Sergius Bulgakov on the Redemption of Satan and Other Matters Eschatological

I am delighted to introduce to the readers of Eclectic Orthodoxy a book which many will be interested in purchasing and reading: The Sophiology of Death: Essays on Eschatology. Within its covers you will find a collection of writings of Sergius Bulgakov, newly translated by our very own Roberto De La Noval! I have made the front cover below especially big so no one can say they missed this momentous—dare I say, eschatological!—announcement. As of this morning, the volume is available for purchase on Amazon, so be sure to click on either the title above or the image below. Rob has also provided an excerpt from Bulgakov’s essay “Apocatastasis of the Fallen Spirits” to whet our appetites. Thanks, Rob. May you sell a zillion copies.

Here we approach that revolution within Lucifer that is completely inaccessible to human experience and can only be postulated by theological speculation: the obstinacy of resistance is resolved into humility; love fettered by hate is freed from its shackles through recognition of the truth: “you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32). And the truth is the way and the life of love for the Creator and his creation. But with this epiphany and spiritual liberation begins a completely new epoch in the life of Satan, just as it does in the life of the world connected with him. Up to this point he had remained banished from the world, in the outer darkness and its torments [Matt. 25:30]: “The devil was cast into the lake of fire and sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet are, and they will suffer day and night for ages and ages” (Rev 20:10). “And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whoever was not written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire” (Rev 20:14–15). This torment resulting from the “second” death becomes a part of life, its sole content, such that this dying fills it up completely, being equivalent to the expulsion from the world. This is not even “hell” in the strict sense of the word, insofar as hell is still a condition of life and for that matter always exists only in some sort of union with paradise, both quantitatively and qualitatively.

What we may call Satan’s return to life is necessarily connected with the beginning of his repentance. Alongside his liberation from the bonds of his envious hatred, and together with the first thawing of the ice of his un-love, the true torments of hell are just beginning for Satan and his angels in their repentance for all the sins of the world—not just for those for which he was the constant inspiration but also for the most dreadful deed that, against his will and knowledge, served for the salvation of the world. This is the handing over of Christ to death by means of the betrayal of Judas, “into whom Satan had entered” (John 13:27); this was Satan’s doing. This deicide was the focal point of the sins of the whole world and of all people, sins both willed and unwilled—in every sin, even if executed with the cooperation of men, it is still the provocation of Satan that is at work. Satan is the one who inspires all human evil and the one guilty for all the sins of the world, which sins the one Sinless Redeemer took upon himself. Hence the immeasurable weight of this sin of the whole world lies on the repentant Satan to the extent that new life stirs within in him; it is a sort of redemption for the tempter himself. And this torment resulting from the repentance of the fleshless spirits—inaccessible to human knowledge—fills up “the ages of ages,” a time immeasurable for humanity. Of course, this is not a chronologically uniform time, so to speak, but is instead the aggregate of qualitatively different times of distinct intensity and content; these are measured by a “qualitative quantity” proper only to the spiritual world and unknown to man. Nevertheless even these ages of ages are still time and no more than time, albeit time whose very content is contact with eternity, eternal life, yet precisely in the form of “eternal torments.” But this time remains nonetheless limited in extension, possesses its own fullness, and it comes to an end with the conclusion of the torments of the fully repentant Satan, who in the course of these “ages” returns to that for which he was created. And to be the highest archangel, Lucifer—that is why the Creator called him into being.

Nevertheless it is clear that just as salvation, together with the forgiveness of the satanically inspired sins of the whole world, is not brought about by a one-sided act, neither, a fortiori, is this true of the restoration—the apocatastasis. It is not accomplished by creaturely power alone, which was impossible for man who stands in need of the redemptive help of God, which he received through the incarnation in the Son of God’s death on the cross. Thus, there inevitably arises the question that was so persistently put forward by the two (and essentially the only) theologians of the apocatastasis, Origen and St. Gregory of Nyssa, a question they answered in the affirmative: are even the demons covered by the universal power of the redemptive sacrifice offered “on behalf of all and for all”? Or must we acknowledge that its power is limited since it manifests only in relation to the earthly human world? But, clearly, to admit any kind of limit to the power of the redemptive sacrifice is impossible, as the Word of God proclaims on this matter with direct and indubitable witness: at the name of Jesus shall bow “every knee on heaven, on earth, and under the earth—katachthoníōn (i.e., angels, humans, and demons), and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father” (Phil 2:10–11), and “God will be all in all” (1 Cor 15:28).

This puts us before the general question: what meaning does the incarnation have for the angelic world? Although it does not directly relate to the world of fleshless spirits, nevertheless it indirectly has a definitive significance in accord with that world’s connection to the human world through its co-humanity. We know from the Word of God, and first of all from the Gospel, the full measure of the participation of the angels in the events of the incarnation; in particular, both at the end of the age14 and more generally in that battle for the “lost sheep” [Luke 15:7] in which the holy angels participate so actively; this comes to an end only in the parousia. Also connected with this is their participation in the Glory in which the Son of God comes, and in the life of the age to come. But we may ask: is this replenishing of the ranks of angelic co-humanity, which is the consequence of human salvation through the incarnation, only a reflected effect of the latter, or does it possess a foundation in angelic nature proper, which is fleshless but nonetheless created? We must give this question an affirmative answer insofar as the angels possess created ensoulment. This is the potency of their life, realized to a greater or lesser degree precisely in relation to man and his humanity. In Christ, through the incarnation, this potency reaches its fullness which is revealed in the co-angelicity of humans as much as in the co-humanity of angels. Through this the angelic world too becomes a participant in the glorification of the God-man at the parousia, in which he comes into the world not alone but with all the holy angels with him (as the Gospel testifies, Matt 25:31). Thus the holy angels have their share of participation in the saving power of the redemptive sacrifice (as is liturgically attested by their participation at the offering of the eucharistic sacrifice and their spiritual co-communion with us: “now the powers of heaven do serve invisibly with us”).

In relation to the fallen angelic world, the power of the redemptive sacrifice is realized chiefly in its restoration, through rebirth, of angelic creaturely nature, namely its ensoulment. Here we have an analogy with redemption’s salvific action on human nature, albeit together with an unavoidable difference: namely that for the human person the renewal is related to his entire creaturely psycho-corporeal constitution, but for the fleshless spirits it relates only to their ensouled nature in its lack of corporeality. Nevertheless the action of the redemptive sacrifice cannot be limited here solely to the restoration of the spirits to their original constitution through their liberation from the darkness of sin. The entire past life of the world with its sin—insofar as the tempter and his hosts are guilty for it—separates them from this original constitution, which was proper to the fallen spirits even before the fall. That it was darkened by the black deeds of the tempter is not this world’s only truth; in this world was also accomplished the incarnation, through which the world became other than it was in comparison to the time of its creation. It became the kingdom of Christ, and in it there no longer exists any other principle of being. For this reason the fullness of the apocatastasis presupposes not only the abolition of this worldly “minus” that was introduced by Satan but also the participation of all creation in this new being.

Parallel to the abolition of the worldly failure created by Satan, the latter’s ascent to his prototype is not simply a passive reception of forgiveness but also an active ascent, a movement towards Christ by the one who possessed in himself the entirety of antichristic power. This movement, concerning which we can know nothing apart from this general theological postulate, requires yet another new time in which to achieve its purpose.

The following “ages of ages” must therefore be dedicated to this overcoming of satanism in Satan himself. We must remember, however, that this will be accomplished not by individual fallen spirits in their isolation but rather together with the entire world now liberated from the violent dominion of the “prince of this world.” And it is especially important to keep in mind the fact that all the holy angels—with Michael and his hosts at their head— who once cast down Satan from heaven, and who also did not spare their souls even unto death [Rev 12:11], will drag Satan back up to the heaven of heavens, to his former place of heavenly glory. God’s Word, which limits its revelation only to the life of this age, is silent concerning this event, but it necessarily follows from the general prophecies of universal divinization and apocatastasis, “God will be all in all” [1 Cor 15:28]. And of course the salvation and glorification of Satan is necessarily included in this “all in all.”

(Used with permission from Wipf and Stock Publishers)

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1 Response to Sergius Bulgakov on the Redemption of Satan and Other Matters Eschatological

  1. Jonathan says:

    Excelente texto


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