The Orthodox Faith
For St Paul Orthodox Youth Society - Brisbane
By Fr. John Abdel-Karim
33 – What Happens After Death
With death comes the separation of the soul from the body. The body returns to the earth from which it was taken. It decomposes but it is not lost. The time will come when it will be resurrected, spiritualized and made incorruptible, at the time of the just judgement. And then it will be united with the soul to be judged along with the soul. In the meantime, the soul which was separated, through death, from the body, lives in a middle state. It undergoes the particular judgement. "It is appointed for men to die once, and after that comes the judgement"(Hebrews 9:27). This means that immediately after death the soul is judged individually. It remains after this particular judgement until the final judgement, at the second Coming of Christ, having a foretaste of paradise or of hell.
At the final judgement, which will take place at the Second Coming of Christ, all people will be presented before Him to be judged. The evangelist Matthew tells us the following: "Before Him will be gathered all nations"(Matthew 25:32). At the final judgement, the souls will not be the only ones to be presented. We will be presented wholly, with our body and soul--with all our personhood. Body and soul will be judged. St. Paul tells us: "For we must all appear before the judgement seat of Christ, so that each one may receive good or evil, according to what he has done in the body" (2 Corinthians 5:10).
At the final judgement everyone will be judged according to their faith and their works. Christ will then separate the just from the unjust or sinners. "Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world" (Matthew 25:34), and to the sinners He will say: "Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels" (Matthew 25:41). Then "they [sinners] will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life"(Matthew 25:46). This will be the final judgement. After the final judgement, there will either be eternal life or hell--eternal punishment. There will be no changes after the final judgement. The just will be grounded in their righteousness and will always be righteous, and will live eternally. The sinners will be stabilized in their sin. They will not be able to change. They will live in hell. They too will live. They will not vanish, as some fools say. The above verse makes that vividly clear.
This will occur to man after death. In order for this to happen, two things must come first: the resurrection of the dead by which the soul will be reunited with the body, and the Second Coming of Christ. We will write about this in the next sections.
LET US PRAY
Triune God, Who out of love created man, on whom in his disobedience and sin You had compassion, and out of love Your Son became man to save man, You, Lord, know our problems and weaknesses. You also know our love for You and our longing for our salvation. We do not want our condemnation. We want eternal life near You. And still, we continue to sin. Show, Lord, upon this also Your understanding and love. Now, help us to be stable in faith--to prove it with works of love. Give us a Christian ending to our earthly lives, a good defense at Your Second Coming. Do not allow any of Your creatures to be lost. We know that we are responsible for our future. We are not throwing the burden on You. We are not blaming You. We are not making You responsible for our mistakes. But we ask You, help us. All of us, without any exception. Help us to do works of repentance. How dreadful it would be for You to have prepared Your Kingdom, for us and then for us to inherit eternal punishment apart from You. Creator, do not allow such a thing for anyone. We thank You, our Creator.