VISIONS AND VISITS OF THE HEAVENLY CITY OF GOD
Heaven, Hell & In-Between!
IS THERE A FIERY HELL TOO?

IS THERE REALLY A HELL OR IS HADES A MYTH?
PSYCHIATRIST Dr. GEORGE RITCHIE SAW HADES!
An excerpt of a Near Death Experience of 1943, during World War II.

CITIES CROWDED WITH VISIBLE LIVING & THE INVISIBLE DEAD
(On a spirit trip through the Earth with Jesus)
With a start I noticed that we were moving. I hadn't been aware of leaving the hospital, but now it was nowhere in sight. The living events of my life which had crowded round us, had vanished too: instead we seemed to be high above the earth, speeding together toward a distant pin-prick of light.
It wasn't like the out-of-the-body travel I'd experienced earlier. Then, my own thoughts had obsessed me. Then I'd seemed almost to skim the surface of the earth. Now we were higher, moving faster; and with my eyes on Him, as He commanded, this mode of movement no longer seemed strange or alarming.
The distant pinprick resolved itself into a large city toward which we seemed to be descending. It was still nighttime but smoke poured from factory chimneys and many buildings had lights burning on every floor. There was an ocean or a large lake beyond the lights; it could have been Boston, Detroit, Toronto, certainly no place I had ever been, but obviously I thought as we came close enough to see the crowded streets, one where war industries were operating around the clock. [1943 during World War II]
In fact the streets were impossibly crowded. Just below us two men bore down on the same section of sidewalk and an instant later had simply passed through each other. It was the same inside the humming factories and office buildings--where I could see as easily as I could see the streets--too many people at the machines and desks.

THE DEAD STALKING THE LIVING
In one room a gray-haired man was sitting in an armchair dictating a letter onto a rotating cylinder. Standing behind him, not an inch away, another man, maybe ten years older, kept snatching repeatedly at the speaking tube as though he would tear it from the seated man's hand.
"No!" he was saying, "if you order a hundred gross they'll charge more. Take a thousand gross at a time. Pierce would have given you a better deal. Why did you send Bill on that Treadwell job?"
On and on he went, correcting, giving orders, while the man in the chair appeared neither to see nor hear him.
I noticed this phenomenon repeatedly, people unaware of others right beside them. I saw a group of assembly-line workers gathered around a coffee canteen. One of the women asked another for a cigarette, begged her in fact, as though she wanted it more than anything in the world. But the other one, chatting with her friends, ignored her. She took a pack of cigarettes from her overalls, and without ever offering it to the woman who reached for it so eagerly, took one out and lit it. Fast as a striking snake the woman who had been refused snatched at the lighted cigarette in the other one's mouth. Again she grabbed at it. And again... With a little chill of recognition I saw that she was unable to grip it.
I thought of that guy wire on the telephone pole. The sheet on the hospital bed. I remembered myself yelling at a man who never turned to look at me. And then I recalled the people here in this town trying in vain to attract attention, walking along a sidewalk without occupying space. Clearly these individuals were in the same substance-less predicament I myself was in. Like me, in fact, they were dead.
But--it was so very different from the way I had always imagined death. I watched one woman of maybe fifty following a man of about the same age down the street. She seemed very much alive, agitated and tearful, except that the man to whom she was addressing her emphatic words was oblivious to her existence.
"You're not getting enough sleep. Marjorie makes too many demands on you. You know you've never been strong. Why aren't you wearing a scarf? You should never have married a woman who thinks only of herself." There was more, much more, and from some of it I gathered that she was his mother, in spite of the fact that they appeared so nearly the same age. How long had she been following him this way? Was this what death was like--to be permanently invisible to the living. yet permanently wrapped up in their affairs?
"Lay not up for yourselves treasures on earth! For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also!" I'd never been any good at memorizing Scripture, but those words of Jesus from the Sermon on the Mount sprang into my mind now like an electric shock. Perhaps these insubstantial people--the businessman, the woman begging cigarettes, this mother--although they could no longer contact the earth still had their hearts there. Did I? With a kind of terror I thought of that Eagle Scout badge. Being a Phi Gam. Getting into med school. Was my heart, the focus of my being, fixed on things like these?

SUICIDES
Keep your eyes on Me, Jesus had told me as we set out on this extraordinary journey. And when I did, whenever I looked at Him, the terror vanished, although the dreadful question remained. Without Him before me, in fact, I could not have endured the things He was showing me. As fast as thought, we traveled from city to city, seemingly on the familiar earth, even the part of the earth-the United States and possibly Canada--that I'd always known, except for the thousands of non-physical beings that I now observed also inhabiting this "normal" space.
In one house a younger man followed an older one from room to room. "I'm sorry, Pa!" he kept saying. 'I didn't know what it would do to Mama! I didn't understand."
But though I could hear him clearly, it was obvious that the man he was speaking to could not. The old man was carrying a tray into a room where an elderly woman sat in bed. "--I'm sorry, Pa," the young man said again. "I'm sorry, Mama." Endlessly, over and over, to ears that could not hear.
In bafflement I turned to the Brightness beside me. But though I felt His compassion flow like a torrent into the room before us, no understanding lighted my mind.
Several times we paused before similar scenes. A boy trailing a teenaged girl through the corridors of a school. "I'm sorry, Nancy!" A middle-aged woman begging a gray-haired man to forgive her.
"What are they so sorry for, Jesus?" I pleaded. "'Why do they keep talking to people who can't hear them?"
Then from the Light beside me came the thought: They are suicides, chained to every consequence of their act.
The idea stunned me, yet I knew it came from Him, not me, for I saw no more scenes like these, as though the truth He was teaching had been learned.

PROTECTIVE SPIRIT-SHELLS OF THE LIVING
Gradually I began to notice something else. All of the living people we were watching were surrounded by a faint luminous glow, almost like an electrical field over the surface of their bodies. This luminosity moved as they moved, like a second skin made out of pale, scarcely visible light.
At first I thought it must be reflected brighness from the Person at my side. But the buildings we entered gave off no reflection, neither did inanimate objects. And then I realized that the non-physical beings didn't either. My own un--solid body, I now saw, was without this glowing sheath.
At this point the light drew me inside a dingy bar and grill, near what looked like a large naval base. A crowd of people, many of them sailors, lined the bar three deep, while others jammed wooden booths along the wall. Though a few were drinking beer, most of them seemed to be belting whiskeys as fast as the two perspiring bartenders could pour them.

GHOSTS WAITING TO JUMP INTO THE LIVING BODIES -- POSSESSION
Then I noticed a striking thing. A number of the men standing at the bar seemed unable to lift their drinks to their lips. Over and over I watched them clutch at their shot glasses, hands passing through the solid tumblers, through the heavy wooden counter top, through the very arms and bodies of the drinkers around them.
And these men, every one of them, lacked the aureole of light that surrounded the others.
Then, the cocoon of light must be a property of physical bodies only. The dead, we who had lost our solidness, had lost this "second skin" as well. And it was obvious that these living people, the light-surrounded ones, the ones actually drinking, talking, jostling each other, could neither see the desperately thirsty disembodied beings among them, nor feel their frantic pushing to get at those glasses. (Though it was also clear to me, watching, that the non-solid people could both see and hear each other. Furious quarrels were constantly breaking out among them over glasses that none could actually get to his lips.)
I thought I had seen heavy drinking at fraternity parties in Richmond, but the way civilians and servicemen at this bar were going at it beat everything. I watched one young sailor rise unsteadily from a stool, take two or three steps, and sag heavily to the floor. Two of his buddies stooped down and started dragging him away from the crush.
But that was not what I was looking at. I was staring in amazement as the bright cocoon around the unconscious sailor simply opened up. It parted at the very crown of his head and began peeling away from his head, his shoulders. Instantly, quicker than I'd ever seen anyone move, one of the insubstantial beings who had been standing near him at the bar was on top of him. He had been hovering like a thirsty shadow at the sailor's side, greedily following every swallow the young man made. Now he seemed to spring at him like a beast of prey.
In the next instant, to my utter mystification, the springing figure had vanished. It all happened even before the two men had dragged their unconscious load from under the feet of those at the bar. One minute I'd distinctly seen two individuals; by the time they propped the sailor against the wall, there was only one.
Twice more, as I stared, stupefied, the identical scene was repeated. A man passed out, a crack swiftly opened in the aureole round him, one of the non-solid people vanished as he hurled himself at that opening, almost as if he had scrambled inside the other man.
Was that covering of light some kind of shield, then? Was it a protection against... against disembodied beings like myself? Presumably these substance-less creatures had once had solid bodies, as I myself had had. Suppose that when they had been in these bodies they had developed a dependence on alcohol that went beyond the physical. That became mental. Spiritual, even. Then when they lost that body, except when they could briefly take possession of another one, they would be cut off for all eternity from the thing they could never stop craving.

A LEVEL OF HELL ON EARTH -- HADES, THE UNSEEN STATE
An eternity like that--the thought sent a chill shuddering through me--surely that would be a form of hell. I had always thought of hell, when I thought of it at all, as a fiery place somewhere beneath the earth where evil men like Hitler would burn forever. But what if one level of hell existed right here on the surface--unseen and unsuspected by the living people occupying the same space. What if it meant remaining on earth but never again able to make contact with it. I thought of that mother whose son couldn't hear her. The woman who wanted that cigarette. I thought of myself, caring only about getting to Richmond, unable to make anyone see me or help me. To want most, to burn with most desire, where you were most powerless--that would be hell indeed.
Nor "would be," I realized with a start. Was! This was hell: And I was as much a part of it as these other dis-carnate creatures. I had died. I had lost my physical body. I existed now in a realm that would not respond to me in any way...
But if this was hell, if there was no hope, then why was He here beside me? Why did my heart leap for joy each time I turned to Him? For He was overwhelmingly the chief impression of the journey. All the sights and shocks assailing me were nothing compared to the main thing that was going on. Which was, quite simply, falling in love with the Person beside me. Whichever way I looked, He remained the real focus of my attention. Whatever else I saw, nothing compared with Him.
And that was another of the things baffling me. If I could see Him, why couldn't everyone else? He was too bright for living eyes to look at--that I had realized right away. But surely the living people we passed must somehow sense the love streaming out to them like heat from a mighty fire!
And these others, the ones like me who no longer had physical eyes that could be destroyed, how could they help but see the burning Love and Compassion in their midst? How could they miss Someone closer, more brilliant than the noonday sun? Unless...

RITCHIE's SALVATION WAS HIS PROTECTION
For the first time it occurred to me to wonder whether something infinitely more important than I ever believed could have happened that day when at age eleven I walked forward to the altar of a church. Was it possible that I, in some real way, had actually been "born again," as the preacher said--given new eyes, whether I understood any of it or not?
Or, could these others see Him now too, if their attention was not all caught up in the physical world they had lost? "Where your heart is......" As long as my heart had been set on getting to Richmond by a certain date, I hadn't been able to see Jesus either. Maybe whenever our center of attention was on anything else, we could block out... even Him.

THE EARTH'S DESERTS ARE PLAINS OF SIN
We were moving again. We had left the Navy base with its circumference of seedy streets and bars, and were now standing, in this dimension where travel seemed to take no time at all, on the edge of a wide, flat plain. So far in our journeying we had visited places where the living and the dead existed side by side: indeed where disembodied beings, completely unsuspected by the living, hovered right on top of the physical things and people, where their desire was focused.
Now, however, although we were apparently still somewhere on the surface of the earth, I could see no living man or woman. The plain was crowded, even jammed with hordes of ghostly discarnate beings; nowhere was there a solid, light-surrounded person to be seen. All of these thousands of people were apparently no more substantial than I myself. And they were the most frustrated, the angriest, the most completely rniserable beings I had ever laid eyes on.
"Lord Jesus!" I cried. "Where are we?"
At first I thought we were looking at some great battle-field: everywhere people were locked in what looked like fights to the death, writhing, punching, gouging. It couldn't be a present day war because there were no tanks or guns. No weapons of any sort, I saw, as I looked closer, only bare hands and feet and teeth. And then I noticed that no one was apparently being injured. There was no blood, no bodies strewed the ground; a blow that ought to have eliminated an opponent would leave him exactly as before.
Although they appeared to be literally on top of each other, it was as though each man was boxing the air; at last I realized that of course, having no substance, they could not actually touch one another. They could not kill, though they clearly wanted to, because their intended victims were already dead, and so they hurled themselves at each other in a frenzy of impotent rage.
If I suspected before that I was seeing hell, now I was sure of it. Up to this moment the misery I had watched consisted in being chained to a physical world of which we were no longer part. Now I saw that there were other kinds of chains. Here were no solid objects or people to enthrall the soul. These creatures seemed locked into habits of mind and emotion, into hatred, lust, destructive thought-patterns.
Even more hideous than the bites and kicks they exchanged, were the sexual abuses many were performing in feverish pantomime. Perversions I had never dreamed of were being vainly attempted all around us. It was impossible to tell if the howls of frustration which reached us were actual sounds or only the transference of despairing thoughts. Indeed in this disembodied world it didn't seem to matter. Whatever anyone thought, however fleetingly or unwillingly, was instantly apparent to all around him, more completely than words could have expressed it, faster than sound waves could have carried it.
And the thoughts most frequently communicated had to do with the superior knowledge, or abilities, or background of the thinker. "I told you so!" "I always knew!" "Didn't I warn you!" were shrieked into the echoing air over and over. With a feeling of sick familiarity I recognized here my own thinking. This was me, my very tone of voice--the righteous one, the award-winner, the churchgoer. At age twenty I hadn't yet developed any truly chaining physical habits, not like the beings I'd seen scrabbling to get close to that bar. But in these yelps of envy and wounded self-importance I heard myself all too well.
Once again, however, no condemnation came from the Presence at my side, only a compassion for these unhappy creatures that was breaking His heart. Clearly it was not His will that any one of them should be in this place.

NO PRIVACY IN HELL!
Then--what was keeping them here? Why didn't each one just get up and leave? I could see no reason why the person being screamed at by that man with the contorted face didn't simply walk away. Or why that young woman didn't put a thousand miles between herself and the other one who was so furiously beating her with insubstantial fists? They couldn't actually hold onto their victims, any of these insanely angry beings. There were no fences. Nothing apparently prevented them from simply going off alone.
Unless... unless there was no "alone" in this realm of disembodied spirits No private corners in a universe where there were no walls. No place that was not inhabited by other beings to whom one was totally exposed at all times. What was it going to be like, I thought with sudden panic, to live forever where my most private thoughts were not private at all? No disguising them, no covering them up, no way to pretend I was anything but what I actually was.

BIRDS OF A FEATHER... SOCIETY OF THE DAMNED.
How unbearable. Unless of course everyone around me had the same kind of thoughts. . . . Unless there was a kind of consolation in finding others as loathsome as one's self, even if all we could do was hurl our venom at each other. Perhaps this was the explanation for this hideous plain. Perhaps in the course of eons or of seconds, each creature here had sought out the company of others as pride-and-hate-filled as himself, until together they formed this society of the damned.
Perhaps it was not Jesus who had abandoned them, but they who had fled from the Light that showed up their darkness- Or... were they as alone as at first it appeared? Gradually I was becoming aware that there was something else on that plain of grappling forms. Almost from the beginning I had sensed it, but for a long time I could not locate it. When I did it was with a shock that left me stunned.

BEINGS OF LIGHT
That entire unhappy plain was hovered over by beings seemingly made of light. It was their very size and blinding brightness that had prevented me at first from seeing them. Now that I had, now that I adjusted my eyes to take them--, I could see that these immense presences were bending over the little creatures on the plain. Perhaps even conversing with them.
Were these bright beings, angels? Was the Light beside me also an angel? But the thought which had pressed itself so undeniably on my mind in that little hospital room had been: "You are in the presence of the Son of God." Could it be that each of these other human wraiths, wretched and unworthy like me, was also in His presence? In a realm where space and time no longer followed any rules I knew, could He be standing with each of them as He was with me?
I didn't know. All I clearly saw was that not one of these bickering beings on the plain had been abandoned. They were being attended, watched over, ministered to. And the equally observable fact was that not one of them knew it.

UNAWARE OF ANGELS
If Jesus or His angels were speaking to them, they certainly did not hear. There was no pause in the stream of rancor coming from their own hearts; their eyes sought only some nearby figure to humiliate. It would have seemed to me impossible not to be aware of what were the hugest and most striking features of that whole landscape, except that I myself had stared at them unseeing.
In fact, now that I had become aware of these bright presences, I realized with bewilderment that I'd been seeing them all along, without ever consciously registering the fact, as though Jesus could show me at any moment only so much as I was ready to see. Angels had crowded the living cities and towns we had visited. They had been present in the streets, the factories, the homes, even in that raucous bar, where nobody had been any more conscious of their existence than I myself had.
And suddenly I realized that there was a common denominator to all these scenes so far. It was the failure to see Jesus. Whether it was a physical appetite, an earthly concern, an absorption with self--whatever got in the way of His Light, created the separation into which we stepped at death.

THE PERFECT HELL!
We were moving again. Or rather, the scene in front of us was--changing somehow. Opening up. It was the quality of light that was different, as though the air had suddenly become more transparent, enabling me to see what had apparently been there all along
Again, it was as if Jesus could reveal only as much as my mind could grasp. First He had shown me a hellish realm, filled with beings trapped in some form of self-attention. Now behind, beyond, through all this I began to perceive a whole new realm! Enormous buildings stood in a beautiful sunny park and there was a relationship between the various structures, a pattern to the way they were arranged, that reminded me somewhat of a well-planned university.
Except that to compare what I was now seeing with anything on earth was ridiculous. It was more as if all the schools and colleges in the world were only piecemeal reproductions of this reality.
We seemed suddenly to have entered an altogether different dimension, almost another kind of existence. After the clamor of the wartime cities and the shrieking voices of the plain, here was an all-prevailing peace. As we entered one of the buildings and started down a high-ceilinged corridor lined with tall doorways, the air was so hushed that I was actually startled to see people in the passageway.
I could not tell if they were men or women, old or young, for all were covered from head to foot in loose-flowing hooded cloaks which made me think vaguely of monks. But the atmosphere of the place was not at all -- I imagined a monastery. It was more like some tremendous study center, humming with the excitement of great discovery. Everyone we passed in the wide halls and on the curving staircases seemed caught up in some all-engrossing activity; not many words were exchanged among them. And yet I sensed no unfriendliness between these beings, rather an aloofness of total concentration.
Whatever else these people might be, they appeared utterly and supremely--If forgetful--absorbed in some vast purpose beyond themselves. Through open doors I glimpsed enormous rooms filled with complex equipment. In several of the rooms hooded figures bent over intricate charts and diagrams, or sat at the controls of elaborate consoles flickering with lights. I'd prided myself a little on the beginnings of a scientific education; at the university I had majored in chemistry, minored in biology. studied physics and calculus. But if these were scientific activities of some kind, they were so far beyond anything I knew, that I couldn't even guess what field they were in. Somehow I felt that some vast experiment was being pursued, perhaps dozens and dozens of such experiments.
"What are they doing, Jesus?" I asked.
But although Knowing flamed from Him like fire--though in fact I sensed that every activity on this mighty "campus" had its source in God--no explanation lighted my mind. What was communicated, as before, was love: compassion for my ignorance, understanding that encompassed all my non-understanding.
And something more... In spite of His obvious delight in the beings around us, I sensed that even this was not the ultimate, that He had far greater things to show me if only I could see.
And so I followed Him into other buildings of this domain of thought. We entered a studio where music of a complexity, I couldn't begin to follow was being composed and performed. There were complicated rhythms, tones not on any scale I knew. "Why," I found myself thinking, "Bach is only the beginning!"
Next we walked through a library the size of the whole University of Richmond. I gazed into rooms lined floor to ceiling with documents on parchment, clay, leather, metal, paper. "Here," the thought occurred to me, "are assembled the important books of the universe."
Immediately I knew--this was impossible. How could books be written somewhere beyond the earth! But the thought persisted. although my mind rejected it. "The key works of the universe," the phrase kept recurring as we roamed the domed reading rooms crowded with silent scholars. Then abruptly, at the door to one of the smaller rooms, almost an annex: "Here is the central thought of this earth."
Out we moved again into the hushed and expectant park Then into a building crowded with technological machinery-. Into a strange sphere-shaped structure where a catwalk led us over a tank of what appeared to be ordinary water. Into what looked like huge laboratories and into what might have been some kind of space observatory. And as we went my sense of mystification grew.
"Is this... heaven, Lord Jesus?" I ventured. The calm, the brightness, they were surely heaven-like! So was the absence of self, of clamoring ego. "When these people were on earth did they grow beyond selfish desires?"
They grew, and they have kept on growing. The answer shone like sunlight in that intent and eager atmosphere. But if growth could continue, then this was not all. Then there must be something even these serene beings lacked. And suddenly I wondered if it was the same thing missing in the "lower realm." Were these selfless, seeking creatures also failing in some degree to see Jesus? Or perhaps, to see Him for Himself? Bits and hints of Him they surely had; obviously it was the truth they were so single-mindedly pursuing. But what if even a thirst for truth could distract from the Truth Himself, standing here in their midst while they searched for Him in books and test tubes....
I didn't know. And next to His unutterable love, my own bewilderment, all the questions I wanted to ask, seemed incidental. Perhaps, I concluded at last, He cannot tell me more than I can see: perhaps there is nothing in me yet that could understand an explanation.

JESUS IS HEAVEN &
The central fact, the all-adequate one, remained this Personality at my side. Whatever additional facts He was showing me, He remained every moment the real focus of my attention.
Which is why, perhaps, I was not aware of the precise moment when we left the surface of the earth...
Up until this point I had had the impression that we were traveling--though in what manner I could not imagine-- upon the earth itself. Even what I had come to think of as a "higher plane" of deep thoughts and learning, was obviously nor far distant from the "physical plane" where body-less beings were still bound to a solid world.
Now however, we seemed to have left the earth behind.
I could no longer see it. Instead we appeared to be in an immense void, except that I had always thought of that as a frightening word, and this was not. Some unnamable promise seemed to vibrate through that vast emptiness.

A GOLDEN CITY OF LIGHT
And then I saw, infinitely far off, far too distant to be visible with any kind of sight I knew of ... a city. A glowing, seemingly endless city, bright enough to be seen over all the unimaginable distance between. The brightness seemed to shine from the very walls and streets of this place, and from beings which I could now discern moving about within it. In fact, the city and everything in it seemed to be made of light, even as the Figure at my side was made of light.
At this time I had not yet read the Book of Revelation. I could only gape in awe at this faraway spectacle, wonder-ing how bright each building, each inhabitant, must be to be seen over so many light-years of distance. Could these radiant beings, I wondered, amazed, be those who had indeed kept Jesus the focus of their lives? Was I seeing at last ones, who had looked for Him in everything? Looked so well and so closely that they had been changed into His very likeness? - - - Even as I asked the question, two of the bright figures seemed to detach themselves from the city and start toward us, hurling themselves across that infinity with the speed of light.
But as fast as they came toward us, we drew away still faster. The distance increased, the vision faded. Even as I cried out with loss, I knew that my imperfect sight could not now sustain more than an instant's glimpse of this real, this ultimate heaven. He had shown me all He could; now we were speeding far away.
Walls closed around us. Walls so narrow and box-like, that it was several seconds before I recognized the little hospital room we had left what seemed a lifetime ago.

BACK TO LIFE! BACK IN MY BODY!
Jesus still stood beside me, otherwise consciousness could not have sustained the transition from infinite space to the dimensions of this cell-like room. The glorious city still sparkled and glowed in my thoughts, beckoning, calling. With total indifference I noticed that there was a figure lying beneath the sheet on the bed -which nearly filled the minuscule room.
But incredibly Jesus was telling me that I belonged somehow with that sheeted form, that His purpose for me involved that lump-like thing as well. I was moving nearer to it. It was filling my field of vision, shutting off the Light. Desperately I cried out to Him not to leave me, to make me ready for that shining city, not to abandon me in this dark and narrow place.
As in a long-ago half-forgotten story I remembered myself combing the halls and wards of this very hospital, wanting desperately to find the figure on this bed. From that loneliest moment of my existence I had leapt into the most perfect
belonging-- I had ever known. 'The Light of Jesus had entered my life and filled it completely, and the idea of being separated from Him was more than I could bear,
Even as I pleaded I felt consciousness slipping from me. My mind began to blur. -- I no longer knew what I was struggling for. My throat was on fire and the weight on my chest was crashing me.
I opened my eyes but there was something in front of my face. I groped about the blankets trying to find what was covering me, but moving my arms was tike trying to lift lead bars. At last my fingers closed upon each other. With my right hand I touched a circular band with an oval stone on the ring finger of my left hand. Slowly I twisted it round and round, as blackness closed over me.


HOW TO ESCAPE HADES & HELL

And what about the people who never heard about Salvation?

As Christians, we know that we are not saved by our own good deeds and righteous works, but by the Love and mercy of God. He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross to suffer for our sins; and if we believe on Jesus and accept Him into our hearts, we are forgiven.--And, as John 3:36 promises, "He that believes on the Son of God has (NOW posseses) EVERLASTING LIFE"!

We can understand how someone who has HEARD the Good News of God's Love in Jesus, yet who wilfully and rebelliously hardens their heart and completely REJECTS the Lord's mercy and Salvation, is worthy of Hell! Jesus said, "He that REJECTS Me and receives not My Word has one that judges him: The WORD that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the Last Day!"--John 12: 48. But the question that has troubled many sincere Christians and students of the Word of God down through the ages has been this:

"But what about the people who NEVER heard the Gospel?--The poor, ignorant heathen who never even HEARD the name of Jesus? How could a God of Love send them into everlasting torment in the Lake of Fire and Brimstone when they never even had a CHANCE to HEAR the Gospel or know HOW to get saved?

"And what about the untold millions of people of different religions who are fairly righteous and are trying to do the best they know how, living up to whatever light they have? How could God send them to HELL just because no one ever preached the Gospel to them and showed them the Love of God so that they would WANT to get SAVED? Are they going to be sent to eternal TORMENT in the flames of Hell, even if they were kind, sweet people who tried their best to worship and please God, even though they never really knew Him or His Word and Truth?"

No, thank God, He is NOT going to send them to Hell! They may not all go to HEAVEN--that wonderful Celestial City reserved only for the SAVED (Revelation 21:24,27)-but they are certainly NOT all going to HELL! I am personally convinced, from a thorough study of the Scriptures, that God has made some OTHER provision for the ignorant, un-evangelised unsaved, those who never heard the true Gospel of Jesus Christ!

God is going to have MERCY on them and give them their chance! If they never even had a CHANCE to hear and believe the Gospel in THIS life, then the Lord will see to it that they get their FIRST chance in the NEXT life! You may ask, "But how could they believe the Gospel in HELL?" The answer to that is that by far the vast MAJORITY of the hundreds of millions of unsaved do NOT go to Hell when they die, contrary to what certain churches may have led you to believe.

When we think of HELL, what do we think of? We immediately think of the Lake of Fire, "GEHENNA", burning with fire and brimstone, "where their worm dieth not and the fire is not quenched".--The place where the wicked and damned Christ-rejectors suffer torment.--Mark 9:43-44 and Revelation 21:8, 14:9-11. Most preachers tell us that ALL those who do not believe in Jesus, upon the moment of death, are immediately tossed into this terrible Lake of Fire!

That such a Hell exists, there can be no doubt! And there can be no doubt that WICKED people such as Hitler, the Antichrist and some of the other monsters of history definitely DESERVE to go to such a place of punishment! But what about the millions upon millions of ignorant heathen and peoples of other religions?--Or even good, moral people who are nominally Christians but never knew Jesus personally and never were saved! Do THEY deserve to go to such a place of tor ment? Obviously, NO!

It might surprise you to learn that of the 22 times the word "Hell" is mentioned in the New Testament, only 11 times is it the original Greek word "Gehenna", the Lake of Fire. The OTHER 11 times, the original word used was "HADES" which literally means "THE UNSEEN STATE" or "THE UNSEEN WORLD".--It does NOT refer to the Lake of Fire! In the Hebrew of the Old Testament, the word invariably translated as "Hell" does NOT refer to a fiery Hell either; the original Hebrew word used, "SHEOL", ALSO means "the unseen state", or the SPIRIT WORLD. t

Another important point is regarding the word "GRAVE" which appears 65 TIMES in the English Old Testament! Of the 34 times it appears, it DOES literally mean a grave where the dead are buried, but 31 times, when the Bible talks about people "going down to the grave", the original Hebrew word was "SHEOL"--"the unseen WORLD" OF SPIRITS!

What IS "THE UNSEEN WORLD", mistakenly translated as "Hell" and "the grave"? Obviously, it is the unseen SPIRIT World, the World where the spirits of the departed dead live! So--unless they were horribly wicked--where do the spirits of the unsaved go when they die? They go into HADES, the UNSEEN state. They don't get thrown immediately into Hellfire--neither are they just stuck in a grave, a hole in the ground--but they pass on into the invisible, unseen World of the Spirit.

"For it is given unto men once to die, and AFTER this the Judgement"--Hebrews 9:27. But WHEN does this Judgement occur? At the moment of one's death, as many preachers insist? No! Revelation 2O:5,11-15 clearly states that the UNSAVED DEAD are NOT raised and judged until the END of the 1,OOO-year MILLENNIUM!--Which hasn't even BEGUN yet! So where are the unsaved dead waiting UNTIL then? Revelation 2O:12-13 gives us the answer: "And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and DEATH and HADES delivered up the DEAD which were in THEM. And the dead were JUDGED according to their WORKS."

Hades, then, the Spirit World, is a WAITING STATE where the spirits of the unsaved dead wait to be judged and sent to their final destination.--And this will NOT occur until the "GREAT WHITE THRONE JUDGEMENT" at the end of the Millennium! Why did the churches never TELL us this when it's so clearly in the Bible? Why did they never want to admit that there's some other place to go besides Heaven and Hell? WHY? Many an unsaved person or potential believer has been turned away by this false doctrine of the churches, and just couldn't believe in a God Who would send everybody, including ignorant babies and children, into a fiery Hell! It's terrible what some churches are guilty of! Think how they've offended so many people's understanding of the justice and grace and Love and mercy of God by their doctrines!--That "if you don't believe just the way WE believe, you are going straight to HELLFIRE, period!--No alternative, no in-between!"--When the Scripture makes it clear that there IS an IN-BETWEEN!

Here then is the next question: If those who NEVER heard the Gospel are awaiting their final judgement in the Spirit World, can they believe on Jesus THERE, AFTER they have died, receive His forgiveness of sins and be SAVED and liberated? It may surprise you to know that the answer is YES! If EVER anyone would believe, it would be when they wake up in the next World and find out they were very WRONG and that Jesus IS the Truth!--THEN they would be SURE to believe if someone would only TELL them! But some people insist that once a poor lost sinner has died, his "moment of grace" is over and he can no longer believe the Truth and be saved!--Even if he WANTS to!

But if this is really the case, then why did JESUS HIMSELF, while spending three days and nights in the heart of the Earth between His crucifixion and His resurrection, spend His time "PREACHING unto the SPIRITS in PRISON" there if there was no HOPE of their SALVATION? 1Peter 3:18-2O says, "Christ suffered for our sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to GOD. For which cause He ALSO went and PREACHED to the SPIRITS IN PRISON; Which long ago were disobedient, when once God waited patiently in the days of Noah."

1Peter 4:5-6 goes on to say, "God is ready to judge the living and the dead. For this cause was the GOSPEL preached ALSO to them that are DEAD, that they might be judged just like men (living) in the FLESH, but live according to GOD in the SPIRIT!" Think of it! Jesus spent three days in the belly of the Earth, down where the disobedient spirits of the unsaved dead were IMPRISONED, and He "preached the GOSPEL to them"! "Gospel" means "GOOD NEWS"--the Good News of SALVATION!

If it isn't possible for the departed dead to believe and be saved, WHY did the Son of God Himself PREACH to them? Why did He preach the GOSPEL to them and tell them HOW to get saved if it wasn't possible for them to repent and be sorry for their sins and to receive forgiveness, salvation, and to be DELIVERED from their imprisonment? There would have been no point to it, and Jesus would have been wasting His time!

WHY did He preach them the Gospel? Just as a matter of information so they could be all the more miserable for the rest of Eternity in an everlasting spiritual prison? Do you honestly think that Jesus went down there and preached the Gospel, the Good News of Salvation, to the prisoners just to make them feel even worse by not giving them any hope at all?

The TRUTH of the matter is, according to the Scripture, the Word of God, Jesus preached to them the GOSPEL, and I am convinced that if they BELIEVED it they were RELEASED! Remember, some of them had been waiting there since the days of Noah, for thousands of years! All the millions of people who lived before Jesus came and never before knew how to be saved, received an opportunity to hear the Gospel from Jesus Himself! And if they RECEIVED it and BELIEVED it, they were FORGIVEN for their sins and RELEASED from their imprisonment!

Not only did the spirits in prison and the spirits awaiting in the Spirit World get a chance to hear the Gospel THEN, but they are probably hearing it right NOW as well!--And God's Word indicates that they will have the opportunity to receive the Truth right up until the Final Great White Throne Judgement of the unsaved itself! As Revelation 2O:12,15 say: "And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: And ANOTHER Book was opened, which is the BOOK OF LIFE. And IF any man was NOT found written in the Book of Life, he was cast into the Lake of Fire." (And remember, the Great White Throne Judgement is ONLY for those who were not saved in THIS life. Those who received Jesus in this life will have already been raptured and taken to Heaven at the Second Coming of Christ 1,000 years before this final Judgement.)

It says if they were NOT found written in the Book of Life, they were cast into Hell! So obviously, SOME people WERE found written in it at that final Judgement. If there weren't ANY people in the Book of Life, why even bring it out at this time? Why not throw them all straight into Hell-fire? WHY is it brought out? Just to "make one last check, just to be CERTAIN that none of the people there are saved"? No!

Obviously, there are TWO groups of people resurrected to face the Final Judgement: Those whose names ARE written in the Book of Life, and those who are NOT. Those whose names are written in the Book of Life must be those who died unsaved, but repented of their sins and came to the Lord in the SPIRIT WORLD. Of course, the utter reprobates, the unrepentant defiant wicked who have no intention of repenting and receiving the Truth, will be damned to HELL! That is clear. But what about those who at this Great White Throne Judgement ARE found writ ten in the Book of Life? Where do THEY go?

The 21st and 22nd Chapters of Revelation tell us that only the SAVED who believe in Jesus by faith live INSIDE New Jerusalem, the Eternal Heavenly City of the blessed; but it tells us that there are ALSO people living OUTSIDE the City on the beautiful NEW EARTH! It says, "the kings of the EARTH do bring their glory and honour INTO it (the City)."--Revelation 21:24. Who ARE these "kings of the Earth" if--according to the churches--the only people around are either those who got saved in THIS life, who will therefore be enjoying the HEAVENLY CITY, or those who did NOT get saved in this life, who will therefore be damned to HELL? 23. Revelation 22:2 says that in the City is "the Tree of Life...and the leaves of the Tree were for the healing of the NATIONS." WHAT nations will NEED to be healed? None of the resurrected saved in their immortal bodies are going to need healing, because Revelation 21:4 promises that for us "there shall be no more pain nor death nor sickness, sorrow or crying".--So WHO ARE these nations that NEED HEALING?

It obviously refers to the UNSAVED people OUTSIDE the City! These kings and nations outside the City are a class of people who were not BAD ENOUGH to go to HELL, the Lake of Fire, nor are they yet the BORN AGAIN, believing BRIDE of Christ, those who have the right to enter and enjoy the Heavenly City! "The kings" and their "nations" are the people who apparently have not yet received Jesus and His free gift of Salvation, but whom God has mercifully spared from Hell, and given them the opportunity to learn about Him and His Love on the beautiful New Earth.

Even outside the Heavenly City it's going to be a literal PARADISE like the Garden of Eden, and those who end up there are going to think it's Heaven on Earth for sure, and be very thankful to God for His mercy! They may have had to wait a long time in the Spirit World first, but they will finally be released and be thankful for the Lord's Love and mercy, as we, God's saved children from within the City, minister the healing leaves of the Tree of Life to them. Eventually they too will come to a full knowledge of God and His Salvation, and thus be able to enter and enjoy the wonderful Heavenly City where God Himself dwells! Doesn't that fit your idea of a loving, merciful, all-wise God, much better than the churches' cruel and unscriptural doctrine of a hateful Hell forever for all who were never even offered the opportunity to or the knowledge of how to receive Jesus in THIS life?

There IS such a place as Hell, the Lake of Fire, a place of spiritual damnation, but it is just for the WORST, the most rebellious and defiant and disobedient and wicked and cruel and horrible people, monsters like Hitler, the Antichrist, the Devil and his fallen angels! THEY'LL all go to the Lake of Fire, you can be sure of that! The Bible makes it quite clear that the most wicked "shall have their part in the Lake which burneth with Fire and Brimstone: which is the Second Death!"--Revelation 21:8.

The Lake of fire is punishment only for the very WORST! To be cast into the Lake of Fire you've got to be a pretty wicked sinner who has been really DEFIANT of God, rejecting every opportunity He has given you to repent!--A proud, rebellious sinner who REFUSES to yield to God's Love, and who, like the Devil himself, defiantly cries, in the words of the infamous poem, "Invictus": "My head is bloody but unbowed! I am the master of my OWN fate!"

Let me tell you, for those who finally DO end up in Hell, the Lake of Fire, it will be because they FOUGHT their way there every step of the way over everything God could possibly do to keep them OUT of Hell! They will have INSISTED on going to Hell and will have fought their way into the Pit of Hell itself!--DETERMINED to go to Hell despite every merciful, loving opportunity God gave them to be saved and repent!

What about YOU? Have YOU received the love and forgiveness of God through His Son Jesus Christ? If so, you're saved and bound for Heaven when you die! But if you HAVEN'T received Jesus, believe on Him and receive His Spirit into your heart NOW! Don't decide too late and have to wait a thousand years in the Spirit World for your final fate to be decided! Why end up in Hell, or end up only being allowed to live on the New Earth surrounding the Heavenly City? Wouldn't you rather be one of the SAVED who lives WITH God Himself IN the indescribably beautiful Heavenly City, the NEW Jerusalem, enjoying all of its wonderful pleasures of Paradise? You CAN be! Receive Jesus NOW!--Revelation 21:3; 22:14. God bless you with His ETERNAL Salvation!--In Jesus' name, amen!

Written by David Brandt Berg © Copyright 1989 The Family Missions Int.

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