Kathy Bernard -Publisher

“Don’t be afraid of those who want to kill your body; they cannot touch your soul.
Fear only God, who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Matthew 10:28

This article is not written to instill fear but to inspire all of us to experience and understand the amazing and eternal love of Almighty God.  It is about our ability, as believing Christian Catholics, to recognize that love.  It is an article about choices, a gift of free will, that was given to us to use with prudence and obedience to God.  With this in hand, along with our belief and trust in the salvation of Jesus Christ, no man nor evil temptation can take us away from our Heavenly Father and all His promises.  Therefore, hell is not an option.

But today, sometimes hell is soft-pedaled, a back of the mind thing we do not want to think or talk about.   It is the boogey man that hides in the closet of our minds, coming to the forefront whenever we are forced to take a good look at it. Many times we Christians hesitate to look at hell squarely because the thought of eternal fire and damnation is chilling and unthinkable, and if we dwell upon it, it gives thought to not only ourselves but to those we love who do not believe.

Along with the beautiful hope of heaven that is promised for all who lived good and faithful lives, Jesus Christ tells us that there is also the sad reality of hell.  He is adamant about this and very explicit.  He wanted us to know that Hell lasts forever as Heaven lasts forever.  He did not “dress” up the enormity of what hell is.  Jesus makes it clear that hell IS a place; a place where the fires can never be put out and those who go there will burn forever.  But, His promise of eternity is also clear.  Ecclesiastes 3:11 tells us that “He has planted eternity in men's hearts and minds, a divinely implanted sense of a purpose working through the ages which nothing under the sun but God alone can satisfy.” 

The idea of hell is a terrifying reality that makes us turn away in horror.  And yet sometimes, even we as Christians, choose to "take a chance" and go our own way into sin, with a hope that we will not die in that sin before it is repaired through forgiveness. If we take a longer look at the teachings of Christ, we will know that no one can know the hour or the day when our souls will be called up.  Matthew 24:36 states, “But of that (exact) day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”  Again, “Watch therefore (give strict attention and be cautious and active), for you know neither the day nor the hour when the Son of Man will come.”  Matthew 25:13.

You may ask, "If God loves us so much, why does He send people to hell?"  God gives us a choice.  He stands at the gates of eternity, waiting to welcome us into His perfect heaven.   But because God abhors sin and mankind is impure, we cannot enter there unless we have been cleansed and made free from sin.  God is a merciful God, so He sent His only Son to pay for all sin by shedding His blood on a cross.  He paid a price we could not pay to satisfy and redeem us in God's eyes. All who believe and accept this gift of salvation will be made clean from sin by the death and resurrection of our Lord, Jesus Christ and will be free to enter the kingdom of heaven.  If we live by His teachings, we will be made welcome in God's pure and sinless paradise.   It is up to us to decide where we will spend eternity.  God does not send anyone to the damnation of hell;  we send ourselves there using our free will to turn our backs on His precious and priceless gift. 

Matthew 13:36-43 tells of a separation of those who are destined for heaven and those who will be sent to an eternal hell.  “Then, leaving the crowds outside, Jesus went into the house. His disciples said, ‘Please explain to us the story of the weeds in the field’ Jesus replied, ‘The Son of Man is the farmer who plants the good seed.  The field is the world, and the good seed represents the people of the Kingdom. The weeds are the people who belong to the evil one. The enemy who planted the weeds among the wheat is the devil. The harvest is the end of the world, and the harvesters are the angels.   Just as the weeds are sorted out and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the world. The Son of Man will send His angels and they will remove from His Kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. And the angels will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in their Father’s Kingdom. Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand!’”

The eternal suffering that is promised to those who do not live as God wants them is two-fold.  First, there is the intense sorrow, pain and agony of separation forever from God and Jesus Christ, with the sins that we committed playing continuously, over and over.  Many people will accept that if they are judged and found lacking, the pain, guilt, sadness and remorse of eternal separation from God IS hell because it is a sorrow that is beyond human understanding.  Indeed it is an absolute truth, but there is also a physical punishment that is everlasting, non-ending, all consuming, and endless suffering in the fiery depths of hell.  And so, there is a spiritual as well as a physical suffering that those who are lost will experience.

Our catechism defines hell as the "state of definitive self-exclusion from communion with God and the blessed." And "to die in mortal sin without repenting and accepting God's merciful love means remaining separated from him forever by our own free choice."   For God did not spare even the angels who sinned. He threw them into hell, in gloomy pits of darkness, where they are being held until the day of judgment.” 2Peter 2:4  

Do we need fear hell?  I would say NO, if we live the life Jesus Christ taught us to live, and to always be conscious of the temptations of sin that surrounds us. To remain strong even as evil chips away at us constantly, we must pray that God will strengthen and make us aware, through the Holy Spirit, when we are crossing the boundaries into sin.  St. Paul is very specific on types of sins that can lead us to hell.  It is also imperative that we listen to the Holy Spirit when it speaks to the heart and soul of us, for if we take a step backwards into sin, we must repair that sin as soon as possible by getting forgiveness, with the idea that we will never repeat that sin again.

Please remember, only God can judge whether someone is entitled to heaven or hell.  We do not speculate and spread rumors of others’ fate lest we ourselves are found lacking for then we will be cut off from God’s tree of eternal life.  Matthew 7:3 tells us “..why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own?”  We cannot know another's heart and we cannot know if another person has made peace with God, even during the minutes before death.  The verdict of salvation rests solely on the mercy of Him Who sits in honor forever at the right hand of Almighty God.

Again read 1Corinthians Chapter 6 in which St. Paul talks about those who will not enter the gates of heaven.  And please make note of how we can change our lives so that we can be worthy of heaven in 1Corinthians 6:11 which states, "Such were some of you (who sinned). But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus."  It is made clear that the loving hands of our Savior, Who knows the reality of human sin as well as earthly human suffering, made us worthy to be with the Heavenly Father.   Through faith we no longer have to fear hell, for Romans 8:38 tells us “...I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.”

The joy of heaven is specific. Because God is total, a fullness of being, what we see here on earth is a distortion of what heaven is going to be like and what we will be like.  The absolute joy that is promised to us will be a blinding happiness exceeding all expectations.  In 1John 3:2 it states, Dear friends, we are already God’s children, but He has not yet shown us what we will be like when Christ appears. But we do know that we will be like Him, for we will see Him as He really is.”  What we experience during this lifetime is a cloudy mental mirror of What we will experience when we see Him in the fullness of glory,  Revelation 22:4:   “They will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads.” 

The Catholic Encyclopedia defines the Beatific Vision as “The immediate knowledge of God which the angelic spirits and the souls of the just enjoy in Heaven. It is called "vision" to distinguish it from the mediate knowledge of God which the human mind may attain in the present life. And since in beholding God face to face the created intelligence finds perfect happiness, the vision is termed Beatific Vision; an eternal, direct perception of God enjoyed by those who are in Heaven, imparting supreme happiness or blessedness. While humans' understanding of God while alive is indirect (mediated), the beatific vision is direct (immediate).   And since in beholding God face to face the created intelligence finds perfect happiness, the vision is termed "beatific".

St. Cyprian, Cyprian of Carthage, a Bishop often called the African Pope, was an important Patristic writer of the early Church. He wrote of the saved seeing God in the Kingdom of Heaven:  "How great will your glory and happiness be, to be allowed to see God, to be honored with sharing the joy of salvation and eternal light with Christ your Lord and God... to delight in the joy of immortality in the Kingdom of Heaven with the righteous and God's friends"

And so, we as Christians, can keep moving forward with confidence, working toward the time promised to us, ploughing through the trials and sufferings of this life because we know earth is not our home; no, rather we are heading for glory to be with the Father and the Son.  Like the father of the prodigal son in the bible, God will bring out the fatted calf, and there will be much joy and rejoicing as we move among our loved ones, those who died as martyrs, friends and saints of God that we  read about in the bible; people like Moses, Elijah, David, Abraham, Paul, Peter, all the disciples and all the prophets who stood tall through horrendous odds to bring forth God's message and made it through to Heaven.  What a day of rejoicing!

Be not afraid of hell.  When evil stands before you offering the temporary joys of this life, relinquish the keys of your life into God's loving and merciful hands and in return, He will exchange them for the golden keys to His Kingdom of Heaven.

”But I’ll tell you whom to fear. Fear God, who has the power to kill you and and then throw you into hell. Yes, He’s the one to fear.”  Luke 12:5



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