The other side of creation
Before a divine service for the departed, the hereafter seems to be especially near. Yet, what can we say offhand about this other world? Here are some answers from the Bible and the Catechism.
“Holy Scripture provides multiple references to a purely invisible world, that is to say realms, occurrences, conditions, and beings outside the material world.” This is what it says in chapter 188.8.131.52. of the Catechism of the New Apostolic Church under “The invisible creation”. This is what the divine service on the first Sunday in November will explore. This follows different aspects and perspectives of the visible creation that were examined in the Sunday services in October.
What is meant by this is described in the Creed of Nicaea-Constantinople: “We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible” (CNAC 2.2.2). This invisible world is well documented in Holy Scripture.
Speaking in images
The term we often use, “beyond”, makes it clear that this world is beyond the capacity of human perception. While much that is invisible to the naked eye is being made visible and describable through technological progress, the invisible creation of God, the beyond, remains outside of our human perception and cannot be described.
Yet, Holy Scripture uses figurative language to make statements on the invisible world (CNAC 184.108.40.206). From the accounts we have we can conclude which elements belong to the invisible creation:
- the realm where God rules on His throne (Revelation 4 and 5)
- the angels (CNAC 220.127.116.11.1)
- the immortal soul of man (CNAC 3.3.4)
- the realm of the dead (CNAC 9).
The invisible creation is closely interwoven with the visible creation. The human being is thus an entity consisting of body, soul, and spirit. While the earthly body is transitory, the spirit and soul continue to live on. Paul wrote to the Corinthians: “For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4: 18).
While the body is transitory, human beings retain their experiences from the visible world and what moulded them beyond death. In this way, people retain their personality after death (CNAC 9.3.) and also the attitude they had towards God during their life on earth. This has effects on their existence in the afterlife. The desire for God’s nearness or else the desire for complete independence from the Creator will continue to shape their thoughts and actions.
However, the idea that the dead already dwell with God is not correct from a New Apostolic perspective. For fellowship with God, the entity of body, soul, and spirit is required. Only at the return of Christ will the redeemed receive a body again, the resurrection body, with which eternal communion with God is then possible in the new creation.
Sacraments here as well as there
In Jesus Christ, God Himself became man and had to face earthly death and endure all its pain and suffering. Through Christ everything that human beings need for salvation has been established on earth. They must be baptised with water, receive the gift of the Holy Spirit through the laying on of hands of a living Apostle, and profess the sacrifice of Jesus in the Communion fellowship of believers. The sacraments instituted by Christ always have a material, visible aspect and an invisible side: the visible sign and the invisible action of God
This also applies to the unredeemed in the beyond. To this end, the New Apostolic Church dispenses the sacraments by proxy upon the living so that the dead may benefit. For example, in the case of baptism with water, the visible act is performed on two ministers who act as proxies for the dead, while the invisible effect then unfolds on the souls in the beyond who wish to benefit.
Together for all
The commandment to love our neighbour also includes the invisible neighbour, so to speak. Those who follow Jesus are called to testify of God’s love through word and deed to the people they meet on earth. This mission also applies to the human beings in the beyond. Ever since Christ brought His sacrifice, it has been possible for the condition of the souls in the beyond to change for the better. Thus salvation can still be attained even after physical death (CNAC 9.6).
This is why New Apostolic Christians intercede for the departed: they are convinced that God wants to save all human beings of all times. Just as the invisible material world was damaged by the fall into sin and is in need of redemption, so too the departed are waiting for redemption, which will be accomplished in the new creation.
Especially before divine services for the departed, there is a close bond between the living and the dead. Both worlds, as it were, come before God to praise and glorify their Creator, and ask Him to help those who have not yet been redeemed.
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divine services for ministers