Willing to go to hell


It seems logical that God wants everyone in heaven and that anyone who is not there God misses. Have there been mystics or discussions about trading places with someone there?
I ask because of this passage in Romans9:1-3 it says,
1 I tell the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit, 2 that I have great sorrow and continual grief in my heart. 3 For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my countrymen[a] according to the flesh,
I’ve done some research and stumbled across the desert fathers, where the possibility everyone eventually being reconciled to God is not insane. It’s more recent we’ve had the position that when you’re in hell that is permanent. (And there’s the ‘all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well’ from Julian of Norwich)
So have any of you run across any of the fathers of the church discussing this passage in Romans?


Virginia, I don’t think that it’s possible to “change places” with someone in hell - if I’ve understood your post correctly. In the Bible, it does say that once you’re in hell, you’re there forever, because …well think of it as being outside of time - the person’s rejection of God is permanent. I know it’s very sad :frowning: which is why we should pray for the world and our loved ones as much as we can…

If some of the desert fathers spoke otherwise, - the fathers were not correct on absolutely everything, what matters is what the majority of them said. The majority of them do seem to say that hell is real and permanent… (but someone would have to give you a better answer here, sorry).

I think that it is noble to want to take someone’s place in hell so that they could go to heaven, but it’s more of a sentiment than reality. St Therese, when she was a young girl, had ideas about going to hell and praising God there because no one praises Him in that place. She wrote in her book that when she got older, she saw that while her intention was good, this can’t happen, because it’s impossible to praise God in hell and also because He wants us all to be happy in eternity.

IMO if you were to go to hell so that someone would go to Heaven… you would lose your relationship with God, and the guilt of your sins would consume you. And this wouldn’t be possible at all if you repent of your sins, because then the guilt wouldn’t exist anymore. Try to look at hell as a reality that is completely anti-God, in which there is only evil, and no good can enter there… whatever good that is in you, would disappear in hell.

well that’s how I look at it…?

God bless.


The Church has taught from the beginning that hell is permanent. This discussion came up on another Catholic forum when a user mentioned this idea of universal reconciliation or “apokatastasis.”

A very knowledgeable moderator replied; here’s a part of his response that applies to your question:

Back to the Fathers, that a very limited number of Church Fathers discussed, and some of them even embraced “apokatastasis” at some point of their theological reflections is true. However:

  1. they never denied hell and the moral order derving from the Gospel. While some (rare) Fathers thought it compatible with Catholicism , many others tought it absolutely unacceptable and for the simplest of reasons: hell is eternal and if we die in a state of mortal sin, thus saying our eternal “no” to God, we’ll rot in hell forever, and that is not something the Church is going to change. St. Augustine was the fiercest opponent of this error, and because Augustine had spoken on this, support for such doctrine had begun to wane well before definitive condemnation of Origenism and apokatasis which was never “mainstream”. Those who mantain that are either very ignorant or have an agenda. Don’t believe them.
  1. What counts is the teaching of the Church. While the Fathers are an indispensable treasury of the Church, not everything they have said is correct. Some works of Fathers were even condemned and reprobated for doctrinal errors (case in point: Origen, the main source for apokatastasis)

That hell is eternal and irreversible we know form the very words of Christ. St. Paul even lists various sins that make it impossible to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, even though a disputable reading of St. Paul is often invoked to support apokatastasis. Really, it is absolutely impossible to say that that the Church did not teach constantly, clearly and definitively about hell and the eternity of punishment, from Our Lord to Benedict XVI. It’s good that the author of the Wikipedia article you quote gives importance to what the Church has condemned or not, because apokatastasis was condemned by Pope Atanasius I in 400 AD first, then by a Synod of Constantinople (AD 543) and finally by the Second Council of Constantinople (AD 553).


Thanks for all your replies.
You know, it’s funny, you can’t choose what to believe.
We believe whatever we do, and then have to sort it out from there, which is what I’m trying to do.
I haven’t heard yet how to deal with the passage in Romans - is this where we say that some passages don’t fit in with the overall gospel?
Isaac of Syria was interesting on this topic. He said you do not want to go there, do not take it lightly, but God does nothing out of vengance.
Why would God create someone he preknows would be in hell forever?
The Eastern Church, if I read them correctly, does accept apokatastsis.
Or as you all say, maybe I’m being led down a line of thought that is invalid.
All I can do now is pray for enlightenment.
So, what do you make of Paul’s statement?


As for the passage in St. Paul’s letter to the Romans, he is only putting his zeal for souls into words. He wishes that he could be cursed so that many would be saved. It does not say anything about those souls already in Hell. As for his wish, it was what Christ did: He was cursed with the consequences of sin when He was not touched by sin. In this effect, it was meritorious.

Although no one, even St. Paul, can actually be sent to hell in order to free other souls from its grip, we can do everything lesser than that. What I mean is that we can offer up little evils done to us for the salvation of souls, which is God’s ultimate goal, and which is what Christ, Mary, and the saints did. Love without suffering is impossible, and suffering without Love is unbearable.

Again, just to clarify, he says in that passage that it was for the sake of his “kinsmen according to the flesh”, which means they were not according to God. They were interested in the world, and not in God. St. John wants them to be reconciled with God.

For an English translation of the Latin Vulgate Bible, see the Douay-Rheims Bible: drbo.org/chapter/52009.htm

I hope that this answers your question.


Thanks for that interpretation of St. Paul - I had not heard that before; most of what I have read takes it that he is giving up all he has with Christ for the sake of his Jewish brethren.

How do we know what interpretation to believe?

I’m still distressed about this whole issue. I honestly have difficulty imagining heaven without everyone there.

Thanks for your replies, I will continue to ask God to clarify things for me.

BTW, how do we know what happens in hell?
Can someone who had read and studied in depth Julian of Norwich please comment on this?


One awesome thing about the Church is that we have the Pope and Magisterium under the protection of the Holy Spirit so that errors are not taught. If the interpretation is consistent with Church teaching, then that is the one to believe.

I’m still distressed about this whole issue. I honestly have difficulty imagining heaven without everyone there.

Going to hell is the worst disaster that can befall a human soul, but God allows it to happen because He doesn’t force anyone to love Him. People who go to Hell choose it.

BTW, how do we know what happens in hell?

What Scripture & Church Fathers say about Hell

St. Faustina’s Vision of Hell

St. John Bosco’s Vision of Hell

Fatima vision of Hell:

Our Lady showed us a great sea of fire which seemed to be under the earth. Plunged in this fire were demons and souls in human form, like transparent burning embers, all blackened or burnished bronze, floating about in the conflagration, now raised into the air by the flames that issued from within themselves together with great clouds of smoke, now falling back on every side like sparks in a huge fire, without weight or equilibrium, and amid shrieks and groans of pain and despair, which horrified us and made us tremble with fear. The demons could be distinguished by their terrifying and repulsive likeness to frightful and unknown animals, all black and transparent. This vision lasted but an instant. How can we ever be grateful enough to our kind heavenly Mother, who had already prepared us by promising, in the first Apparition, to take us to heaven. Otherwise, I think we would have died of fear and terror.


No one is condemned by God to go to hell…they choose to go all by themselves

God is a mystery…if you think you understand everything there is to know about Him, you have created for yourself an idol


It’s not a cannon or a recognized book of scripture. But supposedly there’s a writing called the apocolypse of Peter where Christ tells Peter that eventually everyone will be reconcilled to God, even those in Hell and the fallen angels. I know that’s a very controversial and non-recognized theology. And we shouldn’t rely on something like that. But it’s a nice thought that eventually everyone will be reconcilled with God.

But, that’s not what the Bible says or what church teaching is. So we’ve got to go off that and proceed accordingly. We choose whether we go to heaven or hell depending on how we follow Christ. It would be a great thing if everyone would choose Christ.


Do you think that God does not give up?
Can His love persist - can His love be the flames of love that are everlasting and eventually burn through all despair?

Sorry, what is not a canon - you mean Julian of Norwich? Yes, she is a mystic and highly regarded but not a canon by any means.


Catholics believe the Bible interpretation from the Church.
I don’t know what Bible you are using, but I believe Catholic Bibles all have good foot notes and same interpretation.

I am using The New American Bible that is directly translated from the original languages with critical use of all the ancient sources. It is approved by the Church and has Vatican’s seal on the front.

Turn to page 1219, you will see the foot note of interpretation for the passage you are asking about.

The apostle speaks in strong terms of the depth of his grief over the unbelief of his own people. He** would willingly** undergo a curse himself for the sake of their coming to the knowledge of Christ.

It clearly says Paul said so to emphasize how much he wants his fellow men to know Christ and come to salvation. It does not mean he could switch place, but would willingly do so - a wish, not a reality.

Hope this helps.


I use the same Bible. I’ve just been reading commentaries and books by Von Balthasar and blogs that go into the subject at depth.
I think that is a good point that Paul can’t actually switch places with someone, only Christ brings salvation.
This may then fall into the category of redemptive suffering; Paul is saying he is willing to share in the sufferings of Christ - perhaps in the God-forsakeness Christ experiences - for his brethren?
Does that sound like a viable interpretation?


The Apocolypse of Peter, the book I mentioned in my post.

I think it’s not that deep. It’s what InLight247 said. Paul is using hyperbole to express his wishes that everyone would come to Christ and be saved. I’m sure that he is sincere in offering to trade his salvation for those of others. He was in fact, a martyr. But it’s not anything that we can actually do or offer. Nothing we can do can achieve the same affect that Jesus did by dying on the cross for us, good intentions or not.

That being said, part of the revealations of fatima was that we can offer penance and suffering for the sinful who have not found their way to God yet, in hopes of bringing them to salvation. Mary said “Pray much and make sacrifices for sinners, for many souls go to hell because there is no one to make sacrifices for them.”


Thanks for the note about the canon - I haven’t read the Gospel of Peter.
I stay away from things like that because I think I should be able to find what I need in scripture and approved commentaries.


Once in hell its eternal. You can’t change places. Christ taught this himself and the church has always taught it subsequently.


Pauls’ statement revealed a heart which is willing to give up everything for the sake of others. This is a heart of love and I’ve heard of such sentiments sincerely expressed by others. This, I believe, can only be a work of the Holy Spirit in us.


Thanks for your reply - it makes me feel not so crazy.
I can make the prayer and God can do with it as he will - answer it as is possible with whatever sacrifices can be made…
I still feel like heaven is not heaven until everyone is there.
I can’t buy that God gives people amnesia about their loveds ones who are in hell.


So you would want various murderers, genocidal dictators, tyrants, rapists, torturers and other evil people who died defiantly unrepentant of their sins given a second chance in Hell so we could all enjoy their company in Heaven?

I can’t buy that God gives people amnesia about their loveds ones who are in hell.

Show me a teaching of the Church that says we get amnesia about loved ones who end up in Hell. Where did you get that idea?


You need to read the Great Divorce by CS Lewis. It will give you another perspective on those who choose hell over heaven. It’s a quick read, but very good.


Have you read von Balthasar’s book, Dare We Hope?
Sometimes people make choices, but they aren’t completely free - as in the choice to jump off a bridge when depressed, and in those cases we don’t have any problem interferring with their ‘free will’ and putting them in a hospital.
I don’t think there’s really any cut and dried answer to all of this. It has more to do with one’s experience of God, and there’s pros and cons on both sides of the argument.
Maybe I’m not fully allowing for a ‘No’ that is also fully free; maybe I’m always assuming that any ‘No’ that separates a creature from the creator is coming from some place of sin-sickness.
But I don’t want to go on debating.
I’ve asked God to clarify things for me and I’m also completely certain I don’t know all the answers either way, and that’s a place I’m OK to be in. Hope that makes some sort of sense.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.