Hell in the Orthodox conception is a form of redemption, where even those who resist God freely (which, when the creature of time is swallowed up, becomes for eternity) will be burned continually by God’s unwavering presence, since he will never leave us nor forsake us, no matter what crimes we have committed, and God as Creator of all things is an all-consuming fire, likewise consuming all things, and yet he preserves and does not annihilate us, allowing our individual wills and minds to remain as they are, even resurrecting our bodies so that nothing of us is lost, despite our wasting of the gift of life in his image. This allows us to seek salvation through continually confessing the gravity of our failure, and the unapproachability of God (a theological reality), and to say with the fathers of the desert, “I am kindling for the fire, fit only to be burned, and surely all will be saved and I alone condemned – I do not know the sheep, but I am one of the goats”, and yet also with even St. Job, who was deprived of everything, “I know that my Redeemer lives” as, trusting in God and seeking his mercy continually, we release ourselves to the reality inaugurated by the Creator, who by becoming his creation, in the Incarnation of Jesus Christ, has redeemed all things, and is redeeming them, and will redeem them, and does redeem them, and will never cease redeeming them, forever and ever, Amen.
3 thoughts on “Hell is My Salvation”
I’m very curious about this, as it seems interesting but I’m not quite sure I understand. Do you mean to say that those in hell can, so to speak, come out of hell, and all eventually be saved? Or is this basically just a mitigation of what would, in the Roman Catholic/Conservative Protestant view, be the horrors of hell?
Well, keep in mind, all discussion of “Hell” per se is speculation, but the Fathers are mainly talking about what they know of the redemptive work of Christ and about theology, so they draw ideas from that. But what I was saying is not that there’s an exit door to Hell to salvation, but that Hell *is* a form of salvation (it is, more correctly, a form of redemption). Christ redeemed everyone and everything, but redemption isn’t destruction or genocide, so he also left our basic anthropology (what we are) as it is. He made possible full integration of man with himself, and so man with man, man with ecology, man with cosmos, man with all of creation, man with God. But he left it possible for man to continue willing against this, which most do. To have turned us into robots or removed our wills would be destruction/genocide not redemption. God will resurrect and judge all, and all Heaven and Earth will give way to his presence, so that there is nowhere that is not filled with him and his redemption. Hell included, if we want to think of that like a ‘place’ – after all, Christ descended through the grave into Hell, indicating his redemption of Hell and the grave. So being in the presence of God, and willing ever and continually against him, would make the God, the all consuming fire that will fill all in all, described by Moses, who was hid in the cleft of the rock, so he wouldn’t be burned away, a continual burning and consuming that would feel like agony to those forever resisting and rejecting it, and paradise to those embracing it. Whether anyone may change their minds at this point, no one knows, but the general consensus seems to indicate it won’t happen. One can speculate that when time is swallowed up (time is also a creature – a created thing) that all decisions become essentially timeless (i.e. permanent) – forever, as they are for the angels who fell, who dwelling outside time and before time, used their wills to rebel, and became forever set against God. I think easy categories aren’t quite getting at it, but one could say all men will be redeemed, but not all men will be saved. Or all men will be saved, but not all men will experience it as paradise – for some, it will be hell. The idea of it as punishment, per se, is, in the minds of some fathers, a misnomer – it is being enveloped entirely, and filled thru and thru with the love and glory of God. But the punishment is essentially self-inflicted. The fathers agree though, that God is not angry, does not get angry in the sense human beings can mean that, and Hell is not the experience of God’s wrath. These words are used poetically, if you will, or as a concession to human communication, but not as a description of God’s attributes – the Fathers would view that as heresy.
Keep in mind too, that I am not a scholar, and don’t pretend any enlightened or inside knowledge. And what knowledge I have is paired with pride and failure, not the insight that comes with purity. And also, it is considered quite delusional, arrogant, prideful (risking prelest) to speculate overmuch on that which we cannot see, as tho it were esoterica, or special gnosis. The gnostics, caught in their pride, do that, and are lost. The Orthodox say we do not know, to many things, and my personal speculation in particular is but a description of what I understand good men seem to have said – I could just as easily be wrong.