When I finally started studying God's Word, and the Holy Spirit began to lead me into a study of Bible prophecy, I started making discoveries about the future that ministered great hope to my spirit. I had just discovered God's marvelous promises for the future that are designed to give us hope in the present.
The Intermediate State
My second discovery was that we are not destined to an ethereal existence as disembodied spirits. Immediately after death both the saved and the lost receive a body that I am going to call an "intermediate spirit body." I have given it that name because it is a body that is intermediate between our current fleshly body and the ultimate, glorified body that saints will receive at the time of their resurrection.
The Bible does not tell us much about this body except that it is tangible and recognizable. An example of it is found in 1 Samuel 28 where we are told that King Saul, in his rebellion against God, sought the counsel of a witch. She, in turn, attempted to call up her familiar demon spirit. Instead, the Lord sent Samuel who had died some time before. The moment Samuel appeared, both the witch and Saul recognized him.
Another example of the intermediate spirit body can be found in Matthew 17 where the story is told of the Transfiguration of Jesus. This was when His disciples were given a glimpse of His coming glory. As they witnessed this marvelous event, suddenly two people appeared and began talking with them. The two were Moses and Elijah (Matthew 17:1-5).
Additional examples of intermediate spirit bodies can be found in the two biblical scenes I have already mentioned: The Rich Man and Lazarus in Hades (Luke 16) and the Tribulation Martyrs in Heaven (Revelation 7).
When Jesus returns, the Bible says He will bring with Him the spirits of the saved (1 Thessalonians 4:13-14). He will resurrect their bodies in a great miracle of re-creation (whether their bodies are preserved, rotted, cremated, or dissolved in the ocean). In the twinkling of an eye, He will reunite their spirits with their resurrected bodies and will then glorify their bodies (1 Thessalonians 4:15-16). Then, those saints who are alive will be caught up (raptured) to meet the Lord in the sky, and they will be transformed on the way up (1 Thessalonians 4:17).
All my life I have heard people say, "There are two things in life that no one can avoid: death and taxes." That statement is wrong. The only thing we cannot avoid is taxes and more taxes. A whole generation of believers will avoid death — the generation living when the Lord returns for His Church. It's no wonder that Paul concluded this great passage in 1 Thessalonians by saying, "Therefore, comfort one another with these words" (1 Thessalonians 4:18).
What is a glorified body? Paul wrote a whole chapter about the topic in 1 Corinthians 15. He said our glorified bodies will be imperishable, gloriously pure, powerful, and spiritual (1 Corinthians 15:42-44). Paul further states that the glorified body will be immortal, and as such will no longer be subject to death (1 Corinthians 15:53-55).
The Nature of the Glorified Body
Paul made a statement in his letter to the Philippians that I think provides us with a framework for understanding what our glorified bodies will be like. He wrote that when Jesus returns, He "will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself" (Phil. 3:20-21). In other words, our glorified bodies are going to be like Jesus' resurrected body.
Now, think about that for a moment. After His resurrection, Jesus had a tangible body that could be touched and recognized (Luke 24: 41- 43 and John 20:27-28). People had difficulty recognizing Him at first, but that is understandable. If you buried your best friend one day, and he knocked on your door the next, would you recognize him? Wouldn't you assume he was someone who looked like your friend? Once the disciples realized that Jesus had truly been resurrected, they had no more difficulty recognizing Him, even at a distance (John 21:1-7).
So, Jesus had a body similar to the ones we have now. It was tangible and recognizable. It was also a body that ate food. Jesus is pictured eating with His disciples several times, including a meal of fish on the shore of the Sea of Galilee (Luke 24:30-31, 41-42, and John 21:10-13). I must admit that I get excited when I read these accounts of Jesus eating, and also when I read about our eating with Him in Heaven at the "marriage supper of the Lamb" (Revelation 19:7-9). I have this fantasy that we will be able to eat all we want in our glorified bodies and not have to worry about gaining weight! (That should be sufficient to prompt many of you to shout, "Maranatha!")
A Different Dimension
The resurrected body of Jesus was similar to ours in many respects, but there were also some differences. Jesus' body seemed to have a different dimension to it, for He could pass through a wall into a locked room (John 20:26), and He could move from one place to another almost instantly (Luke 24:30-36). One moment He was on the road to Emmaus, the next He was in Jerusalem, and then He would appear in the Galilee area.
His disciples were so startled and frightened by His ability to vanish and reappear suddenly at another place that they thought they were seeing a spirit. But Jesus countered that idea immediately by telling them, "Touch Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have" (Luke 24:39). When the Word says that our glorified bodies will be "spiritual" in nature (1 Corinthians 15:44), it does not mean we will be ethereal spirits. It says our natural body will be raised a spiritual body, not a spirit. We will still have a body, but it will no longer be controlled by the old sin nature, the flesh. Rather, it will be a body yielded completely to the control of the Holy Spirit.
There is one other thing the Bible reveals about the glorified body that should be a source of great comfort. The glorified body will be a perfected body. That means the blind will see, the deaf will hear, the lame will walk, and the mute will speak. Those who are mentally impaired will have their minds healed (Isaiah 29:18-19, 32:3-4, and 35:5-6). There will no longer be any pain or death (Revelation 21:4). God will "wipe away every tear," and "there shall no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain" (Revelation 21:4).