Discussions of a Former Seventh-Day Who Discovered the Truth About Catholicism
"Hell can be properly approached as an extension of God's mercy" Only if hell is properly understood by Scripture and not that God will burn people forever and ever. There is no justice or mercy in the belief that the damned live in some eternal torment, and Scripture does not support such nonsense. "Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire." Jude 1:7For our example, Sodom and Gomorrah were burned with eternal fire, never to be rebuilt. Today the cities are not burning.
Catholics teach that Christ is using figurative words when He speaks of an ever-burning hell. We are not at this time given a lot of information about hell. That is on purpose. We can make some reasonable guesses though. First we know that time is not the same after this life. God is not limited to time and material space as humans are. So God is the alpha and omega, the beginning and end. He is at all moments at all times. We are, in the flesh, restricted to a sequential and chronological space/time law. So what we understand as forever is one things happening, it passes into eternity never being repeated, and the next thing occurring. Like an ant crawling along the base of a huge mural. He sees only what is in front of him and when he passes by it, another scene is there. God can see the whole picture all at once. Therefore, hell may SEEM eternal to us at the moment in our material, our flesh. God uses words that we can relate to in this condition. Our decision for or against Him is eternal in the sense that it can never be changed. Once we move into the next material state, our decision is indelible. What eternity means, we just simply don't know right now. One other thing. Jesus said that hell and the lake of fire was made for Satan and the fallen angels. It was not created for man. We know that hell itself is eternal (whatever "eternal" means in the afterlife.) But scripture never tells us how LONG a man is conscious in the state of hell. Jesus clearly tells us that there are punishments according to one's evil deeds, so we can logically conclude that the punishments of hell will differ according to the person. Anyway.... the one thing the Catholic Church does say is that the main suffering of hell is the separation from our Creator. That is the "fire" of eternal torment. But other than that.... We don't know and we should never plan on knowing!
The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: "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" (CCC 1035). We should not separate what Scripture teaches regarding hell for what the Catholic Church teaches. Just because the Catholic Church says so does not make it so. The "everlasting fire" of hell is exactly what Scripture says is like Sodom and Gamorrah. The punishment (not punishing) of being turned "to ashes" (2 Peter 2:6) is everlasting, not the fire. No need to go into philosophical arguments about "eternal" and "time and physical space." Scripture is very clear on this subject.
We are not disagreeing Arik. Hell is eternal flames. How long each of us are aware of these eternal flames and are suffering is not spelled out in scripture nor in the Catholic Catechism. Christ used the term for hell, "eternal" and so do Catholics because... they heard it from Christ. What does eternal flames MEAN? Exactly like you said, eternal can mean the effects like in Sodom and Gommorah. We actually are not in disagreement here. We just don't know.....
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