The Scariest 23 Minutes Ever: The Cost of Unbelief
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.” (John 3:16-21)
The precious words of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, spoken in the night to Nicodemus, a learned teacher of Israel.
Jesus Christ is the central figure in all of human history. He was with God before human history, as witnessed in Holy Scripture:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. (John. 1:1-2)
and He will be with God after human history has been brought to a close, once again as witnessed in Holy Scripture:
When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.” (Revelation 1:17-18)
The words of Jesus Christ are inviolate truth:
“He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.” (1 Peter 2:22)
Jesus Christ testifies to the truth:
“You are a king, then!” said Pilate. Jesus answered, “You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” (John 18:37)
I invite your serious attention to the words of Jesus Christ in John 3:18…
Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.
Jesus Christ confirmed for all with ears to hear:
I tell you, whoever acknowledges me before men, the Son of Man will also acknowledge him before the angels of God. But he who disowns me before men will be disowned before the angels of God. (Luke 12:8-9)
Jesus Christ spoke of the power that God possesses, and introduced a reality that fewer and fewer people believe in:
I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him. (Luke 12:4-5)
The case has been made that Jesus Christ speaks the truth. Whether or not you are a believer in the absolute truth of the Holy Scriptures as the divinely inspired, revealed Word of God, or a believer in Jesus Christ as the Son of God, reading Luke 12:4-5 with an open mind and an open heart should make your blood run cold.
The testimony of Holy Scripture attests to God as a just God:
For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell, putting them into gloomy dungeons to be held for judgment; if he did not spare the ancient world when he brought the flood on its ungodly people, but protected Noah, a preacher of righteousness, and seven others; if he condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah by burning them to ashes, and made them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly; and if he rescued Lot, a righteous man, who was distressed by the filthy lives of lawless men (for that righteous man, living among them day after day, was tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard) – if this is so, then the Lord knows how to rescue godly men from trials and to hold the unrighteous for the day of judgment, while continuing their punishment. (2 Peter 2:4-9)
Jesus spoke to why the world could not embrace His sacred words when He was with His Apostles at the Last Supper before the suffering He undertook for the sake of the world:
If you love me, you will obey what I command. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever – the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. (John 14:15-17)
That the world largely cannot believe in Jesus Christ and in the presence of the Holy Spirit does not lessen the truth of what Jesus Christ has told the world. What, then, is the reality? It is simply this…
for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, (Romans 3:23)
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23)
but also this…
Hell is the cost of unbelief.
On Saturday, February 23, 2008, I read a book that profoundly impressed me. The name of the book is ’23 Minutes in Hell’ by Bill Wiese. It was a 2006 New York Times Best Seller on… ‘One man’s story about what he saw, heard, and felt in that place of torment’, chillingly summarized by his personal comment that… “My sincere hope is that this book is the closest you will ever come to experiencing hell for yourself.”
It is with the deepest regard for Bill Wiese that I am going to place in this post, word for word as he wrote it, his journey to, and his return from, hell, from the Introduction through the first four chapters, and the 6th chapter.
I believe that God uses visions to accomplish His purposes, and I believe that through His Son Jesus Christ, He gave Bill Wiese just such a vision. As you read this account of a journey into, and a return from, hell, may you be in awe of the beauty, majesty, grace, power and compassion of our loving Father God, and of His Son Jesus Christ, who freely gave His life that we may never know condemnation.
Glory be to the Name of God the Father, glory be to the Name of His only begotten Son Jesus Christ who is blessed and holy King, Lord, Savior and Messiah forever and ever, and glory be to the Name of the Holy Spirit, the Lord and the Giver of life!
[ Introduction ]
A Word of Warning
On Sunday, November 22, 1998, my wife, Annette, and I spent the evening at the home of one of our close friends. There was nothing unusual about that night. Annette and I headed home around 11:00 p.m., and we fell into bed shortly before midnight, unaware that my life was about to be changed forever by an event I still find hard to explain. Suddenly, at 3:00 a.m. on the 23rd, without any notice, I found myself being hurled through the air, and then was falling to the ground, completely out of control.
I landed in what appeared to be a prison cell. The walls of the cell were made out of rough-hewn stone and had a door made of what appeared to be thick, metal bars. I was completely naked, which added to the vulnerability of a captive. This was not a dream – I was actually in this strange place. Fully awake and cognizant, I had no idea what had happened, how I had traveled, or why I was there until it was shown to me and explained later during my journey.
The very first thing I noticed was the temperature. It was hot – far beyond any possibility of sustaining life. It was so hot that I wondered, Why am I still alive? How could I survive such intense heat? My flesh should disintegrate from off my body at any moment. The reality was that it didn’t. This wasn’t a nightmare; it was real. The severity of this heat had the effect of taking every ounce of strength out of me.
I wasn’t yet fully aware of it – but I had fallen into hell.
If you are like most people, you probably opened this book out of pure curiosity. Somewhere in the back of your mind you may be thinking, Did this man really go to hell – hell, as in fire, burning, and torment? Or maybe you think I’m making the whole thing up, because no one could go to hell and live to tell about it. You might not even believe there is a hell. If you do believe in a literal hell, you probably think that the only reason God would send someone to hell was if that person was evil and deserved it, right?
Well, in my case, it’s none of the above. Yes, I was taken to a literal burning hell, and no, it had nothing to do with being good or bad. The reason I was shown this place was to bring back a message of warning. My story is not one to condemn, but rather to inform you that hell is a real place – it does exist. God’s desire is that no one go there. But the sad and simple fact is that people make the choice to go to hell every day.
Today in our society, warnings serve to protect us from harm. Not only are warnings welcomed guideposts, but also we expect them to be posted on everything from toothpaste to real estate. For instance, in the real estate industry, contracts are written to protect the buyer and disclose to that buyer all facts known. In fact, the buyer would be outraged if he or she were not given full disclosure.
What loving parent does not warn his or her children not to play in a busy street?
When the sky turns dark and the winds increase, we look to our local news channel to communicate tornado or hurricane warnings.
So why is it that when God warns us of what will happen if we travel down the wrong road, we are quick to say that He is myopic and condemning? Or we say He is judgmental! The truth is that He warns us because He is a good God, one who loves us and wants to help, guide, and protect us. Personally, His warnings are most welcome in my life.
This experience is not something I asked for or ever wanted. Being of a conservative nature, being associated with something seemingly so radical is not comfortable for me. However, I am able to overlook my discomfort in light of God’s overall perspective. I have since discovered that my story coincides with what Scripture details about hell. This is of far greater importance than what I have to say.
My horrifying journey felt like it lasted an eternity, but, in actuality, it lasted less than half an hour. Those twenty-three minutes were more than enough to convince me that I would never, ever want to return, not even for one more minute. And it has now become my life’s purpose to tell others what I saw, heard, and felt so that whoever reads this story will be able to take the proper measures to steer clear of this place at all costs.
My sincere hope is that this book is the closest you will ever come to experiencing this reality for yourself.
[ Part 1 ]
My Experience in Hell
[ Chapter 1 ]
On our first anniversary, Annette and I took a trip to Carmel, California. It was a perfect place to celebrate, sitting on the outdoor deck of one of our favorite spots overlooking the picturesque mountain cliffs, trees, and homes edged along the blue Pacific. The crystal-clear morning sky and waves hitting the shoreline were a perfect backdrop for shared conversations about our hearts’ desires, goals, and dreams for our new life together. I mentioned to my wife, “This is probably the closest place to heaven anyone could experience while on the earth.” Annette agreed. We both had a strong feeling that God had put us together for a very special purpose.
As we reflected on the goodness of God in our lives, one word summed up the attitude of my heart – grateful. I was so very grateful for my beautiful wife and the life we had together. From the moment I saw her I knew she was the one for me, and I truly view her as a gift from above. I was grateful for my health, family, bills paid, financial provision, and peace. There is something deeply satisfying when one has such moments to reflect and dream. What would be the next chapter to unfold in our lives? Just two weeks later, unbeknownst to us, we would be confronted with an event that would forever change our lives.
I’ve already shared with you the beginning of that journey on November 22, 1998. That was the night I was catapulted out of my bed into the very pit of hell. My point of arrival was a cell that was approximately fifteen feet high by ten feet wide with a fifteen-foot depth.
With its walls of rough stone and rigid bars on the door, I felt as though I was in a temporary holding area, a place where a prisoner would await his final hours before meeting a far more terrifying destiny. Isaiah 24:22 says, “And they shall be gathered together, as prisoners are gathered in the pit, and shall be shut up in the prison“ (KJV). Proverbs 7:27 refers to “chambers” of death in hell.
As I lay there on the floor of that cell, I felt extremely weak. I noticed that I had a body, one that appeared just as it is now. Lifting my head, I began to look around. Immediately I realized that I was not alone in this cell. I saw two enormous beasts, unlike anything I had ever seen before.
These creatures were approximately ten to thirteen feet tall. These towering beasts were far, far beyond intimidating. It is one thing to be threatened by someone much taller than you. But these creatures were not of this natural world. I recognized that they were entirely evil, and they were gazing at me with pure, unrestrained hatred, which completely paralyzed me with fear. “Evil” and “Terror” stood before me. Those creatures were an intensely concentrated manifestation of those two forces.
I still had no idea where I was, and I felt utterly panicked. Although I had no point of reference, no familiarity with anything I was experiencing, and no understanding of how I got here, still I was faced with the unimaginable reality that a tortuous death seemed certain.
The creatures were not animals, but they weren’t human, either. Each giant beast resembled a reptile in appearance, but took on human form. Their arms and legs were unequal in length, out of proportion – without symmetry. The first one had bumps and scales all over its grotesque body. It had a huge protruding jaw, gigantic teeth, and large sunken-in eyes. This creature was stout and powerful, with thick legs and abnormally large feet. It was pacing violently around the cell like a caged bull, and its demeanor was extremely ferocious. The second beast was taller and thinner, with very long arms and razor-sharp fins that covered its body. Protruding from its hands were claws that were nearly a foot long. Its personality seemed different from the first being. It was certainly no less evil, but it remained rather still.
I could hear the creatures speaking to each other. Although I could not identify what language it was, somehow I could understand their words. They were awful words – terrible, blasphemous language that spewed from their mouths expressing extreme hatred for God.
Suddenly they turned their attention toward me. They looked like hungry predators staring at their prey. I was terrified. Like an insect in a deadly spider’s web, I felt helpless, trapped, and frozen with fear. I knew I had become the object of their hostility, and I felt a violent, evil presence such as I had never felt before and greater than anything I could imagine. They possessed a hatred that far surpassed any hatred a person could have, and now that hatred was directed straight at me. I couldn’t identify what these beasts were yet, but I knew they meant me harm.
I wanted desperately to get up and run. But as I lay on that wretched cell floor, I noticed that I had absolutely no strength in my body. I could barely move. Why didn’t I have strength? I felt so defenseless. Psalm 88:4 says, “I am counted with them that go down into the pit: I am as a man that hath no strength“ (KJV).
I knew that it was much more than physical weakness I was feeling. Indeed, it was a weakness of every form. I was mentally and emotionally drained, even though I had only been there a few minutes. Most of us have experienced a loss of strength and energy after intense weeping, emotional distress, or grief. After a time of healing, we regain that strength though it may take years. However, at that moment I felt that there would never be a time for recuperating from the literal weight that had fallen upon me – a weight of hopeless despair.
Two more creatures came into the cell, and I had the feeling that these four beings had been “assigned” to me. I felt as though I was being “sized up” and that my torment would be their amusement. As they entered, suddenly the light vanished. It became absolutely pitch black. I had no idea why the sudden and intense darkness had begun. But I sensed that the light that had been present had been an intrusion and that the atmosphere had now returned to its normal state of darkness. Lamentations 3:6 states: “He has set me in dark places like the dead of long ago.”
One of the creatures picked me up. The strength of the beast was amazing. I was comparable to the weight of a water glass in its hand. Mark 5:3-4 describes a man possessed with a demon with these words: “…no one could bind him, not even with chains… the chains had been pulled apart by him, and the shackles broken in pieces.” Instinctively, I knew that the creature holding me had strength approximately one thousand times greater than a man. I cannot explain how I perceived that bit of information. Then the beast threw me against the wall. I crumbled onto the floor. I felt as though every bone in my body had been broken. I felt pain, but it was as if the pain was being somehow softened. I knew I did not experience the full brunt of the pain. I thought, How was it blocked?
The second beast, with its razor-like claws and sharp protruding fins, then grabbed me from behind in a bear hug. As it pressed me into its chest, its sharp fins pierced my back. I felt like a rag doll in its clutches in comparison to his enormous size. He then reached around and plunged his claws into my chest and ripped them outward. My flesh hung from my body like ribbons as I fell again to the cell floor. These creatures had no respect for the human body – how remarkably it is made. I have always taken care of myself by eating right, exercising, and staying in shape, but none of that mattered as my body was being destroyed right before my eyes.
I knew that I could not escape this torture via death, for not even that was an option. Death penetrated me, but eluded me. The creatures seemed to derive pleasure in the pain and terror they inflicted upon me. Psalm 116:3 (KJV) says, “The sorrows of death compassed me, and the pains of hell gat hold upon me: I found trouble and sorrow.” Oh, how I yearned for death, but there would be none.
The Living Dead
I pleaded for mercy, but they had none – absolutely no mercy. They seemed to be incapable of it. They were pure evil. No mercy existed in that place. Mercy is from God in heaven.
The mental anguish I felt was indescribable. Asking for mercy from such evil only seemed to heighten their desire to torment me more.
I was conscious of the fact that there was no fluid coming from my wounds. No blood, no water, nothing. At this time, I did not stop to wonder why. I was extremely nauseous from the terrible, foul stench coming from these creatures. It was absolutely disgusting, foul, and rotten. It was, by far, the most putrid smells I have ever encountered. If you could take every rotten thing you can imagine, such as an open sewer, rotten meat, spoiled eggs, sour milk, dead rotting animal flesh, and sulfur, and magnify it a thousand times, you might come close. This is not an exaggeration. The odor was actually extremely toxic, and that alone should have killed me.
Instinctively, I just knew that some of the things I experienced were a thousand times worse than what would be possible on the earth’s surface – things such as the odors mentioned, the strength of the demons, the loudness of the screams, the dryness, and the loneliness felt.
Somehow I managed to move a bit and dragged myself across the ground toward the barred door. I couldn’t see, but I remembered the direction of the door that had been left open. I finally made it to the door and crawled out of the cell. Apparently, the creatures allowed me to crawl out without stopping me.
As soon as I exited the cell, my first instinct was to get as far away as possible. Again, I desperately wanted to run. All I could think of was to get up onto my feet. However, every move to get up took great effort. I remember wondering, Why is this so difficult? After tremendous exertion, I was finally able to stand. I was thoroughly exhausted and, at the same time, very frustrated at how hard simple movement had become. Although I was now outside the cell, I could not run, and fear continued to bind itself around me as a snake constricting its prey.
I was horrified as I heard the screams of an untold multitude of people crying out in torment. It was absolutely deafening. The terror-filled screams seemed to go right through me, penetrating my very being. I once heard about a television special where a news reporter spent the night in a prison just to experience prison life firsthand. The prisoners were crying, moaning, and yelling all night long. He stated that he couldn’t sleep because of all the noise. This place where I now stood was far, far worse.
Through the panic and the deafening noise, I struggled to gather my thoughts. I’m in hell! This is a real place, and I’m actually here! I frantically tried to understand, but it was just so inconceivable. Not me, I’m a good person, I thought. The fear was so intense I couldn’t bear it, but again, I couldn’t die. I knew that most people up on the surface did not believe or even know that there was a whole world going on down here. They wouldn’t believe it. But here it existed, and it was all too real. This place was so terrifying, so intense, and so hostile that it would be impossible for me to exaggerate the horror.
I did not know how I had arrived there. The fact that I knew God was kept from my mind. This was explained to me later by the Lord Himself. In retrospect, I know that there are several scriptures indicating that God does sometimes hide things from man’s mind.
As I stood outside the cell, I actually felt the darkness. Exodus 10:21 speaks of “…darkness which may even be felt.” It was not like the darkness on the earth. I was once in a coal mine in Arizona that was completely void of light. I couldn’t see anything, yet it was nothing like the darkness in hell. It was as though the darkness had its own power, a power that consumed me. The darkness was not simply the absence of light – it had a distinctive evil presence, a feeling of death, a penetrating evil.
I looked off to my right and could faintly see flames from afar off that dimly lit the skyline. I knew the flames were coming from a large pit, a gigantic raging inferno approximately one mile in diameter and about ten miles away. This was just one of the many things I simply knew. My senses were keener.
The flames were intense, but the darkness seemed to swallow up the light. The skyline was barely visible. The darkness was somewhat like a black hole. I have heard scientists say that within our universe’s black holes, the pull of gravity is so strong that it actually stops light from traveling, and it cannot escape from the hole. The darkness in hell is like that. It is so dark that it seemed to hinder any light from traveling.
The only visible area was that which the flames exposed. The ground was all rock, barren and desolate. There was not one green thing, not one living thing, not one blade of grass, not one leaf on the ground – it was just a complete wasteland. In Ezekiel 26:20 we read: “Then I will bring you down with those who descend into the Pit…and I will make you dwell in the lowest part of the earth, in places desolate from antiquity, with those who go down to the Pit.” On Earth, even deserts contain life that has adapted to its harsh environment and have a natural beauty. But the place I saw was barren – nothing like the desert.
One of the most painful thoughts I had was the realization that I could never get to my wife. She had no idea of my existence in this place. I would never, ever see her again. I couldn’t even explain or tell her of my doom. My wife and I are extremely close, and I used to tell her that if there was ever a disaster in the earth, and we were apart that day, I would find a way to get to her. I would stop at nothing to get to her. Now, to never see her again was so inconceivable to me. I understood that I would never, ever get out. In Psalm 140:10 we read: “Let burning coals fall upon them; let them be cast into the fire, into deep pits, that they rise not up again“ (emphasis added). I couldn’t even tell her what had happened, and that knowledge alone was too much to endure.
The air was filled with smoke, and a filthy, deathly, decaying odor hung in the oxygen-depleted atmosphere. It seemed as if all the oxygen had been sucked up by the high leaping flames in the distance. I could barely breathe. The lack of oxygen in the atmosphere left me gasping for every little bit of air I could inhale. There was no humidity or moisture in the air. It was exhausting even to try to get just one breath.
One of the worst sensations I experienced was an insatiable thirst and dryness. I was so extremely thirsty. My mouth was so dry it felt as if I had been running through the desert for days. There was no water, no humidity in the air, no water anywhere. I desperately longed for just one drop of water. Like the man in torment in Luke 16:23, just one drop of water would have been so precious to me. It is difficult to conceive of a world without any water. It would truly be most miserable. It is inconceivable for any of us to imagine such extreme dryness. Water has always been very valuable and pleasurable to my wife and me, and now so much more so. Water is a life-giving substance, and in hell there is no life of any kind. All is dead.
With thoughts of utter hopelessness flooding my mind, I looked out at the desolate, barren cavern toward the flames. All the memories of what a wonderful life I had enjoyed was now a world apart, just a thing of the past. There was no work, no goals, no wisdom, and no opportunity to speak to anyone or to solve any problem. No need to offer advice, help, or comfort of any kind. Purpose was nonexistent. All life was over, and a useless “wasting away” permeated my being. After seeing these grotesque and deformed creatures with their jagged scales, bumps, and twisted limbs, smelling their putrid, rotting odors and seeing the thick, smoke-filled atmosphere, I longed for my life back. I thought of my beautiful wife with her warm, loving green eyes, her zeal for life, her perfectly smooth, clear skin, and her great love for me. I missed her so deeply. I thought about us standing at the cliffs on the ocean’s edge, watching the waves and ice-blue water crash onto the rocky shore. I remembered the clear skies, white clouds, sunshine, and fresh air. I yearned for her so deeply.
I wanted to talk and interact with someone. But to have an intelligent conversation – or simply any conversation – with a human being, now so valued, was completely unattainable. All these things flashed through my mind. However, to entertain such memories was futile and would only lead to bitter disappointment and total frustration. How could I accept the reality I was now faced with? It was a reality filled with an endless eternity of of pain, loss, loneliness, and doom – a most miserable existence. It would be impossible.
My brief moment of remembrance faded away, and once again I was faced with my present gruesome situation. My mental escape had lasted only a few seconds. I realized this horror would last for an eternity, and that knowledge thrust me back into a frantic state of mind.
I didn’t even possess the thought of calling on God for help, because I was there as one who didn’t know God. The Lord didn’t even come to mind. One of those demonic creatures grabbed me and carried me back into the cell. It threw me on the floor, and another creature quickly grabbed my head and began to crush it. Then all four of the creatures were on top of me, each grabbing a leg or an arm as if I were lifeless prey. I was so far beyond terrified that there are no words to describe it. They were just about to pull apart my body when, all of a sudden, I was taken out of the cell and placed next to that pit of fire I had viewed from a distance earlier.
[ Chapter 2 ]
Momentary relief hit my soul as I realized I had been snatched from the grip of those hideous creatures. However, now I found myself next to an enormous pit with raging flames of fire leaping high into an open cavern. As I looked up into that dark, eerie, tomb-like atmosphere, it seemed to be like a mouth that had swallowed her dead. The flames of her ravenous appetite were never satisfied with the pitiful screams of untold multitudes.
The heat was far beyond unbearable, and I desperately wanted to escape before I too would be thrown into that inferno. As I look back on this experience now, I am reminded of the devastation of the twin towers of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, when some people, rather than facing the 2000-degree heat, chose to plummet to their death by leaping out a window. A fall, especially from such great heights, must have been horrendous. It was reported that a person subjected to that temperature would be completely incinerated in about fifteen seconds. Those people chose to make that leap rather than face the intensity of those flames for even fifteen seconds. Some scientists have reported that the core temperature at the center of the earth is approximately twelve thousand degrees. To endure that for an eternity is unfathomable.
I could see the outlines of people through the flames. The screams from the condemned souls were deafening and relentless. There was no safe place, no safe moment, no temporary relief of any kind. In the media we have heard of the merciless acts of terrorists. In some cases their victims knew death would come by brutal decapitation. Try to imagine the terror these victims must have felt as they awaited their fate. In hell, this state of fear never ceases for even one second. It lasts for an eternity.
There were people in hell who were contained in a massive pit. Horrible creatures surrounded the perimeter. There was no way of escape. Any attempt to do so was futile. Human strength was no match for the demons. I felt such anguish for these hopeless people, but at the same time I realized that I could be next.
I remember, as a child, stepping into several fights to protect kids who were weaker and who were being bullied. I was beaten up several times, but I couldn’t just stand there and not help. The television actors who enforced justice and guarded the weak were my role models. To look out for others is a Godly characteristic. Since we all come from God, it is in most people to feel this way. We have seen how our country always comes to the rescue for the rest of the world. This inborn desire to protect the defenseless continued in my adult life. Now, without the ability to help even one defenseless, tormented soul, I felt the hopelessness deepen. To witness people in terror, in desperation, and in unending torment was more than I could bear.
Now try to picture the most fearful moment of your life. For me, I remember one morning when, as a teenager, I was surfing off the coast of Florida. A school of sharks showed up and surrounded us. We frantically began paddling toward the beach, and in the frenzy, a guy nearby had his leg torn off. Then one shark knocked me completely off my board. My friend Rene and I were now literally swimming with the sharks. We desperately tried to get to the shore, but I sincerely felt that the blood in the water combined with the number of sharks was a certain death sentence. Suddenly, a nine-foot shark grabbed my leg in its mouth and pulled me down. For seemingly no reason, the shark let me go without a mark (thank God!), and Rene and I swam to shore. At the time, I was an avid surfer. Needless to say, I didn’t go near the water for almost two years.
That was one of the most terrifying moments in my life, and that experience paled in comparison to the fear you endure for an eternity in hell. There is no way of escape. No one can rescue you.
When I had first arrived in the cell, I had noticed that I was naked, which is another form of shame and increased vulnerability. In such a hostile environment, that vulnerability adds another layer of helplessness and fear to an already terrified mind. In life, well-adjusted, healthy people would feel shame if stripped and exposed publicly. How much more so would such shame and fear be felt in a terror-filled environment. I am reminded of the millions of Jews who were stripped naked and humiliated before being murdered with poisonous gas or cast into ovens during World War II. They experienced many tortures and humiliations, but being naked was an attempt to strip them of their dignity and to intensify the fear. Many have died horrific deaths on the earth; how much more the torment when it lasts forever?
I also experienced the misery of total exhaustion in hell. The continual emotional, mental, and physical trauma feeds this vicious cycle of sleep deprivation. You desperately long for even a few minutes of rest, but you never, ever get that privilege. Imagine for a moment how terrible you feel after only forty-eight hours of no sleep. In hell you never sleep, rest, or find a quiet moment. Any form of rest is completely nonexistent. Even though I was only there for twenty-three minutes, the torment and trauma was so intense that it felt like I hadn’t slept for weeks. It could only worsen with time.
There is never any peace of mind. No rest from the torments, the screams, the fear, the thirst, the lack of breath, no sleep, the stench, the heat, the hopelessness, and the isolation from people.
I desperately wanted to talk to a human being, but I knew I would never get that chance. You are kept from any kind of fellowship, conversation, or human interaction.
Relationships are so valuable, and it’s easy to take them for granted. At the moment of death, a person does not want to be surrounded by “things.” That person wants to be surrounded by people who truly care for him and love him. It is extremely difficult to process the thought of knowing you will never be able to relate with anyone ever again, especially with those you love. The innate, human desire to communicate, ask questions, and relate with someone who shares in your suffering will never be fulfilled in hell. Instead, all you are exposed to are hideous creatures. No matter who you were, whether famous or of great influence or a nobody, it doesn’t matter. You are truly alone amidst a sea of tormented souls.
Now, it is true that there are areas in this vast, fiery pit where people are thrown together, but they are only together in the sense that they are all experiencing the same torment. Each person is very isolated in extreme agony and screaming in fear as fire and brimstone rain down upon him. They are together in the same way cattle are herded into a slaughterhouse. A soul in such extreme agony would have no opportunity for a conversation. Besides, I believe everyone there is just on the verge of insanity. However, I believe that you never go quite insane, for that would provide a form of escape.
And there is no escape, even mentally.
I possessed knowledge that there were different levels of torment or varying degrees of punishment. I knew some people were in worse positions than others. All areas were horrid, with no place of relief or comfort. I was also aware that there were many levels far, far worse. Any level, area, or degree of torment was much worse than any concept a mind could conceive.
[ Chapter 3 ]
As I stood near that enormous pit of fire, no immediate attackers seemed to be threatening, so this gave me a moment to take in my surroundings. It was raining fire and burning rock, similar to the way lava falls from the sky when a volcano explodes. The smoke from the flames was very thick, allowing visibility for only a short distance, but what I could see was horrifying. I saw many people reaching out of the pit of fire, desperately trying to claw their way out. But there was no escape.
I turned my head, and I noticed that I was standing in the middle of a cave. The wall wrapped around me and led to the vast expanse of the pit. As I looked at the walls, I saw that they were covered with thousands of hideous creatures. These demonic creatures were all sizes and shapes. Some of them had four legs and were the size of bears. Others stood upright and were about the size of gorillas. They were all terribly grotesque and disfigured. It looked as though their flesh had been decomposing and all their limbs were twisted and out of proportion. Some displayed immense, long arms or abnormally large feet. They seemed to me to be the living dead. There were also gigantic rats and huge spiders at least three feet wide and two or three feet high. I also saw snakes and worms, ranging from small to enormously large. I was petrified and could not believe my eyes.
My gaze followed the beasts up the sides of the wall, and I saw that there was a hole in the top of the cave. It was the entrance to an upward tunnel, approximately thirty-five feet in diameter. The fiendish creatures lined the tunnel walls as well. They were distinctly wicked. Their eyes were cauldrons of evil and death. Everything was filthy, stinking, rotten, and foul. There was one other distinguishing aspect about these creatures – they all seemed to possess a hatred for mankind. They were the epitome of evil. The creatures seemed to be chained, or attached in some fashion, to the cavern walls. I was relieved to know that they could not reach me.
Suddenly, I began ascending up through the tunnel. I didn’t know how I was able to ascend or why. At first I rose slowly, and as I went higher, I could view the vast wasteland of hell. I could now see more of the enormous pit, which looked to be as much as a mile across. However, this was just a fraction of hell’s space. To the right of the large inferno were thousands of small pits, as far as I could see. Each pit was no more than three to five feet across and four to five feet deep – each pit holding a single lost soul. Psalm 94:13 refers to these pits by saying, “…until the pit is dug for the wicked.” As I ascended into the darkness, the fear of those horrific beasts was all encompassing. I thought, Who could fight off just one of these creatures? No one could. Many were so massive and strong. For an instant, I remembered a certain person my wife and I would see at our gym. We didn’t know him, but we’d look upon him with amazement because he was so big, powerfully built, and strong. I thought, Even he would be no match for the demons.
Continuing up, it seemed as if about thirty seconds had passed, when suddenly, a burst of light invaded the entire tunnel. The light was so brilliant, a pure, white light such as I have never seen. It was so bright that I could not see the face of the one who was before me, but I instantly knew who He was. I said, “Jesus,” and He said “I AM,” and I fell at his feet. It was as if I died. It seemed as if only a few moments had passed when I regained my awareness. I was still at His feet.
Words can’t describe the range of emotions I experienced in the presence of the Lord. Just a moment before, I had been in the bowels of hell, just like someone who didn’t know Jesus, and was cursed and damned to eternal torment. As soon as He appeared, He restored an awareness to my mind that I was a Christian. (He had removed the knowledge that I was a Christian in hell. I will explain the reason shortly.)
Peace had replaced terror, and safety took the place of danger. The feelings of worthlessness, shame, and humiliation disappeared as the value that He had placed on me was revealed. It was then that I truly understood how much God loves us. I was at once comforted, protected, and completely relieved. I just wanted to remain at His feet. I was so grateful to escape hell. I was so grateful that I did know Jesus, that I was a Christian. I just wanted to worship Him. Looking back, I now realize that the light that was present when I was dropped into the cell was, in fact, the Lord’s presence. When He left, it resumed its normal state of darkness.
I remember seeing a special about the sinking of the Titanic. I recalled how thankful the people were to have been saved from the freezing cold water. Decades after the incident, they were being interviewed, yet their appreciation for life had not diminished. Tears were flowing as each survivor recounted the story of how he or she was rescued. That’s just how I felt, but much, much more so, as I knelt at the feet of Jesus. I had no words to adequately express my gratitude – I just wanted to thank Him over and over and over again. Even though I was relieved and comforted, at the same time I felt so sinful and dirty. Standing in the presence of a holy God, I was keenly aware of my sins.
Jesus reached down and touched my shoulder. My strength instantly returned, and I rose to my feet. My next thought was, Why did You send me to this awful place?
Before I could ask the question, He answered. “Because many people do not believe that hell truly exists,” He told me. “Even some of my own people do not believe that hell is real.” I was amazed to hear that some Christians do not believe that hell is real. I know many people think that when you die you are annihilated, or that hell is just a state of mind. That surprises me, because the Bible informs us so thoroughly on the subject. It does not teach that you are simply annihilated. The teachings are very clear that hell is a place of eternal torment.
I could sense the Lord’s deep love for people to know the truth. Knowing that hell is a reality and how horrible it really is greatly depends your appreciation and thankfulness. I was so, so grateful that He had rescued me. But I understood that it was out of His great love for mankind that He wanted them to know this place exists, so they could instead choose life with Him. In 1 John 5:12, we are assured: “He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.”
More thoughts came to my mind. However, being in His awesome presence, I was slow to speak. But before I could get the questions out of my mouth, He would answer. Psalm 139:2-4 says: “You understand my thought afar off….For there is not a word on my tongue, but behold, O Lord, You know it altogether.” There have been times shared with my wife when I was thinking about something, and she would bring up exactly what I was thinking about at that moment. Other times, we just sense what the other is about to say or do in a given situation. After something like this happens to us, one of us will tell the other, “I knew exactly what you were thinking, and I thought you’d say that.” I believe that oneness is part of what makes marriage so special. The marriage relationship is to be a parallel of what the Lord wants with each one of us – a deep, intimate relationship where you share one another’s emotions, insights, desires, and thoughts.
As I stood before the Lord, I thought, Why did You choose me for this experience? There was no answer. To this day, I still do not fully understand why the Lord decided to choose me. In many ways, it doesn’t seem to make sense. First of all, I’m a Realtor, not a Billy Graham or Mother Theresa. Second, I love order, cleanliness, and quiet, and hell is the antithesis of that. I know most people appreciate order, cleanliness, and tranquility; however, I am more fanatical with those things than most. My mother shared with me that even as a child I kept my room neat and clean and with all my toys in perfect order. I even wore three-piece suits as a child and liked it!
In addition, my wife and I disdain horror movies and never attend them. We make every effort to keep any evil influence out of our home and away from our lives. And besides all that, I don’t even like the summertime. Summer is even too hot for me!
Jesus said to me, “Go and tell them about this place. It is not My desire that any should go there. Hell was made for the devil and his angels.”
I replied to Him, “Yes, of course I’ll go.” God’s will is for all to be saved. I had the most compelling desire to do His will. In His presence, the things that were usually so important to me suddenly seemed so insignificant. I felt so honored to be able to do something that would please Him. Then the thought crossed my mind, Why would anyone believe me? They will think I had a bad dream, or that I am crazy.
The Lord said to me, “It is not your job to convict their hearts. That responsibility belongs to the Holy Spirit. It is your part to go and tell them.” I was relieved to know that it was not my responsibility to convince anyone. He gave me the easy part – all I have to do is open my mouth and tell the people, and He draws them to Himself.
I asked, “Why did those demons hate me so much?”
He said, “Because you are made in My image, and they hate Me.” You see, the demons cannot harm God directly, but they can hurt His children and His creation. It saddens God to see His creation suffer. The Lord loves us and wants us to live healthy, peaceful, long lives. He wants us to warn more people about hell and to share with them just what they need to do to avoid that terrible place.
I then said, “Those demons were so powerful.”
He said, “All you have to do is cast them out in My name.”
Suddenly, there in His presence, the demonic creatures I had just encountered in hell now seemed so powerless. They appeared to look like ants on the wall. I thought of Pastor Raul, a dear friend, who has a God-given gift to discern demonic influence in people’s lives. He understands the authority God has given us as Christians and the power of prayer. I had only thought of three people while there, and he was the third. It was his and his wife Sharon’s home that we had visited just the night before this happened.
It was then revealed to me that what was most important was not the power to overcome these demons, but rather, as the scripture says, “Do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven” (Luke 10:20). The Bible says, “For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10, KJV). The true emphasis was placed on the souls whose names were not yet written in heaven, those who were going to hell every day. I was instantly sobered as He allowed me to see a steady stream of people falling through a tunnel – one after the other, after the other, after the other – into an open cavern, into the terror that I had just escaped.
While I was watching this scene, Jesus allowed me to feel just a small amount of the sorrow He feels for His creation that is going to hell. His love is so far beyond our capacity and is infinitely greater than our love. I couldn’t stand feeling even a fraction of the anguish He feels. I said, “Please, stop!” I couldn’t bear it.
I cannot elaborate enough on this point. It was the deepest insight into God’s feelings that I had during this whole experience. There’s no way to measure how much He truly loves all people. When a single soul is lost to the devil and damned to that horrible place forever, it saddens Him greatly.
I asked Him, “Why didn’t I know You when I was there?”
He said, “I kept it from you.” In order for me to experience the hopelessness of those souls in hell, the fact that I knew Jesus had to be hidden from my mind. If I knew Him there, as I have since 1970, I would have had hope that He would rescue me. To experience the feeling of being lost forever was by far the worst part of hell. On Earth, we always have some form of hope. Even amidst the most direful situations, we have hope that we’ll escape, even if it’s only through death. But there you know positively there is no hope whatsoever; you will never get out. Your soul cannot die, and you are lost and in torment forever.
Finally He said, “Tell them I am coming very, very soon.” In my spirit, I felt an urgency to warn as many people as possible, as time is running out. He sternly said it again: “TELL THEM I AM COMING VERY, VERY SOON!” Repeating Himself tells me His coming truly is getting very, very close. Time is running out. We must get the truth out to people so they can know that there is a choice to make. Without Jesus as your Savior, you will not be going to heaven, and that is absolutely certain.
Looking back, I wish I would have asked Him, “What is ‘very, very soon’ to You, Lord? However, when standing in the presence of almighty God, such arrogance does not come to thought. Like a soldier being commanded by his general, all I wanted to do was to obey His order.
As the Lord and I were having this time together, we kept ascending up the tunnel. We came to the earth’s surface, and then we continued upward. We went high above the earth until we were out of the atmosphere.
[ Chapter 4 ]
I looked down and could see the curve of the earth. It was absolutely breathtaking. As a child, I was always interested in outer space. In fact, for a time I wanted to become an astronomer. Like many young boys, I had always desired to see the earth from space. Now, here on the earth was before my eyes, so big, and it just hung there “on nothing” (Job 26:7). I could feel God’s power, and I knew that everything was so perfectly in His control. The earth was turning so precisely, not varying even one mile per hour. The vast oceans are held within their boundaries, never spilling over onto the land, not moving past His command. The earth exhibits His absolute power and control. And not only the earth is in His perfect control, but also the entire universe, with all its planets and stars, is fully in His control. Yet not one sparrow “falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will,” and “the very hairs of your head are all numbered” (Matthew 10:29-30). The expanse of His great power is simply inconceivable.
With all that power, it is a good thing that He is a good and loving God. If you give most people a little earthly power, they become prideful, overconfident, and less compassionate. Yet God has all power, and still He “is love”. That doesn’t mean that everything that happens on the earth is His will. However, it does mean that everything is within His knowledge and control. For that very reason, as Christians we need to pray that “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:10).
As Jesus and I began moving toward the earth, the continents came into view. I remember the moment we reentered the atmosphere. I know that reentering the earth’s atmosphere is an extremely complicated ordeal for astronauts, and I sensed when we passed through that barrier.
I believe that anyone viewing Earth from space would have a difficult time denying a Creator. My parents lived near Cape Canaveral, Florida, and would host astronauts in their home on occasion. Indeed, many of them had become Christians after going to space and seeing God’s creation.
I was reminded of God’s loving-kindness. He knows the most intimate details of our lives, yet He oversees the universe. As a child, I grew up watching Star Trek and, as I mentioned, had always dreamed of seeing space. It is amazing to me that the Lord would remember even so small a thing as my childhood desire and allow me to experience space – with Him!
We sped toward California and quickly made our way to my home. As we hovered over the house, I could see through the roof. As I looked into the living room I was startled to see my body lying on the living room floor.
I could hardly believe it was me. I thought, No, this is the real me. Immediately that scripture came to mind where Paul said, “For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens” (2 Corinthians 5:1, emphasis added). My experience was comparable to getting out of your car, then standing back and looking at it. It’s not you; it’s just a vehicle to carry you around. My body lying there looked so temporal, and my life seemed so short. My life span seemed as short to me as the time it takes for steam to escape from a teakettle. It quickly vanishes away. During this experience, I had an understanding of eternity and a greater sense of what was important to God. Sometimes, what we may think is so very important is not really important at all.
I remember passing through the roof and into my living room. As I approached my body, I seemed to be drawn back into it. It was at that time that the Lord left. Immediately, the horrors of hell came back into my mind. You see, as long as the Lord was with me, the fear and torments of hell left me. But when He left, the fear returned.
I started screaming and lay there in a traumatized state. I’m sure you have heard of someone in a war situation going into trauma, or a car accident causing the victim severe shock. Well, hell is far worse than any horror the earth could produce. It was far beyond what anyone could bear. The human body cannot hold up under all that terror. The well-known expression “He died of fright” is entirely possible for anyone who retains the memories of hell. My cries were loud enough to reach the bedroom and wake my wife up from a deep sleep.
I will let Annette give you her perspective of that night.
I woke up to screams coming from down the hallway. My first reaction was to look to my right to see if Bill was there beside me in bed. He wasn’t. I turned to my left and looked at the digital clock, and noticed that it was 3:23 a.m. I got out of bed and walked down the hallway to the living room where I found Bill in a fetal position with his hands grasping at the sides of his head. His breathing was erratic, and he was screaming, “I feel like I’m going to die!” I thought he was having a heart attack.
I asked him, “What’s wrong?”
He screamed, “THE LORD TOOK ME TO HELL. PRAY FOR ME! PRAY THAT THE LORD WILL TAKE THE FEAR FROM MY MIND!”
I had never seen him this way. Bill is a reserved, calm person. For all those who know him, they would tell you he is very even-tempered, steady, and consistent, and has been so all his life. So for Bill to be out of control and traumatized like that is completely against his nature.
It took a few seconds to process the shock of what I had heard. Although shocked, I felt a sense of peace inside, and I believed Bill completely. I felt a sense of relief in knowing that he wasn’t having a heart attack. In my heart, I knew he’d be OK. I started to pray. After a short while, Bill began to calm down and regain his composure. His screaming subsided, his breathing returned to normal, and he was able to gather his thoughts. He asked me for a glass of water.
My Story Continues
I remember being amazed as I looked at the water in the glass Annette handed to me. It was life in a glass. I gulped it down and asked for another – I never wanted to be thirsty again. After the second glass was finished, my wife and I returned to the bedroom. As we sat up in bed, I began to tell her what happened. I mentioned that somehow I was aware the time was 3:00 a.m., now November 23, when I left our home. After she prayed for me, God left the memories of my experience with me, but without the horror. I’m thankful that He did.
If the Lord had not taken the horror of those memories with the pain and suffering from me, I know I would have died. A person cannot live with such horror in his mind. Even natural tragedies often take years, even decades for the pain to subside to where people can look back and talk about their situations without turmoil.
I am reminded of a friend, Jake Greenwald, who is a survivor of the USS Indianapolis, which was sunk in the Pacific Ocean during World War II. Approximately nine hundred men were left drifting in the ocean for five days without lifeboats. Approximately six hundred of the men were eaten alive by sharks. Jake has shared with me the horror that he endured as he heard the screams of his fellow crewmen during the night as they were being eaten one by one. Though he survived the sharks, the severe sunburn and salt water literally split Jake’s back and legs open. The experience was so traumatic that it took him more than fifty years to finally talk about it.
I truly thank God that it didn’t take me years, or even days, to recover from my visit to hell. In an instant, God removed the fear and left the memory so that I could retell the story to others. Although I was no longer bearing the emotional distress, I was completely exhausted. The fatigue was greater than any I have ever experienced in my life.
Even so, the next day, I wanted to call everyone I knew who didn’t believe in hell and make them listen to me. I knew that I needed to rest and allow myself to recover, but I had to alert them. It wasn’t just my friends and family, either. I wanted to do that with everyone. In fact, it took the next year for me to settle down.
I didn’t want a single person to go where I had been. I woke up each morning thinking I had to warn people, and I went to bed each night wondering whom I might have missed that day. Everywhere I went, I would look at people and think, I wonder how many of them are going to hell. I must find a way to tell them about Jesus.
During the next year, there were times when I would get irritated with people who say they don’t believe in Jesus, heaven, or hell. When you know the truth, you want so desperately to convince others that hell is real and that Jesus is their only way out. Sometimes I would simply run short of patience, because I know where they are going if they don’t listen. It is not just that I am anxious to talk to others because of my experience – it’s also because of what God says in His Word. That is what counts. I do not get upset at the people themselves but at how hard it is to persuade them of the truth.
To give an analogy, try to imagine how you would feel if you were sitting beside a pool and saw a tanker truck pull up with some evil-looking men in it. The men got out of the truck and began to drain the pool water to about half-full. Then they filled it back up with another liquid from the large truck. However, it’s not water – it’s acid! You watch the men throw a wooden board into the pool, and the board immediately disintegrates. Obviously, these men are planning on killing whoever jumps into the seemingly harmless pool.
Then the men drive away. A few minutes later, some children come running up to the pool to swim. You immediately scream and warn them of the acid in the water, but they don’t believe you. You desperately yell, telling them to stay out of the pool. However, the water looks great to them – it’s inviting. How frustrated you would be! You couldn’t let them jump in, even if they insisted. You would feel compelled to do whatever it took to save them.
I am reminded of a day when I received a call from an elderly lady who was considering selling her house. She asked me to come over to talk with her about it. She said she wanted to sell right away because she was ill.
I told her, “Why don’t you wait until you’re feeling a bit better and not make such a big decision while under the stress of cancer surgery?”
She then agreed to wait. In talking with her, since she seemed so close to death, I asked her if she knew Jesus. She said, “I don’t believe in all that Bible fairy-tale stuff.”
I tried my best to convince her not to take a chance on her eternity. She said she thought it was all silly and told me to keep my beliefs to myself. I left with a feeling of deep sorrow. She appeared so frail and sickly that I felt she wouldn’t live much longer.
The next morning she was dead. I felt such anguish for her soul. If she rejected God’s last efforts due to her hardened heart, I knew that she would now be in that terrible place.
It’s frustrating to hear someone say, “I don’t believe in that Bible stuff. If there is a God, He would never send someone to such a horrible place.” Well, He doesn’t! He doesn’t want anyone to go there – ever. He gave His life so that we might live.
Here’s a bit of irony. On one hand, I was almost obsessed with warning people about hell and wanted to tell everyone how to avoid it. However, at the same time, I didn’t want to tell anyone about my personal “visit” there or about the time I spent with the Lord. Words cannot express what it was like to be in His presence. I suppose I felt somewhat like I was protecting a treasure.
For three months I kept it to myself, except for sharing it with my mother and one close friend.
[ Chapter 6 ]
Can “Good” People Go To Hell?
You might be thinking, Am I a good enough person to go to heaven? Yes, I think I am. Who goes to hell? Only bad people, really bad people like Hitler, Stalin, murderers, rapists, and so forth. People who kill little children. Those are the really bad people.
This sounds reasonable to most of us. But what standard is used to determine if one is “good enough” to go to heaven and another is “bad enough” to go to hell? What criterion determines our eternal fate? Could it be based on a higher standard? This is something we all need to know for certain. What authority can give us those answers?
The Bible has much to say about this widely misunderstood subject. Perhaps you even have your own opinion about the realities of hell. Are you willing to risk your eternity on “your opinion”? Since the Bible has undergone such intense scrutiny, thorough investigation, and thousands of years of testing, you may want to at least research what it has to say about this matter.
The qualification for entrance into heaven (or hell) is not based on how we compare to others. You may look pretty good to yourself, but what if you were looked at through the eyes of one who is sinless? What if you were judged not only by your actions but also by your thoughts? Would that make you a little more uncomfortable? If we are honest, we will admit that our actions alone would condemn us.
A girl was looking at a beautiful hillside covered with lush, green grass. She noticed a herd of sheep standing on the hill. They looked so white and clean, especially against the dark green grass. The girl went to bed, and the next morning she walked outside to look at the sheep. However, it had snowed all night. The sheep were still there, but now, against the unblemished white snow, they looked dingy, even dirty. In the same way, our “goodness” when compared to God’s standard for “good” falls far, far short.
Or perhaps you view your actions and thoughts in the same way Danny viewed his parking tickets. Ray Comfort, in his book How to Live Forever…Without Being Religious, explains what happened to his friend Danny. “When he told me that he once went to prison for failing to pay parking tickets, I asked, ‘Why didn’t you just pay them?’ He answered, ‘They were just parking tickets; it was no big deal.’ Then he told me that the police arrived at his home at 4:00 a.m., put him in a big black bus, and took him to Los Angeles County court. As he stood before the judge, he said, ‘Your Honor, I brought $700 with me to pay the tickets and to cover the court costs.’ The judge said, ‘Mr. Goodall, I’m going to save you all that money. You are going to jail!'” Danny was terrified.
His big mistake was that he trivialized his crimes by thinking that they were “just” parking tickets, and so he deceived himself. Had he known the judge’s ruling (that he would go to prison), he would have immediately made things right between himself and the law.
Most of us realize that we have broken God’s law – the Ten Commandments, but it’s no big deal. So, let me ask you a few questions about the law you have broken and see if it is a big deal. Have you ever lied? You say, “Yes. But they were only white lies. They were nothing serious.” Have you ever stolen something? You say, “Yes, but only little things.” Can you see what you are doing? You are trivializing your crimes, and like Danny, you will deceive yourself. What you are doing is saying that you haven’t actually “sinned,” and the Bible warns, “He who says he has no sin deceives himself.” The truth is, if you have lied, then you are a liar. If you have stolen anything (the value of the item stolen is irrelevant), you are a thief.
What you need to hear is the judge’s ruling for lying and stealing. Here it is: “All liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone” (Rev. 21:8). All liars go to hell. You say, “I don’t believe in hell.” That’s like someone saying to the judge, “I don’t believe in jail.” What we believe or don’t believe doesn’t change realities. No thief will enter heaven. Not one. Now look at this: Jesus said: “Whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matt. 5:28). Have you ever looked with lust? Then you have committed adultery as far as God is concerned. Have you used God’s name in vain? If you have, then you have used His holy name as a cuss word to express disgust. That’s called “blasphemy,” and it’s very serious in God’s sight.
So if you have been honest enough to admit that you have broken those commandments, you are a self-admitted lying, thieving, blasphemous adulterer at heart. If God gives you justice on Judgment Day, you will be guilty and end up in hell. Think of it – if you died right now, you would end up in hell forever. So what are you going to do? How can you make things right between you and the law? The Bible tells us that you cannot “do” anything. Further, keep in mind that a good judge must carry out justice.
There was a judge in a town that had a case brought to him one day. A girl was speeding in her car through an intersection that had signs posted warning drivers to drive slowly and watch for blind, handicapped children crossing the street. A police officer stopped her vehicle and gave her a ticket. The judge set the fine at the maximum – $25,000. Since the girl was unable to pay the fine, the bailiff prepared to take her away to jail. Just then, the judge did something very strange. He got up from his bench, went over to the bailiff, and paid the $25,000 for her! People wondered what was going on; only later did they find out that the girl was his daughter. Even though it was his daughter, the judge still imposed the maximum fine. He had to carry out justice. However, his love for his daughter would not allow him to leave her in that predicament.
In just the same manner, God did not leave us in a hopeless state concerning our eternity. Just as the judge paid the fine for his daughter, so likewise Jesus paid the penalty for all of our sins. He was brutally beaten beyond recognition as a man, severely whipped, and nailed to a cross where He suffered an excruciating death. He paid the fine in His life’s blood for the crimes that you committed: “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Then He rose from the dead and defeated death.
Ray continues, “Now here’s the difference between being religious and being a Christian. There are millions of people on this earth who have never seen the serious nature of sin. They are in the dark about the judge’s ruling. They have no idea that they will end up in hell for crimes that they consider trivial. They know that they have to face God after death, but they think that their religious works (like Danny with his $700) will buy their way out of any trouble in which they may find themselves. And as long as they trivialize their sin, they will deceive themselves into thinking that they can work their way into heaven by their religious works. But it is as futile as the man who tried to row against the river until he went over the falls. God Himself has thrown us a rope in Jesus Christ. He is the only One that can save us from death and hell. But we must let go of our own efforts to save ourselves and take hold of the rope. The moment we cease our own religious ‘rowing’ and have faith in Jesus, that’s when we find peace with God.
The Bible says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, least anyone boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)
You may still wonder how a good and loving God could send someone to that horrific place called hell. To put it plainly, He doesn’t. It is your rejection of the provision (Jesus) for your sin that sends you there. We all have a free will, and we can choose not to repent. (Repent means “to turn or change.”) In Deuteronomy 30:19, God says, “I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life“ (emphasis added). Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6). Will you believe Jesus? Or will you reject Him?
By choosing to do nothing, you have already made a choice. You choose death and hell forever. There are no “fence” positions. In John 3:18, Jesus says, He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” I am horrified at the thought of anyone spending an eternity in hell. Please don’t take this lightly, but believe what the Bible has to say. It is your eternity you are dealing with.
Some may think that they have done too many things wrong in the past and that God could not forgive them. The Bible clearly says that God has plenty of mercy for everyone. Psalm 86:5 says, “For You, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive, and abundant in mercy to all those who call upon You.” He will forgive all of your sins the moment you ask, and He will remember them no more. To receive Jesus as your Savior, please pray something like this:
Dear God, I confess I am a sinner. Thank You that Jesus took my punishment upon Himself when He died on the cross for my sins, and then rose from the dead, defeating death. Today I repent and place my trust in Jesus Christ alone for my salvation. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.
If you have prayed this short prayer, then you have made the wisest decision you will ever make. Begin reading your Bible, starting with the gospel of John. Find a Bible-believing church to attend, and go and tell someone what you have done, as Jesus said to do in Matthew 10:32. Pursue Him, and you will fulfill your purpose in life.