Wednesday, December 23, 2009

God is a consuming fire (Heb. 12:29)

Right, so, I've basically boiled this down into small words. For *me*, you understand.

If you want the grown up version, I'm going to include the links to the articles that I read at the bottom, so you can get all the juicy details (which are many, and this post would be *huge* if I tried to encapsulate, which is what I started to do, and then realized the length, and said 'meh')

So, this is just a rough 'smooshing'. If I've stated anything wrong, someone who knows more than I, please let me know. I was just trying to get a rough idea of the theology across, with links to longer, better articles included.

God is described, many, many times in the Bible as fire. For a small sampling, Gen. 19:24, Ex. 3:2, 9:23, 13: 21-22, 19:18, Num 11: 1-3, 4:24, Ne 9:12, Ps 66:10, 104:4, Is 66:15, Matt 31: 10-12, 25:41, Mark 9:49, Luke 12: 49, Acts 7:30, 1 Cor 3:15, Heb 1:7, 12:29, Rev 3:16. It's a metaphor, of course, and helps to illustrate that when we encounter God, here, it's not His Essence, but His Energies. Think back to the sword in the fire from my deification posts.

The Bible tells us that all people go into the presence of God after they die. The difference, the key difference, is how we experience His Presence. Because God is everywhere, and fills all things, there is no place apart from God. So the concept of Hell as a place lacking the presence of God makes no sense. Rather, Heaven and Hell are the same 'place' (keeping in mind we're not speaking physically, but spiritually) - before God, basking in His Divine Energies and Presence, for all eternity. For an illustration, see Daniel 3 - the three youths were tossed into the fire and unharmed, but the warriors burned up at the entrance. Same place, different reactions. Why? The youths were in God's grace, they were righteous. The warriors were not.

We see from the story of Lazarus and the Rich Man (Luke 16: 19-31) that both the righteous and the unrighteous go to the same place after death, 'Hades'. Lazarus was comforted, while the rich man was in agony. (Note that it doesn't say he was *being* tortured, poked by devils with pitchforks or what have you, but that he was 'in agony'). There's no description of any outside force *doing* anything to cause his pain.

An interesting aside, one of the authors posits that Satan and his demons cannot be in 'hell' tormenting sinners, because hell is in the Presence of God, and so they too would be suffering because of His presence (since they are not 'with' Him.)

'all people come into the presence of God in the afterlife. Some will bask in joy because of that infinite love, glory, light, power, and truth that is Almighty God. Others will cower in fear and be in torment DUE TO THAT SAME PRESENCE.'

When we die, no matter what, we will all go to God. Because He's all that really IS. However, due to our choices, this will either be joy and light for all eternity, or fear and despair. But either way, it was our choices that led us to that reaction - not God sitting up on a throne somewhere and choosing heaven or hell for us. Our choice to obey or not. Our choice to accept God's love and grow in it, or reject it for the things of this world.

Links that do a much better job at this than me:

Heaven & Hell in the Afterlife

Chapter 3: Salvation

Paradise and Hell According to Orthodox Tradition


  1. Sounds like you've been reading "River of Fire" hmmm?

  2. Enjoyed this a lot!

    So you believe the devil and the demons do not go to hell at all? I'm just curious because I remember things in Revelation about the key to the bottomless pit and such stuff. Maybe it's only symbolic.

    How about the passage about hell being created for the devil and his demons? (Mt. 25:41) Is that something different?

    I enjoyed learning all this - so interesting and I'm glad you put it into words so that even I could understand. Thanks!

  3. Alana,

    Actually, no. I've never even heard of it. *googles*

    Huh. I assume you're referring to an article by Alexander Kalomiros? I'm going to have to see if I can find that to read...

  4. Susanne,

    'So you believe the devil and the demons do not go to hell at all?'

    No, what I'm saying is that, at the moment, the devil and his minions (I love that word...) are here on earth, because to be in hell, would be to be in the presence of God, and they'd be too busy being in agony themselves to worry about tormenting us.

    Have you ever heard the phrase, 'hell is other people'? Well, in this case, hell is experiencing God, without being one of the righteous.

    Revelation is a highly symbolic text. I haven't really studied it enough to comment on what it all means, though.

    'How about the passage about hell being created for the devil and his demons? (Mt. 25:41) Is that something different?'

    See, I (and this is just off the top of my head) can work with this. Until the Devil and his Minions (it's like a band name...) rebelled, being in the presence of God was Paradise for everyone and everything. There was nothing which did not glorify God. Once they rebelled, His presence became a torment for them, became hell. 'Hell' was created the moment they rebelled.

    Hah! I used the little words so *I* could understand. :)

  5. Thanks for posting this. It makes a lot of sense! I will have to look through the links too when I have more time. I appreciated your "executive summary". ;)

    Do you reckon there could be varying degrees of experiencing heaven or hell?

  6. Wrestling,

    You're welcome. It was your post that reminded me of the idea. :) The first link is the longest and most detailed - he goes into translation issues and everything. first instinct was to say 'yes' - after all, for example, wouldn't people who committed heinous crimes, serial killers, dictators, rapists, child molesters, wouldn't such a person deserve *more* suffering than a person who had done something less evil but still died outside of God's grace? But thinking about it, I'm not so sure. Is there a scale of evil? Would someone who'd murdered only once be in less agony than one who killed multiple times? Is the degree with which you have separated yourself from God's Will commensurate with how much you suffer in His presence? I don't know.

  7. Whoa, I came over here to leave a comment and saw your new picture. Coolness!

    I was laughing at your liking of the word "minions" and saying it was like a band. :-D

    I enjoyed reading all that you said. Good stuff!

  8. Susanne,

    It's the shrine in the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem - tradition holds it's the exact spot of Jesus' birth. I just love looking at it, and I want to go there someday, so badly.

    Heh. But it's only a band name if you have a front man. So it has to be Satan and his Minions or something like that, or it doesn't really work.

  9. I just finished reading the links. It sounds quite plausible that this interpretation is original and authentic. Makes me want to get an Orthodox Bible translation.

  10. Wrestling,

    I'd recommend this one:

    The Orthodox Study Bible. It was the one recommended to me, and I love it.

  11. Thanks for the recommendation! It seems like it would be quite good even though the NT is just NKJV.


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