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John 11:25-26 (YLT):

25 Jesus said to her, `I am the rising again, and the life; he who is believing in me, even if he may die, shall live;
26 and every one who is living and believing in me shall not die -- to the age;

Eschatologically speaking, we know that people can experience two deaths: the first death (bodily death) and the second death (on Judgement Day). We also know from Revelation 2:11 that "he that overcometh shall not be hurt by the second death". However, I'm not entirely sure if Jesus is simply talking about "avoiding the second death" here. Is it possible that Jesus' words have implications regarding what happens to a person immediately after death (i.e. the intermediate state between the first death and Judgement Day)? In other words, that a genuine believer in Christ, although they may die physically, remains alive spiritually in some manner in the intermediate state? And if that's the case, what would it mean to be "alive" after (physical) death?

I cannot help but quote two other passages that may shed additional light on this discussion:

Matthew 10:28 (YLT):

28 `And be not afraid of those killing the body, and are not able to kill the soul, but fear rather Him who is able both soul and body to destroy in gehenna.

Luke 20:35-38 (YLT):

35 but those accounted worthy to obtain that age, and the rising again that is out of the dead, neither marry, nor are they given in marriage; 36 for neither are they able to die any more -- for they are like messengers -- and they are sons of God, being sons of the rising again. 37 `And that the dead are raised, even Moses shewed at the Bush, since he doth call the Lord, the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob; 38 and He is not a God of dead men, but of living, for all live to Him.'

Question: Can we draw any conclusion from Jesus' words in John 11:25-26 about the state of believers immediately after their physical death (first death)? Do physically dead believers remain alive spiritually, and if so, what does that mean?

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There are several texts that have a bearing on this subject. However, before getting to that let us examine John 11:25 and 26 more closely and the way some selectively quote John 11:25, 26:

25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in Me will live, even though he dies. 26 And everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?”

Note the apparent contradiction: In V25 Jesus says that the believer will live even if they die and in V26 He says that the believer will never die. Both cannot be true. Earlier (V14) Jesus makes the obvious and clarifying statement:

“Lazarus is dead"

Jesus then explains to Martha (V23)

“Your brother will rise again,” [In the resurrection at the last day, but Jesus about to give a little foretaste of this.]

This is where Jesus' other statements on this subject are helpful.

Luke 20:38 - He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to Him all are alive.”

This statement has been discussed elsewhere but notice Ellicott's remarks:

(38) For all live unto him.—St. Luke alone adds the words. They are of value as developing the meaning of those that precede them. All life, in the truest, highest sense of that term, depends upon our relation to God. We live to Him, and in Him. And so when He reveals Himself as the God of those who have passed from earth, He witnesses that that relation continues still. They are not dead, but are still living unto Him. We may, perhaps, connect the thought thus expressed with St. Paul’s words, “in Him we live, and move, and have our being,” in his speech at Athens. (See Note on Acts 17:28.)

In all of this, Jesus also affirmed that Lazarus was "sleeping", ie, unconscious in death as per V11:

“Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I am going there to wake him up.”

The situation here is similar to what we encounter in two sets of other verses:

  • In John 5:24, 25 - Truly, truly, I tell you, whoever hears My word and believes Him who sent Me has eternal life and will not come under judgment. Indeed, he has crossed over from death to life. Truly, truly, I tell you, the hour is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.
  • Compare the references in 2 Cor 5:10 that all must appear before the judgement seat of Christ.
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  • +1 a tough question.
    – Perry Webb
    Feb 8 at 23:49
  • Will live (in one sense) even if they die (in another sense) and if, while they live (in that one sense), they believe, they will never die (in the other sense). Jesus corrected Martha when she said she knew her brother would rise again at the last day. "I am the resurrection". he said. It was future but it is now here. Feb 9 at 3:50

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