This is the last of the introductory teachings on the Eastern understanding of the Afterlife. More will come as time passes, but this has provided the basic knowledge on what we believe.
Much of our understanding of the passage from our death to the afterlife is derived from the teachings of the Early Christian Fathers who claim they were received in visions or from study of the teachings in the Old and New Testaments, such as that of Jacob’s Ladder from Genesis.
From the moment of our death we pass through a series of events that follow what has been presented to us from Sacred Scriptures. The passage through the events takes 40 days, 40 is a number representing the passage between one event and another. The Jews were 40 years in the desert, John and Jesus spent 40 days in the desert before their ministries began, Jesus was on earth 40 days from his resurrection to his ascension. Just so we spend 40 days between the date of our death and our personal judgement before Christ, below is an outline of those 40 days. Now, we understand that time (as we know it) is irrelevant in the spiritual abode, but we believe the time spent is an early equivalent. We are not in Purgatory for some unknown amount of time, in fact we do not believe the spirit suffers the anguish of some purgatory type event. To us the concept of purgatory is evidence of a vindictive God, not the just and loving God whom we worship. Here now is an outline of what the soul experiences during those 40 days.
The first two days (inclusive) from the person’s death are spent here on earth, the remaining 38 days are spent in the spiritual world. On those two days the spirit spends time, in the company of angels, visting the places and people they are inclined to visit before departing the earthly realm.
On the third day the spirit leaves creation for the final time. The spirit makes its first visit to the presence of God to pay him homage. To appear before the Lord of Creation the spirit must spend time in reflection on the sins it has committed. This is neither judgement nor punishment, simply reflection. The spirit is accompanied by angels on this trip, and stopped by demons at each point to taunt it with reminders of its transgressons. The Church Fathers, primarily St. Theodora, relate this to the Ladder of Divine Ascent and to Jacob’s Ladder as a metaphor for the stops along the ascent. The spirit is shown the twenty different sins that man may commit, even if the spirit was never exposed to a sin it is still given time to reflect upon it. The twenty sins are: speech, lying, slander, gluttony, sloth, theft, greed/miserliness, usury, deception, envy, pride, anger, holding grudges, murder, sorcery, lust, adultery, perversion, heresy, lack of mercy. After having passed through all “toll booths” and completing the reflection on the sins it is now ready for its first encounter with the Living God, ready to do so in full humility, recognizing its unworthyness to stand in His presence.
Days four through nine are spent being shown the six levels of heaven in which the spirit may dwell. The concept of several levels is told by Paul’s letter to the Corinthians and in the Book of Enoch. The spirit can be assigned to any of the six levels, the seventh is where the Trinity alone resides. Which level the spirit is assigned to depends on how it lived its life while on earth. At the end of the ninth day the spirit is led before God again to rejoice and give praise before its next journey.
Days ten through forty are spent in visiting hell in all its versions. The spirit is shown all the spirits who have been condemned to suffer somewhere in hell for their acts on earth. At the end of the journey, on the fortieth day, the spirit is again brought before the Creator of all where it receives its personal judgement and is then assigned its (temporary) place in the afterlife. This is temporary until the final judgement on the last day when our Lord and Savior decides its final assignment.
This completes the Eastern understanding of the Afterlife, in general terms. I will add more information in time, but for now this concludes the general introduction.