I have read that the chief punishment of Hell is the separation from God. I find this statement slightly confusing. Is a person’s existence erased at the Final Judgement if they are damned to Hell? I say this because God sustains our existence and being fully separated from Him would be not existing. Or is the idea that the damned are separated from God and His goodness to the highest degree without being separated from His sustenance of our existence?
some people - not Christians - believe that…
You are actually correct. God is present in hell to sustain the souls there. The suffering in hell is due to the fact that the souls there are not partaking in the life of God itself, but God is still there sustaining their existence. Which is why a traditional prayer (thanksgiving for Communion) describes God as being glorious in heaven, powerful on earth, terrible in hell. The fact the God is there without them partaking in his divine life is not a source of comfort for them but more pain.
Yeah, in addition to the previous responses it would be contradictory for God to “Obliterate” something he created by “erasing them from existence”. God created us with free will because without it we would be robots, the other side of the coin is that he would never destroy us because God doesn’t make mistakes, He is God.
He loves us eternally, if we choose to reject Him, we actively refuse Him for eternity. Hence the suffering in Hell.
Yes, per Matthew 25, they are apart, but it means no Beatific Vision:
41 Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels;
Catechism of the Catholic Church
1028 Because of his transcendence, God cannot be seen as he is, unless he himself opens up his mystery to man’s immediate contemplation and gives him the capacity for it. the Church calls this contemplation of God in his heavenly glory “the beatific vision” …
His justice sustains the existence of those in hell. Just as mercy is eternal, justice must also be. And yes, there is complete separation from God - initiated by the sinner in this life. God is love and provides hope. There is neither love nor hope in hell.
Not even Father Abraham and the poor Lazarus, while being comforted, had the Beatific Vision. However, it became theirs when the gates of heaven were opened.
I think the bible supports the above interpretation.
2 Thess 1:
6 For it is surely just on God’s part to repay with afflictions those who are afflicting you,
7 and to grant rest along with us to you who are undergoing afflictions, at the revelation of the Lord Jesus from heaven with his mighty angels,
8 in blazing fire, inflicting punishment on those who do not acknowledge God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.
9 These will pay the penalty of eternal ruin, separated from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his power,
Yours in Christ
How it was described by St Teresa of Avila is that a damned person takes their soul, which is like a beautiful light, and covers it up with a black cloth. It never ceases to give light or to be beautiful - because it was created by God and everything that God creates is good - but it is permanently covered up.
C. S. Lewis described Hell as individual places, doors locked from the inside. Souls that have. by a lifetime of choices, withered away their humanity till there is almost nothing left. Their last demand is to be left alone.
So God leaves them alone. If he forced them into heaven kicking and screaming, they would head right back out again.
It’s not confusing if you’ve sufficient sense of God / His Kingdom
The Psalms tell us that God is everywhere, even in hell.
It is not an absolute situation. God still sustains the existence of the damned. Here is how the Catholic Encyclopedia describes the separation:
The poena damni, or pain of loss, consists in the loss of the beatific vision and in so complete a separation of all the powers of the soul from God that it cannot find in Him even the least peace and rest.
Turn this around for a moment. God grants life like he breathes. Scratch that, it’s not even a simile. He grants life with His very breath. It is not sustenance, but annihilation that would take an active choice on His part.
It’s not a choice He would ever make, of course, but my point is that annihilation would require a connection to God and they reject that. In a strange way, erasure is too good for them.
YES. In spite of attempts to claim Hell does not exist - it’s clear
**The teaching of the Church affirms the existence of hell and its eternity. I
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.
** 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