HEAVEN (PARADISE) and HELL
We should begin with St. Isaac the Syrian, who speaks about what Paradise is, saying: “Paradise is the love of God, wherein is the enjoyment of all blessedness.”1 Speaking of what Hell is, St. Isaac says, “I also maintain that those who are punished in Gehenna, are scourged by the scourge of love. Nay, what is so bitter and vehement as the torment of love?”2
“The general teaching of the holy Fathers of the Church is that Paradise and Hell do not exist from God’s point of view, but from man’s. God did not create Hell, because He did not make anything evil, as St. Basil the Great says. St. Gregory the Theologian states that at the Second Coming God will love all human beings. Just as the sun rises now upon the righteous and the unrighteous, so then He will send His grace to everyone, to sinners as well as the just. Sinners, however, as they will not have acquired spiritual sight, will feel the caustic properties of the Light, and it will burn them. This will be their Hell. They will be aware of God as fire, and that will be Hell, whereas the righteous, having been inwardly purified, will see God as Light, which will be Paradise. This is what St. Gregory of Nyssa, St. Basil the Great, St. Gregory Palamas, among others, say... That is why in Orthodox icons of the Second Coming we see the Light that illumines the righteous comes from God’s throne, but so does the river of fire that burns up sinners”3
I I I
1. The Ascetical Homilies of Saint Isaac the Syrian (Boston: Holy Transfiguration Monastery, 1984) Hom. 46, p. 223.
2. ibid. Hom. 28, p. 141.3. Metropolitan of Nafpaktos Hierotheos, “The Science of Spiritual Medicine”: Orthodox Psychotherapy in Action (Levadia, Greece: Birth of the Theotokos Monastery, 2010) pp. 56-7.