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Author Topic: Heaven and hell: Are they *literal* places or a state of being?  (Read 4067 times) Average Rating: 0
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Arystarcus
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« on: May 03, 2004, 10:08:00 PM »

Greetings all!

I wanted to know if someone could tell me the Eastern Orthodox Church's view on heaven and hell and how their position may agree or disagree with that of the Catholic Church.

I was always under the impression that they were/are *literal* places that truly do exist and that we will be sent to either one after Christ's judgement at His Second Coming.

I believe that the Catholic Church views hell not as a literal place, but rather as an eternal seperation from God. **

What is the Eastern Orthodox view on this?

I am also curious to know the Oriental Orthodox Church's view on this and would appreciate any input from any of the board's OO'dox! Thank you!

I ask this question because I went to an OCA church this past Sunday and picked up a small booklet that was in the narthex that is called "Our Faith: A Popular Presentation of Orthodox Christianity". It is written by Fr. John Matusiak (who also happens to be the parish priest at said church) and is published by "New Life Publications".

Inside the booklet there is a section all about Christ's Second Coming and I will quote what is written there:

Quote
Heaven and Hell

While we believe in the existance of heaven and hell, we do not look uopn them as physical places. The Holy Fathers teach us that
*for those who love God, heaven is the eternal existance in His loving presence. God is their ultimate desire and, consequently, their reward as well. Since, for most of us, our love for God is far from perfect, His love for us and the continual prayer of the Church refines and purifies our love, making us ever more able to find all our joy in Him.
*for those who hate God, hell is also eternal existance in His loving presence but, according to Saint Isaac of Syria, they "will be chastized with the scourge of love. How cruel and bitter this torment of love will be. The sorrow which takes hold of the heart which has sinned against love is more piercing than any other pain." For the evil, "eternity of hell" is not the deprivation of the  love of presence of God but rather the torment of external existence in the presence of a Love which is unwanted, rejected and despised.

The criterion upon which Christ will judge us is love!

Our capacity to love others is based upon our acceptance of God's love, for He is Love itself. Christ commanded us to love God above all else and to share God's love with others. Upon this we will be judged.

God's all consuming love, then acts in two ways. It is
*the eternal fulfillment and joy of the blessed as well as
*the eternal suffering and condemnation of the wicked.

I have never heard of heaven and hell being explained like that, so I wanted to check to see what everyone could tell me about this.

Any more quotes from the Fathers of the Church, or canons or passages from the Holy Scriptures about this would be very much appreciated.

Thank you so much for your help and may God bless you!

In Christ,
Aaron


** I am further confused about the Catholic Church's view on this subject, because the booklet that I took that pasage from is available for purchase on the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church's Eparchy of St. Josaphat in Parma, Ohio's website for purchase.

Here is the link to prove it:

http://www.stjosaphateparchy.org/bookstore.htm

They describe the booklet as

Quote
Our Faith
Father Matusiak outlines the faith and practice of the Byzantine Churches. It highlights both the sources (Tradition, Scripture, Fathers, etc) and content (Trinity, Christ, Holy Spirit, Church, etc) of the Apostolic Faith. Available through the Pastoral Ministry Office for $1 plus shipping and handling.
« Last Edit: May 05, 2004, 05:20:24 PM by Arystarcus » Logged
Bogoliubtsy
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« Reply #1 on: May 03, 2004, 10:36:00 PM »

In the past few years I've probably posted this a dozen times on various Orthodox fora, but I think it's fantastic and worth sharing again:

http://www.orthodoxpress.org/parish/river_of_fire.htm

It's pretty long, so I will just provide a link.
« Last Edit: May 03, 2004, 10:36:17 PM by Bogoliubtsy » Logged

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Arystarcus
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« Reply #2 on: May 05, 2004, 06:46:03 PM »

Bogo,

Thanks for the link. I did find it interesting, but unless I missed it somewhere in there, the article did not specify as to whether or not heaven and hell are a literal place or a state of being.

In case I did miss it, would you mind pointing out the passages in the link that do speak about it?

Or perhaps you know of some more links where I might find this info?

Thanks again,
Aaron


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Ben
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« Reply #3 on: May 09, 2004, 05:15:16 PM »

The Catholic Church - in union with Rome- teaches that both heaven and hell are literal places. The Catholic Church has always taught that Hell is a real place, a place that is beyond words, a place of great torture and misery. Those in Hell suffer a great deal, but the worst thing they must suffer is total seperation from God, they have no hope, they are damned for eternity.

The Catholic Faith is stated in the Athanasian Creed: "They that have done what is good shall go into life everlasting, and they that have done evil into everlasting fire". The Catholic Church has repeatedly defined the same truth, e.g., at the Council of Florence: "The souls of those who depart in mortal sin, or only in Original sin, go down immediately into Hell to be visted, however, with unequal punishments." In 1336 Pope Benedict XII made the following definition: "We also define that, according to God's general ordinance, the souls of those who depart this life in actual mortal sin descend straightway after death into Hell, where they suffer it's torments; yet nonetheless, in the day of Judgement all will appear before the tribunal of Christ, there to render an account of their actions."

The Catechism of the Catholic Church sates:

1033 " .....To die in mortal sin without repenting and accepting God's merciful love means remaining seperated from him forever by our own free choice. The state of definitive self-exclusion from communion with God and the blessed is called "Hell".

1034 " Jesus often speaks of "Gehenna,", of "the unquenchable fire" reserved for those who to the end of their lives refuse to believe and be converted, where both soul and body can be lost. Jesus solemning proclaims that "he will send his Angels, and they will gather ......all evil doers, and throw them into the furance of fire," and that he will pronounce the condemnation: "Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire!"

1035 " The teaching of the Church affirms the existence of Hell and it's eternity...."

St. Justin, who lived in the first half of the Second Century, went so far as to teach that if Hell foes not exsist, "either there is no God, or if there is, He he does not concern himself with men, and virture and vice have no meaning." (Apol. ii, 9)

And if I am not mistaken, St. Basil the Great stressed the existence of hell as an actual place of eternal punishment, as do the Holy Gospels:

"And if thy hand, or thy foot scandalize thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee. It is better for thee to go into life maimed and or lame, than having two hands or two feet, to be cast into everlasting fire." - Matthew 18:8

"Then he shall say to them also that shall be on his left hand: Depart from me,you cursed, into everlasting fire which is prepred for the devil and his angels." - Matthew 25:41

« Last Edit: May 09, 2004, 05:28:25 PM by Ben » Logged

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Arystarcus
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« Reply #4 on: May 09, 2004, 08:28:35 PM »

Ben,

Thanks for the informative post.  Cheesy

I did have a question though, about the following quote that you posted from the CCC:

Quote
The Catechism of the Catholic Church sates:

1033 " .....To die in mortal sin without repenting and accepting God's merciful love means remaining seperated from him forever by our own free choice. The state of definitive self-exclusion from communion with God and the blessed is called "Hell".

What does the catechism mean when it uses the term "state"?

I am confused as to how I am to understand this term.

Also, since the above is from the new CCC, would you happen to have any quotes from any of the previous editions of the CCC that were published before this last one?

The reason I decided to ask about the Catholic Church's official stance on this is because I do recall having read several articles on the internet about how Pope John Paul II has said that heaven and hell are not *literal places*, but are "states of being."

I know that both Pope JPII, the new CCC as well as the revised Code of Canon Law have all been accused of departing from the Catholic Church's historic positions on a lot of things, so I am just looking to clear this up for the record.

I do realize that since the Pope was not speaking infallibly at the time that he spoke of heaven and hell being "state of being" and hence are not subject to any dogmatic authority other than stating his opinion, but why create confusion?

Or, maybe I am the only one who is confused.  Huh If so, it wouldn't be the first time!  Cheesy Grin

In Christ,
Aaron
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« Reply #5 on: May 09, 2004, 08:53:18 PM »


Quote
Thanks for the informative post.  Cheesy

No problem!  Grin

Quote
I did have a question though, about the following quote that you posted from the CCC:What does the catechism mean when it uses the term "state"?

I myself was also a little confused as to why the word "state" was chosen. However, there realy isn't a differnce between "state of seperation" and a "literal place". I mean Hell is most certainly both. The worst part of Hell is seperation from God, so Hell could correctly be defined as a "state" or "place" of seperation from God.

But if you read the Catechism, 1033 to 1035, it seems quite clear that the catechism is saying Hell is an actual place, not just a state. However, I guess it's how you read it. This is why it is good to fall back on what Catholic Popes and councils have said, thats where you'll find the true Catholic teaching on the matter.

As for previous additions of the Catechism, I have the Baltimore Catechism,and it is very clear that those who die in the state of mortal sin without repenting and accepting God's mercy, go to hell where they suffer the pain of sense (physical pain) and the pain of loss (despair - knowing there is no hope, totaly cut off from God). However, it doesn't clearly address the question if Hell is an actual place or just a "state" of seperation from God.

It is true that the new catechism does water down some aspects of the Catholic faith, the filioque is a perfect example of this. But when in doubt always look back at the Councils and what past popes have said.

I believe that it is clear that the Catholic Church teaches Hell to be a literal place, but I guess there is always room for interpretation. And as I said Hell can also be defined as a "state" of seperation from God. So, on this one the new Catechism doesn't seem to do such a bad job.

Quote
The reason I decided to ask about the Catholic Church's official stance on this is because I do recall having read several articles on the internet about how Pope John Paul II has said that heaven and hell are not *literal places*, but are "states of being."

Oy, it wouldn't surprise me if he said such a thing.
But as I said do some research, read past Papal bulls and encyclicals on the topic, and don't forget the Church councils, esp Florence. And I'm sure you'll the true Catholic teaching on Hell. From my research and study I am pretty sure that the Catholic Church teaches Hell is a literal place, a place of total seperation from God.
« Last Edit: May 09, 2004, 08:56:01 PM by Ben » Logged

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« Reply #6 on: May 10, 2004, 03:27:14 AM »

Greetings all!

I wanted to know if someone could tell me the Eastern Orthodox Church's view on heaven and hell and how their position may agree or disagree with that of the Catholic Church.

I was always under the impression that they were/are *literal* places that truly do exist and that we will be sent to either one after Christ's judgement at His Second Coming.

I believe that the Catholic Church views hell not as a literal place, but rather as an eternal seperation from God. **

What is the Eastern Orthodox view on this?


http://www.romanity.org/htm/rom.02.en.the_cure_of_the_neurobiological_sickness_of_rel.04.htm#s32a

From the link:


Everyone
[/b] will see the glory of God in Christ and reach that degree of perfection one has both chosen and worked for. Following Saint Paul and the gospel of John the Fathers support that those who do not see the resurrected Christ in glory in this life, either in a mirror dimly by unceasing prayers and psalms in the heart, or face to face in glorification, will see his glory as eternal and consuming fire and outer darkness in the next life. The uncreated glory that Christ has by nature from the Father is heaven for those whose selfish love has been cured and transformed into selfless love and hell for those who choose to remain uncured in their selfishness.

 Not only are the Bible and the Fathers clear on this, but so are the Orthodox Icons of the last judgment. The same golden light of glory within which Christ and his friends are enveloped becomes red as it flows down to envelope the damned. This is the glory and love of Christ which purifies the sins of all but does not glorify all. All humans will be led by the Holy Spirit into all the Truth which is to see Christ in glory, but not all will be glorified. "Those whom he justified those he also glorified," according to St. Paul (Rom. 8:30). The parable of Lazarus in the bosom of Abraham and of the rich man in the place of torment is clear. The rich man sees but he does not participate (Luke 16:19-31).

 The Church does not send anyone to heaven or hell, but prepares the faithful for the vision of Christ in glory which everyone will have. God loves the damned as much as he loves his saints. He wants the cure of all but not all accept his cure. This means that the forgiveness of sins is not enough preparation for seeing Christ in glory.

 It goes without saying that the Anselmian tradition whereby the saved are those to whom Christ supposedly reconciled God is not an option within the Orthodox Tradition. Commenting on 2 Cor. 5:19, for example, St. John Chrysostom says that one must "be reconciled to God. Paul did not say, "Reconcile God to yourselves, for it is not He who hates, but we. For God never hates."

 It is within the above context that the State understood the Church's mission of cure within society. Otherwise religions promising happiness after death are not much different from each other.


Even in hell , God is present.

You can also read this: http://www.zephyr.gr/stjohn/per-rive.htm


For EVEN MORE  info, buy this book: http://www.pelagia.org/htm/b24.en.life_after_death.00.htm
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« Reply #7 on: May 10, 2004, 12:20:49 PM »

God loves the damned as much as he loves his saints. He wants the cure of all but not all accept his cure. This means that the forgiveness of sins is not enough preparation for seeing Christ in glory...St. John Chrysostom says that one must "be reconciled to God. Paul did not say, "Reconcile God to yourselves, for it is not He who hates, but we. For God never hates."

Wow.  This was great; good job, t0m_dR.  This, I think, illustrates one of the primary ways in which the East and the West have grown apart: we have two different views of "who/Who" "sends" us to "hell."

I would ask 2 questions of the RC view:

1.  If God is not "present" in Hell, how can Hell exist, being separate from the Source of all existence?

2. Is the idea of Hell tied to God not being able to stand sinners in His presence?
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« Reply #8 on: May 10, 2004, 01:19:51 PM »

I've no problem with them as states of being - they're as real as places.
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Ben
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« Reply #9 on: May 10, 2004, 10:30:27 PM »

Quote
1.  If God is not "present" in Hell, how can Hell exist, being separate from the Source of all existence?

This is an interesting question, it got me thinking, next time I talk to my RC Priest, I'll be sure to ask him. But in my personal opinion, God created Hell and allows it to exist. Nothing can exist without God allowing it to, and as St. Justin argued if God doesn't allow Hell to exist, or doesn't create it, then there is is no God, or He isn't concerned with humans in any way shape or form. Hell it a loss of God, I mean that you can't pray, or hope for the love and mercy of God in Hell. You lost your chance, you are damned for eternity. The pain of loss is said to be the greatest of all pains in Hell. And I would agree with this. But as to how exactly God allows Hell or exist or in what way, if in any way, He is present in Hell...I don't know the offical RC teaching on this...sorry...but I'll ask my Priest and get back to you.

Quote
2. Is the idea of Hell tied to God not being able to stand sinners in His presence?

The idea of Hell is tied to the fact that those who chose to not accept God and his endless love and mercy have damned themselves. Christ merely points our sins at judement, so its been written by RC saints, but our sins, themselves, condemn us to eternal fire. The ideas of Hell and Purgatory are both tied to the fact that God can not stand sin in his pressence, not sinners but sin, for we are ALL sinners, even the greatest of Saints. But I think there is much more to it than that....Hell has a lot more to do with God's mercy and love than his anger and hatred of sin.

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« Reply #10 on: May 11, 2004, 02:21:44 AM »

The ideas of Hell and Purgatory are both tied to the fact that God can not stand sin in his pressence, not sinners but sin, for we are ALL sinners, even the greatest of Saints.

Herein lies part of the problem. God does not have a problem with sin in his presence. It is sin that runs screaming in pain and foaming at the mouth from the all consuming fire of His holiness. Sin cannot bear to be in the presence of God. I think it was likened to the difference between diseased eyes and healthy eyes looking at brilliant light. It is the same light for both yet while the healthy eyes are able to look without discomfort, even finding it pleasureable, the diseased eyes suffer extraordinary pain.

John.
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« Reply #11 on: May 11, 2004, 11:13:53 AM »

Herein lies part of the problem. God does not have a problem with sin in his presence. It is sin that runs screaming in pain and foaming at the mouth from the all consuming fire of His holiness. Sin cannot bear to be in the presence of God. I think it was likened to the difference between diseased eyes and healthy eyes looking at brilliant light. It is the same light for both yet while the healthy eyes are able to look without discomfort, even finding it pleasureable, the diseased eyes suffer extraordinary pain.

John.

It seems that this is another difference between Catholicism and Orthodoxy. Catholic teaching seems to focus more on God not being able to stand sin in his presence, than the other way around. However, I've heard it described both ways by Catholic priests.
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« Reply #12 on: May 16, 2004, 06:50:37 PM »

"Hell, unpopular as it is to modern people, is real. The Orthodox Church understands hell as a place of eternal torment for those who willfully reject the grace of God. Our Lord once said, "If your hand makes you sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life maimed, than having two hands, to go to hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched - where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched" (Mark 9:44-45). He challenged the religious hypocrites with the question: "How can you escape the condemnation of hell?" (Matthew 23:33). His answer is, "God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved" (John 3:17). There is a day of judgement coming, and there is a place of punishment for those who have hardened their hearts against God. It does make a difference how we will live this life. Those who of their own free will reject the grace and mercy of God must forever bear the consequences of that choice."
 - http://www.fatheralexander.org/booklets/english/catechism_ext.htm
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« Reply #13 on: May 16, 2004, 07:20:21 PM »

Ben --

As with most every quote someone provides concerning heaven/hell, Fr. Alexander's quote could be taken either in the RCC's "God can't stand sin" view, or the EOC's "sin can't stand God" view, which Prodromos so eloquently described.
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