I know this is a common question, but I continue to struggle with this.
Hell is unbearable. God is all-loving, and therefore cannot want this for anyone.
Our life is ephemeral, yet hell is eternal. God is just, and therefore no one could commit sufficient evil in this world to deserve eternal punishment in the next.
Could a just God allow anyone to be born into this world with a chance that they will commit acts that will condemn them to hell? Moreover, Jesus indicates in the Bible that condemnation to hell is actually pretty common, which is that much harder to reconcile with the image of a just, loving God. Would it be just or loving for God to expose any of us to this risk?
God does not wish hell on anyone; he wants us to repent (2 Peter 3:9). He has given us the means to repent and come into Heaven; His own son was killed in the most horrifying and painful way for our sake! But as the saying goes, you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink. It is not God who condemns us to Hell, but we ourselves do, when we reject that which he offers us. God wants us to be with him, but he wants us to choose to love and obey him; love isn’t meaningful or nearly as wonderful when it’s forced and no longer a matter of free will. Even if that results in such a sad and tragic outcome.
GOD wants that none of us should perish (2 Peter 3:9). We did it to ourselves when we decided to listen to Satan and eat the forbidden fruit. If it wasn’t Adam and Eve, it could have been u or i. GOD still gives us a choice, showing His true love for us. Would u still love a god that forced u to worship him? Thank you, LORD.
But how can anyone truly choose hell, something that is completely beyond human comprehension? For an all-loving God to condemn people to hell because they “choose” it seems like a parent letting their child get hit by a car because they “chose” to play in the street.
No one rational person could possibly “choose” unbearable suffering for all eternity, which leaves one of these possibilities:
God allows irrational people to go to hell, and therefore is not all-loving or all-just (at least insofar as our limited human minds can perceive it).
Hell is somehow something that some people might truly prefer to heaven, but this would seem to go against the very concept of hell.
According to the Catechism, Hell indeed exists (CCC 1033-1037). While Hell is for those who reject God and what he offers, whether or not anyone actually is in Hell is a matter of debate, for the reasons you stated. Hell’s existence is not up for questioning. But whether or not there are souls truly dwelling in it is unknown, and we cannot presume to know who is damned for certain.
Accepting that there was an “Adam and Eve” that committed Original Sin, why would we be punished for this with the threat of hell? If God’s error and/or the free will of Adam and Even allowed them to commit Original Sin, isn’t this God’s/Adam and Eve’s fault, rather than yours and mine, who had no say in the matter? Doesn’t this seem to violate the Biblical precept of not visiting the sins of the father upon on the son?
To me it is all about free will and choice.
God gave us “free will”; He does not force us to do His Will which is that we all live according to the Laws He gave us. He has told us about the road that leads to Heaven and the one that leads to Hell. It is up to us to choose; And we do this with our eyes wide open because we have knowledge of where we are heading. God is not to blame for our choice.
They’re not ephemeral. We are in some sense gods and goddesses. Our lives are everlasting. There was an eternity before the point in which we existed, in which we felt nothing, and there will be an eternity after the point in which we existed, where we will always feel something.
Souls that are temporally in Purgatory are not sinning. Souls in hell are actively sinning, so that their depravity does not end with whatever sins they committed in their earthly life, but it continues onward in their hatred and in their attachment to sin, where, as St Aquinas explains, God is falsely perceived to the residents of hell as being an incessant tyrant that delivers retribution to them. As their depravity continues for eternity, divine retribution likewise continues for eternity. This is the nature of final impenitence: like the demons, there is no contrition to ever be found in a soul that is condemned.
Are they sorry? Only in the sense that they are sorry that they have been caught. We see this profound difference in real life all around us. People that are sorry, and people that are sorry that they’ve been caught. The later constitutes the residents of hell. Obviously, they’re not voluntarily diving into hell, but they’ve exercised their free will in such a way that they refuse to love God, and therefore their selfish and wicked actions nonetheless lead them to hell.
So here’s a thought for you to manage. Here’s a thing to think on. As I’ve heard this thing about heaven and hell. And I’ve heard the going on and back about it.
But I think these things are so far beyond what we understand that the reality would really be a shock.
So here’s my best effort. My best way of seeing this make sense. Suppose all souls go before God. Suppose all souls just stand there. Waiting. Watching. Listening. Learning.
So the souls who’ve earned heaven. Those ones get flooded with the memories of all the times they’ve helped someone. All the times they stood up in the face of evil. All the times they made good choices. Yeah they might see the odd bad action. Yeah they might have the odd regret. But the sum total comes out a plus for them. They get to stand there and realize that the world is a net benefit for them having lived there. They made that difference. They can see the positives multiplying as generations come in some kind of contact with that. It goes on and on.
And in the same way the souls who’ve earned hell get treated to the actual consequences of what they’ve done. They get to see how many generations have been hurt by their selfishness. How badly they’ve damaged the people who cared for them. They get a real taste of it. And they know that the damage they’ve caused has outweighed the good. They’ve left the world as a net negative.
Because God is Truth. So all Truth is revealed to everyone. Everyone knows where they stand. They all know the score. And the effects are permanent because the tally’s what it is. It can’t be changed. The effects are ongoing as they linger. They feel the effects. Truly. As they are.
The existence of Hell is actually a powerful argument in favour of God’s goodness; if God were not so good, sin would not be so bad, and if sin were not so bad, there would be no Hell. Hell is terrible because sin is terrible. It is difficult for us to comprehend, but the malice of sin is infinite because it offends the infinite Goodness of God.
We were created for eternal life; we must see everything in the light of this all-important truth. No one is damned without having rejected many precious graces. Furthermore, many are saved who *had *rejected many precious graces! Is this not proof of God’s love and mercy?
There is little use in wondering why God would create those who He foreknew would reject Him. Ultimately, we can only speculate. In my opinion, such thoughts almost always come from Satan. He inspires doubts that we cannot answer; He tries to distract us from the eternal truths of the Faith…
“The works of God are perfect, and all his ways are judgments: God is faithful and without any iniquity, he is just and right.”
– Deuteronomy 42:4
The bottom line is that no one can provide a sufficient answer to certain questions. Mysteries of the Faith necessarily exceed the limitations of human reason. The only way to overcome these doubts is to trust in God’s Word; He cannot lie. To the extent that we unite ourselves to Jesus, we will find light. Without this light, we walk in and towards the darkness; and darkness cannot give us any light whatsoever!
Hell is not empty. Satan and his angels are in hell at this moment, and just as these spirits have been imbued with free will, humanity has been imbued with free will as well. This much is Sacred Tradition.
There are a large number of canonized mystics throughout history, as well as Fatima, which re-affirm the Lake of Fire that was described in St John the Evangelist’s Revelation long ago.
So a person that doesn’t believe there are people in hell 1) contradicts Sacred Tradition at the absolute bare minimum concerning the demons, and 2) has to disagree with every canonized mystic that ever wrote about a vision of hell. These canonized mystics - people declared to be in Heaven and exercisers of heroic virtue - therefore, are either a) liars, or b) mentally deluded. St Padre Pio, St John Bosco, St Faustina, St Lucia of Fatima, St Therese of Liseaux, St Therese of Avila… the list could keep going and going: they’re all either liars or mentally deluded.
Humans beings are not irrational (in the theological sense). We have a will and can exercise this will accordingly, either for our own selfish purposes or in cooperation with Providence. The word “Providence” means the actions of God in our earthly lives that lead us to our sanctification. “Sanctification” means “to make holy”. “To make holy” means “to become a better version of yourself”. When Providence - which is affected in us by the Holy Spirit - is rejected, this leads to damnation.
When we describe Heaven and hell as being a choice, it is not meant in the literal sense that we push a red button or a green button. If this were the case, a wicked and impenitent person might just as well push the green button, and yet all the while have no love in his heart. You claim that humans cannot possibly put their hands around the magnitude of such a choice, and yet no one ever seems to complain about this concerning Heaven. We cannot comprehend the splendor of Heaven, but we can all the same go there, and likewise we cannot comprehend the darkness of hell, but we can all the same go there. Both of these supernatural realities reach far beyond the boundaries of our earthly senses.
**Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! **
Jesus to St Margaret-Mary Alacoque
**"Behold the Heart which has so loved men that it has spared nothing, even to exhausting **(Crucifixion) **and consuming Itself **(Last Supper, Eucharist), in order to testify Its love;
Jesus to St. Faustina -
"There are souls who despise My graces as well as all the proofs of My love. They do not wish to hear My call, but proceed into the abyss of hell. The loss of these souls plunges Me into deadly sorrow. God though I am, I cannot help such a soul because it scorns Me; having a free will, it can spurn Me or love Me. You, who are the dispenser of My mercy, tell all the world about My goodness, and thus you will comfort My Heart." (Diary, 580)
"Why are you fearful and why do you tremble when you are united to Me? I am displeased when a soul yields to vain terror. Who will dare to touch you when you are with Me? Most dear to Me is the soul that strongly believes in My goodness and has complete trust in Me. I heap My confidence upon it and give it all it asks." (Diary, 453)
"These two rays issued forth from the very depths of My tender mercy when My agonized Heart was opened by a lance on the Cross." (Diary, 299)
**“My Heart overflows with great mercy for souls, and especially for poor sinners. If only they could understand that I am the best of Fathers to them and that it is for them that the Blood and Water flowed from My Heart as from a fount overflowing with mercy.” **(Diary, 367)
"Write: before I come as a just Judge, I first open wide the door of My mercy. He who refuses to pass through the door of My mercy must pass through the door of My justice…… (Diary, 1146).
Satan was the finest of all angels, altogether. But he decided to commit himself to self-serving. Then he exhibited a trait of wanting to drag other creatures down to his level. He also exhibited a trait of moving the goalposts in mid-issue.
Adam and Eve’s limited capacity to process issues in the dimension of time and only seeing parts of them in their minds at any moment, gave the devil the idea of how to try to trick them.
The “knowledge of good and evil” is I think to do with the difference between manipulating, and trusting God moment by moment.
That was the first time a husband blamed his wife!
We don’t understand the impact of that on nature and creation, very well.
We don’t understand destiny or God’s foreknowledge, very well.
We don’t generally understand what is inside another human being.
We don’t know what “a lot” means if a saint says there are going to be “a lot” of souls there.
We are given the capacity to manage our own lives and cultivate good responses in our own lives. Our ongoing relationship with God is something we can look to Him for help with, each day.
Sins can still sometimes “set the children’s teeth on edge” to the third or fourth generation, because that’s in nature. The loving and merciful Lord will always make due allowances for everybody, and we shan’t understand a bit of it.
I’m going through this same anguish about the existence of Hell. I’ve troubled with it for years. In the past, every time I brought it up to other Christians, I was just short of being ostracized. I pray everyday that the Lord help me understand. My nature driven thoughts are: “How can a child (us) really love his parent (God) if the parent has a gun (hell) pointed at us saying Love me with your whole heart.”
“Do I have more mercy than God because I would never sentence my son or daughter to Hell if he or she turned their back on me?” Then I tell myself that God has infinitely more mercy than I.
“If God knows the end from the beginning, why did he make man if 75 – 90 percent (rough speculation) would be damned to eternal suffering.”
“The Bible says narrow is the gate, few make it” – Why does the Devil get the lion’s share of souls after the great and final sacrifice Jesus made. It seams like the Devil wins if you look at it like that.”
Bear in mind, I am afraid of these thoughts and ask Jesus to rid me of them. But they plague me.