edited December 1969 in Faith Issues
i was just wondering in the afterlife, after jesus' second coming and judgment day and all that stuff. when people are in heaven. what will that be like? is it gonna be a continous praises to the lord? also another important topis. how shall one enter the kindom of heaven?? ***love for christ***?? if anyone knows where any of these things are in the bible, tell me please and i wanna hear opinions and comments about this.

also what is the heavens of heavens like?



  • Well, for most of your questions there is 1 answer i guess... w8 till u get there... to c wat heaven is lyk read revelations, how shall one enter the kindom of heaven? well u got plenty... 1 cor and matthew talk about the Holy Communion, i think matthew as well talks about baptism... paul in his epistles talks about faith and good works... i gess u got a heep and there r still more...

  • Dear Egydave,
    How are you? I hope you are doing well. I'd like to quickly give you a short response to what you've asked.

    The Gospel according to Saint Mark 16:15-16 "And He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned"

    The Gospel according to Saint Matthew 6:19-21 "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."

    The First Epistle of Saint Paul to the Corinthians 2:9 "But as it is written: "Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the hearts of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him."

    The Epistle of Saint James 2:5 "Listen, my beloved brethren: Has God not chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him?"
    2:14 "What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him?"
    2:26 "For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also"

    Please read Revelation chapters 21 & 22 and be careful not to try to understand everything written as Revelations is not meant to be fully understood. Some parts are clear such as the letters to the 7 Churches as God ordered it to be written.

    Revelations 1:3 "Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written in it; for the time is near."

    It does not say to understand anywhere in that verse, as it is not meant to be understood, except certain parts as I've said. I'll attempt to give you an example of why Saint John wrote in the manner he did. Imagine you lived 500 years ago when there was no technology and you looked up in the sky and say a Boeing 777 airplane! How would you possibly describe something you've never seen before? "A large bird who roars through the sky and releases smoke and is made out of a material strong as gold!" This relates to the verse from Saint Paul's first epistle to the Corinthians. I hope that was clear.

    The first verse I mentioned is when Our Lord Jesus Christ commands His Disciples and Apostles to go into all the world and preach and spread the gospel which actually means good message. In Acts 1:8 they are told to go first to Jerusalem, then Judea, then Samaria and to the ends of the earth. They were told to go to Jerusalem first because this is their home. First we must reach our family. Then Judea is our extended family, all our aunts and uncles and cousins and everyone we're related to somehow. Then Samaria is all our friends and their friends and everyone they know. Then the ends of the earth is clear, thats everyone else we must reach. But we must begin at home and move out, we can't just jump to going to the end of the earth while your home is left far from God.

    Our Lord Jesus Christ tells us "He who believes and is baptized will be saved". He is clearly setting these conditions and He has appointed His children to spread His word so that everyone may hear and know and then they make the decision to know Him or to deny Him.

    The Gospel according to Saint Matthew 7:7 "Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened."
    7:13-14 "Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it."

    The message our Lord Jesus Christ is giving us here is very clear. Those who ask will receive, those who seek shall find, and the door will be opened to those who knock. Every human has in his nature a desire to know his Creator and this response is making it clear that they will find Him if they choose to. These are the people who enter our Churches wanting to know about God. These are the people we run into who ask us questions about God and we must be ready to give them answers and share our Love for God with them.

    Revelations 3:20 "Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me."

    I want you to examine this verse and ask yourself why God doesn't just open the door. Why just stand outside and knock when He can do all things? If He were to open, then where is our free will? We no longer are making the decision ourself if that was to occur. Therefore He stands and knocks and we must use our free will to open the door and welcome Him in! This is the ULTIMATE use of our free will to open the door of our hearts to God and allow Him to enter!

    There is much more to be said about this and I'm sure you'll get many more answers to your question. If I have said anything wrong, please forgive me and correct what I have said.

    Please keep me in your prayers.
  • that was good :)
    umm u got our sacraments well sum of them i guess lyk repentance confession umm and isnt it carrying your cross? "He who doesnt carry his cross cant be my disciple" umm also 10 commnadments yeah? if u break 1 of them u got repentance and confession see works out all ways its great

  • It's shame that our youth aren't being properly educated with respect to the proper Orthodox formula of salvation. As is evidenced by this thread, there seems to be a resort to Protestant/Roman-Catholic reductionism whereby works, faith, sacraments, are more or less depicted as independent, yet necessary, direct means to salvation, when in actual fact they are inter-dependent means to salvation. They're not just a "list of things to do"; they're intrinsically correlated stages (that are often cyclic until perfected) in the process of salvation. If I were to sum up the Orthodox soteriological formula in a nutshell, it would be as follows:

    Faith ---> Sacraments ---> Grace ---> Gnosis ---> Love ---> Theosis = Paradise.

    The arrows indicate that the antecedent leads to or results in that which proceeds it.
  • what's gnosis and theosis?
  • [quote author=Marianne87 link=board=1;threadid=4056;start=0#msg56908 date=1151414036]
    what's gnosis and theosis?

    Gnosis is the Greek word for knowledge.

    The Greek word theosis is often translated into English as "deification." It is the goal of human life, whereby we become united to God.

    In 2 Peter 3-4 we read:
    "Inasmuch as His divine power hath freely given to us all the things for life and piety, through the full knowledge of Him Who called us by glory and virtue, by which He hath freely given to us the very great and precious promises, that through these ye might become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption which is in the world by desire."

    This is what theosis means, to become united with Christ by partakers in the divine nature.

    Theosis is quite a difficult subject to explain adequately, I'm sure Iqbal or Stavro can do a better job of it than I can, so I'll leave it up to them.

  • Marriane87,

    I'm glad you asked. I deliberetely used such words knowing that many would not understand, yet without further elaboration upon their meaning for the sake of saving my time and effort for those who actually care to ask.

    Gnosis is, as Orthodox11 stated, the Greek term for knowledge. However, it is not just a reference to any type of knowledge. There are two forms of knowledge that one may speak of: propositional knowledge and experiential knowledge. The former is the type of knowledge we acquire indirectly through external sources. For example, one may pick up a book (i.e. external source) on love and retain the information on love contained in that book simply by reading it (i.e. knowledge on love is acquired through learning of its nature as experienced or studied by another). The latter is the type of knowledge that one acquires directly through individual experience. For example, one who has loved another and practised that love personally, has first-hand knowledge of love acquired directly through personal experience.

    It is the latter type of knowledge (i.e. experiential knowledge) that is important to Orthodox soteriology; but in what sense is this gnosis important or necessary? The answer can only be understood if one understands the primary consequence of the fall:

    Adam and Eve were created in the image of God (they were not created in His likeness, but rather the potential to progress towards His likeness via imitation of the image). This image reflected the virtues and characteristics of God Himself, and as such, it was naturally inclined towards goodness. Subsequent to the fall, man neither lost this image, nor was the image itself corrupted so as to lose its natural inclinations towards goodness, but rather, our perception and realisation of this image was corrupted. We were no longer able to truly recognise it as it naturally is. In other words we lost experiential knowledge of our inner selves, and in turn fell into ignorance whereby we were drawn towards good. Our experiential knowledge was distorted because when we feel drawn towards sin, we feel that this is the desire of our human nature, when in actual fact this desire is a result of the deception of the enemy that man is prone to by virtue of his ignorance.

    Therefore, this problem of ignorance needed to be rectified, and this was accomplisged via the Incarnation the Lord Christ who through His perfect life of submission to the Father sanctified the human mind and soul. Christ, being the one who "enlightens every man who comes into the world" consequently established certain means (i.e. the Sacraments) of dispensing His Grace to us for the sake of cleaning up the rubbish that was distorting that image of God within us. In other words, our ability to know (i.e. possess knowledge--gnosis--of) our true inner selves was once more was restored.

    Ultimately, once one experientially rediscovers their true inner selves i.e. the image of God, they are hence able to then habitually imitate that image through action. Once one habitually imitates that image through action, they progress towards the Likeness of God. They not only bear His image, but they resemble His very likeness. The progress towards His likeness is the process known as Theosis.

    Theosis is more or less to become God-like and hence one with Him (as the actual term itself denotes union with God). It is the fulfillment of the divine command that we be perfect just as our Father in heaven is perfect, or in other words, perfect just as the Incarnate Word lived perfectly as man amongst us.

    So as you can see Gnosis and Theosis are intrinsically related; there is no way I could have spoken about one without speaking about the other. The goal of gnosis is theosis, and an antecedent condition of theosis is gnosis.

    I think with respect to understanding theosis, it is best to keep words at a minimum. Let us learn theosis experientially by partaking of the Sacraments, effecting the potential that that Grace establishes within us, and habitually attempting to resemble the perfect goodness that our true inner selves are inclined towards. Then we shall know theosis more adequately and eloquently then words can achieve.
  • Thanks for your explanation, one more question, since the arrows indicate that what comes after it is a result of what's before it, is this like the actual steps that happen. I mean do we first have faith which result in sacrements and so on, or is it just an example. As I understood gnosis, it's when someone wants to achieve the goal of becoming Christ-like, don't we need to love him first to want to be like him or does it just comes naturally when we want to be like him we start to love him.
    I apologize I know my question is a bit confusing but more elobration on how each category fits with the one that proceeds it would be helpful.
  • I mean do we first have faith which result in sacrements and so on

    Ofcourse, faith must precede the Sacraments. Faith is an essential pre-requisite of being a member of the Church is it not? And it is the Church that is the house of the Sacraments.

    As I understood gnosis, it's when someone wants to achieve the goal of becoming Christ-like

    Not exactly. You see we are all naturally inclined to progress towards being Christ-like. The consequence of the fall however means that this natural inclination is hidden from us by ignorance and consequently further hidden by sin that results from ignorance. Gnosis is the tool by which we re-discover this natural inclination, as opposed to the tool that establishes that natural inclination for that natural inclination already exists within us in the first place.

    don't we need to love him first to want to be like him

    It's the same principle as above. By being created in the Image of God, we are all naturally inclined to love and hence desire to imitate our Creator. Gnosis is imparted by Christ through the Grace that is dispensed through the Sacraments, in order to allow us to re-discover our true inner selves which are naturally inclined to all virtuous things, especially love.
  • Iqbal,

    I was told by the head of Sunday school at my church that theosis is a new EO heresy that is not found in the writings of the early church fathers. Also, I have never heard anyone speak or write about this concept in the Coptic Orthodox Church. Could you provide references to show that we do believe in theosis?
  • Kbibo8,

    What is this guy doing as "head of Sunday School" at your Church? That's a disgrace. Theosis is one of the most (if not the most) universally accepted soteriological principles amongst the Fathers.

    Your Sunday school teacher is obviously not acquianted with the Fathers on even an elementary level. Any cursory read of the Christological/Soteriological works of Sts. Athanasius, Clement, Cyril, Ireneous, Severus etc. will find them promoting this most central tenet of Orthodox Soteriology. The only innovative heresy is this person's rejection of theosis, and I suggest you report this to a higher authority before he corrupts innocent minds.

    As for Coptic texts referring to and affirming this undisputably Orthodox concept of theosis (trans. deification), there are many.

    1) His Grace Bishop Youssef in the Q&A section of the suscopts.org website answers the following question:

    How does Coptic theology approach and explain the subject of 'theosis'?

    "Theosis or Deification means "union with God" taken from the Greek Theos - God, and the word Enosis - union. Our Lord Jesus Christ asked God the Father "They also may be one in us" (Jn 17:21). He also gave us the command of Theosis "Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in Heaven is perfect" (Mt 5:48), our goal in life is to accomplish perfect union with God through the grace of the Holy Spirit. Man was created in the image and likeness of God, and then sin created a gap between God and mankind, causing damage to our souls. All Christians through baptism receive the seed of Theosis, which is not only to the forgiveness of sins, reconciliation and justification, but also a restoration of God's image. The sinful inclination of our human nature should not govern our behavior anymore; instead we should strive to live a holy life looking towards Jesus Christ the author of our faith, and growing in His knowledge and sonship. The restoration and sanctification of Theosis brings us back into relationship with the Creator. St. Athanasius' presentation of Theosis was summarized as "the reintegration of the divine image of man's creation through the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit conforming the redeemed into the likeness of the Lord Jesus Christ, and also of the believer's transition from mortality to immortality so that he is enabled to participate in the eternal bliss and glory of the kingdom of God."

    Our full union with God is a union with the "energies" of God. These energies, while an extension of God, are not to be confused with the "essence" or "substance" of God, which is unknown by humans and is shared only by the Holy Trinity. Our union with God will not make us gods but will make us partners in the Divine nature in works not in essence. We will not acquire the unique characteristics of God such as being the Creator, the Omnipotent, the Omnipresent, but it will make us partners with Him in building the Kingdom by our own salvation and by winning the souls of others to the Lord Jesus Christ.

    Source: http://suscopts.org/q&a/index.php?qid=649&catid=383

    2) His Grace Bishop Daniel relates the concept of theosis to Iconography:

    "We were made in the image and likeness of God, but the image has been damaged and the likeness lost. Since Adam and Eve, only in Jesus Christ were these attributes fully intact. Christianity is the revelation not only of the Word of God, but also of the image of God, in which His likeness is revealed. The icon shows the recovery of wholeness.

    Thus, icons serve as a witness and constant reminder of the Orthodox Theology of Deification, or ‘theosis’. As St Athanasius of Alexandria wrote: “God became human so that the human being could become God.”

    Accordingly, all icons are based on that of Christ. Figure and proportions do not obey anatomical rules, since the saint no longer exists conformed to the world, but rather to the Image of the Son of God, who transforms our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body.

    Source: Spirituality of Icons, 2003, p. 13

    3) Maged Attia's book Blessings Upon Blessings, which itself received the blessing of His Grace Bishop Moussa in the preface, states on p. 7:

    "St. Athanasius, in his famous book, The Incarnation of the Word, states that sin resulted in two major consequences, the change of human nature and the fall of man into the grasp of death. God therefore, in the economy of salvation, had to share our humanity in order to transform our nature to recreate it and to make it incorruptible. Christ, in blessing our nature, restores us to the Father and sanctifies our human nature (theosis). It is a process of deification. “Through these,” writes St. Peter, “He has given us His very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.” (2 Peter 1:4)."

    There you have the affirmation of three prominent Coptic Bishops. That should shut the head of your Sunday school up.
  • The term as Iqbal defines it is orthodox, but it may be (and I have no way of confirming) that the Sunday School teacher was referring to indeed another heretical interpretation of the term, and maybe he might have been quite ignorant about the matter.

    First, the heretical interpretation comes from the monks of a certain monastery in Egypt, and it has been picked up by H.H. Pope Shenouda and refuted on many occasions and the orthodox understanding of the term, that Iqbal provided, was confirmed. This heretical understanding is not a union by grace ideology by an elevation into divine nature, an absolute blasphemy.

    The EO are not totally inconcent in that regard. Some practices that are connected to their understanding of Theosis, such as hesyschasm in which some of their prominent saints were involved, is absurd to say the least and cannot be regarded as a continuation of the orthodox understanding of Theosis.

    So, while the interpretation that Iqbal provided supported by some educated bishops, Bishop Moussa excluded, is totally right according to my limited understanding, there is room for skepticism based on the recent heretical ideas that appeared covered with this term. It is therefore very important in any discussion to define the terms first.
  • Dear Stavro,

    As far as I know, the practise of hesychasm is neither a new nor an EO concept. It is a term that is found in the writings of many great Fathers, grounded in the theology of many great Fathers (particualrly the cappadocians) and it is a practise that has been exercised by many great ascetics. Our Church may not have formally delved into the issue (for no apparent reason other than the fact our Church just chooses to keep things simple when it is not necessary use much words), but I believe it is an intrinsic aspect of our Church life in any event, particularly the life of our ascetics. In fact, hesychasm is really no more or less than anchoretism.

    With respect to its relationship to theosis, the fact EO's have emphasised the Cappadocian distinction between energies and essence (just as His Grace Bishop Youssef stressed) in relation to this practise, seems to be a good indication that they have maintained an Orthodox understanding of the concept.

    Maybe I am missing something that you have in mind?
  • Thank you Iqbal and Stavro.

    I believe that Stavro is partially right. The person I was talking to seemed to think that the term meant partaking of the divine nature of God. The interesting thing is that this discussion was started when I saw him reading "The Orthodox Way" by Bishop Kallistos Ware. I fully agree that this should be the goal of our faith, however; it appears to me that it is not stressed enough in the modern Coptic Orthodox Church. This is evidenced by the facts that many on this forum had not heard of "theosis" before and the first time I heard it was from an EO source.
  • Kbibo8,

    I believe that Stavro is partially right. The person I was talking to seemed to think that the term meant partaking of the divine nature of God. The interesting thing is that this discussion was started when I saw him reading "The Orthodox Way" by Bishop Kallistos Ware.

    Have you read The Orthodox Way? Bishop Kallistos Ware is quite explicit about his understanding that theosis entails union with the energies of God and not His unknowable essence. From page 23:

    "By virtue of [the] distinction between the divine essence and the divine energies, we are able to affirm the possibility of a mystical union between man and God--what the Greek Fathers term the theosis of man, his 'deification'--but at the same time we exclude any pantheistic identification between the two: for man participates in the energies of God, not in the essence."

    So, conclusions we can draw: 1) your Sunday School leader is illiterate, or 2) your Sunday School teacher simply rejects any concept of theosis per se (which is the implication derived from his open blanket denial of the concept without qualification).

    I ask you to take the quotes I have provided you in my previous post, and bring them to his attention.

    I fully agree that this should be the goal of our faith, however; it appears to me that it is not stressed enough in the modern Coptic Orthodox Church. This is evidenced by the facts that many on this forum had not heard of "theosis" before and the first time I heard it was from an EO source.

    Well, I have a couple of points to make here:

    1) If there is one author of Coptic texts in the english language that any real student of Coptic Orthodoxy in the diaspora would be acquianted with, it is Fr. T. Malaty. Theosis (deification) is spoken of extensively in his works. Most if not all of his patrological works discuss deification as it is propounded by the Fathers, and his dogmatic works, especially his work The Divine Grace, delve into the theology of theosis also.

    2) Our Church is more concerned with practical theosis than theosis in academic discourse. I would say many Copts know theosis best because they live it when they abide by the strict ascetic and moral regulations enforced by the Church, even if they have never heard of the word, or read of the theology behind it. In the end, theology is useless unless practically applied, and not necessary when practically applied.
  • I really love this topic and I strongly thank egydave for posting this topic. It was strongly suggested to me, by a very reliable source, that Salvation in the Orthodox Concept should be read in attemting to clarify eternal salvation and eternal life in Heaven. I am not really sure if anybody has suggested this yet but I know that some people have already suggested books for this matter.

    Please pray for me always,
    Believer in God
  • Dear Iqbal,

    I believe there is two branches to the hesychasm. One of them is the ascetic life and the suppression of human desires in order to elevate the spirit to be united with the God through the work of the Holy Spirit and personal struggle. The second branch that relates to the Byzantines is the involvement in bodily movements, such as having the body held immovable for a long time, the chin pressed against the breast, the breath held, the eyes turned in, and so on, in order to see the Divine light (whatever they mean by that).

    The second branch problematic, and it mirrors the same ideas and practices that are found in the Sufis pratices that was reported about Abi Hamad El-Ghazali and Rabaa El-Adaweya in the 10th century, and by many Hindu practicioners. It is more consistent with beliefs that are found on religiousity and practices more than the spirit of Christianity that sees the unity with God as the fruit of the person's love that leads to the ascetic life, but never was christianity based on empty practices that are rewarded by seeing the divine light.

    There also exists the question of the distiniction between God's essence and God's energies. It is not enough to make a blank statement that there is a distinction, and then assert defacto that there is not by boasting about the ability to see the divine light like Gregory Palamas did, for what is the divine light but the outward expression of the divine essence ? It also casts doubts about the origin of these phenomena that was reported by the inhabitants of Mount Athos in the 14th century, for the simplest christian spiritual pillar dictates that boasting and vanity, what Gregory Palamas is guilty of, is never endorsed by God.

    In addition, the doctrines were canonized by the Byzantine Church and never by our Church. Some EO, as you know, insist on adding the councils of the 14th century to their series of lawful councils. Leaving the schism behind us for a second and examining the circumstances that led to the official recognition of such doctrines as binding for the Chalcedonians, it must be recognized that when the two first councils were summoned, the political tides were in favor of Gregory Palamas which led to the official reconginition of his practices as orthodox. It is characteristic for the Chalcedonian church to have politics decide their doctrines with total neglect to the faith. When politics changed, his doctrines were considered heretical and Palamas seems to have withdrawn them. In another turn of events, when his protector conquered and regained political supremacy, Gregory Palamas went back to his original claims, now that he is protected, and the doctrine became orthodox again. Just like that.

    If anybody can speak about a spiritual life that brought the person in unity with God, it would be the monks of Egypt and of Syria, the real monks. It would be Antony, Macarius, Isidore and even the laymen like St. Rewes and St. Barsoum or Simon the Tenner. They did not boast about their lives, they did not dogmatize it, they did not even speak about it because it is simply beyond speech. If they could, then St.Paul would have been able to describe his own "deification" expriences that made him worthy to see the heaven. As H.H. Pope Shenouda said once: " The life of the saints is a holy sanctuary that nobody can approach or understand" .... in reference to Anba Pavly H.H. says: " We know that he lived 70 yrs in seclusion and extreme ascetism (the real one that is a fruit of spirituality and not the Byzantine version), but we do not know and cannot know what went inside his cell because it is the holy sanctuary that nobody can approach."

    These are my thoughts, and I can be wrong or missing many aspects of the issues. I just tend to keep the spiritual matters simple, but not simpler than they should be. It is the reason I am never impressed with the academic efforts of the Chalcedonians because it is empty and void of spirituality.

  • [quote author=Iqbal link=board=1;threadid=4056;start=15#msg56996 date=1151578282]
    In the end, theology is useless unless practically applied, and not necessary when practically applied.

    That is terrific quote. It is one I need to apply to my life. I love to read theological books. However, I think the reason that I do this is because I can somehow separate it in my mind as a wonderful logical exercise and not try to practically apply it to my life. Having said that, I still think more people should be reading theology. People seem to shy away from it claiming that it is either "too difficult" or "too dry." To this I say, try it, I think you'll like it.

    If there is one author of Coptic texts in the english language that any real student of Coptic Orthodoxy in the diaspora would be acquianted with, it is Fr. T. Malaty. Theosis (deification) is spoken of extensively in his works. Most if not all of his patrological works discuss deification as it is propounded by the Fathers, and his dogmatic works, especially his work The Divine Grace, delve into the theology of theosis also.

    Thank you for the source. I have read only a few of Fr. Tadros' books so far, mostly the Bible study books. I'll try to get my hands on a copy of The Divine Grace soon.
  • For anyone else who would like to read the book that Iqbal suggested. I just found it. You can download it at:

  • The Divine Grace is a great work. Although I have not yet finished it, from what I have read so far, it is very good. If you are like me and you prefer to hold your book in your hand, it is most likely available at any church bookstore.
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