Will Hell be Like?
Greatest Pain of Hell
The sword which shall pierce them with the greatest sorrow will be the thought
of having lost God, and of having lost Him through their own fault. Unfortunates
that they are! They now seek to lose sight of God, but once fallen into Hell,
they will no longer be able to cease thinking of Him, and in this will their
St. Augustine says that in Hell, the damned will be forced to think of nothing
but God, and that will cause them terrible torment. And St. Bonaventure, expressing
the same sentiments, says that no thought will torment the damned more than
the thought of God. The Lord will grant to them such a vivid knowledge of their
offended God, His goodness so unworthily spurned, and consequently, of the chastisement
which their crimes have merited, that this knowledge will cause them a suffering
greater than that of all the other punishments of Hell.
We read in the book of Ezechiel: "Over the heads of the living creatures
was the likeness of the firmament, as the appearance of crystal terrible to
behold, and stretched out over their heads above." (1:22). Explaining these
words, one author says that the damned will have continually before their eyes
a terrible crystal or mirror: with the assistance of some fatal light, they
will behold, on one hand, the immense good which they have lost in voluntarily
losing divine grace, and, on the other, they will view the justly wrathful face
of God; and this torment will surpass by a million times all the other punishments
On this same subject, the author Cajetan makes the following reflection upon
the words of David: "The wicked shall be turned into hell, all the nations
that forget God." (Ps. 9:18). The Prophet, says this author, does
not here speak of a change of heart, or conversion, but of the spirit of sinners.
For just as sinners do not wish to think of God during this life, that they
might not be forced to renounce their passions, they will be forced -- despite
themselves and by a just chastisement -- to think continuously of God in Hell.
They would wish to shut out all remembrance of God from their minds, but they
will be forced to think always of Him, thus recalling all the benefits which
they have received from Him, as well as the offenses which they have committed
against Him and by which they have been separated from Him for all eternity.
The Damned Do Not Forget
Let us now consider briefly the condition of the intellect of the damned in
Hell. St. Thomas says that the damned will be able to remember all the subjects
of natural knowledge which they acquired here on earth, for this acquired knowledge
will remain in their souls after death. This is evident from Sacred Scripture
as well, from the response of Abraham to the rich man buried in Hell: "Son,
remember that thou didst receive good things in thy lifetime." (Luke
16:25) This, then, is the conclusion of the Angelic Doctor: Just as in the elect
there will be nothing that is not a subject of happiness to them, so also in
the damned there will be nothing which will not be a subject of torment to them.
Hence, the damned will preserve in their memories the things which they knew
here on earth, not, it is true, for their consolation, but solely to increase
their torment. Moreover, during this life the soul is frequently prevented from
considering thoughts which would be disagreeable to it, because of corporeal
sufferings and anxieties; but in Hell the soul will no longer be subject to
this influence of the body. Hence, in Hell the soul will no longer be prevented
from considering those things which can be a cause of torture to it. Likewise,
in Hell the soul of a man will have constantly in its memory all the divine
appeals made to it during life, as well as the number of sins which he committed,
each of which will procure for him a new Hell.
The Damned Know Nothing About Us
Moreover, says Estius, just as God will procure the satisfaction of the blessed
by making them know what concerns us, and especially that which concerns them
in a special manner, such as our prayers addressed to them, on the other hand
the damned will remain ignorant of all that concerns us, because they are complete
strangers to the Church.
Do the Damned Have Faith?
It might be asked whether those Christians who possessed faith in this life,
and who have not lost it by apostasy or heresy, will preserve it in Hell. St.
Thomas repsods in the negative, for in order to believe with a supernatural
and theological faith, one must hold with a pious affection of the will to God
the revealer. This pious affection, however, is a gift of God, of which He deprives
them as well as the demons. They do, however, believe by a sort of natural faith,
to which they are forced by the evidence of external signs, though this faith
is not supernatural. It is in this sense that St. James has written that "The
devils also believe and tremble" (James 2:19), signifying that their
fiath is forced and fearful.
Will the damned ever see or behold the glory of the Blessed? St. Thomas answers
that at the Last Judgment the reprobate will see the blessed in their glory,
without being able to distinguish in what it consists, solely realizing that
they are enjoying an inexplicable glory. This signt will afflict them with great
sorrow, either because of a feeling of envy, or because of regret at having
lost that which they themselves could have acquired. And for their eternal chastisement,
this shadow of the beatific vision which they have beheld will remain imprinted
in their memory forever.
Taken from What
Will Hell be Like? by TAN Books
& Publishers, Inc.
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