The Preacher’s Institute (an Orthodox homiletics resource) posted an article from the Huffington Post that shows how the Orthodox have viewed hell: not as God’s punishment, but as God’s love:
Hell in this view is understood as the presence of God experienced by a person who, through the use of free will, rejects divine love. He is tortured by the love of God, tormented by being in the eternal presence of God without being in communion with God. God’s love is the fire that is never quenched, and the disposition and suffering of the soul in the presence of God who rejects him is the worm that does not die. Whether one experiences the presence of love as heaven or hell is entirely dependent on how he has resolved his own soul to be disposed towards God, whether communion or separation, love or hatred, acceptance or rejection.
So at the final resurrection, God simply loves. Whether a person experiences that as heavenly bliss or a tortuous hell depends on the disposition of the person. For those who cannot accept God’s love, they make a hell for themselves. I certainly understand that from my own experience that I can torture myself over past guilt when I am unable to accept the love of God in my own life. God’s love does not compel us to love God back, and how we respond to that love places us in ‘heaven’ or in ‘hell’.
The article does not go on to say whether or not ‘all sales are final’ on death. I know there are streams of Orthodoxy that have universalists (e.g., St. Gregory of Nyssa). So in my own reflections, I say that God’s love, while it doesn’t compel, does always draw us closer to God. John Wesley called the first stirrings of God’s grace toward humans as ‘prevenient’ – that grace that goes before to enable us to return God’s love and always draws us closer to God. Why should prevenient grace stop after death?
Here I like the hints from N.T. Wright, who reminds us that in the New Testament our role in the New Creation isn’t one of sitting back, but continuing the work of God. He also points to the images of the rivers going out from the holy city and the waters are for the healing of the nations. For me this says that the final tortures of hell (as a condition or state rather than a place) do not have to be final, but the love of God felt as torture can also be the refining fires that bring all to accept God.