Reflecting on hell deepens our appreciation of heaven

Paul Thigpen (TAN Books)

Hell is the final guarantee that what we do here and now really matters, says the author of a new book, Saints Who Saw Hell: And Other Catholic Witnesses to the Fate of the Damned. Source: Crux.

By Kathryn Jean Lopez, Crux.

“If hell doesn’t exist, then all roads lead to the same destination, whether it’s heaven, or annihilation, or something else. And if all roads lead to the same place, it ultimately makes no difference which road we take," Paul Thigpen said.

"On the other hand, if our choices will lead us ultimately to one of two utterly different destinies, then our choices have crucially different consequences.”

Reflecting on hell, Thigpen says, deepens our appreciation of heaven.

“The more horrible we understand hell to be, the more deeply we fathom what God wants to save us from, the more grateful we are that he desires to save us,” he said during a question and answer interview with Crux.

Do we have any certainties about who is in hell? We really can never know another’s soul, can we?

Normally, no, we can’t. Many insist we can’t know for sure even that Judas Iscariot was damned, though I find it hard to give any other reasonable interpretation to Jesus’ words that Judas was a “son of perdition” (John 17:12). The Greek term translated here as “perdition” refers in most other New Testament contexts to final and eternal destruction – that is, damnation … Meanwhile, how could Jesus rightly say of Judas that it would have been better if he had never been born (Matthew 26:24) if Judas ultimately ended up in heaven?

With regard to the visions reported in this book, the accounts suggest that on occasion, God will in fact reveal through a private revelation the damnation of a particular soul … Nevertheless, such cases seem to be quite rare, and of course we’re not obliged to accept the authenticity of a private revelation, even claimed by a saint, as we would a biblical account. I think it safe to say that in this life, the eternal destiny of particular damned souls is nearly always hidden from us.


What the Hell? Saints’ visions of the damned ‘an act of mercy,’ author says (Crux) 

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