My daughter’s great grandfather, passed away while we lived in Scotland. I came home from the University where I was pursuing a PhD to receive the sad news. My little girl began to ask me some big theological questions to help her process Pop’s death. “Can Pop see us right now?” “Does he still look the same age in his new body?” “What exactly is he doing at this moment?”
To these questions and to most of them that followed, I could not answer. I kept saying, “Baby, I don’t know.” “Honey, I’m not sure.” Finally, with a look of frustration mixed with pity, she blurted: “So what are they teaching you at that school?!” Since, I was a post-graduate student in New Testament studies, she expected me to know a lot more than I did (so did my professors there!).
The truth is the Bible doesn’t give us much to go on concerning the Zwischenzustand—the technical word for the “intermediate state” (see I did learn something!). Most of Scripture is even silent with respect to what Jesus was doing from Friday night to Sunday morning. (Although my eight year old son once suggested that Jesus played Angry Birds all weekend.) The passages that do mention Jesus’ activity during this time are apocalyptic and vague.
But the New Testament is clear when it comes to what happened on Easter morning. As the hymn proclaims:
Up from the grave he arose;
with a mighty triumph o’er his foes;
he arose a victor from the dark domain,
and he lives forever, with his saints to reign.
He arose! He arose! Hallelujah! Christ arose!
Because of this resurrection truth, there was one certainty that I could tell my daughter. We believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those, like Pop, who have fallen asleep in him. The dead in Christ will rise first and we will all be with the Lord forever.