The truth is we never want to think of anyone we love as going to hell. The reality is there are people condemned to hell and those who will never live for eternity in the presence of the King of Kings. Despite what many faith leaders, even those within the Catholic Church, want to proclaim or make you believe; there are many people in hell.Although the Church has never really defined who will go to hell it is clear that it is a place of punishment that does exist. It is also very clear that it is not empty. Jesus speaks of this place of eternal damnation frequently throughout the Gospels. “And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” (Matthew 25:46) Jesus is not using a metaphor or parable (as he was accustomed to doing with many teachings). He is stating a fact. He is sounding the warning siren that it is a place one wants to avoid. It is a place that is waiting for many individuals who have chosen sin over the Savior.
Sacred Scripture is packed with verses giving us a clear picture of the place we do not want to spend eternity. Scripture tells us it is a place of torment, no rest, a place of destruction, where the worm does not die, a place of everlasting fire, and an eternal home for many. It is true that Christ came to this world to die for our sins and to give us eternal life (John 3:16). It is also true that God does not force anyone to love him. He allows humans to choose their own path and their own eternal destiny.
“Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life and those who find it are few.” (Matthew 7:13-14)
The Lord Jesus did not force others to follow him when he was on this earth. In fact, we see is John 6:66, immediately following the Bread of Life Discourse, “as a result of this (the Bread of Life Discourse teaching), many of his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him. Jesus then said to the Twelve, ‘Do you also want to leave?’ Simon Peter answered him, ‘Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.’” (John 6:66-69)
When Jesus teaches his followers about the Eucharist then many of them decide it is too hard for them to follow or believe. They leave Jesus. However, Christ lets them go and does not force them to stay. He does not beg them. He does not try to water down the message to pacify them. He, in fact, turns to the apostles and asked them if they want to leave as well.
He never forced or begged people to follow him or love him. He never watered down the truth and his message just to make people feel better and to be “sensitive” to their feelings. He stood on truth. He stood on the message of salvation, sacrifice, and sin. If Jesus never made anyone love him while he was on earth, what makes anyone think he is going to force others to love him after he has ascended into heaven where they cannot see him? We are deceiving ourselves if we believe that no one goes to hell. We are a fool if we think that everyone is given a chance to love Jesus and that they all will choose Christ. Not everyone chose the Christ they could see, hear, and witness perform miracles. If they did not choose him then, they will not choose him now. There will be those who will never accept the salvation Christ offers and, as a result, they will choose hell.
God does not want to send anyone to hell and that is not his plan. However, free will also allows us to choose if we want heaven or if we want to go to hell. Those condemned to hell are there by their own choice. They rejected God and, as a result, chose damnation.
“The teaching of the Church affirms the existence of hell and its eternity. Immediately after death the souls of those who die in a state of mortal sin descend into hell, where they suffer the punishments of hell, ‘eternal fire’. The chief punishment of hell is eternal separation from God, in whom alone man can possess the life and happiness for which he was created and for which he longs.” (CCC 1035)
It is true there are those who are suffering for eternity in hell. Those who go to hell are not necessarily “bad people” in terms of how the world would describe them. They, in fact, may be those who are atheist and reject any concept of God but they volunteer in their community and are bettering the lives of those around them. Their actions will not guarantee them eternity with a God they have rejected and denied.
There are those who remain in mortal sin, even if they attend Mass regularly, because of comfort or convenience. They choose to continue committing moral sin even after they have been clearly made aware of the teachings of the church that their actions are a sin. They choose to continue in this state of depravity from the graces of God because of their own selfishness and personal views. They choose to accept things such as abortion, homosexual marriages, and pornography. They live a life of external obedience to the Church (attending Mass, attending on Holy Days of Obligation, fasting for Lent, etc.) yet their hearts are only partially committed to Christ. By remaining in a state of mortal sin they are choosing their sin over the Lord. They are choosing hell if they do not repent.
There are others who may be committing mortal sins and not even be aware their actions are, indeed, a mortal sin, as explained in “Mortal sins you may not know you are committing.”
The easiest and best practice to avoid hell and enjoy eternity with the Lord is to love Christ, to serve and obey the Lord, to attend the Sacrament of Penance frequently, to receive the Eucharist in a state of grace, and to avoid sin.