Upon an attempted suicide,
John Bunyan was shown this vision of spiritual realms. Bunyan (1628-1688), an English author and preacher imprisoned for his faith, is best known for his
fictional work, The Pilgrim's
Progress. However, his NDE quoted here is from the book entitled Hell is
Real, compiled by Mrs. M. A. Daoud.
This NDE is described in
seventeen century language and Biblical thought. The descriptions of the
hell realms by Bunyan can be found in many other NDEs, such as Howard
Pittman, Kenneth Hagin,
Ritchie and Howard Storm.
But these hellish realms have often been mistaken by Christian NDErs as
being a place of eternal torment and damnation, when in reality they are spiritual states of self-reflection and self-condemnation.
The only reason for these hell realms is to purify souls from destructive thoughts until they
decide to enter into the light. Such hellish near-death accounts are often
described in terms of the religious perspective of the NDEr. NDE
researcher Jody Long of NDERF
explains this in an excellent way. She states:
"One of the near-death
experience truths is that each person integrates their near-death
experience into their own pre-existing belief system."
This is a very important
truth and worth keeping in mind when reading hellish near-death accounts
such as that of John Bunyan. Because of the tremendous amount of Old
English used by Bunyan, I edited his account by removing the Old English
and replacing it with modern English. I did so without changing the
meaning and spirit of his message.
I kneeled down on the ground and said,
"Oh, invisible and eternal
power, who although is unseen by men, is aware of all his actions, and who has now
prevented me from defacing your image, I give you humble thanks. Yes, Oh sovereign
Being of all beings, I give you thanks that I am still alive and able to acknowledge
that there is such a being. Oh let the Sun of Glory shine on me and chase away the blackness of my soul
so that I may never again question your being or omnipotence, which I have this moment so greatly experienced."
Then, as I sat down near a bank of water, my mind was greatly taken up with
adoring thoughts of the Eternal Goodness that saved me from the dreadful gulf of everlasting ruin when I was just
about to plunge myself into it. And now I only wonder that I was such a fool
to call in question the being of the Deity which every creature is a witness
to, and which a man's own conscience can not dictate him.
Now, taken up by my thoughts as I sat on the bank, I was suddenly surrounded with a glorious
light. Its exceeding brightness was such that I have never seen anything like it before. This both surprised and
amazed me, and while I was wondering where it came from, I saw coming toward me a glorious appearance, like the
image of a man, but encircled with beams of inexpressible light and glory which streamed from him all the way he came. His countenance was very
awesome, and yet mixed with such an air of sweetness that it was extremely pleasing, and gave me some secret hope that he
didn't come to me as an enemy. Yet I didn't know how to bear his bright appearance; and endeavoring to stand
on my feet I soon found I did not have anymore strength in me, and so fell down flat on my
face. By the kind assistance of his arm, I was soon set on my feet again and
a new strength was put in me. Then I addressed myself to the bright form before me
saying, "Oh my shining deliverer who
has strengthened my feeble body and restored me to new life, how should I acknowledge my thankfulness, and
how should I adore you?"
To which he replied, with an air of majesty and mildness,
"Give your adorations to the Author of
your being, and not to me who is a fellow creature. I was sent by Him Whose very being
you have denied, to stop you from falling into that eternal ruin where you
were going to throw yourself."
This touched my heart with such a sense of my own unworthiness that my soul melted and I could not
help but cry out,
"Oh, how utterly unworthy I am of all this grace and mercy!"
To this the heavenly messenger replied,
"The Divine Majesty does not
take into account, in showing mercy, your unworthiness, but His own unbounded goodness and vast love. He saw with how much
hatred the grand enemy of souls desired your ruin, and let him go on with hopes of overcoming
you, but He still upheld you by His secret power; through which, when Satan thought himself most
certain, the trap was broken and you escaped."
Beyond The Sun and Stars
Then the heavenly visitor said with a pleasing countenance,
"So that you may never doubt the reality of eternal things, the
reason for my coming to you is to convince you of the truth of them; not by faith only but by sight also. For I will show you such things
that have never been seen by any mortal; and your eyes will be strengthened and
be made fit to see immaterial objects."
At these surprising words of the angel, I was very much astonished, and
wondered how I will be able to bear it. I said to him,
"Oh my lord, who is able to bear such a sight?"
To which he replied,
"The joy of the Lord will be your strength."
And when he had said
this, he took hold of me and said,
"Have no fear; I was sent to show the things
that you haven't seen."
And before I was aware
of it, I found myself far above the Earth, which seemed to me to be a very small point
compared to the region of light which I was in. Then I said to my bright guide,
"Oh, don't be offended my lord if I ask
you a question or two."
To this he answered,
"Speak on. It is my work to inform
you of such things that you will inquire of me. For I am a ministering spirit, sent forth to minister to
you and to those who shall be heirs of salvation."
I then said, "What is that dark spot, so far below me,
which has become smaller and smaller as I have traveled higher and higher, and appears much darker since I have come into this region of light."
He answered, "That little spot that now looks so dark and
contemptible is the world which you were just recently an inhabitant. Here you
will see how little the world appears, and for which a small part, so many
continually labor and give out all their strength and time to purchase it.
Yes, this is that spot of Earth where to obtain one small part of it, so many men have run the
risk of losing their precious and immortal souls. Souls so precious that the Prince of Peace
told us that though one man could gain the whole world, it could not be
worth losing one's soul. And the great reason for their foolishness is
because they do not look to things above. For as you ascended nearer to this region, the world appeared still less and the more contemptible; and it will do the same
for all who can, by faith, get their hearts above it. If the sons of men below
could see the world just as it is, they would not desire it as they now
do. But alas, they are in a state of darkness. What is worse is that they love to walk
in it. The Prince of Light came down among them and plainly showed them the true Light of Life, yet they
continue in darkness and will not bring themselves into the light, because their deeds are evil."
I asked him further,
"What are those multitudes of black and
horrible forms that hover in the air above the world, who I would have been
very afraid of except that I saw them flee as you passed by them, perhaps
because they were not able to be in the your brightness."
To this he answered,
"They are the fallen and apostate spirits
who, in pride and rebellion, were cast down from heaven and wander in the air by the decree of the Almighty, being bound in chains of darkness and kept
judgment of the great day. From there, they are permitted to descend into the world, both for the
temptation of the faithful, and for the condemnation of the wicked. And though you now see they have black and
horrible forms, yet they were once the sons of light, and were arrayed in robes of glorious
brightness as you see me wear, the loss of which, though it was the result
of their own willful sin, fills them with rage and hatred against the ever blessed God
whose power and majesty they fear and hate."
Is said, "Tell me, oh happy
guide, have they no hope of being reconciled to God again, after some
period of time, or at least some of them?"
"No, not at all. They are lost forever. They were the first that
sinned and had no tempter; and they were cast down from heaven all at once. Besides, the Son of God, the blessed Messiah
for whom salvation can be had, didn't take upon Himself the angelic nature, but left
all the apostate angels to perish, and took upon Himself only to be the seed of Abraham. And for this reason they have so much
hatred against the sons of men, whom it is a torment for them to see made heirs of heaven while they are doomed to hell."
By this time, we were above the sun whose vast and glorious body, so much greater than the Earth, moved
around the great expanse where it was placed with such a mighty swiftness that to relate it would appear incredible. But my
guide told me this mighty immense hanging globe of fire was one of the great works of God. It always keeps its constant
course and never has the least irregularity in it daily or its annual
motion. So exceeding glorious was its body that if my eyes had not been greatly strengthened, I
couldn't have beheld it. Nor were those mighty globes of fire we call the fixed
stars less wonderful; whose vast and extreme heights, so many leagues above the sun, makes them appear like candles in our sight. And yet they hang within their spheres without any support, in a pure sea of ether. Nothing
but by His Word were they first created and could keep them in their
place. I said to my guide,
"These words are enough to convince anyone of the great power of their much more adorable Creator, and of the blackness of that infidelity which can call into question the being of a Deity, who has given the whole world so many bright evidences of His
power and glory, that if men were not like animals still looking downwards, they
would not help but acknowledge His great power and wisdom."
He replied, "What you speak is true.
But you will see far greater things than this. These are all but the scaffolds and outworks of that glorious building
where the blessed above inhabit those houses not made with hands and eternal in the heavens, a view of which,
as far as you are capable to comprehend it, will now be shown you."
What I had been told by my guide I soon found good because I was
transported to the glorious mansions of the blessed and saw things that
are impossible to describe and heard the harmonious melody that I can never utter.
Here, the beloved apostle John might tell us in his gospel, "Now are we the sons of God; and it
doesn't yet appear what we shall be." Whoever has not seen this glory will
describe it imperfectly, and those who have seen it, cannot describe even
a small fraction of it. And the great apostle of the Gentiles, who
describes being caught up into paradise, where he had heard unspeakable
things which is not possible for a man to say, gives us no other account of it, but that "Eye
has not seen, nor ear heard, nor has it entered into the heart of man to conceive
the things that God has laid up for those that love him." I will give you the best account I can of what I saw and
heard of the blessed conversations I had with some of the blessed, as best
as I can remember.
Conducted to Hell
The angel said,
"I have a mission to
guide you to the world below; not only to the Earth from where I received you, but to the regions of the prince of darkness, that you may
see there the reward of sin and what incensed Justice has prepared as the
right judgment for their rebellion and who would exalt themselves above the throne of the Most High. But do not be
afraid because I have a mission to take you there and likewise to bring you back again, and
then to leave you in the world from where you came."
To leave heaven for Earth was extremely distasteful and would have
made me unhappy except that I knew it was the divine will. But to leave
heaven for hell was what turned my very heart within me. However, when I knew that it was the divine good pleasure that I
would return from there and to Earth again, and there put off mortality, and then be
guided up to heaven. I was a little comforted and found within myself
submitting to the will of God. Therefore I said with some assurance to my bright
"What the blessed God has ordered I
will always be willing to obey, of whose great mercy I have already had
such a very great experience, that even in hell itself I will not fear
because I have His presence with me there."
To this my shining guardian answered,
"Wherever the blessed God grants His presence, there is heaven, and while we are in hell He will be with us."
Then bowing low before the Almighty's throne, swifter than thought my guardian angel carried me more than ten thousand leagues below the imperial heaven. By this time we came down to the lowest regions of the air where I saw multitudes of
horrible forms and dismal dark appearances flee from the shining presence of my bright
are some of the vanguard of hell, so black and so frightening are their forms."
My guide said,
"These are some of the apostate spirits that wander up and down in the air and on the Earth like roaring lions seeking whom they may devour. And though they are led
this way, you will see them quickly in their own dark territories because we are now
on the borders of the infernal pit."
I quickly found the words of my guide very true because we were soon surrounded
by a darkness much more black than night and had a stink more suffocating than
burning brimstone. My ears were also filled with horrible screamings of the damned
spirits for which even the most discordant notes on Earth were, by comparison, melodious music. My guardian angel said,
"Now, you are on the verge of hell, but do not fear the power of the
destroyer because my mission from the Imperial Throne secures you from all
danger. Here you may hear the devils and damned souls that cursed men
cause of their endless ruin. And whatever you want to ask, inquire, and they shall answer you. The devils cannot hurt you, though they
would like to but are bound by Him who has given me this mission and,
because of this, it makes them rage, fear, roar and bite their hated
chains in vain."
There in a sulphurous lake of liquid fire and bound with the chain of heaven's fixed decree, sat Lucifer upon a burning
throne with his horrible eyes sparkling with hellish fury, as full of rage as his
strength could make him. Those wandering fiends who fled before us as we came from heaven, had (I perceived)
been given notice of our coming and this put all hell in an uproar and made Lucifer
vent his horrible blasphemies against the blessed God, which he gave with an air of arrogance and pride. I was amazed to hear his impious speech and could not bear saying to my
"How justly are his blasphemies rewarded!"
"What you have heard from this apostate spirit is both his sin and
punishment because every blasphemy he belches against heaven makes hell the hotter
Tortures of Hell
We then passed on further among dismal scenes of sorrow, and saw two wretched souls tormented by a fiend who, without ceasing, plunged them in liquid fire and burning
brimstone while at the same time accused and cursed each other. One of them said to his tormented fellow sufferer,
"Oh, cursed is your face that
I ever set eyes on you! My misery is because of you. I may thank you for
this because it was you who trapped me this way. It was your lust, cheating,
your oppression and hurting the poor that brought me here. If you would
have just set a good example as you did an bad one, I might have been in
heaven and there be as happy as I am now miserable. But, Oh wretch that I was!
Following your steps has put me in this wretched state and ruined me
forever. Oh, that I would have never seen your face, or that you had never been born to do my soul
the wrong that you have done."
The other wretch replied,
"And can I not blame you as
well? Don't you remember how, at such a time and place, you enticed me and drew me out and asked me if I would
go along with you, when I was about my other business, about my lawful calling? But you called me
away and therefore you are as much at fault as I. Though I was lustful, you were
proud. And if you learned your lustfulness from me, I am sure I learned my pride and
drunkenness from you. And though you learned to cheat by me, you taught me to lust, to lie, and scoff at goodness.
"Thus, though I caused you to stumble in some things, you caused me to
stumble as much in other things. And if you blame me, I can blame you just
as much. And if I have to answer for some of your most filthy actions, you
still have to answer for some of mine. I wish you never had come here; the very looks of you
wounds my soul by bringing sin afresh into my mind. It was with you, with you it was I sinned. Oh, grief
to my soul! And because I could not avoid your company there. Oh, that I could
be without it here!"
From this sad dialogue I soon perceived that those who are companions
in sin on Earth will be also in hell and in punishment. And even though on Earth they love each other's company, they will not care for it in hell. But there was even more tragic scenes of sorrow. After leaving these two cursed
wretches who accused each other for being the cause of each other's misery, we
traveled further and saw several woeful spectacles; and among others, one
soul who had flaming sulphur forced down her throat by a tormenting spirit
for which he did with such horrible cruelty, I could not help but say to
him, "Why do you delight in the tormenting of that cursed wretch
that you perpetually pour that flaming, infernal liquor down her throat?"
The fiend replied,
"This is nothing more than just
retribution. This woman in her life time was such a sordid wretch that though she had gold enough,
she could never be satisfied and therefore I pour it down her throat. She
didn't care who she ruined and undid so that she could get their gold. And when she had amassed a
great treasure than ever she could spend, her love of money would not
allow her spend it except to supply herself with the common necessities of life.
She often had an empty stomach, although her bags were full, or else she filled
her stomach at another's expense. And as for her clothes, they either never grew old or
they were always patched until it was hard to say which piece was on
originally. She had no house because she didn't want to be taxed; nor did
she keep her treasure in her hands because she feared she would be robbed; nor
would she let it out on bonds and mortgages out of fear of being cheated.
Although she cheated all that she could, and she herself was such a great cheat
that she cheated her own body of food and her own soul of mercy. Since gold
was her god on Earth, is it not just that she should have her belly full
of it in hell?"
When her tormentor was done speaking, I asked her whether what he said was true or not. To this she answered,
"No. Because if what my tormentor
told you was true, I would be satisfied. But, he tells you that it is gold that he
pours down my throat; but he is a lying devil and speaks falsely. If it
was gold I would never complain. But he abuses me, and instead of gold he only gives
me the horrible, stinking
I could not help but tell my guide that I was amazed to hear a wretch in hell itself,
dote on her riches and even so, while in the tormentor's hands.
The tormentor replied,
"This may convince you
that sin is the greatest of all evils; and where the love of sin prevails,
such as the love for gold for which this cursed creature is giving up, is a more
severe punishment than what the apostate spirits here inflict on her."
We had not gone much farther when we saw a wretched soul lying on a bed of
burning steel, almost choking with brimstone and who cried out in
dreadful anguish with a note of desperation. It made me ask my guide to
stay a while so that I can listen more carefully to what he said. This
is what I heard him say,
"Ah, miserable wretch! Undone for ever, for ever! Oh, these killing words for ever!
Isn't a thousand thousand years sufficient to bear this pain? No, my misery will never have an
end. After a thousand thousand years it will still be forever. Oh, hapless, helpless, hopeless state indeed! It is this forever that is the hell of hell! Oh, cursed wretch! Cursed to all eternity! How
willingly I have undone myself? Oh, what stupendous folly am I guilty of to choose sin's
momentary pleasure at the dear price of everlasting pain! How often I was told it would be so! How
I was often told to leave those paths of sin which would surely bring be to the chambers of eternal death! But
I did not listen those charmers although they charmed me so wisely. They told me often that my short-lived pleasures would quickly
result in eternal pain; and now such a sad experience tells me this. It tells me
indeed, but it is too late to help because my eternal state is fixed forever.
"Why was I given reason? Why was I made with an immortal
soul and yet would take so little care of it? Oh, how my own neglect stings me to death, and yet I know I
cannot die. I can not die, but must live a dying life that is worse than ten thousand deaths; and yet
could have avoided all this but did not! Oh, this is the gnawing worm that never dies! I
could have been happy. Salvation once was offered to me and I refused it. Ah, had it been but
only once! But to refuse it turned out to be a folly that is not forgiven.
But it was offered to me a thousand times, and yet just as often refused it. Oh cursed
sin with deluding pleasures that bewitches mankind to eternal ruin! God often
called but I just as often refused. He stretched out His hands but I paid
no attention to it. How often did I not seek His counsel. How often did I
refuse His correcting! But now the scene is changed and my situation has
altered because now He laughs at my calamity and mocks at the destruction
that has come upon me. He tried to help me once but I refused, and therefore
these eternal miseries I am condemned to have are but the just reward of my own doing."
I could not hear this doleful lamentation without reflecting on the wondrous grace that
the ever blessed God has shown to me. Eternal praises to His holy name! For my heart told me that I
deserved just as much as this sad wretch to be the object of eternal wrath; and it is His grace alone that has made us differ! Oh, how unsearchable His counsels
are! Who can fathom His divine decree?
After these reflections, I addressed myself to the doleful wretch and told him
that I had heard his woeful lamentation for which I perceived his misery was
great and his loss irreparable. I told him that I would willingly be learn
more about his situation which might possibly be some relief of his sufferings.
"No, not at all. These pains are such that no relief can come, not for one small moment. But by the question you have asked, I
perceive you are a stranger here; and may you ever be so. Ah! If I had but the last hope still remaining, how
I would kneel and cry and pray forever to be redeemed from here! But alas,
it is all in vain. I am lost forever. Although you beware of coming here, I will tell you what the damned suffer here."
A Lost Soul Speaks
"Our miseries in this infernal dungeon are of two sorts; what we have lost, and what we undergo. And these I will name under their
sort. First, the miseries over what we have lost.
"In this sad dark abode of misery and sorrow, we have lost the presence of the ever blessed God. And this is
what makes this dungeon hell. Though we have lost a thousand worlds, it would not be
as much as this one loss. If the least glimpse of His favor could enter here, we might be happy; but we have lost it to our everlasting woe."
"Here we have also lost the company of saints and angels, and in their place have nothing but tormenting devils."
"Here we have lost heaven too - the seat of blessedness. There is a deep gulf
between us and heaven, so that we are shut out from there forever. The everlasting gates that
led the blessed into happiness are now forever shut against us."
"To make our wretchedness
even more wretched, we have lost the hope of ever being in a better state, which renders our condition truly hopeless. The most miserable man
on Earth still has hope. And therefore, it is a common proverb there if it
was not for hope, the heart would break. Our hearts break greatly because we are both without hope and help. This is what we have lost; which,
when you think about it, is enough to fear and rend and gnaw on our miserable souls forever. Yet, oh, that his were all!
We have a sense of pain as well as loss. And having shown you what we have lost, I
will try to show you what we undergo.
"First, we undergo a variety of torments, We are tormented here a thousand,
even ten thousand different ways. Those who are the most afflicted on Earth
seldom have more than one affliction at a time. If they have the plague, the gout, the stone, and
a fever at one time, how miserable they would think of themselves? Yet all those are but
the biting of a flea compared to these intolerable, pungent pains that we endure. Here we have all the
loathing variety of hell to grapple with. There is an unquenchable fire
here to burn us with; a lake of burning brimstone always choking us; eternal chains to tie
us with; utter darkness to frighten us, and our conscience which gnaws on us everlastingly. And any one of these is worse to bear than all the torments mankind
has ever felt on Earth.
"But because our torments here are varied, so are they universal, too, afflicting each part of the body, tormenting the powers of the
soul which is what we suffer most insufferable. In the illnesses that men
on Earth are seized with, though some part is afflicted, other parts are
not. Although your vitals may be out of order, your head may be well; and though your head
is ill, your vitals may not; or your vitals may be affected, but your arms and legs may
not. But here it is different: each part of the soul and body is tormented
all at once.
"Our eyes are tormented with the sight of devils who appear in all the
horrible shapes and black appearances that sin can give them. Our hearing is continually tormented with the loud
screams and continual cries of the damned. Our noses are smothered with sulphurous flames;
our tongue with burning blisters; and our whole body is rolled in flames of liquid fire. And all the powers and faculties of our souls are
tormented here. The imagination contains thoughts of our present pain; the memory lost
reflecting on what a heaven we have lost, and those opportunities we had of being saved. Our minds are
tormented here when considering how vainly we have spent our precious time and how we have abused it. Our understanding is tormented
by the thoughts of our past pleasures, present pains, and future sorrows, which are to last forever. And our consciences are
"Another thing that makes our misery awful is the extent of our torments. The fire
burns us is so violently that all the water in the sea can never quench it. The pains we suffer
are so extreme that it is impossible to be known except for those who feel them.
"Another part of our misery is the ceaselessness of our torments. As
varied, universal, and extremely violent as they are, they are continual. Nor
do we have any relief from them. If relaxation were possible, it might
allay some of the pain. But our condition so deplorable that there is no easing of our
torments. What we suffer now, we must forever suffer.
"The company we have here is another element
to our misery. Tormenting devils and tormented souls are our only company.
Dreadful shrieks and howlings, while we are under fierce pain, and fearful
speech is our only conversation. The torments of our fellow sufferers do
not lessen our misery but they increase our pain."
"The place where we suffer is another thing that increases our sufferings. It is the
place of all misery, a prison, a dungeon, a bottomless pit, a lake of fire and brimstone, a furnace of fire that burns
eternally, the blackness of darkness forever; and lastly, hell itself.
Such a wretched place as this only increases our wretchedness."
"The cruelty of our tormentors is another thing that adds to our torments. Our tormentors are devils
who have no pity. Being tormented themselves, yet they take pleasure in tormenting us."
"All those conditions that I have described are very grievous. But
what makes them even more grievous is that they are eternal. All of our most intolerable sufferings
will last for all eternity. 'Depart from Me ye cursed into everlasting fires' is
what is perpetually heard in my ears. Oh, if I could reverse that fatal sentence! Oh,
if there was but a possibility of doing it! Thus, I have shown you the miserable situation we are
in and shall be in forever."
This wretched soul scarcely finished what he was saying when he
began to be tormented by a hellish being who told him stop complaining
because it was all in vain.
"don't you know that you deserved it? How often were you told about this
but would not believe it? You laughed at those who told you about hell;
but you were so presumptuous to dare Almighty Justice to destroy you!
How often have you called on God to damn you? Do you complain that you
are answered according to your wishes? What an unreasonable thing this
is that you would call so often for damnation and yet be so uneasy under
it. You know you had salvation offered to you, but you refused it. How
then can you complain of being damned? I have more of a reason to
complain than you, because I entered into hell as soon as I sinned. You
had salvation offered you and forgiveness was often presented to you;
but I never had any mercy offered to me but was consigned as soon as I
had sinned to everlasting punishment. If I received the offer of
salvation, I would never have rejected it as you have. And it would have
been better for you that you had never received the offer of it either
because damnation would have been easier for you. Who do you think
should pity you who would be damned in spite of heaven itself?"
This made the wretch cry out,
"Oh, do not continue to torment me. I know that my destruction is of myself. Oh, that I could forget it! The
thought of it is my greatest plague. I should be damned and therefore justly am."
Then turning to the fiend that was torturing him, he said,
"But it was through your temptations,
you cursed devil. It was you that tempted me to all the sins I have been guilty
of and for which you now torment me? You say you never had a Savior offered
to you; but you should remember that you never had a tempter either as I have had continually of
To this the devil scornfully replied,
"It was my business to draw you
here as you have often been told by your preachers. They told you plainly enough
that we sought your ruin, going around continually like roaring lions, seeking whom we could devour; and I was often afraid
that you would believe them, as several did, to our great disappointment. But you were willing to do what we would have
you to do and since you have done our work, it is but reasonable that we should pay you
And then the fiend tormented him
again and it caused him to cry out so horribly that I could no longer stay to hear him.
I said to my guide,
"How dismal is the condition of these damned souls. They are the devil's slaves while
on the Earth, and he helps them, and then he torments them for it when they come to hell."
My guide replied,
"Their hatred against all the race of
Adam is exceeding great. And because many souls are ignorant of their
ways, they easily overpower them to their eternal ruin. How they treat them
here for listening to their temptations, you have seen already and will see more
of it quickly."
Moving a little further we saw a multitude of damned souls together, gnashing their teeth with extreme rage and pain, while the tormenting fiends with hellish fury poured liquid fire and brimstone continually
on them. All the while they cursed God and those around them by blaspheming
in a tremendous manner. I could not help but ask of one fiends that tormented them, who
those who were treated so cruelly? He said,
"They are those who very well deserve it. These are
the cursed wretches who would teach others the right road to heaven, but were so in love with hell that they came
here. These are souls who were the great teachers of hell and who deserve
special treatment in hell. We use our utmost diligence to give every one
of them their utmost share of torments because they not only have their own sins to answer for, but
for all of those who they have led astray by their doctrine and example."
"Since they have been such great captives of hell, as you say, I
would think that gratitude should oblige you to treat them a little more kindly."
To this the fiend answered in a scoffing manner,
"Those who expect gratitude among devils will find themselves mistaken. Gratitude is a virtue, but we hate all virtue and profess an immortal enmity against it.
Besides, we hate all mankind and, were it in our power, not one of them
would be happy. It is true that we don't tell them this on Earth because it is our business to flatter and delude them. But when we have them here where they are
bound, because from hell there is no redemption, we soon convince them of their
foolishness in believing us."
From the conversation I had with these devils, I couldn't help but
think that it is infinite, and it is by unspeakable grace that any poor
sinner is brought to heaven, considering how many snares are laid by the enemy of souls
in order to trap them. Because of this, it is a work well worthy of the blessed Son of God to save His people from their
sins and deliver them from the wrath to come. But it is foolish and madness
for men to refuse the offer of His grace and to enter in with the destroyer.
Going on a little farther, I heard a wretch complaining in a heartbreaking
manner against those men who had betrayed him there. He said,
"I was told by those whom I depended on and
who thought could have informed me correctly that if I just said, 'Lord, have mercy on me',
that when it came time for me to die, it would be enough to save me. But oh, wretchedly I find
I am mistaken, to my eternal sorrow! Alas, I called for mercy on my
deathbed but found it was too late. This cursed devil here told me just before
I was safe that it was too late and hell must be my reward."
The devil replied,
"You see, I told you
correctly but you would not believe me. It is a very good business isn't
it? You spent your days in the pursuit of sin and wallowed in your
filthiness and you wanted to go to heaven when you die! Wouldn't only a madman think that
this would be the case? No! Those who earnestly intends to go to heaven when
they die must walk in the ways of holiness and virtue while he is alive. You say
that some of your lewd companions told you that by saying, 'Lord, have mercy of
me,' that when you came to die that be enough. A very fine excuse! You might have known, if
you would have given yourself the leisure to read the Bible where it
states, 'Without holiness no one will see the Lord.' Therefore, this is the
result. You were willing to live in your sins as long as you could, and you did not leave them because you didn't like them, but because you couldn't
follow them any longer. And this you know to be true. And you had the impudence to think
of going to heaven with the love of sin in your heart? No, no, no such
way. You have been warned often enough that you should take heed of being deceived,
because God can not be mocked, and you reap what you sow. So you have no reason to complain of anything but your own
foolishness, which you now see is too late."
My guide said, "This lecture by the devil was a very
hurtful one to the poor tormented wretch. It was a lecture of the true
situation of many on Earth as well as those in hell. But oh, what a far different judgment
they have in this sad state from what they had on Earth.
"The reason for this is that they will not allow themselves to think
of what the effect of sin will be, nor what an evil it is, while on the Earth. It is
a situation that is the ruin of so many thousands, who don't think what they are
doing or where they are going until it is too late to avoid it."
An Atheist in Hell
We had not gone much farther until we heard another soul tormenting himself and increasing his own misery by thinking of the happiness of blessed souls. We were diverted from giving any attention to the stinging self-reflections of this poor lost creature
when we saw a vast number of tormenting fiends lashing constantly at a numerous company of wretched souls with knotted whips of
burning steel while they screamed out with cries that were so piercing and so lamentable,
that I thought it would have melted even cruelty itself into some pity.
This made me say to one of the tormentors,
"Oh, stop your hand and don't
be so cruel to those who are your fellow creatures and who you may have betrayed
into all this misery."
The tormentor answered very smoothly,
"No. Though we are bad enough, no devil
was ever was a bad as they were, nor guilty of such crimes as they have been. For we all know there is a God, although we hate Him!
But they could never be brought to believe, until they came here, that there was such a Being."
"Then these are atheists, a wretched sort of men indeed,
who once wanted to ruin me had not eternal grace prevented it."
I had no sooner spoken, when one of the tormented wretches cried out
in a sad mournful way,
"Surely I know that voice. It must be
I was amazed to hear my name mentioned by one of the infernal crew.
Being desirous to know what it was, I answered,
"Yes, I am Epenetus. But who are you in that sad lost condition that knows me?"
To this the lost unknown replied,
"I was once well acquainted with you
on Earth and had almost persuaded you of my opinion. I am the author of the celebrated book so well known by the title of 'Leviathan.'"
"What! The great Hobbs?
Can you come here? Your voice has changed so much that I did not know it."
"Alas, I am that unhappy man indeed. But
far from being great, I am one of the most wretched persons in all these sooty territories. Nor is it any wonder that my voice
changed; because I have now changed in my principles, though changed too late to do me any good.
Because now I know there is a God. But oh! I wish that there were not,
because I am sure He will have no mercy on me. Nor is there any reason that He should. I do confess
that I was His foe on Earth, but now He is mine in hell. It is the wretched confidence I had in my own wisdom that
"Your situation is miserable, and yet you say that you suffer justly.
How industrious you were in persuading others and involve them in the same damnation. None has more reason to know this than
I who had almost been snared and perished forever."
"That is what stings me to the heart to know how many perished
because of me. I was afraid when first I heard your voice that you had
also been consigned to punishment. Not that I can wish anybody happiness,
because it is my torment to think that many are while I am miserable.
Every soul that is brought here by my seduction while on Earth, doubles my pain in hell."
"Tell me, because I want to be informed and you can do it. Did you indeed believe when
on Earth that there was no God? Could you imagine that the world made itself? And that
creatures were the cause of their own creation? Didn't you have any secret whispers in your soul that told you it was another
that made you and not you yourself? Had you ever any doubts about this matter? I have often heard it said that though there are many who profess
that there is no God, there is not one that thinks so; and it would be strange
that there should, because there is no one who carries in their heart a witness for
God whom they deny. Now, you can tell whether it is so or not, because you have now no reason to conceal your
"Nor will I, Epenetus.
Although these thoughts sting me again, I did at first believe there was a God, but
after falling to evil paths that rendered me open to His wrath, I had some secret
desire that there was none. For it is impossible to think there is a God, and not think
of Him as just and righteous, and also that He is desires to punish the transgressors of His law. And
because I was aware of myself to be obnoxious to His justice, it made me hate
Him and wish that there was no such Being. But still following the same
evil paths and finding justice did not overtake me, I then began to hope there was no God; and from those hopes began to
build in my own heart ideas suitable to what I hoped. And having this in my own thoughts
built a new system of the world's origin, excluding a being of Deity, I found myself so fond of these new
ideas that I prevailed upon myself to give them credibility, and then endeavored to fasten the belief of them on others. But before I came to such a height as this, I do acknowledge that I found several
regrets in my own conscience for what I did, and all along I was now and then troubled with some strange uneasy thoughts, as if I should not find
right at last; which I endeavored to put off, as much as there was in me. And now I find those
regretful thoughts which might have been of help to me, are the things
here that torment me the most. And I must admit that the love of sin hardened my heart against the
Maker and made me first hate Him then deny His being. Sin, that I hugged so close within my
heart, has been the cursed cause of all this woe; the serpent has stung my soul to death. For now I find, in spite of my vain philosophy, there is a God. I
also find that God can not be mocked, although it was my daily practice in the world to mock at heaven and ridicule whatever things are sacred, which were the means I used to spread
around my cursed ideas, which I had always found very successful. For those
who I could get to ridicule oracles, I always looked upon to become fair disciples. But now these thoughts
are more tormenting to me than all the torments I sustain by whips of burning steel."
Fire and Darkness
"I would like to ask another question. I heard yourself and others cry out
concerning burning steel and fire and flames; and yet I cannot understand it. Where there is fire there
should be some degree of light; but yet it appears to me that you are still in utter darkness."
"Oh, if only I could say I feel no fire! How easy would my torments be
compared to what I find now! But alas, the fire that we endure ten thousand times exceeds all culinary fire in fierceness; and
it is of quite a different nature. There is no light at all about it and
it burns like the fire that burns on Earth. But despite all the fire in hell, we are in utter darkness.
The fire you burn on Earth is of a devouring nature because whatever it
gets hold of, it consumes to ashes. And when it has no more fuel it goes out. But here it is not so. For though it burns with
a tremendous fierceness, which no one but those who feel it can know, it does
not consume and it never will. We will ever be burning, yet not burned. It is a tormenting, but not a consuming fire. Here the fire seizes upon our souls and puts them into pain so tormenting
that it cannot be expressed. It was my ignorance of this while on Earth that made me ridicule the notion of immaterial substances being burned by fire; which here, to my own
expense, I find too true. And then another difference between the fire that burns us here and that which burns on the Earth is
this: you can start it whenever you please and quench it whenever you will. But here it is
different. This fire is like a stream of brimstone and it burns forever. And this is what I have to answer to the last sad question that you asked me."
"Sad indeed. See what Almighty Power can inflict on those who violate His righteous law."
I was making some further observation on what I heard, when the relentless fiend who
before was tormenting them, again interrupted me,
"You see from him what sort of men they were while in the world; and don't
you think they deserve the punishment they are getting?"
To which I answered,
"Doubtless it is the just reward of sin
for which they now suffer, and which you shall suffer too, because you, as well as they, have sinned against the ever blessed God, and
because of your sin you shall suffer the just vengeance of eternal fire. Nor is it in the least any excuse to say
that you never doubted the being of God; for though you knew there was a God, yet you rebelled against Him, and therefore
you shall be justly punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power."
To this the fiend replied,
"It is true that we know we
will be punished as you have said. But if it is a reason why mankind should have pity
on them because they fell by the temptations of the devil. It is the same
situation with me and all the rest of the inferior spirits, because we are tempted by the Bright Sun of the Morning to take part with him. And therefore, though this aggravates the crime of Lucifer, it should extenuate that of inferior spirits."
To this my bright guide, who had not spoken to them since my coming here,
replied with a stern angry countenance,
"Oh, you apostate, wicked, lying spirit! Can you affirm those things and see me here?
Don't you know that it was your proud heart that made you take part with Lucifer against the blessed God who had created
you a glorious creature? Priding yourself in your own beauty, you wanted
to be above your blessed Creator and was ready to take part with Lucifer and
was justly cast down to hell with him. Your former beauty changed to a
horrible monstrous form in which you now appear, as the just punishment of
your rebellious pride."
To this the apostate spirit only said,
"Why do you invade our
territories this way and come here to torment us before our time?"
When he said this, he slunk
away as if he did not want to stay to receive an answer. I said,
"I have observed that all of them complain mostly
about the torment that arises from their own sense of guilt which justifies the justice of the punishment. This gloomy prison is the best
prism to see sin in its most proper colors; because if there was not the greatest malignity in sin, it would not be rewarded with so extreme a punishment."
"Your inference is very natural. But there is yet a better prism than this to see the just
rewards of sin; and that is by contemplating to see the blessed Son of God
on the cross. There we can see the dire consequences of sin. There we can see its true malignity. For all this sufferings of the damned here are
still only the suffering of creatures; but on the cross you see a suffering God."
I replied, "Surely, justice and mercy did
ever so triumph and kiss each other as in that fatal hour. For justice here
is fully satisfied in the just punishment of sin; and mercy triumphed and was pleased because
the salvation for poor sinners was achieved. And oh, eternal praises to His holy name forever, that His grace has made me willing to accept this salvation, and thereby
become an heir of glory. For I remember some of those lost wretches here
who bitterly lamented when salvation was offered to them and they refused it. It was therefore grace alone that helped me to accept it."
My shining guardian told me that he must now return me to the Earth and leave me there to
await with faith and patience until my expected happy death comes.
"Come then and let us leave these realms of woe and horror to
its black inhabitants."
And soon I found myself on Earth again and in that very place where I
planned to commit that black sin of being my own murderer, overcome by the temptations of the
devil who persuaded me that there was no God. But by what manner I came
here I am not at all able to determine. As soon as I returned to the bank
where I was sitting, the bright appearance of whom I was guided, said to
me, "Now, Epenetus, you know where you
are and I must stay no longer with you now. I have another ministry to
attend to. Praise Him that sits upon the throne forever, who has all power in heaven, Earth, and hell, for all the wonders of His love and
grace that He has shown you in such a short space."
As I was going to reply to him, my bright guide disappeared and I was left
alone. For some time, I considered the amazing visions I saw and the
wondrous things I heard and could hardly believe that I was again on Earth, nor did I know
how much time I had been gone. I kneeled down and prayed that I may never lose
such a lovely sense of all those wondrous things that had been shown me.
Then I rose blessing and praising God for all His goodness.
Having returned to my house, my family was very surprised to see
that my countenance had strangely changed. They looked at me as if they
hardly knew me. I asked them what the reason for their unusual admiration. They answered that it was the change in my face that caused it. I said,
"In what respect has it
They told me, "Yesterday your looks was so extremely clouded and cast down
that you seemed to be the very image of despair. But now your face appears abundantly more beautiful and
bears all the marks of perfect joy and satisfaction."
I replied, "If you had seen what I have seen today, you would not wonder at the change you see."
Then, going into my closet, I took my pen and ink and there wrote down what I had heard and seen,
describing the whole vision from first to last. I hope that everyone who
reads it will have the same response to it as it had on me while writing them.
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