Well. I've just finished reading a book which has made an impression on me, though possibly not the one intended by the author. This isn't really a book review, but more of a commentary on where I am as a Christian in 2009. Stand by for heavy rolls (Which was the alarm given aboard ship when we were about to hit rough water).
The book is "23 Minutes In Hell" by Bill Wiese, which details Wiese's visit to Hell which he alleges happened November 23, 1998.
I believe that Wiese is a sincere Christian. I believe that God does indeed continue to work miraculously in the world, in the lives of His children.
But hold on.
I am naturally suspicious of supernatural happenings, ESPECIALLY amongst Christians. Why?
It's my nature. And my training, so to speak. Here it is:
Christians are human; although we all have God's Holy Spirit indwelling us, we still are human, making mistakes, fouling up our lives, splitting amongst theological beliefs to the point where many disown our brethren because they 'believe differently'.
God's Spirit is unchanging-the difference lies in our humanity. I suggest that we are all basically ignorant-the level of our wisdom rises the more time we spend with God, studying His Word. But on this side of the veil, in this lifetime...we are ignorant.
Being ignorant, some of us are fooled-that's a terrible word to use for my bros and sis in Christ, but there it is: some are fooled.
We have an adversary who does all he can to destroy the Church, and he does so often by leading the foolish Christians away from solid Biblical precepts.
If we kept "Standing On The Promises" (I love that song) we would not fall for satan's swindles.
Back to Wiese's book.
According to Wiese, he was put in Hell for approximately 23 minutes until Jesus rescued him.
"Jesus reached down and touched my shoulder. My strength instantly returned, and I rose to my feet. My next thought was, Why did you send me to this awful place?
Before I could ask the question, He answered.
"Because many people do not believe that hell truly exists," He told me. "Even some of My own people do not believe that hell is real."
This does not compute. This exchange raised the red flag, so to speak, one of many in the book.
Was Christ suggesting that His Holy Spirit was incapable of getting Christians to recognize that hell is real?
That the Church, the body of Christ, is remiss in not preaching hell fire and brimstone sermons anymore?
Christ is saying that? According to Wiese, yes. According to me, no.
I believe that good scholarly pastors/teachers preach as God would have them preach. There are many bad unscholarly pastors/teachers who preach nonsense and blasphemy from the pulpit, and among that group you will find those who would accept Wiese's extrabiblical pronouncements without a quibble of unease.
Besides Wiese’s conversation with Jesus, I find the same old error being propounded more than once, that demons, fallen angels had sexual relations with women which resulted in there being giants on the earth.
The misused and abused reference verse is:
“1Now it came about, when men began to multiply on the face of the land, and daughters were born to them, 2that the sons of God saw that the daughters of men were beautiful; and they took wives for themselves, whomever they chose. 3Then the LORD said, “My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, because he also is flesh; nevertheless his days shall be one hundred and twenty years.” 4The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men, and they bore children to them. Those were the mighty men who were of old, men of renown.” Genesis 6:1-4
You will find churches that hold to this idea of demons and women bearing children as gospel truth. This is an example of the ignorance I mentioned earlier.
To put it in simple: the sons of God mentioned were Godly men, believers, who married unbelievers, becoming corrupted, being led astray by their wives.
“5Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. 6The LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. 7The LORD said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, from man to animals to creeping things and to birds of the sky; for I am sorry that I have made them.” 8But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD.” Genesis 6:5-8
Noah was the last man standing who found favor in God’s sight. God didn’t wash away the rest of humanity because they were interbred with demons-they were evil enough on their own.
Wiese also misapplies scripture to suggest that satan and his demons are, in effect, in charge of tormenting souls in hell at this moment. To bolster this idea he takes literally the figurative language of Jeremiah:
“6 In dark places He has made me dwell,
Like those who have long been dead.
7 He has walled me in so that I cannot go out;
He has made my chain heavy.
8 Even when I cry out and call for help,
He shuts out my prayer.
9 He has blocked my ways with hewn stone;
He has made my paths crooked.
10 He is to me like a bear lying in wait,
Like a lion in secret places.
11 He has turned aside my ways and torn me to pieces;
He has made me desolate.”
Do you read of any demons torturing souls in that passage?
No-Jeremiah, very much alive, was speaking of how he felt abandoned/punished by God- ‘He shut out my prayer, He has blocked my ways, He has made my path crooked, He is to me like a bear, a lion, He has turned aside my ways, torn me to pieces, made me desolate.” God did all of that, not some demon.
Bottom line is: Wiese may very well have had a vision, and I would never want to suggest that God cannot do what He wants to...but theologically Wiese’s story doesn’t seem right.
He may be a sincere Christian, he may have a heart for the lost, but I am wary of extrabiblical revelations which are in conflict with Scripture. He does have quite a few references per chapter, and many many many authoritative quotes from scholars. You can look him up, buy his book; his ministry is called Soul Choice Ministry, so go for it.
Just ask God to affirm for you what is true.