Thursday, March 26, 2015

Response to Toll-Houses

This topic deals with life-after-death experiences.  True, the bible says man is appointed once to die and then the judgment, but numerous anecdotal testimonies force us to give a more coherent account of the state of the soul after death before the final judgment.  

Maximovitch writes,

Often this spiritual vision begins in the dying even before death, and while still seeing those around them and even speaking with them, they see what others do not see.

So far, so good.  This corroborates other experiences.

He further notes,

But when it leaves the body, the soul finds itself among other spirits, good and bad. Usually it inclines toward those which are more akin to it in spirit, and if while in the body it was under the influence of certain ones, it will remain in dependence upon them when it leaves the body, however unpleasant they may turn out to be upon encountering them.

Leaving aside the lack of Scriptural (or even Patristic) evidence, I don’t have a huge problem with this statement.  

For the course of two days the soul enjoys relative freedom and can visit places on earth which were dear to it, but on the third day it moves into other spheres. [3] At this time (the third day), it passes through legions of evil spirits which obstruct its path and accuse it of various sins, to which they themselves had tempted it.

This is a dangerous teaching because there isn’t a word about the Power of Jesus breaking sin in my life, or the Spirit’s being a downpayment, or that we are upon death made perfect in holiness (Hebr. 12:23).

According to various revelations there are twenty such obstacles, the so-called "toll-houses," at each of which one or another form of sin is tested; after passing through one the soul comes upon the next one, and only after successfully passing through all of them can the soul continue its path without being immediately cast into gehenna. How terrible these demons and their toll-houses are may be seen in the fact that Mother of God Herself, when informed by the Archangel Gabriel of Her approaching death, answering her prayer, the Lord Jesus Christ Himself appeared from heaven to receive the soul of His Most Pure Mother and conduct it to heaven. Terrible indeed is the third day for the soul of the departed, and for this reason it especially needs prayers then for itself.

What is most terrible is that Jesus doesn’t seem strong enough or too interested to do anything to help.  I would hate to think that Jesus wasn’t good enough, that his cross wasn’t strong enough to save me, but rather the final instance of my getting into heaven has to do with enough people praying for me at the right moment. Further, what are these “various revelations?”  He gives a list of fathers but no references that we may check them.

But someone might say, "Jacob, you are a continuationist. How can you reject or falsify these claims to continuing revelation?" First of all, modern-day prophecy does not introduce new doctrine, which is precisely what the above claims are doing.

Then, having successfully passed through the toll-houses and bowed down before God, the soul for the course of 37 more days visits the heavenly habitations and the abysses of hell, not knowing yet where it will remain, and only on the fortieth day is its place appointed until the resurrection of the dead.

If this is true, not knowing where the soul will be, then how could Paul confidently state that he would be with Christ upon death? I think that decisively refutes the above anecdote that Mary had to pray to Jesus to make it past the toll-houses.

On the other hand, given that I don’t think heaven and hell are geo-spatial realities per se, I have no problem saying that the soul can “roam various spheres.”  Of course, we have no evidence for such a claim but I see no real theological problem with it.

To be fair, not all EO accept toll-houses, but a large and legitimate expression of certain traditions within EO do. Further, toll-houses seem to corroborate the larger EO mentality regarding an utter lack of confidence in Christ's finished work and my final salvation.

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