Is eternal hellfire fair?


Some Christians believe hell to be different for everybody, and that would mean it’s set for all time by the sole criterion of this life (life expectancy 65 to 75 years).

(1) If free will is a defining characteristic of being human, and hell is populated by humans of course, wouldn’t it be possible for the damned to repent? If so, could they then be saved?

(2.a) What about those who have never heard about the gospel? What does it mean that Jesus is the only way?

(2.b) If Muslims have been indoctinated that Jesus is not the way but only one more prophet before the definitive prophet, and therefore does not accept JC as the way, the truth and the life, is this Muslim repsonsible for not accepting JC? After all, he was indoctrinated to do so.

(3) If hell is eternal, it is illimited. This life is temporary, thus illimited. The balance of seems to be tipping awkwardly here. Thoughts?



Hell is more than fair.

In fact each soul in hell will be made to confess “I am damned by my own choice and by my own fault”.

Given the alternative of an oblivion of no life a free gift of even a mortal life is infinitely better than non existence.

Even an eternal existence in hell is better than oblivion since hell is limited in its degree of punishment by God’s mercy. Most people do not think of it this way but hell is a form of God’s Mercy since it does have a finite limit and its the ultimate expression of self-centered and selfishly motivated free choice. In hell all are self serving gods - but without any purpose or power. If there was no hell and one’s eternal soul was not permitted to be admitted to heaven an eternal soul would have to create its own hell - and it would be unmerciful on itself without limit.

Consider that the holiness of God is infinite and unfathomable. A temporally committed offense against that unbounded holiness is an unimaginably serious transgression. This is why there needs to be an eternal consequence for unforgiven sin. The transgression is immense since in the face of a free gift of life we dishonored God’s trust that we would out of natural gratitude use that free gift in a way that honors Him as creator. If God offers through the creative act of life an opportunity for eternal life and the only criteria is we respect, honor and love God for being so kind to give us life and the opportunity for eternal bliss then to reject that offer necessitates a justice that is balanced in the same degree in both directions - acceptance and rejection. Therefor in heaven we have eternal bliss and in hell we have eternal torment. God does not undo anything He creates - this is because a creative act nullified would imply a fickle and frivolous God who “makes” and “unmakes” without reason or purpose. But we know God is unchanging and not fickle. So returning to oblivion is not an option for those mering hell nor is it a greater mercy than hell.

Work through the thought process and I think you will see what I am saying.



C.S. Lewis’ brilliant little book, The Great Divorce, sheds some light on the question of hell (and heaven). If you haven’t read it, pick up a copy today! It is worth reading over and over again.

As for the other questions, my understanding of Church teaching is the following. Jesus is the sole and unique mediator between God and man, and only through Him is anyone saved–whether they have explicitly heard of Him or not. Those who honestly seek the truth in their lives, admit the truth when they find it, and seek to conform their lives to it, can be saved. How that takes place, only God knows, but I imagine it is integrally tied up with the fact that Jesus is the Truth, and that Jesus is the Logos, the meaning and purpose behind all created reality.

Moreover, I think that it is possible that many people have not authentically heard the Gospel, even though they have heard of Jesus. What they have heard may be so distorted, and accompanied by a false kind of witness (people claiming to be Christians yet who do not show any signs of holiness), that they are not morally culpable for rejecting it. This is a lesson for us, too, who evangelize others: our holiness must be our primary witness.

On the other hand, those who know that the Catholic Church has been willed by God as necessary for salvation, and either choose not to enter it, or do not remain in it, cannot be saved.

There is a good book by Fr. Peter Stravinskas, Salvation Outside the Church?, which walks through the major Church documents on this subject:

Finally, I don’t think that the damned can repent. There seems to be a “point of no return” that fixes the will in on itself forever, a kind of moral implosion. Jean-Paul Sartre’s play No Exit illustrates this (impressively, for an atheist, but maybe that is what he lived here on this earth). This version of hell is a little different from C.S. Lewis’, though not too different.

I’m not sure if I read this anywhere, but I suspect that the fire of hell is the same fire of God’s love that the blessed enjoy in heaven. The only difference is the will of the person: either accepting this burning fire–which burns away all selfishness and sin, until only a Christ-like being is left–or rejecting this burning fire, which only turns the flame into a flame of torment. To be immersed in the burning love of an infinite being is pure joy if you have accepted it and have the capacity for it; otherwise, I imagine that it would burn like guilt and despair burns at one’s heart. Just my theory, though, not Church teaching. :slight_smile:



There is a very good video on the subject called “What every Catholic needs to know about hell”. I believe you can order it through EWTN.


Hell is what rejection of God is called when there are no distractions or further inner development and when one is surrounded by others who have also all rejected God.
It can only be eternal, because the soul is eternal and when the soul is all that’s left of a person the state of it is then eternal.
Someone who has never heard of Jesus or who has been consistently misinformed has a responsibility to seek the truth with a reasonable amount of effort. If a person’s honest best effort has yielded no accurate information about Jesus Christ, then he or she may be met by a missionary or see Jesus in a vision or have some other kind of miraculous revelation. If none of these things happens, then he or she still could be saved merely by:
Never committing a mortal sin,
Having perfect contrition for every venial sin,
Honestly seeking the truth and
Loving the Creator to whatever degree he or she has had a chance to learn there is a Creator, and loving his or her neighbor as himself or herself.
In a case like that, God will reveal to the person (by the point of no return) however much truth God chooses to ask that person to accept. This is always done through Jesus Christ, even if it’s on the deathbed and the individual doesn’t express the experience to anyone else. Whether God always lets the person know the Savior’s Name or not is unknown. There may be a slight lag between bodily death and the point of no return. Then again there might not be.
Sometimes even a sinner is converted by a miracle such as a vision, as St. Paul was.


Just remember, Jesus has the final say about hell…I would try to make yourself as ready for heaven a possible, but what we know about that decison is probably limited…we as humans can only understand so much. That’s why many priests say you might be surprised who is forgiven and who is not. Never think someone is going and someone is not.

I know near-death experiences are not definite beliefs or solid church teaching, but I’m surprised how many will see others they thought died not in a state of grace, the love they felt from them and the kind words. I can’t say 100% without looking it back up, but even Mother Angelica mentioned her mom seeing her deceased Dad who left them when she was small before she died.I got the impression he wasn’t a practicing Catholic at the time. I don’t know if that was true, but she needed to make peace with him before she died and Mother was happy that it happened.

Of course you don’t have to believe these things, but they keep from “assuming” I know God’s will entirely and he will always have the last word. I can just keep trying everyday to not fail him or myself.


Great answers, folks! Thanks. :hug3:


No and No. Repentence, Justification, Sanctification, and so Salvation come by Faith. Paul speaks of salvation coming by Hope. Once having seen Christ - a prerequisite to damnation, there is no more Faith, or Hope.

Heb 11:1 Now, faith is the substance of things to be hoped for, the evidence of things that appear not.

Rom 8:24 For we are saved by hope. But hope that is seen is not hope. For what a man seeth, why doth he hope for?

Rom 8:25 But if we hope for that which we see not, we wait for it with patience.

1Th 5:8 But let us, who are of the day, be sober, having on the breast plate of faith and charity and, for a helmet, the hope of salvation.

Rom 2:12 For whosoever have sinned without the law shall perish without the law: and whosoever have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law.
Rom 2:13 For not the hearers of the law are just before God: but the doers of the law shall be justified.
Rom 2:14 For when the Gentiles, who have not the law, do by nature those things that are of the law; these, having not the law, are a law to themselves.
Rom 2:15 Who shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness to them: and their thoughts between themselves accusing or also defending one another,
Rom 2:16 In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my gospel.

The CCC has concerning the “No Salvation outside the Church” thing:

847 This affirmation is not aimed at those who, through no fault of their own, do not know Christ and his Church:

Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience - those too may achieve eternal salvation.

841 The Church’s relationship with the Muslims. “The plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator, in the first place amongst whom are the Muslims; these profess to hold the faith of Abraham, and together with us they adore the one, merciful God, mankind’s judge on the last day.”

Hell is unlimited, yes and life is limited, yes - I think that is what you meant? Heaven and Hell are our choice and that choice is influenced by the Holy Spirit who “pushes” us into understanding that we do have a choice to make. Damnation comes from stubbornly refusing to accept Christ and Salvation, right up to the end.

1037 God predestines no one to go to hell; 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”:

Father, accept this offering
from your whole family.
Grant us your peace in this life,
save us from final damnation,
and count us among those you have chosen.

The CCC has several paragraphs concerning salvation - 1033 - 1037, it is found online Here

Hope this helps

Scripture Verses taken from DRB via E-Sword




For those who were wondering, as I was, illimited really is a word - :rolleyes:

a. 1. Not limited; interminable.
The absoluteness and illimitedness of his commission was generally much spoken of.

  • Clarendon.

hmmm :bigyikes:



If it serves as consolation, the part where I wrote that is in error. Where it says:

(3) If hell is eternal, it is illimited. This life is temporary, thus illimited. The balance of seems to be tipping awkwardly here. Thoughts?

It should say:

(3) If hell is eternal, it is illimited. This life is temporary, thus limited. The balance of seems to be tipping awkwardly here. Thoughts?


Nevertheless, in pondering the logic of my thoughts from a mathematical point of view, even if I suffer a little, if it is interminable (this word exists too, Prarflesekhm :wink: ) so it is nominally infinite suffering (wow). Nevertheless, it is obvious anyone would prefer a little suffering to a lot of suffering, even though both are interminable thus illimited. Anyway, that’s just me musing.

In short, I understand that all you guys are attempting to say is that there is justice because your amount of suffering is proportionate to your sin, rejection, etc. One’s separation from God is produced by oneself, we produce our own hell.

I see. This is more a logico-mathematical problem than anything else. I was seeing the degree of justice/injustice in terms of time. If all damantion(s) is/are eternal, they are all illimited, and therefore all are equal and equally unjust. But if I think outside the box one moment, I would prefer suffering from mild headaches to migraine, especially if they are eternal, so damantions are all different really, proportionate and therefore just. One could even ponder, for the sake of musing, that maybe outside of the spacetime universe there is no time as a proper dimension, and therefore eternity doesn’t mean “the hands of the clock go round and round neverending” but that the self-wrought damnation is unavoidable once you have chosen.

Am I right?


a guy uses a girl for pleasure, hurts her physically and emotionally.

How does he pay for it?

Well, what is the offense?

A girl is a priceless being called to give and receive love forever. If a guy uses her just for pleasure, and then leaves, thereby discarding her, is not his crime more than physical pain?

Is he not INSULTING her IMMEASURABLY, by saying her worth is only finite, to give him temporary kicks, instead of immeasurable, called to give and receive love forever?

Therefore, because the insult is immeasurable, so the punishment must be immeasaruble, so that if she is called to give and receive love forever, so shall the sinner suffer physical and emotional torment forever and ever.

Darth Vader, Lust and Hell

Admittedly, a brainwashed Muslim could be saved. If one seeks Divine truth and help as their ultimate goal and does not suspect Christianity to be true, they can still be saved. James Akin had a great article on this many years back in This Rock. Wish I could track it down.


Yes, I noticed it was in the definition of the word in question :smiley:

I was only trying to understand what your meaning was with ‘illimited’ as that was a new word for me (I don’t keep up with Webster very well these days) :stuck_out_tongue:

Yes, the self wrought damnation is unavoidable because we choose to go there. God does everything in His power (in my experience, and that of many others I have spoken to) to show us that He is. “It is written upon mens hearts that I AM”

Eternity means eternity so far as I know. I think we are ‘built’ to recognize time, given our preoccupation with it. There is an excellent book out titled “Purgatory explained by the lives and legends of the Saints” by Fr. F.X. Schouppe, S.J. People in Purgatory are said to recognize the impact of time upon their sufferings.

One individual was given a choice - spend three days in Purgatory, or spend the next year continuing to suffer from an illness he was in terrible pain from. Naturally the man took the three days. After an hour his guardian angel appeared to console him (this seems to be a Mercy from god for all those in Purgatory) the man expressed his confusion about being stuck in his pains for so long. The angel asked him how long he thought he had been there suffering, and the man said “At least several years”. The angel replied that he had only been there for one hour. The intensity of the pain deceives you as to the time, an instant seems a day and an hour, years.

The same seems to be true for those in hell.

However, in both places, this suffering is proportionate - as is the location on the body of the suffering (the mouth for gluttony, lies, scandal, the hands for idleness, theft, etc.) and therefore just. The only difference seems to be the duration. Purgatory will end - and those inside know this as well as the reason for their suffering, and have the knowledge that God sustains them through it and so suffer gladly.

As for hell - what I think your question is (and correct me if I am wrong here) do we humans spend eternity in hell, burning forever and ever. I don’t think so - personally.

Mat 10:28 Stop being afraid of those who kill the body but can’t kill the soul. Instead, be afraid of the one who can destroy both body and soul in hell.

This means to me that hell (for us humans) is also limited according to our deeds. It makes little sense to me that hell for us is unlimited - as our life itself is limited. Although our soul goes on living after our physical body dies - that soul can be destroyed by God in hell. As the verse states. I think the confusion comes into play where Scripture states that the sinful unrepentant man (or woman :stuck_out_tongue: ) will NEVER be reunited with God. Ever.

Even though I stated above that hell is limited for us humans - it may well be limited also for satan:

Rev 17:8 The beast that you saw once was, is no longer, and is going to come from the bottomless pit and go to its destruction. Those living on earth, whose names were not written in the Book of Life from the foundation of the world, will be surprised when they see the beast because it was, is no longer, and will come again.

My answer for that is “I don’t know”. The traditional belief is that Hell is forever - as it is also stated in Scripture, but it also seems to be limited, as stated in the verses above. But that may be just for satan and his angels, because they KNEW God, and the choice they made was to rebel anyway. There is no repentance for them, because they knew the choice when they made it and knew that choice was forever before they made it.

In other words it was not a question of Faith, or Hope, for them it was a choice of staying or going forever, and they made it anyway.

Heb 6:4 For it is impossible to keep on restoring to repentance time and again people who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have become sharers of the Holy Spirit

Help at all?




Please do!


here is one article, but i’m not sure it is the right one, but still applicable:

Invincible and Vincible Ignorance


i can’t find the exact one, but this one is good too:

Baptism of Desire


This article on my site addresses the questions directly as well:

On the Salvation of non-Christians


The idea floating about in this discussion that hell is infinite is not accurate in the sense of unbounded punishment. With respect to severity Hell has definate limits. God’s mercy extends even to those in hell. All in hell are evil but all are not punished at the same intensity. But the least intensity in hell is more terribly severe than anything we could ever experience on earth. God’s Justice requires that there be greater and lessor punishments proportional to the degree and frequency of the grave sins with the caveat that all damned become utterly perma-evil.

So a person who murdered once is not punished at the same terrible intensity as the person who murdered dozens. A person who had an unrepentant act of fornication is not punished at the same intensity as a person who made a living off aborting babies just to spite church teaching.

So, Hell is only infinite in terms of duration not degree of severity - one can not ever leave hell. Although God could elect to release a soul from hell without breaking the theological framework we are not given any examples of God electing to do this in scripture.

At death those dieing impenitent commit the one unforgivable sin - blasphemy against the Holy Spirit for failing to heed its incessant call for repentance. Jesus has told us that those committing this unforgivable sin will not be forgiven in this age or the next age - the time when God’s Kingdom rules universally.

Matthew 12:32
"Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come.

Apart from the sensual pain (both spiritual and physical when the body’s are resurrected) it is said that the worst punishment in hell a soul suffers is being given images of what God had intended for the soul and seeing limited images of family and friends who are in heaven in eternal bliss. That contemplation drives the soul deep into despair knowing its fate is sealed forever. Ironically though, such a damned soul, now permanently fixed in evil, would still elect out of self-pride and self-loathing to remain in hell rather than leave if given and opportunity to do so.



Now, an idea like this is something I just cannot accept, not even if the Church says so. Alright, here is this soul in Hell, truly broken, truly humbled, crying, weeping, desiring to want to be with God, to obey God, whole-heartedly, but because he already made his “choice” God is going to leave him where he is to suffer immensely forever and ever? Nonesense. All this does is lower God’s salvation down to a mere guessing game based on a time schedule.

I am convinced that all who desire the Lord, will find Him and those who do not, will not seek and find Him, nor will ever wish to want to be with Him anyway. Why would they want to live in Heaven with God anyway? Where they couldn’t live the way they wanted to but would have to listen to what this bossy God says. People like that will sadly be the ones eternaly away from Him.

I had an atheist friend who bitterly hates the character of God and even said that he would never follow Him even if God appeared face to face with him, and that Adam, according to the story, was right in rejecting Him.


But again, those who want the Truth, I believe shall find it. And those who do not, will not find it, nor will they desire it.


I don’t think you get it. A soul that dies impenetent is not in any broken humble state of sorrow as you paint here. It is smug in its defiance and self pride in rejecting God. God will not suffer a soul that despises God to live in His presence for eternity. God loves even the damned and honors its desire to be its own god and gives him a place to live that is as far removed and distance from God as it can be. Before it leaps into hell the damned soul confesses that it is damned by its own fault and by its own choice.

God does not force anyone to love Him against its will - that would be an abuse of love. God has given humanity more than ample warnings and teaching to decide for itself but respects that man has free choice to choose the allures of evil over Him.

On their deathbeds there are no athesists - only those hoping and praying they were wrong.


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