LGD: Do the Orthodox Understand it?

Straight Path in Tobago


Until  sunset October 20, 2011  it is a time known as the Last Great Day.

We in the Living Church of God believe this day pictures the time of the Great White Throne judgment of Revelation 20 and that God will ultimately offer salvation to all who never truly understood the offer:

“The Last Great Day features the great judgment that will occur at the end of the millennial reign of Jesus Christ on earth (John 7:37; Leviticus 23:36, 39, 33-34; Revelation 20:11-12)…With a physical human birth, there must first be “begettal” (by the male), and “conception” (by the female). With a spiritual birth, there must first be a spiritual begettal and conception. Then, after a period of “spiritual gestation” or spiritual growth (2 Peter 3:18), true Christians will someday experience a literal spiritual “birth,” thereby becoming immortal children of God. We will literally be born again at the resurrection as Christ Himself was, “declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead” (Romans 1:4)…The “Last Judgment” Age (called the “Great White Throne Judgment”) in which all who have ever lived—yet who died in sin and ignorance of God’s Truth and His way of life—will be resurrected to a physical life and will have the Word of God opened to their understanding (Revelation 20:11-14; Matthew 10:15; 11:21-24; 12:41-42; Ezekiel 37:1-14)” (Official Statement of Fundamental Beliefs. LCG, 2004).

Interestingly, some among the Eastern Orthodox seem to believe something similar.  Orthodox Bishop Timothy Ware (who is now called Bishop Kallistos) wrote:

“What exactly is the condition of souls in the period between death and the Resurrection of the Body at the Last Day? Here Orthodox teaching is not entirely clear…The majority would be inclined to say that the faithful departed do not suffer at all. Another school holds that perhaps they suffer, but if so, their suffering is of a purificatory but not an expiratory character. Yet a third group would prefer to leave the whole question entirely open: let us avoid detailed formulation about the life after death” (Ware, p.255).

“There is no terrorism in the Orthodox doctrine of God…several of the Fathers have none the less believed that in the end all will be reconciled to God. It is heretical to say that all must be saved, for this is to deny free will; but it is a legitimate hope that all may be saved. Until the Last Day come, we must not despair of anyone’s salvation, but must long and pray for the reconciliation of all without exception” (Ware, p. 262).

It is possible that Origen of Alexandria’s writings (he is also considered to have been Eastern Orthodox) may have had some influence upon the position that Timothy Ware took. Specifically, noted historian K.S. Latourette observed this about Origen:

Origen taught that ultimately all the spirits who have fallen away from God will be restored to full harmony with Him. This can come about only with their cooperation, for they have freedom to accept or reject the redemption wrought in Christ. Before full restoration they will suffer punishment, but that punishment is intended to be educative, to purge them from the imperfections brought by their sin. After the end of the present age and its world another age will come, so Origen believed, in which have been born again will continue to grow and the unrepentant will be given further opportunity for repentance (Latourette K.S. A History of Christianity, Volume 1, Beginnings to 1500. Harper Collins, San Francisco, 1975, p.151).

Andreas Andreopoulos (Eastern Orthodox) wrote:

Gregory does not accept the restoration of all and the subsequent forgiveness of all as an inescapable necessity. Nobody will be saved without going through repentance, cleansing and forgiveness, and his view of the apokatastasis is merely the belief that everyone will be able to see truth as it is at the end, and everyone will be given the chance to repent…The restoration of all however, a valid possibility according to the Church, although not a doctrine, has a special place in the hopes of saints who pray for the redemption of their enemies, and it expresses our hope for the charity of God. Possibly the honorable silence expresses this hope, which in spite of the danger of determinism, becomes almost a certainty in this light: If even one human being is able to forgive and pray for the salvation of the entire cosmos, wouldn’t God’s providence find a way to make it happen? (Andreopoulos A. Eschatology and final restoration (apokatastasis) in Origen, Gregory of Nyssa and Maximos the Confessor. Theandros an Online Journal of Orthodox Christian Theology and Practice, Volume 1, number 3, Spring 2004. http://www.theandros.com/restoration.html viewed 06/08/09)

Orthodox Archpriest George Florovsky observed:

St. Gregory of Nyssa anticipated a kind of universal conversion of souls in the afterlife, when the Truth of God will be revealed and manifested with compelling evidence…

God respects human freedom, as St. Irenaeus once said…The Last Judgment remains a mystery.

(Florovsky G. The last things and the last events. Originally written no later than 1979. Missionary Leaflet # E95h Holy Protection Russian Orthodox Church. Los Angeles. Editor: Bishop Alexander (Mileant) http://www.fatheralexander.org/booklets/english/last_events_florovsky_e.htm#n3 viewed 06/07/09).

Orthodox escatology remains a mystery to the Orthodox as they tend to admit that they do not understand much of it–but many of them do realize that God’s plan of salvation is not limited the way that most Protestants seem to believe that it is. Yet, although the Orthodox do not observe the Last Great Day, remnants of its meaning seem to sometimes show up in their past and current theology.

Of course, we in LCG believe that the Last Great Day pictures that God will offer salvation to all who never truly had an opportunity in this age.  It is a view that many among the Eastern Orthodox held throughout history, though groups like Protestants have not tended to hold this biblical belief.

Two must read articles about these matters are Hope of Salvation: How the COGs differ from most Protestants and Universal Salvation? There Are Hundreds of Verses in the Bible Supporting the Doctrine of True Apocatastasis.

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