I am sure this has been discussed many times before on the forum but I am having difficulty locating all the threads.
There seems to be (as usual) no consensus on what transpires between death and the Last Judgement. I have no desire to discuss toll-houses here, as that issue is not entirely relevant to my question regarding the time period between a particular judgement and the Last Judgement.
Some Orthodox state that after a person dies where they will end up is decided, i.e., there is no repentance after death. In the words of Father Harakas:
"When we die, we begin immediately to experience a fore-taste of Heaven or Hell...This fore-taste experience, based on the general character of our lives regarding our behavior, character, and communion with God, is known as the partial judgement." (Harakas, The Orthodox Church: 455 Questions and Answers
Father Harakas further states that:
"No claim is made by the Orthodox Church that prayers said for the deceased will alter the Final Judgement...Of course, neither do we claim to limit or restrict God's judgement and power." (Ibid. 257)
The following is from Father David Moser, and is on St. Nicolas Russian Orthodox Church's website:
" Some of the confusion might occur in that most Protestant confessions teach that the judgment after death determines the eternal state of the soul. Not so, according to the Tradition and teaching of the Orthodox Faith
. The particular judgment immediately after death only determines the state and "residence" of the soul in the spiritual world and that judgment is based on who our spiritual "friends" are... Are we attached to the world or to the Kingdom of God? Do we act like Satan or Christ? Whatever we are like, there we are placed in the spiritual world... But do not confuse this particular judgment and temporary disposition
with the eternal disposition of the soul to be determined at the Great Judgment.
Then, the soul being reunited with the body thanks to the general resurrection, each person will be judged by God Who sees within either the spark of grace or none and those who have that spark will be brought into the Kingdom of God and those who do not will be cast into outer darkness - finally and eternally. So you see that when we pray for the departed, we do so knowing that the final judgment has not yet occurred
and while we don't know what the exact needs of the departed are, we can simply lift them up to God calling out for His mercy." (Moser,http://www.orthodox.net/articles/about-prayer-for-the-dead.html)
One of my questions concerns the idea that if the Final Judgement decides where we end up, then doesn't a fore-taste simply confirm to the person where he will eventually end up? If so, doesn't this make the Final Judgement redundant?
Of course, if a soul's situation can be changed after death, then the Final Judgement makes more sense, however many have written that after death there is no repentance; the soul's destination is fixed:
"JUDGMENT of the soul according to its faith and deeds on earth is an unquestioned teaching of the Gospel. It is also a self-evident demand of human nature and reasoning. The Christian Church places this judgment at the very moment of the death of the individual for two reasons:
Any moral progress of the soul is excluded after its separation from the body; and
there is no hope of repentance or betterment after death
The moral progress of the soul, either for better or for worse, ends at the very moment of the separation of the body and soul; at that very moment the definite destiny of the soul in the everlasting life is decided. (see Androutsos Dogmatics p. 409). It will be judged not according to its deeds one by one, but according to the entire total results of its deeds and thoughts. The Orthodox Church believes that at this moment the soul of the dead person begins to enjoy the consequences of its deeds and thoughts on earth - that is, to enjoy the life in Paradise or to undergo the life in Hell. There.is no way of repentance, no way of escape, no reincarnation and no help from the outside world.
Its place is decided forever by its Creator and judge." (From the GOA website article "Death, The Threshold to Eternal Life," http://www.goarch.org/ourfaith/ourfaith7076
I remember hearing a story about the Roman Emperor Trajan being prayed out of hell; is there any consensus regarding the intermediate state, and if we know during that state where we will end up, what is the point of the Final Judgement? I appreciate any advice concerning this.