This is a guest post from John Habib – author of “Orthodox Afterlife,” written after he came back to the faith of his youth in young adulthood upon encountering an afterlife story handwritten by an Egyptian Christian monk, which eventually sparked a fifteen year quest to arrive at what the Orthodox Christian understanding of the afterlife really is. You can read more about John on his blog. And if you too are interested in guest posting on my blog, please visit my Guest Post guidelines for more info.
One afterlife experience by a contemporary Egyptian Christian monk altered my life and allowed me to regain an eternal perspective on living. Formerly, as I busied myself satisfying my sinful desires, I knew God existed, but He was not relevant. Yet, as I heard my mom read to me the monk’s afterlife experience (translating it from Arabic to English), I imagined myself in his place having to face the repercussions of my decisions in life. It was then that my heart and mind flooded with the feeling expressed by the wise Solomon: “I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and indeed,all is vanity and grasping for the wind” (Ecclesiastes 1:14).
“Vanity.” Suddenly I was enveloped with the immensity of this word. Partying, clubbing, and all sorts of unfruitful works that I had been so actively seeking suddenly deflated to being of no value—complete and utter vanity. When I die, what will I bring with me? What will I present to God? That moment after death when the state of my eternal existence is determined, what will I have done in life that will help me so I may pass on to live in eternal bliss? Everything we do in life will fall into one of two buckets: vain and worthless, or fruitful and worthwhile. Sadly I had been filling the wrong bucket, and I was shaken with fear over what I had done, and what would have happened if I had died so unprepared.
“Fear,” of course, is just “the beginning of wisdom,” which for me served as the impetus that jumpstarted wiser choices so I could focus on filling the right bucket and throw out the wrong one (Psalm 111:10).
The right bucket, filled with fruitful and worthwhile goodies, eventually turned from being motivated by fear to doing it out of a desire to please the One who loved me before I loved Him (cf. 1 John 4:19).
15 years after God awakened me from my sinful slumber, the following passage stands as a resounding guide for salvation:
Be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy; giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light. He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins. (Colossians 1:9–13)
Because of the life-changing impact this afterlife experience had on me, I knew I had to share it with others in case it may similarly reignite within them a deeper love of God. But I was reluctant because I had never heard of afterlife experiences before, and especially from within the Orthodox Church. So I set out to discover what the Orthodox Church (through Scripture, early Church Fathers, and the experiences of its members) teaches us about the afterlife. I challenged my entire belief system with one qualification: if Orthodoxy and Christianity are true, then any bona fide Orthodox Christian afterlife experience should be consistent with each other, with the early Fathers, and most importantly with Scripture. As I collected experience after experience, and discovered what Scripture and the Fathers had to say, I was astonished at what I found. By God’s grace, I have been able to collect it all and share it with everyone in my book:
One endorser who had a chance to read my book recognized the notable consistency of what he had read:
“In this refreshing study we find that a surprising and startling picture emerges: the afterlife … ‘experiences’ … are remarkably consistent…. Far from speculative—they suggest an underlying and almost overwhelming unity with both Scripture and the Church Fathers.”—Fr. Daniel Fanous (Coptic Priest, Author of “Taught by God,” and Dean & Lecturer in Theology/New Testament, St. Cyril’s Coptic Orthodox Theological College, Sydney, Australia)
As I compiled this book together, I was able to find answers to things I had never known before, which is a sentiment echoed by Fr. Anthony Messeh when he read the book as well: “It will open your eyes—as it did mine—to whole new level of understanding of what life after death will be like.”
This book delves into a treasure trove of Orthodox history to seek out answers to questions such as the following (and much more):
- What is death and what does it feel like to die?
- What will our spirits look like?
- What will we see immediately after death?
- What is the experience after death? Is it a journey, or do we directly find ourselves in some other place?
- What is Hades like? Is it really a fiery torment? Is everyone punished the same?
- What is Paradise like? How does it look? What does it feel like being there?
- What happens to infants after they die?
- Will we see God in heaven? Will we see the Father? The Son? The Holy Spirit?
- What will we do in the afterlife? Will it be enjoyable?
The book is available now through all major online bookstore outlets (Amazon, Barnes and Noble, etc.), in both print and eBook (for all major eBook providers, including iBook, Kindle, Nook Book, etc.).
For more information, visit OrthodoxAfterlife.com
I pray that this book may be fruitful and worthwhile to everyone who reads it; so please help me add to my good bucket
Allow me to end with a question, and I’d love to get your feedback. Why are so many people willing to risk a blissful eternal life, even though they know that their actions have eternal consequences?