The Intermediate State
A Sermon on the "Intermediate State"
What happens between death and the final resurrection, the so-called “intermediate state”? In this sermon on “The Intermediate State,” Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones presents and explains several views on the intermediate state. Some propose that souls sleep until Jesus comes again; some argue that the dead reside in Abraham’s bosom or a place of suffering until the final judgment; others argue that only those who have eternal life with God will even exist eternally, a view called conditional mortality. But what does the Bible say? Dr. Lloyd-Jones presents a biblical case for why both believers and unbelievers will live eternally, either with God or apart from Him forever in suffering. Many people are troubled by this thought—how could a loving God cause and allow people to suffer forever? “Surely,” they say, “those who die will have another chance to be saved after they die.” Dr. Lloyd-Jones answers these questions firmly but biblically, reminding the listener that one must not allow one’s own idea of justice and love to influence how they look at and interpret Scripture. One’s eternal destiny is decided by their choice to repent or rebel in this life.
- Dr. Lloyd-Jones begins by reviewing that in the previous sermon, they discussed death and immortality according to the Bible. After death, the soul continues on.
- Dr. Lloyd-Jones says that the next question is what happens between death and the resurrection - this is known as the intermediate state. There are various views on this.
- Dr. Lloyd-Jones says they will not discuss the Catholic view of purgatory since there is little biblical evidence for it. They say some believe the intermediate state is a vague, ill-defined state but this is not the biblical view.
- Some believe the intermediate state is a common place called Hades with two compartments - Abraham's bosom for believers and a place of suffering for unbelievers. But Dr. Lloyd-Jones says the meaning of Hades is unclear and context-dependent in the Bible.
- Another view is the "sleep of the soul" - that we are unconscious between death and resurrection. But Dr. Lloyd-Jones says the Bible clearly teaches conscious existence after death before resurrection.
- Dr. Lloyd-Jones cites the Mount of Transfiguration, the story of Lazarus and the rich man, and Jesus' words to the thief on the cross as evidence for conscious existence after death. Dr. Lloyd-Jones says we must consider the whole Bible, not isolated verses.
- Dr. Lloyd-Jones then discusses conditional immortality - the view that unbelievers will be ultimately destroyed and pass out of existence. Dr. Lloyd-Jones says the whole Bible implies eternal destiny is either eternal life or eternal punishment. Dr. Lloyd-Jones cites the use of the word "eternal" to refer to both God and the afterlife of believers and unbelievers.
- Dr. Lloyd-Jones says Jude 6 also suggests fallen angels and unbelievers share the same eternal fate. Dr. Lloyd-Jones says Jesus speaks of eternal fire and undying worms, suggesting eternal existence in punishment. Dr. Lloyd-Jones says we must believe what Scripture teaches, not what we can conceive.
- Dr. Lloyd-Jones then discusses the question of whether there is an opportunity for salvation after death. Some believe 1 Peter 3:19 and 4:6 teach this, but Dr. Lloyd-Jones disagrees with these interpretations.
- Dr. Lloyd-Jones says 1 Peter is written to comfort suffering Christians. Discussing salvation after death for unbelievers would not provide comfort. Dr. Lloyd-Jones says 1 Peter 3:19 refers to Christ preaching through Noah before the flood, not after death. 1 Peter 4:6 refers to the gospel preached to now-dead believers, not unbelievers after death.
- Dr. Lloyd-Jones says the overall message of 1 Peter is that though believers may suffer physically, they will live on spiritually, just as Christ suffered physically but lives on spiritually. There is no evidence of further opportunity for salvation after death.
- Dr. Lloyd-Jones concludes by saying this makes preaching the gospel urgently important, since eternal destiny is determined in this life. We must live and preach as though others' eternity depends on belief in this life.
Great Biblical Doctrines
Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones
Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1899-1981) was a Welsh evangelical minister who preached and taught in the Reformed tradition. His principal ministry was at Westminster Chapel, in central London, from 1939-1968, where he delivered multi-year expositions on books of the bible such as Romans, Ephesians and the Gospel of John. In addition to the MLJ Trust’s collection of 1,600 of these sermons in audio format, most of these great sermon series are available in book form (including a 14 volume collection of the Romans sermons), as are other series such as "Spiritual Depression", "Studies in the Sermon on the Mount" and "Great Biblical Doctrines". He is considered by many evangelical leaders today to be an authority on biblical truth and the sufficiency of Scripture.