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What about hell?


Q: How could there be a place like hell if Jesus loves people unconditionally?

A: Out of love for us, God gave us the tremendous gift of free will. This gift, however, came with a price: If we chose to reject Him, he would not force Himself upon us (Rev. 3:20; CCC #1864). Therefore, a person who continued to reject Him up to the time of his death would get what he wanted to be left alone by God for eternity. That is the horrendous reality we call hell.

Here are seven reasons why a place like hell is reasonable to believe in and, despite its horrendousness, is still compatible with God's love:

1) What else can God do with the man? If a man dies loving himself more than God, what can God do with him? He has to let him go to the place of his own choosing. He will not take him to heaven and force him to love Him, for that would mean an inconceivably close union with God, Whom the man hates. Loving God (and being close to Him) would be a ceaseless torment to the man, who really loves himself most of all. It is impossible for man to reject God and possess Him at the same time.

2) Jesus (and the Father) wouldn't lie (Rom. 3:4; Ps. 119:89; CCC #2465-66). God the Father and the Son (Jesus) reveal many times in Scripture that hell is real. How then could God say, "I was only kidding"? God does not kid about something as serious as hell. It must be true.

3) God is justice and love together (1 Jn. 4:8; Rev. 16:5-7). God is not 51 percent love and 49 percent justice or vice versa. God is 100 percent justice and 100 percent love at the same time. By His very nature (perfection), God is incapable of an injustice. Therefore, eternal punishment must somehow be just.

Our free will is a gift that is in accord with our dignity as human beings (CCC #1730). It would be an injustice for God to force us to love Him because this would go against our nature as humans. It would not offer the challenge or choice that our intellects and free will deserve. It would be an injustice for Him not to allow us to use our free will to choose or reject Him (CCC  #1732). Therefore, hell can actually be an argument for the justice of God.

4) Because the offense is so serious, the punishment must be just. If a person assaults another person, he may go to prison for a year. If he assaults the mayor, he will go to prison for a longer time. If he assaults the president of the United States, he will go for an even longer time. And, if he assaults the eternal God, by rejecting Him and His laws, it is not unreasonable to think he should go to "prison" for all eternity (CCC #1874). Why? The penalty is measured by the gravity of the offense and the importance of the person we assault (Lk. 12:47-48; CCC #1864). Rejecting an infinite God (and not repenting) merits an infinite punishment.

5) God does not condemn men to hell. We condemn ourselves. God simply allows it, because He knows that because the man rejected Him, it is just (Col. 3:25; 1 Pet. 4:18). God gives us every possible aid to avoid hell. He gave His only Son (Jn. 3:16). He gave us the Church and the pope to teach us (Mt. 16:18-19; 1 Tim. 3:15). He gave us the Bible as written documentation of His truth (2 Tim. 3:14-17). He gave us the Eucharist to nourish us spiritually (Jn. 6:48-58). He gave us confession to heal us spiritually (Jn. 20:21-23). He even gave us the anointing of the sick for those who are close to death (Jas. 5:14-16). He gave us miracles to help us believe (Jn. 2:1-11; Mt. 15:32-38). Yet, people still reject Him (Jn. 6:60-66). They couldn't care less about Him or His laws. What is God to do with them without offending their human dignity and free will?

6) Because man would live a more sinful life if there weren't the threat of hell. The possibility of spending eternity in hell is a great deterrent for bad behavior (Mk. 9:42-48). Hell is an "emergency brake" against a life of sin. Time has proven that, because of our sinful nature and love of self, too many men choose to live for themselves instead of God. And this is in a world that mostly believes that hell exists. Can you imagine what life would be like if Christianity taught that there was a second chance after this life? Many would act much differently. Many would say, "I am going to go wild here on earth because I plan to repent in the next life." We would have chaos. We would have much more abortion, homicide, premarital sex, etc.

7) If punishment on earth is okay, why not in the afterlife? If we reject the idea of eternal punishment, why not reject temporal (earthly) punishment? Why have prisons? Why have traffic tickets for speeding violations? Why have penalties for crimes here on earth if we are not prepared to have penalties for crimes committed against the One who made the earth? Penalties for crimes are necessary in order to maintain earthly justice and order. Likewise, penalties for crimes against God are necessary in order to maintain justice and order in the spiritual realm.

It is important to remember you are in no danger of hell if you simply stay faithful to God and His laws (Rom. 10:10-13). God will help us. And, if you fall into sin, get back up and be reconciled through confession (Jn. 20:21-23).

God does not take pleasure in allowing people to go to hell. Nor should we take pleasure in the thought of anybody doing so, or worse still, hope that our enemy does. This would be a warped view of justice. We should want all to be saved. We should always make the petition as we were instructed to by Our Lady at Fatima: "Lead all souls to heaven, especially those in most need of Thy mercy."


Matthew Pinto "What about hell?" Apologetics: "Question of the Week" Ascension Press.

Reprinted with permission of Matthew Pinto and Ascension Press.


Matthew Pinto is a co-founder of, a premiere Internet portal for Catholics. He is also a co-founder and former president of Envoy Magazine, which received the 1st Place award for General Interest Catholic magazines in 1998 and 1999 from the Catholic Press Association. The co-author of Amazing Grace for Those Who Suffer (Ascension Press, 2002) and Did Adam and Eve have Belly Buttons? and 199 other questions from Catholic Teenagers (Ascension Press, 1998) and creator and co-author of the Friendly Defenders Catholic Flash Cards, Matt is a well-known speaker whose work has focused primarily on youth and young adults.

Copyright 2003 Ascension Press



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