How Soon After Death Do You Go to Heaven? The Truth!

By Charalampos •  Updated: 01/14/23 •  6 min read

Many believers wonder how soon after death they will be in heaven and what will happen during that time. It’s worth admitting that there isn’t a single expert on this topic on Earth because to know this truth, a person must first die.

However, we have the revelations of the Holy Fathers of the church, church traditions, and the fragmentary testimonies of eyewitnesses who were able to come into contact with the world after death, and it’s these things that we will consider in this article.

The Moment of Death

The Bible says: “Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment” (Hebrews 9:27), this makes us understand that all people who have experienced clinical death haven’t passed all the stages before the judgment. However, their testimonies can show us what a person experiences after death.

At the first moment after death, a person sees his body, his vision expands and becomes boundless, he can also see and hear what is happening in other places at the same time. Often people see angels who support them, as well as a bright light.

The priests explain this light only as the shining emanating from Christ. This light, which according to the descriptions is brighter than the sun, shows immense love.

What Happens Next?

The fate of the soul after death has no bureaucratic character, everything is purely individual. Some particularly pious people can immediately go to heaven, while others will have to wander on Earth for some time. Sometimes, immediately after death, the soul experiences an ordeal.

The trials that a soul undergoes immediately after separation from its body are of a spiritual and moral nature. All good and bad actions remain.

Therefore, for the soul from the very beginning of the afterlife (even before the Judgment), joys or sufferings begin depending on how it lived on Earth.

An Overview of The 40 Days

The First Two DaysThe first two days depend on the state of the soul at the time of death.
The Third DayAngels ease the sorrow of the soul about parting with the body
The Ninth DayThe soul ascends to God again with the help of angels.
The Fortieth DayThe final judgment of God

The First Three Days

Saint John Cassian writes: “The souls of the dead not only do not lose their feelings, but they do not lose their dispositions, i.e. hope and fear, joy and sorrow. They become even more alive and stick more zealously to the glorification of God”. Thus we know that the soul remembers its earthly life and continues to experience the same feelings.

The first two days depend on the state of the soul at the time of death. We also have the revelation given by the angel to Saint Macarius of Alexandria saying that if a person was strongly attached to his body and the world, then he would be in his native places or next to the body.

If a person was spiritual, then his soul can attend churches in which he communicated with God.

On the third day after death, angels ease the sorrow of the soul about parting with the body:

“On the third day, He Who Himself rose from the dead on the third day, commands the Christian soul, in imitation of His Resurrection, to ascend to the Heavens to worship the God of all.”

That is, on the third day God for the first time calls the soul, which is why in the church tradition it’s customary to pray for the soul and make a funeral service on this day.

After the first meeting with God, the soul is shown the beauty of paradise and the saints who are there. The soul wonders at the majesty of paradise for six earthly days.

“Contemplating all of this, it is transformed and forgets the sorrow it felt in the body. But if it is guilty of sins, at the sight of the delights of the saints it begins to grieve and reproach itself.”

After visiting paradise the soul realizes the full gravity of its sins or, on the contrary, acquires joy if a person repents of his sins.

Ordeal

The essence of the ordeal is that after death, people will suffer for their bad deeds in some form, depending on their sins.

The most famous story about the posthumous ordeal is “The life of Saint Basil the Younger”, describing the ordeal of Blessed Theodora, which occurred in the first 3 days.

The Saint Macarius of Egypt, having asked God about the ordeal, heard from an angel: “Take earthly things here for the weakest image of heavenly ones.” Orthodoxy is cautious about the topic of ordeals because we can’t know the whole truth but it believes that the images contained in the narratives of ordeals should be understood in a spiritual and moral sense.

God can show a person the essence of a phenomenon in general terms, often not in the literal one, which is why we are given an idea of the ordeal, the suffering of the soul.

Hieromonk Seraphim Rose considered the ordeal to be a real phenomenon but also pointed out that several things in the story of the ordeal were given metaphorically:

“This is a metaphor that the Eastern Fathers considered appropriate to describe the reality that the soul faces after death. These stories themselves aren’t allegories and fables, but true stories about personal experience, presented in the language most convenient for the narrator”

We can consider the idea of the ordeal as help for a soul in self-consciousness through the spiritual forces that God allows to act as instruments of His justice.

The Ninth Day

After six days, the soul ascends to God again with the help of angels. This second meeting with God takes place on the ninth day after death, in honor of the nine angelic ranks, so the Church also prays on this day for the deceased.

After that, God commands to take the soul to hell, where the soul sees the torment of people. “Through these various places of torment the Soul is borne during thirty days, trembling lest it also be condemned to imprisonment therein.”

Fortieth Day

On the fortieth day, the soul ascends again to worship God, this corresponds to the 40 days after which Christ ascended to heaven. The final judgment of God takes place at that moment. Will be made a decision about where the soul will end up.

This day is also important for the church and believers. And although we can’t know whether the soul of a particular person is going through these trials, these dates serve as a reminder to pray for the deceased.

After the fortieth day, it’s also customary to pray on the anniversary of a death, thereby marking the new birth of the soul.

Final Thoughts

It can be concluded that traditionally the church believes that in 40 days the soul completely goes through all the processes after death and goes to heaven or hell.

However, everything depends on each person, because some people who have achieved high spirituality can go to heaven instantly.

Charalampos

Charalampos is an Orthodox Christian who wants to help others learn about Christianity. His main goal is to help people understand the Bible and how to apply its teachings in their everyday lives. He also enjoys spending time with his family, playing sports, and hiking.

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