The Orthodox Faith
For St Paul Orthodox Youth Society - Brisbane
By Fr. John Abdel-Karim
35 – Eternal Life and Eternal Hell
The resurrection of the dead, the change of the living and the final judgement will be followed by eternal life or eternal hell. Hell means punishment.
Some, like the believers in the millennium, believe that after the final judgement the sinners will be destroyed. Considerably more believe that after the final judgement the sinners will be punished for a certain period of time, will repent and be saved. Neither one is correct. Holy Scripture teaches very clearly that the righteous will enjoy eternal life and happiness, whereas the sinners will be being punished. Reading the twenty-fifth chapter of the Gospel of Matthew we see that all the dead and the living will be presented before the unbribable Judge. We will be divided into the just and the sinners, just as the sheep are separated from the goats. Then Christ will say to the just, who will be on His right-hand side: "Come, O blessed of my father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world" (Matthew 25:34). And these will inherit the kingdom of God. Then He will turn to His left towards the sinners and He will say to them: "Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels" (Matthew 25:41). And behold the result. "And they [the sinners] will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life" (Matthew 25:46). Behold then that the just will live in eternal life and happiness. The sinners will live in eternal punishment and despair. These are the words of Christ. Those who believe and teach otherwise do not profess the truth. They do not present things as Christ,
"Who is the truth and the way and the life," said.
No one knows exactly what the after-life will be like. No one knows quite how the just and the sinners will be living. St. Paul, who was taken up to the heavens and wanted to describe those things that he saw and heard (1 Corinthians, 2:9; II Corinthians, 12:4 ), said: "What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him."
The Holy Scriptures in describing hell, use frightening images. They call it "the outer darkness," "the worm that does not die," where there will be "weeping and gnashing of the teeth." This state of the punished will be eternal, without any change or amelioration. Without end. As a result it is indescribably frightening.
Let us be careful here. All that the Holy Scriptures say regarding hell should not be understood physically, as we know these things today. We should always keep in mind that with the Second Coming of Christ and the final judgement everything will change. Everything will become "new." The whole universe. The Fathers of the Church explain this very well, particularly, St. Gregory of Nyssa, who writes the following: "Because you learned to understand something different from what exists in reality, when you hear the words fire or worm, you should not think of the earthly fire or insect." In other words, when you hear of fire and worms do not understand it as the fire and worms that you know of here. St. John Damascene also writes the following: "eternal fire is not a material thing such as we are familiar with; rather it is something that only God comprehends." In other words, the fire of hell is not physical as we know it, but will be fire as God knows it.
LET US PRAY
Our Heavenly Father and Creator of all, we marvel at Your grandeur, infinite love and wisdom. Before You we kneel and express our gratitude for all Your good things. We know Your teaching, the truth as Christ, Your only begotten Son, has revealed it to us. We have no excuse for our sinful life. We alone are responsible for our plight. We think of the just judgement and tremble, but we also do not use our brains. We know what is good for us but we do not look after it. Thoughtlessly, we continue on the path of sin. We do not want it, but that is where we end up. Before You call us through our death, call us near You with true repentance. Do not, Lord, allow us to inherit eternal damnation. Do not allow anyone to end up in that excommunicated state. Find in Your kingdom the space for everyone. Lord, we thank You.