Posted on November 28th, 2012
Matthew Levering, in his Jesus and the Demise of Death: Resurrection, Afterlife, and the Fate of the Christian, surveys the various approaches to the intermediate state before and after the death and resurrection of Jesus. He affirms, as do I, that the death of Jesus affected a change for those who died in the faith before the passion of Jesus.
Is it legitimate to imagine the joy of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—that is, the inauguration of the “consolation of Israel” and the “redemption of Jerusalem”—when Christ Jesus came to them in the intermediate state? If one holds with Wright and Metropolitan Hilarion that there is an intermediate state, as I do, then it should indeed be a place of joy for those who love God. Even so, the waiting of holy Israel in the intermediate state, like that of Simeon and Anna in the Temple, must have entailed some suffering “through their glory being delayed.” Aquinas adds, however, that their suffering would have been mitigated by having “great joy” from the faithful hope with which they awaited the Messiah’s victory.
Wouldn’t there be a sense in which the faithful in the intermediate state even now suffer, if only in that they are not yet what they will be in the resurrection? Or perhaps it’s more like the stupor of anesthesia after a surgery: you are not yet healed, but experience no pain, only a sleepy euphoria. Jesus does call the intermediate state “paradise,” but we know there’s a greater paradise yet to come in the resurrection.