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#21 Mina Soliman

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Posted 10 February 2013 - 05:47 PM

These authors below, supporters of Conditional Immortality, address the arguments you presented and dismiss them:

26. For our part, we do not know how any man of honest mind and common understanding can put a second meaning upon this long extract from Irenaeus. There are, however, men who stand deservedly high in estimation who do put a second meaning upon these words. Dr. Roberts, the translator of Irenaeus, gives the following annotation upon them: "As Massuet observes, this statement is to be understood in harmony with the repeated assertion of Irenaeus that the wicked will exist in misery for ever. It refers not to annihilation, but to deprivation of happiness."

27. We will merely say that we have read Irenaeus and have never met with any assertion of his that "the wicked shall exist in misery for ever." We will add that if such an assertion of his could be adduced it would only prove that Irenaeus contradicted himself as many men have done. We will lay down our indignant protest against a principle of interpretation which would make words of no use whatsoever to convey meaning. To tell us that "existence," and "continuance," spoken in the very same connection of the "enduring" of sun and moon and soul and spirit, mean "happiness " whether learned editors tell us this to save their author's consistency, or to prop up any favourite theory of their own— is just to tell us that we may cease the use of words altogether, because they may have any meaning that any one may choose to put upon them. To say that "sweet" means "bitter," or that "light" means "darkness," is just as allowable a use of words as to say that the "enduring" and "continuing" of one of God's works, such as the sun in the sky or the human soul, means, "the happiness" of these works. We dismiss such interpretation as an insult to our common understanding. http://www.truthacco...t/chapter17.php

Both of our sources are from heterodox Christians. Since Iranaeus is at times somewhat contradictory on this subject, I wonder if anyone here knows of Orthodox patristics studies of Conditional Immortality?

The authors here seem to twist meaning and definitions and extend it into dogma.  It's quite a feat and flawed in character because it still ignores what St. Irenaeus himself says here:

 

 
And to as many as continue in their love towards God, does He grant communion with Him. Butcommunion with God is life and light, and the enjoyment of all the benefits which He has in store. But on as many as, according to their own choice, depart from God, He inflicts that separation from Himself which they have chosen of their own accord. But separation from God is death, and separation from light is darkness; and separation from God consists in the loss of all the benefits which He has in store. Those, therefore, who cast away by apostasy these forementioned things, being in fact destitute of all good, do experience every kind of punishmentGod, however, does not punish them immediately of Himself, but that punishment falls upon them because they are destitute of all that is good. Now, good things are eternal and without end with God, and therefore the loss of these is also eternal and never-ending. It is in this matter just as occurs in the case of a flood of light: those who have blinded themselves, or have been blinded by others, are for ever deprived of the enjoyment of light. It is not, [however], that the light has inflicted upon them the penalty of blindness, but it is that the blindness itself has brought calamity upon them: and therefore the Lorddeclared, He that believes in Me is not condemned, John 3:18-21 that is, is not separated from God, for he is united to God through faith. On the other hand, He says, He that believes not is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only-begotten Son of God; that is, he separated himself from God of his own accord. For this is the condemnation, that light has come into this world, and men have loved darkness rather than light. For every one who does evil hates the light, and comes not to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that does truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that he has wrought them in God.

Against Heresies V.27.2

http://www.newadvent...ers/0103527.htm

 

He likens the eternal condemnation as those who are blind and will not be able to enjoy the beauty of the light forever.  Thus, it speaks against the idea that they will cease to exist.

 

We are by nature mortal and prone to mortality.  But it is also believed that if God created man in His own image only for some to be left to go back to non-existence, then God would look defeated, as if He created these specific men for nothing.

 

At the same time, what's the point of the Resurrection of the unjust, which is very clear that even your source admits?  Just to make a spectacle?  No, the Resurrection was powerful enough for all, the just and the unjust, "making His sun to rise upon the evil and on the good, and sending rain upon the just and unjust."



#22 Eric Todd

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Posted 10 February 2013 - 09:48 PM

The authors here seem to twist meaning and definitions and extend it into dogma. It's quite a feat and flawed in character because it still ignores what St. Irenaeus himself says here:


Against Heresies V.27.2
http://www.newadvent...ers/0103527.htm

He likens the eternal condemnation as those who are blind and will not be able to enjoy the beauty of the light forever. Thus, it speaks against the idea that they will cease to exist.

We are by nature mortal and prone to mortality. But it is also believed that if God created man in His own image only for some to be left to go back to non-existence, then God would look defeated, as if He created these specific men for nothing.

At the same time, what's the point of the Resurrection of the unjust, which is very clear that even your source admits? Just to make a spectacle? No, the Resurrection was powerful enough for all, the just and the unjust, "making His sun to rise upon the evil and on the good, and sending rain upon the just and unjust."

If anything, this passage by St Irenaeus seems to support the mortality of those who are separate from God: "Separation from God is death". He does not say separation from God is eternal life of suffering.

And he notes that the punishment of separation is indeed eternal: "Now, good things are eternal and without end with God, and therefore the loss of these is also eternal and never-ending". Again, he does not seem here to be suggesting that suffering is eternal, but rather the aformentioned "death".

I see throughout On Heresies this juxtaposition of immortality from communion with God, versus mortality, destruction and non existence without Him. For example, in Book 4: "Men therefore shall see God, that they may live, being made immortal by that sight, and attaining even unto God...” (4 Heresies 20:6).

Contrated with,“...man, falling away from God altogether, should cease to exist.” (4 Heresies 20:7).http://www.newadvent...ers/0103420.htm

Edited by Eric Todd, 10 February 2013 - 09:51 PM.


#23 Archimandrite Irenei

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Posted 10 February 2013 - 10:39 PM

Dear Eric and others,

 

You bring up an interesting question (and one that is often discussed in scholarship on the Fathers), and the posts already made in response raise a number of excellent points, reflecting further upon it.

 

With the brief time I have at my disposal this afternoon, I might say just this: Given first and foremost that nearly everything we 'know' of the next life is 'seen in a mirror, dimly' (as someone has already pointed out), and goes beyond our comprehension (which is itself grounded in this experiences and categories of this life), the basic testimony of the Church is fairly clear. There will be a resurrection of all, and the 'eternity' that we contemplate is not of the soul alone, but of the whole human creature, who is always body and soul united. And the life of the creature is 'everlasting' -- that is, God has created it to partake of His immortality, and so it is eternal. Of course, this eternity is 'conditional,' for nothing created is eternal by nature; yet this does not mean that we choose to 'go out of existence' through sin. The Fathers often use the 'ceasing to exist' metaphor to show how sin is a departure from the life that God has fashioned (e.g. St Athanasius in De incarnatione Verbi, St Irenaeus, etc.), but this is not generally presented as actually going out of material/essential existence, but as speaking of a paradoxical condition of life (so St Athanasius speaks of humanity, in its current life, as 'going out of existence'). But the overwhelming testimony of the Church -- Scriptural, patristic, liturgical -- is that God bestows eternity upon the creature -- hence all the 'everlasting' language of the hymns and Scriptures, which others have already pointed out.

 

It seems to me that this is precisely how St Irenaeus is using the concept in the passage you quoted in the opening of this thread. That which sin deprives man of is the 'length of days' that St Irenaeus is equating to the full blessedness of life in heavenly community with God. I cannot see his words really as a description of a state in which a sinful person ceases to be (and there are plenty of passages elsewhere in Irenaeus's writings, esp. in Book 5, that clearly say otherwise).

 

INXC, Fr Irenei



#24 Eric Todd

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Posted 10 February 2013 - 11:13 PM

Dear Eric and others,
 
You bring up an interesting question (and one that is often discussed in scholarship on the Fathers), and the posts already made in response raise a number of excellent points, reflecting further upon it.
 
With the brief time I have at my disposal this afternoon, I might say just this: Given first and foremost that nearly everything we 'know' of the next life is 'seen in a mirror, dimly' (as someone has already pointed out), and goes beyond our comprehension (which is itself grounded in this experiences and categories of this life), the basic testimony of the Church is fairly clear. There will be a resurrection of all, and the 'eternity' that we contemplate is not of the soul alone, but of the whole human creature, who is always body and soul united. And the life of the creature is 'everlasting' -- that is, God has created it to partake of His immortality, and so it is eternal. Of course, this eternity is 'conditional,' for nothing created is eternal by nature; yet this does not mean that we choose to 'go out of existence' through sin. The Fathers often use the 'ceasing to exist' metaphor to show how sin is a departure from the life that God has fashioned (e.g. St Athanasius in De incarnatione Verbi, St Irenaeus, etc.), but this is not generally presented as actually going out of material/essential existence, but as speaking of a paradoxical condition of life (so St Athanasius speaks of humanity, in its current life, as 'going out of existence'). But the overwhelming testimony of the Church -- Scriptural, patristic, liturgical -- is that God bestows eternity upon the creature -- hence all the 'everlasting' language of the hymns and Scriptures, which others have already pointed out.
 
It seems to me that this is precisely how St Irenaeus is using the concept in the passage you quoted in the opening of this thread. That which sin deprives man of is the 'length of days' that St Irenaeus is equating to the full blessedness of life in heavenly community with God. I cannot see his words really as a description of a state in which a sinful person ceases to be (and there are plenty of passages elsewhere in Irenaeus's writings, esp. in Book 5, that clearly say otherwise).
 
INXC, Fr Irenei


Father Irenei,

Thank you for that. You mentioned this question is often discussed in scholarship on the Fathers. Is any of that scholarship available on-line?

You wrote this very helpful summary: "But the overwhelming testimony of the Church -- Scriptural, patristic, liturgical -- is that God bestows eternity upon the creature -- hence all the 'everlasting' language of the hymns and Scriptures, which others have already pointed out".

Does this mean that God holds in existence for eternal suffering even those souls that have rejected Him and thus rejected immortality?
St. Ignatius of Antioch wrote of the Eucharist as the "medicine of immortality" (Ignatius to the Ephesians 20:2). If all are immortal regardless of the state of one's relation to God, how is it thus considered "medicine". When the Fathers speak of "immortality" do they really mean "heavenly immortality" (as opposed to immortality for an eternity of suffering)?

#25 Owen Jones

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Posted 11 February 2013 - 02:44 AM

Todd,

 

Forgive me, but you are asking the kinds of questions that a Protestant would typically ask, in a form that a Protestant would typically ask, as if theological concepts refer to objects or things that can be examined empirically, rather than treating them symbolically.  For example, this whole misunderstanding of the term "existence."  Existence does not refer to the "thing in itself" in the Heideggerian or Kantian sense, but more like in the Platonic sense of coming to be.  That the form of man as man involves a process of coming to be.  That really is what salvation is.  So to fall into a state of non-existence does not refer to the phenomenon of some object going poof and ceasing to be in that objective sense, as if I were to put a newspaper in the fireplace and have it burn into a few tiny specs of dust, but rather no longer coming to be that which it is made to be and destined to become.  I cease to exist (as a man, i.e. the human form) when I fall way from the path of coming to be truly that which I was created to be and destined to become, either through ignorance or blindness or complacency or wilfull disobedience to God's Commandments.   

 

As with every theological dogma or concept in Orthodoxy, what happens to man after death (it is no longer really death even -- in the Orthodox world, we fall asleep) it cannot be treated or understood apart from everything else.  So one has to also have a grasp of just how different the Orthodox vision of salvation is from that of the Protestant.  And how everything in Orthodoxy really involves an aesthetic vision to some degree -- if we have the eyes to see and the ears to hear.  And one has to appreciate the fact that the Orthodox vision of what man is, what it means to be human, is very different from the nominalist and voluntarist view of man held by Protestantism, or at least by most Protestants. 


Edited by Owen Jones, 11 February 2013 - 02:50 AM.


#26 Owen Jones

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Posted 11 February 2013 - 02:54 AM

One of the typical excuses these days for rejecting Christianity by people is their impression that Christianity teaches some kind of horrific punishing God who just cannot wait to condemn people to burn in hell in eternity, so one of the great challenges for the Church today is, instead of just talking to ourselves, is to tell the world what we really believe in words they can understanding without watering it down to mollify liberal opinion.  So I guess that's my way of saying that I appreciate the importance of the topic. 



#27 Eric Todd

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Posted 11 February 2013 - 07:48 AM

Todd,
 
Forgive me, but you are asking the kinds of questions that a Protestant would typically ask, in a form that a Protestant would typically ask, as if theological concepts refer to objects or things that can be examined empirically, rather than treating them symbolically.  For example, this whole misunderstanding of the term "existence."  Existence does not refer to the "thing in itself" in the Heideggerian or Kantian sense, but more like in the Platonic sense of coming to be.  That the form of man as man involves a process of coming to be.  That really is what salvation is.  So to fall into a state of non-existence does not refer to the phenomenon of some object going poof and ceasing to be in that objective sense, as if I were to put a newspaper in the fireplace and have it burn into a few tiny specs of dust, but rather no longer coming to be that which it is made to be and destined to become.  I cease to exist (as a man, i.e. the human form) when I fall way from the path of coming to be truly that which I was created to be and destined to become, either through ignorance or blindness or complacency or wilfull disobedience to God's Commandments.   
 
As with every theological dogma or concept in Orthodoxy, what happens to man after death (it is no longer really death even -- in the Orthodox world, we fall asleep) it cannot be treated or understood apart from everything else.  So one has to also have a grasp of just how different the Orthodox vision of salvation is from that of the Protestant.  And how everything in Orthodoxy really involves an aesthetic vision to some degree -- if we have the eyes to see and the ears to hear.  And one has to appreciate the fact that the Orthodox vision of what man is, what it means to be human, is very different from the nominalist and voluntarist view of man held by Protestantism, or at least by most Protestants. 


Thanks for that. Perhaps I am thinking about this with my former Anglican hat on--I still read and refer to JND Kelly's Early Christan Doctrines all the time--and "existence" in the Fathers is to be understood as you say. The impression St Irenaeus and others give me, for example with the contrast between "mortality" and "immortality", is of something more final than your helpful definition of "existence". Some things actually do go "poof" and cease to be, like Sodom and Gomorrah, which is precisely the metaphor used sometimes in Scripture and the Fathers to describe mortality (which I quoted).

To what extent can we expect the Ante-Nicene Fathers to have a Platonic view of immortality?

#28 Owen Jones

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Posted 11 February 2013 - 10:23 AM

Again, I think it is asking the wrong kind of question.  The Fathers do not have a "Platonic" view of immortality.  Nor are they Platonists.  As for Plato himself, I'm not sure anyone these days actually know what his view of immortality is, since Plato is highly misunderstood.  It would probably be more accurate to speak in terms of the immortalizing movement of the soul, than to speak of a Platonic view of immortality as if it were some kind of static event.  Nor do I see the Orthodox view as static. For example, we are taught that we don't actually enter heaven until the final judgment.  But we don't have any formal doctrine on what that in between state or realm is, as far as I know.  And presumably those in heaven are all continually becoming closer to God.  All of this stuff is of the realm of speculation.  Divinely inspired speculation if you follow the Orthodox path, but it's not like God sat down with Ireneus and told him what to write.  And we know that heaven is not a static realm, or else we would not be told to pray to the Theotokos to intercede for us. 


Edited by Owen Jones, 11 February 2013 - 10:31 AM.


#29 Eric Todd

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Posted 11 February 2013 - 10:01 PM

One of the typical excuses these days for rejecting Christianity by people is their impression that Christianity teaches some kind of horrific punishing God who just cannot wait to condemn people to burn in hell in eternity, so one of the great challenges for the Church today is, instead of just talking to ourselves, is to tell the world what we really believe in words they can understanding without watering it down to mollify liberal opinion.  So I guess that's my way of saying that I appreciate the importance of the topic. 


I appreciate it as well. My interest here is primarily in understanding the true witness of the Church regarding the mortality of the soul, but it is a matter of importance for unbelievers as well. Some of those rejecting Christianity may be doing so because they misunderstand the teachings of the Church. However, given that we've yet to elucidate the notion of the mortality of the soul in this thread, I am not even sure "what we really believe". So communicating the Church's unambiguous teachings to the world may be challenging.

As far as the importance of the topic, the notion that God breathes life into otherwise mortal souls for eternity in order to inflict eternal suffering for their unbelief is unpalatable, to say the least (forgive my crass oversimplification). Yet this may be the truth, however difficult. Truth, we should both agree, does not depend on palatability. My reading of the Fathers has not lead me to that truth yet.

#30 Owen Jones

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Posted 11 February 2013 - 10:49 PM

Well, as we can see so far, the Church's teaching on immortality are not precisely unambiguous.  The despisers of Christianity have a vested interest in claiming that they are unambiguous, especially when they take them out of context. 

 

One thing that should be unambiguous is that God does not create us in order to inflict suffering on us.  And if punishment for sin is eternal, so is His mercy. 



#31 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 12 February 2013 - 03:22 PM


As far as the importance of the topic, the notion that God breathes life into otherwise mortal souls for eternity in order to inflict eternal suffering for their unbelief is unpalatable, to say the least (forgive my crass oversimplification). Yet this may be the truth, however difficult. Truth, we should both agree, does not depend on palatability. My reading of the Fathers has not lead me to that truth yet.

The paradox of life is found already in our present state. We are given life by Christ but yet we diminish its reality through sin. We diminish the reality of life that has been granted us by Christ but yet in Christ its quality can be restored.

 

This paradoxical quality of life then which foreshadows in some ways our state of life after death, arises because of how uniquely placed we are as created in the image & likeness of God. In other words God has bestowed life on us with all of its aspects & potential. But we have to ability to make of this life something creative or else something destructive.

 

In either sense this is a mystery that denotes the awesome quality of life itself that on the one hand can surpass itself but on the other can deform itself. I suppose then that this quality is what relates to our state at the partial or final judgement and that God has arranged things so that the deformation of life on our part is revealed for the horror it is.

 

In Christ

-Fr Raphael



#32 Anna Stickles

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Posted 12 February 2013 - 08:55 PM

If anything, this passage by St Irenaeus seems to support the mortality of those who are separate from God: "Separation from God is death". He does not say separation from God is eternal life of suffering.

 

Eric, From your comments it seems that you are equating "death" with ceasing to exist and yet this is not how the word death is used in the Patristic writings. Rather death conotates a separation from the source of life and subsequent corruption.  Thus death is the separation of the soul from the body and the consequence is the corruption of that body. Death of the soul is its separation from God and then there is the subsequent fragmentation of its powers or disbursement of its energies. Thus in the Patristic writings eternal death is an eternal life of suffering.  

 

I have gone through some of this same struggle myself as I found myself imputing into the Patristic writers meanings for words that are taken from our modern culture's mindset and distorting the meaning of the text.

 



 



#33 Eric Todd

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Posted 12 February 2013 - 09:15 PM

The paradox of life is found already in our present state. We are given life by Christ but yet we diminish its reality through sin. We diminish the reality of life that has been granted us by Christ but yet in Christ its quality can be restored.
 
This paradoxical quality of life then which foreshadows in some ways our state of life after death, arises because of how uniquely placed we are as created in the image & likeness of God. In other words God has bestowed life on us with all of its aspects & potential. But we have to ability to make of this life something creative or else something destructive.
 
In either sense this is a mystery that denotes the awesome quality of life itself that on the one hand can surpass itself but on the other can deform itself. I suppose then that this quality is what relates to our state at the partial or final judgement and that God has arranged things so that the deformation of life on our part is revealed for the horror it is.
 
In Christ
-Fr Raphael


Thank you Father. What a beautiful and profound insight!

#34 Eric Todd

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Posted 12 February 2013 - 10:19 PM

Eric, From your comments it seems that you are equating "death" with ceasing to exist and yet this is not how the word death is used in the Patristic writings. Rather death conotates a separation from the source of life and subsequent corruption.  Thus death is the separation of the soul from the body and the consequence is the corruption of that body. Death of the soul is its separation from God and then there is the subsequent fragmentation of its powers or disbursement of its energies. Thus in the Patristic writings eternal death is an eternal life of suffering.  
 
I have gone through some of this same struggle myself as I found myself imputing into the Patristic writers meanings for words that are taken from our modern culture's mindset and distorting the meaning of the text.
 

 


That is very helpful indeed. I think this makes a lot of sense.

#35 Mina Soliman

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Posted 13 February 2013 - 04:42 AM

Well, let's consider St. Irenaeus' talk about the mortal body and the immortal soul here:

 

What, then, are mortal bodies? Can they be souls? Nay, for souls are incorporeal when put in comparison with mortal bodies; for God breathed into the face of man the breath of life, and man became a living soul. Now the breath of life is an incorporeal thing. And certainly they cannot maintain that the very breath of life is mortal. Therefore David says, My soul also shall live to Him,just as if its substance were immortal. Neither, on the other hand, can they say that the spirit is the mortal body. What therefore is there left to which we may apply the term mortal body, unless it be the thing that was moulded, that is, the flesh, of which it is also said that God will vivify it? For this it is which dies and is decomposed, but not the soul or the spirit. For to die is to lose vital power, and to become henceforth breathless, inanimate, and devoid of motion, and to melt away into those [component parts] from which also it derived the commencement of [its] substance. But this event happens neither to the soul, for it is the breath of life; nor to the spirit, for the spirit is simple and not composite, so that it cannot be decomposed, and is itself the life of those who receive it. We must therefore conclude that it is in reference to the flesh that death is mentioned; which [flesh], after the soul's departure, becomes breathless and inanimate, and is decomposed gradually into the earth from which it was taken. This, then, is what is mortal.

Against Heresies V.7.1

 

Therefore, mortality in this particular passage is the fleshy part of humanity that which becomes prone to being devoid of soul and spirit.  In a sense, mortality and corruption is not in any way like "existence".  And notice the existence of the mortal body continues, but it's decomposed into the earth, whereas the spirit and soul are never decomposed, so not really mortal.

 

So, in any case, one can infer, an unjust man will continue to exist in a mortal punishment that is in eternal fires.  Scholars who are pro-annihilation and pro-existence both agree that St. Irenaeus teaches of the resurrection of both the just and the unjust.  I wonder then, why resurrect what is already dead even from the Spirit of God?  Why shouldn't they be annihilated from the get go?  If we were to use the same technique of pro-annihilation scholars, then by the passage I just quoted above, the general resurrection of even the unjust have actually been given immortality, because they are no longer devoid of breath and spirit.  And YET, St. Irenaeus still calls them mortal later.

 

So, really, there's a certain flexibility of terminology here.  To be rigid in terminology and thus infer that St. Irenaeus believed the annihilation of the existence of the unjust is a flawed way to study St. Ireneaus.  In the overall sense of things, St. Irenaeus in the context of the Church fathers around him and the Scriptures do not seem to believe anyone will cease existence, despite the fact that we were created from non-existence.



#36 Antonios

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Posted 14 February 2013 - 08:24 AM

"These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power."
 


Would it not seem strange if people who are said to suffer destruction are in fact not destroyed?

 

 

Would it not seem strange to see Lazarus raised from the dead?

 

Destruction is an act before it is any type of destination.  To say that eternal destruction is impossible is to contradict the words of Christ and the teachings of His Church and in fact to try and put limits to God Who is Almighty.  There will be no end to the suffering in hell, and for this reason we fight for our souls and for those whom we love. 



#37 Hen

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Posted 24 March 2013 - 10:37 PM

Didn't the Lord told us to fear only him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell?






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