Dear Neale...I am 46 years old and have serious spiritual beliefs which your CWG books have only complimented and confirmed. About a month ago, a long time friend revealed to me he had a Near Death Experience and was, in fact, in Hell for how long he couldn't tell. Neale, it scared me silly and I looked on the net and of course found many similar stories.
It seems to me to be a very serious mistake to make, eternity and all. Could you reassure me or point me to a specific conversation that will get me back on track to what I believed the first 45 yrs of my life, that GOD is just too loving to allow this eternal torture? I re-read the gospels and sure enough, Jesus mentioned Hell a lot more than I originally thought.
Love you brother...
My dear Andy...I am so sorry that so many religions teach of a place called "hell." The teaching has become so pervasive that yes, your friend and many millions of others on the planet — even those who do not believe in a place called hell — can create an experience of it in their minds. In a near death experience (and in actual death), we will often create what we are most afraid of.
Andy, rush, do not walk, to your nearest bookstore or your online internet retailer and acquire a copy of HOME WITH GOD in a Life That Never Ends. This book will answer your question directly, decisively, and dramatically. Do not fail to read it. Read it immediately.
The dialogue with God in this book makes it clear that there is no such place as hell. It also says that we can create a hell in our own imagination if we want to, and when we die we can even send ourselves there. But don't worry, we won't stay there for long. A simple desire to get out will get us out — because we are imagining the whole thing to begin with.
Read the book. It describes this whole scenario.
By the way, you may find it interesting to note that even a Pope has declared that there is no such place as hell.
During his weekly address to the general audience of 8,500 people at the Vatican on July 28, 1999, Pope John Paul II rejected the reality of a physical, literal hell as a place of eternal fire and torment. Rather, the pope said hell is separation, even in this life, from joyful communion with God.
According to an official Vatican transcript of the pope's speech, Pope John Paul II noted that the Scriptural references to hell and the images portrayed by Scripture are only symbolic and figurative of "the complete frustration and emptiness of life without God. "
He added, "Rather than a physical place, hell is the state of those who freely and definitively separate themselves from God, the source of all life and joy." He said hell is "a condition resulting from attitudes and actions which people adopt in this life."
Concerning the concept of eternal damnation, the pope said, "Damnation consists precisely in definitive separation from God, freely chosen by the human person, and confirmed with death that seals his choice for ever."
The pope also added, "The thought of hell and even less the improper use of biblical images must not create anxiety or despair." Rather, he stated, it is a reminder of the freedom found in Christ.
The Religion News Service reported that a Vatican-approved editorial published several weeks ago in the Jesuit journal Civilta Cattolica agrees with the pope's latest pronouncement. The editorial explicitly pronounced, "Hell exists, not as a place but as a state, a way of being of the person who suffers the pain of the deprivation of God" (Los Angeles Times, 7-31-99).
The pope said eternal damnation is "not God's work but is actually our own doing." Only a week earlier the pope stated that heaven is neither "an abstraction nor a place in the clouds, but a living, personal relationship of union with the Holy Trinity."
Such a statement on hell is strikingly similar to that made by Billy Graham several years ago in which he was quoted... "The only thing I could say for sure is that hell means separation from God. We are separated from his light, from his fellowship. That is going to be hell. When it comes to a literal fire, I don't preach it because I'm not sure about it. When the Scripture uses fire concerning hell, that is possibly an illustration of how terrible it's going to be — not fire but something worse, a thirst for God that cannot be quenched” (Time magazine, 11-15-93). Both Graham and now the pope completely reject the clear teaching of Scripture regarding the reality of a literal lake of fire that burns throughout all eternity.
The author of Hebrews taught that the reality of hell is a vital Bible doctrine (Heb. 6:1, 2).
Jude taught that believers are to contend for the faith (doctrine) once delivered unto the saints and that hell is a real, literal place of fire and torment (Jude 3, 7). The apostle Paul taught that those who knew not Christ would suffer the vengeance of God, which entailed everlasting damnation (2 Thess. 1:8, 9).
The apostle John saw that hell was a real place (Rev. 14: 1 0; 20:10-15; 21:8). And, Jesus Christ Himself taught that hell literally exists, that it lasts forever and that those who reject His perfect salvation would spend eternity therein (Matt. 13:41, 42; 18:8, 9; 25:41-46; Luke 16:19-31).
Rejection of the Biblical doctrine of hell by the pope and Graham is striking in the face of this. Could the Bible be wrong? Could those whose words and writings contributed to the Bible have been inaccurate? Jesus, of course, did not write the Bible — any more than the Prophet Muhammad, bless his holy name, wrote the Qur'an. Both books are the accumulated writings of those who heard from those who heard from those who heard what was originally said. Every serious Biblical scholar in the world now agrees that the four Gospels were written by people who were not even alive at the time of Christ. They were the gospels “according to” those who were alive then.
What this all comes down to for me, Andy, is that I would never instruct you as to what to believe. But in my own case, I am leaning towards Pope John Paul II and his version of things. Hell is the sense of eternal separation from God — a sense that many people have even during this lifetime, much less after it.
The wonder and the glory and the unspeakable gift of God is that She will make Herself known to us, and we can heal our sense of separation from Him, with the slightest desire on our part to know Him and to experience Her as an ever-present part of our lives.
When you finish reading Home with God, Andy, read (or re-read) Friendship with God. This is a book that everyone should read once every three to five years. It'll put you back in touch with God as our friend, and not God as our condemner.
Thanks for writing, Andy. I'm glad you did.
Sending Pure Love and hugs,
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