There is indeed a time between death and Judgement. How long this time lasts is quite dependent on the way you lived your life. I have come to call it the "Squaring Up", where each of us and God fulfill promises and covenants made previously.
It is useful at this point to explain that you existed before you were born on Earth. You not only just existed, you made a very important choice: you decided to take sides with Jehovah, the man you may know better as Jesus Christ. God's reward for your choice was to send you to Earth with a body and to promise that you would get to have that body again in a perfected form after you die. If you recall, Jesus was "resurrected" after he died and God promised that same resurrection to those of us who followed Christ before birth. Essentially, you are alive today because you made the right choice previously and you will be resurrected for the same reason. God will "square up" his pre-Earth-life promise of immortality with you just before you attend Judgement. You will absolutely live again - God is good on his word.
There are other things to square-up as well. As part of accepting and promising to follow Jehovah (Jesus) before you were born, you were expected to keep commandments during your life on Earth. Also, while on Earth, you may have made further "covenants" with God that involve other activities and rewards. All of these must be accounted for before the Judgement. If you kept the promises you made, there will be very little to "square up" and your time might be short and blissful, a definition of "heaven". If you didn't do a very good job with your promises, you will have more "squaring up" to do, which seems to be unpleasant and is often referred to as "Hell". Remember those stories about Hell in the Bible? How long you spend "squaring up" is really dependent on how much you strayed from your promises.
If you have a background in business, this "squaring up" sure sounds like business accounting. God feels like an auditor and you want to have your bookkeeping in good order before the audit (Judgement) comes. That's what this "spirit world" time is for: make sure all the figures add up and everything on the ledger balances. If you have been a good business manager, you should be ready for your audit without much work. If you "cooked" the books or kept your records poorly, things could get nasty. Making everything honest and balanced is going to be a painful and expensive. Sound like "Hell" yet?
There are some things to keep in mind when attempting to make the "squaring up" time as short as possible for yourself:
- Repentance - Everyone messes up on their promises (well, except for Christ). The principle of repentance is that you can avoid the pain of "squaring up" as you make up for your mistakes in the way Jesus has prescribed. Not sure how to make it work? We are here to help you.
- There is no Excuse for Ignorance - As part of the squaring up there will be full disclosure. No one will be left ignorant before Judgement. I suppose you can try to say you really didn't know about Jehovah's commandments (there are ten and many US courthouses put them out on the front lawn. They also feature in that Bible.) I suppose you can plead ignorance if you like, but you really do determine how long this "squaring up" takes.
- You want Mercy, Not "Fairness" - There are two things to expect from God: justice and mercy. The smart bet is to go for mercy every time. If you start arguing with God (pretty stupid idea) that he isn't being "fair" about the squaring up process, it will just create more things to settle.