The word literal is complicated. According to one of the first definitions in the dictionary, literal means: “adhering...to the ordinary construction of primary meaning of a term or expression.” In other words, being literal can just mean saying what you mean to say, giving primary importance in the moment to...
Believers who have died are with Christ in heaven. They don’t yet have the resurrection body, they don’t yet have the new earth, but they are eagerly waiting for these things, fully conscious and actively engaged in heaven.
It’s hard to get our arms around the idea of being “actively engaged” in heaven. The reason is that everything we enjoy in this life is experienced through the body. We enjoy running, but how do you do that without legs? We enjoy listening to music, but how do you do that without ears? And, we enjoy seeing the world, but how do you do that without eyes?
All that we do in this life is mediated through the body, and now the body of a person you love has been laid to rest. We know from Scripture that they won’t get the resurrection body until Christ comes again. So, what in the world can they possibly be doing right now?
Angels Give Us a Model
Here’s what has helped me on this question. God has given you life in this world through the union of a body and a soul. He breathed the breath of life into your mortal body. Death is the separating of the soul from the body, which is why death is such a fearful enemy. It is the undoing of our nature, the tearing apart of what God has joined together.
But angels are souls or spirits without bodies – ministering spirits (Hebrews 1:14). Jesus said “a spirit does not have flesh and bones” (Luke 24:39). Wayne Grudem explains: “Angels are created, spiritual beings, with moral judgment and high intelligence, but without physical bodies.” 
So we have, in the Bible, created beings that are spirits or souls without bodies, and we are told a great deal about their activity.
The activity of angels, who are ministering spirits, gives us a model, a pattern, for thinking about the life and experience of our believing loved ones who are now with the Lord. We have precedent for this in the words of Jesus, who says that in at least one regard, we will be like the angels in the resurrection (Mark 12:25).
Let me give you some examples of what angels can do, as souls or spirits without bodies, that will point us to the kinds of things that our believing loved ones can do, right now in the presence of Jesus, while they are waiting for the resurrection.
Angels see, and so do believers in heaven.
“See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 18:10).
Angels see the face of God. They are spirits. They do not have eyeballs or retinas, but they see the face of God. And the same is true for your believing loved ones.
Faith has been turned to sight for them. They will have eyes in the resurrection, but right now they see, just as angels (who do not have bodies), can see.
Angels speak, and so do believers in heaven.
Suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” (Luke 2:13-14).
Angels are spirits. They do not have vocal cords. They don’t have bodies, but they are able to communicate the praise of God. And the same is true for your believing loved ones. They will have vocal cords in the resurrection, but right now they speak just like the angels.
Angels rejoice, and so do believers in heaven.
“There is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (Luke 15:10).
There is nothing in Scripture to suggest that believers who are with the Lord are somehow watching the details of our lives down here. But Jesus says that there is joy in heaven over one sinner who repents:“If there is joy in heaven, why would believers who have gone there not share in it?”  Especially parents or grandparents who prayed for children or grandchildren for 10, 20, 30 years and died before they saw them come to faith.
Angels worship, and so do believers in heaven
Then I looked, and I heard around the throne… the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” (Revelation 5:11-12).
Weak is the effort of my heart and cold my warmest thought. / But when I see thee as thou art, I’ll praise thee as I ought. 
Angels inquire, and so do believers in heaven
…things into which angels long to look. (1 Peter 1:12).
Angels are highly intelligent, and their minds are constantly engaged in trying to fathom the wonders and the glories of God. You don’t need a body to do that.
In Revelation 6, John sees souls in the presence of Jesus. They were made visible to John in the vision just as the angels were made visible to the shepherds on the night that Jesus was born. John sees these souls in heaven, a particular group of believers who had been killed – they were martyrs – and they’re actively engaged asking questions: “How long, O Lord?”
There are some things that, like the angels, these souls in heaven do not yet know. God has more for them that is yet to be revealed – when Christ comes. And they are looking forward to it, just as we are. But until then, they are actively engaged.
Photo Credit: Unsplash
 Ibid., p. 397.
 Maurice Roberts, The Happiness, of Heaven, p. 67, Reformation Heritage, 2009.
 John Newton, from the hymn: How Sweet the Name of Jesus Sounds, 1774.