As we prepare ourselves for the divine service for the departed, our thoughts are directed to our many loved ones, friends and family, who have entered into the beyond. Many of us long to make contact with them, see or speak to them for one last time. This is all normal and a question can then arise, “What is the condition of their souls in the afterlife”. The following information will help us to understand this very emotional topic.
“The condition of souls in the afterlife is a direct expression of their closeness to or distance from God and therefore varies greatly. Death did not bring about any change to the souls’ condition, therefore the conditions of the souls in the afterlife vary greatly.
In connection with closeness to or distance from God the term “domain” (realm) is sometimes used. The domain into which a soul passes in the afterlife depends on its attitude towards the will of God: this is the responsibility of each individual. For instance, belief or unbelief, forgiveness or irreconcilability, love or hatred put their stamp on man not only for his earthly life, but also for the afterlife (1 Peter 3:19,20)
Holy Scripture mentions a particular group: the departed who have died in Christ (cf. 1 Thessalonians 4:16). These souls who were reborn of water and the Spirit and followed Christ. Together with the faithful on earth, they belong to the salvation work of God. For these souls, preparing for the return of Christ was central to their lives and the longing for this moment now fills them in the afterlife too. They have been and will remain oriented to the Lord and experience security and peace.
The departed in Christ have access to the word of God and Holy Communion.
Souls in the afterlife who have never heard the gospel are in a state far from God. This can only be overcome by faith in Jesus Christ, by the acceptance of His merit, and by reception of the Sacraments.
Help for the departed
Already at the time of the old covenant, there is evidence for the belief that it is possible to benefit the departed (2 Maccabees, chapter 12). New Apostolic Christians follow this example and intercede in prayer for the departed. Through the sacrifice of Christ, the conditions of immortal souls in the afterlife can be changed to their benefit. From this follows that salvation can be attained even after physical death.
The departed and the living in Christ form one community, they belong together”