The safest road to Hell is the gradual one–the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts. — C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters
“If any one hears my sayings and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. He who rejects me and does not receive my sayings has a judge; the word that I have spoken will be his judge on the last day” Jn 12:47–48.
Rabbi Yeshua spoke more often of hell than any other subject. A few examples:
“But I say to you that every one who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother shall be liable to the council, and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be liable to the hell of fire” Mt 5:22.
“Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire” Mt 7:19.
“… while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness; there men will weep and gnash their teeth” Mt 8:12.
“Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the close of the age” Mt 13:40.
“… and throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” Mt 13:42.
“Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and cast him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth’” Mt 22:13.
“… And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” Mt 25:30.
The New Testament does not say definitively that anyone is in hell. Rabbi Yeshua said of Yehuda Ish Krayot, “Woe to that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born” Mt 26:24; Mk 14:21. “‘Did I not choose you, the Twelve, and one of you is a devil?’ He spoke of Judas the son of Simon Iscariot, for he, one of the Twelve, was to betray him” Jn 6:70–71. “I have guarded them, and none of them is lost but the son of perdition” Jn 17:12.
Rabbi Yeshua always leaves an opening. Rabbi Yeshua’s first words from the Cross were, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” Lk 23:34. Did he know? Yehuda Ish Krayot was a shaliakh, present for all of Rabbi Yeshua‘s teaching. He attempted repentance Mt 27:3, he brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders, saying, ‘I have sinned in betraying innocent blood’” Mt 27:3–4. He was contrite [“he repented”], confessed [“I have sinned …”], and made satisfaction [“brought back the thirty pieces of silver”]. But he did not make Confession to Rabbi Yeshua as Dismas did. Every Catholic priest celebrates Mass and hears Confessions In Persona Christi Capitis, in the person of Christ the Head [of the Church]. Was that enough? Already there was a Seal of the Confessional. Rabbi Yeshua kept that to himself.
§ 1033 We cannot be united with God unless we freely choose to love him. But we cannot love God if we sin gravely against him, against our neighbor or against ourselves: He who does not love remains in death. Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.” Our Lord warns us that we shall be separated from him if we fail to meet the serious needs of the poor and the little ones who are his brethren. To die in mortal sin without repenting and accepting God’s merciful love means remaining separated from him for ever by our own free choice. This state of definitive self-exclusion from communion with God and the blessed is called hell.
§ 1034 Jesus often speaks of Gehenna of the unquenchable fire reserved for those who to the end of their lives refuse to believe and be converted, where both soul and body can be lost. Jesus solemnly proclaims that he will send his angels, and they will gather … all evil doers, and throw them into the furnace of fire. And that he will pronounce the condemnation: “Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire!”
§ 1035 The teaching of the Church affirms the existence of hell and its eternity. Immediately after death the souls of those who die in a state of mortal sin descend into hell, where they suffer the punishments of hell, eternal fire. The chief punishment of hell is eternal separation from God, in whom alone man can possess the life and happiness for which he was created and for which he longs.
§ 1036 The affirmations of Sacred Scripture and the teachings of the Church on the subject of hell are a call to the responsibility incumbent upon man to make use of his freedom in view of his eternal destiny. They are at the same time an urgent call to conversion: Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few. Since we know neither the day nor the hour, we should follow the advice of the Lord and watch constantly so that, when the single course of our earthly life is completed, we may merit to enter with him into the marriage feast and be numbered among the blessed, and not, like the wicked and slothful servants, be ordered to depart into the eternal fire, into the outer darkness where men will weep and gnash their teeth.
§ 1037 God predestines no one to go to hell; for this, a willful turning away from God (a mortal sin) is necessary, and persistence in it until the end. In the Eucharistic liturgy and in the daily prayers of her faithful, the Church implores the mercy of God, who does not want any to perish, but all to come to repentance. “Father, accept this offering from your whole family. Grant us your peace in this life, save us from final damnation, and count us among those you have chosen.”
The Fatima apparitions are part of private revelation. The Catechism tells us,
§ 67 “Throughout the ages, there have been so-called “private” revelations, some of which have been recognized by the authority of the Church. They do not belong, however, to the deposit of faith. It is not their role to improve or complete Christ’s definitive Revelation, but to help live more fully by it in a certain period of history. Guided by the Magisterium of the Church, the sensus fidelium knows how to discern and welcome in these revelations whatever constitutes an authentic call of Christ or his saints to the Church.”
The Catholic Church fully accepts the Fatima apparitions. The Vatican document, The Message of Fatima, declares that “Fatima is undoubtedly the most prophetic of modern apparitions.” Among the three visionaries, Sr. Lucia was accorded the title Servant of God, the first major step toward her canonization. Francisco and Jacinta are already canonized saints. The Message of Fatima describes the first part of “the secret of Fatima” as a vision of hell:
Our Lady showed us a great sea of fire which seemed to be under the earth. Plunged in this fire were demons and souls in human form, like transparent burning embers, all blackened or burnished bronze, floating about in the conflagration, now raised into the air by the flames that issued from within themselves together with great clouds of smoke, now falling back on every side like sparks in a huge fire, without weight or equilibrium, and amid shrieks and groans of pain and despair, which horrified us and made us tremble with fear. The demons could be distinguished by their terrifying and repulsive likeness to frightful and unknown animals, all black and transparent. This vision lasted but an instant. How can we ever be grateful enough to our kind heavenly Mother, who had already prepared us by promising, in the first Apparition, to take us to heaven. Otherwise, I think we would have died of fear and terror.