What will heaven be like? Will we recognize our friends and family? Is my beloved dog Fido going to be there? Will we be the age we were at our deaths, or will we look and feel younger? Understandably, these questions are on the minds of many people when they think about heaven. Pastors and theologians deal regularly with these queries and many similar ones as well.
Questions like these are due not merely to our curiosity but also because God’s Word does not give us many details about our heavenly home between our deaths and Christ’s return. Note that we have referred to a phase of existence that has a definite beginning and end. Heaven, in fact, will not be our final home. Instead, it is known as the “intermediate state” because it exists between our initial state—life on earth—and our final state. Scripture tells us that to be with Christ in heaven, in this intermediate state, will be better than the life we enjoy now (Phil. 1:21–23), but beyond that, we have few details about life in heaven as the universe awaits the return of Jesus.
To understand why our spirits’ rest in heaven is only a temporary state requires a review of some fundamental biblical teaching. Scripture does not teach that the physical world is inherently evil; rather, creation suffers because of our sin and God’s curse on it (Gen. 3:17–19). Christ’s redemption involves not only reconciling us to the Father but also the renewal of the entire universe (Rom. 8:18–25). At Jesus’ return, our physical bodies will be resurrected and our souls will be joined with them once more. We will then live forever as embodied creatures in the new heaven and earth (Isa. 65:17–25; Dan. 12:1–3). As the Apostles’ Creed notes, we believe in the “resurrection of the body”—not only Christ’s body but also our bodies.
We know more about our final, resurrected life than about life in the intermediate state. For example, 1 Corinthians 15:42 tells us that our resurrected bodies will be imperishable, like Christ’s body after He was raised. There will be no more sickness or decay. The most glorious part of the life to come, however, is that our resurrected bodies will bear the image of “the man of heaven,” Jesus Himself (v. 49). Like Christ, we will be without sin, so there will be nothing to hinder fellowship with one another. And, it seems, we will be recognizable to one another, for Jesus’ disciples could recognize Him after He was raised and glorified (John 20:11–18).