I have a question about heaven and hell in Orthodoxy. According to traditional Orthodox doctrine, do human beings have the chance to get into heaven after they die? Is the search for God something that must be completed during life, or is the process of finding and becoming like God one which continued long after we die? Basically what I'm asking is, is the short amount of time on earth we have the only chance we have to be saved?
The process of attaining theosis is generally taught to continue after we die.
Keep in mind that Heaven or Hell are not "places" that you "go to." They are states of existence that result from being exposed to the fullness of God's loving Presence.
So, can a person who is experiencing 'hell' manage to escape it by coming to reject evil and understand and accept God's love?
Yes. Vladika Ilarion says: "Thus, God didn’t create the hell for sinners, they did it themselves. God doesn’t send sinners to the hell, but people who oppose God’s will and revolt against God choose the hell themselves. And this choice is made in their earthly life rather than in some distant eschatological prospect. It is right here on Earth that infernal tortures and “the Kingdom of God come with power” begin."
There are people on this Earth who will begin to feel the torments of Hell now. The same with Heaven. The problem is that often those who begin to feel "Hell" have also fallen into one of Satan's traps: the Devil convinces them he doesn't exist. As a result, they may be so enslaved to sin that there is no hope for them. Of course, there is always the Love of God, yet they need to willing accept that love and repent. The Gates of Hell are locked from the inside.
This quote says it well: "Every single soul in hell has the full merciful forgiveness of God. What they do not have is the repentance to receive it. "I regret nothing" is spiritual suicide."
Don't know where I found it though.