What do the Orthodox mean when they mention in the after life, you need to go through toll houses to get to Christ?
It’s a speculation, a theologoumenon, and it isn’t dogma. I bet that more than half of the Orthodox don’t believe it.
It is that, after death, your soul goes past toll-houses, each about a special sin, and demons there will start to accuse you of (unconfessed) sins in that area, while your guardian angel acts as your advocate. If they find fault and sin in you, they will drag you to hell. If not, you will pass to the next until you made it through all 20 toll houses. During these days there is much prayer from your relatives on earth, which somehow help.
Again, this is not an obligatory belief in Orthodoxy.
People more learned than myself have told me that it is allegory for they ways in which the demons try to snatch you away from God when you die. They plant doubt in you so that you might condemn yourself before God.
Certainly they don’t have any say in God’s Judgement.
They’re something allegorical that sometimes get taken literally, kind of like the patristic teaching that Christ by death paid a ransom to the devil in order to free us. It seems absurd to think that Christ actually paid the devil a ransom; rather, the fathers mean to say that by death He destroyed the devil’s dominion over us (that is death), enabling us to have eternal life. In the same way, it seems absurd to think that God will actually employ demons to accuse us of our sins in a series of aerial toll houses (each one with a different sort of sin or passion) encountered after death; the toll houses are meant to teach the freedom from the passions that is necessary for a man to enter into the kingdom of God. Nevertheless, it is quite a controversial topic because some are insistent on interpreting the toll houses literally.