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23 Minutes in Hell... or perhaps a bad dream
on August 20, 2010
With a heavy heart, I must give an honest review of this book. Before I begin, I want to start off by stating upfront that I am a born-again Christian, and I do believe that unbelievers who die without Christ will suffer eternal torment in Hell. However, with this said, I must say that I do not believe Bill Wiese' account.
I had heard about this book for quite some time before I had actually read it. At first I thought this was going to be a story about a man who wasn't a Christian, clinically died and went to Hell, came back to life and is now a Christian. Instead, I was surprised to find out that not only was Wiese already supposed to have been a Christian, but he didn't even die. Instead, he just went to bed at 3:00a.m. one night, fell into a pit and ended up in literal Hell. In this Hell he was tormented by demons, heat so intense that he should have been dead, and he witnessed a pit of fire where souls were being tormented. During his time in Hell, Wiese claims that he didn't know about God and had "forgotten" he was a Christian. He later supposedly gets rescued by Jesus and is told that he was purposely made to forget that he was a Christian. The entire reasoning behind this experience is so that Wiese can know that Hell exists and he can now tell others about it. He wakes back up in his living room where he fell asleep at 3:23a.m.
Right away, one would think that Wiese just had a nightmare, but Wiese is convinced that he had an out-of-body experience where his soul literally descended into Hell. Wiese insists that this wasn't just a dream.
This is all told in the first three chapters of the book, and the rest of the book is simply accounts of Wiese' evangelistic testimonies and answering a few questions about Hell. But the first three chapters are really the "highlight" of the book. In fact, I found myself getting bored after the third chapter, because the rest of it becomes testimonies of Wiese being invited to speak about his experience, and then the book going into answering standard philosophical questions about Hell that can be found in many other books.
The main problem I have with Bill Wiese' story is that it just simply isn't consistent with what the Bible teaches about how God operates.
In Luke 16:19-31 Jesus tells a story about a rich man who dies and ends up in Hell. The rich man becomes concerned that his family might end up in Hell too. So he asks Abraham (who is in paradise but is able to communicate with the rich man) if he can go and tell his family about Hell. And Abraham responds with, "If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead" (v. 31). So, knowing that Jesus told this story of the rich man, and the Bible teaches that if someone isn't persuaded by the Scriptures, then they will not be persuaded by someone returning from the dead, why would Jesus send Wiese to Hell to basically do what Abraham says won't persuade unbelievers anymore than the Scriptures will? The simple answer is, Jesus wouldn't do that.
There is also the issue with the demons that supposedly tortured Wiese. Jesus said that Hell is prepared for Satan and his demons. They will be eternally punished in Hell (Matt 25:41). Yet, Wiese claims that demons are in Hell feeling pleasure from torturing him and the more they tortured him, the more pleasure they felt. This doesn't make sense if the Bible teaches that Hell was created to punish the demons. In fact, Wiese makes it sound like the demons have a nice playground in Hell and are the ones administering the punishments rather than being punished themselves.
Another problem I have with Wiese's account is that Jesus said that anyone who believes in him will not see death (John 8:51).
After reading the book, I must admit that I am really disappointed. And while I am a born-again Christian who believes in the existence of Hell (and by that I mean eternal punishment, not annihilation), I must tell the truth of what I believe about this book. I had thought about not writing a review at all, but Christians need to stand on biblical truths, not lies. I'm still not even sure why Wiese is so convinced that he didn't just have a really bad dream... which is what I think he had if he's not just making this whole thing up.