The Bible gives us two points of reference regarding the intermediate state that help prepare us for death.
First, in several well-known passages, Paul specifically addresses the matter of what happens to believers between the time they die and when Christ returns. According to 2 Corinthians 5:8, Paul teaches that at the moment of a believer’s death, we immediately enter into the presence of the Lord. The Apostle writes, “We would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.” Paul also spoke of how he desired “to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better” (Phil. 1:23). When we die, we are immediately “with Christ” and enter into the presence of God. This is usually what we mean when we speak of “heaven”.
Second, the heavenly scene described by John in Revelation 4–6 gives us a glimpse of that previously unseen reality we will experience upon dying. We who have trusted in Christ alone will join the redeemed saints before the heavenly throne in the presence of God. We are conscious, aware of where we are, and joyfully praising God. To put it simply, this heavenly scene is the clearest image we have of what happens to our soul when we die. In these three chapters, John gives a glorious image of heaven, where God dwells among His people until the resurrection of our bodies at the end of the age. This is what heaven is—the redeemed dwelling in the presence of the Holy God, ascribing all praise and glory to our Creator and Redeemer.
While the scene is wonderful, and in many ways beyond our comprehension, it is worth noting that the saints in heaven are crying out, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” (Rev. 6:10). Those already in God’s presence before His throne—who have died before us and are now experiencing the intermediate state, the time between death and the Lord’s return—long for that day when Jesus Christ returns to earth on the day of resurrection and judgment.