The Scriptures | The Early Christians

On the Sight of Hell

More on Hell by Fr. Schouppe, S.J.


The General Judgment

Understanding HELL


" And if thy hand scandalize thee, cut it off; it is better for thee to enter into life, maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into unquenchable fire; where their worm dies not, and the fire is not extinguished" - Mark 9:42

God who is infinitely good and very the source of goodness itself, is also and at the same time infinitely just. Nevertheless it may be said that it does not seem fitting that our punishment is for so long since it only took us a few moments to commit? However sin is neither measure by the duration (i.e. it only takes a few seconds to kill someone with yet for this, people are sentence to a life time in prison, that is their whole earthly life!) or by the number of times we commit it, but rather by the degree of the person offended which determines the gravity of the offence. In order to illustrate the point for example, if you were to offend a normal citizen it would have little value in the eyes of the Law, but if you were to offend against a police officer it would have a little more according to the offence and it would have an even greater value in before of the Law if it were the head of the Country (i.e. the President of the USA) the punishment would be worse even if you committed the same offence against all three persons. This is simply because the offence is measured by the degree of the person offended. Now when we sin we offend God, who is infinite and so it is only Just that the punishment be infinite.

Further on the same note, this is the very reason why only Christ could save us and no other, since only He (God) is infinite and yet and same time He had to be man (the incarnation (John 1) since it was man who committed the offence and thus it was Christ who bound us back to God in fact that is what the very word religion means, that is to "re" bind "Ligo"(in Latin). Also if the kings of this world a wise enough to build prisons for the evildoers how much superior is the divine wisdom, from whom all wisdom comes.

However eternal torment is not only fitting but affirms well the greatness of God who is not only able to destroy the body as any human can do but is also able to send souls to hell as their eternal punishment for offending an eternal King (Matt 10:28). This reality are confirmed on numerous occasions by the words of Christ's "it is better for thee to enter into (eternal) life, maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into UNQENCHABLE FIRE"- Mark 9:42

Further In Revelation 20:10, we read:

"[A]nd the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulphur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night for ever and ever."

This clearly shows that hell, the "lake of fire and sulphur," will be forever. The Greek word used in the original documents is aion, and the primary meaning of this word is "everlasting, without end." As a matter of fact, the EXACT same word, aion, is used in John 6:51, for example, where Jesus says that those who eat His flesh and drink His blood will live FOR EVER. Now, if aion means "unspecified ending amount of time" in Revelation 20:10, why not in John 6:51? The same goes for Daniel 12:2 "Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt." To describe the length of both Heaven and hell, the adjective in its very same form is used each time: "everlasting" (aionion both times in the Greek; owlam both times in the original Hebrew). To be consistent, we must admit that either "everlasting" means "some limited time" both for eternal life and for eternal fire; or thatit means "without end" both in reference to Heaven and hell. We cannot credibly claim the same word in the same form in the same verse means the opposite of what it says when referring to a different noun, thus it is clear that both heaven and hell are referred to in the scriptures in a correlative manner. On the one hand eternal punishment (hell) with the devil and the reprobate and on the other eternal beatitude with God and the saints (Matt 25:41). Thus if both destinies are eternal then we must either understand both as long - continued but at last terminating, or both as endless since in both cases the same word is used to affirm the point of their correlation as regards to endlessness.

There are many other examples, like Matthew 6:13, John 8:35, and 2 Corinthians9:9, where it must mean forever. Aion is actually a cognate of aionios, which means "everlasting, forever." There is no logical nor linguistic basis for claiming that aion in Revelation 20:10 does not mean "forever."

One of the earliest Christians, St. Augustine (4th/5th century), said concerning aion:

If mercy calls us to believe that the future punishment of the impious will not be punishment without end, what are we to believe about the reward of the righteous, when eternity is specified in both clauses in the same passage, in the same sentence, and with the same word? (quoted in Robert Sungenis, Not By Faith Alone [Santa Barbara, CA: Queenship],p.641).

Many are often ready to except that heaven is eternal, yet they do not so readily except that Hell is like wise eternal which is not only illogical but contrary to the justice of God who rewards all according to their deeds. Further it is not a matter of God loving us or not but whether or not we love Him. Thus by our sins we send ourselves to Hell, since by our sinful life we have already made the choice as to with whom we shall spend eternity.

Nevertheless the major error here seems is often due to the insufficient understanding on reality of sin and its gravity as though to sin against the all-powerful God were some little matter that had little consequence. Yet Christ assures that we shall have to pay account even for every idle word that we simply say in passing without taking too much notice of it (Matt 12:36) as He searches the hearts of men and knows them for what they really are (Rev 2:23). Thus all we do in this life will have eternal consequences and should not be taken too lightly.

God prepared hell not for man but for the devil and his and his angles, (Matthew 25: 41 & Apoc 14:9) and for this reason is man often given greater opportunities of repentance unlike the angels who sinned only once as unlike us their knowledge was perfect. However this is also the place that unrepentant sinners go (2 Thess 1:9), here they will be in misery and torment, (Daniel 12:2 / Luke 13:24). The greatest torment of the human is his conscience thus it is said that god in his mercy torments the dammed in hell with fire as a sign of his mercy even to the dammed who continue to hate God. Those who enter Hell are to remain there forever (Hebrews12:17), as they have nothing in common with god and have rejected him by their sins. Those in who are dammed to hell are thus excluded from the presence of God (Galatians 5:21, Matthew 5:20,). Hell is a reward to mans sins (Isiah 3:11/ 2 Romans 2:6), Just as heaven is the reward of those who live in Christ.

It can be said that hell is a Kingdom for the dammed souls, were there is fire but in addition there is said to be ice, as we read in the book of Job " Let him pass from the snow water to excessive heat, and his sin even to hell" (Job 24:19). The dammed in hell are torment in many ways as forever will they have imprinted on their memories the results of their sins; forever will they repeat the words ascribed to them in the book of Wisdom : "We have erred from the way of truth, we wearied ourselves in the way of iniquity and destruction and walked through hard ways. What hath pride profited us? .

For the present, sinners, blinded by the apparent goods of this earth, choose to live far from God and to turn their backs upon him. And should God, who cannot dwell with, wish to enter into their hearts by expelling sin from them, they seem not ashamed to repel him, exclaiming: Depart from us, we desire not the knowledge of they ways." (Job 21:14). The sinner thus says depart from us, we do not wish to follow your ways, but our own, our passions, our pleasures.

"Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man what things God hath prepared for those that love Him" (1 Cor. 2:9) Yes, and - one the hand - eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, nor can we have any idea of what is prepared after death for those who have not loved him, who die His enemies by mortal sin.

Do the Damned Have Faith?

It might be asked whether those Christians who possessed faith in thislife, and who have not lost it by apostasy or heresy, will preserve itin Hell. St. Thomas responds in the negative, for in order to believe witha supernatural and theological faith, one must hold with a pious affectionof the will to Cod the revealer. This pious affection, however, is a giftof God, of which He deprives them as well as the demons. They do, however,believe by a sort of natural faith, to which they are forced by the evidenceof external signs, though this faith in not supernatural. It is in thissense that St. James has written that "The devils also believe andtremble" (James 2:19), signifying that their faith is forced and fearful.Will the damned ever see or behold the glory of the Blessed? St. Thomasanswers that at the Last Judgment the reprobate will see the blessed intheir glory, without being able to distinguish in what it consists, solelyrealizing that they are enjoying an inexplicable glory. This sight willafflict them with great sorrow, either because of a feeling of envy, orbecause of regret at having lost that which they themselves could haveacquired. And for their eternal chastisement, this shadow of the beatificvision which they have beheld will remain imprinted in their memory forever.

Do the Damned Wish Evil to Others?

The hatred which the reprobate bear to all men compels them to desire their damnation but here a difficulty presents itself. As the number of the damned increases, the punishment of each individual is aggravated: how, then, can they desire an increase of torment for themselves? It is because their hatred and envy is such that they would prefer to suffer more cruelly with many others than to suffer less alone. And it matters little to them that among those whose loss they desire are some whom they loved dearly during life since all affection which is not based upon love of God vanishes easily; otherwise, the order of justice and right would be reversed in Hell.

If such be the case, then how can we explain the solicitude of the rich man in Hell, who besought Abraham to send Lazarus to his brother son earth, to warn them to do penance lest they also be buried in Hell?

The envy of the damned is such that they would prefer to see all men lost, even their own parents; but since this is impossible, and, rooted as they are in self-love, they would rather see their parents delivered from Hell in preference to strangers, for they would be still more tormented by envy should they behold their own loved ones damned and others saved. This, then, is the reason for the concern of the rich man over the salvation of his brothers. It may be added that this reprobate desired to see his brothers escape Hell, lest his own punishment be aggravated by their damnation, for by his bad example he had given occasion for their damnation.

Shall the Soul be put to death in Hell ?

The term the "soul" being put to death in hell is means eternal damnation, since all are called to heaven (1Tim 2:4) yet those (the greater number of men) who do not reach it, can not be referred to as having reached eternal live but to death (eternal damnation) . If for example Our Lord refers to those who receive him sacramentaly in the Eucharist (John 8:35)as having "eternal life" (eternal beatitude with God in heaven) it seems only fitting that those who reject God have eternal death thatis eternal damnation in hell. In order to illustrate the point we read the words of St. John who tells us that "unbelieving and the abominable and murderers and whoremongers and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, they shall have their portion in the pool burning with fire and brimstone, which is the second death. - (Rev 21:8)

This second death is eternal damnation, since the first is that death to the life of grace (those living in mortal sin).

Hell Is a Definite Place ?

This assertion is confirmed by a passage of St. Luke (16:22): "But the rich man also died and was buried in hell." The sacred text employs the word "buried," because burials are made within the earth. Moreover, the rich man himself describes Hell as a "place of torment" (Lk. 16:28), confirming the opinion that Hell is a determined and definite place. In another place it is called a "lake"; "Thou hast saved me from those descending into the lake" (Ps. 29:3); and elsewhere, a pool: "And the devil who deceived them was cast into the pool of fire and brimstone." (Apoc. 20:9). It is evident, therefore, that Hell is a determined place, and most probably situated within the earth. But as to where, precisely, it is situated whether at the very center of the earth or nearer to the surface, cannot be determined from any revealed document. St. Thomas also declared that the dimensions of Hell, which will be the dwelling place of the damned after the resurrection, cannot be determined.

The Scriptures are clear about the Place of hell and Christ himself came to save us from our sins because this was the reward of our sins,i n his mercy he took upon himself our sins that by trusting in Him we maybe saved. The Following things can be noted from the Scriptures regarding Hell:

It is a place of torment (Lk 16:28).

It is an abyss (Lk 8:31; Rev 9:1-2,11; 11:7; 17:8; 20:1,3).

It is a fiery furnace (Mt 13:42, 50).

It is a pool of fire (Rev 20:10, 14). It is a fiery pool of burning sulfur (Rev 19:20).

It is a pool of fire and sulfur (Rev 20:10; 21:8), It is a Tartarus (Greek mythological place of punishment 2 Pet 2:4).

Since to dwell in hell is not really a life Scripture speaks of it as a death (Rom 6:21; 8:6; 8:13; 2 Cor 2:14-16).

It is also regarded as a second death (Rev 2:11; 20:6; 21:8) because the first death is the one we live while in sin, because we are dead to God's Grace.

It is regarded as eternal ruin (2 Thess 1:9; 1 Tim 6:9).

It is made know to us that it is a place of eternal fire (Mt 18:8, 25:41;Jude 7, Deut. 32:22, Job 20:26) and that punishment is eternal (Mt 25:46,Isaias 33:14; 66:24; Judith 16:21).

It is a place of destruction (Mt 7:13; Phil 1:28; 2 Pet 3:7), for those condemned there (Mk 16:16; Jn 12:25).

It will be an unquenchable fire (Mk 9:42-47; Lk 3:17), and as fire and sulfur (Rev 14:9-14).

By our gift of free will, we are made to walk on a thin path, leaving us with the choice, whether it be the lust for this world, or the desire for God and His Kingdom.

Having encountered this end, let us realize the fruitlessness of this world, in comparison with what Our Maker has to offer us. The Saints went to extreme levels of self-denial in their attempt to combat the elements of materialism that exists in our human nature. They fought the great battle against 'self', to give greater grounds for the stability of the state of grace in their souls. They strove to remain in God's light and avoid being damned to torture of unquenchable fury in the place of NO HOPE.

WITH ETERNITY, TIME HAS NO LIMITS. We must pray for those who are still walking in the darkness of their sins, that God's Light may shine through and penetrate their darkness, giving them the hope to re-exercise their free will of choice. The choice of hell becomes one that is deliberate, for GOD condemns no one to hell. Man condemns himself by His rejection of GOD.

" In hell, there will be a fire that cannot be put out, a worm which cannot die, a stench one cannot bear, a darkness one can feel, a scourging by savage hands, with those present despairing of anything good."- St Gregory the Great


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