in Me shall never, never die – never die."
[from John 11:23-26]
Now, that was the thesis of last Sunday morning’s message: the spirit of the Christian living in his body – the soul of the Christian – is already redeemed, already regenerated, already has eternal life, and never, never dies. Now that was last Sunday morning.
Now, this Sunday morning, we take up the other half of that for that is just half of what God does for us. I am not only soul, spirit. I also have a body. I am soul and spirit, that’s right, but I am also body. And the Lord says that the whole possession is to be redeemed, regenerated. My spirit already – my heart, my soul – has been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb [1 Peter 1:18-19]. It has been regenerated by the power of the Holy Spirit of God [Titus 3:5], and we shall never, never die [1 John 5:11-13]. But my body also is to be redeemed [Romans 8:23]. My body also is to be regenerated. We call that regeneration "the resurrection."
Now, between the time of the regeneration of my spirit and the resurrection of my body, there is a period. In the case of Adam, of Noah, of Enoch, of Abraham, it has been a long, long time. So we call that – I call that – an intermediate state. That’s what we’re going to talk about this morning.
Now you can follow me in the Word, and it would be blessed if you will. We turn first to the eighth chapter of the Book of Romans, the eighth chapter of the Book of Romans and from the nineteenth through the twenty-third verses: Romans 8:19-23 – the eighth chapter of Romans. Then we’re going to turn, a little later, to the fifth chapter of the second Corinthian letter.If you’ll put your fingers on those while I bring this message, the rest of them you’ll not have time to turn to, but those two you can: the eighth chapter of the Book of Romans and the fifth chapter of Second Corinthians – the eighth chapter of the Book of Romans, and just a little further along in the New Testament, the fifth chapter of the second Corinthian letter. All right. Now, the eighth chapter of the Book of Romans:
"For the earnest expectation of the creature" [Romans 8:19] – let’s translate that "creation" for he’s talking about the whole creation, everything."For the earnest expectation of the whole creation, waiteth for the manifestation . . ." The Greek word is the apokalupsis. That’s what you call the Revelation – the Apocalypse. "For the earnest expectation of the whole creation waiteth for" – the apocalyptic appearance, the revelation – "the manifestation, of the sons of God" [Romans 8:19].
"For the whole creation was made subject to"futility, barrenness, sterility, nothingness. "Vanity" you have it translated here. "Not willingly" – it didn’t choose it of itself – "but by reason of Him who hath subjected the same in hope" [Romans 8:20].That is, God had an eternal plan, and He let sin mar and destroy this creation of God because God had another plan, an eternal plan. "Because the whole creation itself shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.For we know that the whole creation" [Romans 8:21-22] – see, he translates it, "creation" there, same word. Up there, it’s translated, "creature" [Romans 8:19-21]; here, "creation" [Romans 8:22]. He’s talking about the whole creation, so let’s keep the translation the same. "For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now" [Romans 8:22].
When a cow gives birth to a calf, the cow travails. The whole creation travails:the deserts do forthe lack of water; the earthdoes,hit by storms and hurricanes; the stars and planets mostly are barren and sterile.
The whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together
And not only they, but ourselves also, who have the firstfruits
of the Spirit
– we that have been redeemed in our souls –
even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption
– What is it? –
to wit, the redemption
– the resurrection –
of the body.
The Lord God started with matter, with the body. And the Lord God is going to end with the body, with matter.
"Preacher, that’s the most physical gospel I ever heard of in my life."
But it isn’t mine. It’s just what’s in the Book: "The Lord God formed the man out of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul" [Genesis 2:7]. He is both. Out of the dust of the ground did God make his body [Genesis 2:7], and He created all of the order that you see – the orders: plants, animals [Genesis 1:1-31]. He created all of this.
Matter isn’t my idea! I didn’t invent it. God invented it [Genesis 1:1-31]. People who are offended because they say religion is spiritual – it has to do with the ephemeral and ethereal things – that may be right; but what I know and read, and what I see and feel, are largely matters of the physical and of matter – what I see around me.
If God is interested in spirit – He made spirit, that’s right – but God is interested in matter, in the physical. He made that too. The only thing about all of it is that sin ruined the beautiful spirit and soul of a man, and he destroyed his body. But God not going to leave it that way. That’s what the Book’s about. God regenerates the soul. He regenerates the spirit, but that’snot all. God isn’t finished until He regenerates the whole creation [Romans 8:19-23] – that’s the stars that have fallen out of their places, and that’s this whole earth with its barren and sterile deserts, and that’s the body of all God’s creation. He made ’em. He made ’em. And that’s our body too.
So he says this whole creation is waiting for that apocalyptic day when the sons of God shall be manifest [Romans 8:19]. How manifest? When they come forth, redeemed in their bodies – the whole possession. I say, God started with the human body. He started with matter. The last thing God’s going to do is to recreate and redeem that same body and that matter.
What does he say in the fifteenth chapter of the first Corinthian letter? "The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death" [1 Corinthians 15:26]. The last one. When God is finally finished, there won’t be any more deserts;there won’t be any more graves; and there won’t be any more tears and sorrow; and there won’t be no more age;and there won’t be any more death for the whole possession is to be redeemed: all of it, all of it, all of it – the whole creation.
All right, now don’t turn to this. There are too many of these. I want you to turn to the fifth chapter of Second Corinthians: that’s my next one I want you to turn to. Now, you listen. You listen before we get to that. One other thing: he’s talking about here in his Second Timothy letter in the second chapter and the seventeenth verse, he’s talking about these men. He’s talking about these men. Listen to these men:
Their word eats as doth a canker: of whom is Hymenaeus and Philetus;
Who concerning the truth have erred, saying that the
resurrection is past already; and overthrow the faith of some.
[2 Timothy 2:17-18]
Those were some of your philosophical, ecclesiastical intellectuals. And back there in those in early churches, they said, "Why, that’s the most physical idea in the world that we were to have a redeemed body, that there’s to be a resurrection from the dead."Andthey said, "The resurrection is already past. We are resurrected when we believe in Christ. We are resurrected when our spirits are regenerated. But this body is never to be resurrected." That was the Greek idea. That was Greek philosophy except most of them didn’t even go so far as to believe in the immortality of the soul, and certainly they laughed and scoffed at the resurrection of the body.
Sonaturally, when the church made many converts, why there were some old Greek philosophers who came into the fellowship of the church, and two of them are named here: Hymenaeus and Philetus, who, concerning the resurrection of earth saying, "It’s already passed. We had our resurrection when we were redeemed in our spirits."And they’ve overthrown the faith of some [2 Timothy 2:17-18].
And Paul says, "Not so! There is to be a future resurrection of the body itself, and it’s not already passed [1 Corinthians 15:51-57; 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17]. It’s yet to come. We’re redeemed. We’re resurrected in our spirit, out of sin, and out of the judgment of death. But there’s to be another resurrection yet to come!" That’s what Paul says.
Now, let’s look at it. Now, turn to that fifth chapter of the Second Corinthian letter. Now, we’re going to see Paul’s personal reaction to this, his personal reaction. Now, you look at him: "For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved," – he’s talking about this house of clay in which we live.
While we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved
– this body –
we have another body, a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.
For in this body
– this house of clay –
we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven:
If so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked.
[2 Corinthians 5:1-3]
Now, by "naked," he meansan unclothed spirit, a disembodied spirit. "If so being clothed we shall not be found naked" [2 Corinthians 5:3].
For we that are in this tabernacle
– this body –
do groan, being burdened: not for that we would be unclothed
– that is, ‘disembodied spirits’ –
but clothed upon
– that we might have an immortalized house in which to live –
that mortality might be swallowed up of life.
[2 Corinthians 5:4]
What Paul says is we who are Christians, we look forward not to nakedness in spirit, not to disembodiedness in spirit. You know, there is a saying: "Nature abhors a vacuum."I’ll give you another saying: "True Christian religion abhors disembodiedment." The true faith of Jesus Christ recoils from this thing of being just spirits. The Christian faith is that Jesus has a body, that He has flesh, that He has bones, that He has scars, that He’s Somebody, and He lives in a place. You can see Him, and talk to Him, and touch Him, and handle Him.
And the Christian faith is this: that those who believe in Christ do not look forward to a time of disembodiment – what he calls, "nakedness," what he calls, "being unclothed" [2 Corinthians 5:3-4]. I say, the Christian spirit abhors that like nature abhors a vacuum. But the Christian looks forward to the day when his spirit is re-clothed, when his spirit is clothed upon, when the spirit is given its rightful body: this one which is resurrected and immortalized that mortality might be swallowed up of life [2 Corinthians 5:4], that this old aging body might be changed into that glorious body which is Jesus Christ. And we’ll have one like His. That’s the Christian hope. That’s the Christian faith.
But read on. "Now He that hath wrought us for the selfsame thing is God, who hath also given unto us the earnest of His Spirit" [2 Corinthians 5:5]. It’s God who’s doing this, working this, and He’s given us a little foretaste – the Spirit of Jesus in our hearts. "Therefore we always confident. . ." [2 Corinthians 5:6]. Now he’s going to talk about this intermediate state because if he dies before Jesus comes, he’s not going to have this body. He’s got to wait for that. Now, he’s going to talk about this intermediate state.
Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we’re absent from the Lord:
(For we walk by faith, not by sight.)
We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent
from the body, and to be present with the Lord.
[2 Corinthians 5:6-8]
Now, what he means by that is this: If Jesus comes while I am alive, then I won’t go through that intermediate state. I won’t be separated from my body. I’ll be changed in a moment, "in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet . . . for we shall all be changed" [1 Corinthians 15:52]. If Jesus comes while I’m living, I’ll never know that groaning, and that agony of the separation of my spirit from my body. Just immediately, all of us will be transformed like the glorious Son of God.
"But," he says, "if I die – if the earthly house of this tabernacle be dissolved and I die before Jesus comes – I’m not going to be reluctant nor does it destroy that hope that I have in Him for it just means that if I’m absent from the body, I’m present with my Lord [2 Corinthians 5:8], just waiting through that intermediate day – waiting for the redemption of my body. I’ve just planted the old body in the ground for a little while while I’ve gone to be with Jesus. Therefore, I’m not discouraged at the prospect of death. I’m not cast down by it. I’m confident," he says. "Yea, I’m willing to die in order that I might be present with the Lord. I’m willing to be absent from the body that I might be present with Jesus" [from 2 Corinthians 5:8].
I haven’t time to speak of that. Paul’s idea was, "For me to live is Christ and even to die is a gain" [Philippians 1:21]. Now, what Paul says is this, if I could briefly summarize. What he hopes for, what he prays for, what he wishes for – what would be glory, glory – would be to be alive when Jesus comes, to be changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye [1 Corinthians 15:51-52]. That’s what he wants first.
But, he says, "If that doesn’t come and this earthly house be dissolved, why, I’m confident still because to be absent from the bodyand buried in the ground means I’ll just be present with the Lord waiting for the day when my body is raised from the dead and transfiguredand immortalized like His body was resurrected from the grave."
Now, let’s look at this intermediate state. You don’t need to follow me. I’ll just go right through one after another. This intermediate state. Paul did die. Where is he? Paul was separated from his body. Where is his body? Somewhere in Rome. The rich dust of that faraway land holds a still richer soil. It’s the dust of the apostle Paul. It’s the elements that made up the body of that apostle. But he – he – where is he?
And one of those thieves repenting said, "Lord Jesus, remember me when Thou comest into Thy kingdom."
And Jesus said unto him, "Verily, I say unto thee, today,shalt thou be with Me in paradise."
Where we go if we die, if we sleep, if we are separated from our bodies before Jesus comes, where we go is paradise. We go to paradise. Paradise is a word taken from the Persian language, and it means, "an Edenic park" – a beautiful, beautiful Eden.Now, the word is used just three times in the New Testament there [Luke 23:43; 2 Corinthians 12:4; Revelation 2:7].
Here’s the second use of it: Paul says in the twelfth chapter of his second Corinthian Letter – he says, "I knew a man in Christ" – and he’s talking about himself – "about fourteen years ago, I knew such a man caught up to the third heaven" [2 Corinthians 12:2].
Now, what he means by that is this. The first heaven is where the birds fly. That’s heaven. They fly in the heavens. The second heaven is where the stars are – way up yonder where the stars are. And the third heaven is God’s abode. "Such a man, caught up to the third heaven. I knew such a man" [2 Corinthians 12:2]. And he repeats the same thing again how that he was caught into paradise, into Paradisō [ 2 Corinthians 12:4]. That’s the second time that you have that word. He was caught up there into paradise and heard unspeakable words which he was not at liberty to utter.
Now, the third and last place where that is used is in the second chapter of the Revelation in speaking to the church at Ephesus:
He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith to the churches; to him that overcometh, will I give to eat of the tree of life which is in the midst of the paradise of God.
That’s the only other place where the word is used. So wherever the paradise of God is, there is the Tree of Life, and we find the Tree of Life in the twenty-second [chapter] of the Revelation:
He showed me a pure river of the water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb.
In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life. . ."
Then it goes on and describes the glorious and beautiful city of God [Revelation 22:3-4, 12-17]. So when we leave this body, we go into paradise where Jesus is, and where God is, and where the tree of life is.
Now it’s casuistry when you get beyond that. What’s the difference in that and the heaven? The only difference I know is this intermediate state – or until the body is redeemed. Until this old house of clay is resurrected, I am still disembodied. I’m what Paul calls, "I am naked" [2 Corinthians 5:3]. I am not clothed upon. I am with Jesus. I’m in bliss. I’m happy. I’m at rest. I’m in Abraham’s bosom, but I’m not complete yet. There is a time of waiting still when I am given back my glorified body.
Now, that same thing of an intermediate state is also true of the wicked. They also go to an intermediate state. Now, I have just a moment left, so may I speak of why some of these things in that intermediate state?
Why is it that this thing is not complete when I die? Why is it, for example, that our judgment is not when we die? The judgment of our rewards is not when I die but at the end of the time. Why is it that Jesus says, "Behold, I come quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give every man according as his work shall be"? [Revelation 22:12].That’s the last thing in the twenty-second chapter of the Revelation.
All right, this is why. When the wicked die, when they’re separated from their bodies, according to Second Peter, the second chapter, they are reserved unto the Day of Judgment to be punished. Listen to the Word of the Lord: "If God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment" [2 Peter 2:4] – now again in that verse, the ungodly, the ungodly – the Lord has reserved the unjust unto the Day of Judgment to be punished.
When an ungodly man dies, when a lost sinner dies, he goes to an intermediate state. Dives went there [Luke 6:19-31]. When the Christian dies, he goes to an intermediate state. He goes to Paradise. But they are waiting for a future day of judgment. They are in an intermediate state first because they do not have their bodiesandsecondbecause thejudgment day has yet to come.
Well, why that judgment day yet to come? Because of this: you don’t get your reward when you die. Neither does the wicked. Neither does the righteous. You don’t stop living when you die. The work that you do, for good or for evil, continues on, continues on, and that work continues until the end time until Jesus comes again. And the reward of a man – for good or evil – could never be given to him until this world stops, until the mechanism stops, until the machinery stops. You don’t die when you die. You go on living.The works that you do keep on going bearing fruit.
For example, I went to BaylorUniversity with a fine Sunday school friend. He and I went to the same Sunday school class. We were in the same church – First Church at Amarillo [Amarillo, Texas]. We were in the same high school class, and both of us went to Baylor University. And when he went down there, he turned out to be an infidel.
AndI went up there one evening to talk to him about coming back to the Lord and to Christ. And that boy, seated there at his desk, he was reading Tom Paine’s Age of Reason – the infidel. Why, Tom Paine’s [Thomas Paine, 1737-1809] been dead for a hundred or more years. No, Tom Paine isn’t dead! That boy, that friend of mine seated there at Baylor, was opening Tom Paine’s bookThe Age of Reason . And though he’d been dead over a hundred years, there he was reading that infidel.Tom Paine’s works still were going on, and it continues on until the end time. But at the end time, God will unravel – out of all of the schemes of human history, God will unravel all of the influence of Tom Paine. And, at the end time, it’ll be added up. "This is the sum and that’s your reward," and into the deepest helland the awful judgment of God are those men to suffer forever and ever [Revelation 20:11-15].
The Christian’s the same way. Today, I’ve read out of the apostle Paul. He’s been dead two thousand years almost. But the good that Paul did is still like a great wave going up; and at the end time, God will unravel out of this earth – out of all of the many ramifications and diversifications of all of the schemes of human history – God will unravel Paul’s part. And then He’ll add it up at the end time, and that’s the reward of the Christian [Matthew 25:31-46; 2 Corinthians 5:10].
You can’t get your reward when you die ’cause what you’re doing still going on, still going on. That little fellow you helped back there, maybe he turns to a great preacher; and after you’re dead, he stands up and says, "I was lost, and my Sunday school teacher searched me outand found me and taught me the way of God – won me to Christ – and here I am, preaching the gospel." You’re still doing good, still doing good. You can’t get your reward when you die. It has to be at the end time when God gathers it all together. That’s the great judgment day.
We’re not judged then according to whether we’re saved or lost. That judgment is already [John 3:16-18]. I’m saved or lost now [1 John 5:11-13]. I’m judged now with regard to that. But at the end time – at the end time, at the close of that intermediate state – we are all judged, hauled before the judgment seat of Christ, and we’re given the reward of the deeds that we’ve done in the flesh [2 Corinthians 5:10].
I must stop. We sing our song; we come back next Sunday. One of the glories of coming to church is God gives us another time. God gives us another day,and how blessed is it to talk about these things in the Book, in the Book.While we sing this song, while we sing this song, is there somebody you give his heart to Jesus? Somebody you take the Lord as your Savior? Is there? Is there somebody who’d come down that aisle and say, "Pastor, here’s my hand. Here’s my hand. When that day comes, I want to be saved. I want the Lord." Would you? Or put your life in our church? As God shall make the appeal, would you make it now? Would you make it now while we stand and while we sing?