Spirit Daily

No One Wants To Hear Or Preach About Hell, But One Fact Remains: Its Existence

By Michael H. Brown

Incredible as it might seem, it's no longer fashionable to talk about hell. This is true of both Catholic and Protestants. "In churches across America," reported the Los Angeles Times recently, "hell is being frozen out as clergy find themselves increasingly hesitant to sermonize on Christianity's outpost for lost souls." 

This is astounding because hell is at the very foundation of our beliefs: that if we fail God, and especially if we reject Him, we head toward a world of infinite suffering -- so often described as the unquenchable fire. Christ Himself spoke of it as Gehenna. 

Now, before we go any further, don't get me wrong. I don't think most people go to such a place. I believe what the Blessed Mother has said at Medjugorje -- that the large majority of people go to purgatory. And some get directly to the place of ineffable beauty called heaven. This is great solace. I'm willing to bet the vast majority of you, at least those of you trying to follow Christ, don't have hell to fear. Those who go there choose it.

But hell exists -- it's in at least 17 books of the Bible -- and it's serious business. A number of those who have had near-death experiences say they glimpsed the flames and that it transformed them. Their accounts are stunningly consistent. There is indeed a "fire" in the way that a fire would exist in a supernatural place and the suffering is nearly impossible to imagine. We know of at least two men who were atheists when they had their brushes with hell but now are ministers! 

What one saw was fog. What he encountered were evil entities attempting to draw him down a passageway. He felt as if they were ripping him apart. They humiliated him. They cursed in a way he'd never heard on earth. Their only joy was in hurting him, and but for their pointed features (including preternaturally sharp nails), they looked like former humans. It was the "cesspool" of the cosmos, he says, and it is a place where the ruling emotion is hatred -- most especially hatred toward God. This is what gets most people here, rejection of the Lord. Sometimes I think atheism is more dangerous than murder. More than anything, hell is where those who reject God go and where He is completely absent.

We have spoken to others who have seen the disfigured "humans" and have described the environment as one filled with various chambers: places that were hot, some isolated, some like furnace rooms, other parts a lake of flames -- or a swamp of mud. Saints like Teresa of Avila saw foul reptiles slithering in a hellish chamber. They describe different levels -- spots in hell that are like dark, smothering dungeons while others possess fire, or at least a spiritual representation of fire, precisely as the Bible says.

We can see why people don't want to think of it. But hear about it -- and realize it -- we must. It's the exclusion of hell that has helped cause the tremendous moral laxity that now threatens millions with the fate seen by those who have glimpsed the other side -- who have seen the hags, who believe now in the reality of demons, who have trudged through the muck. "When you take hell away as a threat, everything changes," noted the University of Chicago's Martin Marty. "Who goes to confession anymore? Time was, a [Catholic] church had 16 booths and people snaked around the block. Today, a church might have one left."

Most people believe in hell (71 percent of Americans, in one survey), but the Church moved away from the view of hell as a torture chamber in the 1960s, as part of the modernization following Vatican II. Yet even priests can be vulnerable. I met one a few years back (Father Steve Scheier, now in Bushton, Kansas) who nearly died in a horrible accident and heard a discussion in which the Blessed Mother saved him from the netherworld!

Our eyes remain upon heaven. We know that also exists -- and is more beautiful, more joyous, more wonderful than hell is terrible. We know that what we need to do is spend a life seeking God in order to get there. We need to love others. We need to cast aside bitterness and anger and negativity. There is heaven, and there is also the in-between place of purgatory. When we are in these places, we have made it home. We are "saved." Hell is the opposite of home. It is foreign, it is the absolute inverse of goodness. It is wretchedness where heaven is that ethereal wonder so delightful and vast that it will take us eternity to explore it!

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