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Do We Go To Heaven When We Die?

Gebre Menfes Kidus

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Without getting into the Toll Houses controversy, I need some specific Orthodox teaching about whether or not Orthodox Christians go to heaven when they die. I am aware that there is little if any biblical support for the idea, and that the Orthodox view seems to promote the idea of soul sleep until the Resurrection of the body (if I'm not mistaken.) But my question is how to reconcile the concept of "soul sleep" with our belief in the intercessions of the saints. If we merely become unconscious at death, awaiting the Resurrection of our bodies, then how can the saints intercede for us? They have to be conscious and present in the company of God in order to hear our prayers and offer us theirs, do they not?

A few things I'm also wondering about in the context of this question:

1. St. Paul writes that "flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God. [I Cor. 15:50] Does this mean that our resurrected bodies won't be bodies of flesh and blood? But aren't flesh and blood the essential components of the human body? And does not our very worship center upon the literal Body and Blood of Christ? So I'm confused about what St. Paul means here.

2. St. Paul also writes: "We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord." [I Cor. 5:8] This seems to indicate that upon physical death our souls will be in the presence of God. But I realize that many people dispute this interpretation.

3. St. Paul writes: "For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven." [I Cor. 1-2] This sure seems like St. Paul is talking here about heaven and eternity, which we will begin to experience upon the death of our temporal bodies. But again, I am begging the question not making a statement.

Thanks for any clarification you can give me on this matter.

Selam
 
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I have always understood that our conscious souls  go to paradise or hades when awaiting the resurrection. The only sense of “sleep” is our buried body prior to its resurrection.
 

Luke

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I have heard the same as recent convert by some priests, that we get a taste of the good or bad after we die.  That lasts until the judgment.
 

WPM

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Traditionally, we either go to our grave as a place of rest or "go to Heaven" after we die.
 

LizaSymonenko

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I have been taught that we will have our own personal little judgement upon our deaths and will reside either in a good or bad state (depending on how we lived our lives) until the Final Judgement and Resurrection.

I do not believe it is a given... that "all" Orthodox go to Heaven.

As for the saints, they have already been judged and found pleasing to God.  Perhaps their state of being until the Resurrection is different than our own sinful ones.
 

WPM

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According to Jewish Myth and Legend We go to the Olam-Ha-Ba ~or~ Jewish Afterlife.
 

Tzimis

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Gebre Menfes Kidus said:
Without getting into the Toll Houses controversy, I need some specific Orthodox teaching about whether or not Orthodox Christians go to heaven when they die. I am aware that there is little if any biblical support for the idea, and that the Orthodox view seems to promote the idea of soul sleep until the Resurrection of the body (if I'm not mistaken.) But my question is how to reconcile the concept of "soul sleep" with our belief in the intercessions of the saints. If we merely become unconscious at death, awaiting the Resurrection of our bodies, then how can the saints intercede for us? They have to be conscious and present in the company of God in order to hear our prayers and offer us theirs, do they not?

A few things I'm also wondering about in the context of this question:

1. St. Paul writes that "flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God. [I Cor. 15:50] Does this mean that our resurrected bodies won't be bodies of flesh and blood? But aren't flesh and blood the essential components of the human body? And does not our very worship center upon the literal Body and Blood of Christ? So I'm confused about what St. Paul means here.

2. St. Paul also writes: "We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord." [I Cor. 5:8] This seems to indicate that upon physical death our souls will be in the presence of God. But I realize that many people dispute this interpretation.

3. St. Paul writes: "For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven." [I Cor. 1-2] This sure seems like St. Paul is talking here about heaven and eternity, which we will begin to experience upon the death of our temporal bodies. But again, I am begging the question not making a statement.

Thanks for any clarification you can give me on this matter.

Selam
It seems as if you are confusing the natural world with the spiritual.  In the spiritual world man isn't bound by space and time. Orthodoxy doesn't believe in soul sleep. We believe the soul experiences a heaven or hell due to its condition and not that its a place of some kind.
 

Story

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Hmm. To be honest, that this question would even be asked is a bit surprising to me, because while I'm a recent convert and no expert, I haven't seen or heard anything from the Church or what I've read to make me think the Orthodox believe your soul is basically unconscious upon death. Everything seems to indicate that we receive some sort of "reward" or "punishment" (I know the Orthodox tend to treat those terms non-literally, but you know what I mean - either a pleasant or unpleasant existence) right after death (receiving some sort of "mini-judgment" before the final judgment) that is a foretaste of the eternity that happens after the resurrection, even if it's not as "full".

The use of the words "rest" and "sleep" to refer to death doesn't seem to mean total unconsciousness. I mean, even literal sleep itself is far from being truly unconscious - just think of how exciting dreams can be - so even as an analogy, I would not assume that we're basically in a spiritual coma when we die. From my admittedly limited experience, the usage of these kinds of terms can both refer to the state of your body being equivalent to sleep, and to your existence in the afterlife hopefully being a pleasant, restful one (but not one where you're spiritually comatose).

However, if there is some sort of genuine Orthodox opinion supporting "soul sleep", I of course want to hear about it to expand my knowledge.
 

Gebre Menfes Kidus

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Story said:
Hmm. To be honest, that this question would even be asked is a bit surprising to me, because while I'm a recent convert and no expert, I haven't seen or heard anything from the Church or what I've read to make me think the Orthodox believe your soul is basically unconscious upon death. Everything seems to indicate that we receive some sort of "reward" or "punishment" (I know the Orthodox tend to treat those terms non-literally, but you know what I mean - either a pleasant or unpleasant existence) right after death (receiving some sort of "mini-judgment" before the final judgment) that is a foretaste of the eternity that happens after the resurrection, even if it's not as "full".

The use of the words "rest" and "sleep" to refer to death doesn't seem to mean total unconsciousness. I mean, even literal sleep itself is far from being truly unconscious - just think of how exciting dreams can be - so even as an analogy, I would not assume that we're basically in a spiritual coma when we die. From my admittedly limited experience, the usage of these kinds of terms can both refer to the state of your body being equivalent to sleep, and to your existence in the afterlife hopefully being a pleasant, restful one (but not one where you're spiritually comatose).

However, if there is some sort of genuine Orthodox opinion supporting "soul sleep", I of course want to hear about it to expand my knowledge.
Thank you. I agree completely.

Selam
 

Gebre Menfes Kidus

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Tzimis said:
Gebre Menfes Kidus said:
Without getting into the Toll Houses controversy, I need some specific Orthodox teaching about whether or not Orthodox Christians go to heaven when they die. I am aware that there is little if any biblical support for the idea, and that the Orthodox view seems to promote the idea of soul sleep until the Resurrection of the body (if I'm not mistaken.) But my question is how to reconcile the concept of "soul sleep" with our belief in the intercessions of the saints. If we merely become unconscious at death, awaiting the Resurrection of our bodies, then how can the saints intercede for us? They have to be conscious and present in the company of God in order to hear our prayers and offer us theirs, do they not?

A few things I'm also wondering about in the context of this question:

1. St. Paul writes that "flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God. [I Cor. 15:50] Does this mean that our resurrected bodies won't be bodies of flesh and blood? But aren't flesh and blood the essential components of the human body? And does not our very worship center upon the literal Body and Blood of Christ? So I'm confused about what St. Paul means here.

2. St. Paul also writes: "We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord." [I Cor. 5:8] This seems to indicate that upon physical death our souls will be in the presence of God. But I realize that many people dispute this interpretation.

3. St. Paul writes: "For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven." [I Cor. 1-2] This sure seems like St. Paul is talking here about heaven and eternity, which we will begin to experience upon the death of our temporal bodies. But again, I am begging the question not making a statement.

Thanks for any clarification you can give me on this matter.

Selam
It seems as if you are confusing the natural world with the spiritual.  In the spiritual world man isn't bound by space and time. Orthodoxy doesn't believe in soul sleep. We believe the soul experiences a heaven or hell due to its condition and not that its a place of some kind.
Good point. It's always problematic when we attempt to apply this temporal world's concepts of space and time to eternity.

Selam
 

MalpanaGiwargis

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The Syriac Fathers (Aphrahat, Ephrem, Jacob of Serug among the miaphysites, Narsai among the Church of the East) believed in some form of "soul sleep"; there are numerous references to such in their writings. Cf. F. Gavin, "The Sleep of the Soul in the Early Syriac Church," Journal of the American Oriental Society 40 (1920), 103-120. Certain hints of this tradition find their way into East Syriac liturgical hymnody much later, as in some of the 13th-century hymns of Giwargis Warda, which address the saints with "Awake!"

The Byzantine position seems to have developed against the idea of soul sleep, motivated in large part by the robust cult of saints in Orthodoxy. Cf. Nicholas Constas, "'To Sleep, Perchance to Dream': The Middle State of Souls in Patristic and Byzantine Literature," Dumbarton Oaks Papers 55 (2001): 91-124.
 

Gebre Menfes Kidus

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MalpanaGiwargis said:
The Syriac Fathers (Aphrahat, Ephrem, Jacob of Serug among the miaphysites, Narsai among the Church of the East) believed in some form of "soul sleep"; there are numerous references to such in their writings. Cf. F. Gavin, "The Sleep of the Soul in the Early Syriac Church," Journal of the American Oriental Society 40 (1920), 103-120. Certain hints of this tradition find their way into East Syriac liturgical hymnody much later, as in some of the 13th-century hymns of Giwargis Warda, which address the saints with "Awake!"

The Byzantine position seems to have developed against the idea of soul sleep, motivated in large part by the robust cult of saints in Orthodoxy. Cf. Nicholas Constas, "'To Sleep, Perchance to Dream': The Middle State of Souls in Patristic and Byzantine Literature," Dumbarton Oaks Papers 55 (2001): 91-124.
I don't have a problem with "soul sleep," as long as by that we don't mean the total loss or absence of consciousness.

Selam
 

MalpanaGiwargis

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Gebre Menfes Kidus said:
MalpanaGiwargis said:
The Syriac Fathers (Aphrahat, Ephrem, Jacob of Serug among the miaphysites, Narsai among the Church of the East) believed in some form of "soul sleep"; there are numerous references to such in their writings. Cf. F. Gavin, "The Sleep of the Soul in the Early Syriac Church," Journal of the American Oriental Society 40 (1920), 103-120. Certain hints of this tradition find their way into East Syriac liturgical hymnody much later, as in some of the 13th-century hymns of Giwargis Warda, which address the saints with "Awake!"

The Byzantine position seems to have developed against the idea of soul sleep, motivated in large part by the robust cult of saints in Orthodoxy. Cf. Nicholas Constas, "'To Sleep, Perchance to Dream': The Middle State of Souls in Patristic and Byzantine Literature," Dumbarton Oaks Papers 55 (2001): 91-124.
I don't have a problem with "soul sleep," as long as by that we don't mean the total loss or absence of consciousness.

Selam
I don't recall the particulars offhand, as I don't have those articles with me, but I recall that Ephrem and Jacob seem to envision some sort of semi-conscious state, not a total obliviousness. Since they both did their most important work in poetry and both have a robust sense of "sacramental time" outside of our experience, it's probably treacherous to put too fine a point on any particular statement of theirs divorced from its context.
 

Story

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Ah, OK...so if "soul sleep" doesn't mean that you're completely unconscious, it doesn't seem all that much different from what I've generally believed and heard. It's just more specific, I guess you could say. Seems like a subject for more research. Thanks for the high-quality info, MalpanaGiwargis.
 

LizaSymonenko

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Also keep in mind that the souls of the "dead" were awake in Hades when St. John the Baptist joined them and let them know the Messiah was on His way.

 

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Where or what ever occurs after death, be confident you deserve & worked for it.
 
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I am not a theologian so take what I am saying with a grain of salt, and if it in any way contradicts holy Orthodoxy then I recant but my understanding has always been that when we die our spirit is individually judged and then goes to Hades/Sheol, the righteous are in a happy state known as the Bosom of Abraham or Paradise and the wicked are in a bad state like that of Tartarus, but we don't go to heaven or hell proper. Western Christianity has put too much emphasis on the Intermediate state though and has lost sight of the true afterlife, the one which we as Orthodox really look to. That is the universal resurrection of the dead at the end of this age. All will be judged, including the demons. The righteous will be given eternal life and heaven will descend on earth as the new Jerusalem. Satan and his angels, along with wicked men, will be cast into Gehenna, which is the eternal lake of fire, which is hell.
 
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