Can people change their minds after condemning themselves to Hell?

Can they feel like they made the wrong choice and turn back to God? If not, why can’t they? Why is it that a mere 90 years or so on earth determines the fate of their entire eternity?

I’m chatting with someone on another forum (on a different website) and the subject turned to this question.

Thanks in advance :slight_smile:

It is too late.

In my opinion, once we are dead we are outside time. Without time, there is no such thing as change.

Because if 90 years on this earth isn’t long enough, then there is no reason to think that 90, 900 or 9 million years after death will be.

I don’t know. I’ve often said that the night my father died, he turned up in my room. He started with an apology, we argued and talked, and at the end he gave this almighty scream and disappeared. I think he’s in hell.

At the same time what he did wasn’t a patch on what Hitler and Pol Pot did. So I suspect there are levels in hell, just as there are different types of prison.

But he had a lifetime of 55 years to do something about his behaviour and virtually did nothing.

How long did he need? Frankly left to himself, I don’t think he’d have made an ounce of effort to change, no matter how long he’d had.

One thing though - it was obvious he was judging himself even if God was also judging him. He said things like “I was WILLING”, “It’s too late for me… all I was expected to do was to look after my own family, and I didn’t even do that!”

He wouldn’t have said things like that before he died, but confronted with the truth, he probably had no choice but to judge himself in the divine light. As Christ said,

Matthew 12:36 NIV

“But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.”

We’ll acquit or condemn ourselves in our own words.

Maybe people are given a chance to get out of hell, but I don’t think so. I do think the bottom end of Purgatory could be almost hellish, but those imprisoned in Purgatory move slowly upwards and get to heaven eventually. There may be more people there than we think.

I leave the judgement to God. It’s His decision in the end.

No they cannot, this life we have plenty of time to choose. Once you die that is it.

Every trace of attachment to evil must be eliminated, every imperfection of the soul corrected. Purification must be complete, and indeed this is precisely what is meant by the Church’s teaching on purgatory. The term does not indicate a place, but a condition of existence. Those who, after death, exist in a state of purification, are already in the love of Christ who removes from them the remnants of imperfection (cf. Ecumenical Council of Florence, Decretum pro Graecis: DS 1304; Ecumenical Council of Trent, Decretum de iustificatione: DS 1580; Decretum de purgatorio: DS 1820).

**It is necessary to explain that the state of purification is not a prolungation of the earthly condition, almost as if after death one were given another possibility to change one’s destiny. The Church’s teaching in this regard is unequivocal and was reaffirmed by the Second Vatican Council **which teaches: "Since we know neither the day nor the hour, we should follow the advice of the Lord and watch constantly so that, when the single course of our earthly life is completed (cf. Heb 9: 27), we may merit to enter with him into the marriage feast and be numbered among the blessed, and not, like the wicked and slothful servants, be ordered to depart into the eternal fire, into the outer darkness where “men will weep and gnash their teeth’ (Mt 22: 13 and 25: 30)” (Lumen gentium, n. 48).

That’s a good question.

What do you understand by the term “eternity”? If you think it means, “day after day, year after year, forever and ever” with each day being a ‘24 hour day’ like on earth, etc.’ then it would seem like so much ‘time’ to spend in hell for, as you say, a ‘mere’ 90 years on earth would not be fair.

But is that what eternity is? Time is a temporal concept. God created it, so He (and where He ‘exists’) is outside of it. God doesn’t experience existence as day after day, etc. One way of presenting it would be that eternity, outside time and space, is like an endless ‘now’. . . Picture yourself as experiencing joy after joy without time ever seeming to pass, and that is a rough approximation.

So, ‘time’ is out of the picture. ‘90 years’ is not stacked up against ‘1,000,000,000,000,000,000 years plus forever’.

Can people change after death? It doesn’t seem likely, because there is no ‘time’ after. If all is ‘now’, there is no real ‘before’ or ‘after’. There is just what one decides at the moment of death, where one has the last instance of ‘time’ to make the decision. And it’s a free decision. One can always repent up to that last instant.

And finally, there is the idea that an unrepented mortal sin (it is important to remember ‘unrepented’. A person could sin mortally in life and repent at the time of death, and be forgiven, so nobody goes off to hell saying, “I’m sorry, I repent!”) which took up, say, ‘90 years on earth’ is somehow OVER WITH when it comes to eternity. It isn’t (if it is unrepented). IOW, if you look God in the eye at the time of death and say, “I know that having sex outside of marriage was wrong, but I said then and now that it would be worth hell to have that experience, and I’d do it all over again if I had the chance, no matter what you say”. . . you not only sinned in having the sex, you are sinning AGAIN by refusing to repent. See, at the time of death if you don’t repent a mortal sin, you ARE sinning (mortally), and because eternity is a kind of ‘now’, you keep on sinning. Your choice. You know it. You make the choice freely.

I know people will say, "Surely nobody would be so foolish’. Well, let’s hope you’re right. Maybe people will be given clarity at the moment of death (because we know God will give us sufficient grace to accept salvation if we choose it), and maybe in looking at Christ’s crucified but glorified body, all our petty pride and vices will be ‘melted away’, and we will acknowledge our sin, and our unworthiness, but beg for God’s forgiveness, not just out of ‘fear’, but with the perfect knowledge that we would have the power to throw that away from our own egomania, and all the things we did in life out of spite and selfishness, and we’ll regret every evil deed and thought, with a pure and unselfish regret. We can hope that is so.

The Church has not stated that anybody is in Hell. We are free to believe in private revelation (pretty much all of which has said that there ARE those in hell), or we’re free to believe that even if a saint THOUGHT something was hell, it was really only purgatory or something. Any way we choose, we need to walk a tightrope between despair and presumption. Despair would have us ‘eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die’, and think, “Heaven is for the perfect, and I’m not perfect. I might as well give up, because no matter how hard I try, I probably will go to hell anyway.”

And presumption would say, “Hell? That’s only for EVIL people. I’m a nice person. Hell is for people like Hitler. I’m just going to enjoy myself here on earth and relax, because I’m SURE to get into heaven. Why worry?”

Instead, let’s consider (as we approach Advent) those Four Last Things: Death, Judgment, Heaven, and Hell. We KNOW we’re going to die. We KNOW we’re going to be judged. That leaves two ‘destinations’. . .where do YOU want to be, and how (with God’s help) can you get there? That’s the real question.

Also read here,

1021 **Death puts an end to human life as the time open to either accepting or rejecting the divine grace manifested in Christ.**592 The New Testament speaks of judgment primarily in its aspect of the final encounter with Christ in his second coming, but also repeatedly affirms that each will be rewarded immediately after death in accordance with his works and faith. The parable of the poor man Lazarus and the words of Christ on the cross to the good thief, as well as other New Testament texts speak of a final destiny of the soul–a destiny which can be different for some and for others.593

1022 **Each man receives his eternal retribution in his immortal soul at the very moment of his death, **in a particular judgment that refers his life to Christ: either entrance into the blessedness of heaven-through a purification594 or immediately,595 – or immediate and everlasting damnation.596

At the evening of life, we shall be judged on our love.597

1035 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."617 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.

1036 The affirmations of Sacred Scripture and the teachings of the Church on the subject of hell are a call to the responsibility incumbent upon man to make use of his freedom in view of his eternal destiny. They are at the same time an urgent call to conversion: "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."618

Since we know neither the day nor the hour, we should follow the advice of the Lord and watch constantly so that, when the single course of our earthly life is completed, we may merit to enter with him into the marriage feast and be numbered among the blessed, and not, like the wicked and slothful servants, be ordered to depart into the eternal fire, into the outer darkness where "men will weep and gnash their teeth."619

1037 God predestines no one to go to hell;620 for this, a willful turning away from God (a mortal sin) is necessary, and persistence in it until the end. In the Eucharistic liturgy and in the daily prayers of her faithful, the Church implores the mercy of God, who does not want “any to perish, but all to come to repentance”:621

they will definitely know that they made the wrong choice.

We as catholics do it all the time.
Every time we commit a “mortal” sin we condemn ourselves to hell, but because our God is a loving God, we are able to, through the sacrament of “Reconciliation” , " change our minds.

If we never ask or seek forgiveness from God prior to our bodily death, then that was our choice to be eternally separated from our God.

**“if a tree falls to the south or to the north, in the place where the tree falls, there it will lie.”
-Ecclesiastes 11:3

God only gave the angels one chance, one choice, in one moment in time. I think that He’s being more than generous with us humans.

I think you have to be in a state of hell before death if you continue it into the next life. A priest in confession had told me that at death when the soul is separated from the body the will becomes naturally fixed. The will said the priest is part of your soul and not your body. The fixation of the will comes naturally after death so that we will not be sinning any more. God does not want to deal with us sinning eternally so He gives us this freedom of the will only up to our own death. This actually makes sense. I was wondering how we do not sin anymore after death. Now the full power of God’s love and mercy is manifested for those in the Heavenly state as they give out their total love in response to love. When this happens you can see why people do not sin. Now there is a problem with those who are still in Purgatory. After death how can they not sin? There is not this fullness of the love of God present so something else must help these Holy Souls from not sinning. The answer said the priest was this fixation of the will. While the fixation of the will is in place the mercy and love of God after death for the Souls in :Purgatory will do its work from the response of those still on earth. It seems for those who are in a state of hell one of the probable reasons why they cannot repent lies in the fact that one their wills are now permanently fixed which is the least reason why and two the grace of God even when it is sent to them is totally rejected. I do not think if God can save a soul immediately before death by sending to the soul His life saving grace and mercy that He would decide not to send it. The Lord could never refuse to save a soul in hell if His Grace was available to do so. Only those who refuse His Grace inwardly meaning those who still hate after receiving the grace are really condemned.

The fixation of the wills at death can point us to be similar to the angels. After the Angels made their choice they cannot change their mind whereas we as humans can change as often only before our deaths. After our death we become the same as the angels as we cannot make any more changes.

That all depends on when they decide that they made a wrong choice.

If one realizes one’s mistake while dying, even in the last moments, there is a chance. Purgatory will be especially hard for them, but I’ve come to understand that there is a CHANCE.

Two things come to mind.

  1. I recall reading a quote somewhere that for God there is an eternity between the bridge and the river. In other words, God can work on a person’s soul in those final moments. For a human the time is brief. For God there is no time.
  2. The Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard, Matthew 20: 1-16.

“For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day and sent them into his vineyard.
“About nine in the morning he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. He told them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ So they went.
“He went out again about noon and about three in the afternoon and did the same thing. About five in the afternoon he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, ‘Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?’
“‘Because no one has hired us,’ they answered.
“He said to them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard.’
“When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.’
“The workers who were hired about five in the afternoon came and each received a denarius. So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. ‘These who were hired last worked only one hour,’ they said, ‘and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.’
“But he answered one of them, ‘I am not being unfair to you, friend. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you. Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’
“So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

It would seem that God would reward us for our faith, even if we arrive in a state of grace only in our dying moments. Of course we would have an especially difficult time in purgatory if we choose eternity with God late in life.

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