Tuesday, August 23, 2016
The Universal Hope of God's Love
Hell is not so much a place where God imprisons man, as a place where man, by misusing his free will, chooses to imprison himself. And even in Hell the wicked are not deprived of the love of God, but by their own choice they experience as suffering what the saints experience as joy. ‘The love of God will be an intolerable torment for those who have not acquired it within themselves’ (V. Lossky, The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church, p. 234).
Hell exists as a final possibility, but several of the Fathers have none the less believed that in the end all will be reconciled to God. It is heretical to say that all must be saved, for this is to deny free will; but it is legitimate to hope that all may be saved. Until the Last Day comes, we must not despair of anyone’s salvation, but must long and pray for the reconciliation of all without exception. No one must be excluded from our loving intercession. ‘What is a merciful heart?’ asked Isaac the Syrian. ‘It is a heart that burns with love for the whole of creation, for men, for the birds, for the beasts, for the demons, for all creatures’ (Mystic Treatises, edited by A. J. Wensinck, Amsterdam, 1923, p. 341). Gregory of Nyssa said that Christians may legitimately hope even for the redemption of the Devil.
- from Bishop Timothy Kallistos Ware's book, The Orthodox Church.
"I believe implicitly in the ultimate and complete triumph of God, the time when all things shall be subject to Him and when God will be everything to everyone (1 Cor 15:24-28). For me, this has certain consequences. If one man remains outside of the love of God at the end of time, it means that one man has defeated the love of God—and that is impossible. Further, there is only one way in which we can think of the triumph of our God. If God was no more than a King or judge, then it would be possible to speak of his triumph, if His enemies were agonizing in hell or were totally and completely obliterated and wiped out. But God is not only king and Judge, God is Father—He is indeed Father more than anything else. No father could be happy while there were members of his family for ever in agony. No father would count it a triumph to obliterate the disobedient members of his family. The only triumph a father can know is to have all of his family back home again."