The River of Fire and the Gift of Faith

[Added January 14, 2011] This following from Lionel Trilling is important to some of these considerations:

Rabbi Akiba’s meditation on fate and free will: “All is foreseen yet freewill is given; and the world is judged by grace, and yet all is according to work.” – From Lionel Trilling’s essay on Wordsworth
(Written sometime around 1985)

Consider the following paradox. We read “God is Love” [I John 4:16]. We read “who will have all men to be saved, and to come to a knowledge of the truth” [I Timothy 2:4]. We are saved through the Gift of Faith, for we read “For by Grace are ye saved through Faith; and that not of yourselves: It is the Gift of God” [Ephesians 2:8]. And yet, we read that “the Lord said unto Moses, when thou goest to return into Egypt, see that thou do all those wonders before Pharaoh, which I have put in thine hand: but I will harden his heart, that he shall not let the people go.”

Now Pharaoh was a man. God must have loved Pharaoh and desired that he be saved. Why is it written that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart? Why did He not give Pharaoh the Gift of Faith, so that Pharaoh might believe in God and follow Moses to the Promised Land?

Several Church Fathers address the question of God’s hardening of
Pharaoh’s heart:

St.Irenaeus writes:

If, therefore, in the present time also, God, knowing the number of those who will not believe, since He foreknows all things, has given them over to unbelief, and turned away his face from men of this stamp, leaving them in the darkness which they themselves have chosen for themselves, what is there wonderful if He did also at that time give over to their unbelief, Pharaoh, who never would have believed, along with those who were with him?” As the Word Spake to Moses from the bush: ‘And I am sure that the King of Egypt will not let you go, unless by a mighty hand.’ And for the reason that the Lord spake in parables, and brought blindness upon Israel, that seeing they might not see, since He knew the [spirit of] unbelief in them, for the same reason did He harden Pharaoh’s heart; in order that, while seeing that it was the finger of God which led forth the people, he might not believe, but be precipitated into the sea of unbelief, resting in the notion that the exit of these [Israelites] was accomplished by magical power, and that it was not by the operation of God that the Red Sea afforded passage to the people, but that this occurred by merely
natural causes.” [Iraenaeus Against Heresies, pg. 502]

St. Gregory of Nyssa writes:

“Now how could [Pharaoh] be condemned, if he were disposed by divine
constraint to be stubborn and obstinate… Pharaoh is not hardened by
divine will. For if this were to be willed by the divine nature, then certainly any human choice would fall into the line in every case, so that no distinction between virtue and vice in life could be observed. It lies within each person to make his choice. The Egyptian tyrant is hardened by God not because the Divine Will places resistance in the soul of Pharaoh but because the free will through its inclination to evil does not receive the Word which softens resistance.” [Life of Moses, pg 69]

St. Maximos the Confessor writes:

“11. For when God in His Supernal goodness creates each soul in his own image, He brings it into being endowed with self-determination. By
exercising this freedom of choice, each soul either reaffirms its true
nobility or through its actions deliberately embraces what is ignoble” 12.
God, it is said, is the Sun of Righteousness and the rays… shine down on all men alike. The Soul is was if it cleaves to God, but clay if it cleaves to matter. Similarly every soul that despite God’s admonitions… hardens like clay, drives itself to destruction, just like Pharaoh did.” [Philokalia Vol II pg. 116] “… God, wishing men and angels to follow His will, resolved to create them free to do righteousness; possessing reason, that they may know by whom they are created, and through whom they, not existing formerly, do now exist… But if the Word of God foretells that some angels and men shall be certainly punished, it did so because it foreknew that they would be unchangeably [wicked] but not because God had created them so. So that if they repent, all who wish for it can obtain mercy from God.” [Dialogue with Trypho, pg. 270]

St. Paul the Apostle writes:

Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid, For he saith to Moses, I
will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion
on whom I will have compassion. So it is not of him that willith or of him
that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy. For the Scripture saith unto Pharaoh, even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might show my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth. Therefore has He mercy on whom He will have mercy, and whom he will He hardeneth. Thou wilt say then unto me, why doth He yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will? Nay but O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?” [Romans 9:14-18]

God is Love. There is no hate or revenge in God. God is good. All that God has created is good. There is no evil in God. God has crated men and angels with free-will. God loves all of His creation and desires salvation for all angels and men. Faith is a Gift from God. This gift is not given to all. The Gift of Faith is a great mystery. God has created all which exists. God is all-powerful, present everywhere, and all-knowing. God is everywhere present at every moment of time, and yet He transcends the physical world and the passage of time. God is more than simply eternal. He is pre-eternal insofar as He created all which is eternal. It is very difficult for us who are in time to understand time as it is known by the pre-eternal God.

Try to imagine God in an eternal Now, for whom all time is present. now
God is saying “Let there be Light”, now Adam and Eve are being cast out of Paradise, Now the Red Sea is being divided, Now the wise men are presenting their gifts at the manger, Now Christ is being nailed to the Cross, Now you are sitting and reading the words on this page, Now the dead are rising for the Judgment at the Second Coming. We read that “… with the Lord one day is as 1000 years in thine eyes, O Lord, and a thousand years as one day,” [2Peter 89:4] and “… a thousand years in thine eyes, O Lord, are but as yesterday that is past, as a watch in the night.” [Psalm 89:4]. Will not our experience at the Judgment be something like this eternal Now, as all men who have ever lived stand before the Throne of God, recalling their every word, deed, and thought in the twinkling of an eye?

The outcome of each man’s free-will choices are foreknown by God from before the foundation of the world. Yet God’s foreknowledge of our free-will choices in no way robs us of our free-will or predetermines our choices. God foreknows who will accept the precious Gift of Faith before it is ever offered and He foreknows what they will do with that Gift if they receive it. Our salvation is somehow a product of the mystical interaction between the Gift of Faith and our Free-will acceptance and cultivation of that Gift, and God’s Foreknowledge of our acceptance and cultivation.

St. John Cassian:

St. John Cassian expresses the crux of our difficulty in discussing the Gift of Faith:

“For the God of all must be held to work in all, so as to incite, protect, and strengthen, but not to take away the freedom of the will which He Himself has once given. If however any more subtle inference of man’s
argumentation and reasoning seems opposed to this interpretation, it
should be avoided rather than brought forward to the destruction of the faith (for we gain not faith from understanding, but understanding from faith, as it is written: ‘Except ye believe, ye will not understand’ [Isaiah 7:9] for how God works all things in us and yet everything can be ascribed to free-will, cannot be fully grasped by the mind and reason… of man.” [First Conference of Abbot Nesteros, Nicene and Post Nicene Fathers xi, pg. 434-435]

We see from what St. John Cassian says that we must first be given the gift of Faith before we can begin to understand it. Conversely, and this is a very important point to understand,

Faith cannot come to us through understanding, trough syllogistic
argument or rational debate, through study or contemplation, or any other intellectual processes. If Faith could come through such means,
… then the Divine Dispensation of the Logos, the Incarnation, Crucifixion, and Resurrection would have been unnecessary.
The philosophies of such as Plato or Aristotle would have sufficed. On the contrary, we read that “the wisdom of the wise is made foolish”, that “the reading of many books is a weariness to the flesh”, that “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity”. And as for unaided human intellectual ability, we read “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher that the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.” [Isaiah 55:8]

It is God who converts the soul of man, as we read in Psalm 19, “The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.” Human wisdom, cleverness, and
sophistication is often an impediment to the achievement of Divine
Wisdom.

Let us examine what is said in the Holy Scriptures concerning the Gift of Faith. Christ says to the Samaritan woman at the well “If thou knewest the Gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldst have asked him…” [John 4:10].

Is the “Gift of God” which our Savior mentions any other than the “Gift of Faith”? For we see the Samaritan woman shortly thereafter exclaiming “Come, see a man which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ.” [John 4:29]. We learn from the Holy Tradition of the Church that the Samaritan woman received Holy Baptism and became St. Photini… (Iso-Apostolic or Equal to the Apostles)

We further read of the gift of Wisdom, which sounds very much like the
“Gift of Faith”:

“When I perceived that I could not otherwise obtain her (Wisdom), except God gave her me;
… and that was a point of Wisdom ALSO, to know whose GIFT she was; I prayed unto the Lord, and besought Him, and with my whole heart I said.” [Wisdom of Solomon 8:21]

“And thy counsel who hath known, except thou give Wisdom, and send thy Holy Spirit from above? For so the ways of them which lived on the earth were reformed, and men were taught the things that are pleasing unto Thee, and were saved through Wisdom.” [Wisdom of Solomon 9:11].

We read in the Wisdom of Seirax:

“There is one wise and greatly to be feared, the Lord sitting upon His
throne. He created her (Wisdom), and saw her, and numbered her, and
poured her out upon all His works.

She is with ALL FLESH according to HIS GIFT,
..and he hath given Her to them that love Him.” [Ecclesiasticus 1:8]

In Proverbs we read:

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of Wisdom” [1:7]

“Wisdom crieth without…”[1:20] saying… “… behold, I will pour out my
spirit unto you, I will make known my words unto you. Because I have
called and ye refused; I have stretched out my hand, and no man
regarded..” [1:23,24]

“Then shall they call upon Me, but I will not answer; they shall seek me
early, but they shall not find me: For they hated Wisdom, and did not
choose the fear of the Lord…” [1:28,29]

“Therefore shall they eat of the fruit of their own way, and be filled with their own devices. For the turning away of the simple shall slay them…” [1:32,32]

We can vividly see in the above passages that God offers His gift of
Wisdom or Faith to all, pouring out his spirit upon all, but some refuse and turn away through the exercise of their free-will. Therefore, the “Gift of Faith” is not offered. Or rather, the “Gift of Faith” is offered to all from before the foundation of the world and yet the hearts of some have been hardened by their intrinsic nature, through the propensity of their free-will, so as to be impervious and immune to this light from the Sun of Righteousness. And God, being outside of the constraints of time, foreknows the hardness of their hearts. By the same token, God
foreknows the hearts of those who will be receptive to the “Gift of Faith”.

When God directed Samuel to anoint David (whose identity was yet
unknown to Samuel), Samuel was incapable of discerning which son of
Jesse should be chosen. We read “But the Lord said unto Samuel, Look
not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him [Eliab]: for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.” God is the knower of all men’s hearts. “Shall not God search this out? for he knoweth the secrets of the heart.” [Psalm 44:21]

Christ, in His Divine Foreknowledge, foretold to Peter that Peter would
deny Him thrice. In spite of Peter’s privileged knowledge of God’s
foreknowledge, in spite of Peter’s vehement rejection of the notion that he would ever deny Christ, when the time came and the rooster crowed, Peter denied Christ. Peter was not compelled by God’s foreknowledge to deny Christ. God, who is beyond time, saw the very moment within the Pre-Eternal Now. God, the knower of hearts, saw the weakness of Peter’s heart at that moment, saw the two laws at war within his flesh. So sacred and inviolable in God’s eyes is His gift of Free-Will to man, that not even through those rare Revelations of His foreknowledge to an individual will He allow him to be coerced contrary to his Free-Will and the nature of his heart to behave or choose otherwise. This is why Abraham, in whose bosom reclined Lazarus, replied to the rich man in Gehenna, “even if one were to be sent back from the dead, they would not hearken to him.”

Psalm 139 (King James) demonstrated the foreknowledge, omniscience,
and omnipresence of God, the Knower of hearts. “O Lord, you have
searched me and know me. You know my sitting down and my rising up;
you understand my thought afar off. You comprehend my path and my
lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word on my tongue, but behold, O Lord, You know it altogether. You have hedged me behind and before, and laid Your hand upon me. Such
knowledge is too wonderful for me; It is high, I cannot attain it.”

This Psalm continues, “Your eyes saw my substance being yet unformed. And in your book they all were written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were non of them.”

The Psalm ends “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and
know my anxieties; and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead
me in the way everlasting.”

When God chose the child, Jeremiah, to be a prophet he said, “Before I
formed thee in the belly, I knew thee, and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.” [Jeremiah 1:5]

God’s foreknowledge of us precedes our creation, and while we are still in the womb we are capable of sanctification and divine wisdom. St. John the Baptist, while still in his mother’s womb, recognized the Divinity of the unborn Christ, still in His mother’s womb.

We read in Psalm 22 “But you are He who took me out of the womb, You made me trust when I was on my mother’s breasts. I was cast upon you from birth. From my mother’s womb you have been my God.” Our Free-Will predisposition to evil is also fully active from the moment of conception. We read in Psalm 58 “The wicked are estranged from the
womb; they go astray as soon as they are born, speaking lies.”

We see the foreknowledge, omnipresence, and omniscience of God in
many places in the scriptures. Jesus, the Knower of Men’s hearts, seeing Nathaniel coming to Him, says “Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile,” Nathaniel replies “Whence knowest thou me?” And Jesus answers, “Before that Philip called thee, when thou wast under the fig tree, I saw thee.” Nathaniel exclaims “Rabbi, thou art the Son of God; thou art the Kind of Israel.” Jesus answers him saying, “Because I said unto thee, I saw thee under the fig tree, believest thou. Thou shalt see greater things than these… Hereafter ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.” [John 1:45-51]

Much may be said about this encounter between Nathaniel and Jesus. Was it the simple knowledge of the fact that Nathaniel had earlier been located beneath a particular fig tree that impressed Nathaniel so? I doubt it. I think Christ alluded to something which had transpired in Nathaniel’s heart while he was beneath that fig tree, something which could only possibly be known by Nathaniel himself, and by God, the “Knower of Hearts”. And this secret which Christ perceived in Nathaniel’s heart was something which demonstrated Nathaniel’s guilelessness, or lack of deceit. Was it perhaps a temptation to eat some figs which did not belong to him, and which Nathaniel resisted? We will never know. There is a second question we must ask. Was it the miraculous, supernatural nature of Christ’s knowledge of Nathaniel’s heart which inspired Nathaniel to profess his faith? We have already said that faith does not come by understanding but
rather understanding comes through Faith. Nowadays many people are of the opinion that the age of miracles is past. They say, “Who would not believe in God if they were able to witness a miracle? Many asked Christ to show them some sign or miracle.

But we know from our example of Pharaoh that the witnessing of a
miracle is not sufficient to bring a man to faith. Pharaoh witnessed ten
miracles and then saw the very Red Sea parted in twain. The magicians of Pharaoh, when they saw the dust turned to a plague of lice, and were unable to duplicate the miracle, confessed God’s power, for it is written:

“then the magicians said unto Pharaoh, This is the Finger of God: and
Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and he hearkened not unto them.”
[Exodus 8:19]

Pharaoh himself went so far as to confess the existence of God. “And
Pharaoh sent, and called for Moses and Aaron, and said unto them, I have sinned this time: the Lord is righteous, and I and my people are
wicked…”. Moses replies ‘…that thou mayest know that the earth is the Lord’s. But as for thee and thy servants, I know ye will not fear the Lord God.”

Pharaoh’s simple recognition and profession of God is not sufficient for
Faith and Salvation.

We see that the demons confessed Christ as the Son of God. “And,
behold, they cried out, saying What have we to do with tee, Jesus thou Son of God? Art thou come hither to torment us before our time?” [Matt 8:29] Obviously, confessing Christ as the Son of God is not sufficient for salvation of devils. There is much to be said about this confrontation between Christ and the devils. When the devils speak of Christ “coming hither to torment” them before their time, do they imagine that he is about to do some act of violence against them? When we read that the devils “cry out,’ it is as if they are already tormented simply by Christ’s approach. The devils indicate that there is some future time appointed for their torment when they say “before our time.” We also may observe that the devils do not have foreknowledge of what Christ will do next. Yet, the devils must perceive Christ as merciful, otherwise why would they beseech Him to cast them into the herd of swine? Indeed, it would appear that Christ is sufficiently merciful to the devils to indulge them in their request. In my opinion, the devils are tormented by the mere presence of
the merciful, loving God. And he demonstrated his mercy to them in
granting their request. To be even more explicit and to the point,

The Devils are Tormented by LOVE

We may read in the Wisdom of Solomon concerning God’s love: “But thou hast mercy upon all; for thou canst do all things and overlook the sins of men, because they should amend. For thou lovest all things that are, and abhorest nothing which thou hast made: for never wouldst thou have made anything, if thou hadst hated it. And how could anything have endured, if it had not been they will? or been preserved, if not called by Thee? But thou sparest all: for they are thine, O Lord thou Lover of souls.” {Wisdom of Solomon 11:23]

St. Isaac the Syrian expressed the punishment of God’s love in the
following: “I also maintain that those who are punished in Gehenna are
scourged by the scourge of Love. Nay, what is so bitter and vehement as the torment of Love? I mean that those who have become conscious that they have sinned against Love suffer greater torment from this than from any fear of punishment. For the sorrow caused in the heart by sin against Love is more poignant than any punishment. It would be improper for a man to think that sinners in Gehenna are deprived of the Love of God. Love is the offspring of knowledge of Truth which, as is commonly confessed, is given to all. The power of Love works in two ways: It torments sinners, even as happens here, when a friend suffers from a friend; but it becomes a source of Joy for those who have observed its duties.

Thus I say this is the torment of Genenna: Bitter Regret (in the face of
Absolute Love).

But Love inebriated the souls of the sons of heaven by its delectability.” [The Ascetical Homilies of St. Isaac the Syrian XLVII, Pearls]

Psalm 109 (King James) also seems to support the understanding of the
torment of Gehenna being the bitter regret arising from the nature which we have chosen for ourselves out of our own free-will, now engulfed in the FIERY RIVER of GOD’S LOVE. “As he loved cursing so let it come to him; As he did not delight in blessing, so let it be far from him. As he clothed himself with cursing as with a garment, so let it enter his body like water, and like oil, into his bones. Let it be to him like a garment which covers him, and for a belt with which he girds himself continually.”

The Psalm continues “Let them curse, but you Bless; when they arise, let them be ashamed, but let your servant rejoice. Let my accusers be
clothed with shame, and let them cover themselves with their own
disgrace as with a mantle.”

Psalm 7 demonstrated that hell is of our own making. “He made a pit and dug it out, and has fallen into the ditch which he made. His trouble shall return upon his own head, and his violent dealing shall come down on his own crown.”

Also, Psalm 9, “The nations have sunk down in the pit which they made; in the snare which they hid their own foot is caught. The Lord is known by the judgment He executes. The wicked is snared in the work of his own hands.” The kingdoms of Heaven and Hell are within us. yet we are never without God’s Love. Psalm 89, “If they break my statues and do not keep my commandments, then will I visit their transgression with the Rod, and their iniquity with stripes. nevertheless, my loving-kindness I will not utterly take from him.”

When God became incarnate and walked the earth as Jesus Christ, He
never displayed considerable anger of violence. His most angry and
violent act was to make a whip, hold it in a threatening gesture without
striking, and chase the money-changers out of the Temple, overturning
their tables. His only destructive act was to say to the barren fig tree, “Be thou withered”. he taught us to turn the other cheek, and to return hatred with love. he suffered all forms of beatings insults, mockery, and spitting without once retaliating. He rebukes Peter for cutting off the ear of the High Priest’s servant, by saying “Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels?” And then Jesus healed the servants ear [Luke 22:51]. Does this sound like a vengeful sadistic God who casts souls into fire and brimstone? Is this a God who would create the tortures depicted in Dante’s Inferno?

We see that the commandments are founded upon Love. When Jesus was asked “master, which is the greatest commandment I the Law?”[Matt 22:36] he replied, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it. Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” [Matt 22:37-40]

St. Maximos the Confessor says:

“36. The perfect peace of the Holy Angels lies in their love for God and
their love for one another. This is also the case with all the saints from the beginning of time. Most truly therefore is it said that “on these two
commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

“37. Stop leasing yourself and you will not hate your brother; stop loving yourself and you will love God.” [Philokalia Vol II pg 104, 4th Century on Love]

We see that the commandments are founded upon Love. I believe that
“Love thy neighbor as thyself” also means to stop loving the self. When
we consider that God created man in His own likeness and image, and
“inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of my brethern, ye
have done it unto me” [Matt 25:40] we see that loving our neighbor is in a sense synonymous with loving God. So the two greatest commandments may for the Saints become one, for our neighbor becomes our self, our neighbor is mystically Christ standing before us and, since God became man so that men might become as gods, the Self becomes God, and all are united forever in the Divine Fire of Love, which becomes the heaven or Hell which we have made for ourselves during our lifetime.

Faith is a Gift. Faith leads to knowledge from God. The knowledge of men does not lead to Faith. But what is the knowledge from God?

St. Maximos the Confessor writes:

9. Created beings can be known rationally by means of the inner
principles which are by nature intrinsic to such beings and by which they are naturally defined. But from our apprehension of these principles inherent in created beings we can do no more than believe that God exists. To the devout believer, God gives something more sure than any proof: the recognition and the faith that He substantively IS. Faith is true knowledge, the principles of which are beyond rational demonstration; for Faith makes real for us things beyond intellect and reason.” [First Century on Theology, pg. 116, Philokalia Vol.II]

“Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not
seen.”

[Hebrews 11:1]

+++++

The River of Fire

(excerpt from http://www.sitaram.0catch.com/page008.htm )

The Zoroastrian religion over the centuries went through its own
transformations. There is a messiah figure who is prophesies
called Soshuant (which I think may be related to word for savior
Yeshua Joshua), and a period of restoration called Fraisheberge

In the final “judgment” of all souls, there is a Zoroastrian Lake of
Fire, a fire which warms and nourished the righteous, but burns and
torments the wicked.

Let us turn our attention now to the book of Daniel, and the vision
of the Ancient of Days.

The Ancient of days is seated on a throne, and from the base of
the throne flows a river of fire, or fiery stream.

Now, the Greek Orthodox Christians have developed an entire theology
upon this “river of fire”.

Everyhwere you look in scriptures, God is fire, God is Light, God is Love, right?

The River of Fire, pouring forth from the base of the throne of the Ancient of Days, is God’s love, which encompasses all things. and the wicked and the just.

Just like the Zoroastrian theology concerning the lake of fire, the river of fire of gods love warms and nourished the righteous but burns and torments the wicked.

In this type of theology… heaven and hell are the same place. The final condition of each soul depends upon how each person cast the temperament and nature of their souls by their free will actions.

One day, I decided to visit a Reform Jewish synagogue in Manhattan, but got there one hour early, so the Roman Catholic Hispanic janitor let me in. The place was empty.

So, I go up to the front pew, and I’m sitting there, looking at the sanctuary, the Torah Scrolls (inside) etc etc…

When suddenly, in my mind, comes three very strong loud thoughts, one right after another, almost like it wasn’t my own thoughts but rather an inner monologue or stream of consciousness.

The first thought : “A thought or memory in the mind of God… must
certainly have more , greater “reality” than any sensible, palpable , physical thing.

The second thought: “Who amongst us would ever be forgotten in “The
Mind of God?”

Then, the third thought… “You will be remembered after the fashion
which you have cast yourself by your own free-will actions; if bitter angry wretches.. you shall be remembered as a wretch, but if humble, grateful, patient and cheerful in personality, then you shall be remembered as cheerful, AND THEREIN LIES HEAVEN AND HELL.

What were those “three strong loud thoughts” which seemed to come
from nowhere?

Well, who can say? Obviously, I drew my own conclusions as years went by.

But one can see how this… “way in which you are remembered”..
fits in with the river of fire theology of Greek orthodox… and the
Zoroastrian lake of fire…… and reconciles how a Good God who is
Love… could still somehow… “torment” beings…

Of course the torment IS THE LOVE… to be in the face of perfect
love… and to be forever .. unworthy…

River of Fire, Lake of Fire

http://www.thetruelight.net/11religions/zoroastrianism.htm

In Zoroastrian belief, Gayomart, the first man, will be given the honor of
coming forth first in the resurrection, then Mashya and Mashyoi,
humanity’s fore parents, then all others. Saoshyant (Joshua/Yeshua/Jesus) will purify both the wicked and the righteous by causing all to pass through a river of molten metal (obtained through the melting of the mountains). This experience will be pleasant for the righteous (like being bathed in warm milk) but agonizing for the wicked (until all sins are purged away).

from “Behold the Spirit” by Alan Watts

From the standpoint of non-duality, evil is not and CANNOT be the
opposite of God. Yet this is just what evil wishes to be, opposing God in
the entirely futile hope that it can exclude Him, standing over against Him, and limit Him as an equal; this is evil’s tremendous conceit.

Therefore the supremacy of God over evil requires that it should never be allowed to achieve this aim. Evil tries to oppose God, but if God were to oppose evil, He would not only be acknowledging it as an equal and opposite, but allowing it to fulfill its purpose. Hence it is not by opposing evil that God renders it futile; He overcomes it through His non-duality, His all-inclusiveness, His love, which is unconquerable and supreme because it does not oppose and cannot effectively be opposed. Evil is the attempt to pick a quarrel with God, and because it cannot, it wears itself out with exasperation. Although evil struggles to exclude and oppose God, it never succeeds because he always embraces it in His all-inclusive love. To evil this love APPEARS like wrath and opposition, though this is its own wrath and opposition PROJECTED on the “mirror” of God and inflamed by perpetual frustration, It tries to mar the purity of the mirror by making it reflect its own loathsomeness. But the loathsomeness is simply reflected back to its origin with perfect clarity, and serves only to demonstrate the inherent purity of the mirror.

God as a Reflecting Mirror in the Psalms

Psalms 18:24 Therefore hath the LORD recompensed me according to my righteousness, according to the cleanness of my hands in his eyesight. 25 With the merciful thou wilt shew thyself merciful; with an upright man thou wilt shew thyself upright; 26 With the pure thou wilt shew thyself pure; and with the froward thou wilt shew thyself froward. 27 For thou wilt save the afflicted people; but wilt bring down high looks.28 For thou wilt light my candle: the LORD my God will enlighten my darkness.

Not only is evil unable to oppose and exclude God, but it also achieves the very contrary of its aim. In spite of itself, it achieves greater and greater demonstrations of the divine love, just as in trying to destroy Christ, Judas achieved unwittingly the salvation of the world. This was because Christ accepted the injury done to Him with all-inclusive love of God. “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” The greater the evil, the greater it proves the love of God to be, because that love simply “enlarges” itself to include and embrace it.

Evil originates, not in God, but in the real otherness of the creature, to
which God is giving His own Being. He permits it to originate because in
refusing He would destroy the real individuality, the very freedom of the
creature. He would then be making the creature one with himself by
identity instead of by distinction. He permits it, also, because He knows
that it cannot truly oppose Him, and in the long run can only demonstrate His Glory and Holiness. Theology, however, can never admit that God is responsible for evil. Yet although God is not responsible for evil, He makes himself responsible. Evil, to its own fury and confusion, finds itself adopted by God, finds that it cannot escape from union with Him, finds it impossible to alienate itself from the love of God.

Psalms 139:8 If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my
bed in hell, behold, thou art there.

Thus, God renders evil’s desire futile by His very immanence in it; yet if
He were only immanent, this would amount to His condoning of and
subjection to evil. But because at the same time He TRANSCENDS evil,
and is in Himself perfect goodness and holiness, He can give Himself to
evil without subjection as the pure mirror is untainted by a vile reflection. Thus evil is overcome by love and acceptance when the One who loves is in principle greater than evil. But love and acceptance become condoning and subjection when applied to evil by one who is not greater in principle, which is why man is incapable of overcoming it by his own efforts.

For man is involved in a dualistic relationship with evil. Evil is the opposite of creaturely goodness, but not of the goodness of God. It destroys creaturely being but not the being of God.

– from “Behold The Spirit” by Alan Watts

from The Old Testament Book of the Prophet Daniel

Daniel 7:7 After this I saw in the night visions, and behold a fourth beast, dreadful and terrible, and strong exceedingly; and it had great iron teeth: it devoured and brake in pieces, and stamped the residue with the feet of it: and it was diverse from all the beasts that were before it; and it had ten horns. 8. I considered the horns, and, behold, there came up among them another little horn, before whom there were three of the first horns plucked up by the roots: and, behold, in this horn were eyes like the eyes of man, and a mouth speaking great things. 9. I beheld till the thrones were cast down, and the Ancient of days did sit, whose garment was white as snow, and the hair of his head like the pure wool: his throne was like the fiery flame, and his wheels as burning fire. 10. A fiery stream issued and came forth from before him: thousand thousands ministered unto him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him: the judgment was set, and the books were opened.

from “The River of Fire” by Alexander Kalomoiros
http://www.orthodoxpress.org/parish/river_of_fire.htm

Paradise or hell depends on how we will accept God’s love. Will we return love for love, or will we respond to His love with hate? This is the critical difference. And this difference depends entirely on us, on our freedom, on our innermost free choice, on a perfectly free attitude which is not influenced by external conditions or internal factors of our material and psychological nature, because it is not an external act but an interior attitude coming from the bottom of our heart, conditioning not our sins, but the way we think about our sins, as it is clearly seen in the case of the publican and the Pharisee and in the case of the two robbers crucified with Christ. This freedom, this choice, this inner attitude toward our Creator is the innermost core of our eternal personality, it is the most profound of our characteristics, it is what makes us that which we are, it is our eternal face — bright or dark, loving or hating.

No, my brothers, unhappily for us, paradise or hell does not depend on
God. If it depended on God, we would have nothing to fear. We have
nothing to fear from Love. But it does not depend on God. It depends
entirely upon us, and this is the whole tragedy. God wants us to be in His image, eternally free. He respects us absolutely. This is love. Without respect, we cannot speak of love. We are men because we are free. If we were not free, we would be clever animals, not men. God will never take back this gift of freedom which renders us what we are. This means that we will always be what we want to be, friends or enemies of God, and there is no changing in this our deepest self. In this life, there are profound or superficial changes in our life, in our character, in our beliefs, but all these changes are only the expression in time of our deepest eternal self. This deep eternal self is eternal, with all the meaning of the word. This is why paradise and hell are also eternal. There is no changing in what we really are. Our temporal characteristics and our history in life depend on many superficial things ‘which vanish with death, but our real personality is not superficial and does not depend on changing and vanishing things. It is our real self. It remains with us when we sleep in the grave, and will be our real face in the resurrection. It is eternal.

“For our God is a consuming fire”, (Heb. 12:29). The very fire which
purifies gold, also consumes wood. Precious metals shine in it like the sun, rubbish burns with black smoke. All are in the same fire of Love. Some shine and others become black and dark. In the same furnace steel shines like the sun, whereas clay turns dark and is hardened like stone. The difference is in man, not in God.

“‘The end of the world’ signifies not the annihilation of the world, but its
transformation. Everything will be transformed suddenly, in the twinkling
of an eye…. And the Lord will appear in glory on the clouds. Trumpets will sound, and loud, with power! They will sound in the soul and conscience! All will become clear to the human conscience. The Prophet Daniel, speaking of the Last Judgment, relates how the Ancient of Days, the Judge, sits on His throne, and before Him is a fiery stream (Dan. 7:9-10). Fire is a purifying element; it burns sins. Woe to a man if sin has become a part of his nature: then the fire will burn the man himself. This fire will be kindled within a man; seeing the Cross, some will rejoice, but others will fall into confusion, terror, and despair. Thus will men be divided instantly. The very state of a man’s soul casts him to one side or the other, to right or to left.

“The more consciously and persistently a man strives toward God in his
life, the greater will be his joy when he hears: ‘Come unto Me, ye
blessed.’ And conversely: the same words will call the fire of horror and
torture on those who did not desire Him, who fled and fought or
blasphemed Him during their lifetime!

“The Last Judgment knows of no witnesses or written protocols!
Everything is inscribed in the souls of men and these records, these
‘books’, are opened at the Judgment. Everything becomes clear to all and to oneself.

Now if anyone is perplexed and does not understand how it is possible for God’s love to render anyone pitifully wretched and miserable and even burning as it were in flames, let him consider the elder brother of the prodigal son. Was he not in his father’s estate? Did not everything in it belong to him? Did he not have his father’s love? Did his father not come himself to entreat and beseech him to come and take part in the joyous banquet? What rendered him miserable and burned him with inner bitterness and hate? Who refused him anything? Why was he not joyous at his brother’s return? Why did he not have love either toward his father or toward his brother? Was it not because of his wicked, inner disposition? Did he not remain in hell because of that? And what was this hell? Was it any separate place? Were there any instruments of torture? Did he not continue to live in his father’s house? What separated him from all the joyous people in the house if not his own hate and his own bitterness? Did his father, or even his brother, stop loving him? Was it not precisely this very love which hardened his heart more and more? Was it not the joy that made him sad? Was not hatred burning in his heart, hatred for his father and his brother, hatred for the love of his father toward his brother and for the love of his brother toward his father? This is hell: the negation of love; the return of hate for love; bitterness at seeing innocent joy; to
be surrounded by love and to have hate in one’s heart. This is the eternal condition of all the damned. They are all dearly loved. They are all invited to the joyous banquet. They are all living in God’s Kingdom, in the New Earth and the New Heavens. No one expels them. Even if they wanted to go away they could not flee from God’s New Creation, nor hide from God’s tenderly loving omnipresence. Their only alternative would be, perhaps, to go away from their brothers and search for a bitter isolation from them, but they could never depart from God and His love. And what is more terrible is that in this eternal life, in this New Creation, God is everything to His creatures. As Saint Gregory of Nyssa says, “In the present life the things we have relations with are numerous, for instance: time, air, locality, food and drink, clothing, sunlight, lamplight, and other necessities of life, none of which, many though they be, are God; that blessed state which we hope for is in need of none of these things, but the Divine Being will become all, and in the stead of all to us, distributing Himself proportionately to every need of that existence. It is plain, too,
from the Holy Scriptures that God becomes to those who deserve it,
locality and home and clothing and food and drink and light and riches and kingdom, and everything that can be thought of and named that goes to make our life happy”

(On the Soul and the Resurrection). 46

“And some will go to joy, while others — to horror.

“When ‘the books are opened,’ it will become clear that the roots of all
vices lie in the human soul. Here is a drunkard or a lecher: when the body has died, some may think that sin is dead too. No! There was an
inclination to sin in the soul, and that sin was sweet to the soul, and if the soul has not repented of the sin and has not freed itself from it, it will come to the Last Judgment also with the same desire for sin. It will never satisfy that desire and in that soul there will be the suffering of hatred. It will accuse everyone and everything in its tortured condition, it will hate everyone and everything. ‘There will be gnashing of teeth’ of powerless malice and the unquenchable fire of hatred.

“A ‘fiery Gehenna’ — such is the inner fire. ‘Here there will be wailing and gnashing of teeth.’ Such is the state of hell.”

– Archbishop John Maximovitch, “The Last Judgment,” Orthodox Word
(November- December, 1966): 177-78.

In the new eternal life, God will be everything to His creatures, not only to the good but also to the wicked, not only to those who love Him, but likewise to those who hate Him. But how will those who hate Him endure to have everything from the hands of Him Whom they detest? Oh, what an eternal torment is this, what an eternal fire, what a gnashing of teeth!

Depart from Me, ye cursed, into the everlasting inner fire of hatred,” saith the Lord, because I was thirsty for your love and you did not give it to Me, I was hungry for your blessedness and you did not offer it to Me, I was imprisoned in My human nature and you did not come to visit Me in My church; you are free to go where your wicked desire wishes, away from Me, in the torturing hatred of your hearts which is foreign to My loving heart which knows no hatred for anyone. Depart freely from love to the everlasting torture of hate, unknown and foreign to Me and to those who are with Me, but prepared by freedom for the devil, from the days I created My free, rational creatures. But wherever you go in the darkness of your hating hearts, My love will follow you like a river of fire, because no matter what your heart has chosen, you are and you will eternally continue to be, My children.

http://www.studylight.org/whatsnew.html

LAKE OF FIRE
(limne tou puros):

Found in Revelation 19:20 ; 20:10,14 ,15. Revelation 21:8 has “the lake
that burneth with fire and brimstone.” The brimstone in connection with
“the lake of fire” occurs also in Revelation 19:20 and 10, the latter being a backward reference to the former passage. In Revelation 20:14 the words, “This is the second death, even the lake of fire” are either a gloss originally intended to elucidate 20:15 through a reference to 20:6, or, if part of the text, formed originally the close of 20:15, whence they became displaced on account of the identity of the words once immediately preceding them in 20:15 with the words now preceding them in 20:14. The “lake of fire” can be called “the second death” only with reference to the lost among men (20:15), not with reference to death and Hades (20:14). In all the above references “the lake of fire” appears as a place of punishment, of perpetual torment, not of annihilation (20:10). The beast
(19:20); the pseudo-prophet (19:20; 20:10); the devil (20:10); the
wicked of varying description (20:15; 21:8), are cast into it. When the
same is affirmed of death and Hades (20:14), it is doubtful whether this is meant as a mere figure for the cessation of these two evils personified, or has a more realistic background in the existence of two demon-powers so named (compare Isaiah 25:8 ; 1 Corinthians 15:26,54 ; 2 Esdras 7:31).

The Scriptural source for the conception of “the lake of fire” lies in
Genesis 19:24 , where already the fire and the brimstone occur together, while the locality of the catastrophe described is the neighborhood of the Dead Sea. The association of the Dead Sea with this fearful judgment of God, together with the desolate appearance of the place, rendered it a striking figure for the scene of eschatological retribution. The two other Old Testament passages which have “fire and brimstone” (Psalms 11:6 ; Ezekiel 38:22 ) are dependent on the Genesis passage, with which they have the figure of “raining” in common. In Revelation 21:8 , “their part” seems
to allude to Psalms 11:6 , “the portion of their cup.” In Enoch 67:4 the
Dead Sea appears as the place of punishment for evil spirits. Of late it has been proposed to derive “the lake of fire” from “the stream of fire” which destroys the enemies of Ahura in the Zoroastrian eschatology; so Bousset, Die Offenbarung Johannis, 1906, 433, 434. But the figures of a stream and a lake are different; compare 2 Esdras 13:9-11, where a stream of fire proceeds from the mouth of the Messiah for the destruction of His enemies. Besides, the Persian fire is, in part, a fire of purification, and not of destruction only (Bousset, 442), and even in the apocalyptic Book of Enoch, the fires of purification and of punishment are not confounded (compare Enoch 67:4 with 90:20). The Old Testament fully explains the entire conception.

http://www.zoroastrianism.cc/similarities_and_influences.html

ZOROASTRIANISM

Similarities with and Influences on other Religions

There is an Iranian Mazdayasni tradition, which states that Zarathushtra founded a missionary school. As a matter of fact several of the teachers at this school are mentioned. This missionary school was supposed to be active for some 300 years after the Manthran’s death. At that time some catastrophe, possibly the fall of the Kayanian dynasty, closed the school. According to the tradition, many missionaries were sent to all corners of the world to spread the Manthra. Whether this tradition is true or not we have no way of ascertaining today. However, we do know of similarities and influences, that Mazdayasna shares or has had on other faiths. In the East it seems to be more a case of similarities, some uncanny, between
Mazdayasna and the Oriental religions. Early Hinduism and the old Aryan
pre Zarathushtian religion are practically the same.

Afterwards, they did part ways but they share a set of similar cultural
assumptions. There is Rta and its almost duplicate, Asha. There is karma and there is the Principle of Return in Mazdayasna, which is a part of Asha. Both religions highly value Fire and both use the Kushti (girdle or cord).

Buddhism, having sprung from a Hindu society, has some of these
similarities plus a few of its own. The similarity between Asha and Dharma and between the Eight-Fold Path and the Essences of Ahura Mazda are uncanny, both in name and meaning. Taoism, while not Aryan, does share two very important similarities, with Mazdayasna. The Tao is almost exactly the same thing as Asha, except that Asha is a creation of the Absolute (God) and Tao is the Absolute. The other similarity is the Mainyus and the Ying and the Yang, both being opposites, although the Mainyus are discernments or mentalities and the Ying and Yang are more like aspects of nature.

The case in the West is one of influence. When scholars study the Old
Testament, they find a disparity between the Jewish doctrines in pre-exilic and Jewish doctrines in post- exilic Judaism. Pre-Exilic Judaism was a minority religion in the Northern Kingdom and maybe also in Judea, since most Israelites and large numbers of Judeans were either totally Pagan or semi Pagan. Outside some Psalms and Job (believed to be post- exilic), pre-exilic Judaism is missing some important doctrines that are cardinal in Post-exilic Judaism. Satan, the Resurrection, Hell and Heaven. What change came over the religion in the exile years and where did this change originate? There are some rather large hints in the Bible itself and in the Gathic and post Gathic Persian literature. It is a known fact that king Nebuchednezar exiled the Jews to Babylon, after his conquest of Jerusalem in 587 BCE. This was a traumatic experience for the Jews. They could understand the exile in terms of Yahweh’s judgment of His people, but what of the future? Were the Jews to be abandoned? And why did the God of Israel let foreigners destroy them? They could understand Yahweh’s wrath, but why use the Gentiles and their gods to punish Israel?
Those Jews who had not been seduced by the Baals had always believed Yahweh to be exclusively ‘their’ God. Now faced with disaster, the beliefs of Jews were shaken. Through their years in exile, they became exposed to other belief systems and in a process of spiritual catharsis, they came to reform and adopt some of them. Because of their situation as an enslaved people, this process was inevitable and might have resulted in their eventual assimilation. It is at this, their most trying moment, that they came into contact with a civilization and a religion that was to shape their destiny both as a national entity and as a religion.

In 539 BCE, Cyrus The Great, emperor of Persia, conquered Babylon. The effect of this conquest on the Jewish captivity was to have monumental repercussions in world history. Cyrus was a practicing believer in the Zoroastrian religion. His exceedingly kind and farsighted rule has been attributed the result of his religious beliefs. For the Jews accustomed to harsher Babylonian rule, this leniency showed by Cyrus must have come as a surprise. Cyrus was not content with being a benevolent ruler, driven perhaps by his religious beliefs, perhaps by an uncommon political wisdom, Cyrus set about righting the wrongs committed by the Babylonians upon their defeated victims. It was the Jews that were to make this policy of Cyrus famous.

But listen to the Bible: “And He (Yahweh) says of Cyrus; He is my
shepherd, and he will accomplish everything that I want, he will say to
Jerusalem You shall be built, and her ruins I shall rebuilt. So does Yahweh say to His anointed, to Cyrus, I have taken you by your right hand, that you might submit nations before you and undo the sustenance of kings; to have doors open in front of you, which doors shall not be closed. I will go before you, and I will straighten all the crooks on your paths; I will smash to pieces bronze doors (for you) and (for you) I shall shatter locks of iron. I shall give you the hidden treasures, and the most guarded secrets…” Isaiah 44:28 – 45:3. (NRSV)

To understand, the import of the above passage we must understand its meaning in the Jewish context. For the Jews, the Gentiles were impure; they were not to associate with them outside business or casual contact. Now there is a prophet of God, extolling the virtues of a Gentile king, and conferring upon him, specific Jewish religious titles! When a prophet of Yahweh calls Cyrus His shepherd, the religious implications had to be mind-boggling. A shepherd in this context is a religious and political leader of Israel, a national hero like David. One that was appointed by Yahweh Himself!! This amounts to installing Cyrus and through him all the following Persian emperors as super kings and priests over Israel. There is no questioning Cyrus for he has “…been taken by his right hand…” by Yahweh Himself!! In addition Yahweh calls Cyrus “my anointed”. This is a very specific and technical Jewish religious term. The ‘anointed’ in Jewish religion were the kings of Israel, their prophets and the high priests (Lev. 8:12, 1 Sam. 9:16, 10:1, 16:13, 2Chr 23:11, 1Kings 1:39 etc.); this verifies our interpretations of the term ‘shepherd’.

But this is not the only implication here, anointed in the Hebrew is
Messiah. Messiah in turn is the Jewish word translated into Greek as
Christos or in English Christ. Yahweh has anointed Cyrus as king, priest
and savior over Israel; this gives Cyrus total authority over Israel in all
matters, political as well as religious. If we include the fact that Cyrus,
according to Zarathushtrian theology would, as head of state, also be the protector of Mazdayasna, we can begin to appreciate Yahweh’s statement.

For with this statement Judaism comes under the authority (by God’s
stated will) of the Persian Empire and religion. This is confirmed when
Judaism goes on to adopt many doctrines of Zoroastrianism. The Devil,
the after life, “good” people go to a “heaven” and “evil” doers go to a
place of punishment. These are places which are identical to the “Best”
and “Worst” Existences of Mazdayasna. Doctrines belonging to
Zarathushtra´s followers, such as resurrection of the dead, were accepted at this time, at least by the Persian faction, which came to be known as Pharisees (from Persians, Parsees).

More doctrines such as the coming savior became part of Judaism. All
these doctrines were to pass from Judaism into Christianity and Islam. It is interesting to point out that the Qumram sect, responsible for the Dead Sea Scrolls, was a Zoroastrian heretic group, as can be seen by studying the sect’s documents. Specifically their doctrines of the two spirits and the two ways. Other influences on Christianity and Islam include, but are not limited to, Islam’s 5 prayer times, Muhammad’s Night Journey to Jerusalem and Heaven and the Sarat Bridge. In Christianity we have among others the Lake of Fire and titles such as King of Kings.

====================
http://www.flick.com/onomastikon/Ancient-World/Eastern/Persia.htm

Magi Probably a priestly caste but listed as one of five aboriginal tribes of Iran by Herodotus. They may have been repudiated by Zoroastra, although both Achaemenid and Zoroastrian religions worshipped fire. Zoroastrian priests were called ‘athravan’ which means ‘fire-tenders’ and the Magi were probably sacrificial priests like the Vedic Aryans had.

http://members.tripod.com/great-b…l-Asian-Nomads-Unite/origins.html

http://members.ozemail.com.au/~zarathus/three33.html

“The Fire of the anger of Ahura Mazda has remained silent for centuries. The Fire shall come down to the world and destroy evil at the time of the Renovation.

“A blazing comet now falls from the stars, and all the mountains on the
earth are melted and leveled. The world itself is burnt up in a great ball of Fire. The Yazata Shatravar Himself, the Lord of Metals on this earth will cause the metals in the mountains to melt and pass in a boiling tide over the whole globe, immersing the souls of the righteous as well as the wicked. The wicked will be thus burnt in this river of molten metal, and their sins removed from them. They become entirely purified as a result.

At the same time, miraculously so; the righteous souls will pass through
this same inferno – and feel as if they were wading through warm milk!
The Power of Ahura Mazda be praised.

“The worst sinners such as Zohak and Afrasiab will suffer very intensely in the final three days and the final flood of metal. However, even the sinners are now released from their torture in hell – for God does not want even the worst sinner to suffer for ever in the claws of the evil one – such is His Mercy.

“Following the final universal conflagration, there will then occur the final Renovation of the world. The sinners have been purified of their evil by the red-hot metal, and now become as virtuous and worthy of bliss as the righteous. The Yazatas (worshipful beings) now ensure that the joyous reward of any good deed done on the earth is returned to that soul ten-fold. However, the righteous souls experience far greater happiness than the ones who have been cleansed, because they rightly deserve it so.”

“The Heavenly bliss which is now the lot of everyone, now becomes
ever-lasting by awarding immortality to every body. The Final Saviour
Soshyos now performs the Holy YASNA ceremony, and prepares the white HOM juice – which all drink of, becoming immortal and ever young. Every man and woman becomes as innocent and loving as cattle. If a human was full grown at the time of his death, he now appears as a forty year old, whereas those who died earlier now appear as fifteen year olds.

Palash and his beautiful sweetheart Avah were imagining in their mind’s
eye, the Glorious Future of the World – that the Aryan Prophet
Zarathushtra had revealed to the Aryan peoples. This concept, of the
Resurrection of the dead and the World’s final Renovation – would be what would inspire the Aryan peoples for centuries to come. This would be the belief that they had so much faith in, that would give them so much Hope – even though the forces of evil would rage and rant at them endlessly, through the millennia to follow.

“Ahura Mazda now Himself comes down to the world and acts as the
ZAOTA, the head sacrificial priest and Sarosh Yazad will be His RASPI.
God now holds the sacred Kusti-girdle in His Hands, and recites the
AHUNAVAR as He did when He first created the Universe.

“The evil one is utterly paralyzed on hearing this most sacred of MATHRAS in the voice of Ahura Mazda Himself, and he rushes back to darkness by the same passage through which he had come out and attacked the Creation in the beginning of the world. Lost without sustenance from human souls either on earth or in hell, he now ceases to exist and is forgotten for ever.

“Now disappear all evil demons from the world, along with all hatred,
anger, ill-temper, fear, shame and strife, greediness and want. Evil of
every kind disappears. Good of every kind is brought to the highest level of perfection.

“Ahura Mazda now establishes His Divine Kingdom on the earth. The
Sacred Prayer in the Ahunavar is at long last fulfilled – Kshetremchai
Ahurai Ayim, The Kingdom of God shall come.

“Mankind now thinks, speaks and act as per the Will of Almighty God, and His Will is known and obeyed by all. Mankind now has Full Faith in the Lord, and they now sing the praises of God for ever and ever, living in perfect bliss. No more will there be evil or unhappiness, because man is no longer opposed to the Divine Will but accepts it totally, living in the company of Ahura Mazda on this earth for all time to come.

http://www.thetruelight.net/11religions/zoroastrianism.htm

Gayomart, the first man, will be given the honor of coming forth first in
the resurrection, then Mashya and Mashyoi, humanity’s fore parents, then all others. Saoshyant will purify both the wicked and the righteous by causing all to pass through a river of molten metal (obtained through the melting of the mountains). This experience will be pleasant for the righteous (like being bathed in warm milk) but agonizing for the wicked (until all sins are purged away). After this Saoshyant will grant all the sons and daughters of this world the drink of immortality (haoma), transforming their bodies into eternal perfection. Those who expired during childhood will experience renewed existence at the age of 15; those who passed away as adults will be brought back to life at the mature age of 40.

Zoroastrianism: Because this religion emphasizes ‘salvation by works,’
adherents tend to display a greater tolerance toward people of other
religions. Zoroastrians must have a dominance of good works to be
saved. The three most honorable and desirable virtues are good thoughts, good words and good deeds. Man’s chief duty is to offer his body as a habitation for the Beneficent Immortals.

(See “Zoroastrianism” under The Nature of God.) Hell is considered
merely a temporary abode for the correction of the wicked, because all
souls will be saved in the end (the doctrine of universalism). The practice of imbibing a hallucinogenic drink called haoma has become an
emphasized rite. Also, instead of burying or cremating the dead, corpses are placed above the ground in a daxma (a ‘tower of silence’) where the remains are eaten by vultures and insects. Disposing of human remains in any other way is considered a serious sin.

Two judgments take place: the first is after the physical death of each
individual. The second is after the resurrection of all men, who will be
gathered together from heaven and hell.

Zoroastrians explain that there are two judgments because the first
judgment deals with the soul; the second judgment deals with the body. The second judgment will determine if the wicked need further correction before they are allowed entrance into paradise.

Hell is considered only a temporary place of suffering. At the end of time, Saoshyant Astvatereta, the final Savior, will make his appearance. He will be a son of Zoroaster, miraculously conceived by a virgin who swims in a lake where Zoroaster’s seed has been preserved. When Saoshyant arrives to establish the Kingdom of Righteousness, after a cosmic year (approximately 12,000 earthly years) there will be a general resurrection of both the good and the evil.

I remember where I encountered the statement about Allah, and the souls complaining in Hell about not having had a chance to be faithful, during a PBS educational television interview with an Islamic scholar Professor Seyyed Hossein Nasr who is in Washington D.C. at Georgetown University. Someone once asked why Allah bothered to create the world at all and place the believers side by side with the unbelievers, since Allah foreknows from before the creation of the world who shall believe and who shall be an unbeliever. Why not simply place the believers in paradise and the unbelievers in torment. The answer is that if the unbelievers were placed directly in torment, with no chance to be born into the world, they would be forever complaining that if they had a chance to be born, they would have become believers. Hence it is necessary for the unbeliever to be born and to be wicked as proof that the unbeliever belongs in eternal torment.

http://www.beaconofknowledge.com/

The question of God’s foreknowledge and human free will is vast and
challenging. When I was in college, St. Johns (a secular school despite
the name) in Annapolis, in the mid-60’s, I was visiting the room of a
Jewish student, and I saw a copy of the Talmud (perhaps only excerpts) and opened it to the first page. I vividly remember it saying something like “of course God foreknows the outcome of our free will choices, yet that foreknowledge in no way robs us of our freedom during the moment that we make our choice. Seems like quite a paradox, does it not? Yet consider things in quantum; like Bell’s theorem, Schrödinger’s cat, light as both a particle and a wave.

The early Greek Christian theologians used to puzzle over the following
conundrum: there is one verse in the New Testament which says “God
loves all people and desires that all be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth” and yet, in the Old Testament it is written that ten times Moses came to Pharaoh and said “Let my people go” and ten times GOD
HARDENED Pharaoh’s heart. Well, Pharaoh was a man, and if God desires that all be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth, then why did God HARDEN Pharaoh’s heart? Why didn’t God soften Pharaoh’s heart and have him follow Moses into the wilderness.

The answer which these early theologians came up with is that God is not simply within time, the temporal, since God created time, nor is God
simply within eternity, since God is the creator of all which is eternal;
rather God is at some vantage point outside of time and eternity which,
for convenience, we may call the pre-eternal vantage point, and from that vantage point God foreknows the outcome of each persons free will choice in any given situation. Hence, God foreknew that if Pharaoh were offered the precious gift of faith, that pearl which must not be caste before swine, then Pharaoh would have made the free will choice to trample upon it. So it is essentially Pharaoh’s own nature, forged by the history of his free will choices, which hardens Pharaoh’s heart,….. just as in the case of gold and clay, the heat of the furnace is the same heat, and yet that same heat causes gold to become liquid and radiant because of gold’s inherent nature, while clay becomes hardened and burnt.

In the Judaeo-Christian Old and New Testaments there is a long tradition illustrating the inviolable sanctity of the human free will. In the Book of Esther, the wicket Haman is plotting the genocide of the Jewish people. Queen Esther’s uncle, Mordecai, says to her “You have it within your power, if you choose, to help your people. IF you choose not to, then God will arrange for the deliverance to come in some other fashion, but you shall not share in the reward.” In the New Testament, the archangel, Gabriel, does NOT come to tell Mary that she is with child, but rather explains to Mary that it is the WILL of the Almighty that she conceive and bear a child through the Holy Spirit. It is ONLY when Mary exercises her free will choice, bows her head, and says “So let it be with Thy handmaid” that the moment of conception takes place.

In the Gospels, Jesus tells Peter “before the rooster crows twice, you shall deny me three times.” Assume for a moment, for the sake of argument, that Jesus IS the pre-eternal God, outside of time, who foreknows the outcome of all of our free will choices before we ever make them, and yet that foreknowledge in no way robs us of our freedom at that moment in time when we choose. Then, Jesus SEES the future moment when Peter makes his free will choice to deny. Now (and here comes the interesting point), IF telling Peter what his future free will choice will be in any way changes Peter’s future action, THEN Peter would be robbed of the freedom of his will. But, we see that, when the moment comes, and the rooster crows, Peters memory is clouded (in order to protect his free will), and he makes his choice just as it was foreseen from God’s pre-eternal vantage point, and only AFTER Peter has exercised his freedom does he suddenly remember what Jesus foresaw.

Throughout the Bible, whenever an angel appears, people are fearful, and the angel calms them down and basically says, “do not be afraid, be of good cheer.” It is in the Qu’ran, when the archangel Gabriel appears to Muhammad in the cave, that we see an entirely different picture. The angle embraces and squeezes Muhammad three times, almost killing him, and COMMANDS, “Proclaim, prophecy!” which seems a clear violation of Muhammad’s free will, and finally Muhammad utters the first words of the Qu’ran “Bizmillah al rahman al raheem” (“In the name of Allah, the beneficent and merciful.)

Now, as to God creating someone as damned and wicked, with no chance, there is an element, a suggestion of that sort of thing in the epistles of the New Testament, and there is a vivid statement of it in the Qu’ran.

In the epistles, it is stated that if someone is incorrigible and reprobate,
that they will be abandoned by God and caste into even deeper
wickedness.

The Qu’ran emphatically states that Allah will blind and deafen the
unbeliever and lead them into even greater blasphemy, so as to increase their culpability and torment.

If one contrasts all of this Judeo-Christian-Islamic theology with
Hindu-Buddhist theology, then one sees in Hinduism and Buddhism the
notion that all souls are reborn countless times and karmically purified
through suffering until they “get it right.” In other words, it is theoretically possible that ALL are saved. The vow of the Bodhisattva is precisely this sort of universal salvation “I vow to never enter Nirvana until every sentient being (including animals and insects) is saved.” A protestant preacher once shouted at a Zen master “you must accept Jesus or you will burn in hell.” The Zen master calmly replied, “Most willingly would I enter innumerable hells to aid and comfort the beings which suffer therein.”

This notion of universal salvation is present in Zoroastrian theology. For
the Zoroastrians, and the end of the world, there is a “lake of fire” which is warming and comforting (like a warm milk bath) for the righteous but scalding torment for the wicked. There is an Eastern Orthodox doctrine know as “The River of Fire” which is based on the vision which the prophet Daniel had of the Ancient of Days seated upon a throne, with a firey stream or river of fire issuing from the base of the throne and engulfing all things. In the Bible, God is often described as many things: a light, a burning fire, love.

The river of fire which engulfs all is God’s love, which is comforting to the righteous but a torment for the wicked. Look at the parable of the
prodigal son, who demands his inheritance from his father and then
squanders it in a foreign land. The prodigal son has a brother who never
leaves home, but is outwardly obedient to the father. When the prodigal son returns, the father runs to meet him and lavishes upon him love and forgiveness (and mind you, it is the SAME love which the father has for the obedient son who remained.) Yet, we see that the son who remained is burned with jealousy, and stands apart from the feast which the father prepares for the prodigal son (i.e. he excommunicates himself).

Advertisements

One Response to “The River of Fire and the Gift of Faith”

  1. Free Will vs Predetermination « William Buell's Blog Says:

    […] commute of South St. Seaport, NYC « Is Reality Ultimately Knowable With Precision? The River of Fire and the Gift of Faith […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: