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Author Topic: Intermediate state and particular judgement  (Read 1481 times) Average Rating: 0
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peteprint
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« on: November 08, 2011, 02:17:59 PM »

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, 97)

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.  
« Last Edit: November 08, 2011, 02:21:18 PM by peteprint » Logged
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« Reply #1 on: November 08, 2011, 02:28:38 PM »

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« Reply #2 on: November 08, 2011, 02:35:16 PM »

darn good questions...subscribing.
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« Reply #3 on: November 08, 2011, 02:43:15 PM »

During the time I was a catechumen, one of the members of my parish remarked, "the Protestants don't believe that you can pray someone out of Hell," a belief that he obviously held.  Both positions can't be correct.  Perhaps this is another case of a Theologumena?
« Last Edit: November 08, 2011, 02:43:31 PM by peteprint » Logged
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« Reply #4 on: November 08, 2011, 03:29:04 PM »

During the time I was a catechumen, one of the members of my parish remarked, "the Protestants don't believe that you can pray someone out of Hell," a belief that he obviously held.  Both positions can't be correct.  Perhaps this is another case of a Theologumena?

Or a radical misunderstanding of time.
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« Reply #5 on: November 11, 2011, 03:33:58 PM »

 Shocked Wow, what a thread! Very good questions. I look forward to hearing other responses.

As for myself, and I will state that this is simply my personal belief. This is the Tradition as I have received it through my spiritual father, who I believe I have understood on the matter. However, to my knowledge, there is no dogmatic requirements on anything this thread addresses, meaning that Orthodox Christians are free to believe as they wish on the topic, and so I would place anything said here quite solidly in the category of "theologumena"...no matter how many saints and Church Fathers have talked about it and what the Concensus Patrum may be (though important that is, since our Faith is a maximilistic one, not bound simply by the "bare necessities" of our dogmatic statements of faith).

That said, what I understand is that, once the soul undergoes the particular judgment, they find themselves either in Hades (that is, the Realm of the Dead) or in Paradise (the realm opened for the righteous at Christ's Harrowing of Hell on Great and Holy Saturday, thus allowing the saints some form of spiritual communion with God), both of which being precursors to where they would find themselves eternally based on their works in life. However, the Church believes in praying for the departed. We do this particularly through the funeral rites on the first few days after death, but also tend to maintain the 3rd, 9th and 40th days after departure, as well as each anniversary of the person's repose. These prayers contain intercessions for the person's soul, that they "be pardoned of every sin, both voluntary and involuntary..." that "the Lord may establish their soul with a just repose." the prayer of the priest in the Litya is that God would "give rest" to their souls "in a place of brightness, a place of refreshment, a place of repose, where all sickness, sorrow and sighing have fled away. Pardon every transgression which they have committed by word, dead or thought." The people sing, " with the saints give rest, O Christ, to the soul of thy servant..."

Obviously, the Church has a hope that, if the individual we are praying for indeed finds him or herself in Hades, that these prayers, these intercessions, may entreat Christ our God, that He have mercy on the soul of His departed servant and establish the person in Paradise with the saints. Of course, we have no promise that such a person is either in Hades or in Paradise (lest the Church formally glorifies the person as a saint, of course) nor do we know that our prayers truly do benefit the person. We have no way of finding out such information. However, we have the promise of the resurrection for those who have believed on Christ, and we have our Lord's exhortation to ask of Him and then receive. To pray and intercede for those we love, whether living or departed, is one of the most ancient and beautiful forms of Christian love and ministry we can ever do. This is confirmed for us time and again in the Scriptures and in our Sacred Tradition in the lives of the saints. The quintessential verse "the prayer of a righteous man availeth much" comes to mind.

At the same time, however, it is something of an uncertainty. I believe that we will find a caution about this in our Church. We don't actually know the prayer will deliver the person from eternal death. But, our faith is not based on such a minimalistic premise. Why wouldn't we pray for those we love? If Christ brings us the hope of the resurrection and the ability to bring to Him all our cares, why should we not lay our concerns for our lost loved ones upon the altar at His feet? Doing so, I think, is all that makes sense in the Orthodox understanding of the world. In such prayer, we find Christ, we find again and again that Paschal hope, springing eternal. For Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and upon those in the tombs bestowing life.
« Last Edit: November 11, 2011, 03:37:35 PM by Benjamin the Red » Logged

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« Reply #6 on: November 11, 2011, 03:55:29 PM »

Thank you Benjamin,

That is how I understood it as well.  The article from the GOA website seems to be at complete variance with this view, so it threw me for a loop, so to speak.  From my Protestant background, the GOA article seems to be in accord with what they believe, while it appears that the ancient Churches (Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, and Roman Catholic) all believe that there can be an alteration to a person's fate after death.  If that is not the case then prayers for the dead make no sense.  Thank you again.
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« Reply #7 on: November 11, 2011, 04:11:38 PM »

Of course. Again, I look forward to other people's commentary. Many are more learned and experienced than this wet-behind-the-ears newly-illumined convert! Grin

I think, though, that the GOA article is simply trying to emphasize differently, rather than truly take a contradictory stance. While I can definitely see your point about it as valid, we thankfully have the Orthodox Tradition to guide us on the matter. Of course, the Greeks pray for the dead, too! So, I would read it in that context. They seem to be emphasizing that there is indeed nothing the departed can do to gain a more favorable state, nor is there any guarantee that the prayers of the living for those who have passed on will help them out of their situation. Rather, as the article reads in the last sentence you quoted, "Its place is decided forever by its Creator and judge." We recognize that God is judge, not us, and no amount of pleading insures salvation for the soul.

However, we know the judge is the lover of mankind, that He is merciful, and so our hope is not in the great works of our prayers, but rather the grace of the Almighty God be poured out upon us and upon the souls of our departed loved ones, that they may be "forgiven all their sins, whether committed voluntary or involuntary" so that they may inhabit "a place of brightness...where all sickness, sorrow and sighing have fled away" and that "with the saints..." Christ our God may "grant rest to the soul of [His] servant."
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« Reply #8 on: November 11, 2011, 04:34:15 PM »

I once heard it explained that the initial particular judgment immediately after death is where we begin to have the foretaste of the fate we (in effect) have chosen by whether or not we chose to live for Christ.

The Final Judgment is to manifest the righteous justice of the Lord to all creation at the end of days.  If God chooses to grant mercy to the departed between now and then, if and how is His business, not ours.  All we're asked to do is pray.

But more importantly than that, maybe one should not focus so much on what happens after death/state of the departed; rather, let's just do what we need to do in order to ensure that we're in Christ's favor on the Last Day.  For each person, as far as their own lives are concerned, death is the point where we meet with Christ as Judge.  We just need to be ready. 
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« Reply #9 on: November 22, 2011, 05:08:50 PM »

I realize this is a late response to this thread, and perhaps doesn't contribute much, but from the original question I wonder if peteprint is confused by the fact that on one hand it is true that "there is no repentance" after death, and on the other hand a person can be delivered from eternal torments after their repose by the prayers of the Church, almsgiving on behalf of a departed person, and the commemoration of the departed in the Divine Liturgy.  The GOA article is correct in stating that after death “there is no way of repentance”, however it is completely incorrect to say that at the Particular Judgment “Its place is decided forever by its Creator and judge” (which of course does not occur until the Final Judgment), and it is incorrect to say that after the Particular Judgment there is “no help from the outside world”.  Following the Particular Judgment, a person begins to experience a foretaste of eternal glory or eternal condemnation.  For a person who experiences a foretaste of eternal glory, this experience will be fulfilled at the Final Judgment when the soul is united with the body to dwell eternally in the glory of the kingdom of God.  For a person who experiences a foretaste of condemnation, through the prayers of the Church (almsgiving on behalf of the departed, commemoration of the departed in the Divine Liturgies, etc.) these sufferings may be reduced, and in some cases such a person may even be delivered altogether from condemnation at the Final Judgment.  If such a drastic change occurs in the final state of the soul that initially experiences a foretaste of condemnation, this change does not result from any act of the soul after death but is solely the result of the love and prayers poured out on behalf of the departed by the Church.  After death we cannot repent, we cannot “change our minds”, we cannot cease from evil and begin to do good, we cannot improve our state or do anything at all to improve our condition.  We are at that point purely at the mercy of God and those on earth who might pray for us.  So, we certainly can be helped by those in the world.  As for the statement that there is “no help from the outside world” after the Particular Judgment, people on earth can certainly ask for the saints to pray for the souls of the departed and the saints can help the departed by their prayers.  However, since we cannot do anything to save our souls after death, and since we cannot know for certain whether the prayers of the Church after our death will definitely deliver us from eternal condemnation, we have to repent now in this life, knowing that we will all be judged according to our deeds and that “narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.”

In the sayings of the Fathers we have the following story from the life of St. Macarius the Great.  Walking in the desert one day, he found laying on the ground the skull of a dead man. He nudged the skull with his walking stick, and it began speaking to him. St. Macarius said to the skull, “Who are you?” The skull replied, “I was a pagan high priest; but you are Macarius, the Spirit-bearer. Whenever you take pity on those who are in torments, and pray for them, they feel a little respite.” St. Macarius said to the skull, “What is this alleviation, and what is this torment?” The skull answered, “As far as the sky is removed from the earth, so great is the fire beneath us; we are ourselves standing in the midst of the fire, from the feet up to the head. It is not possible to see anyone face to face, but the face of one is fixed to the back of another. Yet when you pray for us, each of us can see the other's face a little. Such is our respite.”

This story does not say that the pagan man whose skull spoke to St. Macarius was delivered from torments altogether, or that he would be delivered at the Final Judgment, but in this case it shows that the prayers of St. Macarius helped to ease the torments of those who, following the Particular Judgment, experienced a foretaste of condemnation. 
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« Reply #10 on: November 23, 2011, 12:00:19 AM »

Thank you all for your replies.  Yes, I was confused because the article on the GOA site does seem to suggest that our prayers and works on behalf of the dead have no bearing on where they will end up after the Final Judgement.  I appreciate all of the insights that have been presented here.
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