My beloved brothers and sisters in Our Risen Lord, God, and SaviorJesus Christ.
CHRIST IS RISEN! TRULY HE IS RISEN!
The "location" of Heaven and Hell
By Father Seraphim Rose
Numerous accounts of the Holy Fathers and in Lives Saints reveal that the soul after death enters IMMEDIATELY INTO THE AERIAL REALM OF THE UNDER-HEAVEN. The progress of the soul through this AERIAL REALM, once the body has actually died and THE SOUL IS FINISHED WITH EARTHLY THINGS, is described as AN ASCENT through the toll-houses, where THE PARTICULAR JUDGMENT BEGINS IN ORDER TO DETERMINE THE FITNESS OF THE SOUL TO DWELL IN HEAVEN. Those souls THAT ARE CONVICTED OF UNREPENTED SINS ARE CAST DOWN BY THE FALLEN SPIRITS INTO HELL; THOSE THAT PASS SUCCESSFULLY THROUGH THE TRIALS OF THE TOLL-HOUSES ASCEND FREELY, GUIDED BY ANGELS, TO HEAVEN.
WHAT IS THIS HEAVEN? Where is it? Is heaven a place? Is it
As with all matters concerning life after death, we should not ask such questions out of mere curiosity, but solely in order to understand better the reaching on this subject which the Church has handed down to us, and to escape the confusions which modern ideas and some psychic experiences can cause even among Orthodox Christians.
It so happens that the question of the "LOCATION" of HEAVEN (and HELL) IS ONE THAT HAS BEEN VERY WIDELY MISUNDERSTOOD IN MODERN TIMES… Among Roman Catholics and Protestants, there are sophisticated apologies that proclaim that heaven is "a state, not a place," that "up" is only a metaphor, the Ascension of Christ (Luke 24:50-51; Acts 1:9-11) was not really an "ascension," but only a change of state. The result of such apologies is that heaven and hell became very vague and indefinite conceptions, and the sense of their reality begins to disappear–with disastrous results for Christian life because these are the very realities toward which our whole earthly life is directed.
The clear teaching of the Orthodox Eastern Church indicates that "THE LOCATION OF PARADISE IS IN THE HEAVEN AND THE LOCATION OF HELL IS IN THE BOWELS OF THE EARTH." …As Saint Ignatius Brianchaninov’s numerous citations indicate, that all Orthodox sources–the Holy Scripture, Divine services, Lives of Saints, writings of Holy Fathers–speak of Paradise and Heaven as "UP" and Hell as "DOWN," under the earth. And it is also true that since Angels and souls are limited in space. "The Orthodox Doctrine on Angels", they must always be in one definite PLACE–whether heaven, hell, or earth. Saint John Damascene states, "when the Angels are in heaven they are not on earth, and when they are sent to earth by God they do not remain in heaven" which is only the same doctrine taught earlier by Saint Basil the Great and indeed all the Orthodox Holy Fathers.
HEAVEN, therefore, is certainly A PLACE, and it is certainly UP from any point on the earth, and HELL is certainly DOWN, in the bowels of the earth; but these places and their inhabitants CANNOT BE SEEN BY MEN UNTIL THEIR SPIRITUAL EYES ARE OPENED… Further, THESE PLACES ARE NOT WITHIN THE "COORDINATES" OF OUR SPACE-TIME SYSTEM: an airliner does not pass "invisibly" through Paradise, nor an eath-satellite through the "THIRD HEAVEN", NOR CAN THE SOULS WAITING IN HELL FOR THE Last Judgment be reached by drilling for them in the earth. They ARE NOT THERE, BUT IN A DIFFERENT "KIND OF SPACE THAT BEGINS RIGHT HERE BUT EXTENDS, AS IT WERE, IN A DIFFERENT DIRECTION…
"…Beyond the general knowledge that heaven and hell ARE INDEED "PLACES", but NOT PLACES IN THIS WORLD, IN OUR SPACE-TIME SYSTEM–we need NOT to be curious. These "PLACES" are SO DIFFERENT FROM OUR EARTHLY NOTIONS OF "PLACE" THAT WE SHALL BECOME HOPELESSLY CONFUSED IF WE ATTEMPT TO PIECE TOGETHER A "GEOGRAPHY" OF THEM. Some Lives of Saints indicate clearly that "heaven" is ABOVE "PARADISE" ; OTHERS INDICATE CLEARLY THAT THERE ARE AT LEAST "THREE HEAVENS" –BUT IT IS NOT FOR US TO DEFINE THE "BOUNDARIES" OF THESE PLACES OR TO TRY TO DISTINGUISH THEIR CHARACTERISTICS. Such characteristics are given to us, in God’s Providence, IN ORDER TO INSPIRE US TO STRUGGLE TO REACH THEM BY A CHRISTIAN LIFE AND DEATH–BUT NOT IN ORDER TO APPLY TO THEM WORLDLY CATEGORIES OF LOGIC AND KNOWLEDGE WHICH DO NOT FIT THEM. Saint John Chrysostom rightly recalls us to our proper concerns in studying about heaven and hell: "You ask where hell is; but why should you know it? you must know that hell exists, NOT WHERE IT IS HIDDEN… In my opinion, IT IS SOMEWHERE OUTSIDE THIS WHOLE WORLD… LET US ATTEMPT TO FIND OURT NOT WHERE IT IS, BUT HOW TO ESCAPE IT" [Homilies on Romans 31:3-4]
It is NOT given us to understand very much of the other worldly reality in this life, although we do know enough to answer the rationalists who say that heaven and hell are "nowhere" and therefore nonexistent BECAUSE THEY CANNOT SEE THEM. These places are indeed "somewhere" and some living on earth have been there and returned to tell of them, but these places are seen by us BY FAITH THAN BY KNOWLEDGE: "NOW WE SEE THROUGH A GLASS DARKLY, BUT THEN FACE TO FACE. NOW I KNOW IN PART, BUT THAN I SHALL KNOW EVEN AS I AM KNOWN" (1 Corinthians 13:12). [Source: The Soul After Death)
(To be continued)
"Glory Be To GOD
– Saint John Chrysostom
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With sincere agape in His Holy Resurrection,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God
+ Father George