Intermediate State | Free Online Biblical Library

If you like our 14,000 Articles library, you'll love our Courses tailor-made for all stages of church life:

Courses cover a wide range of Bible, Theology and Ministry.

Intermediate State

Intertestamental beliefs regarding the intermediate state were closely linked with the concept of physical resurrection, a doctrine espoused by the Pharisees but denied by the Sadducees. The resurrection of the dead was anticipated in a few OT passages (Isa 25:8; 26:19; Dan 12:2), and was encouraged both by speculation on the nature of the intermediate state in Sheol and the joys of the coming Messianic age. In the light of the latter in particular, it was only just that the righteous departed should share the joys of divine rule, and the wicked dead be punished correspondingly. The concept of the physical resurrection was a necessary accompaniment to such thought, and in most instances the soul was imagined as coming from Sheol or some other intermediate state to rejoin the body buried on earth previously. Under Pharisaic influence the doctrine of resurrection developed certain coarse, materialistic features (see Resurrection) that were typical of their shallow beliefs.

People came to assume the existence of another intermediate state known as Purgatory, which was frequently confused with Sheol (2 Macc 12:39-45). The Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox churches proclaimed the existence of a place of temporal punishment in the intermediate realm designated “purgatory,” in which all who died in a state of ecclesiastical grace must undergo a period of purifying so as to make them perfect before God. Thus the bulk of baptized people dying in fellowship with the church would have to pass through purgatory before being translated to heaven. Cultic prescriptions for the duration of the experience vary in degree, as do the sufferings of those thought to be in this state. Monetary and other gifts to the church, prayers, and acts of devotion, are held to shorten or even eliminate the stay of the individual soul in purgatory. This view has no OT or NT support, runs counter to the Biblical doctrine of a final judgment, and is flatly contradicted by a passage which the Roman Catholics regard as Scripture (Wisd Sol 3:1-4).


G. Vos, The Pauline Eschatology (1952 ed.); G. R. Beasley-Murray, Jesus and the Future (1954); E. Brunner, Eternal Hope (1954); J. E. Fison, The Christian Hope (1954); R. Summers, The Life Beyond (1959).

See also

  • Eschatology
  • [[Eschatology of the New Testament