My beloved spiritual children in Our Risen Lord and Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
CHRIST IS RISEN! TRULY HE IS RISEN! ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΑΝΕΣΤΗ! ΑΛΗΘΩΣ ΑΝΕΣΤΗ!
THE FUTURE FATE OF THE WORLD AND MANKIND
The Nicaean-Constantinopolitan Symbol of Faith (the Creed), in the seventh, eleventh, and twelfth paragraphs, contains the Orthodox Christian confession of faith in the future coming of the Son of God to earth, the General (Last) Judgment, and the future life.
Paragraph 7: "And He is coming again with glory to judge the living and the dead; and His Kingdom will have no end."
Paragraph 11: "I look for the resurrection of the dead."
Paragraph 12: "And the life of the age to come. Amen.
In the Divine economy there is a plan for the future until the end of the ages. And an inseparable part of Christian teaching is composed of what the word of God tells us about the events of the end of time: the Second Coming of the Lord, the resurrection of the dead, and the end of the world: and then about the beginning of the Kingdom of Glory and eternal life. The last part of dogmatic theology thus speaks about the culmination of the great process whose beginning is set forth in the first page of the book of Genesis (Old Testament).
The Particular Judgment: The Fate of Man After Death Until the General Judgment
Death is the common lot of men. But for man it is not an annihilation, but only separation of the soul from the body. The truth of the immortality of the human soul is one of the fundamental truths of Christianity. "God is not a God of the dead, but of the living; for all live unto Him" (St. Matthew 22:32; St. Luke 20:38). In the New Testament Sacred Scripture death is called "the decrease (departure)of the soul" ("I will endeavor that ye may be able after my decrease to have these things always in remembrance," 2 Peter 1:15). It is called the deliverance of the soul from prison (2 Corinthians 5:1-4); the putting off of the body, ("knowing that shortly I must put off this my tabernacle," 2 Peter 1:14); a dissolving ("having a desire to depart" [be dissolved], "and to be with Christ, which is far better," Phil. 1:23); a departure ("the time of my departure is at hand," 2 Timothy 4:6); a sleep, (David) "fell asleep," Acts 13:36).
The state of the soul after death, according to the clear testimony of the word of God, is not unconscious but conscious (for example, according to the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, St. Luke 16:19-31). After death man is subjected to a judgment which is called "particular" to distinguish it from the General Last Judgment. It is easy in the sight of the Lord to reward a man "on the day of death according to his conduct," says the most wise son of Sirach (11:26). The same thought is expressed by the holy Apostle Paul: "It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment" (Hebrews 9:27). The holy Apostle presents the judgment as something which follows immediately after the death of a man, and evidently he understands this not as the General Judgment, but as the particular judgment, as the Holy Fathers of the Church have interpreted this passage. "Today shalt thou be with me in Paradise" (St. Luke 23:43), the Lord uttered to the repentant thief.
In Sacred Scripture it is not given us to know how the particular judgment occurs after a man's death. We can judge of this only in part from separate expressions which are found in the word of God. Thus, it is natural to think that in the Particular Judgment also a large part in the fate of man after death is taken both by good and by evil angels: the former are implements of God's mercy, and the latter--by God's allowance--are implements of God's justice. In the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, it is said that Lazarus "was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom" (St. Luke 16:22). In the parable of the foolish rich man he is told: "Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee" (lit.: "they shall take," St. Luke 12:20); evidently it is evil powers who will "take it" (St. John Chrysostom). For, on the one hand, the Angels of these "little ones," in the Lord's own words, always behold the face of the Heavenly Father (St. Matthew 18:10), and likewise at the end of the world the Lord will send His Angels, who will "sever the wicked from among the just, and shall cast them into the furnace of fire" (St. Matthew 13:49); and on the other hand, "our adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour" (1 Peter 5:8), and the air, as it were, is filled with the spirits of evil under the heavens, and their prince is called the "prince of the power of the air" (Ephesians 6:12, 2:2).
Based on these indications of Sacred Scripture, from antiquity the Holy Fathers of the Church have depicted the path of the soul after its separation from the body as a path through such spiritual expanses, where the dark powers seek to devour those who are weak spiritually, and where therefore one is in special need of being defended by the Heavenly Angels and supported by prayer on the part of the living members of the Church (Memorial services). Among the ancient Holy Fathers the following speak of this: Sts. Ephraim the Syrian, Athanasius the Great, Macarius the Great, Basil the Great, John Chrysostom, and others.
The most detailed development of these ideas is made by Saint Cyril of Alexandria in his "Homily on the Departure of the Soul," which is usually printed in the Sequential Psalter (the Psalter with additions form the Divine services). A pictorial depiction of this path is presented in the life of Saint Basil the New (+March 26th), where the departed blessed Theodora, in a vision during sleep communicated to the disciple of Basil, tells what she has seen and experienced after the separation of her soul from the body and during the ascent of the soul into the heavenly mansions.
Concerning the state of the soul after the Particular Judgment, the Holy Orthodox Christian Church teaches thus: "We believe that the souls of the dead are in a state of blessedness or torment according to their deeds. After being separated from the body, they immediately pass over either to joy or into sorrow and grief; however, they do not feel either complete blessedness or complete torment. For complete blessedness or complete torment each one receives after the General Resurrection, when the soul is reunited with body in which it lived in virtue or vice" (The Epistle of the Easter Patriarchs on the Orthodox Faith, paragraph 18). Thus the Orthodox Church distinguishes two different conditions after the Particular Judgment: one for the righteous, another for sinners; in other words, paradise or hell. The Church does not recognize the Roman Catholic teaching of three conditions: 1) blessedness, 2) purgatory, and 3) gehenna (hell). The very name "gehenna" the Holy Fathers of the Church usually refer to the condition after the Last Judgment, when both death and hell will be cast into the "lake of fire" (Revelation 20:15). The Holy Fathers of the Church, basing themselves on the word of God, suppose that the torments of sinners before the Last Judgment have a preparatory character. These torments can be eased and even taken away by the prayers of the Church (Epistle of the Eastern Patriarchs, paragraph 18). Likewise, the fallen spirits are "reserved in everlasting chains under darkness" (in hell) "until the Judgment of the great day " (2 Peter 2:4; St. Jude 1:6). [Source: Orthodox Dogmatic Theology by Father Michael Pomazansky)
(To be continued)
P.S. Please remember that as Orthodox Christians when we speak about the Resurrection of Christ we do not say, "He is risen!" instead, the Orthodox greeting is "Christ is Risen!" and we respond, "Truly He is Risen!"
"Each of us must mainly take care for himself, for his own soul, for his personal spiritual welfare, because according to the Apostle, each of us must give an account for himself to God. Our confusion stems from the fact that we are inclined to educate others, and we try not only to persuade others, but also to dissuade, and to provide proof through various arguments" (Saint Ambrose of Optina).
"Glory Be To GOD For All Things!"--Saint John Chrysostom
With sincere agape in Our Risen Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God