Whether God is present in Hell


One of the eight attributes of God, as explained by St. Thomas Aquinas is His Immense Presence, which is similar to Omnipresence. However, is God present in Hell? If not, what is the meaning of these verses from Scripture:

Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy face? If I ascend into heaven, thou art there: if I descend into hell, thou art present.” -Psalm 138:7-8

Thanks in advance and God bless.

The souls of the damned in Hell exist only by God’s continued action. So yes, God is “present” in some sense to even those in Hell, even to the worst of all sinners. Still, I would consider the mode of His presence to be as withdrawn as could be.

God is a consuming fire. The pain of hell very well may be the pain of being in the presence of God. That is, if the fire of God’s love does not bring you immense joy, then it may only bring you the pain of being burned.

Interesting thought. Pain and Hell are then more our subjective experience and less some “place” or location in the cosmos. How can we be distant from God who is everywhere? We can lack awareness of that presence and distance our minds and thoughts from hat is right in front of us all the time.

Source for this?

God’s creations require His continued Will to sustain their existence. In that sense, God is “everywhere” in His creation. However, I’m guessing that you’re asking something that seems to condition hell’s existence on God. Perhaps you might consider asking the real question that you have in mind?

If not, what is the meaning of these verses from Scripture:

Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy face? If I ascend into heaven, thou art there: if I descend into hell, thou art present.” -Psalm 138:7-8

In the time of the writing of the Psalms, the term “hell” didn’t mean the “hell of eternal damnation” that we now understand. Rather, this reference to “hell” is to Sheol – or the abode of the dead. So, yeah… the psalmist is saying that, even after death, God is present with the humans He created.

This psalm is beautiful. Really beautiful…
The idea of the sentence you quoted is that He would stop the enemies with His left Hand and save you with His right Hand.
If in the midst of anguish one should walk,He would be there…
It starts giving thanks.
Thank you. It was great to read it right now.

But then again, I always learned that by definition Hell was eternal separation from God. I have trouble reconciling separation from “presence.”

Psalms are the dialogue of the people with God.
Their joys,hopes,frustrations,battles,different situations along the journey.
For me,hell here is a situation of great difficulty. And sometimes they " speak for us". That is to say,we join our voice and heart to the psalm which expresses what we experience and join that ongoing dialogue of the people of God with Him.
Try re reading the psalm in the same spirit.
At least for me,this psalm expresses something different than Hell .

That Third Day song, of course. Or Hebrews 12. Or Deuteronomy 4.

The following is my opinion, based on my understanding…

God is love, and God is fire. God is an infinite and eternal fire of love. If your heart is such that God’s love brings you joy, then being in His presence will be an eternity of bliss. But if you scorn God’s love, then eternity in His presence will be misery. He is a consuming fire. Being in His presence will either ignite you with incredible love or burn you with incredible pain.

“For our God is a consuming fire.”
Hebrews 12:29

I’ve looked at this psalm in several different versions of the Bible. In all that I’ve seen, except in the Douay-Rheims, the word used is not hell but trouble or danger. I would surmise from that that the psalmist is using hell as a metaphor rather than actually saying that God is in hell. The CCC paragraph 1033 says that "To die in mortal sin without repenting and accepting God’s merciful love means remaining separated from him for ever by our own free choice. This state of definitive self-exclusion from communion with God and the blessed is called “hell.”

It* is *a beautiful psalm. :thumbsup:

But the OP appears to be quoting from the Douay-Rheims version of the Bible (or a very close cousin of the DRV). In that version , we need to note that the psalms are numbered 1 behind in sequence compared to the New American Bible we currently use ( and most other versions as well ).

IOW Psalm 138 in the DRV is actually listed as Psalm 139 in the NAB.

So I think the psalm you are referring to may actually be listed as Psalm 137 according to the OP’s reference source.

But, always a beautiful psalm. .:thumbsup:

@seagal - maybe the above is confusing matters for you as well ?

For example, Psalm 139 in the KJV uses the word “hell” :

Psalm 139:7-8

Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence?
If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there.

This is the correct answer.

You’re right, I didn’t realize the difference in numbering. :blush: But after checking again in RSV Catholic edition and other editions the word used is either Sheol or “the depths”. So it still sounds as if “hell” is meant metaphorically.

Thank you for the explanation!

The difference is that the Douay-Rheims version uses psalm enumeration from the Vulgate and the King James version (and most other modern versions) use the psalm enumeration from the Masoretic Text .

Jimmy Akin has a chart at the bottom of THIS PAGE tabling the variances between the two: Psalms 1-8 are the same in both, then the fun starts.

BTW , the same thing happened to me, ie I wasn’t aware of the differences in enumeration some time ago while I was looking up a psalm in a hard covered Douay-Rheims bible which a deacon friend had given me as a gift. I think it might have been easier for me because there was no similarity at all between the psalm I was looking up in the DRV and its equally enumerated counterpart in the NAB. I realized right away that something was wrong (. . . actually thought the DRV might have been a misprint in the beginning, or that the DRV had left out the psalm I was searching for altogether . . . :doh2: )

I agree. Although in Hell we may see evidence of God’s justice and of free will, it is still a fact that all those in Hell are deprived of the beatific vision.

There was a thread here at CAF back in 2009 entitled Is God in Hell , in which one of our fellow members (username itsjustdave1988 ) gave us a compelling contribution ; one he says is summarized in St Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologica. His entire post (#2) is well worth the read, but here’s an excerpt from it:

That’s a good answer, do you know where in the Summa this can be found?

It looks like it might be primarily based on the Third Part of the Summa ; Question 52 .

Clicking HERE will bring you directly to the page - *Third Part ;Question 52 ;Articles 1-8 *.


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