Life after Death | Orthodox | 13

Test of Evil

The trying experience is not God’s punishment for sins, but the last remedy for the dangerously sick,

who not only gave themselves into the power of passions, but justified themselves, didn’t repent and “reached” a high opinion about himself, his advantages, his merits before God and people.

For such a soul the sufferings after death represent perfect means of cognition of his very bottom position, for without this awareness, it is impossible to convert to God, to accept Him; salvation is impossible.

So for a soul, which has not withstood the test of good, alas, the other 30-day trials are provided. The trying experience starts.

The torments are described much more often in the civil literature than the contemplation of the beauty of the Kingdom of saints.

The reason behind it, evidently, lies in the fact that the majority of people are immeasurably more enslaved by the passions, than engaged in good doing.

That is why this test takes much more time.

But as a result the soul is shown all the power of evil of each of its passion.

We all know what it means the fire of passion – a man is suddenly subjected to terrifying anger, greed, lust…! And then down with reason, conscience, good, your own wellbeing.

All this is happening there, but to much greater extent.

The action of that very passion (or passions), which prevailed in the essence of the whole man’s life, is exposed in the soul in its fullness.

And he, who didn’t fight it, served it, for whom it was the essence of his life, he will not withstand demons’ temptations, he will rush to grasp them as if on a bait.

So this is how the frustration occurs during these trials, and falling of the soul into the bosom of senseless and unquenchable fire, being inflamed by this passion.

If under the earthy conditions it could get its food and comfort from time to time, then there it is to undergo real torments of Tantalus.

They usually speak about 20 kinds of torments and they start the list with a seemingly innocent sin: with idle talk, - with that one, which we don’t pay any attention to.

The apostle James says quite the opposite:

tongue…is a restless evil, full of deadly poison” (James, 3, 8).

And it is not only saint fathers, but even pagan wise men call idleness and its natural and usual manifestation – idle talk, as a mother of all vices.

The venerable John Carpathsky, for one, wrote:

Nothing distorts so much a good mood constantly, as laughter, jokes and idle talk”.

20 kinds of trying experience cover all the categories of passions, each of which comprises vast varieties of sins, that is - any trial includes the whole net of related sins.

For example, robbery:

It is of different kinds: both direct, when someone puts his hand into the pocket of the other, and bookkeeping distortions, misapplication of budgetary funds in your own interests, bribes with the aim of profit and etc.

…the same thing concerning other trials.

So the soul goes through 20 passions, 20 exams of sins.

In the Life of Basil the New the venerable Theodora tells about them in the following order:

1) idle talk and ribaldry, 2) lie, 3) censure and slander, 4) gluttony and drinking, 5) laziness, 6) stealing, 7) covetousness and avarice, 8) extortion (bribery, flattery),

9) untruth and vanity, 10) envy, 11) pride, 12) anger, 13) unforgivingness, 14) plunder (beating, striking, fights…), 15) witchcraft (magic, occultism, spiritism, fortune-telling…),

16) lechery, 17) adultery, 18) sodomy, 19) idolatry and heresy, 20) unmercifulness, hard-heartedness.

All of these tests are described in very picturesque, earthy truthful expressions.

Reading this story, we can easily recall wise words of an angel:

Take earthy things here as the weakest reflection of the heavenly ones”.

Theodora saw monsters there, and fire lakes, and horrible faces, heard awful cries, watched tortures, to which sinful souls are subjected.

But all these – “earthy things” as the angel warned, are the weak reflection, weak similarity of those quite spiritual (and in this sense celestial) conditions, which the soul survives, unable to reject passions.

On the basis of the venerable Theodora writings the entire iconographic cycles have been created. Possibly, you have seen the booklets with pictures, depicting various sufferings during tortures.

What you could only see there! What kind of sufferings demons might impose on sinful people! The artists have strong fantasy, very vivid, and that is why these pictures impress so greatly.

But there everything is not like this.
Why isn’t it shown in the proper way?

The reason behind it is the same – there is no chance to give knowledge to a man, living in his flesh, the nature of those sufferings, which are in store for each person, violating conscience and truth, violating the commandments.

As, for one, how to explain to a man, what evil could stick to a man as a result of idle-talking? And here you see a picture: a man is hung by his tongue – you can imagine, how he is suffering.

Of course, this is very primitive, but, as John Chrysostom said (+407), “it is said in this way in order to drag the object closer to the understanding of more rough people”.

This is why the pictures of these tortures were designed.

What did you understand?

– Not what kind of sufferings are there, but the most important thing:
there are tortures there, in fact, though they are of quite a different nature.