By His Eminence Metropolitan Panteleimon of Antinoes
THE PARABLE OF THE RICH MAN AND THE POOR LAZARUS
The Parable of the Holy Gospel does not refer to the Second Coming of Christ, neither to His Last Judgement, but to the period of time between man’s death and the Second Glorious Coming of Christ our Lord and God. This period is called: The Middle Condition of the souls.
What is death?
Death, according to Holy Scriptures, is the separation of the human’s soul from his body. Death was not created by God right from the beginning, but came as the result of man’s Fall, disobedience and unrepentance (Gen. 3:9-13). “And unto Adam He said, because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; in the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it was thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return”(Gen. 3:17-19).
Death has three forms:
a) Physical Death, occurs when the body stops functioning biologically. The soul is separated from the body (Gen. 3:19) “And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom; the rich man also died, and was buried” (Luk 16:22).
b) Spiritual Death, occurs when man is in life, but has not believed in Jesus Christ or leads a sinful life. When man refuses to repent and to accept the Grace and Love of Christ our God, which is granted through the Holy Sacrament of the Church, spiritually then he is spiritually dead. Through the Holy Sacraments of Confession and Repentance, and that of Holy Communion man overcomes spiritual death. Spiritual Death is the removal of God’s Grace from man. “But Jesus said unto him, Follow me; and let the dead bury their dead” (Matt 8:22).
c) Eternal Death, occurs when man dies unrepentant, refusing even at his last moments to ask for God’s forgiveness. “And whosoever shall speak a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but unto him that blasphemeth against the Holy Ghost it shall not be forgiven” (Luke 12:10).
Before Physical death and during Spiritual Death man can turn to God to receive forgiveness of all his sins. Eternal Death is unchangeable. “And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed; so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence.(Luke 16:26).
Once man dies and has not turned to God through His Holy Church, there is no chance for salvation. The Apostle Paul teaches us saying: “and as it is appointed unto men to die after this the judgement” (Heb. 9:27). All men will pass this stage and there is no one who can avoid it, because death is the most certain event in man’s life.
The important question is: In which condition shall death find us? At that last and most important moment of our life, will we have repented? Will we have had Confession? Will we have forgiven all those who had done harm against us? Will we have turned to God, or remained unrepentant?
The last critical moment of one’s life, when death occurs, is the condition in which God shall judge you. In other words, if God finds you during you death in repentance, He shall judge you with mercy. If God, on the other hand, finds your heart and soul full of sins and unrepentant, then He will judge you according to you deeds (Matt. 25:31-46). Christ teaches us saying that we should make peace with our judge (conscience) as long as we are together. God’s Mercy reigns as long as man is in life; after death God’s Justice shall reign for ever. “and these shall go away into everlasting punishment; but the righteous into life eternal” (Matt. 25:46).
According to Holy Scriptures during death the souls of the righteous are taken up to Heaven by the Angels of God (Luke: 16:22), where as the souls of those who have done evil are taken by the demons (Luke: 12:20). It is natural therefore to state, that the souls of all those who believed in Christ, lived according to His Commandments, joined their whole existence with His Life and received the Seal of the Gift of the Holy Spirit (that is the Sacrament of Holy Chrismation), cannot be under the authority of the demons. On the contrary, all those who have not believed in Christ, all those who renounced Him, all those who left the Church and joined heresies are under the dark authority of Satan.
When the soul separates from the body, the demons attack viciously. The sinful passions, which overrule the soul, seek satisfaction, but because of the separation from the body they cannot be satisfied. This creates a terrible displeasure to the soul and man’s soul becomes more infuriated and suffocates.
Therefore, my beloved friends let us seek God’s mercy and forgiveness before that terrible day, in order that we may not be found unworthy of our calling.