I’ve previously discussed here how the Pentecostal sermons of my childhood shaped the fears that I hold to this very day about spending an eternity in torment. Getting rid of that anxiety isn’t easy, but my view on the afterlife has slowly evolved over the years.
A Facebook friend shared a link today that contained an excerpt from an Easter message delivered by St. John Chrysostom (AD 347-407), an early Christian and Church father. Somewhere between the simplicity of the text and the complexity of the message, I found a way to lessen my worry about eternal damnation just a bit more.
Let no one grieve being poor, for the universal reign has been revealed. Let no one lament persistent failings, for forgiveness has risen from the grave. Let no one fear death, for the death of our Savior has set us free. The Lord has destroyed death by enduring it.
The Lord vanquished hell when he descended into it.
The Lord put hell in turmoil even as it tasted of his flesh. Isaiah foretold this when he said, “You, O Hell, were placed in turmoil when he encountering you below.”
Hell was in turmoil having been eclipsed. Hell was in turmoil having been mocked. Hell was in turmoil having been destroyed. Hell was in turmoil having been abolished. Hell was in turmoil having been made captive. Hell grasped a corpse, and met God. Hell seized earth, and encountered heaven.
Hell took what it saw, and was overcome by what it could not see. O death, where is your sting? O hell, where is your victory? Christ is risen, and you are cast down!
Christ is risen, and the demons are fallen! Christ is risen, and the angels rejoice! Christ is risen, and life is set free! Christ is risen, and the tomb is emptied of its dead. For Christ, having risen from the dead, is become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.
To Christ be glory and power forever and ever. Amen!
It’s amazing how words written around 1,600 years ago can provide a new perspective. The complete (and refreshingly short) sermon is available here.