We hear a lot these days about various theological speculations contrary to what the Church has always taught regarding the last four things, e.g., the reoccurring theory of Origen that in the end the demons and condemned souls would get a second chance, or that hell is essentially empty. As an exorcist, the stark reality that priests encounter during the solemn rite of exorcism over those who are authentically possessed results in a constant affirmation of what the Church has always taught about these matters.
When we reflect upon the last four things — death, judgment, heaven, and hell — exorcists are in a unique position because they see the actual existential reality of those who have been damned and have been allowed by God to possess people. Aside from the fact that the synod of Constantinople in year 543 rejected the idea of rehabilitating those in hell, the exorcist at times will experience the visible manifestation on the face of the possessed of the characteristics of the demon who is languishing under the reality that his suffering will never end. The demons will admit as much and it causes them tremendous pain and sorrow. The time of merit in which one can gain heaven is over and permanently so, and the affliction that this causes the demons is manifested in a depth of despair that defies description. There is a finality to death in relationship to our eternal destiny which many a saint has exhorted us to reflect upon. The consequences of our choices in this life are irreversible after death, or as it is said, “our actions here redound to eternity.”
In relationship to the particular judgment, under duress, some demons will even admit the specific words that God spoke to them when they were condemned. Most exorcists will note the words God speaks to them at their condemnation are perfectly descriptive of their character. In like manner, for those who are saved, i.e., to those who are faithful, these words of God at the personal judgment bring tremendous joy and consolation.
Hell is a true reality and unfortunately it is not empty. Any priest who has done exorcisms for any length of time has seen preternatural manifestations that are beyond human beings’ capacities, and point to the reality of a condemned spirit who languishes under the weight of his sin and condemnation. At times, these manifestations cause fear in the exorcist; not of the demon, but of the severity of God’s justice. It provides a wonderful point of meditation realizing the depth and the goodness of God’s mercy that He would want us to be under His mercy in this life so that we may be saved and be happy with Him in the next.
Lastly, exorcists at times will observe that demons and those things which are revealed about hell are, in fact, not that interesting in comparison to what is revealed when the demons are forced to admit the attributes and perfections of God, Our Lady, and the saints. It makes one realize how tremendous the joys of heaven are in the contemplation of the perfection of the saints in heaven, and it provides a strong motivation to want to become like them and to enjoy their company and the company of God for the rest of eternity.
CHAD RIPPERGER is a member of the Society of the Most Sorrowful Mother, a semi-contemplative society of priests whose sole apostolate, other than prayer, is exorcism and deliverance. He has published numerous articles and books and runs Sensus Traditionis Press. Learn more at www.ProLifeCentral.com