Hell was rarely, if ever brought up as a topic in the sermons I’ve heard as a United Methodist. My denomination generally doesn’t discuss the afterlife much at all, mostly choosing instead to focus on God’s love and mercy. The existence of Hell, and why a person can potentially go there bothered me for a time. As such, in order to find a broader discussion on the afterlife, I turned to the Bible and external sources on the web. The most thorough and intriguing discussion on the afterlife, in my opinion, came from the spiritual events of Medjugorje, Croatia back in the early 80’s.
Mother Mary appeared to six children and gave them each the opportunity to see Hell, Purgatory and Heaven. As web sources note, only four of these children opted to be given visions of Hell. Sources on the matter state that two of them were actually taken to hell, and there, they saw what happens to people who permanently reject God.
Medjugorje’s Revelation on Hell
For obvious reasons, the matter of Hell in Christianity is extremely controversial, and is likely one of the reasons why so many people refuse to believe in God. Probably the most recurring question against the goodness of God is this: how could a loving God willingly send anybody to Hell?
As the visions at Medjugorje revealed, God doesn’t send or condemn anybody to Hell. Rather, we condemn ourselves to Hell willingly and knowingly, when we deliberately choose to reject God’s mercy forever.
According to the sources on Medjugorje, hatred against God is one of the biggest factors that leads people to Hell, and is the source of their eternal pain. God’s love reaches them even in Hell, but because they have nothing but utter hate for Him, they always suffer.
And apparently, according to Vicka, one of the children who saw Hell, they don’t want anybody to pray for them, unlike the souls in purgatory.
All of this is supported by various verses from the Old Testament book of Ezekiel:
- Ezekiel 18:23: “Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign LORD. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?”
- Ezekiel 18:32: “For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign LORD. Repent and live!”
- Ezekiel 33:11: “Say to them, ‘As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, people of Israel?’
Stressed throughout these accounts is that God has no hatred for the residents of Hell. Rather, they hate Him and each other to the highest degree. While the children did see a massive fire in Hell, this inferno isn’t caused by God’s rage. According to Vicka, it serves a different purpose: it burns away the soul’s human appearance until they look exactly like a demon.
What About Universalism?
A follow-up question to all of this is, what about the belief that there can be no Hell, and that everybody will be eventually forgiven regardless of what they’ve done?
An important Bible verse to investigate in regards to this question is Mark 3:29, which states the following:
“…but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; they are guilty of an eternal sin.”
Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, which is explained in this online article, is the ultimate rejection of God, which is mirrored in the revelations at Medjugorje. The people who do this reject every chance they have to let go of their hatred-fueled sins, and knowingly choose Hell over casting aside their negative choices to be with God.
Mirjana stated in an interview not too far after her visions that she learned from Mary that people in Hell hate God even more than they did while on Earth, and that they actively refuse to pray for salvation like the souls in Purgatory do. Based on what Mary told Mirjana, it seems that they blame God for everything, and have no trace of humility or remorse for their own wrongdoings. They chose Hell due to their refusal to ask forgiveness, and this could be interpreted as them denying their own chance at salvation, which God gives up ‘til the last chance.
Because of this, the notion of universalism is moot, due to the deliberate choice that some souls make to permanently cut off their ties to God.
What Happens at the Last Chance?
Some web resources believe that on the deathbed, a person will be visited by Michael the Archangel, who will plead with them to repent of their sins before it’s too late. Whatever choice the soul makes, when they draw their last breath, they are brought before God.
When they come before Him, they are shown the entire series of their lifetime deeds, good and bad, and it is at this moment that they know where they are destined for. While God doesn’t choose to send the soul to Hell, the soul itself has already chosen to go there by despising everything God is while on Earth.
Medjugorje and Purgatory
Another matter that needs to be discussed is the nature of Purgatory, the place where souls are sent to be purified before entering Heaven.
Whereas souls send themselves to Hell because they despise and reject God, souls go to Purgatory for being lukewarm in their relationship with Him, according to the accounts given by Marija and Ivan, two children from Medjugorje.
Ivan said that the Blessed Mother told him that souls who go to Purgatory had too much doubt about God, and didn’t pray as much as they should’ve while on Earth. The accounts given note that, in tandem with the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the souls in Purgatory require prayer assistance from those of us on Earth to move on into Heaven.
The Mother has noted in messages she has given to Medjugorje after these visions that even priests and likewise religious folk can go to Purgatory for their doubt of God. These messages also make the difference between Purgatory and Hell clear: while souls who doubt God go to Purgatory, souls who want nothing to do with Him whatsoever choose to go to Hell, where they blaspheme Him forever, and according to Mary, never think about leaving.
Medjugorje and Heaven
All six of the Medjugorje children saw Heaven, either by apparition or physically going there, and they described it as a place of unearthly beauty where the people where shining with joy, along with appearing to be only 30 years old. Ivanka, one of the children, told her interviewer that she realized afterwards that all humans are made for Heaven, and that we are reminded of this whenever we pray.
Jakov, one of the two children who were physically taken to Heaven, was unwilling to discuss it too much because of how incomparable Earth is to it. He even said that he could die of loneliness if he remembered the experience too much.
Everything about Medjugorje is a reminder of the perfect truth in the verse 1 John 4:8, which declares that God is Love. By definition, God has no hate within him, which is why when we choose to hate Him, each other, or even ourselves, we choose to separate ourselves from Him, because hate can’t dwell with Him.
Just as we are called to love God, our neighbor (each other) and ourselves, we must avoid at all costs any choice made out of malice against one of these components.
I’m no saint when it comes to this, honestly, because I’ve barely avoided verbally lashing out at people who wrong me, homophobic or otherwise. That, and I’ve had a lifelong problem of holding grudges against several people. Now, I know far better than to let myself make that mistake, especially after reading the parable of the hypocrite servant who begged for forgiveness from his master, but refused to show any towards his fellow servants (Matthew 18:21-35).
Taking the knowledge gleaned from Medjugorje into heart, I know I need to continue to work on ensuring that I look on all others without any trace of malice or spite, because God never approves of that, no matter who it’s directed at. We were not created to hate, but to love as God loves us, and I myself need to vastly improve how I view the people I’ve clashed with as such.