Unsettled Christianity

Gloria Dei homo vivens – St Irenaeus
April 3rd, 2015 by Joel Watts

Wesley on the “intermediate state” of paradise

English: "John Wesley," by the Engli...

English: “John Wesley,” by the English artist George Romney, oil on canvas. 29 1/2 in. x 24 3/4 in. Courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery, London. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Thanks to Logos, I am able to dig through John Wesley’s surviving works — more than sermons, but his journals and letters. In going through early Wesley, we find him dead set against anything remotely resembling Catholicity. Later in life, we find a developing thought:

But what is the essential part of heaven? Undoubtedly it is to see God, to know God, to love God. We shall then know both His nature, and His works of creation and providence, and of redemption. Even in paradise, in the intermediate state between death and the resurrection, we shall learn more concerning these in an hour, than we could in an age, during our stay in the body. We cannot tell indeed how we shall then exist, or what kind of organs we shall have: The soul will not be encumbered with flesh and blood; but probably it will have some sort of ethereal vehicle, even before God clothes us “with our nobler house of empyrean light.”1

I’ll keep digging… but I think it has something to do with listening to a Michael Linner of the Moravians.

  1.  John Wesley, The Works of John Wesley (vol. 13, Third Edition.; London: Wesleyan Methodist Book Room, 1872), 31.
Joel Watts
Watts holds a MA in Theological Studies from United Theological Seminary. He is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of the Free State, analyzing Paul’s model of atonement in Galatians, as well as seeking an MA in Clinical Mental Health at Adams State University. He is the author of Mimetic Criticism of the Gospel of Mark: Introduction and Commentary (Wipf and Stock, 2013), a co-editor and contributor to From Fear to Faith: Stories of Hitting Spiritual Walls (Energion, 2013), and Praying in God's Theater, Meditations on the Book of Revelation (Wipf and Stock, 2014).

Comments

9 Responses to “Wesley on the “intermediate state” of paradise”
  1. A word of caution. Wesley was always referring to Heaven (as he said at the beginning of this quote). In his early life and teaching, the disembodied state of Heaven was his ultimate aim, even though he believed in the bodily resurrection. Later in life he began speculating more about what the resurrection of the dead and new creation would look like. He never held any view that was anything like the Catholic doctrine of Purgatory. He remained a steadfast Church of England man.

    Probably my favorite of his sermons in this late period is “On the General Deliverance”.

    It should also be noted that this is classic Wesley. Very early on he also speculated about our earthly bodies as they were then thought to be composed of the four elements. He had a hungry mind and was not afraid to use his imagination. Something I think we could all stand to emulate a bit more in our preaching 😉

    Glad you are reading Wesley. I’ll be looking forward to further insights that you glean from him.

  2. I must admit that I believe very much like Billy Graham when it has to do with the intermediate state. There is no purgatory. When one does, the spirit goes either to the third heaven or hades until the Second Advent of Christ and the resurrection from the dead. My father’s spirit went to paradise April 11, 1985 and my mother’s went there December 18, 2006.

    Charles E. Miller, Jr., BA in German; MA in Religion

  3. I wish to thank you for your response, Rev. Watts. I wish you all the best concerning your PhD. God bless. Charles

  4. Charles E. Miller, Jr says

    Dear Rev. Watts,
    I am writing to you to ask for your opinion. As you know, my mother went to paradise December 18.2006. Since I am a fellow United Methodist, I hope you will respond. I was with my mama before she was to cross the line between this life and eternity. My wife, Nancy, was with me. My mama was in a death pose. Her mouth was opened. I told her how much I loved her. She always had unconditional love for me. Without using her mouth or vocal chords, she told me: I love you, son. Her voice was far away; however, Nancy and I along with her doctor heard her. Was her spirit talking to me before she completely left this world? Norman Vincent Peale would have accepted that. May God bless You. Charles

    • Charles,

      We are told by science that those who pass remain here for a few minutes, with their consciousness still alive. Scripture tells us that God collects his children, but does not tell us when. He never says that those who are gone cannot speak to us as God collects them.

  5. Charles E. Miller, Jr. says

    Dear Pastor Joel,

    I wish to thank you for that wonderful answer. If I were younger, I would study on-line at United Theological Seminary; however, I am nearly 60 years old. I attended Old Dominion University, a state school, for my BA and received my MA in Religion from Liberty University School of Divinity in 1993. That does not mean that I was a follower of Falwell. He was too conservative for my tastes. Charles

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