Inquiry

On the Nature of Hell

Ambrose Andreano

Scripture says sin and death entered the world because of Adam,[1] so we must explore the eschatological consequences that mankind experiences because of the fall: namely, hell. The topic of hell is one largely shrouded in mystery. We know hell exists, but the exact nature of such a thing is less clear. The difficulties are further amplified when English versions of the New Testament translate hades,[2] gehenna,[3] and tartaros[4]—three distinct Greek words—as simply “hell.”[5] This can be confusing because when most people think of hell, they think of a lake of fire burning for eternity. However, this does not make much sense in light of Scripture saying, “death and hell were cast into the lake of fire.”[6] This shows the need for distinctions to be made. When most people think of hell (as torment), what they actually mean is gehenna. The instances where hades is used refers instead to the realm of the dead(the Hebrew equivalent being sheol).[7] I wanted to examine the various perspectives about the nature of hell, and then seek to use such information in order to provide a comprehensive exposition, specifically with regards to the nature of gehenna. Therefore, whenever “hell” is used here, what is meant is gehenna specifically, as opposed to hades generally.

The Mainstream View: Active and Passive Torment

The Mainstream traditional view of hell is that the wicked will suffer an eternal conscious torment for their past sins. However, the expressed nature of such an experience can be understood in different ways among those who hold to this view. The most popular understanding of the traditional view is what could be called eternal active torment—that God creates what could be practically described as a celestial torture chamber to both quarantine and actively punish sinners for eternity. This comes from a literal interpretation of the “furnace of fire.”[8]According to this perspective, the damned have no hope of repentance because, though they sin in a finite sense, they sin against an infinitely holy God. Other proponents of this perspective have articulated it differently, saying that sin too is infinite, believing that sin does not cease upon death. Both artiburn culations are argued specifically in order to respond to objections about God being unjust for eternally punishing people for a finitenumber of sins. The other perspective within the traditional view is what could be called eternal passive torment—which is the understanding that the pride of sinners withdraws eternally deeper into themselves and maintains greater and greater possession of them like a demon, rendering their experience of God as a suicidal torment without any hope of repentance. This view finds historical support in people like St John Chrysostom, who said of hell:

It is a sea of fire—not a sea of the kind or dimensions we know here, but much larger and fiercer, with waves made of fire, fire of a strange and fearsome kind. There is a great abyss there, in fact, of terrible flames, and one can see fire rushing about on all sides like some wild animal. … There will be no one who can resist, no one who can escape: Christ’s gentle, peaceful face will be nowhere to be seen. But as those sentenced to work the mines are give over to rough men and see no more of their families, but only their taskmasters, so it will be there—or not simply so, but much worse. For here on can appeal to the Emperor for clemency, and have the prisoner released—but there, never. They will not be released, but will remain roasting and in such agony as cannot be expressed.[9]

Chrysostom also says the reason man is tormented forever is because the resurrected body is inconsumable by nature.[10] Prior to this, the Latin apologist Marcus Felix similarly states that limbs are burned and restored.[11] He also summarizes his view in a general sense by saying, “For now what takes place is for correction; but then for vengeance,”[12] meaning that all torment we may experience in this life is solely pedagogical, and all torment we experience in the next life is solely punitive.

Beyond Chrysostom, there are many other church fathers who have this understanding of hell. St Ignatius of Antioch talks about the unquenchable fire that awaits foul men.[13] The Martyrdom of Polycarp echoes this,[14] as does the Letter to Diognetus.[15] St Justin Martyr articulates hell within a legal context in strictly punitive terms when referencing what made a woman convert to Christianity.[16] St Theophilus of Antioch says, “there will be wrath and indignation, tribulation and anguish; and in the end, such men as these will be detained in everlasting fire.”[17] St Irenaeus says the penalty to unbelievers is “not merely temporal,” but eternal, and they will be damned forever in everlasting fire.[18] Tertullian says mankind will be restored to “receive its just deserts according to what it has merited in this period of good and evil,” and that the wicked are punished in eternal fire.[19] St Hippolytus says men, angels, and demons will be in agreement with the just nature of God’s judgment, and that the unrighteous will not be delivered from punishment.[20] St Cyprian of Carthage says the tormented will be “without the fruit of repentance: weeping will be useless, and prayer ineffectual.”[21] St Cyril of Jerusalem says the righteous receive heavenly bodies, but the unrighteous receive merely eternal bodies “fitted to endure the penalties of sins.”[22]

The Black Fire of St Basil

In distinguishing between the pleasant fire of heaven and the tormenting fire of hell, St Basil uses Ps. 28:7 and Daniel 3 to suggest that God divides the painful consuming part of the fire from the illuminating part.[23] In other words, when we experience fire in this world, it is prophetic foreshadowing: the burning aspect of fire foreshadows hellfire, and the light foreshadows heavenly fire. If I were to develop this concept, I would say Basil is suggesting gehenna is filled with black fire (quite literally a fire without light): a fire that is essentially all burn and no bright (as opposed to the fire of heaven which is all bright and no burn). Therefore, the black fire would then be light-absorbing rather than light-reflecting. Since I find Basil’s image fascinating, I will from now on refer to the fire of gehenna as “the black fire.” Despite the view of eternal conscious torment representing the majority, it is not without objections. Spiegel writes:

Beginning with the problem of eternal suffering, let’s assume that for any instance of human suffering allowed or caused by God, there must be some sufficient reason for permitting or causing it. In Scripture we find many grounds for divine allowance of suffering. Such redemptive ends include the production of joy (1 Pet 4:13); spiritual nourishment (Isa. 30:20); maturity and completeness (Jas 1:1–4); purifying of faith (1 Pet 1:6–7); perseverance, hope, and character formation (Rom 5:3–4); growth in obedience (Heb 5:8); and sharing Christ’s glory (Rom 8:17). In each case there is a higher positive end in view, an ultimate redemptive point to the suffering that we experience. In contrast, there can be no redemptive point when it comes to ECT[24] in hell, because for the damned there is nothing beyond the suffering.[25]

Spiegel argues that if we grant the Augustinian notion that evil is the privation of good, then there is the problem of evil being eternal,[26] because there are those who will be devoid of goodness for eternity. Not only that, but the greater tragedy is that a fundamental part of creation remains forever unredeemed,[27] as Universalists will emphasize. Or, at the very least, only partially redeemed. In other words, it is argued that these things could justify the accusation that Christ failed in His mission to restore creation. On top of this, how could heaven be heaven with the knowledge that there are others being tormented for eternity? Would we not desire their restoration all the more? However, to this the Traditionalist could respond by quoting Psalm 34:16 (a passage referenced by St Irenaeus), which could be evidence of a coming mind-wipe, where God erases their memory from existence. The most popular objection was briefly mentioned before, that it is unjust to punish wicked people forever if their sins are finite. God is therefore seen as unnecessarily cruel, especially since we cannot incarnate such a thought with any practical examples. In other words, if someone sins, we as human beings do not then respond by throwing them in a furnace as a justconsequence. While the logic here is theoretically sound, it also does not account for the possibility that sins are not judged in a strictly formal and legal sense, but rather on an ontological level. Punishment could theoretically be eternal if one proves free will and pride to be eternal. This would make the punishment one of being, in the present, rather than a retrospective consequence for all past decisions. In other words, the consequences of past sins have already condemned the individual by corrupting and influencing the heart to continue living in sin and torment. It is also important to note that the traditional view sees the punishment for the wicked as being punitive in nature rather than pedagogical/redemptive.[28] This view interprets the Greek word aion as essentially meaning without end. However, even though aion is used fifty times in relation to eternity, there are thirty-one instances where it is used to refer to a limited duration.[29]

Universalism

As St Gregory the Theologian said, “Though some may prefer even in this place to take a more merciful view of this fire, worthily of Him that chastises,”[30] which alludes to the next point. When the fire of hell is instead seen also as redemptive rather than purely punitive, it then necessarily becomes Universalism, because the torment is a progressive refining torment that acts as the punishment, not a strict regressive punitive torment. Thus, the Universalist is one who denies not the existence of hell, but the eternality of hell. They believe eventually, rational beings will be purified, restored, and return to God in the end.[31] Even though the most quoted passage for Universalists is probably 1 Corinthians 15:28, I think the greatest example of the universalist perspective is captured in not the fifteenth but the third chapter, which says, “Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. If any man’s work abides which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.”[32] This perspective interprets aion as meaning an unknown amount of time, rather than a definitive absence of an end. Ramelli states the following historical support for universalism (apokatastasis):

The main Patristic supporters of the apokatastasis theory, such as Bardaisan, Clement, Origen, Didymus, St. Anthony, St. Pamphilus Martyr, Methodius, St. Macrina, St. Gregory of Nyssa (and probably the two other Cappadocians), St. Evagrius Ponticus, Diodore of Tarsus, Theodore of Mopsuestia, St. John of Jerusalem, Rufinus, St. Jerome and St. Augustine (at least initially), Cassian, St. Isaac of Nineveh, St. John of Dalyatha, Ps. Dionysius the Areopagite, probably St. Maximus the Confessor, up to John the Scot Eriugena, and many others, grounded their Christian doctrine of apokatastasis first of all in the Bible.[33]

The opponents of universalism argue that such a position means one cannot truly “hope” for salvation,[34] since it is believed that everyone will eventually be saved regardless. If everyone will be saved, hope is not necessary. Another more common objection people often have for universalism is the fact that it could be counterproductive and spiritually dangerous to teach. If people are told everyone will be saved, they argue, then they will be enticed to sin all the more. Although, one must wonder how an extended-but-limited amount of torment could be considered enticing simply because it is not unlimited. One does not seem moreenticed to commit a crime if they hear the penalty is sixty years in prison, instead of life without parole, so that argument in particular does not seem to hold much practical weight. Another objection could be the simple question: “Why wait?” If all men will ultimately be saved, why not kickstart the Second Coming now instead of waiting for people to come to repentance?[35] Another objection still is the reality of the unforgivable sin against the Holy Spirit. Jesus makes the unforgivable nature of this blasphemy abundantly clear by separating it from literally every other sin that is forgivable.[36] If universalism is true, it must be explained how an unforgivable sin can be forgiven. Another common objection relates to how Scripture often contrasts eternal punishment with eternal life,[37] indicating that to say punishment is temporal would suggest life in Christ is temporal as well.

Annihilationism

A different-but-related perspective is Annihilationism, which states that people do not suffer an eternity in hell, but are instead destroyed; falling into eternal nothingness.[38] People who hold to this view are also called Conditionalists, believing that because everlasting life is only for the saved, those who end up in hell are eventually destroyed and return to the nothingness from which they came.[39] Annihilationists arrive at their position after being unable to reconcile the doctrine of everlasting punishment with a God of love and grace. Thus, they argue that either immortality is conditional and only the righteous will be raised.[40] Though a minority view today, this perspective—like the others—is not without historical support. This seems to have been the perspective of the Didache community, since they believed resurrection of the dead included only the saints (citing 1 Th. 3:13 as support).[41] This would imply that the death of the unrighteous is ultimately the end of their earthly life, which raises issues for Biblical phrases like “second death.”[42] Although, perhaps they would say the second death is the death of the soul. The biggest problem with this perspective is not simply the lack of historical support, but the fact that it is antithetical to standard incarnation theology, which posits that in Christ’s uniting human nature with His divinity, all of mankind rises with Him unto immortality.[43] One needs to reject this theology in order to accept Annihilationism, which is problematic. Suffice it to say, this view is aligned with universalism when it comes to the interpretation of aion. Annihilationists would argue that complete annihilation of a human being could be considered a better demonstration of the power of God than the idea that suffering is eternal.[44] Therefore, this position is somewhere between the others, since the Annihilationist would agree with the Universalist about suffering being limited in nature, but would also agree with the Traditionalist that hell is solely punitive rather than redemptive.

An Orthodox Synthesis

To properly understand the fulness of the doctrine of hell, one must first begin with two truths: 1) God is love,[45] and 2) God loves the whole world.[46] This is an important point to make, because it expresses the all-consuming universality of divine intent. The purpose of the Christian life is union with God.[47] Union with God is like iron or coal being submerged into fire, and taking on the qualities of that fire, but without being fire.[48] If we are like an iron sword, and our mission is to radiate with the heat of fire—able to both cut and burn simultaneously—the goal is accomplished simply by a submerging the sword into fire. However, though everyone is going to one day be eternally submerged into the fiery unveiled presence of God at the Second Coming of Christ, not everyone is like a sword. What would happen if someone were less comparable to a sword, and more comparable to a dry pile of chaff? Both the sword and the chaff experience heaven, but only the chaff experiences hell.

From this perspective, hell does not exist in simply an objective sense—it is rather an inverted and subjective experience of the unveiled Christ and the subsequent new earth. Hell does not exist outside, somewhere in time and space, it exists within the hearts and experiences of bitter men. This understanding is also found in the West under Anglican theologian C.S. Lewis, who even subtly wrote his perspective of hell into some of his allegorical works. According to The Last Battle, hell is when Aslan—out of his impartial love—places a banquet in front of the dwarves, but they cannot see it. The dwarves see only a prison. However, we come to find out that, “Their prison is only in their own minds.”[49]In The Great Divorce, hell is when people leave the most beautiful land they have ever seen to return to the “Grey Town,” because it was too painful for them to walk on the grass.[50]The problem not being the grass itself (as if created to harm them), but their inability to experience the grass in the way for which it was intended. The grass is there for enjoyment, but because of their sin, they experience the grass as torment (which is a kind of justice in a more poetic sense). Lewis also says “the doors of hell are locked on the inside. I do not mean that the ghosts may not wish to come out of hell, in the vague fashion wherein an envious man ‘wishes’ to be happy…They enjoy forever the horrible freedom they have demanded, and are therefore self-enslaved.”[51] Hell does not have to be about being actively tormented in a prison as a legal penalty for past sins, because the torment is itself just in the sense that people get what they deserve (and can thus be explained in this way) while at the same time, God lovingly gives them the goodness they do not deserve. Therefore, it is more accurately described as the objective, eternal, and unveiled love of God—subjectively experienced astorment, because sin makes us incapable of receiving divine love as it is meant to be received (which then makes us incapable of experiencing the transfigured earth as it is meant to be experienced).

Hell is not, in this sense, somewhere away from God—it is God. The black fire of gehenna truly is God filling all things,[52] but the tormented are (of their own choosing) void of the illuminating knowledge and light of God. Hell is when the unrighteous experience God’s presence: 1) His energetic presence within the material world, and 2) His convicting presence within the conscious mind. Therefore, David says, “If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there.”[53] Again the Scriptures declare that man is tormented “in the presence of the Lord.”[54] And lest one think this refers merely to the omnipresence of God,[55] he adds, “and His holy angels.” Scripture is clear that the presence of the Lord is the source of the torment,[56] which is why we cannot simply say hell is an external separation from God. God is the consuming fire,[57] and it is His dual-presence[58] that is the source of the torment.[59] This is the punishment that the wicked receive for their sins, and it is a punishment of consequence. An analogy for this would be the effect of the sun moving closer to the earth: the more the sun advances, the more tormented the earth becomes simply because of proximity. Thus, God does not have to actively torment anyone to execute His judgments, He simply needs to be: the way the sun does not have to do anything for the skin of some to be burned, needing only to continue unchanged. However, at the same time, one can use such language to describe the division. One can say the sun judges the clay. Even the general resurrection—which is unto immortality—will be a dividing judgment in of itself, because St Irenaeus says mortality was simply a mercy of God that sin should not live forever.[60] Therefore, in a theological sense, resurrection unto immortality is a blessing that melts the righteous and a judgment that hardens the wicked.

The same sun, with the same heat, at the same time—melts wax and hardens clay. The clay does not experience more heat than the wax, nor does the clay experience a different type of heat. In the same way, heaven and hell are filled with the same eternal and divine fire divided by experience, not necessarily substance. In other words, if I were to give a hypothetical: I do not think a citizen of heaven would be burned by the black fire, should they wander their way into hell. They have nothing of substance in their transfigured flesh that would catch fire. The fire of heaven and hell are in one sense literal, because the energies of God will literally fill the transfigured earth, and in another sense it is a metaphor for God’s eternal and unchanging love that either warms or burns the conscience. As St Maximus the Confessor says, created and uncreated realities unite in the incarnation, and become like the burning bush: burning but not consumed.[61] The earth will eventually be transfigured, following our transfiguration, in order to be aligned with the new incarnated divine-human reality. No longer will the earthly and the divine exist as two separate realities, but they will become a single united realm.

Therefore, heaven and hell describe opposite experiences of the same fiery God: heaven burning; hell consuming. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego experienced the same fire as the men who threw them in the furnace, yet only the executioners died.[62] All of them burned, but not all of them were consumed. There will come a day when Christ returns more radiant than the sun, ready to envelop the cosmos with a warm embrace. Unfortunately for many, He will also consume with the brightness of His coming.[63] That consuming—in of itself—will be the judgment upon the wicked. But for the righteous, we shall “walk through fire and not be burned or consumed by the flame.”[64] St Basil does argue that this is because God actively divides the flame, but this is just one of many speculations. Fire being cooled for the righteous could just as well be interpreted as the flame being consumed into the will of a greater divine flame. In other words, having the infinite God burning within us, what lesser fire is strong enough to consume the divine? Such fire would simply be absorbed. When Daniel was in the lion’s den, it is true that God could have simply commanded the lions to stand down. However, this is not the only way of interpreting the circumstance. The passage says, “My God sent His angel and shut the mouths of the lions so they did not destroy me, because uprightness was found in me before Him…”[65] Is it not also possible that the lions merely perceived Christ, the greater “Lion of Judah,”[66] on the other side of the den? What simple lion would dare attack the man with Aslan? Therefore, there are a variety of ways of interpreting the nature of what caused the mouths of lions to remain closed. We must allow for these poetically mystical understandings of the text to balance our tendency to over-literalize the language of the text.

Therefore, to summarize it succinctly, there seems to be two layers of hell—the former preceding the latter in occurrence: 1) the spiritual foretaste, which occurs when the unrighteous die prior to the Second Coming of Christ, and 2) the re-grafting of the physical with the spiritual in the new theanthropic reality—such as the return of souls to their bodies at the general resurrection of the dead, being united with the divine-spiritual reality at the Second Coming. In other words, when the unrighteous die, they first experience an inner hell in spirit. The inner hell is the torment of conscience, inflicted upon the self by the self (ever knowing the law and righteous judgment of God)—whether it be the pride of bitterness or regret. It is the inverted perception of the nature of God and His goodness. St Isaac the Syrian explained it best when he said:

I maintain that those who are tormented in hell are scourged by the scourge of love. For what is so bitter and burning as the torment of love? Those who have become conscious that they have sinned against love suffer greater torment from this than from any fear of punishment, because the sorrow caused in the heart by sin against love is sharper than any torment that can be. It would be improper for a man to think that sinners in hell are deprived of the love of God, because love is freely given to all. The power of love works in two ways: it can either torment those who have played the fool, like when a friend suffers from a friend; or it becomes a source of joy for those who have observed its duties. Thus I say that this is the torment of hell: bitter regret. But love intoxicates the souls of the sons of Heaven by its delight.[67]

Following this foretaste, at the general resurrection, the unrighteous will be united with their former bodies and experience a kind of outer hell. The outer hell is the inverted sensory experience of the new transfigured earth, when all of material existence is eternally renewed and set aflame with the glory of God’s energies, but is not consumed by virtue of its sanctified purity. However, because the unrighteous are not refined and divinely transfigured, they are also trapped in a kind of alternate dimension (an inverted cosmological plane that is the same geographically as heaven, but also different in every way) and unable to endure the divine energies. Therefore, hell can be described in both physical and spiritual terms simultaneously, because they are representative of both the material and immaterial aspects of such torment, so they ought to be united if we are to believe that all of mankind will be resurrected in bodily form, as Scripture testifies.[68]

Answering Objections

However, one of a more lawyerly disposition might have some objections to what I described, so these objections ought to be answered. One might ask, “What about the passages in Scripture which talk about separating wheat and tares,[69] sheep and goats,[70]wise and foolish?”[71] Another might ask, “How can the righteous enjoy bliss in heaven when the unrighteous are there with them in torment?” To answer the second question first: How can the righteous enjoy bliss knowing the unrighteous are elsewhere writhing in torment? The problem in such a question is not one of geography (but would perhaps have something to do with Psalm 34:16?). Secondly, the separation images are simply metaphorsof judgment that the common farmer would understand about the nature of the coming kingdom, because they did such things daily. The agricultural context is why so many parables have to do with husbandry. All eschatological images in the New Testament are condescending to the life of the first century culture that received them. It does not mean to convey an encyclopedic description of what will occur, as if all the righteous will literally be geographically located on the right side of Jesus. We cannot fully comprehend what it will be like because it transcends what we know of our present existence, hence the metaphors. However, the separation is meant to primarily convey inward relational separation from reality caused by the hardened heart, which only then bleeds outward into the experience of the world at the actualizing of God’s “amen.” God is omnipresent, so one cannot ultimately be geographically quarantined away from a God who is, in His divine nature, everywhere present and filling all things.[72] Thus, a quarantine can only be understood in a very limited manner, being separated from the local presence of Christ’s humanity. Though, we must also keep Luke 16:19-31 and Revelation 14:10 in view, knowing that such separation is both distant and not distant at the same time. If Jesus taught about hell to our modern mythological context, He would no doubt utilize something like the “upside down” in the Netflix series Stranger Things, which is simultaneously an internal experience and an external location. Therefore, I propose that hell (in an external sense) exists as an alternate parallel dimension separated by plane, not geography. Heaven and hell will both exist on this earth, but hell existing as an inferior plane being lower than/subordinate to that of the divine transfigured plane.

St Peter talks about the quarantine-like abyss of “tartaros,”[73] which is a Hellenistic appropriation from Greek mythology, so this must be explained first. Peter is alluding to the infamous account of the fallen angels of Genesis 6, Jude 6, and 1 Enoch,[74] and using the mythological framework of his day to talk about it. In Greek mythology, concepts like Hades and Tartarus are described by poets as geographical locations which are also simultaneously personified as deities. Hesiod (700 BC) said Tartarus was the third primordial deity (following Chaos and Gaia),[75] and its location he describes as being a ten-day bronze anvil drop from Earth.[76] Hesiod describes Tartarus being literally, “as far beneath the earth as heaven is above the earth.”[77] Homer (700 BC) has a somewhat similar account in the Illiad, where Zeus says Tartarus is “as far beneath hades as heaven is above earth.”[78]Therefore, in Hesiod, the descent is a linear travel from heaven, to earth, to tartarus, each location representing equal distance from the one before it. Homer’s account lowers the position of tartarus to being below hades rather than earth. In Roman mythology, Virgil describes Tartarus in rather fantastic terms in his Aeneid, but is nonetheless described as a place where sinners are sent. The reason why this history is important is because the popular cultural image of tartarus is utilized to describe the mystery of hell. When the Lord mentions this eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels,[79] or their casting into “outer darkness,”[80] or when John mentions the “bottomless pit/abyss,”[81] it is a reference to the abyss of tartarus that a Hellenized audience would have understood. Due to the internal evidence, I am under the opinion that tartarus and gehenna are actually the same thing described in different ways, since gehenna (in an external sense) can be imagined as an isolated and dark abyss of black fire.

However, I wanted to get back to the alternate dimension. It seems highly likely that this quarantined abyss exists as an external experiential reality, in the sense that the inverted resurrection[82] will theoretically create its own spatial dimension, since the unrighteous remain within time and space and the righteous will transcend beyond it. Since the unrighteous do not experience divine transfiguration, they enter a state that cannot perceive, comprehend, or experience the reality of theanthopic hyper-motion.[83] They are instead continually digressing into the slowing of motion—one that has no mercy of death, and they are ever crushed by the thick weight of corporeality. In simpler terms, those in hell will experience the transfigured realm in a way similar to how we presently experience the spiritual realm (in the sense that it is mysterious and unknown). The spiritual bodies of angels are invisible to our eyes because we have, by sin, rendered our sensory experience incapable of true sanctified perception within the state of theanthropic hyper-motion. In other words, since the fall, we have (either actually or potentially) lost additional senses greater than five.[84] To those of the inverted resurrection, their sensory experience will be even more deficient from the spiritual malnourishment of their inner darkness. It is this inner darkness that leads to outer darkness: for truly the Lord said, “If the blind lead the blind, both fall into a pit.”[85] Within synergistic reality, man expresses his will and God gives the “amen.” As C.S. Lewis writes in The Great Divorce, “There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, “Thy will be done,” and those to whom God says, in the end, “Thy will be done.” If man would rather be blind and live in a pit, God responds by giving them a pit. Instead of, “Thy faith hath made thee whole; depart in peace,”[86]Christ will say to the unrighteous: “Thy faith is dead;[87] depart into punishment.”[88]Therefore, the unrighteous might continue to exist on this current plane, which would be inhabited only by them in isolation from eternal life in God. As I mentioned before, transfiguration would, in theory, separate humanity into two groups: 1) those living on earth outside of time in harmony with God, and 2) those living on earth inside of time in opposition to God. The unrighteous will experience the divine energies in a darkened, cryptic, chaotic, tormented sense rather than an illumined revelatory sense. Their resurrected immortal state of existence will be a just punishment in of itself. Because of these things, the internal gehenna consequently actualizes an external gehenna, which is the separation of the wicked from the manifest local presence of Christ’s humanity, and from communion with Christ’s divinity.

Whether the torment of hell will truly be without end, or whether it will feel so long that the end is unseen—is not certain.[89] However, one thing is certain: Christians ought to radically love the wicked for Christ as if they will suffer forever if neglected, and vigorously pray for God to forgive them as if it were possible to end their eternal suffering through intercession.

Pardon, I beseech thee, the iniquity of this people according unto the greatness of thy mercy, and as thou hast forgiven this people, from Egypt even until now. And the LORD said, I have pardoned according to thy word: But as truly as I live, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the LORD.
(Numbers 14:19-21)

_______________

[1] Romans 5:12; 1 Corinthians 15:21.
[2] Matt. 11:23, 16:18; Luke 10:15, 16:23; Acts 2:27, 31; Rev. 1:18; 6:8; 20:13, 14.
[3] Matt. 5:22, 29, 30; 10:28; 18:9; 23:15,33; Mark 9:43,45,47; Luke 12:5; James 3:6.
[4] 2 Peter 2:4.
[5] John Walvoord, Zachary Hayes, Clark Pinnock. Four Views on Hell (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing, 1996), p. 19.
[6] Revelation 20:14.
[7] Walvoord. Four Views on Hell (1996), p. 19.
[8] Matthew 13:50.
[9] John Chrysostom, Homilies on Matthew, 43[44].4.
[10] John Chrysostom, Ad Theod. 1.10. “And if they have died, this has happened not because the soul was consumed but because the body was exhausted, so that had the latter not broken down, the soul would not have ceased being tormented. When then we have received an incorruptible and inconsumable body there is nothing to prevent the punishment being indefinitely extended.”
[11] Marcus Felix, Octavius, 34. “They would prefer to be annihilated rather than be restored for punishment…Nor is there measure nor end to these torments. That clever fire burns the limbs and restores them, wears them away and yet sustains them, just as fiery thunderbolts strike bodies but do not consume them.”
[12] John Chrysostom, Homilies on Romans, 3.1.
[13] Ignatius of Antioch, Letter to the Ephesians, 16. “Corrupters of families will not inherit the kingdom of God. And if they who do these things according to the flesh suffer death, how much more if a man corrupts by evil reaching the faith of God for the sake of which Jesus Christ was crucified? A man become so foul will depart into unquenchable fire, and so will anyone who listens to him.”
[14] Martyrdom of Polycarp 2.3. “Fixing their minds on the grace of Christ, despised worldly tortures and purchased eternal life with but a single hour. To them, the fire of their cruel torturers was cold. They kept before their eyes their escape from the eternal and unquenchable fire.”
[15] Mathetes, Letter to Diognetus, 10. “When you know what is the true life, that of heaven; when you despise the merely apparent death, which is temporal; when you fear the death which is real, and which is reserved for those who will be condemned to the everlasting fire, the fire which will punish even to the end those who are delivered to it, then you will condemn the deceit and error of the world.”
[16] Justin Martyr, Second Apology, 2. “A certain woman lived with an intemperate husband; she herself, too, having formerly been intemperate. But when she came to the knowledge of the teachings of Christ she became sober-minded, and endeavored to persuade her husband likewise to be temperate, citing the teaching of Christ, and assuring him that there shall be punishment in eternal fire inflicted upon those who do not live temperately and conformably to right reason.”
[17] Theophilus of Antioch, To Autolycus 1.14.
[18] Irenaeus of Lyons, Against Heresies 4.28.
[19] Tertullian, Apology, 44. “Then will the entire race of men be restored to receive its just deserts according to what it has merited in this period of good and evil, and thereafter to have these paid out in an immeasurable and unending eternity. Then there will be neither death again nor resurrection again, but we shall be always the same as we are now, without changing. The worshippers of God shall always be with God, clothed in the proper substance of eternity. But the godless and those who have not turned wholly to God will be punished in fire equally unending, and they shall have from the very nature of this fire, divine as it were, a supply of incorruptibility.”
[20] Hippolytus of Rome, Against the Greeks, 3. “Standing before judgment, all of them, men, angels, and demons, crying out in one voice, shall say: “Just is your judgment!” And the righteousness of that cry will be apparent in the recompense made to each. To those who have done well, everlasting enjoyment shall be given; while to the lovers of evil shall be given eternal punishment. The unquenchable and unending fire awaits these latter, and a certain fiery worm which does not die and which does not waste the body but continually bursts forth from the body with unceasing pain. No sleep will give them rest; no night will soothe them; no death will deliver them from punishment; no appeal of interceding friends will profit them.”
[21] Cyprian of Carthage, To Demetrian, 24.
[22] Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lectures, 18. “We shall be raised therefore, all with our bodies eternal, but not all with bodies alike; For if a man is righteous, he will receive a heavenly body, that he may be able worthily to hold converse with angels; but if a man is a sinner, he shall receive an eternal body, fitted to endure the penalties of sins, that he may burn eternally in fire, nor ever be consumed. And righteously will God assign this portion to either company; for we do nothing without the body. We blaspheme with the mouth, and with the mouth we pray. With the body we commit fornication, and with the body we keep chastity. With the hand we rob, and by the hand we bestow alms; and the rest in like manner. Since then the body has been our minister in all things, it shall also share with us in the future the fruits of the past.”
[23] Basil of Caesarea, Homily on Psalm 28. “Since there are two capacities in fire, the burning and the illuminating, the fierce and punitive part of the fire may wait for those who deserve to burn, while its illuminating and radiant part may be allotted for the enjoyment of those who are rejoicing. Therefore, the voice of the Lord divideth the fire and allots it, so that the fire of punishment is darksome, but the light of the state of rest remains incapable of burning.”
[24] ECT means Eternal Conscious Torment.
[25] James Spiegel. “Hell and the Problem of Eternal Evil.” Toronto Journal of Theology 31, no. 2 (2015): 240.
[26] Ibid., p. 247.
[27] Ibid.
[28] Ibid., p. 12.
[29] Ibid., p. 24.
[30] Gregory Nazianzen. Orations 40.36
[31] Ilaria Ramelli. The Christian Doctrine of Apokatastasis: A Critical Assessment from the New Testament to Eriugena. (Leiden: Brill, 2013), p. 1.
[32] 1 Corinthians 3:13-15.
[33] Ibid., p. 11.
[34] Germain Grisez, “Hell and Hope for Salvation.” New Blackfriars 95, no. 1059 (2014): 606.
[35] Cf. 2 Peter 3:9.
[36] Mark 3:28-30.
[37] Matthew 25:46.
[38] Jurgen Moltmann, The Coming of God: Christian Eschatology (St Albans Place, London: SCM Press, 1996), p. 109.
[39] Spiegel. “Hell and the Problem of Eternal Evil.” (2015): 239.
[40] Walvoord, Four Views on Hell (1996), p. 13.
[41] The Didache, 16. “And third, the resurrection of the dead — yet not of all, but as it is said: ‘The Lord shall come and all His saints with Him.’”
[42] Revelation, 2:11, 20:6, 20:14, 21:8.
[43] This is a central theme in Athanasius’ work On the Incarnation.
[44] Spiegel. “Hell and the Problem of Eternal Evil.” (2015): 241.
[45] 1 John 4:8, 16.
[46] John 3:16.
[47] Theosis.
[48] Melchisedec Toronen. Union and Distinction in the Thought of St Maximus the Confessor (2007), p. 52.
[49] C.S. Lewis, The Last Battle (NY: HarperCollins, 1956), p. 169.
[50] C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce (NY: HarperCollins, 1946), Ch. 4.
[51] C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain (London: Macmillan, 1973), 115–116.
[52] Ephesians 1:23.
[53] Psalm 139:8.
[54] Revelation 14:10.
[55] Those believing that men are tormented away from the presence of the Lord might say it is fitting that Scripture says, “in the presence of the Lord” merely because God is omnipresent rather than simply present.
[56] 2 Thessalonians 1:9; Revelation 14:10. Some translations of 2 Th. 1:9 (such as the ESV) mistakenly insert the word “away,” rendering the verse “away from” the presence of the Lord. However, the verse should read “from the presence of the Lord.” The idea being conveyed there is that the presence of the Lord is the source of the torment, not something else.
[57] Hebrews 12:29.
[58] Energetic and Conscious.
[59] 2 Thessalonians 1:9; Revelation 14:10.
[60] Irenaeus of Lyons, Against Heresies, Book 3, 23.6. “Wherefore also He drove him out of Paradise, and removed him far from the tree of Life, not because He envied him the tree of Life, as some dare to assert, but because He pitied him and desired that he should not continue always a sinner, and that sin which surrounded him should not be immortal, and that the evil interminable and irremediable.”
[61] Melchisedec Toronen. Union and Distinction in the Thought of St Maximus the Confessor (2007), p. 52.
[62] Cf. Daniel 3:22.
[63] Cf. 2 Thessalonians 2:8.
[64] Isaiah 43:2c.
[65] Daniel 6:23.
[66] Cf. Revelation 5:5.
[67] Isaac the Syrian, Ascetical Homilies 48.
[68] Cf. John 5:29; Daniel 12:2.
[69] Matthew 13:24-30.
[70] Matthew 25:31-46.
[71] Matthew 25:1-13.
[72] Cf. Ephesians 1:23.
[73] 2 Peter 2:4.
[74] Enoch 20:2 states that the archangel Uriel was placed in charge of the world and Tartarus.
[75] Hesiod. Theogany, 116-119.
[76] Hesiod. Theogany, 720–725.
[77] Ibid.
[78] Homer. Iliad 8.17.
[79] Matthew 25:41.
[80] Matthew 8:12, 22:13, 25:30.
[81] Revelation 9:1
[82] That is, the resurrection of the damned.
[83] Hyper-motion is the term I use to describe the communal relationship that a transfigured human has with God and the physical world. Teleportation, flight, and phasing through matter are examples of the future theanthropic existence. In a simplistic sense, our bodies and minds (on both a micro and macro level) will attain motion at unfathomable speeds. This kind of velocity will perhaps divide the plane of transfiguration from that of the inverted resurrection. Therefore, the plane of transfiguration might be a new theanthropicrealm: united in divinity and humanity, inhabited by the righteous existing in a state of hyper-motion. Our transfigured existence will gain additional senses, and the earth as we know it will be perceived in an entirely new way. We will ultimately perceive what the earth, moon, stars, and other planets truly are (once the material is united to the spiritual plane in the theanthropic realm), rather than how they appear to our senses currently. We will move, think, see, and commune with one another within an inconceivable velocity and depth: so much so that we will be resurrected even from this present dimension.
[84] The five senses are bodily senses, but we will gain access to spiritual senses as well, which will in turn deepen our bodily senses. We will perhaps be able to taste, hear, and smell color, and even perceive new colors never seen in this life. Perhaps also our physical form will radiate with an energetic aura of our unique attributes made visible.
[85] Matthew 15:14.
[86] Cf. Luke 8:48.
[87] Cf. James 2:17.
[88] Cf. Matthew 25:46.
[89] There are instances in Greek mythology where people like Cronos and Apollo were freed from tartarus. So even though location itself could be interpreted as being eternal, it does not necessarily also mean there would be no intervention (from a mythological perspective).

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