One of the most commonly asked questions in the Orthodox faith is whether or not orthodox saints go to heaven. Whether or not saints go to heaven is a question of belief and interpretation, but this article explores the concept of heaven and St. Paul’s teaching on the matter. In addition, it discusses the Communion of Saints and Eastern Orthodox cosmology.
Orthodox saints in purgatory
While some Protestant churches recognize purgatory, the Eastern Orthodox Church does not. Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI both emphasized that purgatory is not a physical place, but a state where the soul is purified before entering heaven. These changes have made Catholic teaching less objectionable to the Orthodox.
While the Roman Catholic Church believes that the souls of the dead must endure purgatory, the Orthodox Church teaches that the souls of the dead receive salvation only when they accept Jesus’s death. The prayers of living brothers in Christ, works of charity, and the Offering of Bloodless Sacrifice benefit the souls of the dead.
The idea of purgatory has ancient roots. It is attested in early Christian literature. Medieval Christian piety was instrumental in the conception of purgatory as a physical place. The belief in purgatory affected the Western world’s culture, informing penitential practices, fostering social philanthropy, and providing subject matter for visionary literature.
St. Paul’s teaching
Until the Protestant Reformation, there was no clear doctrine regarding the resurrection of the dead. However, the Protestants added this teaching to the Bible, using a passage from 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. When read in its proper context, this passage supports the teaching of the resurrection.
For Orthodox Christians, the goal is to imitate God and lead a life of sanctification. According to St. Maximos the Confessor, Saints reach theosis by living a sin-free life. By avoiding sin and living according to the nature of God, Saints have attained total unity with God through the Holy Spirit. Their good works include having a love for others, fighting for the faith, and applying scriptural virtues.
In 51 AD, St. Paul visited the churches of Asia Minor. While there, he converted the proconsul Sergius Paulus. He also established Christian communities in other cities of Asia Minor, including Athens and Corinth. He later went to Macedonia, where he met with the church leaders of Athens.
Eastern Orthodox cosmology
According to Eastern Orthodox cosmology, heaven has different levels. Paradise is the lowest level. It touched earth at the time of creation, but was separated from it after the fall of man. After Jesus’ Crucifixion, paradise became accessible to mankind, and a penitent thief was the first person to enter paradise.
The liturgy is the manifestation of sacred cosmology. According to Orthodox theology, the human person is a microcosmos, united with the macrocosmos. This cosmology is a living metaphor for the whole creation, from man to woman to the cosmos.
Communion of saints
Communion of saints is a part of Catholic worship. However, the practice has its detractors. Some Protestant writers, such as Justin Martyr, have tried to undermine it. Nevertheless, Catholic dogma does not detract from the role of Christ as mediator. Instead, the ministerial mediation of the saints strengthens Christ’s magisterial role.
Saints are a part of the Church on earth, sharing in the same faith and sacraments. In return, they receive gratia capitis from Christ. The communion of saints consists of a variety of inter-relations, including participation in the same faith and sacrament, mutual exchange of prayers and merits, and the use of suffrages, intercession, and veneration.
The ultimate goal of saints is to imitate God and live a life of deification. Theosis is the state of complete union with God. According to St. Maximos the Confessor, saints achieved theosis by avoiding unnatural development of their souls. By living a natural life, they were able to experience the presence of the Holy Spirit and attain total unity with God.
Protestants’ belief that everybody goes to heaven after death
Whether or not Protestants believe in an afterlife is up for debate. Some Protestants believe that after death the soul remains with God, while others think that afterlife is a purely physical reality. The Protestant view of the afterlife has its roots in the Christian Bible, particularly in the passages of 2 Corinthians and 2 Peter.
The Protestant view of purgatory is based on the idea that there is no intermediate state between hell and heaven. In this view, purgatory is a temporary region of the afterlife in which imperfect human beings undergo purification before they can enter heaven.