My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Risen Savior,
CHRIST IS RISEN! TRULY HE IS RISEN!
The Blessedness of the Saints in Heaven and the Beginning of the Existence of the Great Kingdom of Christ, the Heavenly Triumphant Church
Before His departure to the Father, the Lord Jesus Christ said the Apostles: "In My Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so I would have told you, I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto Myself; that where I am, there ye may be also" (St. John 14:2-3). The Savior prayed to the Father, "Father, I will that they also, whom Thou hast given Me, be with Me where I am; that they may behold My glory which Thou hast given Me" (St. John 17:24). And the Apostles express the desire to depart and to be with Christ (Phil. 1:23), knowing that they have "a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens" (II Cor. 5:1).
A depiction of the life of the Saints in heaven is given in the Apocalypse (Revelation). Saint John the Theologian saw around the Throne of God in the heavens "four and twenty seats" and on them elders clothed in white garments and having crowns of gold on their heads (Rev. 4:4). He saw under the heavenly altar "the souls of them that were slain for the Logos/Word of God, and for the testimony which they held" (Rev. 6:9); and yet again he saw "a great multitude... of all nations and kindreds, and people," standing before the Throne and before the Lamb (Christ) and crying out: "Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the Throne, and unto the Lamb" (Rev. 7:9-10).
The bright mansions of the Heavenly Home sacred Scripture calls "the city of the Living God," "Mount Zion," the "Heavenly Jerusalem," "the Church of the first-born written in heaven."
And thus the Great Kingdom of Christ has been opened in heaven. Into it have entered the souls of all the righteous and pious people of the Old Testament, those of whom the Apostle has said, "These all, having obtained a good report through faith received not the promise" (until the coming to earth of the Son of God and the General Salvation), "that they without us should not be made perfect," that is, attained the joy and blessedness of the Heavenly Church of Christ (Heb. 11:39-40). Into this Kingdom in the New Testament there entered the first ones who believed in Christ, the Apostles, first martyrs, confessors, and thus until the end of the world the heavenly Home will be filled--the Jerusalem on high, the granary of God--until it shall come to its perfect fullness.
Saint Symeon the New Theologian teaches the following: "It was fitting that there should be born all who have been foreknown by God, and that the world which is above this world, the Church of the first-born, the heavenly Jerusalem, should be filled up; and then the fullness of the Body of Christ will be perfected, receiving in itself all those foreordained by God to be conformed to the image of His Son--these are the sons of the Light and the Day. Such are all those foreordained and forewritten, and included in the number of the saved, and those who are to be joined and united to the Body of Christ; and there will no longer be lacking in Him a single member. Thus in truth, as the Apostle Paul reveals when he says: "Till we all come in the unity of the faith...unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ" (Eph. 4:13). When they shall be gathered together and shall comprise the full Body of Christ, then also the higher world, the heavenly Jerusalem, which is the Church of the First-born, will be filled up, and the body of the Queen of God, the Church, which is the Body of Christ God, will be revealed as entirely full and perfect" (Homily 45).
According to the teaching of Sacred Scripture, the blessedness of the souls of the righteous in heaven consists of: a) the repose or rest from labors; b) nonparticipation in sorrows and sufferings (Rev. 14:13, 7:16); c) being together with and consequently being in the closest communion with the forefathers and other Saints; d) mutual communion between themselves and with thousands of Angels; e) standing before the Throne of the Lamb (Christ), glorifying Him and serving Him; f) communion and reigning together with Christ; g) the joyous beholding face to face of God Almighty.
The Sending Down of the Holy Spirit and the Establishment of the Church of Christ on Earth
The Lord Jesus Christ, in His conversation with His Disciples before His sufferings, promised them to send the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, Who would remain with them forever--the Spirit of Truth Who would instruct them in everything and remind them of all that He Himself had spoken to them, and would inform them of the future. Appearing after the Resurrection to His Disciples, the Lord granted them the grace-given power of the Holy Spirit with the words, "Receive ye the Holy Spirit: Whosoever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whosoever sins ye retain, they are retained" (St. John 20:22-23). And ten days after His Ascension, the Lord, in accordance with His promise, sent down the Holy Spirit upon the Disciples on the day of Pentecost in the form of fiery tongues.
The descent into the world by the Holy Spirit was expressed, first of all, in the extraordinary gifts of the Apostles in the form of signs, healings prophecies, the gift of tongues; and secondly, in all the grace-given powers which lead the faithful of Christ to spiritual perfection and salvation.
In the Holy Spirit, in His Divine power, is given us "all things that pertain unto life and godliness" (II Peter 1:3). "These grace-given gifts are in the Holy Church which the Lord founded on earth." They comprise the means of our sanctification and salvation. (Source: Orthodox Dogmatic Theology by Father Michael Pomazansky)
CHRIST IS RISEN! TRULY HE IS RISEN!
"Glory Be To GOD For All Things!"
With sincere agape in Our Risen Lord and Savior,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God