Jesus, Who loves you, warned of Hell – A Catalogue of Jesus’ Warning texts.

jm_200_NT2.pd-P20.tiffMany people today put Hell in opposition to the love of God. But Jesus combines them. Here is an important truth: No one loves you more than Jesus Christ. And yet, no one spoke of or taught on Hell and Judgment more than Jesus Christ. There is from him, warning after warning, parable after parable, that speak and warn, even shout judgment and the reality of Hell.

No “heresy” of our day is more widespread or pernicious that the “heresy” that denies hell and the proclaimed truth of its existence and sad its frequency. I say “heresy” in quotes only because I, as a simple priest, do not have the power to declare formal heresy. However, “heresy” in the broader and descriptive sense means simply to pick and choose among reveled truth. The “heretic” confronted with truths that are in some some tension (such as God’s Justice and mercy or human freedom and God’s sovereignty) choose one and throw out the other to resolve the tension. Orthodoxy says “both” but heresy picks one and discards the other.

And thus, in teaching on Hell and judgment, the modern and heretical, mindset cannot reconcile the mercy and love of God with the reality of Hell, and eternal separation from God.

And yet, the Lord of Love, Jesus, spoke of these more than any other. The problem is in us, not in Jesus, not in the Father. The problem is in us.

We simply refuse, in this modern age, to obey what is taught and to accept that we, who are free, make choices that ultimately matter. We have been bewitched by the fairy tale ending that “everyone lived happily ever after.” We are convinced that it must be so and deny that our choices build to constitute our character, and that our character ushers in our chosen destiny. We refuse to take responsibility for the fact that we make choices that build and will one day never be renounced by us. Instead we blame God and call him (who sent his own Son to save us) the bad one, and responsible party when it comes to Hell.

Meanwhile God is pleading, “Come to me, come to me before it is finally time to rise and close the door!”

Bottom line: either God is Love and we are free to choose him or not, in our own act of Love, or God is a slave driver and, no matter what, what have to go to his heaven and live with Him for ever. In other words, freedom means choice, and choice permits the “no” to God. And thus there is hell.

We need to be sober about this. Jesus was. And he warned, and warned, and warned; he pleaded and pleaded. He knows whereof we are made and how stubborn and stiff-necked we are, that we don’t like being told what to do. Yes Jesus sadly observed that many, indeed “most” prefer reigning to Hell to serving in Heaven (cf Matt 7:13 inter al).

We must overcome our smug presumption that salvation is a done deal and hear again the pleading in love of our Messiah and Lord, Jesus. We must allow him to warn us in love, we must allow him to ignite holy fear, and, if necessary even servile fear, in order to sober us and draw us to be serious about the work necessary to save us.

In service of this plea, I want to present in one place a kind of compendium or collection of “warning texts” as a sort of antidote to the heresy of modern times that denies the reality and possibility of Hell. As I hope this document will show, those who deny Hell, or its possibility must reject a huge number of Biblical texts to do so.

The texts that follow are only some of the texts that could be quoted. I encourage you dear reader to add to the list I have compiled and abbreviated for space. I will publish a final version after you have added to it.

But please, let us all realize this rock bottom truth: No one loves you more than Jesus. Yet no one warned of Judgment and Hell more than Jesus, no one. Allow the Lord to wed these ideas in your mind. Softly and tenderly Jesus is calling, calling, O Sinner, come home! Do not buy into the modern “heresy” of universal salvation. Jesus did not teach this, neither did the Apostles, his appointed spokesmen and successors in ministry. Do not overrule or correct Jesus. Just accept what he taught and listen in love and faith. Hell is real, we need a savior. But he needs our yes.

Here then are many texts, not all, that warn of Hell, form God’ word. Most of them right from the mouth of Jesus. [Please note: I have attached these quotes in PDF format for your convenience here: Texts on Hell and Judgment]

Texts on Hell and Judgment

Here are just two Old Testament Texts that serve as an example of the prophetic tradition into which Jesus will draw.

 Is 35:8 And a highway will be there; it will be called the Way of Holiness; it will be for those who walk on that Way. The unclean will not journey on it; wicked fools will not go about on it.

Is 66:24And they will go out and look on the dead bodies of those who rebelled against me; the worms that eat them will not die, the fire that burns them will not be quenched, and they will be loathsome to all mankind.

Matt 3:12His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.It is John the Baptist who speaks here.

Matt 5:22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.  Yes, even unrighteous anger, unrepeated of can bring forth hell. We tend to justify our anger. Pay attention, God does not and warns that we cannot cling to it and walk into heaven.

Matt 5:29 If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. We make light of sin, but the Lord does not. What he is saying here is not to mutilate ourselves, but, rather, that it is more serious to sin than to lose our eye, or foot or hand. We do not think this way. But God does and warns us that our most serious problem is not our physical health or finances or any other passing problem. Our most serious problem is our sin.

Matt 6:14-15 For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. A pretty clear waring here that we must allow God to give us the give of mercy and forgiveness or we cannot enter heaven. Blessed are the merciful, for (only they) will obtain mercy.

Matt 7: 13 Jesus said, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. Do you see this? More are lost than are saved. A mysterious text in terms of its sweeping quality – why would God permit this? But it is a text that is pretty plain in its meaning – most are lost! Hear Jesus’ pleading here and be sober about how stubborn and stiff-necked we can be!

Matt 10:28 Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Jesus is talking about himself here and calling us to a holy fear.

Matt 11:23 And you, Capernaum! You won’t be lifted up to heaven, will you? You’ll go down to Hell! Because if the miracles that happened in you had taken place in Sodom, it would have remained to this day. Don’t think that because you’re a member of “the club” you’re in. Indeed, for those who have heard and seen,  more is required, not less.

Matt 12:36 But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned. Yes, even the gossip we make light of will be required of us. Lord have mercy!

Matt 13: 24-30 Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away.  When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared. “The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’ “ ‘An enemy did this,’ he replied. “The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’  ‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them “Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’ ” So there is a day of judgment, not now, but it will come.

Matt 22:1-14 The Parable of the Wedding Banquet –  Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying: “The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come. “Then he sent some more servants and said, ‘Tell those who have been invited that I have prepared my dinner: My oxen and fattened cattle have been butchered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet.’ “But they paid no attention and went off—one to his field, another to his business. The rest seized his servants, mistreated them and killed them. The king was enraged. He sent his army and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. “Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. So go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.’ So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, the bad as well as the good, and the wedding hall was filled with guests. “But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. He asked, ‘How did you get in here without wedding clothes, friend?’ The man was speechless. “Then the king told the attendants, ‘Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ “For many are invited, but few are chosen.” A Shocking parable who, in the end accepts the “no” of the invited guests. As for the wedding garment, remember, it is provided by God (cf Rev 19:8). Thus the refusal to wear the robe of righteousness is on us, not on God.

Matt 23:33 You serpents, you brood of vipers, how will you escape the sentence of hell?

Matt 24:36-51 The Day and Hour UnknownBut about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left. “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him. “Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household to give them their food at the proper time? It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns. Truly I tell you, he will put him in charge of all his possessions. But suppose that servant is wicked and says to himself, ‘My master is staying away a long time,’ and he then begins to beat his fellow servants and to eat and drink with drunkards. The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Beware of presumption and making light of sin!

Matt 25:1-13The Parable of the Ten VirginsAt that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. The wise ones, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep. “At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’ “Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’ “ ‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’ “But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut. “Later the others also came. ‘Lord, Lord,’ they said, ‘open the door for us!’ “But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.’ “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour. The groom delays, but not forever!

Matt 25:26-30 Parable of the talents – Conclusion  “His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest. “ ‘So take the bag of gold from him and give it to the one who has ten bags. For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.We will reckon for what we have done and failed to do with our gifts.

Matt 25:41-46 Sheep and Goats – Conclusion   “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’ “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” Reward or loss, you decide.

Mark 9:42 – 48 Giving ScandalIf anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them if a large millstone were hung around their neck and they were thrown into the sea. If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out. And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than to have two feet and be thrown into hell. And  if your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell, where “ ‘the worms that eat them do not die, and the fire is not quenched.’ Those who lead others to sin are going to have to answer to Jesus for what they have done. Do not doubt this. Pray that all repent prior to the day of reckoning! 

Luke 8:17 For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open. You can’t hide from God.

Luke 12:42Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom the master puts in charge of his servants to give them their food allowance at the proper time? It will be good for that servant whom the master finds doing so when he returns. I tell you, he will put him in charge of all his possessions. But suppose the servant says to himself, ‘My master is taking a long time in coming,’ and he then begins to beat the other servants, both men and women, and to eat and drink and get drunk. The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the unbelievers. Against presumption

Luke 13:22-30 Then Jesus went through the towns and villages, teaching as he made his way to Jerusalem. Someone asked him, “Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?” He said to them, “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to. Once the owner of the house gets up and closes the door, you will stand outside knocking and pleading, ‘Sir, open the door for us.’ “But he will answer, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from.’ “Then you will say, ‘We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.’ “But he will reply, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from. Away from me, all you evildoers!’  “There will be weeping there, and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but you yourselves thrown out. People will come from east and west and north and south, and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God. Indeed there are those who are last who will be first, and first who will be last.” Hell an exclusion are quite real. Jesus is pointing to fear here. Some call fear “unhealthy,” but Jesus is willing to use it if it will shake you and me up and bring forth repentance.

Luke 16:19-31 Lazarus and Dives –  “There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores. “The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. In Hell, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’ “But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’ “He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my family, for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’ “Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’ “ ‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’ “He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’ Contempt and indifference toward the poor is a damnable sin. Note too, the rich man does not change after death. He is locked into his patterns. He does not ask to come to heaven, he wants Lazarus sent to Hell. He still does not regard the dignity of Lazarus, he still sees him as an errand boy. The Rich man, after death is miserable, but cannot and will not change. Here is a teaching on our fixed character after death which explains why Hell is eternal, we will never change.

John 12:48-50  If anyone hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge that person. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world. There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; the very words I have spoken will condemn them at the last day. For I did not speak on my own, but the Father who sent me commanded me to say all that I have spoken. I know that his command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say.Hence we, in effect bring judgment on ourselves. We might wish to blame God. But, at the end of the day, we show, by our own disposition that we are not apt for heaven and would not be happy there at all, since it is the full realization of many things we either detest or scoff at, such as love of the poor, love of and forgiveness of enemies, chasity, worship of God, and so forth.

Rev 22:12-16  “Look, I am coming soon! Says the Lord. My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End. “Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city. Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.  “I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.” Jesus speaks here in vivid terms of sinners as dogs and cowards. Pay attention. The “Mister Rogers” version of Jesus, the harmless Hippie Jesus, in not the Jesus of Scripture.

Jesus commissioned the Apostles to preach, teach, govern and sanctify in His name, and thus, in hearing them in the following quotes, we hear Jesus.

Heb 12:14 Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. Only those open to God making them holy can endure the bright lights of the Kingdom of God.

Heb 13:4 Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral. Pay attention modern age that has shredded marriage at every turn.

James 2:12-13 Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment. Help us to show mercy Lord, for the measure we measure to others will be measured back to us.

Romans 2:3-11  Do you think you will escape God’s judgment? Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance? But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed. God “will repay each person according to what they have done.” To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; but glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For God does not show favoritism. Judged by deeds, not by prerogatives or by being better than someone else.

1 Cor 6:9 Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men. Let us be clear, though the modern world makes light of sexual sins, God does not and warns that these sins render us incapable of bright lights of heaven since we “prefer the darkness (cf John 3:18)

1 Cor 9: 26-27 Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air.  No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize. If even Paul realized he had to be sober, why not us?

Phil 2:12 Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and tremblingSome call fear unhealthy, God is willing to appeal to it.

Gal 5:19-21 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. Not inherit heaven = will go to Hell

Eph 5:3-7 But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a person is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. Therefore do not be partners with them. Once again, sexual sin, which many make light of, God says excludes us from the Kingdom of God, i.e. we go to Hell if we die unrepentant since we, preferring the darkness cannot stand the light.

55 Replies to “Jesus, Who loves you, warned of Hell – A Catalogue of Jesus’ Warning texts.”

  1. Thank you for bringing the real Jesus forward. He requires much of us, it is true. But the required things are naturally healthy and good. When we try and live as He commanded us to, we are basically living our full human and humane potential. Why we must fight and deny it so vigorously is quite beyond me.

  2. Wow!! Thank you for this piece, Monsignor! I am printing this for my family to read, and as a reminder to myself that “sin” is my #1 problem!!

  3. It’s so wonderful to hear from a priest who is not afraid to speak truth!

  4. Thank you, Msgr.

    It is tough to rationalize away sin after reading this!

  5. Maybe the trouble that evangelicals/protestants/etc. have with John Chapter 6 is analogous to the trouble that many Catholics have with Jesus’ teaching on hell. A third of the angels fell and they are by nature more insightful than we are, so it makes sense that, percentage-wise, we probably won’t do as well as they did. Even the damned in hell experience the love of God, as God preserves them in existence. Maybe, the glory known by the the few who are saved so far exceeds the misery of the many who are damned that it makes sense.

  6. I just watched an animated movie depicting Dante’s inferno. Even though they took some license. It was sobering to imagine it.


    “Is 35:8 And a highway will be there; it will be called the Way of Holiness; it will be for those who walk on that Way. The unclean will not journey on it; wicked fools will not go about on it.”

    The Church is the Holy Way described by Isaiah(Isa. 35:8;54:13-17) as seen in Acts of the Apostles (Acts. 9:2; 22:4; 24:14,22) where fools will not err by following its path.

  7. The idea that love requires “nice” is a uniquely modern perspective. You know . . . love means never having to say you are sorry.

    It seems that for some, we need to believe certain things, even against the clearly available evidence. This is what happens when immanentism, the God within, replaces transcendence. An false, inward focus on God leads to all manner of heresy.

    As you said Father, when “my” feelings and needs trump divine revelation, any heresy is possible. We need to understand this phenomenon as an historical reality, as a primary foundation of heresy. When we ignore divine revelation, we do so at our own, and others, peril.

  8. Great post, Msgr. It reminds me of a gripping book on the topic that you commented on some time back, Ralph Martin’s “Will Many Be Saved?” Anyone who–has sufficient theological “savvy”–but dismisses your thesis, I would like to see closely read and refute Martin’s work.

  9. One thing that distorts understanding of hell in the common, or folklore, assessment of it is a portrayal that I have observed in entertainment since I was a child in the 1960’s. So often it is portrayed like the pagan Greek Tartarus with satan acting in a role strikingly like Hades, who was one of the pagan pantheon, and apparently eager to do God’s will; at least as displayed by his actions of calculating appropriate “penances”
    Once confusion is settled firmly into the psyche then it is a lot harder to remove than it was to create. Seems like stirring a bit of muck (off barn floor) into a larger quantity of good food. Hard to get it out again so that health (physical or spiritual) can proceed.
    The only reference I’ve been able to find about the role of demons in hell is in the Apocolypse of Peter where demons will be permitted to savagely rend unrepentant sinners in the gratification of their hatred of us. That is, before they get their punishment. So, I ask myself, is the demons’ hatred of us like the “older sibling jealousy” that a miffed first-born sometimes feels?

  10. “Judged by deeds, not by prerogatives or by being better than someone else.”

    I am always thinking and wondering about how much who we truly are is determined by what we actually do. What we actually do, our acts, rather than our wishful thoughts.

    Thank you Msgr. Pope.

  11. This subject has been on my mind so much lately. I see it all around me, even among the good and very devout: the simple refusal to believe in hell. I’ve asked holy people – do you believe in hell and that souls go there? They admit of a hell where the fallen angels dwell, but the idea that people may be there sends them squirming. I read them passage after passage, having already compiled my own list, and yet the remarkable denial remains. I’m astonished that even holy persons cannot accept this fundamental teaching of Christ. It is though everyone has been bewitched. It’s startling, really. Or maybe it is I who am deceived, and they carry the bold hope that “all shall be saved.”

    1. Why do you call them “holy?” I would think a truly holy person acknowledges the existence of hell and is truly saddened by those who die unrepentant. How else would a holy person become holy without acknowledging sin and its fulfilled negative effect (Hell)? And how could such a person (the one you call holy) help another to become holy without being able to admonish a sinner gently but firmly?

  12. How about these?
    Thessalonians 2:8-12
    Jude 5-7

    I was shocked when I came across so many who did not believe in the existence of Hell. I have no way to show them otherwise. They seem quite entrenched in their belief. Thanks for this post.

  13. Re “…the modern and heretical, mindset cannot reconcile the mercy and love of God with the reality of Hell,” there is an obvious reason for this. God is not merely omnipotent and omniscient. He is also omnibenevolent. Different cultures can agree on what omnipotence and omniscience mean, but “goodness” is based on morality, which changes with time and culture.

    God’s combination of immense cruelty (hell) with mercy and justice worked in the past (1st-late 17th centuries), because in the past, a ruler could be merciful, good, and wise, and still torture and kill criminals, heretics, and rebels. People of the past saw no contradiction in a merciful ruler who could order a traitor to be publicly disemboweled (or crucified, or burned at the stake, or beheaded, or impaled, etc. etc.).

    Times have changed. We don’t approve of torture, or of any “cruel or unusual” punishment. A ruler who tortures is a bad ruler; he can’t be good and wise. That turns the concept of an omnibenevolent ruler who tortures into the contradiction it was not in the past. By emphasizing hell today, you widen the disconnect between man and god, and you risk compromising god’s benevolence. That’s a huge risk to take.

    1. Sometimes, Jane, people need to be smacked upside the head (verbally, in this case). That’s what Christ did to Saul (now St. Paul), and that’s why He warned of Hell so many times in so many parables. The only real risk Msgr. runs is the risk of failing to truly follow Christ, Who, I might add, did NOT give an expiration date for His warnings. And if people are disconnected, maybe a good reality check will help to shorten the gap. I know it did for me.

      God bless!

  14. what is the official position of the church? Personally l believe in some form of punishment after death for sins committed, but for someone to lunguish in torment for eternity no, nadah.
    Unreedeming punishment serves no purpose.
    But l have to emphasise l believe in some form of purnishment and l think St Paul got it right in his letter to the Corinthians. we can all check it, 1Cor 3:10-15. and if l am noty misteken this is the official position of the church.
    we can check our catechism.

    1. The teaching of the Church, based on the revelation of Scripture is that once one enters Hell there is no return. It is an eternal state. But the eternity of hell is not due to God’s final refusal, but ours. Mysteriously, there comes a point when our choice for or against God and the values of the Kingdom of God (such as love of enemies, foreignness, chastity and so forth) becomes a permanent and final disposition by us. That is why hell is eternal.

      1. All criminals make a choice to break the law, so that fact changes little. All criminals, if caught, are punished. All cultures imprison certain criminals for long periods, and some still carry out executions. There are strict rules to punishment, however. The length/condition of imprisonment and execution must be reasonable/humane for the culture to be considered good. A crime must be grave enough to deserve long imprisonment or execution.

        Hell breaks all of our rules for good societies. The stay in hell is eternal. Conditions are not humane. A sexually active gay person may end up there, to be tortured eternally alongside Stalin, so the gravity of crime seems inadequate.

        This compromises God’s benevolence. Note that it did not do so in the past, when gays and adulterers could be executed alongside murderers and traitors. Today, some societies (Iran, Saudi Arabia) still behave in ways Christian societies did in the past. Such societies are considered foul by most, even by conservative Christians. What does this say about God and his hell?

        I’m agnostic. Our understanding of anything, including the nature of God (if there is one, lol), is imperfect. We have our own ever-changing way of defining what is good. Any God we believe in must reflect this changeable definition. You can provide quotes from a book written at a time when merciful earthly rulers also tortured as proof of hell. However, you, along with most decent people, would probably find an earthly ruler who uses torture today to be anything but merciful. THIS WAS NOT TRUE IN THE PAST.

        A God who diverges so far from our ideals of “good” is no longer good. A God who is not good is not worth worshiping.

        1. I don’t know what hell will be like, but it is a place for “UNREPENTED” person.
          People who go to hell are people who don give a $%#% about other people for they are addicted to their sins. They love sin and they celebrate sin. That’s their whole attitude.
          Jane, I think the best thing for you to do is not to play with God’s mercy. I will choose collective wisdoms anytime over your brain.
          Because God is much larger than your brain.
          A person who is in hell is a person who had rejected God’s mercy repeatedly on earth.
          A person who is in hell is a person who had rejected the Perfect God. And since that person has rejected the perfect God that person will go to the place where there is no God. He or she will go to the place of emptiness. He or she will go to the place of the PERFECT opposite.
          That’s my definition of hell. Hell is a place where there is no light, no warmth and no God.

          Jane, the time that God gave to you on earth shouldn’t be wasted on you judging God.

        2. @Jane: “We have our own ever-changing way of defining what is good. Any God we believe in must reflect this changeable definition.”:

          Divine revelation defines what is good. It is not our own definition. Having said that, our understanding can and must deepen over time, with prayer and reflection. But that search for a deeper understanding must never include the idea that our judgment is the ultimate source for the definition of what is good. Much human misery has come from this false idea.

          Catholics must re-learn, or learn for the first time, the ability to read and reflect on the words of sacred Scripture. The source of the truth is not within ourselves, as our culture has so cruelly told us; the Truth has been revealed to us through the Word of God.

          “A God who diverges so far from our ideals of ‘good’ is no longer good.”:

          It is not our ideals that are the ultimate standard of what is good . . . it is God’s ideals.

          1. TomD and Repent and Believe, clearly, there is now a disconnect between earthly and heavenly societies, earthly and godly ideals of goodness. Iran executes sexually active gays. Even you, I suspect, think that is bad. God torments sexually active gays in hell for all eternity. You believe that is good. There is a problem here aside from the fact that God is God. There was a time when an earthly kingdom was an imperfect mirror of God’s kingdom. Those days are clearly gone. No one, not even you, probably, would want to recreate social conditions that would make hell seem like a normal attribute of a good God, and churches are unwilling to interpret the character of their god in light of what we now recognize as good on earth. So God and man separate. It’s sad.

            I sincerely hope that you are completely certain about your path to heaven, and that you stray not one hairsbreadth from it, not even as the result of a well-intentioned accident. You do worship the Son of the Father who smote Uzzah. As the monsignor makes clear, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

          2. Jane, you are missing the point! The difference between earthly kings torturing people and Hell torturing people is the simple fact that people on earth are still worthy of God’s mercy and love until the day they die! We don’t want to kill or torture those who disobey God’s laws because we don’t know how God is working within them, and don’t want to rob those people of the opportunity of repentance! Only Hell is eternal, but sinners can change their minds on earth and is why we don’t believe in those kinds of cruelty. Christ warned us of Hell why commanding His followers to turn the other cheek and to spread his Gospel. He even stated that some who were the worst of sinners were entering Heaven because they repented and believed in Him!

            Finally, Hell is only eternal because at the moment of death, we make the final choice to reject God, and at death, that rejection becomes eternal. What is Hell truly? It is the absence of God! That alone is torture! And those in Hell would rather be there than be with God. We do not change in eternity: we merely become the perfect (or final) versions of our earthly selves when we die.

          3. @Jane: “God torments sexually active gays in hell for all eternity. You believe that is good.”

            No, actually, I don’t think it is “good.” May God have mercy on all of us. And hell is not a place that God sends us . . . and God does not torment anyone . . . we send ourselves there by our own actions and our refusal to repent and seek forgiveness.

            When God gave mankind freedom in the Garden of Eden, the ultimate form of love, that freedom came with conditions . . . more accurately, perhaps, human dignity calls us to exercise freedom in accordance with God’s plan.

            “I sincerely hope that you are completely certain about your path to heaven . . .”

            I believe that no one is ever completely certain of their own path to heaven, but God has given us guidance along that path, if we only listen to Him and follow Him.

  15. Not an easy subject to preach on but a necessary one, very necessary. Some pew- people don’t get it. They’ve been told a pack of lies since the 50s about, as you implied, that our spiritual life is like a Disney movie: Bad things happen but eventually we all “the get happily ever after” That is probably a major reason why there are so few in the pews who want to accept the reality of everlasting hell. We have been trained to accept what we see in movies and television for so long now that we equate it with reality. Very few movies, shows, etc. deal with the fact that in the end things can go really bad. When was the last time we saw a television or movie program that ended badly, with bad guys winning, or all the people dying? As a kid I recall seeing a made for television move starring Dick Van Dyke as a man who became an alcoholic and lost everything, and it ended with the main character on the street as an alcoholic. I was shocked yet also knew that’s exactly what can happen. That was one of the few shows I recall that dealt with the reality of the choices we make in life. And because we return time and time again to the same story line we expect life to be the same way, that I can do whatever I want with my sexual life, with my attitude towards the poor and immigrants, with manipulating and scamming in any way I way I can and still I will live happily ever after, that I will go to heaven because God is love and loves me. I can’t begin to tell you how many times people have said to me, “but I’m a good person. I never killed anyone,” as if killing would be the only reason to lose one’s immortal soul. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. The Blessed Virgin Mary said to the Fatima children that more people go to hell for sins against the flesh then for any other reason. And there are a whole heckuva lot of people sinning against the flesh these days. Not good. Let us pray.

    1. Didn’t i read somewhere that St Augustine said that sins of the flesh were the most easily forgiven by God because they are the most easily commited (something St. Augustine knew well from experience). Without wishing to contradict Our Lady, i wonder if what she means is that paradoxically although sins of the flesh are more easily forgiven by God people are generally more reluctant to repent about sins of the flesh preferring to label what the church calls sexual immorality, “sexual liberation and freedom” and thus creating a barrier betweens themselves and God’s willing mercy.

  16. Imagine that, a mention of hell! In all the Sunday and Holy Day sermons I’ve listened to since the eager embrace of new trends in theology by American priests in the late 1960s, I have scarcely ever heard a sermon that even mentioned the word “hell.”

    Does this lacuna have something to do with MichelleR’s reflection–that so few of our Catholic people even believe in the existence of hell? Cafeteria Catholicism isn’t simply about this controversial moral teaching or that liturgical practice. It’s about earth-shattering matters: failures of belief, failures of acceptance of the Church’s teaching authority. It’ll help matters if sermons get back to reality.

  17. Avery Cardinal Dulles has written an outstanding article entitled “The Population of Hell,” with many scriptural references, the history of the controversy through the ages and the modern positions of theologians. It is an outstanding read, which honors Church teaching. You’ll find it in the May 2003 issue of First Things, readily available via an internet search. I highly recommend it to everyone. To me it is very satisfying; indeed, one could call it a sort of “last word” on the summary and subject.

  18. Monsignor, in your past discussions of hell, you have taken the position that hell means “separation from God”, not real hell fire. Yet, the scriptural excerpts you cite above clearly refer to the fires of hell. Most of the Fathers and Doctors of the Church have taken the position that hell fire really is corporeal hell fire and not some metaphorical substitute.

    In light of the fact that you accept the Biblical teaching that hell exists, that it is eternal and that the eternal punishment results from peoples’ own choices, I am curious as to why you do not accept the Biblical teaching that hell means genuine hell fire.

    1. No, I don’t think I have taken the view that Hell = Separation form God. I think that is too simplistic a description of Hell. In some we cannot utterly be separated from God since He is existence itself. That said, God must surely permit some distance for those who do not seek or wish his presence. As for “fire” I do not exclude fire, only that we might wish to also see other images as valid too and accept that it might not be a “physical fire, per se, (for what harm does physical fire do to the souls already there who don’t even have their bodies yet)? I think we can thus be free to see the fire as real but also a fire having allegorical qualities, not merely physical ones, at least in the “current” conditions of Hell.

  19. A very powerful post, Monsignor. Thanks for the pdf file; I’ve saved it.

    Please double-check your fourth citation from the top. Matthew 5:22. Your comment reads, “Yes, even unrighteous anger, unrepeated of can bring forth hell …” Did you mean unrepeated of or unrepented of?

  20. Saint Alphonsus, Doctor of the Church, has some most interesting things to say about hell in his classic work Preparation for Death.

  21. Try reading Matthew 7:13-29 this way. Burning with unquenchable fire means destruction. The end. Dead and gone.
    That is to say it may not mean “eternal life in hell fire”. The idea that bad people will suffer forever in burning fire is not prominent in scripture. It is a pagan idea that preceded Jesus.
    Perhaps one problem people have with Christianity is that it has been so poorly presented by organized religion. This article is another example.

      1. “Perhaps one problem people have with Christianity is that it has been so poorly presented by organized religion. This article is another example.”

        I love it – criticism first but investigation later.

        Tim my friend, you need to open the Good Book and actually read it:

        “And many of those that sleep in the dust of the earth, shall awake: some unto life everlasting, and others unto reproach, TO SEE IT ALWAYS.” – Daniel 12:2

        Ah, amateur’s hour, indeed!

  22. How does the idea of “near death experiences” or “NDE’s by people who have them work in regards to God’s word or the Bible?

  23. Another question. What about all the books that have come out about the afterlife being real, which includes the best seller “Heaven Is For Real”, are they helpful in the spiritual/religious sense?

  24. Saint Alphonsus, Doctor of the Church, writes in his classic Preparation for Death that hell is eternal, that the damned are immersed in fire, stench, darkness, and blasphemies from the devils and the other lost souls, but the greatest suffering is the loss of God who offered them his everlasting love which they rejected.

  25. thank you for the post.
    I wonder: does it make sense to pray for someone who is likely in hell? do I waste my time if I pray for a non religious person who took his life?

  26. Was the richman (i.e. Divas) in hell or purgatory? Consider that he is concerned for the well being of his brothers. And he speaks respectfully to Father Abraham. Can a man have love and courtesy in Hell?

    1. A much debated point, sheol is ambiguous in a pre-ascension scenario, but consider the fixity of the abyss as Abraham describes it. Further, was sheol a place of fire, or just of sleep, further, as the rich man under sheol in terms of the limbo of the dead prior to the resurrection EVERYONE went there, thus, why worry if his brothers do? All of this tells me it is the Hell of damned from which he cries. As to your questions, we need not assume that the dead in Hell are unambiguously nasty and ill mannered. Why should we?

  27. I was raised as a Jehovah’s Witness and in my later teen years 17 or so i renounced it…..for a long time it left a bad taste in my mouth figurativley speaking. i was taught that the existence of hell didn’t exist. and they showed their “proof”. i have two huge questions that i need answered. the first is I am a homosexual man and have found faith in mylife as well does this contradict my beliefs at the church i go to? and is it enough to be a good moral man (i believe who i am is moral in regards to my homosexuality) and believe that he is my savior and live my life in his teachings for me to go to heaven?

  28. Msgr. Pope:

    You may remember that a few weeks ago, the second reading was from Rev 22:12-16

    But the pericope leaves out v. 15: “Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.”

    Why was that verse left out?

  29. Msgr. Pope:

    Thank you very much for your sobering, thought-provoking reflection. I am also thankful for the reader comments, particularly those expressing some skepticism, as dissent is helpful for sharpening one’s thinking. I’m wrestling with the implications of your reflection and if you have the time to reply, I would appreciate your thoughts concerning these questions:

    1. I’ve always found the “narrow gate” metaphor particularly troubling in its implication that most won’t merit heaven. How is this reconciled with the parable of the shepherd who leaves the flock to track down the one stray sheep?
    2. How do we reconcile everlasting punishment for most of humanity with an all-loving God?
    3. In some respects, does the concept of everlasting punishment in hell potentially cheapen the beautiful sacrament of Reconciliation by giving it an element of a “holy lottery ticket” — in the sense that if my fatal car accident occurs on the way home from confession I may have a very different eternal outcome than if the accident occurs on the way to confession?
    4. Where is Purgatory in all this? My understanding is that Purgatory is not biblical but is a teaching of the Church. What is the Church’s current stance on Purgatory and does this help reconcile some of the questions I raise above?

    Thanks again.

  30. It’s a bit strange commenting on a three year old post, but your clear and courageous teachings, compared to those of so many priests who only speak words people want to hear, move me to ask an important question. Based on the clear teachings of the Church on sin, hell, and purgatory, is it not reasonable to believe that many if not most of the worldly, “cultural” catholics who reject the catechism, do not pratice the sacraments, and live without God will go to hell? We can’t presume to know God’s judgement or somene else’s heart, but surely, these people are in a perpetual state of deadly sin and their ordinary good actions cannot redeem them — for instance, scriptures say even evil men love thier families. In the end, Jesus will be right, and few will enter because few follow the narrow path?

  31. Thanks for these good words and reminders. It would be nice to think that hell really does not exist but, as you point out, Jesus taught much about it.

    While it is true that there is a hell and that the majority of people will end up there, It is the righteousness of Jesus that will keep us from that terrible place – not our own righteousness. We have all committed some of the sins mentioned above. Even now, none of us has reached a state of sinless perfection. We continue to sin. The only reason God does not condemn us for these sins (even 1 sin is enough to condemn us) is that through the blood of Jesus all our sins have been forgiven, least, present, and future. This of course applies only to those who have trusted Christ and received His free gift of salvation.

Comments are closed.