Tuesday, October 30, 2012
Volume 23, number 304

The Hell There Is
Part Three
St. Matthew 25: Verses 41-46

    Halloween has become the scariest day of the year if one doesn't count tax day. For some reason the populace 'likes' to be scared. Since that's the case, what follows in St. Matthew 25: 41-46 should scare the bejeebers out of them. It should, but the vast majority have been so dumbed down to not realize the significance and consequence of Christ's words that sin separates man from God and it is not God's fault but man's if they would be included in that group told to depart from His Presence and be cursed forever in the eternal fires of hell. If those words from the Son of God are not the scariest words and scenario anyone could ever imagine, then they are already zombies. The devil's greatest accomplishment is to convince souls that he doesn't exist so they will not think to don the armor of God as St. Paul warns in Ephesians 6, but Our Lord's words are clear proof he does exist and one should be very careful about being frightened to death!

    In this fourth and final part of Chapter 25 on the Word of God from the Gospel of St. Matthew I not only employ the well-known Haydock Commentary, but also continue with the magnificent work of Saint Thomas Aquinas. Please note, while I attribute to Aquinas what is shown below, it should be acknowledged that it comes from the part of the Summa that was completed after his death by a Dominican theologian and friend of Saint Thomas (Supplement) using Saint Thomas' commentary on the "Fourth Book of the Sentences" or "Sentences" (Quatuor libri Sententiarum)].

    Again, I remind the reader that I am using this to emphasize the undeniable reality of Hell and the possibility that each and every one of us can go there. Nothing should be scarier than that!

    In the texts of the Summa what is in parenthesis has been put there by Thomas himself, that which is in brackets by the editor of New Advent's online version of the Summa on Hell unless "J.G." would be added at the end which would be something I insert. The only things I would insert would be a brief definition of a word that may not be readily known. In most cases I only do this if it was a word I didn't understand or was not 100% sure I knew the exact meaning. My inserts should not be looked at as being definitive as the desired meaning of the word as intended by Aquinas could be quite different. You will note in this first installment St. Thomas' words are in black, mine in blue, Haydock Commentary in green and Christ's words from Sacred Scripture always in red.

    Again, for brevity and easy reading I sometimes gave St. Thomas Aquinas' answers to objections without giving the objections so when you see a sentence that seems to be obscure it is a response to a particular objection. I suggest checking the source itself at the following link Summa for clarification.

    Thus I will proceed to bring you the last five verses of Chapter 25 as St. Matthew continues recording Our Lord's words:

41 Then shall He say to them also, that shall be on His left hand: Depart from Me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, which was prepared for the devil and his angels.
    Verse 41. Prepared for the devil. When Christ invited the just to His heavenly kingdom, He calls it a kingdom prepared for them from the foundation of the world; a kingdom of inexpressible happiness, which from all eternity He designed for those who He knew would faithfully serve Him. But, when He pronounces the sentence of the reprobate, He speaks in a widely different manner. He calls it an everlasting fire, prepared not for them, but for the devils and wicked spirits, their accomplices. They have chosen to cast themselves into it; they must therefore look upon themselves as the authors of all their miseries and sufferings. (St. John Chrysostom, hom. lxxx.) --- The pain of loss is here expressed by depart from Me, and the pain of sense by eternal fire. (Menochius and Maldonatus)

St. Thomas Aquinas on whether the damned will ever think of God

Objection 1. . It would seem that the damned will sometimes think of God. For one cannot hate a thing actually, except one think about it. Now the damned will hate God, as stated in the text of Sentent. iv, in the last Distinction. Therefore they will think of God sometimes.

Objection 2. Further, the damned will have remorse of conscience. But the conscience suffers remorse for deeds done against God. Therefore they will sometimes think of God.

On the contrary, Man's most perfect thoughts are those which are about God: whereas the damned will be in a state of the greatest imperfection. Therefore they will not think of God.

I answer that, one may think of God in two ways. First, in Himself and according to that which is proper to Him, namely that He is the fount of all goodness: and thus it is altogether impossible to think of Him without delight, so that the damned will by no means think of Him in this way. Secondly, according to something accidental as it were to Him in His effects, such as His punishments, and so forth, and in this respect the thought of God can bring sorrow, so that in this way the damned will think of God.

Reply to Objection 1. The damned do not hate God except because He punishes and forbids what is agreeable to their evil will: and consequently they will think of Him only as punishing and forbidding.

    This suffices for the Reply to the Second Objection, since conscience will not have remorse for sin except as forbidden by the Divine commandment.

St. Thomas on whether the damned see the glory of the blessed

Objection 1. It would seem that the damned do not see the glory of the blessed. For they are more distant from the glory of the blessed than from the happenings of this world. But they do not see what happens in regard to us: hence Gregory commenting on Job 14:21, "Whether his children come to honor," etc. says (Moral. xii): "Even as those who still live know not in what place are the souls of the dead; so the dead who have lived in the body know not the things which regard the life of those who are in the flesh." Much less, therefore, can they see the glory of the blessed.

Objection 2. Further, that which is granted as a great favor to the saints in this life is never granted to the damned. Now it was granted as a great favor to Paul to see the life in which the saints live for ever with God (2 Corinthians 12). Therefore the damned will not see the glory of the saints.

On the contrary, It is stated (Luke 16:23) that the rich man in the midst of his torments "saw Abraham . . . and Lazarus in his bosom."

I answer that, The damned, before the judgment day, will see the blessed in glory, in such a way as to know, not what that glory is like, but only that they are in a state of glory that surpasses all thought. This will trouble them, both because they will, through envy, grieve for their happiness, and because they have forfeited that glory. Hence it is written (Wisdom 5:2) concerning the wicked: "Seeing it" they "shall be troubled with terrible fear." After the judgment day, however, they will be altogether deprived of seeing the blessed: nor will this lessen their punishment, but will increase it; because they will bear in remembrance the glory of the blessed which they saw at or before the judgment: and this will torment them. Moreover they will be tormented by finding themselves deemed unworthy even to see the glory which the saints merit to have.

Reply to Objection 1. The happenings of this life would not, if seen, torment the damned in hell as the sight of the glory of the saints; wherefore the things which happen here are not shown to the damned in the same way as the saints' glory; although also of the things that happen here those are shown to them which are capable of causing them sorrow.

Reply to Objection 2. Paul looked upon that life wherein the saints live with God [Cf. II-II, 185, 3, ad 2], by actual experience thereof and by hoping to have it more perfectly in the life to come. Not so the damned; wherefore the comparison fails.

Aquinas on whether by Divine justice an eternal punishment is inflicted on sinners

Objection 1. It would seem that an eternal punishment is not inflicted on sinners by Divine justice. For the punishment should not exceed the fault: "According to the measure of the sin shall the measure also of the stripes be" (Deuteronomy 25:2). Now fault is temporal. Therefore the punishment should not be eternal.

Objection 2. Further, of two mortal sins one is greater than the other; and therefore one should receive a greater punishment than the other. But no punishment is greater than eternal punishment, since it is infinite. Therefore eternal punishment is not due to every sin; and if it is not due to one, it is due to none, since they are not infinitely distant from one another.

Objection 3. Further, a just judge does not punish except in order to correct, wherefore it is stated (Ethic. ii, 3) that "punishments are a kind of medicine." Now, to punish the wicked eternally does not lead to their correction, nor to that of others, since then there will be no one in future who can be corrected thereby. Therefore eternal punishment is not inflicted for sins according to Divine justice.

Objection 4. Further, no one wishes that which is not desirable for its own sake, except on account of some advantage. Now God does not wish punishment for its own sake, for He delights not in punishments [The allusion is to Wisdom 1:13: "Neither hath He pleasure in the destruction of the living," as may be gathered from I-II, 87, 3, Objection 3]. Since then no advantage can result from the perpetuity of punishment, it would seem that He ought not to inflict such a punishment for sin.

Objection 5. Further, "nothing accidental lasts for ever" (De Coelo et Mundo i). But punishment is one of those things that happen accidentally, since it is contrary to nature. Therefore it cannot be everlasting.

Objection 6. Further, the justice of God would seem to require that sinners should be brought to naught: because on account of ingratitude a person deserves to lose all benefits, and among other benefits of God there is "being" itself. Therefore it would seem just that the sinner who has been ungrateful to God should lose his being. But if sinners be brought to naught, their punishment cannot be everlasting. Therefore it would seem out of keeping with Divine justice that sinners should be punished for ever.

On the contrary, It is written (Matthew 25:46): "These," namely the wicked, "shall go into everlasting punishment."

    Further, as reward is to merit, so is punishment to guilt. Now, according to Divine justice, an eternal reward is due to temporal merit: "Every one who seeth the Son and believeth in Him hath [Vulgate: 'that everyone . . . may have'] life everlasting." Therefore according to Divine justice an everlasting punishment is due to temporal guilt.

    Further, according to the Philosopher (Ethic. v, 5), punishment is meted according to the dignity of the person sinned against, so that a person who strikes one in authority receives a greater punishment than one who strikes anyone else. Now whoever sins mortally sins against God, Whose commandments he breaks, and Whose honor he gives another, by placing his end in some one other than God. But God's majesty is infinite. Therefore whoever sins mortally deserves infinite punishment; and consequently it seems just that for a mortal sin a man should be punished for ever.

I answer that, Since punishment is measured in two ways, namely according to the degree of its severity, and according to its length of time, the measure of punishment corresponds to the measure of fault, as regards the degree of severity, so that the more grievously a person sins the more grievously is he punished: "As much as she hath glorified herself and lived in delicacies, so much torment and sorrow give ye to her" (Apocalypse 18:7). The duration of the punishment does not, however, correspond with the duration of the fault, as Augustine says (De Civ. Dei xxi, 11), for adultery which is committed in a short space of time is not punished with a momentary penalty even according to human laws [Cf. I-II, 87, 3, ad 1]. But the duration of punishment regards the disposition of the sinner: for sometimes a person who commits an offense in a city is rendered by his very offense worthy of being cut off entirely from the fellowship of the citizens, either by perpetual exile or even by death: whereas sometimes he is not rendered worthy of being cut off entirely from the fellowship of the citizens; wherefore in order that he may become a fitting member of the State, his punishment is prolonged or curtailed, according as is expedient for his amendment, so that he may live in the city in a becoming and peaceful manner. So too, according to Divine justice, sin renders a person worthy to be altogether cut off from the fellowship of God's city, and this is the effect of every sin committed against charity, which is the bond uniting this same city together. Consequently, for mortal sin which is contrary to charity a person is expelled for ever from the fellowship of the saints and condemned to everlasting punishment, because as Augustine says (De Civ. Dei xxi, 11), "as men are cut off from this perishable city by the penalty of the first death, so are they excluded from that imperishable city by the punishment of the second death." That the punishment inflicted by the earthly state is not deemed everlasting is accidental, either because man endures not for ever, or because the state itself comes to an end. Wherefore if man lived for ever, the punishment of exile or slavery, which is pronounced by human law, would remain in him for ever. On the other hand, as regards those who sin in such a way as not to deserve to be entirely cut off from the fellowship of the saints, such as those who sin venially, their punishment will be so much the shorter or longer according as they are more or less fit to be cleansed, through sin clinging to them more or less: this is observed in the punishments of this world and of purgatory according to Divine justice.

    We find also other reasons given by the saints why some are justly condemned to everlasting punishment for a temporal sin. One is because they sinned against an eternal good by despising eternal life. This is mentioned by Augustine (De Civ. Dei. xii, 12): "He is become worthy of eternal evil, who destroyed in himself a good which could be eternal." Another reason is because man sinned in his own eternity [Cf. I-II, 87, 3, ad 1]; wherefore Gregory says (Dial. iv), it belongs to the great justice of the judge that those should never cease to be punished, who in this life never ceased to desire sin. And if it be objected that some who sin mortally propose to amend their life at some time, and that these accordingly are seemingly not deserving of eternal punishment, it must be replied according to some that Gregory speaks of the will that is made manifest by the deed. For he who falls into mortal sin of his own will puts himself in a state whence he cannot be rescued, except God help him: wherefore from the very fact that he is willing to sin, he is willing to remain in sin for ever. For man is "a wind that goeth," namely to sin, "and returneth not by his own power" (Psalm 77:39). Thus if a man were to throw himself into a pit whence he could not get out without help, one might say that he wished to remain there for ever, whatever else he may have thought himself. Another and a better answer is that from the very fact that he commits a mortal sin, he places his end in a creature; and since the whole of life is directed to its end, it follows that for this very reason he directs the whole of his life to that sin, and is willing to remain in sin forever, if he could do so with impunity. This is what Gregory says on Job 41:23, "He shall esteem the deep as growing old" (Moral. xxxiv): "The wicked only put an end to sinning because their life came to an end: they would indeed have wished to live for ever, that they might continue in sin for ever for they desire rather to sin than to live." Still another reason may be given why the punishment of mortal sin is eternal: because thereby one offends God Who is infinite. Wherefore since punishment cannot be infinite in intensity, because the creature is incapable of an infinite quality, it must needs be infinite at least in duration. And again there is a fourth reason for the same: because guilt remains for ever, since it cannot be remitted without grace, and men cannot receive grace after death; nor should punishment cease so long as guilt remains.

Reply to Objection 1. Punishment has not to be equal to fault as to the amount of duration as is seen to be the case also with human laws. We may also reply with Gregory (Dial. xliv) that although sin is temporal in act, it is eternal in will.

Reply to Objection 2. The degree of intensity in the punishment corresponds to the degree of gravity in the sin; wherefore mortal sins unequal in gravity will receive a punishment unequal in intensity but equal in duration.

Reply to Objection 3. The punishments inflicted on those who are not altogether expelled from the society of their fellow-citizens are intended for their correction: whereas those punishments, whereby certain persons are wholly banished from the society of their fellow-citizens, are not intended for their correction; although they may be intended for the correction and tranquillity of the others who remain in the state. Accordingly the damnation of the wicked is for the correction of those who are now in the Church; for punishments are intended for correction, not only when they are being inflicted, but also when they are decreed.

Reply to Objection 4. The everlasting punishment of the wicked will not be altogether useless. For they are useful for two purposes. First, because thereby the Divine justice is safeguarded which is acceptable to God for its own sake. Hence Gregory says (Dial. iv): "Almighty God on account of His loving kindness delights not in the torments of the unhappy, but on account of His justice. He is for ever unappeased by the punishment of the wicked." Secondly, they are useful, because the elect rejoice therein, when they see God's justice in them, and realize that they have escaped them. Hence it is written (Psalm 57:12): "The just shall rejoice when he shall see the revenge," etc., and (Isaiah 66:24): "They," namely the wicked, "shall be a loathsome sight to all flesh," namely to the saints, as a gloss says. ["Ad satietatem visionis," which St. Thomas takes to signify being satiated with joy; Cf. 94, 3]. Gregory expresses himself in the same sense (Dial. iv): "The wicked are all condemned to eternal punishment, and are punished for their own wickedness. Yet they will burn to some purpose, namely that the just may all both see in God the joys they receive, and perceive in them the torments they have escaped: for which reason they will acknowledge themselves for ever the debtors of Divine grace the more that they will see how the evils which they overcame by its assistance are punished eternally."

Reply to Objection 5. Although the punishment relates to the soul accidentally, it relates essentially to the soul infected with guilt. And since guilt will remain in the soul for ever, its punishment also will be everlasting.

Reply to Objection 6. Punishment corresponds to fault, properly speaking, in respect of the inordinateness in the fault, and not of the dignity in the person offended: for if the latter were the case, a punishment of infinite intensity would correspond to every sin. Accordingly, although a man deserves to lose his being from the fact that he has sinned against God the author of his being, yet, in view of the inordinateness of the act itself, loss of being is not due to him, since being is presupposed to merit and demerit, nor is being lost or corrupted by the inordinateness of sin [Cf. I-II, 85, 1]: and consequently privation of being cannot be the punishment due to any sin.

42 For I was hungry, and you gave Me not to eat: I was thirsty, and you gave Me not to drink:

    Verse 42. Gave me not. Jesus Christ chargeth them not here with a want of faith, but with a want of good works. They certainly believed, but they attended not to good works; as if a dead faith, i.e. a faith not working by charity, could bring them to Heaven. (St. Augustine, de fide & oper. chap. xv. and ad Dulcit. q. 2. ad 4.) --- Jesus Christ suffers His members to want, in mercy to them, and to afford others an opportunity of shewing their love for Him, and of redeeming their sins by alms deeds, as was said to the king of the Chaldeans, peccata tua eleemosynis redime. (Daniel iv.)

43 I was a stranger, and you took Me not in: naked, and you clothed Me not: sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me.

44 Then shall they also answer Him, saying: Lord, when did we see Thee hungry or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister to Thee?

45 Then He shall answer them, saying: Amen, I say to you: as long as you did it not to one of these least ones, neither did you do it to Me.

46 And these shall go into everlasting punishment: but the just, into life everlasting.

    Verse 46. Everlasting punishment. The rewards and torments of a future life are declared by Jesus Christ, Who is Truth itself, to be eternal. Let no one be found to argue hence against the goodness and mercy of God, for punishing sins committed in time with punishments that are eternal. For 1. according to human laws, we see forgery and other crimes punished by death, which is in some measure an eternal exclusion from society. 2. The will of the sinner is such, that he would sin eternally if he could; it is an eternal God, a God of infinite majesty, Who is offended. He essentially hates sin; and as, in hell there is no redemption, the sin eternally continuing, the hatred God bears to sin must eternally continue, and with it eternal punishment. The doctrine of those who pretend, with Origen, to question the eternity of the duration of hell's torments; who can say with him, video infernum quasi senescentum, must encourage vice and embolden the sinner; for if the conviction of eternal torments is not capable to restrain his malice, the doctrine of temporal punishment would be a much less restraint. The present world would not be habitable, were there nothing for the wicked to apprehend after this life. There are many questions often proposed with regard to the situation and nature of hell-fire, &c. but in all these and similar objects of curiosity, it is best to adhere to the sage reflection of St. Augustine: "When we dispute upon a point very obscure, without any clear and certain documents from the holy Scripture, the presumption of man should stop short, and lean not more to one than the other side." (lib. ii. de pecc. meritis et remiss. chap. xxxvi. ep. 190. ad Optat. chap. v. No. 16.) --- On a recapitulation of this long and most interesting discourse, we may observe, that in the first place, it treats of those wars and persecutions which are to happen in the latter ages of the world; that it next proceeds to describe the heresies and schisms among Christians; the general propagation of the gospel; the Great Apostasy at the time of the Antichrist; and lastly, the grand and closing scene of the day of judgment. Thus these grand and momentous events are intimately connected with each other, and all materially regard the Church of Christ.

Aquinas on whether by God's mercy all punishment of the damned, both men and demons, comes to an end

Objection 1. It would seem that by God's mercy all punishment of the damned, both men and demons, comes to an end. For it is written (Wisdom 11:24): "Thou hast mercy upon all, O Lord, because Thou canst do all things." But among all things the demons also are included, since they are God's creatures. Therefore also their punishment will come to an end.

Objection 2. Further, "God hath concluded all in sin [Vulgate: 'unbelief'], that He may have mercy on all" (Romans 11:32). Now God has concluded the demons under sin, that is to say, He permitted them to be concluded. Therefore it would seem that in time He has mercy even on the demons.

Objection 3. Further, as Anselm says (Cur Deus Homo ii), "it is not just that God should permit the utter loss of a creature which He made for happiness." Therefore, since every rational creature was created for happiness, it would seem unjust for it to be allowed to perish altogether.

On the contrary, It is written (Matthew 25:41): ""Depart from Me, you cursed, into everlasting fire, which is prepared for the devil and his angels." Therefore they will be punished eternally.

    Further, just as the good angels were made happy through turning to God, so the bad angels were made unhappy through turning away from God. Therefore if the unhappiness of the wicked angels comes at length to an end, the happiness of the good will also come to an end, which is inadmissible.

I answer that, As Augustine says (De Civ. Dei xxi) Origen [Cf. I, 64, 2] "erred in maintaining that the demons will at length, through God's mercy, be delivered from their punishment." But this error has been condemned by the Church for two reasons. First because it is clearly contrary to the authority of Holy Writ (Apocalypse 20:9-10): "The devil who seduced them was cast into the pool of fire and brimstone, where both the beasts and the false prophets [Vulgate: 'the beast and false prophet,' etc.] shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever," which is the Scriptural expression for eternity. Secondly, because this opinion exaggerated God's mercy in one direction and depreciated it in another. For it would seem equally reasonable for the good angels to remain in eternal happiness, and for the wicked angels to be eternally punished. Wherefore just as he maintained that the demons and the souls of the damned are to be delivered at length from their sufferings, so he maintained that the angels and the souls of the blessed will at length pass from their happy state to the unhappiness of this life.

Reply to Objection 1. God, for His own part, has mercy on all. Since, however, His mercy is ruled by the order of His wisdom, the result is that it does not reach to certain people who render themselves unworthy of that mercy, as do the demons and the damned who are obstinate in wickedness. And yet we may say that even in them His mercy finds a place, in so far as they are punished less than they deserve condignly [in regard to intensity or degree of severity - J.G.], but not that they are entirely delivered from punishment.

Reply to Objection 2. In the words quoted the distribution (of the predicate) regards the genera and not the individuals: so that the statement applies to men in the state of wayfarer, inasmuch as He had mercy both on Jews and on Gentiles, but not on every Gentile or every Jew.

Reply to Objection 3. Anselm means that it is not just in the sense of becoming God's goodness, and is speaking of the creature generically. For it becomes not the Divine goodness that a whole genus [group i.e. "rational creatures" all angels and men - J.G.] of creature fail of the end for which it was made: wherefore it is unbecoming for all men or all angels to be damned. But there is no reason why some men or some angels should perish for ever, because the intention of the Divine will is fulfilled in the others who are saved.

The Angelic Doctor on whether God's mercy suffers at least men to be punished eternally

Objection 1. It would seem that God's mercy does not suffer at least men to be punished eternally. For it is written (Genesis 6:3): "My spirit shall not remain in man for ever because he is flesh"; where "spirit" denotes indignation, as a gloss observes. Therefore, since God's indignation is not distinct from His punishment, man will not be punished eternally.

Objection 2. Further, the charity of the saints in this life makes them pray for their enemies. Now they will have more perfect charity in that life. Therefore they will pray then for their enemies who are damned. But the prayers of the saints cannot be in vain, since they are most acceptable to God. Therefore at the saints' prayers the Divine mercy will in time deliver the damned from their punishment.

Objection 3. Further, God's foretelling of the punishment of the damned belongs to the prophecy of commination [punishment - JG]. Now the prophecy of commination is not always fulfilled: as appears from what was said of the destruction of Nineve (Jonah 3); and yet it was not destroyed as foretold by the prophet, who also was troubled for that very reason (Jonah 4:1). Therefore it would seem that much more will the threat of eternal punishment be commuted [replaced or changed - J.G.] by God's mercy for a more lenient punishment, when this will be able to give sorrow to none but joy to all.

Objection 4. Further, the words of Psalm 76:8 are to the point, where it is said: "Will God then be angry for ever? [Vulgate: 'Will God then cast off for ever?']" But God's anger is His punishment. Therefore, etc.

Objection 5. Further, a gloss on Isaiah 14:19, "But thou art cast out," etc. says: "Even though all souls shall have rest at last, thou never shalt": and it refers to the devil. Therefore it would seem that all human souls shall at length have rest from their pains.

On the contrary, It is written (Matthew 25:46) of the elect conjointly with the damned: "These shall go into everlasting punishment: but the just, into life everlasting." But it is inadmissible that the life of the just will ever have an end. Therefore it is inadmissible that the punishment of the damned will ever come to an end.

    Further, as Damascene says (De Fide Orth. ii) "death is to men what their fall was to the angels." Now after their fall the angels could not be restored [Cf. I, 64, 2]. Therefore neither can man after death: and thus the punishment of the damned will have no end.

I answer that, As Augustine says (De Civ. Dei xxi, 17,18), some evaded the error of Origen by asserting that the demons are punished everlastingly, while holding that all men, even unbelievers, are at length set free from punishment. But this statement is altogether unreasonable. For just as the demons are obstinate in wickedness and therefore have to be punished for ever, so too are the souls of men who die without charity, since "death is to men what their fall was to the angels," as Damascene says.

Reply to Objection 1. This saying refers to man generically, because God's indignation was at length removed from the human race by the coming of Christ. But those who were unwilling to be included or to remain in this reconciliation effected by Christ, perpetuated the Divine anger in themselves, since no other way of reconciliation is given to us save that which is through Christ.

Reply to Objection 2. As Augustine (De Civ. Dei xxi, 24) and Gregory (Moral. xxxiv) say, the saints in this life pray for their enemies, that they may be converted to God, while it is yet possible for them to be converted. For if we knew that they were foreknown to death, we should no more pray for them than for the demons. And since for those who depart this life without grace there will be no further time for conversion, no prayer will be offered for them, neither by the Church militant, nor by the Church triumphant. For that which we have to pray for them is, as the Apostle says (2 Timothy 2:25-26), that "God may give them repentance to know the truth, and they may recover themselves from the snares of the devil."

Reply to Objection 3. A punishment threatened prophetically is only then commuted when there is a change in the merits of the person threatened. Hence: "I will suddenly speak against a nation and against a kingdom, to root out and to pull down and to destroy it. If that nation . . . shall repent of their evil, I also will repent of the evil that I have thought to do to them" (Jeremiah 18:7). Therefore, since the merits of the damned cannot be changed, the threatened punishment will ever be fulfilled in them. Nevertheless the prophecy of commination is always fulfilled in a certain sense, because as Augustine says (De Civ. Dei. xxi, 24): "Nineve has been overthrown, that was evil, and a good Nineve is built up, that was not: for while the walls and the houses remained standing, the city was overthrown in its wicked ways."

Reply to Objection 4. These words of the Psalm refer to the vessels of mercy, which have not made themselves unworthy of mercy, because in this life (which may be called God's anger on account of its unhappiness) He changes vessels of mercy into something better. Hence the Psalm continues (Psalm 76:11): "This is the change of the right hand of the most High." We may also reply that they refer to mercy as granting a relaxation but not setting free altogether if it be referred also to the damned. Hence the Psalm does not say: "Will He from His anger shut up His mercies?" but "in His anger," because the punishment will not be done away entirely; but His mercy will have effect by diminishing the punishment while it continues.

Reply to Objection 5. This gloss is speaking not absolutely but on an impossible supposition in order to throw into relief the greatness of the devil's sin, or of Nabuchodonosor's.

Aquinas on whether the punishment of Christians is brought to an end by the mercy of God

Objection 1. It would seem that at least the punishment of Christians is brought to an end by the mercy of God. "For he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved" (Mark 16:16). Now this applies to every Christian. Therefore all Christians will at length be saved.

Objection 2. Further, it is written (John 6:55): "He that eateth My body and drinketh My blood hath eternal life." Now this is the meat and drink whereof Christians partake in common. Therefore all Christians will be saved at length.

Objection 3. Further, "If any man's work burn, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved, yet so as by fire" (1 Corinthians 3:15), where it is a question of those who have the foundation of the Christian faith. Therefore all such persons will be saved in the end.

On the contrary, It is written (1 Corinthians 6:9): "The unjust shall not possess the kingdom of God." Now some Christians are unjust. Therefore Christians will not all come to the kingdom of God, and consequently they will be punished for ever.

    Further, it is written (2 Peter 2:21): "It had been better for them not to have known the way of justice, than after they have known it, to turn back from that holy commandment which was delivered to them." Now those who know not the way of truth will be punished for ever. Therefore Christians who have turned back after knowing it will also be punished for ever.

I answer that, According to Augustine (De Civ. Dei xxi, 20,21), there have been some who predicted a delivery from eternal punishment not for all men, but only for Christians, although they stated the matter in different ways. For some said that whoever received the sacraments of faith would be immune from eternal punishment. But this is contrary to the truth, since some receive the sacraments of faith, and yet have not faith, without which "it is impossible to please God" (Hebrews 11:6). Wherefore others said that those alone will be exempt from eternal punishment who have received the sacraments of faith, and professed the Catholic faith. But against this it would seem to be that at one time some people profess the Catholic faith, and afterwards abandon it, and these are deserving not of a lesser but of a greater punishment, since according to 2 Peter 2:21, "it had been better for them not to have known the way of justice than, after they have known it, to turn back." Moreover it is clear that heresiarchs who renounce the Catholic faith and invent new heresies sin more grievously than those who have conformed to some heresy from the first. And therefore some have maintained that those alone are exempt from eternal punishment, who persevere to the end in the Catholic faith, however guilty they may have been of other crimes. But this is clearly contrary to Holy Writ, for it is written (James 2:20): "Faith without works is dead," and (Matthew 7:21) "Not every one that saith to Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of Heaven: but he that doth the will of My Father Who is in Heaven": and in many other passages Holy Scripture threatens sinners with eternal punishment. Consequently those who persevere in the faith unto the end will not all be exempt from eternal punishment, unless in the end they prove to be free from other crimes.

Reply to Objection 1. Our Lord speaks there of formed faith [Cf. II-II, 4, 3] "that worketh by love [Vulgate: 'charity'; Galatians 5:6]": wherein whosoever dieth shall be saved. But to this faith not only is the error of unbelief opposed, but also any mortal sin whatsoever.

Reply to Objection 2. The saying of our Lord refers not to those who partake only sacramentally, and who sometimes by receiving unworthily "eat and drink judgment" to themselves (1 Corinthians 11:29), but to those who eat spiritually and are incorporated with Him by charity, which incorporation is the effect of the sacramental eating, in those who approach worthily [Cf. III, 80, 1,2,3]. Wherefore, so far as the power of the sacrament is concerned, it brings us to eternal life, although sin may deprive us of that fruit, even after we have received worthily.

Reply to Objection 3. In this passage of the Apostle the foundation denotes formed faith, upon which whosoever shall build venial sins [Cf. I-II, 89, 2] "shall suffer loss," because he will be punished for them by God; yet "he himself shall be saved" in the end "by fire," either of temporal tribulation, or of the punishment of purgatory which will be after death.

Monsignor Paul J. Glenn


1. Those who undergo the punishment of hell are tormented by fire and also by other afflicting agencies. As the person condemned to hell has, in earthly life, put various material things in the place of God, he is justly punished by a variety of afflictions.

2. "The worm that dieth not" will afflict the condemned soul in hell. This means that remorse of conscience (but not repentance), will incessantly trouble that soul.

3. The "weeping" that will be in hell after the bodily resurrection will not be the shedding of tears (for there will be no bodily alteration in hell), but will be a steady affliction of the head and the eyes.

4. The darkness of hell is a true and material darkness. After the resurrection of bodies, this darkness will afflict the bodily vision of the damned. The fire of hell, as St. Basil says, will have heat but not light for those punished by it.

5. The fire of hell is a bodily fire which now afflicts and detains lost souls; after the resurrection it will torture the bodies of the damned in hell.

6. It seems that the fire of hell is essentially the same as the fire we know on earth, although it doubtlessly has different properties, since it needs no fuel and does not consume what is cast into it.

7. No one can say for certain where hell is located. It seems, however, to be suggested by some passages in scripture that hell is "under the earth," that is, that it is located somewhere in the interior of the earth, under the earth's surface.


1. The will of a person in hell is, by its own perverse choice, confirmed in evil, and is changelessly and wholly devoted to evil. Every act of such a will is a sin.

2. Repentance in the true meaning of that word, is a hatred of sin as such. There is no repentance of this kind in hell. but if repentance be taken to mean merely the regret that sin causes suffering, and hatred of sin merely as the cause of suffering, then we can say that there is repentance in hell.

3. The condemned in hell cannot wish to be annihilated [? - J.G.], for this wish is in conflict with the nature of every being. But doubtless the damned wish for some kind of sleep or death or extinction of consciousness that would bring surcease of suffering. [This contradicts Thomastic theology as the damned would prefer not to be than to suffer eternally - see from the Summa itself under verse 30 above or Article 3. Whether the damned by right and deliberate reason would wish not to be - J.G. See directly below:]

      Further, the unhappiness of the damned surpasses all unhappiness of this world. Now in order to escape the unhappiness of this world, it is desirable to some to die, wherefore it is written (Sirach 41:3-4): "O death, thy sentence is welcome to the man that is in need and to him whose strength faileth; who is in a decrepit age, and that is in care about all things, and to the distrustful that loseth wisdom [Vulgate: 'patience']." Much more, therefore, is "not to be" desirable to the damned according to their deliberate reason.

      I answer that, Not to be may be considered in two ways. First, in itself, and thus it can nowise be desirable, since it has no aspect of good, but is pure privation of good. Secondly, it may be considered as a relief from a painful life or from some unhappiness: and thus "not to be" takes on the aspect of good, since "to lack an evil is a kind of good" as the Philosopher says (Ethic. v, 1). In this way it is better for the damned not to be than to be unhappy. Hence it is said (Matthew 26:24): "It were better for him, if that man had not been born," and (Jeremiah 20:14): "Cursed be the day wherein I was born," where a gloss of Jerome observes: "It is better not to be than to be evilly." In this sense the damned can prefer "not to be" according to their deliberate reason [Cf. I, 5, 2, ad 3].

4. As in Heaven there is perfect charity, and happiness in the fact of each soul's being saved, so in hell there is perfect hatred and envy, and malicious desire to see others suffer the pains of hell.

5. The damned hate God (not in himself, for this is impossible) in the effects of his Justice which they have perversely brought upon themselves.

6. Strictly speaking, [there might be a time for meriting or demeriting, at least for the angels and demons, up until the Final Judgment - J.G.] there is no meriting or demeriting in either heaven or hell. For the time of meriting and demeriting is the time of life on earth.

7. Knowledge acquired during earthly life will remain in the damned and will be a factor in their suffering.

8. The condemned who are in hell will never think upon God directly, but only in so far as the thought of him is involved in the thought of the divine justice which afflicts them.

9. The damned have knowledge of the glory of the blessed in Heaven. When the resurrection of the body restores bodily eyes, the damned will look in vain to see the glorified bodies of the saints. But they will know of Heaven, and they will feel the punishment of not being worthy even to look at it.


1. Scripture repeatedly tells us that the punishment of hell is everlasting. For instance, St. Matthew says (25:46) that "the wicked shall go into everlasting punishment." As reward is measured to meet merit, so punishment is measured to meet guilt. But the guilt of mortal sin is the guilt of completely rejecting God and offending him whose majesty is infinite. The guilt of such a sin deserves unending punishment.

2. There is no place for mercy in hell, for mercy cannot be exercised upon what, by its very nature, rejects it. The perverse will of both men and fallen angels in hell is ceaselessly opposed to any mercy that might be shown them. Further, if mercy were to bring an end to retribution, justice would bring an end to the happiness of heaven.

3. Despite God's wondrous mercy, the fallen angels and lost human souls, cast themselves into hell. While they hate their torments, they still retain their perverse will against God. Sorrow for sin, in the sense of rejecting evil and turning to God, is utterly impossible in hell. Hence, even the mercy of the all-merciful God cannot penetrate the rebel wills of the lost and bring them relief.

4. Christians who go to hell are there eternally, just as non-Christians are. Indeed, Christians who knew more than many others who are in hell, are more deserving than those others of endless torment.

5. It cannot be said that those who perform works of mercy during life on earth will necessarily escape the punishments of hell. Even great sinners may sometimes do remarkable deeds of mercy. During earthly life, such deeds may be the means of winning (congruously) [For instance those who perform many works of mercy may be given the special grace of a perfect contrition at the moment of death, though it is less likely now, that a likely that a valid Priest will be known or sought who can administer valid Last Rites to them. These days we must state what would have been obvious in better days to all who claim to be Catholic, which is that it is far safer and surer to know the Faith and act accordingly, frequenting the Sacraments and staying free from Mortal Sin and all venial sins to the extent such is possible then to hope our "works of mercy will move God to "bail us out" in an extraordinary manner at the end. - J.G.] Though we ought not to despair of the salvation of these, still there is great room to fear; for, a death-bed repentance is seldom sincere, more seldom, or never perfect, and always uncertain. (Jansenius)] contrition for the one who performs them, but they are no guarantee that contrition will be accepted, or that it will endure to the end of life, and so enable the performer of the good deeds to escape hell.

    This concludes my treatment of Chapter twenty-five of Saint Matthew. I hope and pray many will take Our Lord's words to heart and do all in their power to help the lost sheep to understand His words as well as I ask the Holy Ghost and His earthly immaculate spouse the Blessed Virgin Mary to aid in the conversion of those lost lambs whom Christ so loves and whom He wants with Him in Heaven for all eternity. That is my prayer.

John Gregory

For this current series on Hell, see

For the recent series on Purgatory, see

For the past completed series on "The Sermon on the Mount" see:

        "Catholics who remain faithful to Tradition, even if they are reduced to but a handful, they are THE TRUE CHURCH"
        Saint Athanasius, "Apostle of Tradition" AD 373

Tuesday, October 30, 2012
Volume 23, number 304