Chrysostom on the Journey after Death

St. John Chrysostom reminds us that at the time of death, we will not immediately pass into the next world.

Angels come to serve as guides, carrying the righteous toward their heavenly abode. Meanwhile, terrifying spirits come to drag the souls of the unrighteous to hell.

At the time of death, our sins will try to prosecute us,
and we will endure an examination of our spiritual accounts.

Chrysostom goes into more detail here:

What does God say to him? “Fool! Tonight they require your soul from you.” You see, here it says “was carried away by the angels,” there, “they require;” one was led away as a prisoner, the other was carried on their shoulders as a victor.

And just as in the arena when the fighter has received many wounds and is sprinkled with blood, then puts on the wreath of victory, those who stand in front of the arena greet him with loud cheers and lead him home clapping, shouting, and marveling, so also the angels then led Lazarus away.

But from that other man his soul was required by some frightful powers, perhaps sent just for this purpose.

For the soul does not go up automatically to that other life, since this is not even possible. If we need a guide when moving from one city to another, much more the soul which has burst out of the flesh and is moving toward the life to come with need guides to lead it.

Because of this it often rises, and sinks down again toward the abyss, and trembles with fear, as it is about to fly out of the flesh. For the awareness of our sins always pricks us, especially at that time when we are about to be led away to the examination of accounts in that terrible court.

Then, if anyone has been guilty of theft or greed, or has cursed anyone or hated anyone without cause, or has committed any other wrong, the whole swarm of sins is revived and stands before our eyes to sting our conscience. Just as those who dwell in the prison are in dejection and distress all the time but especially on that day on which they are to be led out to the very doors of the judge, and standing before the courtroom doors, hearing the voice of the judge from inside, are chilled with fear, and are no better off that the dead; so also the soul is in great distress and anxiety at the actual time of its sin, but even more when it is about to be drawn out and led away from this world.

. . . I know that what I say is painful, but I cannot tell you how great a benefit it contains. If that rich man had had someone to give him this kind of advice, instead of flatterers who always suggested what he wanted to hear, and who dragged him into luxurious living, he would not have fallen into that hell, nor undergone the unendurable torments, nor repented too late for consolation; but since they all made conversation for his pleasure, they handed him over to the fire.

I wish we could always and continually preach like this and speak about hell.

For the Scripture says, “In all you do, remember the end of your life, and then you will never sin” (Sirach 7:36). And again, “prepare your work for your departure, and get everything ready for the road” (cf. Proverbs 24:27). If you have stolen anything from anyone, give it back, and say like Zacchaeus, “I give four-fold what I have stolen” (Luke 19:8). If you have cheated anyone of anything by flattery, if you have hated anyone, be reconciled before the judgment. Settle everything here, so that you may approach that bench without liabilities.

While we are here, we have good hopes; when we depart to that place, we have no longer the option of repentance, nor of washing away our misdeeds. For this reason we must continually make ourselves ready for our departure from here. What if the Lord wishes to call us this evening? Or tomorrow?

St. John Chrysostom (4th century)
Second Homily on Lazarus and the Rich Man

About Fr Joseph Gleason

I serve as a priest at Christ the King Orthodox Mission in Omaha, Illinois, and am blessed with eight children and one lovely wife. I contribute to On Behalf of All, a simple blog about Orthodox Christianity. I also blog here at The Orthodox Life.
This entry was posted in Hell, Luke 12:15-21, Luke 16:19-27, Luke 19:1-10, Particular Judgment, Proverbs 24:27, Sirach 7:36, Toll Houses. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Chrysostom on the Journey after Death

  1. My Nazarene Grandmother used to lament that preachers never spoke of “hell fire and brimstone” anymore. Maybe she was on to something.

    St John Chrysostom wishes he could always and continuously preach about hell.

  2. Pingback: The Great Compassion of God | The Orthodox Life

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