Theological Insights from a Modern Perspective

Posts tagged ‘Afterlife’

Afterlife – Our Link

Some Native American religions believe that as long as someone remembers you that your spirit will live on in the afterlife, and that (using ceremonies) contact with them is possible. It’s comforting for those, like Geronimo, whose names are written down in history and will be forever remembered, but for the average person? Even so, I find comfort in their concept of the afterlife where communication isn’t just possible, but also fairly easy.

stthomasxcJesus confirmed with his apostles that the spirit world exists, and that they continue their involvement with this world. Luke 24:36-39 “As they were saying this, Jesus himself stood among them. But they were startled and frightened, and supposed that they saw a spirit. And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do questionings rise in your hearts? See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself; handle me, and see; for a spirit has not flesh and bones as you see that I have.” It is because of this that we know those who have passed on can, on occasion, interact with those of us in the physical world. But the method isn’t so easy as the Native American way, and (so far as Scripture teaches) must be initiated from the other side, we cannot simple call upon them.

Scripture, especially in the Old Testament, acknowledges the ability to conjure spirits from beyond (necromancy) but explicitly forbids its practice. In the New Testament the ban is not explicitly stated, an understanding of 1st C. language is needed:

Galatians 5:19-20 (RSV) “Now the works of the flesh are plain: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery…”

Revelation 21:8 (RSV) “But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the polluted, as for murderers, fornicators, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their lot shall be in the lake that burns with fire and sulphur, which is the second death.”

Sorcery covered a wide array of acts that were believed to originate in the spiritual world, such as: fortune telling, acts of magic, and the conjuring of spirits.

There are many attestations by noted people in church history (from St. Thomas’ exploits in India to the present day) that spirits can reach out to us, but it is always the spirit that initiates contact. From these contacts it is clear that they do hear us when we pray to them (pray used as “talking to” not to be confused with worshiping prayer) or for them, and that the remembrance is felt.

I remember, when I was a child, my grandmother appearing at the foot of my bed one night – something that startled me enough that I could not get back to sleep. I learned the next morning, from my mother, that she had passed during the night. This is something I have never shared before, something that is as real to me today as it was then. I can still picture her standing there and the words she always said to me still ringing in my ears. I have never experienced anything like that since, and I doubt that I ever will again.

The appearance of spirits is not to be confused with the apparitions known as ghosts. The spirits spoken of in church history appear for a reason and, when the task is completed, return to the heavens. Ghosts, on the other hand are always thought of as haunting a particular place, and stay on indefinately. The church has no proven examples of these types of spirits, and takes no position on their existance (neither does it prohibit belief).

Afterlife – The Passage

ladder

Jacob’s Ladder

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.

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Afterlife – Life on Earth

holyfamilyBirth, in the Eastern Church, is a Trinitarian event. Man provides the sperm, woman the egg, and God the Immortal Soul. From the time of conception all three are present in the woman’s womb. For this reason abortion is not permitted in the Eastern Church for it is not just a life that is being rejected, but the gift of the Immortal Soul from God.

If a life ends before Baptism can be performed the soul still goes through the process as Christians, they will just have a harder time of it without the benefit of Baptism and Confession. All must repent of unconfessed sins at their personal judgement. More on that later.

We are all sinners, it’s in our nature and nothing can be done to change it. God realized this and provided for us a way to reach Him regardless of what we have done…repentance. We show our repentance though Baptism and confession of our sins, either here or in the afterlife. Jesus’ purpose on earth was not to create Christianity, it was to teach us how to live, how to love God, and how to love and treat each other. It is by going against these teachings that we sin; it is by realizing that we have sinned, that we regret it wholeheartedly, and that we ask God to forgive us, that our sins are erradicated, now and forever.

At some point in time we will die, die to this world. Our lungs will cease to breath, our heart will cease to pump, our cells will cease their reproductive processes, eventually to decay into their base components, returning to the matter from which our parents created us…all but our eternal soul. Our soul cannot perish in this world for it is not of this world. It contains no matter, no atoms, no mesons, no quarks. It was created by God and implanted into our mortal bodies. It cannot die because it is the energy of life itself, not belonging to this universe, or to any universe. It was created outside of space and time, and it is to there that it must return.

It is that process of returning whence it originated that we will cover in the next installment.

 

As always, please feel free to ask questions.

Afterlife – Adam and Eve

expulsion_from_edenEverything mankind has to deal with started with, and because of, Adam and Eve. According to Genesis (1:26) man was made “in our image (εἰκών), after our likeness (ὁμοίωσις)”. Image and likeness are the two words used to describe the original condition of man at the time of their creation.

Image refers to a physical resemblence, real or imagined, an example of the latter are the graven images the Hebrews made in the desert when Moses was on the holy mountain. Here it is being said that Adam and Eve were made to resemble their image.
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