waiting at the station
In the Bible, Solomon taught that “the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing” (Eccl. 9:5). For him, the intermediate state between death and resurrection was not a time to look forward to. Like all other biblical authors, he looked forward to the resurrection unto eternal life. He never denied the reality of death. Indeed, he taught that all people now living know that their death is coming. But after death, no one knows anything.
He taught that the intermediate state is universal. Everyone will experience it, and all will experience it the same: a state of unconscious survival. It is not non-existence. It merely is a state of existence where one is not conscious or aware of the passage of time and cannot know anything.
This was Solomon’s view, and he held that view along with other Old Testament writers: “Those who are wise must finally die, just like the foolish and senseless, leaving all their wealth behind” (Psalm 49:10 NLT). Death happens to everyone, and no one can “take it with them.” It is a universal event that all will experience. Being wise will not keep you from experiencing death. The wise will join the foolish in that one place. The Hebrews called it Sheol.
But – wait a minute. Isn’t Sheol just another word for hell? No, it is not. The Hebrews did not see Sheol as a place of punishment for anyone. Sheol is the station where everyone waits in an unconscious state for resurrection to their final state: either eternal life or eternal death.
Job actually looked forward to death and the intermediate state. He said “Oh that you would hide me in Sheol, that you would conceal me until your wrath be past, that you would appoint me a set time, and remember me!” (Job 14:13 ESV). He wanted to forget the pain and unfair treatment he had experienced in life. His hope was not that he would be rewarded at death, but that at death he would be hidden (in a state of unconsciousness) and then resurrected back to life at an appointed time when God remembered him.
That is the hope described in the New Testament as well. Jesus said “… an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment” (John 5:28-29 ESV).
Get this: Death is not the train to take us to our destination. Death is the station we all wait it. The train is the resurrection. We are all waiting for that hour. Some will be alive when the train comes in. Others will be in their tombs – waiting at the station. The Greeks called the station Hades. And it corresponds to the Hebrew Sheol. It is a state of unconsciousness where the dead wait for life. It is not the final state. Ears which have long since crumbled to dust will one day hear again. They will hear their master’s voice, calling them to their eternal destiny.
If you have any questions about this teaching, you can ask me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Join me for this entire series as we search the scriptures to learn about the gift of life.
listen to the audio file at Afterlife.