Lesson 47 – Hell


(The Hell There Is)


Peace be to you.



In this lesson we are going to give you hell – I mean, the subject of hell.  Few today believe in neither the devil nor in hell. Why do they not believe in the devil when there are so many devilish things about? The Communists have tried to convince us that there is no God. Actually, they have not convinced us of that, but they have convinced us there is a devil.


We cannot explain all the evil in the world today, if we are going to deny the evil one, and that was the kind of question that Trench proposed in a very interesting little poem.


  • Men don’t believe in a devil now as their fathers used to do. They force the door of the broadest creed to let his majesty through. There isn’t a print of his cloven foot, or a fiery dart from his bow be found in earth or air today, for the world has voted so. But who is mixing the fatal draught that palsies heart and brain and loads the earth of each passing year with ten hundred thousands slain? Who blights the bloom of the land today with the fiery breath of hell? If the devil isn’t and never was, won’t somebody rise and tell? Who dogs the steps of the toiling saint and digs the pit for his feet? Who sows the tears in the field of time wherever God sows His Wheat? The devil is voted not to be and, of course, the thing is true. But who is doing the kind of work the devil alone should do? We are told he does not go about as a roaring lion now. But whom shall we hold responsible for the everlasting row to be heard in home, in Church, in state, to the earth’s remotest bound, if the devil, by unanimous vote, is nowhere to be found? Won’t somebody step to the front forthwith and make his bow and show how the frauds and the crimes of the day spring up, for surely we want to know? The devil was fairly voted out and, of course, the devil is gone. But simple people would like to know, who carries his business on?’ 


And just as they deny the devil, naturally, they deny hell because they deny the Justice of God, because  they deny the existence of guilt and of sin.

The basic reason why so many moderns disbelieve in hell is because they disbelieve in freedom and responsibility.

  • The existence of hell is one of the strongest arguments in the world for the reality of freedom. God allows us free choice, and He allows us to have our choice to Eternity. To disbelieve in hell is to assert  that the consequences of  good and bad acts are not indifferen It does make a tremendous amount of difference whether you eat TNT or drink tea, and it makes a greater difference if your soul drinks virtue or vice.


It is just as difficult to make a free nation without judges and prisons as it is to make a free world without judgment and hell. No state constitution could exist for six months on the basis of that liberal Christianity which denies that Christ meant what He said when He said, “Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels.” (Matthew 25:41)


Have you ever noticed that saints fear hell but never deny it, and that great sinners deny hell but do not fear it, at least for the moment?  The devil is never so strong as when he gets a man to deny there is a devil. The modern man who is not living according to his conscience wants a religion without a Cross, a Christ without a Calvary, a kingdom without justice, and in his church a soft being who never mentions hell to ears polite, and that is modern Christianity.


“Just suppose there were no heavenly judge..”

Why is it that we all praise men for making decision as to whether they will invest in this farm or in that industry, and at the same time refuse to give them credit to decide whether they will go to heaven or hell for all eternity?  Just suppose there was no heavenly judge; suppose there were no heavenly ledger which recorded our deeds and our sins. Suppose we had no conscience to divulge right and wrong, no memory to record our crimes and our sins, and suppose there were no formal sentence of a judge. Would there not be still something left within us pointing to a destiny according to the way we lived, I mean, our passions, dreads, melancholies, fears? Here is a secret world which burns inside. It comes out in curious ways. Why is there so much mental distress if there is not already a hell within people? 

“…own inner hell.”

  • Seeds that are buried seek light. Trees in a dense forest mount to absorb the light. Shells in sea creep to the shore. A piece of glass in the body works its way out. Murder returns to the scene of his crime, for murder will out. All these unholy deeds are poured out to a psychoanalyst, and along with them all the world woes and worries and wounds that are troubling them on the inside. If the stomach cannot keep poison food in it, shall not the poisoned mind vomit the filth that is already in it, and thus, even though they deny God and judgment, they are attesting to it by the effects of their own lives.
  • Their burdened conscience cannot escape reaping of judgment on its own excesses and torturing itself with its own inner hell.


Those who have denied the fruit of love see, as it were, the children at windowpanes looking in, denied wombs and bosoms, and then there is all the distractions and worries, nights and fears of those who are conscious of their own sins, or as a poet has put it, “even an atheist is half afraid in the dark”. All those in this world who are in a state of Grace have within themselves the seed of Glory, and so those who are within a state of mortal sin, even though they deny God, have within themselves the seed of hell.


Hell begins here; so does heaven, but heaven does not end here; neither does hell.  We need only read modern literature to see how hell is moved on the inside because people have denied it on the outside. It has become even more real than it was before.


Our Blessed Lord spoke fifteen times of hell. Eleven times He mentioned eternal fire; thirty times in the New Testament eternal fire is mentioned. There is no doubt about what our Blessed Lord said. For example, “Fear ye not them that kill the body and are not able to kill the soul, but rather fear him that can destroy body and soul into hell.” (Matthew 10:28) And again our Lord said, “Woe to you Scribes, Pharisees, hypocrites, you serpents, generations of vipers.  How will you flee the wrath of hell?” Our Blessed Lord often described it as the place where the worm dieth not and the fire is not extinguished. (Mark 9:48) Ordinarily on this earth the worm feeds on a decaying body and then dies. On this earth fire consumes fuel and dies. But our Lord is here speaking, the worm that never dies, and the fire that never goes out.”  That worm that never dies is the memory of the past; ‘tis always gnawing the conscience of the impenitent.’


Two kinds and two elements of destruction:

Our Lord therefore implied two kinds and two elements of destruction:

  • the internal corruption, the worm;
  • and the external consuming force which is the fire. Maybe these fires are lighted already in this life by that knowing conscience for having rejected God’s love. As the poet Yeats (William Butler Yeats – Two Songs From A Play) put it, “Whatever flames upon the night my own resinous heart has fed.” And how true that is as each one is locked in his own uniqueness. And Shelly, who knew well this inner hell, described it,“And conscience, that undying serpent, calls her venomous brood to their nocturnal task. The worm dieth.”  (Percy Bysshe Shelly – Queen Mab)


Well, we may ask, why should God not warn us?  What good would another warning do?  That was what the rich man asked.  Remember, in the parable of the rich man and the poor beggar Lazarus? He asked that someone go back to tell his brothers about how much he was suffering in hell. (Luke 16: 27-28) Now suppose God had granted the request and sent Lazarus back to his five brothers and they recognized him. Do you think that would change them?  They would probably demand proof that he had really lived and died and visited the region of the departing soul. The point is that judgment and hell are things of Faith, not of sight.

  • If the Risen Christ is no proof to the senses, much less can anyone risen from the dead be a convincing witness and warning to us. If the Resurrection of Christ would not convince those who saw it, the resurrection of a dead man who came from hell will not. If a messenger came back from the rich man, the brothers would probably have tried to kill him, just as the Pharisees tried to kill the Lazarus that our Blessed Lord rose from the dead.


Why do souls go, then, to hell?  They go to hell simply because they refuse to love; that’s the only reason. A young man loves a young woman, he gives her gifts, he is faithful to her, generous and kind. She is disloyal, takes gifts, is traitorous. And after being deceived a thousand times, he still continues to love her, but eventually there comes a moment when he will say, “All right, I am through now.  Love is finished.” And so, too, God, the Hound of Heaven, pursues us all during life, inviting us to His kingdom, bidding us sit down at the banquet of the Eucharist, fortifying us with His Grace in the Sacraments, and we reject, we betray, we are disloyal. We refuse to love and eventually, when death comes, then our life is sealed and that kind of love does not come back. Love is eternal, therefore, and so is hell. 


  • What is the one thing that Love cannot forgive, can never forgive? It is hate. What is the one thing that life can never forgive? It is death. Why?  Because death would mean its destruction.What is the one thing Truth can never forgive? Error. And the refusal to love is eternal.


What is the punishment like? Well, the punishment is two fold, because there is a double character to sin.

  • Whenever we commit a serious sin, there is, first of all, a turning away from God.
  • Secondly, there is a turning to creature.

Take, for example, alcoholism, obviously, a turning away from God, repudiation of the reason He is given to us, and secondly, there is the turning to creatures, namely, to alcohol. It is fitting, therefore, that there be a double punishment; a punishment corresponding to turning away from God, which is the pain of loss, which is the most terrible of  all pains because that is the loss of  God Himself. And then there is the pain of sense. We are punished by the very creatures which we abuse.


The pain of loss

Now take, for example, that pain of loss. The soul, in this life and during it, refuses to love God and no longer responds to His Love, just as a magnet cannot have any influence on wood. It never thought of God; in fact, it rejected all of His Mercies. But when death comes, the soul cannot do without God any longer. It’s thrown back on its need for God, but God is not there. It is just as if one had been playing “blind-man’s buff”, and he takes off the hankerchief and he discovers he’s gone blind. The godless universe it has made persists, and the soul knows that it cannot be happy without Life and Truth and Love, and yet it has eternally rejected those, and that – that is the pain of loss, that is hell.


Now take the pain of sense.  An alcoholic abuses alcohol, and if alcohol were endowed with consciousness, it would say to the drunken man, “I was made by God to be used rationally and with sobriety. You have abused me; I, therefore, will turn against you.”  Then there comes the slavery of the excesses and also the hangover which are punishments, as it were, that came from alcohol itself. Hence, there will be different kinds of punishment in hell. The fiercer the grip pleasures had on us in this life, the more fierce the fires of the torment in eternity.


Here are three brief and quick ways of describing hell from our own human experiences.

  • First, hell is the hatred of things you love. The sailor lost on a raft at sea loves water; he was made for it and water was made for him. He knows that he ought not to drink the water from the sea, but he does. Now, in like manner, the soul was made to live on the Love of God, but if a soul perverts that Love by salting it with sin, then as the sailor hates the very water he drinks, so the soul hates the perverted love it seeks. Just as the sailor becomes mad because he wants water and cannot do without it, so, too, the soul in hell wants Love and yet that Love has been refused and salted with rejection. The wicked do not want hell because they enjoy its torments. They want hell because they do not want God. Hell is eternal suicide for hating Love.


  • The second fact is this: hell is the mind eternally mad at itself for wounding Love. How often during life you said, “I hate myself for doing that,” and you hated yourself most when you hurt someone that you loved. Now the souls in hell hate themselves most for wounding Perfect Love, just as you hurt someone whom you love. They can never forgive themselves for that; hence, their hell is eternal – eternal, self-imposed unforgiveness. It is not that God would not forgive them; it is rather that they will not forgive themselves.


  • And finally, hell is submission to love under Justice. We are free in this world. We can be no more forced to love God than we can be forced to love classical music or antiques. Now it happens in this life very often that souls fall out of love. Many a wife is tied to a drunkard or a worthless husband until death do them part. They do not freely love one another, but they are forced in virtue of the justice of their contract to love one another until death do them part, and to be forced to love anyone is hell.


The lost souls could have loved God freely, but they chose to rebel against that Love, and in doing so, they came under Divine Justice, as a criminal falls from the love of country to its justice. Justice forces the souls in hell, as it were, to love God, that is, to submit to His divine order.  But to be forced to love is the negation of love. That is hell.


  • Do not think that if that soul went to heaven it would be happy. Suppose that you hated mathematics, and you had to spend your whole life with mathematicians, and that every time you picked up a newspaper or spoke to a friend they were talking about logarithms and algebra. That would be a hell for you. Well, suppose you hated Perfect Life and Truth and Love, which is God and His Revelation in Christ, our Lord, and you were forced to live with Perfect Life and Truth and Why, that would be a hell for you, a greater hell than the one you have. Do not think that God is angry because He sentences us to hell.
  • Remember this:  the sun which shines on wax  softens it. The sun which shines on mud hardens it. There is no difference in the sun but only in that upon which it shines.
  • So, too, the Love of God shining on a soul that loves Him turns to heaven, and the Love of God shining on a soul that hates Him turns to hell.
  • Hell is a place where there is no Love. Could anything be worse?!


God love you.

1. In today’s lesson on – Hell what stood out the most to you?



2. Why do you think Bishop Sheen gave the subtitle “The Hell there is” to this lesson?



3. How would you explain to someone seeking a deeper understanding on the Church’s teaching on HELL.



4. Now that you have learned more about – HELL
what changes do you think this will have in your daily life?



1033. “We cannot be united with God unless we freely choose to love him. But we cannot love God if we sin gravely against him, against our neighbor or against ourselves: ‘He who does not love remains in death. Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.'[1Jn 3:14-15 .] Our Lord warns us that we shall be separated from him if we fail to meet the serious needs of the poor and the little ones who are his brethren.[Cf. Mt 25:31-46 .] 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.'”
(…as a consequence of the continual rejection of God)
1034. “Jesus often speaks of ‘Gehenna’ of ‘the unquenchable fire’ reserved for those who to the end of their lives refuse to believe and be converted, where both soul and body can be lost.[Cf. Mt 5:22, 29 ; Mt 10:28 ; Mt 13:42, 50 ; Mk 9:43-48 .] Jesus solemnly proclaims that he ‘will send his angels, and they will gather . . . all evil doers, and throw them into the furnace of fire,'[Mt 13:41-42 .] and that he will pronounce the condemnation: ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire!'[Mt 25:41 .]”
(… eternal separation from God as hell’s chief punishment)
1035. “The teaching of the Church affirms the existence of hell and its eternity. Immediately after death the souls of those who die in a state of mortal sin descend into hell, where they suffer the punishments of hell, ‘eternal fire.'[Cf. DS 76; 409; 411; 801; 858; 1002; 1351; 1575; Paul VI, CPG # 12.] 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.”
(The Church’s teaching on hell)
1036. “The affirmations of Sacred Scripture and the teachings of the Church on the subject of hell are a call to the responsibility incumbent upon man to make use of his freedom in view of his eternal destiny. They are at the same time an urgent call to conversion: ‘Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few.'[Mt 7:13-14 .] Since we know neither the day nor the hour, we should follow the advice of the Lord and watch constantly so that, when the single course of our earthly life is completed, we may merit to enter with him into the marriage feast and be numbered among the blessed, and not, like the wicked and slothful servants, be ordered to depart into the eternal fire, into the outer darkness where ‘men will weep and gnash their teeth.'[LG 48 # 3; Mt 22:13 ; cf. Heb 9:27 ; Mt 25:13, 26, 30, 31 46 .]”
(…as a free and willful turning away from God)
1037. “God predestines no one to go to hell;[Cf. Council of Orange II (529): DS 397; Council of Trent (1547):1567.] 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’:[2 Pet 3:9 .] 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.[Roman Missal, EP I (Roman Canon) 88.]”

(Mortal Sin as the cause of eternal death)
1861. “Mortal sin is a radical possibility of human freedom, as is love itself. It results in the loss of charity and the privation of sanctifying grace, that is, of the state of grace. If it is not redeemed by repentance and God’s forgiveness, it causes exclusion from Christ’s kingdom and the eternal death of hell, for our freedom has the power to make choices for ever, with no turning back. However, although we can judge that an act is in itself a grave offense, we must entrust judgment of persons to the justice and mercy of God. ”

(FALL – cause and orgin of the fall of the angels)
391. “Behind the disobedient choice of our first parents lurks a seductive voice, opposed to God, which makes them fall into death out of envy.[Cf. Gen 3:1-5 ; Wis 2:24 .] Scripture and the Church’s Tradition see in this being a fallen angel, called ‘Satan’ or the ‘devil’.[Cf Jn 8:44 ; Rev 12:9.] The Church teaches that Satan was at first a good angel, made by God: ‘The devil and the other demons were indeed created naturally good by God, but they became evil by their own doing.'[Lateran Council IV (1215): DS 800.]”
392. “Scripture speaks of a sin of these angels.[Cf. 2 Pet 2:4 .] This ‘fall’ consists in the free choice of these created spirits, who radically and irrevocably rejected God and his reign. We find a reflection of that rebellion in the tempter’s words to our first parents: ‘You will be like God.'[Gen 3:5 .] The devil ‘has sinned from the beginning’; he is ‘a liar and the father of lies’.[1Jn 3:8 ; Jn 8:44.]”
393. “It is the irrevocable character of their choice, and not a defect in the infinite divine mercy, that makes the angels’ sin unforgivable. ‘There is no repentance for the angels after their fall, just as there is no repentance for men after death.'[St. John Damascene, Defide orth. 2, 4: PG 94, 877.]”
394. “Scripture witnesses to the disastrous influence of the one Jesus calls ‘a murderer from the beginning’, who would even try to divert Jesus from the mission received from his Father.[Jn 8:44 ; cf. Mt 4:1-11 .] ‘The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.'[1Jn 3:8 .] In its consequences the gravest of these works was the mendacious seduction that led man to disobey God.”
395. “The power of Satan is, nonetheless, not infinite. He is only a creature, powerful from the fact that he is pure spirit, but still a creature. He cannot prevent the building up of God’s reign. Although Satan may act in the world out of hatred for God and his kingdom in Christ Jesus, and although his action may cause grave injuries – of a spiritual nature and, indirectly, even of a physical nature- to each man and to society, the action is permitted by divine providence which with strength and gentleness guides human and cosmic history. It is a great mystery that providence should permit diabolical activity, but ‘we know that in everything God works for good with those who love him.'[Rom 8:28 .]”
The Church- foreshadowed from the world’s beginning
760. “Christians of the first centuries said, ‘The world was created for the sake of the Church.'[Pastor Hermae, Vision 2, 4, 1: PG 2,899; cf. Aristides, Apol. 16, 6; St. Justin, Apol. 2,7: PG 6, 456; Tertullian, Apol. 31, 3; 32, 1: PL 1, 508-509.] God created the world for the sake of communion with his divine life, a communion brought about by the ‘convocation’ of men in Christ, and this ‘convocation’ is the Church. The Church is the goal of all things,[Cf. St. Epiphanius, Panarion 1, 1, 5: PG 41, 181C.] and God permitted such painful upheavals as the angels’ fall and man’s sin only as occasions and means for displaying all the power of his arm and the whole measure of the love he wanted to give the world: Just as God’s will is creation and is called ‘the world,’ so his intention is the salvation of men, and it is called ‘the Church.'[Clement of Alex., Paed. 1, 6, 27: PG 8, 281.]”

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