This teaching also helps them to reject the saints. They argue that since the departed souls are either “sleeping” or “dead”, we cannot Intercede to them.
St. Paul's admonition in the Bible to intercede to each other, applies only to the “living”(on earth), they say.
Concept of Soul Sleep contradicts Bible.
Protestants believe that the soul is dormant and inactive till the final Judgement Day.
Ponder over these questions:
- Where did the Good Thief’s soul go after death? (“Today you will be with me in Paradise”–Luke 23:43). Jesus promised him “paradise” right after death.
- Where are the souls of Elijah and Moses kept alive, so that they could talk to Jesus on the Day of Transfiguration? (Mark 9:1-8)
- Where is Enoch now, bible says he was taken upto heaven alive. Is he exempt from Judgement Day? "Then Enoch walked with God, and he was no longer here, for God took him".–Genesis 5:2
- Where is Elijah now, the bible says he too was taken up to heaven alive like Enoch. Is he exempt from judgement day? “….behold, there appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, and parted them both asunder; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven”.–2 Kings 2:11
- How could Prophet Jeremiah give blessings to the Jewish army, centuries after his earthly death? "Onias then said of him, "This is God's prophet Jeremiah, who loves his brethren and fervently prays for his people and their holy city."–2 Maccabees 15:14
They believe that everyone is in “Soul Sleep” till Judgement Day. This is a wrong concept biblically because of the points/questions raised above.
The Orthodox Church teaches that there are two judgments:
- The first, or “Particular” Judgment, is that experienced by each individual at the time of his or her death, at which time God will decide where the soul is to spend the time until the Second Coming of Christ. This judgment is believed to occur on the Fortieth day after death.
- The second, General or “Final” Judgment will occur after the Second Coming.
The first or Particular Judgement decides where and how the soul will reside till the Judgement Day.
The greatest example of Particular Judgement is that of the Good Thief, who was promised paradise right after death by Jesus Christ.
There are examples in Old Testament too, like that of Enoch and Elijah who were taken upto heaven alive.
If even the Good Thief, who accepted Christ on his dying state, was given an active and alive soul, which resides in Paradise, how much more will Jesus Christ honour his own Mother, His Apostles, the Martyrs and the Saints?
They too will be alive in Paradise. Mother Mary, the Apostles, Saints, Martyrs and the pious Christians.
Revelation 4:4–"And round about the throne were four and twenty thrones: and upon the thrones I saw four and twenty elders sitting, clothed in white raiment; and they had on their heads crowns of gold".
These 24 elders sitting on the thrones in heaven are the 12 patriarchs of Old Testament and the 12 Apostles of the New.
In most cases, the Particular Judgement is supposed to occur on Day 40.
We, Orthodox, consider the first 40 days after the material death of a person as very important.
We pray for them/conduct eucharist on these points during the 40 days:
The 3rd day (because Jesus ressurected on 3rd day).
The 9th day (because there are 9 classes of angels, and it is the angel that delivers the soul safely to its location and protects it from the devils legions)
The 40th day is very symbolic and important in Christian and Jewish theology. Major Changes and Transformations took place after 40 days:
- 1)The Great Flood’s rains lasted for 40 days: Gen 7:12–“And the rain was upon the earth forty days and forty nights”.
- The embalming of Jacob in egyptian fashion. Even though the Egyptians were pagans, they too understood the importance of day 40 in the transitions during after life: Gen 50:3–“And forty days were fulfilled for him; for so are fulfilled the days of those which are embalmed”.
- Moses was on the mountain with God for 40 days (TWICE) Exo 24:18–"And Moses went into the midst of the cloud, and gat him up into the mount: and Moses was in the mount forty days and forty nights".
- It took the spies 40 days to search out the promised land and bring back fruit. Num 13:25–"And they returned from searching of the land after forty days".
- The Israelites spent 40 years in the wilderness, one year for each day they explored the Promised Land. Exo 16:35–"And the children of Israel did eat manna forty years, until they came to a land inhabited; they did eat manna, until they came unto the borders of the land of Canaan."
- Goliath came for forty days before being killed by David. 1 Sam/Kdm 17:16–"For forty days, twice a day, morning and evening, the Philistine giant strutted in front of the Israelite army".
- Noah waited 40 days after it rained before he opened a window in the Ark. Gen 8:6–“And it came to pass at the end of forty days, that Noah opened the window of the ark which he had made”
- Elijah strengthened by one angelic meal went forty days to Mount Horeb where the Lord passed by and he heard the voice of God. 1 Kin 19:8–“And he arose, and did eat and drink, and went in the strength of that meat forty days and forty nights unto Horeb the mount of God”.
- Jonah warned the City of Nineveh they had 40 days until God would overthrow the city. The people repented in those 40 days and God spared the city. Jonah 3:4 & 10–“And Jonah began to enter into the city a day’s journey, and he cried, and said, Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown”.
- JESUS fasted for 40 days in the wilderness. Mat 4:1-2–"Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungered".
- JESUS was seen in the earth 40 days after His crucifixion. Acts 1:3–"After his suffering, he showed himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God".
- The ancient Egyptians took 40 days to embalm their dead.
- The Hindus pray for their dead on day 41.
- The Tibetan Buddhists Book of the dead speaks of a journey of 49 days after death before reaching the final destination.
- The Jews mourned their dead for 40 days.
- The early Christians pray for their departed ones fervently in the first 40 days and they too understood the importance.
St. Symeon of Thessalonika writes: “The forty days of prayer are done in memory of the Ascension of the Lord, forty days after His Resurrection, [in hopes] that likewise, the deceased, rising from the tomb and ascending to meet the Lord, might taken be taken up in the clouds, and thus ever be with the Lord.” Novaya Skryzhal’, Part 4, Chapter 472.
In Christ, we dont die.
The Church (to which St. Mary, St. Peter etc belongs) is the BODY of CHRIST.
There is no separation. So just as Christ is alive, we to live.
Christ and Church are compared to:
Vine and branches
- Joh 15:1,5 Foundation and building
- 1Col 3:10,11; Eph 2:20,21; 1Pet 2:4-6 Body and members
- 1Col 12:12,27; Eph 5:30 Husband and wife
- Eph 5:25-32
Christ being in us- Eph 3:17; Col 1:27
Our being in Christ- 2Co 12:2; 1Jo 5:20
John 10:34–“Jesus answered them, Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods?”
“Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God.”–1 John 4:13
So if you say that the Saints, who achieved a high degree of theosis to be grafted onto his body, are dead, then you are saying that Jesus Christ is dead too.
So we can say that some of the Christians (mostly the saints) are in paradise right after death due to particular judgement (as in the case of the Good Thief, Elijah, etc.)
Some maybe in a state of sleep.
Who gets what is upto God alone. We only have the scripture and tradition to give us answers which science cannot provide.
However we Orthodox Christians believe certain Christlike individuals like St. Mary, the Apostles, Saints etc are ones who passed particular judgement like the Good Thief, and like Enoch and Elijah.
We can say conclusively that it is not for nothing that Jesus Christ said thus:
″I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God come with power.”–Mark 9:1