Resurrection in incorruptibility and in glory is neither annulled nor limited by the separation that follows the judgment. Spiritual “death,” or any other defect, is inseparable from immortality. According to the apostle Paul, “If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss, but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire” (1 Cor. 3:15). There is no place for evil and sin in the kingdom of God; but sinners, with their incorruptible image, abide in the kingdom, though they bear within themselves the principle of the torment of death, of the undying worm and the inextinguishable fire. This combination of incorruptibility and glory with the casting into the outer darkness, the judgment with its double sentence, cannot be grasped by our understanding. It is one of the fundamental antinomies of the kingdom of Glory.
Nor should one diminish the universal significance of this antinomy. True, in the form of a parable, the discourse on the Last Judgment applies this final separation to different objects: to sheep and to goats, to those who go on the right and to those who go on the left. One could deduce from this that human beings are separated into the sinless and those who are subject to sin. But no one is perfectly sinless except the “Sole Sinless One” and the Most Pure Mother of God, just as no human beings are so utterly sinful that no trace of good can be found in them. In the fall of man in Adam, we know elements of error and delusion, which, without erasing the fall, somewhat soften it. The same thing is applicable to every person in his creaturely limitedness. Whatever may be the differences between different individuals as far as their personal sinfulness is concerned, this sinfulness always has an element of delusion and error, of acts accomplished in the name of an imaginary good. Pure evil for the sake of evil, satanical evil, is something not proper to man, who bears the principle of good. In individual cases, evil can decidedly predominate; but, in the final separation, evil itself is known only in conjunction with, even if in conflict with, good. In this sense, hell is a function of heaven, and evil is the shadow of good, not only in the world in general but also in every human being in particular. It follows that the separation into sheep and goats is accomplished (of course to different degrees) within every individual, and his right and left sides are bared in this separation. To a certain extent all are condemned and all are justified. A condemnation that would be the final casting into the outer darkness (nonbeing) is metaphysical death. Even to be rejected, a human being must have in himself the power of being; that is, he must find support in the image of God given to him. Thus, the judgment and its sentence introduce into the life of every person an antinomic separation that consists in participating in glory and incorruptibility and, at the same time, in burning in the fire of divine rejection. The difference between the two states can here be only a quantitative one.
The judgment condemns in every person that which deserves condemnation, that which is incompatible with glory. The judgment is inwardly executed by every person’s sophianicity, which is the ontological norm of his being. His sophianicity judges his proper creaturely self-determination, convinces him that it does not correspond to this norm. His sophianic image in incorruptibility and glory is his true reality, which is recognized by him as such. On the contrary, that which seemed to him real in his earthly life is condemned as unreal, as illusory: “He himself shall be saved, yet so as by fire” (1 Cor. 3:15); we desire to be clothed, so that “we shall not be found naked” (2 Cor. 5:3).
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Humankind in its entirety is Christ’s, for it has entirely been assumed into His Divine-Humanity. And if Christ suffers for and in humankind before the judgment, is it possible to think that He stops suffering after the judgment in relation to the lost drachma, the lost sheep: “If a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray?” (Matt. 18:12)? Redemption is conceived as the acceptance and compassionate experiencing to the end of the sins of the entire world, and this suffering of the Lord “for all people and for all things” (as the anaphora says), the redemptive sacrifice brought on Golgotha, extends to all times, as long as this sin and this suffering remain. The Lord does not deprive sinners of His redemptive love. He suffers with them and for them in this redemption that continues because of the existence of hell. The angry words of God’s justice addressed to sinners, “depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire” (Matt. 25:41), are said, nonetheless, by the Savior. They are words of love, punishing but not expelling even sinners from His humankind, for “it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish” (Matt. 18:14). Even those banished by Christ remain in His love, are embraced by His universal redemptive sacrifice.
And since redemption is accomplished not only by the sacrifice of the Son sent by the Father, but also by the Holy Spirit, healing the sores of creation, the Holy Spirit continues its work of healing and restoration as long as that which is unhealed and unrestored remains. And the Holy Spirit can penetrate even the doors of hell. The heart of the Mother of God, the Spirit-Bearer, is pierced by the sword of hell because of Her compassionate love; and Her maternal intercession is effected starting with the Dread Judgment, which is the beginning, not the end, of the judgment. And the “Mother of God’s way of sorrows,” revealed to the vision of the Russian people, continues. Just as Christ’s love extends also to the damned and rejected (more precisely, to those who have damned and rejected themselves), so the maternal love does not cease either, which perhaps tries even harder for them and feels an even greater compassion for them, for it is love that damns and rejects them. There can be no final rejection of creation by God’s love, just as there can be no final abandonment of creation by the “pitying heart” of the Church’s love.
Let us remember, first of all, that the Church is not divided into two parts and that some completely dead part is not cut away from her. The separation of the sheep from the goats, with their final destinies, is a figure that refers not to individual persons or groups of persons but, above all, to their inner state. The possibility of hell and heaven is present in every soul, although to different degrees. This is a horizontal division, which passes through all humankind, not a vertical one, which would separate it into two mutually impenetrable parts. For the righteous, that which is “damned” is absorbed and made powerless by that which is “blessed.” But, in the darkness of damnation, sinners only see reflections of blessedness cast into the night.
Therefore, the idea of two humankinds, divided and separated from each other at the Last Judgment, does not correspond to the fullness and connectedness of reality. Humankind is one. It is one in Adam and one in Christ, one in his Body, in the Church: “so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another” (Rom. 12:5). This unity is expressed in love. “Whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it” (1 Cor. 12:26), “for we are members one of another” (Eph. 4:25), “members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones” (5:30). Can it be that this law of love will lose its power after the Last Judgment? Can it be that not only the sickness but even the spiritual death of many members will cease to provoke the compassion of active, praying love on the part of the healthy members? No! is the answer that must follow from a clear statement of the question. In that sense in which one can speak of them, the torments of hell inevitably extend not only to those who are condemned but also to the entire Church, to all humankind.
We can forget that all are saved with all, just as all are condemned with all and all are responsible for all, only if we understand eschatology exclusively from the criminal-law point of view, and especially if we understand salvation individualistically (if not egotistically). Is it possible to accept that the righteous are capable of forgetting their rejected brothers, of being indifferent to them? Do not Moses and the apostle Paul offer a model of love when they declare themselves ready to be rejected for the sins of their people, together with their people? Such a forgetting, if it could occur at all, would be sufficient to sentence the righteous themselves to the torments of hell for the great sin against love. How could a mother remain indifferent to the perdition of her son or a son remain indifferent to the fate of his mother? Can the diverse personal ties of love that connect humankind be frayed to the point where our very memories of one another are lost? Such a picture of mutual annihilationism in love is a terrible nightmare, a blasphemous slander against the God of love and the Church. On the contrary, the existence of a hell with eternal torments affects all humankind, the whole body of the Church like a common malady. The presence of hell becomes a reality for all creation. Therefore, even for the righteous, heavenly bliss comes only after the expulsion of hell from the world. “For he [Christ] must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet . . . that God may be all in all” (1 Cor. 15:25, 28). All perish and are saved together, although differently, by Christ’s redemptive sacrifice, which creaturely sin can neither negate nor limit. And, like the pitying heart of the Mother of God, the Church’s love also does not know any limits.