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Trying to understand the Intermediate State
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TOPIC: Trying to understand the Intermediate State

Re: Trying to understand the Intermediate State 5 months ago #5011

1. For illustrative purposes it might be good to have stripes in the third part showing that heaven and earth are interwoven/intertwined/completely united in the new creation. As it is the color itself does not help convey that the earth is resurrected and united with heaven.


Good idea. I'll implement something like that.

2. It seems to me that all of your "extinction" models lead to christological problems for Christ's experience of death. On one hand if death = complete cessation of consciousness and of any sense of life, then it seems that humanity succeeded in temporarily rubbing out the second person of the Trinity. On the other hand, if Christ is just kind of having a dreamless sleep, that would seem to be docetism--the doctrine that Christ was not fully human, that Christ did not really experience the limitations and the sufferings that human beings experience, and, in particular, that Christ did not really die.


I totally see your point. It was something that I was considering as I made these models, and it almost made me not want to include christ due to just how many additional questions it raises. Its difficult because what happens to christ simply cannot be exactly the same as what happens to us when we die.

It dosen't matter what model of the intermediate state you use, because the essential idea behind substitionary atonement is that christ took on the fullness of the consequence of our sin. Spending a weekend in heaven, sheol, unconscious sleep, or non-existence is - I think we can agree - not the "full" consequence of sin. Just in general, whatever the intermediate state is... it's not the full wages of sin. Christ had to take on more than that. Whatever we interpret to be the nature of the "second death" / "the lake of fire"... that's what Jesus had to endure.

The extinction model is (right now) the only one that makes that explicit (as its the only model where the first and second death are the same in nature - one is just eternal and the other is finite). I couldn't make it clear what happened to christ in any of the other models, because that kinda depends on your view of eternal punishment.

I included the extinction models because they seemed to me to be the natural consequence of positions like christian physcalism. At death we naturally "cease to be" until God breathes back into us the breath of life at the ressurection. This seems to be what Chris Date believes, at the very least, but I'd love to have him correct me / clarify his view on this particular issue in regards to the intermediate state.

It seems an unavoidable conclusion of conditionalism, at least to me, that christ (for at least some period of time between his earthly death and ressurection) experience literal non-existence. That IS the full consequences of sin on that view. And you're right, providing some "way out" so that Christ dosen't have to take on said consequences would undercut christ being fully human.

Thinking about this a lot myself, I think the solution to this problem is to view christ's death not as some unthinkable wounding of the trinity or as some clever con to avoid actually going through with atonement, but as the most powerful exhortation of God's divinity imaginable. Scripture says many times that christ "conquered death." You might see this as meaning that he literally conquered non-existence. He wasn't helplessly drifting in nothinginess only for the rest of the trinity to revitalize him (or worse, recreate him). The necessary being annihilated annihilation. He actually endured the fullness of non-existence and came out on the other side. Excerised on anyone else, this fate would be eternal destruction. But death could not hold Christ, in the same way that it cannot hold anyone is born again in him. Truly human and truly divine. The Great I AM shattered the void and created a path through which we could follow.

Though I'd love to hear your thoughts on where exactly you think the crucial component of Christ's atoning work was. Was it just his suffering on the cross, or is it found in his death? This seems to be the nexus of a lot of these opinions.

3. Your instantaneous resurrection model does indeed leave questions about what Christ experienced when he died. I personally read 1 Pet. 3:18-20 as indicating that Jesus, in the power of the Holy Spirit, proclaimed the good news of the atonement that he had wrought in the realm of the dead. Whether we take that literally or not, I think that is what Peter is encouraging us to imagine. Irenaeus (Against Heresies 5.32.1) says that Jesus, in becoming one of us, obeyed the law of the dead, which is (implicitly) that you die, then you spend a a certain amount of time in the company of the dead, then you rise in resurrection. You do not immediately pop to resurrection, let alone fly, without ever having any need for resurrection, to the utter heights of glory in heaven, never again to return to a relationship with the physical creation.


I agree, it does leave that question open. I'd echo my previous point that whatever happened to christ is necessarily different in some way to whatever happens to us when we die. Your reading of 1 Peter 3 would certainly imply a conscious experience of time between death and ressurection, which would (it seems at least) place you in one of the first two models. I'm not denying that this is a possibility, I included those models after all, but there does seem to be a lot of disagreement over the meaning of that passage (I mean, surprise surprise).

I would specify that instantaneous ressurection does not mean that we are just "instantly" in Heaven by some natural process. It's saying that God sort of pulls all of the souls of the dead forward in time to the final judgment (regardless of when they died), such that they all arrive at the same time with no period in-between. But I definetely agree that the instantaneous ressurection mode is probably the weakest one scripturally. I think the perpendicular timeline is a more robust version that gets at a similar idea.

Would you mind clarifying what your position (if you have one) is in regards to the intermediate state? If it's different from any of the models I already have, even better. I'd love to hear it.

4. Your Perpendicular model reminds me a little of the realized eschatology of C.H. Dodd. It's not too clear from the illustration what relationship exists between the present creation and the new creation. The "eschaton" doesn't seem to interface with the perpendicular eternal dimension in any particular way.


The idea I'm trying to get at there is that the "present creation" is nothing more than a shadow of what's to come. It's an infintesimal moment of nothingness compared to the infinity of the true reality "beyond." This world we now experience (according to this model) is much more like the "title page" of a book. We haven't even gotten to the introduction yet, and can't even comprehend the wonders awaiting us.

Could you clarify what you meant by your last sentence about the eschaton?

Re: Trying to understand the Intermediate State 5 months ago #5012

  • webb
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the essential idea behind substitutionary atonement is that christ took on the fullness of the consequence of our sin. ... Whatever we interpret to be the nature of the "second death" / "the lake of fire"... that's what Jesus had to endure.
In my view, much warped atonement theology proceeds directly from two mistaken premises: (1) God's nature is such that in and of himself he cannot freely forgive, and (2) that God regards human misbehavior as worthy of never-ending punishment.

Regarding (1), see my talk on Exodus 33--34, Isaiah 55, and Ezekiel 33:


Regarding (2), see my webcast on whether the Bible teaches everlasting torment:



I won't go into detail on your proposals as to what Christ had to suffer because that's not the focus of this forum, but I will mention that there is a completely different way to think about the human sin problem, its consequences, and God's remedy for it. My Simple Gospel website lays out the big story as I understand it, including atonement theology and eschatology.
Though I'd love to hear your thoughts on where exactly you think the crucial component of Christ's atoning work was. Was it just his suffering on the cross, or is it found in his death? This seems to be the nexus of a lot of these opinions.
See especially Essay 4: "Who Killed Jesus?" and Essay 5: "Obedience as the Positive Side of Substitutionary Atonement," on the Simple Gospel site.
Would you mind clarifying what your position (if you have one) is in regards to the intermediate state?
I think the three-part conscious intermediate state model approximates what can be gleaned as to what is imagined to be the fate of humans in various NT places. I'm not a strict literalist so I'm ok with embracing the way things are pictured in the scriptures, without knowing or needing to know if that is how the afterlife "actually is." My hope is in resurrection to a new earth, and even that, according to Isaiah and Paul, is entirely beyond my capacity to grasp. I regard intense arguments about the intermediate state as unnecessary unless the conclusion is that bodiless spiritual existence, or heavenly existence--even if supposedly bodily--completely abstracted from the "very good" physical creation, is the ultimate goal of redeemed humanity. In that case it matters; otherwise the question is relatively trivial.
the "present creation" is nothing more than a shadow of what's to come. It's an infinitesimal moment of nothingness compared to the infinity of the true reality "beyond."
This kind of language makes me uneasy. The things that we do (and the things Christ has done!) in this mortal, temporal creation have everlasting consequences. And this creation, damaged by human sin or not, has been pronounced "very good" by its own Creator. The new creation should not be counterposed against this creation as "the true reality" any more than you should look upon your resurrected self as the real you in comparison to which the present you is a mere phantom. That thinking can tend--I'm not saying it does tend in your case--towards gnosticism, at the core of which philosophy is the denigration of the actual physical world into which God created us.
Could you clarify what you meant by your last sentence about the eschaton?
I mean that in your illustration you have the "eschaton" as the right edge of your vertical wall, but the general visual metaphor of the illustration doesn't lead to any sense of a particular relationship between the "eschaton," by which I think you mean Christ's coming in glory, and the eternal (horizontal) dimension. Should the wall curve around at the right edge so that time and eternal time are now in sync? Should it fold down? Or is the idea that present creation time simply stops?
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Re: Trying to understand the Intermediate State 5 months ago #5014

  • kgddds
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N.J. Killeen wrote:
If I had to pick one model that I think is "most likely" true, I'd say it's probably something like the perpendicular timeline model. I think that one, at least, acknowledges that there is something much bigger going on that a simple linear understanding of time. But honestly, I really don't know!


I like that model because I highly suspect there are variables (such as time) that are either not understandable or left unconsidered as possible. I can see, also, how that model could give greater meaning to Scripture like "chains of darkness" and "hold the unrighteous" mentioned by Peter in that it could reference an element of time that we do not know of. Hmmm, could "chains of darkness" be in essence a time capsule with no time? That thought hurts my brain, but it does fuel my awe!

2 Peter 2:4,9 NIV
[4] For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell, putting them in chains of darkness to be held for judgment; [9] if this is so, then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials and to hold the unrighteous for punishment on the day of judgment.


N.J. Killeen wrote:
And isn't it a beautiful idea that nobody is "waiting" for you in Heaven? The idea of showing up in Heaven with my loved ones all at the same time seems to be a much more beautiful picture (but that's just me).


That's me too. This reminds me of what I wrote a couple years back to my mother-in-law on the anniversary of my father-in-law's death:

"Please know, especially today, that we will have a glorious reunion and existence with Carlos, in a new heaven and a new earth—both joined as one. His body, as well as ours, will be raised an imperishable, spiritual, glorious, powerful body to live forever. Whatever his glorious and wonderful state of existence is right now, it is not his final state of existence.

I look forward to experiencing that final state of existence with him, and you. The neat thing is that we will experience this new existence fresh, together, for the first time, when that time comes to pass.

Until then we grieve, then hope, then miss him, then seem to be okay with it, then miss him some more. I rest in the comfort of the truth that in the big picture of things, our life (and his life) on earth is (was) but a mist of time in the span of eternity.

Lifting you up in prayer..."


N.J., you have some good thoughts!

Ken
The beauty of grace is seen in the glory it reveals.
Grace is glory's seed; Glory is grace's bloom.

Re: Trying to understand the Intermediate State 4 months, 2 weeks ago #5039

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Interesting charts. Thank you. I suppose I'd lean towards one of the 2 or 3-part conscious or partial unconscious models.

I reckon that those who are "asleep" in Christ (OT and NT saints) are now alive and conscious since we are promised to die, though that could very possibly mean that we will eventually never die, and a few short passages (which I can't recall) seem to imply awareness. I can't imagine what that looks like.

Those not in Christ ... I don't know. I don't think they are "extinct". I think the souls of all are reserved in some way until the judgment. I don't know if they are aware. I think maybe not. Or perhaps some of them are (or were) aware for only part of that time, depending on different factors. (It seems odd that some would be "waiting" for thousands of years, while another person ends up waiting for just a few hours.) I don't take Luke 16 to be instructive about that. If the "spirits in prison" in 1 Peter 3:19 refer to human spirits, then that would mean consciousness for them, I think, but that's not clear. Regarding the difference before and after Jesus, I don't know.

I'm not confused about it; I just don't know. It doesn't seem like God wanted to give us much info about that, which is fine by me.
"Singalphile" - Name chosen (hastily) to indicate being on a narrow path, pursuing the love of God. Male, upper-30's, USA.
Last Edit: 4 months, 2 weeks ago by Singalphile. Reason: clarity
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