The gospel is grounded in the promise that Jesus provides all that we need to be reckoned a “saint” and rendered holy by virtue of our union with Jesus Christ through faith. Positionally, we are holy at our justification, while practically, we grow in holiness throughout our lives until we are made fully holy in our glorification.
Ministers often deal with death and the inevitable questions that come with it. The very nature of death raises difficult questions. It is not uncommon for children to be offered well-intended words of comfort after the death of a family member or someone they may have known. We often say something such as “Grandma is in heaven,” hoping to comfort confused and sad little ones who are dealing with a topic that even learned theologians do not fully understand. Yet, while “Grandma is in heaven” is certainly not a wrong answer if Grandma was a believer in Jesus Christ, the answer is incomplete and may even be misleading. To put the matter in biblical perspective, if Grandma was a believer, she is now in the presence of the Lord, awaiting His return and the resurrection of her body.
What happens to people when they die is an often explored but frequently misunderstood aspect of Christian theology, usually discussed under the heading “the intermediate state.” Given the potential for misunderstanding, it is helpful to begin with a brief definition of what we mean when we speak of the intermediate state. It is that period of time between a believer’s death (and their immediate entrance into the presence of the Lord) and the resurrection of the body at the time of Christ’s return. When Jesus raises the dead on the last day, disembodied souls are reunited with their bodies, made imperishable (1 Cor. 15:35–58), as the preparation to dwell for all eternity in the new heaven and earth (Rev. 21).