What Is the Meaning of 9 and 40 Days after Death?

Death in Orthodox Christianity is not viewed as the end of our existence. After death, the soul is only temporarily separated from the body. During the first 40 days, it goes through certain trials and meets its Creator. During this period, a soul’s posthumous fate is decided until it will be ultimately determined at the Final Judgement preceding the Universal Resurrection. The 3rd, 9th and 40th days after death are important for the posthumous existence of the deceased.

The meaning of days after death

What is the meaning of 3 days after death?

The Venerable Macarius of Alexandria was once given a revelation from an angel. It revealed to the Saint what happens to the soul after death. Although the Bible says nothing about any particular days after death and their meaning for a human soul, this revelation resonates with biblical events (Christ rose from the dead on the 3rd day after the crucifixion, and ascended on the 40th).

The angel revealed to St. Macarius that in the first two days after death, a person’s spirit remains on earth accompanied by angels and remaining free to travel wherever it wills. Many souls spend these days at their homes, next to their loved ones and their own coffin. On the third day, in parallel with the Resurrection of Christ, the angels ascend the soul to worship God.

After that, the spirit stays in heaven until the 9th day, dwelling among angels and saints. Seeing heavenly bliss makes the souls of the righteous rejoice, while the unrighteous lament their futile lives, realizing that heaven is beyond their reach.

Why are funerals held on the 3rd day after death?

In the first two days after death, a soul experiences separation from the body. Being able to stay with the body alleviates its suffering. After a spirit ascends to God on the third day, it will not return to earth until the Second Coming of Christ. Just as the spirit departs to God on the third day, so the body must be buried in the ground.

Significance of the 9th day after death

On the 9th day, the soul once again stands before God in worship. However, after the ninth day instead of contemplating the bliss of heaven, it goes to behold the torments of hell.

What happens to a soul on the 40th day after death?

On the 40th day, angels take a person to God once more, this time not for worship, but for a personal judgement. The Lord determines where each soul will dwell until the Second Coming, the General Resurrection and the Last Judgement.

During these 40 days, the prayers of the Church and loved ones are especially important for a deceased person’s soul. During this period, prayer intercedes for a person before God and may influence his or her posthumous fate.

That said, prayers after 40 days are no less important. We have no way of knowing the outcome of God’s judgement about a person’s posthumous fate. Perhaps the Lord does not allow this to be known so that our prayers for the deceased do not cease and our love for them does not fade.

Even if a soul is condemned to posthumous suffering, the prayers of believers can influence the outcome of the Last Judgement and change the wrath of God into mercy.

Counting 3, 9 and 40 days after death

The day of death is the first day. For example, if a person dies on the 23rd, the third day after death falls on the 25th. The ninth and fortieth days are calculated in a similar way.

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  1. My question is my husband died on 11 December we didn’t have a funeral until the 16th. What date do we start counting from the actual day that he died from the day that he was put in the ground I’m wondering what day the 40th day would be if he died on December 11 could you please give me the answer

    1. Greetings! We are so sorry for your loss. May his memory be eternal!
      You should count from the actual day that your husband passed away.

      Maybe these articles will help you with other questions:
      A Good Death https://catalog.obitel-minsk.com/blog/2020/11/a-good-death
      The Holy Fathers on Death https://catalog.obitel-minsk.com/blog/2020/05/the-holy-fathers-on-death
      On Death and Dying: Three Stories of Eternal Life https://catalog.obitel-minsk.com/blog/2020/03/on-death-and-dying-three-stories-of-eternal-life

  2. My child died on dec. 28, 2023 she is a special child, 10 yrs of age..my question: is it neccessary to celebrate the 40th day? Since she is only a child .

    1. Greetings! We are so sorry for your loss. May her memory be eternal!
      Even if a child is under 7 years old, they usually make no difference (only for infants there is a special funeral service).

  3. Thank you for this wonder post. My dad died on the 13th of March 2024. I want to do everything I can to pray for soul to rest in peace. Can you please on way to do and how to pray till the 40th day and after that too

    1. May his memory be eternal! We are sorry for your loss.
      It is crucial to order prayer request at church (commemorations at the Proskomedia) for your departed loved ones if they are baptised Orthodox Christians. Aslo Orthodox Christians usually pray for their dead by the Psalter. The order of reading the Psalters – under each article of the kathisma at “Glory” is read the prayer: “Remember, O Lord our God…”, placed at the end of the office after the soul exits (see at the end of the Augmented Psalters and Small Psalters), remembering where follows the name of the departed, but after the end of the kathisma – “Trisagion”, “Our Father”, troparia and the prayer placed in every kathisma (see them in the Psalter after kathismas), beginning behind that new kathisma with the words: “O come let us worship” and so forth.

      You may find these articles useful: Prayers for the Dead in the Bible and in Tradition https://catalog.obitel-minsk.com/blog/2020/11/prayers-for-the-dead-in-the-bible-and-in-tradition
      How to Commemorate the Dead Outside the Church: Is It Possible to Pray with Your Own Words? https://catalog.obitel-minsk.com/blog/2019/10/how-to-commemorate-the-dead-outside-the-church-is-it-possible-to-pray-with-your-own-words
      Why We Pray for the Dead in the Orthodox Church? https://catalog.obitel-minsk.com/blog/2019/06/why-we-pray-for-the-dead-in-the-orthodox-church

  4. I love the fact that we have Saints and private revelation to help us in such a lost world! I feel so sorry for those who look to Scripture alone as there is so much out there with other historical documentation and Saints on earth, like on the road to Emmaus, where Jesus walked and talked with disciples after His resurrection; so why wouldn’t He allow or come Himself to inform His followers on topics we can’t understand without His clarity or His first disciple, His Mother, who time after time has come to make sure we are taught and given prayer by the Love she has, and He has never let her down, as we love our mom, how much more would the Son of God love the Woman who gave Him life? I’m just so happy we have so many angels and Saints to learn from in History and are blessed to hear the Truth needed to walk the path to the Most Sacred of Hearts! Both Jesus and Mary had their hearts pierced on Good Friday, she remained beneath to take Him in her arms! I can’t imagine how hard that was. But am so grateful to Him and Her, and both give all the glory to God!!!

  5. my mother in law died and on her 9th day i dreamed of her she hugged me and said good bye she whispered in my ear that i should take care of my soon to be brother in law then when i started to cry i woke up. i woke up crying and i remember everything. she’s happy she’s glowing like a ray of light i think she ascends to heaven. my heart is at peace knowing that she’s in a better place i know its sound unbelievable but it seems my dream were real.

  6. Is this written in the bible, 3, 9 and 40 days? If so can you give me the book, chapter and verses where it says this?

  7. The information in this article appears credible with the mention of specific numbers of days etc. however what appears to be lacking is biblical references, which is a disappointment. If Jesus wanted us to have this information it would have been very clearly stated in the Bible. When some things are revealed to individuals we have to cross examine it with God’s word ( The Bible).

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