Eastern Orthodox/Hell

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Question
QUESTION: Hi
What is Orthodox view on non christian and hell? Are all people who are good but are not christian will go to hell?
Thank you

ANSWER: The Orthodox Church takes a bit of a different view when it comes to sin. We see sin as a sickness to be healed, not a crime to be punished.

We are suffering from the sickness of sin, even unto death. Christ the Divine Physician has given us His Church, as a spiritual hospital. He gives us divine medicine in His Body and Blood and the sacraments. He gives us "therapy" through worship, fasting, almsgiving, and prayer. And in this way He provides a cure for the sickness of sin. Those who do not have the Church, do not have the cure.

Ultimately, we will all stand in God's unadulterated presence. We will not be able to ignore Him anymore. We will not be able think we can hide from him. He will be there loving us with a fierce unending love. For those who love God as He truly is, it will be Heaven. For those who have been denying Him, or had a very different idea of who He is, or who cannot forgive themselves for the things they have done, it will be hell.

The Church exists to prepare us for that time, for that experience, so that when we get there it is not a surprise. Another way to look at it is this. Two people live their whole lives in a dark room, they do not know of anything that exists outside that dark room. One person says that darkness is all there is. The other person says, no, there is something called "light". I'm not sure what it is, I think I have a good idea because of what I have been told. Then one day the door is opened and the two people are standing in an incredibly bright light. One person says "it hurts my eyes! I DON'T LIKE IT, make it go away". But it won't go away. The other person says "this must be the light I have been told about!" And soon the eyes adjust and that person is able to see God in all His Glory. For the one, it is still painful, it is so different from what he believed, that he just rejects it outright, he refuses to accept it. He is in hell.

Non-Christians do not know God, the God they meet will not be the God (or gods) they were told about. They are not prepared. They do not have the cure. They will have a lot of adjusting to do and they will probably not be very happy about that. And that will be hell.

It is not God who is punishing us in hell, it is those people who choose hell instead of Heaven who ultimately punish themselves.

Your servant,
Herman

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Thanks Herman.
Is hell like the lake of fire and torment?
Will they be forever in hell? What if their good people but simply worship a different God. Will they suffer alot in hell?
Thank you

Answer
The pain of the sickness of sin is described in Holy Scripture as being like thrown into a lake of fire. It is intense and you can't get away from it. Imagine suddenly being with someone whom you have been trying to avoid, and you cannot avoid that person no matter what you do and you will never be able to do so. You really HATE this person, but this person loves you so much that it is painful to experience, and so you reject it, but you cannot escape it. Not now, not ever. The burning love of God is an illumining and warming fire to those who love Him. It is a painful burning fire that you cannot escape.

It should be pointed out that "forever" has a different meaning in Eternity that in does for us here and now. The Greeks have two words for time. One is Kronos, which is linear time as we experience it now, one thing happening after the other, each event having its own place in the steady progress of "time". The other word is Kairos, which is basically God's time. Remember that the future doesn't actually exist yet, and the past doesn't exist anymore save as a memory. The only time that exists is "now". But you cannot measure "now". You cannot talk about how many "nows" are in an hour. It is difficult to understand or explain how this time will be experienced, like trying to explain "light" to a person who has spent their whole life in a dark room. But "forever" has a much different meaning in Kairos than it does in Kronos.

Now, can a person who has never known the real God make that adjustment to love God as He is and not as how that person believed? That is between them and a God who loves us with a passion that surpasses anything we could ever imagine. But following a false cure, going to a bad doctor, is not going generally going to have a good result. Same thing is true with God.

Eastern Orthodox

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Herman

Expertise

I can answer general questions about the teachings of the Orthodox Church and Orthodox monasticism, particularly differences from Protestants and Catholics.

Experience

Orthodox Christian convert from Protestantism over 30 years ago.

Organizations
American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese

Publications
Monachos.net Discussion Community http://www.monachos.net/forum/forum.php

Education/Credentials
1 year seminary training. 30 years research.

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