Nobody wants to talk about hell because it’s a scary subject—eternal punishment!
Some people don’t believe hell exists. It most definitely does. Just ask Satan.
Some people don’t believe hell is eternal. It most definitely is. Just ask Satan.
Better yet, don’t contact Satan. Let’s see what our Lord and our God, Jesus Christ, had to say:
Matthew 25:41 – Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.
Matthew 25:46 – And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.
There it is—eternal punishment. You see, hell isn’t like a prison sentence where you would serve some number of years and then get out. There is no time in hell or in heaven to serve. Time is part of creation. Once we enter into eternity, we just are. No time passes because it doesn’t exist in eternity. It’s a difficult concept, because we are part of creation. In any case, once you are in hell—to borrow a lyric from The Eagles—you can check out any “time” you like but you can never leave. Eek!
Hell is something you need to consider seriously. One day you will die, and you don’t know when that day will come. We all would like to think we’re going to heaven, but, whether or not you would like to believe it, most people won’t.
Matthew 7:13-14 – Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction, and those who enter through it are many. How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life. And those who find it are few.
Do your best to make sure you are one of the few.
Now, you can’t blame God if you go to hell. He created us to spend eternity united with Him in heaven. He loves us beyond all understanding.
1 Timothy 2:4 – [God our savior] wills everyone to be saved and to come to knowledge of the truth.
1 John 4:8b – God is love.
Our problem is that we don’t love God back as He desires. How can I say that? Well, we sin. It’s that simple. What can we do? Repent. We hear that word, but what does it mean? Simply this: turn away from sin and turn to God. In other words—stop sinning! Do you remember the story of the adulteress? You can find it in the gospel according to John 8:3-11. A woman who was caught in adultery was brought to Jesus, and the people who brought her said she should be stoned to death according to the law, and they were preparing to do just that. Then Jesus said:
“Let him who is without sin among you cast the first stone.”
Everybody realized they had all sinned, so they dropped their stones and left. Jesus then told the adulteress:
“Go and sin no more.”
That’s what repent means. Go and sin no more.
I said earlier that we don’t love God back as he desires. The easiest way to start loving God better is to obey His commandments.
John 14:15 – If you love me, you will keep my commandments.
John 15:24a – Whoever does not love me does not keep my words.
Obedience = love. Disobedience ≠ love.
See Exodus 20:1-17 for the Ten Commandments.
Jesus’ two great commandments were to love God and love your neighbor.
Matthew 22:37 – You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.
John 13:34 – A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another as I have loved you.
To love God, love Him with all that you are. Give yourself completely to Him. Hold nothing back. As you would give yourself completely to your spouse, give even more so to God. To love your neighbor, treat Him as Jesus would. A good example of what to do can be found in the Judgment of Nations narrative:
Matthew 25:34-36 – Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.
For I was hungry and you gave me food,
I was thirsty and you gave me drink,
a stranger and you welcomed me,
naked and you clothed me,
ill and you cared for me,
in prison and you visited me.’
It makes sense. If you love God, you won’t sin against God. If you love your neighbor, you won’t sin against your neighbor. Ah, if only it were so easy. Unfortunately, because of the sin of Adam, we have what is called concupiscence, which is the tendency to sin. You will sin. I will sin. We all sin. But Jesus knew that although He would die for our sins, and by His resurrection bring us to new life, we would still sin. For our part, we must actually make a firm amendment of our lives not to sin again. That’s part of loving God. You don’t want to offend the ones you love, most especially God. For most of us, we will continue to commit grave sin from time to time. But Jesus, because of His great love for us, gave us the sacrament of confession (a.k.a. penance or reconciliation).
John 20:22-23 – And when [Jesus] had said this, He breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”
Forgiving sins is one of the powers of God.
Luke 5:21 – Then the scribes and Pharisees began to ask themselves, “Who is this who speaks blasphemies? Who but God alone can forgive sins?”
But when Jesus created His Church, He shared this power with His disciples. This ability to forgive did not die with the last apostle. The disciples handed on this power to forgive sins on behalf of God to the men that they ordained, and all those ordained to serve Jesus—the priests and bishops—share the power to forgive and will until the end of time. Remember, they can’t forgive or retain your sins unless they know what they are. That’s why you need to confess to a priest or bishop. Once you have been absolved of your sins, your soul is healed, no longer cut off from God, and you are as spiritually pure as a newly baptized babe. You receive sanctifying grace when you go to confession. That’s grace that makes you holy. Of course, for your confession to be valid, you must sincerely regret your sins, be firmly resolved not to sin again, and confess every grave sin you are aware of. If you’re not really sorry, if you have no plans to stop sinning, or if you hold back and don’t confess all your sins, you’re wasting your time and the priest’s time. Out of love, Jesus gave you this lifeline. Use it!
So what are some grave sins? Saint Paul tells us some: fornication (sex outside of marriage), adultery, sexual acts between people of the same sex, covetousness (inordinate desire for something that belongs to another), idolatry, slander, drunkenness, extortion (theft). See the first letter of Saint Paul to the Corinthians 5:11 and 6:9-10.
One thing that many Catholics don’t think is breaking a commandment is skipping mass on Sunday or a holy day of obligation. The commandment to keep the Lord’s day holy means go to mass. That’s how we keep it holy, and to skip mass is a mortal sin, which must be confessed. Some people scoff and think I skip mass once, and I’m going to hell? Well, if you knew it was a grave sin and you willfully did it anyway, then yes. You will have willfully disobeyed one of God’s commandments. That cuts you off from the life of God. That’s why mortal sins are called mortal—they are deadly sins. If you do not repent and confess, you will not have life in heaven. Those who resist this truth as well as other truths want things their way, not God’s way. They put themselves above God.
Isaiah 55:6-9 – Seek the LORD while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake their way, and sinners their thoughts; Let them turn to the LORD to find mercy; to our God, who is generous in forgiving. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways—oracle of the LORD. >>>For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, my thoughts higher than your thoughts.<<<
Additionally, don’t think that if you do all kinds of wonderful things like feeding the poor and your only sin is that you’re shacking up with someone, for example, that God will tell you, “oh, alright. Come on in. You’re doing good things.” It doesn’t work like that. God doesn’t use a balancing scale, more good than bad and you can enter heaven. Good works won’t get you past the pearly gates. It’s about love, which means obedience. If He says don’t do something, you don’t do it. If He says do something, you do it. Adam and Eve were kicked out of the Garden of Eden for eating the forbidden fruit. They disobeyed. They couldn’t say, “but it was just one bite!” Satan and the demons were once angels in heaven. They chose not to obey. Hell was then created for them, and humans who will not obey will share the same fate.
Matthew 25:41 – Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.
1 Corinthians 6:9a – Do you not know the unrighteous will not inherit the Kingdom of God?
Revelation 21:27 – Nothing unclean will enter heaven, nor anyone who does abominable things or tells lies.
You need to know that God is being very patient with you, but you don’t know when your time will be up, so stop sinning and start loving God now.
2 Peter 3:9 – The Lord does not delay his promise, as some regard “delay,” but he is patient with you, not wishing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.
Think of this: Jesus taught His disciples the Lord’s Prayer: Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed by thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven…. Now, do you think the will of God is for you to sin? No. Repent, yes, but sin, no.
Most people don’t think about this, but God doesn’t condemn a person to hell. That person, by his own free will, condemns himself. If a person does not repent or convert or if he willfully rejects God altogether, God is not going to force that person into heaven against his will. If an unrepentant sinner were brought into heaven, he would suffer more greatly than if he had gone to hell, because he would know what his life had been like, his sins would be known to him, and he would find it absolutely intolerable to stand in the presence of the glory of God. Hell is merciful.
So it comes down to this: don’t sin. Love God first first by obeying Him. People hate the word obey these days, but just as parents lay down rules for their children for their good, so God lays down rules for us for our infinite and eternal good. Take time to learn the Catholic faith well. The more you do, the more you will love. The more you love, the less desire you will have to offend your heavenly Father (i.e. to sin).
Get on that narrow path and stick with it. Eternity basking in the infinite love of God is worth it. Eternity with an absolute lack of love, an everlasting hatred of self, of God, and of everything else (there is no love in hell) is not worth any sin.