My beloved spiritual children in Our Risen Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
Χριστός Ανέστη! Αληθώς Ανέστη! Christ is Risen! Truly He is Risen!
"It is the day of Resurrection; let us be glorious in splendour for the festival, and let us embrace one another. Let us speak also, O brethren, to those that hate us, and in the Resurrection, let us forgive all things, and so let us cry: Christ has risen from the dead, trampling upon Death, and has bestowed life to those in the tombs."
THE RESURRECTION OF CHRIST: THE SAVING FRUITS OF THE RESURRECTION OF CHRIST
By Father Michael Pomazansky
The Resurrection of Christ is 'the foundation and the crown of our Orthodox Christian Faith.' The Resurrection of Christ is the first, most important, great truth, with the proclamation of which the Apostles began their preaching of the Gospel after the descent of the Holy Spirit. Just as by the death of Christ on the Cross our Redemption was accomplished so by His Resurrection 'eternal life was given to us.' Therefore, the Resurrection of Christ is the object of the Church's constant triumph, its unceasing rejoicing, which reaches its summit in the Feast of the Holy Christian Pascha--'Today all creation is glad and rejoices, for Christ has risen!' (Canon of Pascha, Canticle 9).
The saving fruits of the Resurrection of Christ are:
a) the victory over hell and death; b) the blessedness of the saints in heaven and the beginning of the existence of the Heavenly Church; c) the sending down of the Holy Spirit and the creation of the Church of Christ on earth.
A. The Victory Over Hell and Death
Human existence after the loss of Paradise has two forms: a) the earthly, bodily life; and b) the life after death.
Earthly life ends with the death of the body. The soul preserves its existence after bodily death also, but its condition after death, according to the word of God and the teaching of the Holy Fathers of the Church, is diverse. Until the coming to earth of the Son of God, and until His Resurrection from the dead, the souls of the dead were in a condition of rejection, being far away from God, in darkness, in hell, in the underworld (the Hebrew "Sheol," Genesis 37:35, Septuagint). To be in hell was like spiritual death, as is expressed in the words of the Old Testament Psalm, "In Hades who will confess Thee?" (Psalm 6:6). In hell there were imprisoned also the souls of the Old Testament righteous ones. These righteous ones lived on earth with faith in the coming Savior, as the Apostle Paul explains in the eleventh chapter of his Epistle to the Hebrews, and after death they languished in expectation of their redemption and deliverance. Thus it continued until the Resurrection of Christ, until the coming of the New Testament: "And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise, God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect" (Hebrews 11:39-40). Our deliverance was also their deliverance.
Christ, after His death on the Cross, descendant in His soul and in His Divinity into hell, at the same time that His body remained in the grave. He preached salvation to the captives of hell and brought up from there all the Old Testament righteous ones into the bright mansions of the Kingdom of Heaven...
"...To use the words of Saint John Chrysostom, "Hell was taken captive by the Lord Who descended into it. It was laid waste, it was mocked, it was put to death, it was overthrown, it was bound" (Homily on Pascha).
With the destruction of the bolts in hell, that is, the inescapability of hell, the power of death also was annihilated. First of all, death for righteous men became only a transition from the world below to the world above, to a better life, to life in the light of the kingdom of God; secondly, bodily death itself became a temporary phenomenon, for by the Resurrection of Christ the way to the General Resurrection was opened to us. "Now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the first-fruits of them that slept" (I Cor. 15:20). The Resurrection of Christ is the pledge of our resurrection: "For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive; but every man in his own order. Christ is the first fruits: afterward they are Christ's at His coming" (I Cor. 15:22-23). After this, death will be utterly annihilated. "The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death" (I Cor. 15:26).
The troparion (hymn) of Holy Pascha proclaims to us with special joy the victory over hell and death: "Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and on those in the tombs bestowing life." "Christ ascended up far above all heavens, that He might fill all things" (Ephesians 4:10).
According to Father George Metallinos, "In the Gospel (Matthew, ch. 5), mention is made of "kingdom" and "eternal fire". In this excerpt, which is cited during the Divine Liturgy of this Sunday (Last Sunday of Lent), the "kingdom" is the divine destination of mankind. The "fire" is "prepared" for the devil and his angels (demons), not because God desires it, but because they are without repentance [i.e., unwilling to turn, to re-think, and participate in redemption]. The "kingdom" is "prepared" for those who remain faithful to the will of God. The Uncreated Glory is Paradise (the "Kingdom"). "Eternal fire" is hell (v. 46). At the beginning of history, God invites man into paradise, into a communion with His Uncreated Grace. At the end of history, man has to face both paradise and hell. We do however stress that it is one of the central subjects of our faith--it is Orthodox Christianity's "philosopher's stone."
Mention of paradise and hell in the New Testament is frequent. In Luke 23, 43, Christ says to the robber on the cross: "Today you will be with me in paradise". However, the robber also refers to paradise, when he says: "Remember me, Lord... in your kingdom". According to St. Theophylaktos of Bulgaria, "for the robber was in paradise, in other words, the kingdom". The Apostle Paul (2 Cor. 12:3-4) confesses that, while still in this lifetime, he was "swept up to paradise and heard unspoken words, which are impossible for man to repeat." In Revelation, we read: "To the victor, I shall give him to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of my God" (2:7). And St. Arethas of Caesaria interprets: "paradise is understood to be the blessed and eternal life". Paradise, eternal life, Kingdom of God, are all related.
Paradise and hell are not two different places. Such an idea is an idolatrous concept. Rather they signify two different conditions [ways or states of being], which originate from the same uncreated source, and are perceived by man as two differing experiences. More precisely, they are the same experience, except that they are perceived differently by man, depending on his internal state.
This experience is the sight of Christ in the Uncreated Light of His divinity, of His "glory". From the moment of His Second Coming, through to all eternity, all people will be seeing Christ in His Uncreated Light. That is when "those who worked good deeds in their lifetime will go towards the resurrection of life, while those who worked evil in their lifetime will go towards the resurrection of judgment" (John 5:29). In the presence of Christ, mankind will be separated (like "sheep" and "kid goats", to His right and His left). In other words, they will be discerning in two separate groups: those who will behold Christ as paradise (the "exceeding good, the radiant") and those who will be looking upon Christ as hell ("the all-consuming fire" of Hebrews 12:29).
Paradise and hell are the same reality. This is what is depicted in the portrayal of the Second Coming. From Christ, a river of fire flows forth. It is radiant like a golden light at the upper end of it, where the same saints are. At its lower end, the same river is fiery, and it is in that part of the river that the demons and the unrepentant ("the never repentant" according to a hymn) are depicted. This is why in Luke 2:34 we read that Christ stands "as the fall and the resurrection of many". Christ becomes the resurrection into eternal life for those who accepted Him and who followed the means given for the healing of the heart. To those who rejected Him, however, He becomes their separation and their hell...
"...Consequently, paradise and hell are not a reward or a punishment (condemnation), but the way that we individually experience the sight of Christ, depending on the condition of our heart. God doesn't punish in essence, although, for educative purposes, the Holy Scripture does mention punishment. The more spiritual that one becomes, the better he can comprehend the language of the Holy Scripture and Sacred Tradition. Man's condition (clean-unclean, repentant-unrepentant) is the factor that determines the acceptance of the Light as "Paradise" or "Hell"."
CHRIST IS RISEN! TRULY HE IS RISEN!
With sincere agape in Our Risen Lord and Savior,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God