As a child of the 50’s, the subject of hell was often addressed in pulpits which spanned across the United States in a multitude of denominations. Just one description led me to conclude that I did not wish to spend a second in perpetual torment let alone eternity.
Hell equates to a total absence from God. Once condemned to the agonizing and perpetual anguish of Hades, there is no reprieve nor does one have the opportunity to repent for their rejection of the Savior. However, in the 60-some odd years that have intervened since childhood, the absoluteness of hell is now largely ignored and those in the various pews would prefer not to be reminded of its existence. Why would we? We are unceasingly inundated with messages which guarantee that irregardless of the lives we choose to lead, we are assured of eternity in God’s presence as He is all forgiving and does not require repentance. Indeed we are coddled and those who believe in damnation are referred to as fanatics. Yet to disregard this reality is to deny the Word of God as there are numerous references to everlasting torment throughout the Bible.
When I began to write this article, I heard the Lord say to me succinctly “Please tell them that just because they identify as a Christian, does not mean that they will enter Heaven.
As difficult as it may appear, we need to stop persuading both ourselves and the multitudes that their departed loved ones were immediately ushered into the presence of God, or have adapted the role, as some have suggested “the angel who now watches over me.” Oftentimes we hear “he/she was such a good person.” Perhaps this is true but did they have a relationship with the Savior and heed His Word or did they reject Him under the erroneous belief that their winning attributes would suffice? Three years ago, in response to a neighbor’s declaration that she would soon die, I endeavored to speak to her about the Lord. She abruptly dismissed me with the wave of her hand as she declared “I read all the books.” Exactly eight days later, an acquaintance informed me that the neighbor had just been found dead in her home. I mentioned how she had rebuffed my attempt to share the Gospel whereas the acquaintance remarked “Oh she loved animals and I know there’s a place in Heaven for her.” I immediately countered that the comment was without merit as the only way to assure eternal life with Christ was to be in accord with Him.
It’s evident that the mindset amongst the churched and unchurched runs distinctly parallel as it pertains to entry into eternal glory. One just has to study social media to realize that the majority of individuals, in homage to a decedent, will preface their recognition with the assured knowledge that the person is in Heaven. Evidently they have opted to ignore Matthew 7:21 in which Jesus succinctly declared that “Not everyone who says to Me ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven, but only the one who does the will of My Father in Heaven. Many will say to Me on that day ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your Name? Did we not drive out demons in your Name? Did we not do mighty deeds in Your Name?’ Then I will declare to them solemnly ‘I never knew you. Depart from Me you evildoers.’” In Matthew 13:40-42, He went on to speak about the harvest at the end of the age as He stated “Just as weeds are collected and burned (up) with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send His angels, and they will collect out of His Kingdom all who cause others to sin and all evildoers. They will throw them into the fiery furnace where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.”
While these are just two of the multiple Scriptures regarding hell that are found in the Word of God, the refusal to accept the reality of Gehenna has encompassed every denomination and creed. As the masses congregate in varied services on a weekly basis, many will find themselves in a state of perpetual anguish in part because those in the pulpit refused to address sin and the ensuing consequences, all in an effort not to offend. The silence continues to be deafening particularly as you have some clerics and those within the pews who have actually denied the existence of Hades. Most often from these individuals you hear “it’s a fear tactic…God is too loving to send anyone to a place of eternal torment.” That was evidenced to me one Friday evening in February 1994 when I hosted a prayer meeting for three friends from my parish. Within moments, one individual fervently stated that hell was a figment of the imagination and that the most horrific place an individual would experience after death was purgatory where they would be purged of their faults prior to their entry into Heaven. At that point I ended the venture as it was obvious that our spiritual commonality was nil.
I left Catholicism exactly 12 months later and during my subsequent 16 year absence, I attended nondenominational fellowships on an exclusive basis. I had been informed quite repeatedly by non-Catholics, that churches, other than my own, were adept at the presentation of God’s Word particularly as it pertained to eternal life. While I did mature in Biblical knowledge, nary a message was presented from the pulpits regarding the horrific reality of hell. Within that period, one renowned pastor informed his congregation that according to the Lord, it just did not exist. His prominence dissipated as did his multi-thousand membership and presently, he is engaged as a Unitarian minister where he continues to promote his heresy. Certainly there were and have been others like him…priests, bishops, cardinals, televangelists, ministers, varied curates…who opted to remain silent for fear that candor would cause them to forfeit their eminence.
On July 13, 1917, Our Lady appeared to three Portuguese children and showed them a vision of hell. The oldest of the trio, Lucia, recounted the details of that day as the Blessed Mother opened her hands at which time rays of light penetrated the earth. The children saw a sea of fire and contained within were demons and souls in human form. According to Lucia, there were shrieks and groans of utter despair which caused her to cry out. Many years later, on April 14, 1985, Father Jose Maniyangat, following a fatality in his native India, was escorted to Hades by an angel of the Lord. Father described the unquenchable fire coupled with the screams and satanic torture of those consigned to eternal torment. His angel informed him that their sufferings had resulted from unrepented mortal sins which included in part abortion, hatefulness, unforgiveness, and sacrilege. To his surprise, priests along with bishops were among the damned and Father learned that they were condemned to Gehenna for false teaching coupled with bad example.
Non-Catholics tend to scoff at these apparitions but there are individuals in the evangelical world who reported their own visions of hell. In one particular narrative, the author stated that she encountered those who though they had identified as Christian, were horrified to learn that they were relegated to Hades. Some were pastors and their offenses partially included greed, lasciviousness and a distortion of God’s Word to appease their congregations.
Have we opted to revise the Bible in an effort to eliminate hell or are we of the mindset that refraining from all relevant dialogue will somehow cause it to no longer exist?
That the Lord loves his human creation is a fact that can never be denied. It’s His desire to spend eternity with us and, as on any journey, His Word was given as a handbook and guide as to how we are to conduct our lives in order to reach our ultimate destination which is Heaven. However, to refute that love and reject His principles are the most horrific decisions that an individual can make. It’s particularly dangerous for those who pride themselves on church attendance yet are lulled into a highly precarious state either through their own deception or falsehoods spoken from the pulpit. In 2 Thessalonians 1:8-9, St. Paul warned us “…in blazing fire, inflicting punishment on those who do not acknowledge God and on those who do not obey the Gospel of our Lord Jesus. Revelation 21:8 is concise as it states “But as for cowards, the unfaithful, the depraved, murderers, the unchaste, sorcerers, idol-worshippers, and deceivers of every sort, their lot is in the burning pool of fire and sulphur which is the second death.” Without question, and as the scriptures note, the judgment of hell is final from which there is no reprieve.