Orthodox Outlet for Dogmatic Enquiries Digital Books

Previous // Contents // Next


An Orthodox Handbook

by Fr. Anthony Alevizopoulos


Chapter 26 - Our true homeland

1. Resident aliens and sojourners

After the Fall, man has been living far away from the paternal home, in a foreign land. The Holy Bible mentions him as a "resident alien" and a "sojourner" (Gen.23:4; Levit.25:23; 1 Chron.29:15; Psal.38:13 and 1 Pet.1:1) - the reason being that man's true homeland is the love of the Triune God. That is what mankind fell away from, through Adam, and that is where he will return to, through Christ, in order to once again live the fullness of it, in the Kingdom of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

Through Holy Baptism we become members of the "Church of the first-born, who are inscribed in heaven" (Hebr.12:23) and "fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God" because we are built "...on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in Whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord." (Ephes.2:19-21)

With this, we can comprehend why the Apostle Paul underlines that "our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is also able to subdue all things to Himself." (Philip.3:20-21)... "For we have no permanent city here, but we seek the one to come" (Hebr.13:14). Whereas the future residence is perceived as a permanent one, the present life is characterized as a "testing place" - that is, as a place of trials. Asks the Book of Job, "“Is not the life of a human being on earth a trial, and is not his life like that of a day laborer? (Job 7:1. cmp. Philip.1:21-24, 2 Cor.5:8-9, 2 Tim.4:6. Eccles.12:7).

The first Christians experienced that reality very intensely, with all its consequences. An ancient text - the epistle to Diognetus - distinguishes the Christians from the remaining people as follows:

"Christians do not differ from the other people, neither with regard to the place that they inhabit, nor to the language that they speak, or the customs that they have, for they do not inhabit particular cities or speak their own dialect or live a separate life... While they inhabit both Hellenic and barbaric cities - wherever each has found himself in - and while they observe the local customs as regards the dress and food and the remaining ways of life, they live a wondrous and truly paradoxical life.  They inhabit their homeland, but only as temporary citizens (sojourners). As citizens they might participate in everything, however, they tolerate everything as though they are aliens. Every foreign land is to them a homeland, and every homeland is foreign...  They (too) wear flesh, but they do not live by the flesh. They might pass through life on earth, but they are citizens of heaven..."

Saint John the Chrysostom, when addressing the Christians of his time, had said:

«Are you not aware that this life is a migration? Do you imagine that you are a permanent resident of a city?  You are a traveller. Do you understand what I said?  You are not a permanent resident, but a traveller and wayfarer.  Do not tell me that 'I belong to this or that city'; no-one has a city 'here'. The city is up above. The present life is a passage.  Let us therefore walk it every day, as much as our nature allows. Have you ever met anyone who hides away his money when he is on the move? Is there any person who hides away his gold while on the road?  Tell me: when you enter an inn, do you sit and decorate the inn?  Not at all - you eat, drink, and are in a hurry to move on. This life is an inn. We entered it, and we will pass our entire life in it. So let us strive to depart from it with high hopes.  Let us not leave anything 'here', for fear of losing it 'there'.  When you enter an inn, what do you say to the servant? 'Take care where you will place my luggage! Do not leave anything behind here, in case even the smallest, the most insignificant item is lost!'  Well, that is what we should do in this life too. Let us regard this lifetime as an inn, and let us not leave anything behind in the inn. Let us carry everything into our permanent homeland. You are a traveller and wayfarer, and in fact, something less than a traveller.  How is that?  Well, let me tell you: A wayfarer knows when he arrives and when he departs from the inn, because he determines the time of his arrival and his departure. We, however, enter the inn - that is, the present life - without knowing when we are going to depart from it.  In fact, we sometimes prepare sustenance for a very long period - even to the moment that the Master calls us to Him... Our departure is undetermined. Wealth is not a stable thing. The dangers are very many and waves batter us from all sides. And you have devoted yourself frantically to deceptive things - to shadows.  Why do you leave reality and chase after shadows? We are therefore "resident aliens" and "sojourners" and none of us knows the day and the hour of departure from this life."

"Lord, why do some people die at a young age, while others reach a ripe old age?" asked Abba Anthony, "and why do some live in poverty and others in wealth? And how do the unjust become wealthy, while just people are poverty-stricken?" 

A voice then came to him, saying: "Anthony, mind yourself! These are God's measures of justice, and it does not benefit you to learn them!"


2. Victory over death

When we speak of death we usually say that it is a natural thing. However we need to underline that death is not the result of man's nature the way God had fashioned it.  In the Holy Bible it says that "God did not make death nor does he delight in the destruction of the living. For he created all things that they might exist, and the generative forces of the world are wholesome, and there is no destructive poison in them" (Wisd.Solom.1:13). "Because God created human beings for incorruption and made them the image of his own nature, but through the envy of the devil death entered the world..." (Wisd.Solom.2:23-24). God fashioned man as an immortal being, and according to His image. But because of the devil's envy, death entered the world.  

Death, therefore, is the result of the new situation that came into being after the Fall; in other words, it is the consequence of sin. In this way, death became mankind's enemy (1 Cor.15:26) as well as all Creation, which sighs and groans together with mankind, to this day (Rom.8:21).  It is then natural for man to hope for his return to the former state and anticipate to be freed from death.

As far back as the Old Testament era - even from the very first day on which man sinned and thus entered death's domain where the devil rules (Hebr.2:14) - God promised to rid man of the devil, therefore subsequently of death. (Gen.3:15)

The Prophets of the Old Testament proclaim with unadulterated enthusiasm the triumphant victory over death:

"Death, having prevailed, swallowed them up, and God has again taken away every tear from every face; the disgrace of the people he has taken away from all the earth, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken."(Isaiah 25:8)

"I shall rescue them from the hand of Hades and shall redeem them from Death. O Death, where is your sentence? O Hades, where is your goad?"  (Hosee13:14).

The Apostle Paul uses the same victory cry of the Prophet, in order to proclaim the overthrow of death: "So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is devoured by victory.” “O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?”  [...] But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ."  (1 Cor.15:54-57).

"Where, o death, is your sting?  Where, o Hades, is your victory? Christ is risen, and you are thrown down", our Church repeats on the night of Pascha.  By whom was death devoured?  It was devoured by the victory that was accomplished in the Person of Christ. Christ had "likewise shared in the same things" - that is, He became a participant of those things; He "partook of flesh and blood" exactly like man, so that "He might destroy him who had the power of death - that is, the devil - and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage."  (Hebr.2:14-15)  In other words, victory was accomplished "in the flesh of Christ" (Ephes.2:15) And this victory was not confined only to the living; instead, with Christ's descent into Hades, even our deceased brethren were included (1 Pet.3:19).

«Hades reigns, but not eternally, over the race of mortals.  Having being placed in a tomb, o Mighty One, with a life-giving palm did You rend the locks of death and proclaim an unfeigned redemption to those sleeping there since the ages, o Saviour, thus becoming the first-born of the dead». (Troparion hymn from the Matins of Great Holy Saturday)

Christ's resurrection was not a resurrection of a spiritual nature; it was an overall, total resurrection. Christ was resurrected with His flesh and His bones, which is why one could see and touch His wounds (Luke 24:39-40; John 20:27; cmp.Revel.5:6).  This was not a case of His "materialization", as asserted by deluded people, but an actual resurrection of Christ's Body. In other words, what the disciples had seen was not a "spirit" but the Lord Himself, Who reassured them that He was with "flesh and bones" and invited them to touch Him and to offer Him food, in order to be convinced of the fact of the resurrection of His Body (Luke 24:39-42) - a fact that was not only pre-announced by the Prophets of the Old Testament (Psal.15:9-10; cmp.Acts 2:31-32), but also by the Lord Himself, Who had said the following, regarding His Body: "...'Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.' Then the Jews said, 'It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and You will raise it up in three days?' But He was speaking of the temple of His body..." (John 2:19-21).

That resurrected Body of the Lord - which had overcome death - is the body that each and every Christian puts on, the moment he is introduced -through Holy Baptism- into the Body of Christ, the Church (Gal.3:27; Ephes.1:22,  5,23. Col.1:18, 24) and enters the kingdom of life.  It is therefore natural that he no longer fears death, because he has the Lord's reassurance that death does not approach that place (Matth.16:18).


3. The first resurrection

«...Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands. And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. [...] This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years» (Revel.20:4-6).

This excerpt refers to all the prophets and the righteous of the Old Testament who had remained faithful to God and had not submitted themselves to the "beast" that would brand them with its "mark" on their faces and their hands : evidence of their infidelity to God and complete subservience to the works of Satan, among which is also idol worship (Psal.95:5).  They were all those who had suffered "for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God", even though they had lived in the era of the Old Testament. The Apostle Paul mentions characteristically about Moses, that he had chosen «rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt; for he looked to the reward» (Hebr.11:25-26. Cmp Psal.88:51-52).

Both Moses and all the holy men of the Old Testament whom the Apostle mentions by name (Hebr.11) - as well as the entire "cloud of martyrs" mentioned in Hebr.12:1, " did not receive the promise - God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us." (Hebr.11:40)  All of them had participated in the "first resurrection", which occurred with Christ's triumphant descent into Hades (1 Pet.3:19) and Christ's victory over the devil and the works of the devil.  They are all now in communion with Christ and are reigning with Him "for one thousand years" - that is, up until the time of His glorious Second Coming - during which time the "second resurrection" will take place - that is, the Final Judgment.

The Saints of our Church are truly blessed, inasmuch as having participated in that first resurrection and are reigning together with Christ. The "second death" - that is, God's final condemnatory judgment during the Second Coming - will have no authority over those righteous ones.

However, we too partake of that glory of the children of the Kingdom, through our "in Christ" living which is realized through the mysteries of our Church.  We too partake of that "first resurrection", through Holy Baptism (Rom.6:3-11); we too become participants of the communion of the Saints and children of the Kingdom of God.

The "one thousand years" do not refer to a future time: they commenced with Christ's victory over the devil, with His victory over death, and they will end with the Lord's Second Coming.  In the Lord's very own words, "'Assuredly, I say to you, there are some standing here who shall not taste death till they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.'" (Matth.16:28; Mark 9:1; Luke 9:27. Cmp. Matth.28:20). From the above, it becomes evident that the thousand-year-long reign mentioned in John's Revelations (20:4-6), had already begun, as far back as the time of the Apostles. That reign is Christ's Church, which was established on the foundation of the Apostles and the Prophets, with Christ as the Chief Cornerstone (Eph.2:20).  However, all other Christians - those who have received Baptism after the Pentecost, and ourselves in this day and age - "are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone", "for through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father"  (Eph.2:18-20. Cmp.Gal.3:27-28; Eph.4:4-6, 5:30; John 10:16).  We repeat, therefore, that the Lord's words stating that many of His audience "would not taste of death until they saw the kingdom of God" are not symbolic words.  They must be taken literally:  the Kingdom of God commenced from the moment of Christ's death and His triumphant descent into Hades. That is when the so-called "second coming" took place. We are already living in the days of "end times" (Matth.12:28; Luke 11:20, 17:21).

We must underline that there is a difference between the place of the Saints and ourselves. We received the "betrothal ring" of the Spirit, through our Baptism (2 Cor.1:22; Eph.1:14). Our participation in the "first resurrection" is not of a permanent character, as is the in-Christ communion of the Saints, who have been freed of sin and are participants of the Uncreated glory of God. We, unlike them, struggle to attain that permanent participation in the Uncreated divine glory.

All the aforementioned are proof of the pitiful delusion of those who misinterpret the passage of Revelations (20:4-6): "...some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures."  (2 Pet.3:16).


4. The souls of the righteous in God's hand

«For the impious did not reason rightly and said among themselves: "Short and sorrowful is our life, and there is no remedy when a human being dies, and no one is known who has returned from Hades. Because we came into being by chance and hereafter we shall be, as though we had never existed, because the breath in our nostrils is smoke and reason is a spark within the beating of our hearts; when it is extinguished, the body will turn to ashes, and the spirit will be dispersed as thin air. [...] Come, therefore, let us enjoy the good things that exist, and let us make good use of the creation as in youth; [...] Let us see if his [=the impious'] words are true, and let us test what will happen at the end of his [the pious'] life; for if the righteous man is a divine son, He will help him and will rescue him from the hand of those who oppose him. [...] Thus they [the impious] reasoned, but they were led astray, for their wickedness blinded them, and they did not know divine mysteries nor hoped for the wages of holiness nor recognized the reward for blameless souls. Because God created human beings for incorruption and made them the image of his own nature, but through the envy of the devil death entered the world, and those who belong to his party experience it."  (Wisd.Solom.2:1-25).

Thus, there were deluded people in the age of the Old Testament also, who proclaimed that there is no life after death and consequently, that which remains is for one to enjoy this life!  However, those people were deluded; they were blinded by their wickedness and they never learnt the mysteries of God. The outcome of the righteous is not the same as the outcome of sinners: " But the souls of the righteous are in the hand of God, and no torment will ever touch them. 2 In the eyes of the foolish they seemed to have died, and their departure was considered to be suffering, 3 and their going from us to be destruction, but they are at peace. 4 For even if in the sight of human beings they were punished, their hope is full of immortality, 5 and having been disciplined a little, they will be greatly benefited, because God tested them and found them worthy of himself; 6 as gold in the furnace, he tested them, and as a sacrificial whole burnt offering, he accepted them. 7 And in the time of their visitation they will shine out, and as sparks through the stubble, they will run about. 8 They will judge nations and rule over peoples, and the Lord will be king over them for ever." (Wisd.Solom.3:1-8. Cmp.Isaiah 57:2).

"But the impious will receive punishment in accordance with the way they reasoned, those who neglected the righteous person and revolted from the Lord" (Wisd.Solom.3:10).

"Then the righteous will stand with great confidence in the presence of those who have afflicted them and those who make light of their labors. When they see them, they will be troubled with terrible fear and will be amazed at the unexpected salvation of the righteous. Repenting, they will say amongst themselves (and through distress of spirit will groan):  "These are they whom we once held in derision and as a byword of reproach—we fools! We thought their life to be folly and their end to be without honor. How have they been counted amongst divine sons, and how is their lot amongst the holy ones? Surely we strayed from the way of truth, and the light of righteousness did not shine on us, and the sun did not rise on us." (Wisd.Solom.5,1-6. cmp.Ezek.18:17; 27:32).


5. "Blessed is the path you walk today..."

Christ's victory over death and over the works of the devil places each Christian entirely differently in the face of the event that we continue to refer to as "natural death".  However, that death has now lost its initial meaning, which had been acquired during the period of the devil's supremacy.  For each genuine Christian it comprises the prelude of the true life. That is why the Fathers of the Church do not hesitate to characterize it as something benevolent. "Death is a good thing" says Saint Gregory of Nyssa.  "‘Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.’ “Yes,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, and their works follow them.”  (Revel.14:13)"Blessed is the path that you walk today, for a place of rest has been prepared for you..." chants the Church characteristically, during Her sacred service "for those who have slept".

With death, man's corruptible body is separated from the soul. It returns to the earth "from which it was taken", while the soul - the "spirit" - returns to God, "Who gave it" (Gen.1:27; 2:7; 3:19; Eccl.12:7). However, one day, the body will also be resurrected, to "put on the image of the heavenly Man" (1Cor.15:49). It will then be united once again - transformed - with the soul, so that "we shall always be with the Lord" (1 Thess.4:17; John 5:28-29).      

"So also is the resurrection of the dead. The body is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption. It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body."  (1 Cor.15:42-44).

"We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed— in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality." (1 Cor.15:51-53).

He therefore who believes is not afraid of death, for he is already living the new reality which was formed after the resurrection of Christ. He is aware that "even if he dies, he will live on", and "whosoever lives and believes shall never die" (John 11:26, 5:28-29). He will move on, to his true homeland - the one where he has been registered as a citizen. There he will be from there on, forever, with the Lord. (1 Thess.4:17)

The natural death of saintly people is always a happy event, which is why our Church commemorates the day of their departure with  festivities.  As a matter of fact, in order to stress this, the Church uses the characteristic expression "....is perfected in peace..."; or, in the case of a martyr: "...is perfected by the sword..." etc..

A certain holy soul - which is now in heaven - always used to say in a jovial manner to friends after the funeral of a pious person:  "Well, guys, here's looking forward to ours!"   Only in this light can we comprehend why, during the era of persecutions, many Christians had sought the gift of martyrdom (Philip.1:29) and hurried to their martyrdom without any fear, filled with joy, as though they were going to a festival!

Saint Ignatius for example, who was led to Rome to be martyred, had written to the Christians of Rome, beseeching them to not attempt to rescue him from the mouths of the beasts:  "I fear your love might wrong me. Because for you it is easy to do that which you want; but for me, is difficult to reach God - if of course you don't show pity... therefore allow me to become food to the beasts, by which I shall be able to win God.  God's wheat am I, and by the beasts' teeth I will be ground, to become clean bread for Christ. Rather, you should urge the beasts that they might become my grave and leave nothing of my body behind, in case I do not die and become a burden to someone. Only then will I be a true disciple of Christ: when the world does not even see my body.  Beseech Christ for me, to become in this way a sacrifice to God... Forgive me; I know what is beneficial to me. I am now beginning to be Christ's disciple.  Let nothing of the visible and the invisible hold me back from winning Christ... I am writing to you while still alive, and longing to die...  Inside me there is "living water" which speaks to me and says to me: "Come to the Father!"


6. Personal existence after death

It is necessary to even more underline our faith in the personal existence of man after death, because there are heretics who adulterate the Scriptural teachings.  Some of them proclaim that man disappears after death. Then there are others, who teach that man's soul loses its personal existence after death.  As we have seen, we have clear testimonies of post mortem life in its personal form in the Old Testament,  however, these testimonies are not the only ones.  When the Old Testament mentions the death of Abraham (Gen.25:8), of Isaac (Gen.35:29), of Jacob (Gen.49:33), it says characteristically that they were "added" to their people or "to their race" (cmp.also Num.20:24, 27:13, 31:2).  King Saul converses with the spirit of the Prophet Samuel (1 Kings 28:15); The Prophet Elijah prays that the soul of the Sarepta widow's dead boy "returns" (3 Kings 17:21-22). That same Prophet beseeches the Lord to take his life: "And he went a day’s journey into the wilderness and came and sat down under one rathm and asked that his soul die and said “Let it be enough now; indeed, take away my life from me, Lord, for I am no better than my fathers.”  (3 Kings 19:4).

In Proverbs 11:7 it says: " When a righteous man dies, hope does not perish, but the boast of the impious perishes."  The Book of Maccabees says of the pious : "since they believe that they do not die to God, even as our patriarchs Abraam, Isaak and Iakob did not die to God, but live to God"  (4 Macc.7:19; cmp.7:3, 9:8-9. 18:23; Ezek.18:17, 27:32; Eccl.12:7).

David expresses the jubilation of his heart for the presence of the Lord in his life and proclaims the steadfast faith that if he dies, even his body will be placed in the grave with the hope of its resurrection. He also underlines that God will not abandon his soul in Hades, nor will He allow his dedicated servant to know corruption: "Therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced; moreover, my flesh will encamp in hope, because you will not abandon my soul to Hades or give your devout to see corruption." (Psal.15:9-10; cmp.Psal.21:27).

Another Psalm says the following regarding impious people: "Fool and dolt will perish together and leave their wealth to strangers. [...] And a person held in honor did not understand. He resembled senseless beasts and became like them. [...] Like sheep they were placed in Hades. Death shall be their shepherd, and the upright shall exercise dominion over them at dawn, and help for them will grow old in Hades, away from their glory. On the other hand, God will ransom my soul from Hades’ hand, when He receives me. Do not be afraid when a person becomes rich and when the glory of his house increases, because, when he dies, he will take nothing, nor will his glory go down with him, because in his life his soul will be blessed; he will acknowledge you when you treat him well; he will enter the company of his fathers; he will never again see light. A person held in honor did not understand. They were comparable to beasts and became like them." (Psal.48:11-21. Cmp. Ezek.32:30-31).  We notice here that both the impious and the righteous will live after their death, in a conscious manner. Except that their fortunes will be the opposite of what they were during their present lifetimes. Even if they had enjoyed all the comforts and pleasures of this life, the impious will be miserable in the next, whereas the righteous will find themselves in the ranks of those who will reign. The Psalmist is certain of this new order; he believes deeply in the personal continuation of life, which is why he beseeches God to have mercyon his soul when he departs from this life:  «On the other hand, God will ransom my soul from Hades’ hand, when He receives me» (Psal.48:16).  Christ used a similar example in order to denote the post mortem outcome of the impious, in His parable of the rich man and the poor Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31).

From all the aforementioned we conclude that the Old Testament does not accept the views of the materialists of that era, who, as we are informed by the Book of Ecclesiastes (3:19-21), did not accept the immortality of the soul and proclaimed that there is no difference between man and beast: "And who knows the spirit of humans, whether it ascends upward, and the spirit of cattle, whether it descends downward to the earth?"(Eccl.3:21). The answer to this question by the materialists is given by Ecclesiastes: "and the dust returns to the earth as it was and the spirit returns to the God who gave it."  (Eccl.12:7). Besides these, in the New Testament there is the example of Moses and Elijah who - albeit having departed fro this life (Deut.34:5, 1 Kings 2:11) - appeared on the Mount of the Transfiguration and were seen by the three disciples, not in their sleep, but "fully awake", that is, alert (Luke 9:32). There is no doubt that the Holy Bible clearly teaches the conscious continuation of life after death, and not the annihilation of man, as taught by people of delusion. "Today you shall be with Me in Paradise", Christ had said to the grateful robber (Luke 23:43), indicating with this that the life of that repented sinner would continue on, in Paradise.

The Orthodox Church underlines Christ's triumphant descent into Hades, where "...He went and preached to the spirits in prison, who formerly were disobedient" (1 Pet.3:19-20). Those who were deceased before Christ, therefore, continued to have a personal existence, inasmuch as they were able to hear and to make a decision regarding in-Christ salvation. "I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob", God had said to Moses (Exod.3:6).  Christ had made reference to this passage, adding: "But even Moses showed in the burning bush passage that the dead are raised, when he called the Lord ‘the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ For He is not the God of the dead but of the living, for all live to Him" - that is, all of them are alive (Luke 20:37-38; Matth.22:32; Mark 12:26-27; cmp 1 Macc.7:19, 18:23). When the Lord says that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are alive, He does not imply that they will be resurrected in the future, but that they continued to live, even after their death. "And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die" (John 11:26; 5:24).  The continuation of personal life - even after death - becomes even clearer in John's Book of Revelation, which presents the souls of the martyrs beseeching God to put an end to tribulation and to the persecutions of their brethren on earth (Rev.6:9-10).  The Apostle Paul expresses the same conviction about  life after death: "For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell. For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. Nevertheless to remain in the flesh is more needful for you." (Philip.1:21-24; cmp.2 Cor.5:8).

The interpretation of this passage cannot be anything other than: the Apostle Paul believes that if he departed from this life, he would continue to exist personally, near Christ. However, for the sake of his brethren's love, he wanted to stay a little longer with them, in order to edify them in the faith. If Paul did not imply here that there was going to be a life near Christ immediately after his death, then this passage would have been incomprehensible. Also incomprehensible would have been his dilemma, regarding whether he wanted to leave or stay behind.

From all the aforementioned Scriptural references therefore - and many others (see for example Matth.10:28; Luke 12:4; Jam.5:20) - it is deduced that the Holy Bible teaches the immortality of the soul in a personal sense.


7. The personal existence of wicked people

There are people who are cacodox, who do not believe in the personal existence of wicked people after death, and maintain that they supposedly base their cacodoxy in the Holy Bible. However, the passages that they quote do not speak of the supposed "destruction" of the soul of wicked people; they actually refer to the death of the body, the destruction of all their plans (designs: Psalms 145:4) and the complete oblivion of their name from among the living (the name of the impious is extinguished: Prov.10:7)

We must not forget that the word "soul" has a double meaning in the Holy Bible (Matth.10:39, 16:25; Mark 8:35; Luke 9:24, 17:33; John 12:25). It does not only signify the spiritual hypostasis of man, but the present life also (see also Mark 10:45; John 3:16), just as the word "death" does not only signify the end of this present life, but also man's separation from God, through sin (Matth.8:22; Luke 15:24, 32; Rom.5:12).  So, the Holy Bible - as we can see - clearly teaches the post mortem existence of wicked people, who are tormented even before the second coming of the Lord (Psal.48:11-21; Ezek.32:30-31; Luke 16:19-31). " Fool and dolt will perish together and leave their wealth to strangers. And their graves are their homes forever, their coverts to generation and generation.  They named their lands their own. And a person held in honor did not understand. He resembled senseless beasts and became like them. This way of theirs is a pitfall to them, and afterwards with their mouth they will express contentment. Like sheep they were placed in Hades. Death shall be their shepherd, and the upright shall exercise dominion over them at dawn,  and help for them will grow old in Hades, away from their glory. On the other hand, God will ransom my soul from Hades’ hand, when he receives me. Do not be afraid when a person becomes rich and when the glory of his house increases, because, when he dies, he will take nothing, nor will his glory go down with him, because in his life his soul will be blessed; he will acknowledge you when you treat him well; he will enter the company of his fathers; he will never again see light. A person held in honor did not understand. They were comparable to beasts and became like them."

Are the wicked people perhaps going to be destroyed during the second coming?  The Lord's word is clear on this point also: "...‘Depart from Me, you cursed ones, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels" the Lord will say to the wicked ones (Matth.25:41).  What is that "everlasting fire"?  Is it complete destruction, as the cacodox people assert?  The answer to this question is given by the Holy Bible:  "And they will be tormented day and night forever and ever." (Revel.20:10; cmp.Matth.8:12; Mark 9:43).  This will therefore be the final, the eternal separation from God, Who is life; this the reason that it is characterized as "the second death" (Revel.21:8). Thus, that which is waiting for the wicked is not a "complete annihilation", but an eternal torment - an eternal separation from God. A second death.


8. The prayers for the deceased

The Church's belief in the personal existence after death, as well as the tender bond that connects us with our departed brethren, fully justifies the prayers and the memorial services performed for the deceased.

This is not an unfamiliar thing in the Holy Bible. The example of Judas the Maccabee is familiar, who had made a sin offering for the soldiers who had been killed. The Holy Bible underlines that it is based on the faith in the resurrection and in the personal existence after death, and characterizes it as a "holy and pious invention" - that is, a holy and pious thought:  "He also took up a collection, man by man, to the amount of two thousand drachmas of silver, and sent it to Hierosolyma to provide for a sin offering. In doing this he acted very well and honorably, taking account of the resurrection. For if he were not expecting that those who had fallen would rise again, it would have been superfluous and foolish to pray for the dead. But if he was looking to the splendid reward that is laid up for those who fall asleep in godliness, it was a holy and pious thought. Therefore he made atonement for the dead so that they might be delivered from their sins." (2 Macc.12:43-45).


9. The Second Coming of the Lord

"...'Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven'...” (Acts 1:11). This was the message that Christ's disciples had received, regarding the second coming of the Lord.  When is this coming going to take place?  Well, there are cacodox people who dare to define that point in time.  This problem was already being confronted in the Old Testament by Daniel, who had prophesied about End Times: "And I heard and did not understand, and I said, 'Lord, what will be the end of these things?'" Daniel asked. To which the Lord replied:  'Go, Daniel, for the words have been barred and sealed until the time at the end. (Daniel 12:8-9).

The disciples had posed the same question to Christ: " 'Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?'"  (Matth.24:3).  " And Jesus answered and said to them: Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many." (Matth.24:4-5, 23:26; Mark 13:5-6, 21-23. Cmp.Matth.7:15; Luke 21:8). "It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority"  (Acts 1:7). "But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father." (Mark 13:32). The Day of the Lord will come "as a thief in the night" - that is, at a moment that no-one suspects (2 Pet.3:10).

From the above passages it becomes obvious that the determination of the time of the Lord's Second Coming is not a matter for Christ's genuine followers - for true Christians. Christ clearly said "It is not for you to know" (Acts 1:7) In fact, whoever attempts it, and even dares to make it the subject of a sermon, is deluded and also leads into delusion those who give credence to his words. The Lord warns us that we must "take heed". 

No-one therefore knows the time of the Second Coming. What we do know however, is that that day will come, and that Christ's presence will be visible to everyone, and not invisible as the distorters of the Holy Bible's meaning assert. He "will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven'...” said the angels to the disciples (Acts 1:11). He will be seen by "all the tribes of the earth" (Matth.24:30): not only by the righteous but also by the wicked - even the ones who had crucified Him (Revel.1:7. Cmp. Zachar.12:10).  He will come "in His glory"; before Him "all the nations" will be gathered, and He will separate the innocent from the wicked: "And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life" (Matth.25:31-46. Cmp. also 8:11-12; 13:41-43; 47:50; 2 Thess.1:7-10; Daniel 12:2-3).

The resurrection therefore of the dead will be all-encompassing, the only difference being that the righteous will be raised unto life, whereas the wicked will be raised unto judgment. "Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth—those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation." (John 5:28-29; Matth.25:46. Cmp. Isaiah 26:19; Ezek.37:1-14; Daniel12:2-3).


10. Take heed, lest anyone deceive you

As we have seen, the Lord does not confine Himself to the reassurance that His Coming will take place at an unexpected moment to mankind. He also underlines that we must take heed, because persons will present themselves, who will try to lead us astray (Matth.24:4, 11; Mark 13:22).  These are persons who have in fact appeared in our time, maintaining that they are a "canal" or a "channel" of God's. and that "Jehovah God" "channels His light" to mankind, and "His truth" through that "canal".  These people do not simply support an invisible Coming of the Lord - which, as we mentioned, is entirely opposite to what the Holy Bible teaches - but they even go "from house to house" in order to preach the "good news" of an "established kingdom". "The Time of the Nations has come" they proclaim; "the second coming took place in the year 1914".  The preaching about the "kingdom" began after the first World War!  It is obvious that these people fall into the category that Matthew mentioned in ch.24:23-27: "...Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There!’ do not believe it. For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you beforehand. Therefore if they say to you ‘Look, He is in the desert!’ do not go out; or ‘Look, He is in the inner rooms!’ do not believe it."  The gospel therefore of these people is not the "good news" that the Apostles preached; instead, it is "another gospel", which leads to perdition (Gal.1:6-9)

The Kingdom that the Holy Bible speaks of began to be preached from the time of John (Luke 16:16), and not 1914. The Holy Bible further informs us that upon the completion of "the time of the nations", the return of the Israelite people will follow, then the Lord will come (Luke 21:24-27; Rom.11:25-33. Cmp.Luke 13:35; Matth.23:39; Zach.12:10). This coming has not yet taken place. Therefore the "established kingdom" is a delusion.

However, mention of false prophets is not made only in the New Testament; they are a danger that is pointed out in vivid colours by the Prophets of the Old Testament also. Just like the false prophets of today, the false prophets of the Old Testament era used to proclaim that they spoke in God's name. In reality however, just like the contemporary ones, they too speak according to the will of their heart, with the intent to deceive the people.  God warns these "prophets", that their punishment will be a terrible one, and their end ridiculed. That is why He commanded His people not to heed the voice of these wicked people: 

"And the Lord said to me: The prophets are prophesying lies in my name; I did not send them, and I did not command them and did not speak to them, because they are prophesying to you lying visions and divinations and omens and preferences of their own heart. Therefore this is what the Lord says concerning the prophets who prophesy lies in my name, and I did not send them, who say, “Dagger and famine shall not come on this land”: By a sickly death they shall die, and by famine the prophets shall come to an end. And the people, to them to whom they prophesy, they also shall be thrown out in the streets of Ierousalem, before the dagger and the famine, and there shall be no one to bury them—and their wives and their sons and their daughters. And I will pour out their evil upon them."  (Jerem.14:14-16).

" And a word of the Lord came to me, saying: Son of man, prophesy against the prophets of Israel, and you shall prophesy and say to them: “Hear a word of the Lord!” This is what the Lord says: Woe to those who prophesy from their heart and perhaps do not see at all. Your prophets are like foxes in the deserts, O Israel. They did not stand upon a solid body and gather flocks to the house of Israel. Those who say, “In the day of the Lord” did not stand up. Those who say, “The Lord says” are seers of falsehoods and diviners of vanities, and the Lord has not sent them, and they began to set up their own word."  (Ezek.13:1-6).

"This is what the Lord says against the prophets who lead my people astray, who bite with their teeth and announce peace to him, and nothing has been given into their mouth; they have raised up war against him. Therefore, it shall be night to you without vision and darkness to you without divination. The sun shall go down upon the prophets, and the day shall be dark over them; those who see dreams shall be disgraced, and the diviners shall be mocked; they shall all speak against them, for no one will listen to them."  (Mic.3:5-7. see also Zach.13:2-5).

" Thus says the Lord Almighty: Do not hear the words of the prophets, because they are rendering a vision empty. They speak from their own heart and not from the mouth of the Lord. They say to those who reject the word of the Lord, “There shall be peace for you,” and to all who walk by their own will, [to every one who walks by the error of his own heart,] they said, “No evil shall come upon you”— " (Jerem.23:16-17).

The same warning is given - as we mentioned - to the new people of God also: to us Christians: " “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves."  (Matth.7:15). "stay away from such people" (1 Tim.6:5). The Apostle refers to them as "false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works." (2 Cor.11:13-15).

But how can one discern the false teachings of cacodox people?

The Apostle replies to this question, stating that heretics distort Christ's Gospel; that is, they preach a new gospel, of their own. " But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed." (Gal.1:8-9. cmp.Deuter.13:1-6).

The truth of the Gospel was "delivered to the Saints, once and forever" (Jud.3; Matth.5:18-19), and therefore cannot change, "depending on current circumstances" - as people of delusion are wont to say - asserting that God Himself sends them a "more vivid light", and for that reason, they revise their erroneous views!  God's word however is absolutely clear on this point: "But if you say in your heart, “How will we know the word that the Lord has not spoken?” whatever the prophet might speak in the name of the Lord but the thing does not take place and does not happen, this is the word that the Lord has not spoken. That prophet has spoken it in impiety; you shall not follow him."  (Deuter.18:21-22).


11. The Upper Jerusalem

Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from Whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, [...] Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire. Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. [...] Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. [...] Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” And He said to me,“Write, for these words are true and faithful.” And He said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts. He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son. But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.” Then one of the seven angels [....]came to me and talked with me, saying, “Come, I will show you the bride, the Lamb’s wife.” And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, having the glory of God." (Revel.Ch.20, 21)

"But I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. The city had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God illuminated it. The Lamb is its light. And the nations of those who are saved shall walk in its light, and the kings of the earth bring their glory and honor into it. Its gates shall not be shut at all by day (there shall be no night there). And they shall bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it. But there shall by no means enter it anything that defiles, or causes an abomination or a lie, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life." (Revel.21:22-27).

"[...]And there shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him. They shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads. There shall be no night there: They need no lamp nor light of the sun, for the Lord God gives them light. And they shall reign forever and ever." (Revel.22:1-5; Cmp. Isaiah 60:1-22).


12. For the perishable must don imperishability

The resurrection that the Holy Bible describes is not only a resurrection of souls, but also of bodies. Our mortal body shall be garbed with imperishability and thus fulfill the prophetic word, that is, that death was devoured and conquered (Isaiah 25:8; Hos.13:14; Revel.20:14) : "So also is the resurrection of the dead. The body is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption. It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body. And so it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being.” The last Adam became a life-giving spirit. However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural, and afterward the spiritual. The first man was of the earth, made of dust; the second Man is the Lord from heaven. As was the man of dust, so also are those who are made of dust; and as is the heavenly Man, so also are those who are heavenly.And as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly Man. Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed—  in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” “O Death, where is your sting?O Hades, where is your victory?”  The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord. (1 Cor.15:42-58. Cmp. Rom.6:3-14).

The Prophet Ezekiel sees the realization of this resurrection of the bodies and the defeat of the realm of death: "The hand of the Lord" leads the Prophet to a plain

And the hand of the Lord came upon me, and the Lord brought me out in a spirit and set me in the midst of the plain, and this was full of human bones, and he brought me all around them in a circle, and behold, very many, very dry, upon the surface of the plain. And he said to me, “Son of man, shall these bones live?” And I said, “O Lord, you know these things.” And he said to me, Prophesy over these bones, and you shall say to them: O dry bones, hear a word of the Lord. This is what the Lord says to these bones: Behold, I am bringing into you a spirit of life, and I will give sinews on you and bring flesh upon you and draw out skin over you and give my breath into you, and you shall live, and you shall know that I am the Lord. And I prophesied as he commanded me. And it happened, when I prophesied, and behold, a shaking, and he brought forth the bones, each to its joint. And I looked, and behold, sinews and flesh were growing upon them, and skin was coming up upon them, on top, but no breath was in them. And he said to me, Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, This is what the Lord says: Come from the four winds, and blow into these corpses, and they shall live. And I prophesied just as he commanded me. And the breath came into them, and they lived and stood upon their feet, a very great gathering. And the Lord spoke to me, saying: Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel, and they say, “Our bones have become dry; our hope has perished; we are lost.” Therefore, prophesy, and say, This is what the Lord says: Behold, I am opening your tombs and will bring you up out of your tombs and bring you into the land of Israel, and you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves so that I might bring my people up out of their graves. And I will give my spirit into you, and you shall live, and I will place you upon your own land, and you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken, and I will act, says the Lord. " (Ezek.37:1-14).


13. The children of the Kingdom

In the Holy Bible there is no predetermined number of people who are to enter the Kingdom of heaven, as the distorters of the truth assert. The desire of the Lord is clear:  " Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, so that my house may be filled." (Luke 14:23).

When John's Book of Revelation mentions that the number of those who are sealed is twelve thousand from each one of the twelve tribes of Israel (in total 144.000 - see Revel.7:4-8), it is not possible to take this number literally. The reason for this is that in the word of God, no discrimination is made between Jews and Gentiles.  On the contrary, the Holy Bible underlines that "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus."(Gal.3:28). "But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God." (John 1:12-13).  No-one enters the Kingdom of heaven on the basis of their fleshly origin, but on the basis of their spiritual rebirth (=born of God). Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven." (Matth.7:21).

Consequently, the meaning of the verse of Revelation is a symbolic one; the number 12 (and even more so the number 12 x 12 x 1000 = 144.000) signifies fullness: that those who will be saved are an innumerable multitude, and that they will come from all the tribes and all the nations of the world.  This innumerable multitude are those who have done "good works", so that their name be included in the "book of life" (Revel.20:12-15; Dan.7:10). Those good works are not about announcing the "good news of an established Kingdom", as maintained by people under delusion; they are about "faith, working through love" (Gal.5:6; Jam.2:14-26) - the living faith, which should be expressed through works of love and philanthropy, not only towards brethren, but towards any person who is in need (Luke 10:25-27; Matth.25:34-40) - even if that person is our enemy (1 Kings 24:20; Job 31:29; Prov.24:17, 25:21; Rom.12:20-21; Matth.5:44-48, 23:23; Luke 6:27-36).  The number therefore of the members of God's Kingdom is not predetermined, nor is it limited. Each and every Christian bears that hope, and no-one has the right to deprive him of that hope. (Colos.2:18-19).

Indeed: Christ sent forth His disciples to all the nations, so that they might preach the Gospel to everyone, and to baptize all people -without exception- who would believe, and after they had been taught that they must uphold the Lord's commandments in their lives (Matth.28:19-20; cmp.1 Tim.2:4).

The Prophet Jeremiah says that God will gather once again the "remnant of the sheep" into one flock, and that this remnant will multiply: "And it is I who will receive those remaining of my people from every land, there where I have driven them, and I will restore them to their pasture, and they shall increase and multiply." (Jerem.23:3) Jeremiah's prophecy has been realized, with the event of the Incarnation and the Resurrection of the Lord and the gathering "in Christ" of the scattered children of God (John 11:52, 17:20-26).  "And other sheep I have" - said the Lord Himself - "which are not of this fold (that is, they are not Israelites, but Gentiles); them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd." (John 10:16; cmp.Ezek.34:23, 37,24)One flock, united in the presence of God's throne, and not two flocks - the one supposedly on earth and the other in heaven, as maintained by people under delusion - and that one flock will be comprised of an innumerable multitude - not of a specific number: Says John's Revelation: "After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb" (Revel.7:9) All of that great multitude that John saw was not on earth; it was in heaven, standing before the throne of God, and "before the Lamb". They are the children of the Kingdom of God.


14. About "Hell"

The Prophet Malachi speaks of the day of the Lord: "For behold, a day is coming, burning like an oven, and it will set them ablaze, and all the aliens and all those who do lawless things will be stubble, and the day that comes shall kindle them, says the Lord Almighty..." (Malach.4:1).  This punishment does not signify a total disappearance and destruction, but an eternal "hell" (Revel.14:10-11, 20:10; Matth.8:12; Mark 9:43).

OODE note: The ending of Malachi's passage 4:1 says ".... and there shall be left of them neither root nor branch". This does NOT imply a complete extermination, as some people imagine.  It says NOTHING about the main body (the trunk, the vine itself) being exterminated: only the roots and branches. The roots and branches are those extensions of the main body which - through transplanting - can sprout offshoots and produce new, similar plants. What the ending of the passage says, is that the unrepentant ones who will be placed in the fire will be "barren" (stubble): they will never again sprout any new works of iniquity, nor will they have emulators.  That the branches and roots are one thing and the body another (which by the way is NOT mentioned in this passage as being exterminated, therefore they remain in an eternal "fire", given that we are talking about the future state of incorruptibility) can be seen in the words of the Lord Himself:  " 'I am the true vine [...] Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.[...] If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned." (John 15:1,2,6).  Here, we can clearly see the contradistinction between the vine (trunk) and the branches of the vine. 

In the Coming Age, everyone will have "trunks" (incorruptible bodies) - thus, one could imagine a vast forest of "trees", where the "accursed" (damned) will be dried-out tree trunks, unable to suffer the presence of the Light of God's love because they will experience it eternally as a consuming fire and in parallel as a constant, painful reminder of their impenitence; as opposed to the saved ones, who will be in the same "forest", but as "trees" filled with life, with (spiritual) branches stretching forever longingly towards the (same, but life-giving) Light, which will give them eternal spiritual "growth". 

What does this "hell" consist of? The Holy Bible teaches that sin is the "sting of death" (1 Cor.15:56) and that "when it is full-grown, brings forth death" (James 1:15. cmp. Luke 15:24, 32) - meaning man's separation from life (that is, from Christ). (John 1:4, 11:25) Just as man distances himself from God when he sins in this lifetime, he likewise distances himself from God after death and is unable to look upon the face of God and feel pleasure. The Fathers of the Church say that a wicked person is unable to even look upon the face of his brother; that he lives the sensation of loneliness very intensely - which to him is an inexpressible "hell".  A characteristic example of this matter is an incident narrated in the "Gerontikon" (Book on Elders), from the life of Abba Makarios:

"Said Abba Makarios:  One time, when I was walking in the desert, I found the skull of a dead man which had been thrown on the ground. I moved it a little with my staff and the skull spoke to me. Then I asked it: 'Who are you?' The skull replied: 'I used to be a priest of idols and of Hellenes who used to live in this place. And you are Makarios, the Spirit-bearer. When you show mercy to those who are in hell and you pray for them too, they are comforted a little.' Then the Elder said: 'What is the difference between comfort and hell?'  And the skull replied: 'As far as the sky is from the earth, thus far is the fire that is below us who are inside that fire, from head to toe. And no-one is able to see the other face to face; it is as though one's back is stuck to another's back. Thus, when you pray for us, one is able to see the other's face for a little - that is the comfort.'  Then the elder wept, and said: 'Woe to the day that man was born.' Then he said to the skull: 'Is there any worse torture?' And the skull replied: 'A greater torture is below us.' The Elder asked: 'And who are there?'  The skull replied: 'We who had not become acquainted with God, are shown mercy, even if a little. But those who have known God and denied Him and did not do His will, they shall be below us.' (cmp. Matth.11:22-24, 2Pet.2:21). Then the Elder took the skull and buried it."

This simple narration of the "Gerondikon" reveals all the horror that the unjust and wicked people will experience; those who did not remain faithful to the love and the communion with God and their brethren, but had wronged and betrayed that love. Those people, who will not be living in communion with the Triune God, will not be able to look upon the others' faces. They will be deprived of that which they had rejected in their lifetime: the true communion with God and their brethren and the inexpressible joy that will be the fruit of that communion (see Revel.21:7-8, 22:4, 14,15).  The narration further expresses the power of the prayers of the Church and the holy persons for the deceased. Those prayers offer comfort, even to idolaters.


15. Oh, what an hour that will be!

Our Church reminds us of the terrible truth about the condemnation of the irreverent, especially during the Sunday prior to the beginning of Lent, when the commemoration of the Lord's Second Coming is performed during the Service:

"Oh, what a terrible hour and day then, when the judge will sit upon an awesome throne! Books will be opened, and acts will be checked, and the hidden things of darkness will be made public; angels will hasten around, gathering all the nations.  Come, hearken, kings and rulers, slaves and free, sinners and righteous, rich and indigent, for the Judge is coming Who will judge all the World. And who will be able to sustain the presence of His wrath, when angels are present, checking our acts, our thoughts, our remembrances, of the night and of the day?  Oh, what an hour it will be then! But, before the end reaches us, hasten o my soul, crying out: 'God, turn about, save me, as the only merciful One'! "

"My soul, my soul, rise up, why do you sleep? The end is approaching and you will be alarmed. Recover, therefore, so that Christ our God will spare you, Who is Omnipresent and All-fulfilling."  (Kontakion of Holy Thursday of the Major Canon)


16. Paradise

The simple narration from the life of Abba Makarios does not only reveal the "vast chasm" that separates the people of iniquity (cmp.Luke 16:26) -  that is, the horrific state of "hell"; it also suggests the grandeur of the glory of the children of God's Kingdom.  The damned will be not be able to even look upon the face of their brother. But the righteous, who will be basking in "the bosom of Abraham" (Luke 16:22-23), will forever be "with the Lord" (1 Thess.4:17) and will be looking upon His glorified countenance (Revel.22:4; 1 Cor.13:12; 1 John 3:2; cmp.Psal.16:15). The Apostle Paul says that He will come, " in that Day, to be glorified in His saints and to be admired among all those who believe" (2 Thess.1:10)

The Lord's relationship with His people will be so close, that the Church is presented as the bride - the "bride of the Lamb" (Revel.21:9. cmp. Matth.22:1-14; Luke 14:16-24). This is the "joy of our Lord", in which the righteous will be invited to enter (Matth.25:21. cmp. Rom.2:6-10; Psal.15:11). To stress this inexpressible joy and bliss, John's Revelation mentions that the righteous will bear on their forehead "the name of God" (Revel.22:4); that is, they will be partaking of the divine glory - "they will shine like the sun"  (Matth.13:43).

This is the manner in which the opus of man's salvation will be completed, as described by Christ to His disciples and especially in His prayer to the Father: "At that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you." (John 14:20). "Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him" (John 14:23).  "Holy Father, keep through Your name those whom You have given Me, so that they may be one, as We are." (John 17:11)

"“I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.  “Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father! The world has not known You, but I have known You; and these have known that You sent Me.And I have declared to them Your name, and will declare it, that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them."  (John 17:20-26)


17. Ãñçãïñåßôå!

"Trumpet with a trumpet in Sion; make proclamation on my holy mountain! And let all the inhabitants of the land be confounded, for the day of the Lord has come, because it is near!" the Prophet Joel cries out (Joel 2:1).

Christ Himself warns us: "be therefore watchful, for you do not know at what hour your Lord comes... For this, you too should be ready, for the hour upon which you do not expect, the Son of Man will come..."

"Who then is the faithful and prudent servant whom the Lord assigned as the ruler over the household, to give them food in due season? Blessed is that servant whom his master, when he comes, will find so doing. Assuredly, I say to you that he will make him ruler over all his goods. But if that evil servant says in his heart, ‘My master is delaying his coming,’ and begins to beat his fellow servants, and to eat and drink with the drunkards, the master of that servant will come on a day when he is not looking for him and at an hour that he is not aware of, and will cut him in two and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth." (Matth.24:45-51).

Christ's admonition of "be watchful!" is addressed to all Christians without exception, and not to a predetermined order, as certain people under delusion maintain. This is made obvious by other passages also, with the same content. For example, in the parable of the talents we see each servant receiving a certain number of talents for the purpose of working conscientiously and carefully, in order to increase them. Whoever proves himself worthy of the Lord's trust and increases the talent that was entrusted to him is praised by the Lord and is characterized as a "well-intentioned servant". But the one who shows negligence and laziness is reproached and characterized as a "wicked servant" (Matth.25:14-30. Cmp.Luke 19:11-27).  The Holy Bible furthermore mentions that each member of the Church receives its own particular charisma for the purpose of using it to edify their brethren and the entirety of the Church, and not for their own comfort and their personal interest. (1 Cor.12:4-31; 14:12)  Thus, both in Matthew 24:42-51, as well as in Luke 12:35-48, Christ does not refer to a specific category of faithful, but to all Christians. He invites each and every one to minister to brethren with their own talent, and not to use it for their personal pleasure. That is the way they will prove themselves to be the "faithful and wise servant" and become a partaker of the Kingdom of God (a custodian of all his belongings). If, on the contrary, he shows indifference, he will prove himself to be a wicked servant, whom the Lord will condemn to an eternal condemnation.. " For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been entrusted, of him they will ask much more."  (Luke 12:48).  No-one, therefore, is a "faithful and prudent servant" in advance.  Each Christian has to be watchful, in order to become a faithful and dedicated servant in the eyes of God - a genuine child of His Kingdom.

The Apostles and all the Saints of our Church had that watchfulness, throughout their entire lives and up until their last living breath.

The Apostle Paul refers to his personal struggle to make the Resurrection of Christ his own acquisition, by underlining: "Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus." (Philip.3:12-14).

Very moving is the example of Abba Agathon on this matter, as mentioned in the "Gerondikon", where it says: "He strived to observe all of the commandments; if he took a boat, he would be the first to take the oars. And when the brothers would approach, he would stop his praying immediately and set the table for them, for he was full of love. When he was about to die, he remained with eyes wide open for three days, without moving them at all. Then the brothers nudged him, and said to him: Abba Agathon, where are you? And he then replied to them: Until now, I spent all my strength keeping God's commandments. But I am human; how do I know if my work has appeared pleasing to God? Then the brothers replied: Don't you believe in your work - that it was in accordance with God's will?  And the Elder replied: I will not presume to be so bold, until I have faced God. Because God's criterion is different to the criterion of humans. At the moment that they wanted to ask him something more, he said to them: Exercise yourselves in love, do not talk with me any more, for I have work to do... And in that way, he departed with joy; because they saw him ascending, the way that one gets up to greet their friends and loved ones.  He had great watchfulness in everything, and would say that without vast mercy, man cannot achieve a single virtue."

Abba Agathon's example reminds us of that characteristic blessing from the sacred Mystery of the Unction, which repeats the following prophetic words: "If You come with judgment to Your servants, there will not be found anyone clean of filth, but every mouth shall close and have nothing to plead, because all of our righteous acts are, before God, like the unclean rag of a woman. For this reason, Lord, do not remember the sins of our youth."  (Cmp.Isaiah 64:6).

"we have sinned, done wrong, acted lawlessly and rebelled and turned aside from your commandments and from your ordinances" confesses the Prophet Daniel before God. (Dan.9:5; cmp.Prov.20:9)


18. Whosoever thinks he stands, should take care lest he fall

"Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall." (1 Cor.10:12). Man must be aware that only the mercy of God saves him. However, that awareness does not signify a passive condition. It is translated as alertness and struggle.  

The Prophet Ezekiel receives the command to proclaim that God fervently desires the return of the sinner; that each one who returns from his sinful life will live, and his previous sins will not be taken into account; and that on the contrary, if a pious person relies on his own righteousness and sins, he will be condemned, without his previous, virtuous life benefiting him in the least.

"Now you, son of man, say to the house of Israel, Thus you spoke, saying, “Our errors and lawless acts are with us, and in them we waste away. And how will we live?” Say to them, I live, says the Lord; I do not wish the death of the impious, rather that the impious turn back from his way and he live. Turn back from your way by turning back, and why are you dying, O house of Israel? Say to the sons of your people, The righteousness of the righteous shall not deliver him in whatever day he err, and the lawlessness of the impious shall not harm him on whatever day he turn back from his lawlessness, and the righteous shall not be able to be saved. When I say to the righteous, “He trusts in his righteousness,” and should he commit lawlessness, none of his righteous acts shall be recalled in his injustice that he has committed; in it he shall die. And when I say to the impious, “By death you shall be put to death, and you shall turn back from your sin,” and should he perform judgment and righteousness and restore a pledge and give back robbery, walk in the ordinances of life so as not to do what is wrong, by life he shall live, and he shall not die;" (Ezek.33:10-15).

The faithful therefore, no matter how progressed he is in spiritual living, is called to a continuing struggle. How opposite indeed is the behaviour of certain heretics, who proclaim that they are (already) saved!  They never understood the following words of the Holy Bible: "... work out your own salvation with fear and trembling" (Phil.2:12; see also 3:8-12).  So, we must attend to our salvation with toil and labour; it must be a permanent feature for us.  However, our support and our hope are not found in the virtues that we may have - even if we practice them throughout our entire life.  The only hope that remains is the mercy and the love of God, Who saves every returning (repented) sinner, without taking his past into account; just as He also condemns every one who veers away from spiritual living, basing himself on his past virtue - that is, relying on himself and not on the mercy and the love of God the Father.


19. Come, Lord Jesus!

The Lord will come, and we shall reign with Him - not in a material Kingdom of course, as people under delusion assert - but in a spiritual Kingdom (Matth.22:29-30; John 18:36; Rom.14:17; 1 Cor.6:13, 15:51-53, 2:9, e.a.)

And even if we do not know when the Lord will come, it is our duty to work towards accelerating His Coming. In other words, we are obliged to give witness for the Gospel "in all the world", preparing for the coming of Christ (Matth.24:14; Mark 13:10).

Each and every Christian is in a state of anticipation. The Church is the pure bride, who longingly awaits the arrival of Her Bridegroom, Who is the "One Who is, and the One Who was, and Who cometh" - the One Who exists, the One Who pre-existed, and the One Who is coming (Revel.1:8; cmp.Exod.3:14).

And this anticipation is based on a certain hope - on the very promise of the heavenly Bridegroom: "Yes, I come swiftly!"

"Amen, yes, come, Lord Jesus!" is the reply of the Church and of every faithful (Revel.22:20).


Previous // Contents // Next

Article published in English on: 1-7-2013.

Last update: 1-7-2013.