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Eternal Life

I look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world [ages] to come.

The Ortho­dox Church does not believe mere­ly in the immor­tal­i­ty of the soul, and in the good­ness and ulti­mate sal­va­tion of only spir­i­tu­al real­i­ty. Fol­low­ing the Scrip­tures, Ortho­dox Chris­tians believe in the good­ness of the human body and of all mate­r­i­al and phys­i­cal cre­ation. Thus, in its faith in res­ur­rec­tion and eter­nal life, the Ortho­dox Church looks not to some “oth­er world” for sal­va­tion, but to this very world so loved by God, res­ur­rect­ed and glo­ri­fied by Him, tilled with His own divine presence.

At the end of the ages God will reveal His pres­ence and will fill all cre­ation with Him­self. For those who love Him it will be par­adise. For those who hate Him it will be hell. And all phys­i­cal cre­ation, togeth­er with the right­eous, will rejoice and be glad in His coming.

The wilder­ness and the soli­tary places will be glad; the desert shall rejoice and blos­som in abun­dance (Is 35:1).

For behold I cre­ate new heav­ens and a new earth says the Lord, and the for­mer things shall not be remem­bered or come to mind. But be glad and rejoice for­ev­er in that which I cre­ate, for behold I cre­ate Jerusalem a rejoic­ing and her peo­ple a joy (Is 65:17–18).

The visions of the prophets and those of the Chris­t­ian apos­tles about things to come are one and the same:

Then I saw a new heav­en and a new earth: for the first heav­en and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, com­ing down out of heav­en from God, pre­pared as a bride adorned for her hus­band; and I heard a great voice from the throne say­ing, “Behold, the dwelling of God is with men. He will dwell with them, and they shall be His peo­ple, and God him­self will be with them; He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, nei­ther shall there be mourn­ing nor cry­ing nor pain any more, for the for­mer things have passed away” (Rev 21:1–5).

When the King­dom of God fills all cre­ation, all things will be made new. This world will again be that par­adise for which it was orig­i­nal­ly cre­at­ed. This is the Ortho­dox doc­trine of the final fate of man and his universe.

It is some­times argued, how­ev­er, that this world will be total­ly destroyed and that God will cre­ate every­thing new “out of noth­ing” by the act of a sec­ond cre­ation. Those who hold this opin­ion appeal to such texts as that found in the sec­ond let­ter of Saint Peter:

But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heav­ens will pass away… and the ele­ments will be dis­solved with fire, and the earth and the works that are upon it will be burned up (2 Pet 3:10).

Because the Bible nev­er speaks about a “sec­ond cre­ation” and because it con­tin­u­al­ly and con­sis­tent­ly wit­ness­es that God loves the world which He has made and does every­thing that He can to save it, the Ortho­dox Tra­di­tion nev­er inter­prets such scrip­tur­al texts as teach­ing the actu­al anni­hi­la­tion of cre­ation by God. It under­stands such texts as speak­ing metaphor­i­cal­ly of the great cat­a­stro­phe which cre­ation must endure, includ­ing even the right­eous, in order for it to be cleansed, puri­fied, made per­fect, and saved. It teach­es as well that there is an “eter­nal fire” for the ungod­ly, an eter­nal con­di­tion of their being destroyed. But in any case the “tri­al by fire” which “destroys the ungod­ly” is in no way under­stood by the Ortho­dox in the sense that cre­ation is doomed to total destruc­tion, despised by the lov­ing Lord who cre­at­ed it and called it “very good” (Gen 1:31; also 1 Cor 3:13–15; Heb 12:25–29; Is 66; Rev 20–22).