Hell

Papist

Robin
What I like about this forum is that it has attracted posters who're intelligent, capable of critical thinking and apparently unconstrained by the tenets of the modern, politically correct age in which we live. So I was interested in reading people's thoughts on hell. The prospect of going to hell is something that really troubles me, as it should anyone who believes in it, and I have so many questions about it. I used the search function to see if there was an existing thread on the subject, but apparently there isn't, hence I have created this one to discuss it.

I have to wonder whether people really believe in hell, because if they did, and the consequence of sinning in this world was to spend eternity in absolute, unbearable agony, I'd think people would behave differently. Whilst in the West we've become more secular, globally most people still believe in God:

If you think religion belongs to the past and we live in a new age of reason, you need to check out the facts: 84% of the world’s population identifies with a religious group. Members of this demographic are generally younger and produce more children than those who have no religious affiliation, so the world is getting more religious, not less – although there are significant geographical variations.



According to 2015 figures, Christians form the biggest religious group by some margin, with 2.3 billion adherents or 31.2% of the total world population of 7.3 billion. Next come Muslims (1.8 billion, or 24.1%), Hindus (1.1 billion, or 15.1%) and Buddhists (500 million, or 6.9%).
Source: https://www.theguardian.com/news/2018/aug/27/religion-why-is-faith-growing-and-what-happens-next

So what is hell? Who is sent there? How can one reconcile Jesus' exhortation that we forgive, with the idea that our own sins will be punished so severely? Why do supposed believers commit sin, despite being aware that an omniscient God will judge them at the end of their lives, and potentially send them to hell, for all eternity?
 

nagareboshi

Woodpecker

ON THE ETERNITY OF HELL – St. Alphonsus​


I have to wonder whether people really believe in hell, because if they did, and the consequence of sinning in this world was to spend eternity in absolute, unbearable agony, I'd think people would behave differently. Whilst in the West we've become more secular, globally most people still believe in God:

So what is hell? Who is sent there? How can one reconcile Jesus' exhortation that we forgive, with the idea that our own sins will be punished so severely? Why do supposed believers commit sin, despite being aware that an omniscient God will judge them at the end of their lives, and potentially send them to hell, for all eternity?

I really like what you said here. Many people do not act lives consistent with belief in hell, or they are presumptuous about God's mercy, or they are ignorant as to the magnitude as well as the existence of their own sins. A common thing I heard from modern Christians: "I'm basically a good person, I've never killed anyone, I'm generally doing good" (totally ignorant about gossip, apathy, hatred of others, sexual misconduct).

The book "Great Divorce" by C.S. Lewis (Protestant) has a very good explanation of how do people actually really send themselves into hell of their own choice.
 

MrFreezy

Sparrow
I remember Religion lessons at school. And the protestant definition of hell: the absence of reason. I kinda like that one. If Logos is the word, the love and reason: the absence of logos I guess. A place where nothing makes sense. Clownworld!
 

Papist

Robin

ON THE ETERNITY OF HELL – St. Alphonsus​




I really like what you said here. Many people do not act lives consistent with belief in hell, or they are presumptuous about God's mercy, or they are ignorant as to the magnitude as well as the existence of their own sins. A common thing I heard from modern Christians: "I'm basically a good person, I've never killed anyone, I'm generally doing good" (totally ignorant about gossip, apathy, hatred of others, sexual misconduct).

The book "Great Divorce" by C.S. Lewis (Protestant) has a very good explanation of how do people actually really send themselves into hell of their own choice.
Thank you for the recommendation, I will endeavour to read that soon.
 
Just imagine being held in one place.
You can't escape from this place.
You can't hide anywhere.
You can't even escape to dreams because there is no sleep, you are constantly awake.
You can't even daydream about escaping to death because you'll be already dead.

And you will know undeniably one thing.
There won't be any change ever because you are in an eternal place.
Terrible frightful place, full of pain. Forever.
 
I remember Religion lessons at school. And the protestant definition of hell: the absence of reason. I kinda like that one. If Logos is the word, the love and reason: the absence of logos I guess. A place where nothing makes sense. Clownworld!

No, we are not in Hell. Jesus describes Hell as an eternal place and a lake of Fire. I don't know what school/Protestant idea you are referring to, but Hell is a very real place. A punishment for sin that Jesus paid the price of for all who believe in Him. Those who do not believe will spend every moment of eternity in torment. We should thank Christ every day for his amazing sacrifice.
 

NoMoreTO

Ostrich
It is time you learned about the Orthodox view of sin and soteriology.

Hell is meeting the one true God and not wanting anything to do with Him. We live that very reality in our lives currently, or we work to acquire virtue and struggle because we know, trust and love Him. One, or the other.

Wouldn't those who called for Jesus but he said "I do not know you", be in hell? This would contradict the idea that those in hell do not want Heaven or God.

Catholicism explains that we are fixed in our nature at the time of death, the way we live is the way we die, that indeed those who can not accept God in this life, will not have him in the next.

A Catholic Priest once explained God's mercy in hell in a homily. While Hell is eternal, the punishment is not "maximal". Heaven on the other hand is eternal and the beauty and reconciliation with God is indeed perfect.
 

Blade Runner

Pelican
Orthodox
Wouldn't those who called for Jesus but he said "I do not know you", be in hell? This would contradict the idea that those in hell do not want Heaven or God.
This is a good question. I speculate, like all things are in this manner, that the Matthew 7 account, or those like it, emphasize the state of your heart and not the mental assent or technical "belief". In fact, this supports yet again the orthodox way of understanding faith as being more accurately described as faithfulness. Why? In that Gospel, the Lord states
[21]
"Not every one who says to me, `Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.
[22] On that day many will say to me, `Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?'
[23] And then will I declare to them, `I never knew you; depart from me, you evildoers.'
Just like each man is judged "according to his works," not what he just states out loud or that he understands that Christ is God, here he confirms that the key is to not say the name alone ("Lord, Lord"), but do the will of his Father who is in heaven.

Many understand who he is, but they clearly don't care to know Him for who He is and to trust in Him, rather they trust in themselves - my inkling is that they don't want anything truly to do with Him, they still have focus on themselves. Rather, they want "heaven" but not the God that transforms us to live with Him in that eternal place or state of being.
 

Soto

Chicken
I'll just riff on possibilities on this topic based on my own readings of the bible and throw in references that I'm sure many others here know specifically.

Technically, as far as I can tell, the bible itself does not say that people go to hell who aren't saved.

Annhilationism is a concept that those who aren't saved are extinguished after the last judgement. Yes Jesus talks about the wheat and the chaff being separated but the chaff is not held for eternity it is burned up.

Likewise, Jesus talks about "wheaping and gnashing of teeth" of those who are thrown into "gehenna" but Jesus doesn't anywhere say "the chaff will burn forever". Nor is there any length of suffering spoken by Jesus himself.

What Jesus does emphasize is sorting out the unsaved and destroying them.

Then there's the story of the rich man, who after death is in abraham's bosom (essentially a sheol type holding place), where he begs the poor man to give him just a little water, but it is said that the rich man had his pleasure during his earthly life, so he won't have his pleasure now. That man was surely suffering after death....the question becomes after the last judgment will all unsaved be tortured, or even kept alive for eternity, or what length of time.


The book of revelation, and I believe 2 Peter also speak very bleakly about the last days, where the earth is pretty much wasted as we know it and made anew by the new heaven/new earth and in revelation specifically says a giant cube will come down and there will be no ocean, and no sun.......

I'm not seeing eternal hell here.

Especially if you add references to the OT, it's not shaping up that the bible has any sort of hell teaching for the unsaved.

I keep my analysis here strictly bible-focused and not on church fathers or some prominent catechism/commentary.
 

Papist

Robin
I'll just riff on possibilities on this topic based on my own readings of the bible and throw in references that I'm sure many others here know specifically.

Technically, as far as I can tell, the bible itself does not say that people go to hell who aren't saved.

Annhilationism is a concept that those who aren't saved are extinguished after the last judgement. Yes Jesus talks about the wheat and the chaff being separated but the chaff is not held for eternity it is burned up.

Likewise, Jesus talks about "wheaping and gnashing of teeth" of those who are thrown into "gehenna" but Jesus doesn't anywhere say "the chaff will burn forever". Nor is there any length of suffering spoken by Jesus himself.

What Jesus does emphasize is sorting out the unsaved and destroying them.

Then there's the story of the rich man, who after death is in abraham's bosom (essentially a sheol type holding place), where he begs the poor man to give him just a little water, but it is said that the rich man had his pleasure during his earthly life, so he won't have his pleasure now. That man was surely suffering after death....the question becomes after the last judgment will all unsaved be tortured, or even kept alive for eternity, or what length of time.


The book of revelation, and I believe 2 Peter also speak very bleakly about the last days, where the earth is pretty much wasted as we know it and made anew by the new heaven/new earth and in revelation specifically says a giant cube will come down and there will be no ocean, and no sun.......

I'm not seeing eternal hell here.

Especially if you add references to the OT, it's not shaping up that the bible has any sort of hell teaching for the unsaved.

I keep my analysis here strictly bible-focused and not on church fathers or some prominent catechism/commentary.

Interesting, thanks. I came across an article on time.com* which it stated:

The vast majority of these people naturally assume this is what Jesus himself taught. But that is not true. Neither Jesus, nor the Hebrew Bible he interpreted, endorsed the view that departed souls go to paradise or everlasting pain.

I cannot remember the verses off the top of my head, but I'm sure that's wrong.

*https://time.com/5822598/jesus-really-said-heaven-hell/
 

Blade Runner

Pelican
Orthodox
Interestingly "paradise" is a greek transliteration of the Avestan (old Persian) word for a garden, more specifically in many cases (like Eden) a walled off garden. It is, of course, where God is.

@Soto is correct that the state of someone's soul after death is speculation, but certain hints about what is experienced, at least in a certain fashion, are there. As he said, weeping and gnashing. Fire and punishment are suggested as well, but that state and duration is unknown, indeed. The gospels even report the demons asking Christ if he has come to torment them "before the time." So they are allowed to roam on the earth even having been defeated (and they know it!), in a sort of double torment.

Another analogy that is very pointed of separating those who are of Christ and those who aren't is in John's gospel, those who abide in the (true) vine, which is Christ. Those that do not are cast forth as branches, as they are withered, and they are thrown into the fire and burned. This idea that you only produce fruit if the vine is in you is in another part of John, but a similar idea.

I have no problem with annihilationism, but I have no opinion on it. God has destroyed other parts of his creation before (the flood the most notable), and it is His to manage what his handiwork is.

We live with the line of good and evil running down the middle of us, sadly, as we are caught in a world where many factors alienate us from God. But He is always there for us, if we do His will, and offers repentance if we don't. It is hard for me to imagine anyone with a knowledge of the goodness and mercy of God to not want to have anything to do with him, but perhaps living in that manner in this world before you die changes you in ways that you have extreme difficulty and looking at God and seeing Him as the true vine; in such a state you must be focused on yourself so much that you won't allow Him to help you, or save you, in the least. That's my best guess.
 

Pioneer

Sparrow
@Soto The Bible is quite explicit in teaching the eternity of the pains of Hell.

“And the smoke of their torments shall ascend up for ever and ever: neither have they rest day nor night, who have adored the beast, and his image, and whoever receiveth the character of his name.” (Rev. 14:11)

“And again they said: Alleluia. And her smoke ascendeth for ever and ever.” (Rev. 19:3)

“And the false prophet shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever.” (Rev. 20:10)

They are everlasting just as are the joys of heaven: “And these shall go into everlasting punishment: but the just, into life everlasting.” (Matt. 25:46).

Of Judas Christ says: "it were better for him, if that man had not been born" (Matt. 26:24) But this would not have been true if Judas was ever to be released from hell and admitted to eternal happiness. Again, God says of the damned: "Their worm shall not die, and their fire shall not be quenched" (Isaiah 66:24; Mark 9:43, 45, 47).

The fire of hell is repeatedly called eternal and unquenchable. The wrath of God abideth on the damned. (John 3:36); they are vessels of Divine wrath (Romans 9:22); they shall not possess the Kingdom of God (1 Cor. 6:10; Gal. 5:21), etc. Any objections adduced from Scripture against this doctrine are so meaningless that they are not even worth discussing in detail. The teaching of the Fathers is no less clear and decisive. They were also absolutely firm on the reality of an eternal hell; we merely call to mind the testimony of the martyrs who often declared that they were glad to suffer pain of brief duration in order to escape eternal torments.
 
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NoMoreTO

Ostrich
Again, God says of the damned: "Their worm shall not die, and their fire shall not be quenched" (Isaiah 66:24; Mark 9:43, 45, 47).

The fire of hell is repeatedly called eternal and unquenchable. The wrath of God abideth on the damned. (John 3:36); they are vessels of Divine wrath (Romans 9:22); they shall not possess the Kingdom of God (1 Cor. 6:10; Gal. 5:21), etc. Any objections adduced from Scripture against this doctrine are so meaningless that they are not even worth discussing in detail. The teaching of the Fathers is no less clear and decisive. They were also absolutely firm on the reality of an eternal hell; we merely call to mind the testimony of the martyrs who often declared that they were glad to suffer pain of brief duration in order to escape eternal torments.

This scripture clearly refutes annihilationist theology, the idea that hell is not eternal.
The word “hell” in this passage is actually the Greek word Gehenna, meaning “Valley of the Son(s) of Hinnom,” which was the name given to the valley south of the walls of Jerusalem. This valley was notoriously connected to the sinful, horrific practice of child sacrifice associated with the pagan god Molech. Josiah, the righteous king of Judah, in his efforts to restore true worship, ransacked the pagan worship arena and “defiled Topheth, which is the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, that no man might make his son or his daughter pass through the fire to Molech” (2 Kings 23:10). As a result, the valley became a refuse dump for discarding filth, dead animals, and other garbage (see Jeremiah 7:32). By the time of Jesus, the Jewish community associated Gehenna with spiritual death (Lenski, 1946, p. 407).

Interjected into Jesus’ explicit description of Gehenna, was the statement that in this horrid place, the “worm does not die.” The worms—described in Isaiah (66:24), and pictured by Jesus in Mark 9—are maggots, which would be associated quite naturally with the rotting filth of a refuse heap. The twist to Jesus’ phrase is the fact that the worm in hell “does not die.” Concerning this, Lenski wrote: “The fact that it does not die means that its work is eternal. ...The bodies of the blessed shall shine with glory and eternal bliss, but the bodies of the damned shall be like rotting, putrid corpses that have the worm within...” (p. 408).

This passage surely must represent one of the most graphic mental pictures ever painted by our Lord—which should cause each of us to reflect seriously on the possible stumbling blocks in our own lives, and what we can do on a daily basis in order to avoid them.

The Worm Dieth Not
 

Pioneer

Sparrow
@Blade Runner You say you have no problem with Annihilationism and have no opinion on it. I take it then that Annhilationism is not incompatible with Eastern Orthodoxy? Do I understand that correctly? If so, I’m very surprised to learn this. The heresy of annhilationism is one which I mostly associate with nontrinitarian Protestant cults (i.e. Jehovah’s Witnesses, Seventh-day Adventists, Christadelphians), and also with certain Freemasons and Modernists; the Jesuit apostate from Argentina, presently claiming to be the head of the Catholic Church under the stage name “Pope Francis”, subscribes to this heresy.

Catholic dogma is very clear that the souls of those who die in mortal sin go into everlasting punishment and do not cease to exist or “disappear”, nor are they ever annihilated by God. God made man in His own image and likeness—like God, man’s soul is an immortal spirit.
 
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Aloha50

Sparrow
The idea of hell being eternal is absolutely repugnant to our mortal flesh. Don't you recoil just thinking about it? Naturally we instinctively want it to not be true and think of loopholes, but if we are to be honest regarding what Jesus taught us then we know it indeed is eternal and many go there. What I've always struggled with and view as a personal failure is that I don't live in accordance with what I know; mainly I don't speak preach the gospel to every soul I come in contact with. As a reform Protestant, I don't fret so much about my own salvation. Jesus saved me, I'm born again, and since the day I believed in Him 30 years ago He's never left me though I've given Him every reason to. I lament my shortcomings. Thank God for his ever present grace and mercy and in love never leaving or forsaking us, without which none of us would make it. For any lurker reading this who isn't sure where he's going, I say believe on Christ, pray to Him, confess your sins to Him and believe in His work on the cross for you. He will save you and give you eternal life. Hell is too long....no sin is worth it. And Heaven will be unspeakably great. In fact, this life is just an opening act, practice if you will. Real life will be in eternity.
 

Pioneer

Sparrow
“The greatest pain in Hell is the loss of God, that sovereign good, who is the source of all the joys of Paradise.”—St Alphonsus Liguori

Our most important endeavor in life is to save our immortal soul and assist those entrusted to our care to help them get to heaven. The attainment of the everlasting happiness of Heaven must be our primary goal in life. It is infinitely more important than the attainment of the fleeting pleasures, riches, power and honor that the world can offer. Wealth, material things, and even health, if lost, can be recovered. When the soul is lost, however, it is lost forever and subjected to endless torture and separation from God. Our soul is so precious because it has been purchased and redeemed by the Precious Blood of Jesus. No one can buy eternal life. It will be rewarded according to our good works performed in the state of grace. God will judge our soul immediately after death. If condemned to Hell, the damage is irreparable; repentance is impossible and no price can redeem it.

St. Alphonsus Liguori said the greatest pain in Hell is the loss of God, that sovereign good, who is the source of all the joys of Paradise. “The sword which shall pierce them with the greatest sorrow will be the thought of having lost God, and of having lost Him through their own fault. Unfortunates that they are! They now seek to lose sight of God, but once fallen into Hell, they will no longer be able to cease thinking of Him, and in this will their chastisement consist.”

St. Augustine says that in Hell, the damned will be forced to think of nothing but God, and that will cause them terrible torment. And St. Bonaventure, expressing the same sentiments, says that no thought will torment the damned more than the thought of God. The Lord will grant to them such a vivid knowledge of their offended God, His goodness so unworthily spurned, and consequently, of the chastisement which their crimes have merited, that this knowledge will cause them a suffering greater than that of all the other punishments of Hell.
 
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