Orthodox View of Heaven and Hell


#1

Oftentimes when we think of reconciliation of the Orthodox and Catholic, we think of issues such as the Filioque and papal infallibility.

I wanted to understand better the East-West Schism of 1054, so I found this really detailed article on Wikipedia.

However, the more I started to read about the theology, the more I noticed greater differences than I had anticipated - like the apparent difference in how both sides view heaven and hell.

Can any Orthodox or ECs chime in with whether this entry is accurate? I'd also like to know if the ECs follow the Western teaching instead when it comes to heaven and hell.

*Damnation
*

Eastern Orthodox consider the teaching of punishment in the after life by Western Christianity[160][161] a corruption of the original teaching of the eternal fire.[160] The traditional Orthodox teaching is that "those who reject Christ will face punishment. According to the Confession of Dositheus, persons go immediately to joy in Christ or to the torments of punishment".[154] " This is different from the West's teaching of Damnation.[162]

In Orthodox doctrine there is no place without God. In eternity there is no hiding from God. In Catholic theology, God is present everywhere not only by his power but in himself.[163] Hell is a state of self-selected separation from God. In Orthodoxy torment for the damned is not some created place called Hell, where people are without God. As the English word Hell is not in the Greek bible, although the Greek word κόλασις, which now means "the situation of spiritual punishment after the last judgement of those who died without repenting of their sins"[164] is found in the Greek Bible.[165] The word Hades is not expressed as a place strictly of eternal damnation in the Greek bible either. It as the bosom of Abraham is where both Lazarus and the rich men existed; neither was in a separate place from God or one another.[166][167]

While eastern theology considers the desire to sin, as the result of a spiritual sickness (caused by Adam and Eve's pride), which needs to be cured.[168] One such theologian gives his interpretation of Western theology as follows: "According to the holy Fathers of the Church, there is not an uncreated Paradise and a created Hell, as the Franco-Latin tradition teaches".[169] The eastern Church, believes that hell or eternal damnation and heaven exist and are the same place, which is being with God, and that the very same Divine love (God's uncreated energies) which is a source of bliss and consolation for the righteous (because they love God, His love is Heaven for them), is also a source of torment (or a "Lake of Fire") for sinners (because they don't love God, they will feel His love this way).[170][171][172][173] The Western Church speaks of heaven[174] and hell[175] as states of existence rather than as places. Whereas in Eastern Orthodoxy there is no Hell per se, there is damnation or punishment in eternity for the rejection of God's grace."

Also, I remember reading on an Orthodox forum that some don't believe hell (damnation) is eternal. Is that correct? Does that mean there can come a time when someone in hell can begin to understand God's love and begin to experience his presence as pure bliss?

How can this be reconciled with Western theology?

Thank you.


#2

Eastern theology views that we all return to God. It is our experience of God that will differ. Those who died in friendship will God will receive eternal bliss from God. Those who lived rejecting God (living in sin) will experience pain and suffering from God's very presence, and this is the gnashing of teeth that Jesus spoke of. It is not that we are in a place totally separated from God, we cannot be separated from God as his creation lest we cease to exist. So hell is not a place, but rather the painful experience of God's love for those that cannot accept it.

Imagine this, you are in a dark room and you step outside to a sunny day. The light temporarily blinds you and may even give you a headache. Such is the experience for those who are living in darkness (sin) and they step into the presence of God (light). And this feeling doesn't last for a few seconds or minutes, it lasts for eternity.


#3

[quote="ConstantineTG, post:2, topic:291905"]
Eastern theology views that we all return to God. It is our experience of God that will differ. Those who died in friendship will God will receive eternal bliss from God. Those who lived rejecting God (living in sin) will experience pain and suffering from God's very presence, and this is the gnashing of teeth that Jesus spoke of. It is not that we are in a place totally separated from God, we cannot be separated from God as his creation lest we cease to exist. So hell is not a place, but rather the painful experience of God's love for those that cannot accept it.

Imagine this, you are in a dark room and you step outside to a sunny day. The light temporarily blinds you and may even give you a headache. Such is the experience for those who are living in darkness (sin) and they step into the presence of God (light). And this feeling doesn't last for a few seconds or minutes, it lasts for eternity.

[/quote]

That makes sense. I don't think that current official Catholic teaching states that hell is a place per se.

How about the description of heaven as the new Jerusalem. Streets paved in gold, etc...

Also, I don't see any room for purgatory in this type of understanding, unless one can say that those in purgatory experience God less fully. (Yes, I know purgatory is not an Eastern concept).

What do you know about the idea of hell not being eternal? Is this official teaching or just different people's opinions?

I'm trying to see what can be reconciled and what cannot.


#4

[quote="TrueLight, post:3, topic:291905"]
That makes sense. I don't think that current official Catholic teaching states that hell is a place per se.

How about the description of heaven as the new Jerusalem. Streets paved in gold, etc...

Also, I don't see any room for purgatory in this type of understanding, unless one can say that those in purgatory experience God less fully. (Yes, I know purgatory is not an Eastern concept).

What do you know about the idea of hell not being eternal? Is this official teaching or just different people's opinions?

I'm trying to see what can be reconciled and what cannot.

[/quote]

If I am not mistaken, St. Mark of Ephesus (of all people) tried to reconcile this view with the Western view of Purgatory in the Council of Florence but we all know that didn't go well. He said that the same fire of God's divine love is what causes purification for those who otherwise love God but have been defiled. I read that somewhere although I can't find any other place where it gained traction in Orthodox belief.

Perhaps when they talk about hell, they talk about the foretaste that people experience today when they die, prior to the general resurrection. So the belief is when someone dies, they receive particular judgement (same as Catholic belief) and then they are treated to a foretaste of their state at the end of time. Those who lived in sin will experience torment, and those who lived in God's love will experience bliss. But these are all temporary because we all will be resurrected. Perhaps that is why they say hell is not eternal. At the end of time we are reunited with our bodies and that is when there is no more hiding from God, that we are all subjected to the full presence of God and those with no capacity of their own to accept God through the choices they made in their lives will be tormented by this.


#5

I'm not sure that article accurately describes Catholic teaching on Hell, but I could be wrong. I just listened to a series of talks on Eschatology and the discussions on Hell were very similar to how that article presents the Eastern understanding. Of course, different words are used, but the theme was very similar considering that one language does not translate perfectly into another. In addition, a number of theologians have proposed theories on what Hell is and will be like, but I am not sure, other than some generalities as described in the CCC, that there is one "official" interpretation.


#6

Don't know about the official interpretation, this may help. Its two pages.

google.com/url?q=http://www.catholictreasury.info/books/everlasting_life/ev11.php&sa=U&ei=nrNrTtzkK47egQf96ozdBQ&ved=0CBgQFjAB&usg=AFQjCNEqZgzEjj08uBFLX_Ytv7bsfMqIgA


#7

There is an interesting movie coming out that explores the many different concepts of hell.

hellboundthemovie.com/


#8

No. The Orthodox do not believe in the Apokatastasis.


#9

[quote="Credo_ergo_sum, post:8, topic:291905"]
No. The Orthodox do not believe in the Apokatastasis.

[/quote]

Translation please.


#10

[quote="jam070406, post:7, topic:291905"]
There is an interesting movie coming out that explores the many different concepts of hell.

hellboundthemovie.com/

[/quote]

Interesting,.........the run of the mill secular thinking that Christianity invented so everyone obeys the Churcn is pretty common today though.


#11

[quote="GaryTaylor, post:10, topic:291905"]
Interesting,.........the run of the mill secular thinking that Christianity invented so everyone obeys the Churcn is pretty common today though.

[/quote]

Very interesting. Is this actually going to play in theaters? I'd expect it to go straight to DVD.


#12

[quote="TrueLight, post:9, topic:291905"]
Translation please.

[/quote]

A theory held by Origen Adamantius and to some extent St. Gregory of Nyssa that in the end all will be reconciled to God and enter heaven, including the devil.


#13

[quote="Credo_ergo_sum, post:12, topic:291905"]
A theory held by Origen Adamantius and to some extent St. Gregory of Nyssa that in the end all will be reconciled to God and enter heaven, including the devil.

[/quote]

Oh I see. Thanks.

Do some believe that some might be reconciled?


#14

Looks to be so, gone in about 1-week to DVD, pay for view in two. Pretty sure its the same story told monthly on the History Channel with spin.


#15

[quote="TrueLight, post:13, topic:291905"]
Oh I see. Thanks.

Do some believe that some might be reconciled?

[/quote]

It is generally condemned. Some Early Fathers flirted with the idea, but people from later ages condemned it, like St. Jerome, Emperor Justinian and St. Photius the Great to mention some. I don't think many Orthodox hold to the apokatastasis, but I'm not sure since I'm not Eastern Orthodox.


#16

[quote="GaryTaylor, post:14, topic:291905"]
Looks to be so, gone in about 1-week to DVD, pay for view in two. Pretty sure its the same story told monthly on the History Channel with spin.

[/quote]

It's done by an evangelical Christian, who put it all together himself, to get a perspective on the different views of hell. It's not a secular production with spin to bash Christianity. I believe he even speaks with Peter Kreeft.

I heard about it from a video of the Orthodox Archbishop that speaks at the end of the trailer. They are friends and have done discussions together before.


#17

[quote="jam070406, post:16, topic:291905"]
It's done by an evangelical Christian, who put it all together himself

[/quote]

I watched the trailer. Hope its a success for Christianity.


#18

I belong to a church that is in communion with the bishop of Rome

From what I understand, as others have expressed, there is no where God is not.
Think Pascha: we sing "Christ is risen from the dead, by death he conquered death..."
He is victorious even over hell.
Those who have passed from this life into the life eternal are present with God. For those who turn from God, this presence will be experienced as pain. It is a fire that either burns with pain or with joy.
There have been stories told by the Desert Fathers of sinful individuals being released from Hell because of the prayers of the faithful.
I have heard of modern monks on Mt. Athos professing the same thing.
I also know personally members of both the EC and EO communities who believe that in the end Christ will reconcile all things to Himself. I personally think it is possible, and hope for it, but of course do not take it for granted.

Honestly, TL (and others), the best way to learn about true, unadulterated EO teaching: read the liturgies of the church. Not just the DL, though that is a good start, but all the prayers of the hours around the church calender. That is where the theology lives in its ancient form.

I would also recommend the book: Mountain of Silence. It is written by a man from Cyprus who becomes agnostic after coming the US to study, then returns to his home island as a part of a sociological study (he is a professor in Maine) and begins to speak with a monk about the basics of Orthodox spirituality. It is a wonderful introduction and simplifies concepts into easy to understand language. He covers everything from the purpose of the church, angels, demons, sin, prayers for the dead, and more. I loved it.

As far as reconciling Eastern perception with western perception, well, for the first thousand years they more or less existed side by side. The differences in theology have been there. Like I said, the theology is contained in our liturgy, and the DL has been around since at least the 5th century AD. I personally think that the Latins get a little too into the whole 'fire and brimstone' idea, but that is a topic for another thread. The actual theology as professed by the Latin church, afaik, does not get so doom and gloom and so leaves room for the two to exist side by side. Honestly, the already do, if you take into account the number of people I know who ascribe to authentic Eastern theology while remaining in communion. There is hope yet.


#19

Hi Newlywed,

[quote="newlywed8, post:18, topic:291905"]
I
There have been stories told by the Desert Fathers of sinful individuals being released from Hell because of the prayers of the faithful.

I have heard of modern monks on Mt. Athos professing the same thing.

[/quote]

I wonder if this is not essentially purgatory?

I also know personally members of both the EC and EO communities who believe that in the end Christ will reconcile all things to Himself. I personally think it is possible, and hope for it, but of course do not take it for granted.

This is not something that I think can be reconciled with Catholic teaching.

I would also recommend the book: Mountain of Silence. It is written by a man from Cyprus who becomes agnostic after coming the US to study, then returns to his home island as a part of a sociological study (he is a professor in Maine) and begins to speak with a monk about the basics of Orthodox spirituality. It is a wonderful introduction and simplifies concepts into easy to understand language. He covers everything from the purpose of the church, angels, demons, sin, prayers for the dead, and more. I loved it.

Thanks!


#20

[quote="TrueLight, post:19, topic:291905"]
I wonder if this is not essentially purgatory?

[/quote]

No. Purgatory is essentially, "you're going to heaven but we need you clean you up first". Purgatory guarantees heaven, eventually.

The Eastern belief is that at the particular judgement you go to heaven or hell. Through the prayers of the faithful those in hell can be released. Not sure when the releasing happens, some I have read states that will happen only at the end of time. But if you do not get released, then you are in hell.


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