The intermediate state means going to be with Christ; Christ is in heaven, so believers go to heaven upon death (e.g., John 14:2-3; Phil 1:23). For our departed saints, as Sunday school children rightly sing, “heaven is a wonderful place filled with glory and grace” because one is transported to the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ. Heaven is not a dreamlike place of disembodied bliss; rather, it is a place of both longing for the future state (Rev 6:10-11) and a place of worship (7:13-17). The heavenly state is like being wrapped in a blanket of joy, free from the sadness of this age, but still anticipating through worship the full blessings yet to come.
The immediate postmortem experience of heaven is eschatologically intermediate; that is, it is a glorious interlude, not the final destination. That is because heaven is a transitional mode of existence until the resurrection and the new creation…It is the coming together of heaven and earth in union with Christ that is the ultimate goal of God’s plan and the final destination of God’s people. Paul declares that God’s purpose is “to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ” (Eph 1:10). The final state is a new creation created in Christ and under Christ and even for Christ. God unites himself to creation through the Logos, and the glory of God effuses into the new creation through Son and Spirit.
The final state is a heaven that descends to earth and an earth that receives the heavens, so that both heaven and earth are transformed into something other than what they were before. Heaven and earth are changed into the new creation. Heaven does not swallow up earth and earth does not simply absorb heaven. The earth is transfigured and transformed into a heavenly plane of existence, and the dividing line between heaven and earth is obliterated. Heaven becomes earthly and earth becomes heavenly. Though heaven is life after death, the new creation is life after life after death.
Michael F. Bird, Evangelical Theology: A Biblical and Systematic Introduction
*Reflecting the title of this section: “HEAVEN AND THEN THE NEW CREATION”