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Author Topic: What is Hell?  (Read 2608 times) Average Rating: 0
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Jonny
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« on: January 08, 2009, 10:06:25 AM »

I've got a whole string of questions here that probably all link together.

What is Hell?
Why was it created?
When was it created?
Who is there now?
Who will go there in the end?

Thanks guys, hope no-one minds me asking about this. I know its not everyones favourite topic!
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« Reply #1 on: January 08, 2009, 10:52:20 AM »

I can't claim to have read a ton on the subject, but fwiw, here is what I've picked up and what I believe. Take it with a grain of salt, unless confirmed by someone else!

Quote
What is Hell?
Why was it created?
When was it created?
Who is there now?
Who will go there in the end?

It seems to me that Hell is the place that people will go to (in the future) when they have been judged as not being receptive to God's gifts and grace. It's where people will go when they refuse to see reality for what it is, and insist on doing things their own way. It's not a physical place per se, though our resurrected bodies will have at least some materiality to them, so that it is in some sense a real place and not just a purely spiritualized "state of mind" or "state of being". I think that hell will be created (in the future) because some people neither want nor deserve to live in heaven with God, and so they have to end up some place, as God will not destroy any of the beings that he created in His own image and after His own likeness.

It is my understanding that hell has not been created yet, but appears only at the last judgment (cf Rev. 20:11-15). So, right now people are either in paradise, or held in hades, receiving a foretaste of what they will experience for all eternity. As to when hades was created, I suppose it came into existence upon the falling of 1/3 of the angels, if indeed angels are there--I'm not sure on that point. If angels are not imprisoned in hades, then I suppose it came into existence upon the death of the first man or woman (Abel perhaps?), because at the time everyone went to hades to be held, until Christ came to them to preach the Gospel and defeat death.
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« Reply #2 on: January 08, 2009, 11:14:34 AM »

Here's how one of the Orthodox catechisms explains it (the Catechism of the Greek Orthodox Church, published online on the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Canada Web site):

"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."

http://www.gocanada.org/catechism/catetern.htm
« Last Edit: January 08, 2009, 11:14:48 AM by Heorhij » Logged

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« Reply #3 on: January 08, 2009, 11:24:15 AM »

Thanks guys.

Being presently Roman Catholic its the idea of Hell not yet existing that I'm having trouble understanding.

In Roman dogma when the Devil and his angels fell they were cast down into Hell which is a place of darkness, pain, torment, fire and total absence of any experience of the Divine and is a very physical place. I've always had slight difficulty with the idea of hell as i've just discribed but it is what I have been taught and I'd be fasinated to know anything you can tell me about its future creation.

Where is the Devil now if not in Hell?
Is hades similar to purgatory in the Catholic Church?
Did Christ not decend into hell as the Catholic version of the Apostles Creed states?
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« Reply #4 on: January 08, 2009, 12:17:40 PM »

It’s difficult to answer your questions in the terms you are describing because we are accustomed to thinking of hell more in spiritual terms. See Luke 16:19 for the Rich Man and Lazarus. This is the best description of Hell I have ever come across. God blesses us in this life with so many gifts - not just money - but talents, intelligence, education... And each Christian has a specific calling or vocation. i.e. “Do something with your life, make use of all the gifts that God gives you!” The rich man’s hell in this story is his lost opportunity to share what he has; he is even denied going back to warn his brothers of this torment. “I can’t even help those I love”? The time to give of ourselves is right now, and not waiting for later. Do you know that terrible feeling you get when you know you could have done better at something and you failed? Well, imagine experiencing this regret with your entire life, and experiencing it forever, and never being able to change anything about it. This is indeed hell. Some people will describe their lives as hell, but this is not a true hell, because they still have hope and a chance for doing something for someone who needs them. Hell is this place of lost opportunity and eternal regret, and it's beyond all hope.
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« Reply #5 on: January 08, 2009, 12:25:05 PM »

Hell is not a 'place'. Hell is a condition of separation from God. Two people can live in the same 'place', and one person be in 'hell', and the other, not be in 'hell'.

In Orthodoxy, it is taught that "eternal hell" commences at the Last Judgement, so "eternal hell" doesn't exist as of yet. Various people may be on the path to "eternal hell", but since "eternal hell" doesn't exist as of yet, it is still possible (via prayers, e.g.) that they are able to get off that path and get on the path to "eternal salvation".
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« Reply #6 on: January 08, 2009, 12:30:24 PM »

Also consider The Rich Man and Lazarus in context of everyday life – mortgage payments, job insecurity, disputes with others, and general wasting time and energy. So many lost opportunities when you think about it.
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« Reply #7 on: January 08, 2009, 01:45:39 PM »

Thanks. This is all very interesting.

If there is no Hell now (other than some sort of spiritual experience of it) then where is the Devil?
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« Reply #8 on: January 08, 2009, 01:59:28 PM »

Thanks guys.

Being presently Roman Catholic its the idea of Hell not yet existing that I'm having trouble understanding.

In Roman dogma when the Devil and his angels fell they were cast down into Hell which is a place of darkness, pain, torment, fire and total absence of any experience of the Divine and is a very physical place. I've always had slight difficulty with the idea of hell as i've just discribed but it is what I have been taught and I'd be fasinated to know anything you can tell me about its future creation.

Where is the Devil now if not in Hell?
Is hades similar to purgatory in the Catholic Church?
Did Christ not decend into hell as the Catholic version of the Apostles Creed states?
Re the descent into hell (or hades) we would generally agree with the Roman Catholic church and although the Apostles creed is not recited in the EO, it is recognized as being Orthodox in content. Generally 1 Peter 3:19-4:6 as the preaching of this with the typology of Noah in the OT. While purgatory is rejected, a purification for souls being saved is understood (http://www.goarch.org/ourfaith/ourfaith7076   about 1/2 way down the article).
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« Reply #9 on: January 08, 2009, 02:09:04 PM »

Thanks. This is all very interesting.

If there is no Hell now (other than some sort of spiritual experience of it) then where is the Devil?

From Heaven and Hell in the Afterlife:

Quote
It is not God's intention that his love will torment us, but that will be the inevitable result of pursuing our own selfish desires instead of seeking God. When we are in harmony with God, we will bask in that presence. Yet, if we desire our own will and are in disharmony with God, we suffer in His presence. Satan is evil not just because he harms others, but because he is an angel of light who stands in the presence of God yet chooses to pursue his own selfish desires, which causes him to tremble in fear. Satan and his fallen angels, the demons, were thrown to the earth and he became the 'god of this world'. It can be speculated that Satan and his demons are on the earth because it is the only place they can escape God's presence, if only temporarily. This is why they will suffer for eternity after God reclaims the world at the end of this age, filling It with his presence. Then there will be nowhere to escape God, for both demons and evildoers.
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« Reply #10 on: January 08, 2009, 02:13:35 PM »

Re the descent into hell (or hades) we would generally agree with the Roman Catholic church and although the Apostles creed is not recited in the EO, it is recognized as being Orthodox in content. Generally 1 Peter 3:19-4:6 as the preaching of this with the typology of Noah in the OT. While purgatory is rejected, a purification for souls being saved is understood (http://www.goarch.org/ourfaith/ourfaith7076   about 1/2 way down the article).


Thanks, that's a very interesting article. I've read the section you advised and it has made things clearer. I'm still left with the one hole in my systematic theology of Hell from an Orthodox point of view. In Catholic Dogma Hell was created at the beginning and is where the Devil dwells and has dominion. If Hell is to be created in the future then where is the Devil now? Is he too in hades awaiting the final Judgement or is he loose in our world?
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« Reply #11 on: January 08, 2009, 02:17:54 PM »



From Heaven and Hell in the Afterlife:

Quote
It is not God's intention that his love will torment us, but that will be the inevitable result of pursuing our own selfish desires instead of seeking God. When we are in harmony with God, we will bask in that presence. Yet, if we desire our own will and are in disharmony with God, we suffer in His presence. Satan is evil not just because he harms others, but because he is an angel of light who stands in the presence of God yet chooses to pursue his own selfish desires, which causes him to tremble in fear. Satan and his fallen angels, the demons, were thrown to the earth and he became the 'god of this world'. It can be speculated that Satan and his demons are on the earth because it is the only place they can escape God's presence, if only temporarily. This is why they will suffer for eternity after God reclaims the world at the end of this age, filling It with his presence. Then there will be nowhere to escape God, for both demons and evildoers.


Thanks, this article clears up the issue for me. Am I therefore to assume that the false Gods of other religions are in fact Demons? I've read that elsewhere in the Church Fathers but it is now rejected by the Catholic Chuch in favour of seeing other religions as alternative paths to God that are lacking the fullness of truth but are still able to save a person.
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« Reply #12 on: January 08, 2009, 02:19:21 PM »

Thanks. This is all very interesting.

If there is no Hell now (other than some sort of spiritual experience of it) then where is the Devil?

You are most welcome. The way I understand it, there indeed is no eternal Hell just yet; there is what is called a "particular judgment" for every person who dies, and that's what happened to the rich man and Lasarus. Here's how the Orthodox chatechism describes it:

"With death comes the separation of the soul from the body. The body returns to the earth from which it was taken. It decomposes but it is not lost. The time will come when it will be resurrected, spiritualized and made incorruptible, at the time of the just judgement. And then it will be united with the soul to be judged along with the soul. In the meantime, the soul which was separated, through death, from the body, lives in a middle state. It undergoes the particular judgement. "It is appointed for men to die once, and after that comes the judgement"(Hebrews 9:27). This means that immediately after death the soul is judged individually. It remains after this particular judgement until the final judgement, at the second Coming of Christ, having a foretaste of paradise or of hell."

http://www.gocanada.org/catechism/cathappens.htm

As for the devil, AFAIK, he is a spiritual creature (fallen angel), so he is not omnipresent like God; but he is invisible and there is simply no telling where he is, how he moves, from where to where he goes, etc.
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« Reply #13 on: January 08, 2009, 02:29:02 PM »

Thanks. This is all very interesting.

If there is no Hell now (other than some sort of spiritual experience of it) then where is the Devil?

You are most welcome. The way I understand it, there indeed is no eternal Hell just yet; there is what is called a "particular judgment" for every person who dies, and that's what happened to the rich man and Lasarus. Here's how the Orthodox chatechism describes it:

"With death comes the separation of the soul from the body. The body returns to the earth from which it was taken. It decomposes but it is not lost. The time will come when it will be resurrected, spiritualized and made incorruptible, at the time of the just judgement. And then it will be united with the soul to be judged along with the soul. In the meantime, the soul which was separated, through death, from the body, lives in a middle state. It undergoes the particular judgement. "It is appointed for men to die once, and after that comes the judgement"(Hebrews 9:27). This means that immediately after death the soul is judged individually. It remains after this particular judgement until the final judgement, at the second Coming of Christ, having a foretaste of paradise or of hell."

http://www.gocanada.org/catechism/cathappens.htm

As for the devil, AFAIK, he is a spiritual creature (fallen angel), so he is not omnipresent like God; but he is invisible and there is simply no telling where he is, how he moves, from where to where he goes, etc.

Where did our Lord Jesus go to free the captives?
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« Reply #14 on: January 08, 2009, 02:46:18 PM »


Thanks, this article clears up the issue for me. Am I therefore to assume that the false Gods of other religions are in fact Demons? I've read that elsewhere in the Church Fathers but it is now rejected by the Catholic Chuch in favour of seeing other religions as alternative paths to God that are lacking the fullness of truth but are still able to save a person.

Some Orthodox do believe that the gods of other religions are demons. But that is a minority position, I would think.

Instead, Orthodoxy makes two claims (from Seeds of the Word: Orthodox Thinking on Other Religions, 17):

Quote
1. Orthodoxy insists that the fullness of truth is found in Orthodoxy. The Orthodox Church understands itself to be the Apostolic Church and affirms that no other Church, religion, or philosophy can show forth that fullness in quite the same way, or so completely.

2. At the same time, Orthodox have believed from the earliest years of the Church's history that God has worked outside the boundaries of the Church and that religious truths have been manifested in other places. In its missionary work, Orthodoxy has at times been able to bless traditions that originated outside of Christianity because they not only did not contradict Christian belief but also in some ways were consistent with it and, therefore, should be received.

So, just because Satan roams the earth, doesn't mean that other religions are demonic. Sure, there are people who work with, or venerate, demons, but these people can be found anywhere, in both Christian and non-Christian cultures.
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« Reply #15 on: January 08, 2009, 02:47:29 PM »

Where did our Lord Jesus go to free the captives?

AFAIK, it's a very complicated question to which different Orthodox theologians reply differently. I can give you a link to Bishop Hilarion (Alfeev)'s recent article on this issue, here (in its original Russian):

http://azbyka.ru/hristianstvo/dogmaty/alfeev_tainstvo_veru_72g-all.shtml

In that article, Vl. Hilarion writes that Christ's descent into hell is a mystery, something that we, in spite of the wealth of our liturgical tradition, can now understand only partially. He writes that there are certain "apophatic" statements that we can make about it (i.e. we can state what the descent into hell is NOT):

1) it does not mean that there will be no more hell, but, rather, that the POWER of hell over the people who died is defeated by Christ;

2) it does not mean that only certain selected righteous men were freed from hell, but, rather, that ANY soul who wishes to escape hell (i.e. repent and love God) CAN be rescued;

3) it does not mean that not one single soul will remain in hell, because those who do not themselves want to repent and be rescued, aren't rescued;

4) it does not mean "purgatory" in the Western sense.

In any case, from Vl. Hilarion's writings one cannot deduce any "place" where Christ went in a physical, spatial sense.
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« Reply #16 on: January 08, 2009, 02:51:10 PM »

Where did our Lord Jesus go to free the captives?

AFAIK, it's a very complicated question to which different Orthodox theologians reply differently. I can give you a link to Bishop Hilarion (Alfeev)'s recent article on this issue, here (in its original Russian):

....
In any case, from Vl. Hilarion's writings one cannot deduce any "place" where Christ went in a physical, spatial sense.

I believe it's more accurate to say that Christ descended into Hades (the realm of the dead), not "Hell" (of the "eternal suffering" variety).

Quote
We do not know if every one followed Christ when He rose from hell [that is, Hades]. Nor do we know if every one will follow Him to the eschatological Heavenly Kingdom when He will become ‘all in all’. But we do know that since the descent of Christ into Hades the way to resurrection has been opened for ‘all flesh’, salvation has been granted to every human being, and the gates of paradise have been opened for all those who wish to enter through them. This is the faith of the Early Church inherited from the first generation of Christians and cherished by Orthodox Tradition. This is the never-extinguished hope of all those who believe in Christ Who once and for all conquered death, destroyed hell [that is, Hades] and granted resurrection to the entire human race.
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« Reply #17 on: January 08, 2009, 02:59:27 PM »

 Smiley
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« Reply #18 on: January 08, 2009, 05:57:29 PM »

^^ Thanks, Jetavan, you are right. In Russian, the word used by Vl. Hilarion was "ad" (ад), and it's actually a derivative from the Greek "ᾅδης" (Hades).
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« Reply #19 on: January 08, 2009, 11:26:39 PM »

Seeds of the Word: Orthodox Thinking on Other Religions

Thanks for posting the link.  I'll be sure to read it.
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« Reply #20 on: January 08, 2009, 11:41:31 PM »

St. Silouan of the Holy Mountain once said: You will find Heaven in the heart of a saint, and in the heart of a sinner you will find Hell, already. It is good to know this; for we must spend eternity in either heaven or hell.

Just my speculation; but God did not create Hell, we did.

 The Gospel of Mathew 25 says:

Come blessed of my Father. Inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world, for....
later it says: Depart from me you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels, for...

One of the Romanian fathers pointed this out to show that God wills for us to inherit Heaven, which he prepared specifically for us. We are not destined for hell unless we insist on it. The Gospel does warn us that we CAN go to hell if we choose to by our actions and our deeds.

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« Reply #21 on: November 28, 2012, 07:37:38 PM »

I've always liked Dostoyevsky's definition of hell.

Quote
“What is hell? I maintain that it is the suffering of being unable to love.”

It's from The Brothers Karamazov.

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« Reply #22 on: November 29, 2012, 01:58:54 PM »

Hell is a state of a soul that hates God and is now living in separation from Him. Hell was created at the fall of the demons, or better phrased -- was created by God for demons, since they are the ones in permanent opposition to God, and not the other way around.
Actually, hell is not exactly a creation, but rather a spiritual void in which demons now dwell (some are on earth, and some in the ether).
All the people who hate God will have to live in this spiritual void and they will be tormented according to whatever passions they are not able to fulfill anymore, since this void removes any possibility of sin. Also, God's love burns them (to be understood in spiritual terms), since those in hell know that it is Love that they sinned against. In other words, they are truly evil, so God who is Love had to cut them off from Him, but they can't handle the fact that Love would do that. It's as if they never thought it would come to such a radical decision given how infinite and gentle God's Love is, yet, they did go too far and provoked the unthinkable. It's a paradox that even though demons gave birth to their own hell, they totally hate it at the same time.
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« Reply #23 on: November 29, 2012, 05:14:45 PM »

I have discovered that within Orthodoxy there is a view http://oca.org/orthodoxy/the-orthodox-faith/spirituality/the-kingdom-of-heaven/heaven-and-hell which, as I understand it, seems to say that Hell is the horrible and painful experience of the soul of a person, after death, who during his life cut himself off from God, rejecting His grace, of suddenly being flung into the undeniable and unavoidable presence of God in eternity.  Rather than saying a wicked person is separated from God at death, on this view it could be said that at death all will find themselves in His presence, face to face with Him as it were. Indeed, we are already in His presence. The difference is, here in this life one can either receive God and enjoy his presence, or reject God and hide from it. For those who have been deified, who love God and have a relationship with Him, His presence is pure delight and will be in eternity. However, for those who disdain God and live at odds with Him, His presence will be something overwhelmingly terrifying, and will burn them like fire, though perhaps only in a symbolic sense.  

As C.S. Lewis (not Orthodox) said, "God is going to invade, all right: but what is the good of saying you are on His side then, when you see the whole natural universe melting away like a dream and something else -something it never entered your head to conceive- comes crashing in; something so beautiful to some of us and so terrible to others that none of us will have any choice left? For this time it will be God without disguise; something so overwhelming that it will strike either irresistible love or irresistible horror into every creature. It will be too late then to choose your side."

For the those who love God, meeting Him will bring 'irresistible love', but for those who hate Him, 'irresistible horror'.

So that's one idea.
« Last Edit: November 29, 2012, 05:28:29 PM by Armchair Theologian » Logged
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« Reply #24 on: November 29, 2012, 05:18:51 PM »

Here's another interesting link. http://oca.org/orthodoxy/the-orthodox-faith/spirituality/the-kingdom-of-heaven/heaven-and-hell
« Last Edit: November 29, 2012, 05:21:53 PM by Armchair Theologian » Logged
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« Reply #25 on: November 29, 2012, 05:25:12 PM »

I've always liked Dostoyevsky's definition of hell.

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“What is hell? I maintain that it is the suffering of being unable to love.”

It's from The Brothers Karamazov.

- Jade

That sort of compares to Dickens' allusion in A Christmas Carol. where the spirits of the damned in chains try to intervene for good and cannot, being unable thereby to lighten the burdens of their consciences.
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