Fr Stephen has a great post today about the “reality” of hell. Throughout much of my Evangelical life, I had simply embraced the assumption that heaven and hell were places. It wasn’t until I began my theological deconstruction and reconstruction several years ago that I began to realize that neither were places at all. Heaven is something much more. In fact, one of the many beautiful things that has drawn me to Orthodoxy is their understanding of heaven and hell. Here’s a quote from Fr Stephen’s post:
“But in Orthodox spiritual terms I would say that hell is a massive state of delusion, maybe the ultimate state of delusion. It is delusional in the sense that (in Orthodox understanding) the “fire” of hell is not a material fire, but itself nothing other than the fire of the Living God (Hebrews 12:29). For those who love God, His fire is light and life, purification and all good things. For those who hate God, His fire is torment, though it be love.”
The very fire of God — his light, love and purification — is heaven or hell. for those who love God, his light and love are heaven! But for those who hate God (and this is the amazing thing), his very love and light are hell!
Some thoughts from one of Fr Stephen’s subsequent comments from the same post are also worth noting:
“I don’t think of them [heaven and hell] in terms of places but in terms of our relationship with God. We use place metaphors for that’s what we know, but the reality of heaven certainly transcends anything we currently think of as place. I do not mean to describe them as merely figurative either.
“But neither can they be somehow compared as having a comparable existence. It might seem like something for a philosophy class, but it is also something for a theology class, at least as we know theology in the Orthodox Church.
“Literalism is the bane of Scriptural understanding. Not that there aren’t plenty of “literal” things described. But many times we have to push beyond the literal to arrive at the truth. At least this is the case in many of the Eastern Church fathers.”
Heaven is not a destination that I hope to get to when I die, nor is hell a destination I want to avoid. Rather, heaven is ultimately my participation in God, who is the fullness of being, life and reality.
Take a few moments and read Fr Stephen’s post in entirety HERE: