This is an extract from John Bunyan’s work. John Bunyan was given this revelationary experience concerning life after death in the 17th century. Consider how similar this is to so many modern reports of people who claim to have been taken to see hell by Almighty God, so as to warn others.
An Atheist in Hell
We had not gone much farther on before we heard another tormenting himself and increasing his own misery by thinking of the happiness of blessed souls.
We were diverted from giving any further ear unto these stinging self-reflections of this poor lost creature by seeing a vast number of tormenting fiends lashing incessantly a numerous company of wretched souls with knotted whips of ever burning steel while they roared out with cries so very piercing and so lamentable I thought it might have melted even cruelty itself into some pity, which made me say to one of the tormentors, “Oh, stay your hand, and do not use such cruelty as this is to them who are your fellow creatures, and whom perhaps you have yourselves betrayed to all this misery.”
“No,” answered the tormentor very smoothly, “though we are bad enough, no devil ever was a bad as they, nor guilty of such crimes as they have been. For we all know there is a God, although we hate Him! but these are such as never could be brought to own (till they came hither) that there was such a Being.”
“Then these,” said I, “are atheists, a wretched sort of men indeed, and 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 with a sad mournful accent, “Sure, I should know that voice. It must be Epenetus.”
I was amazed to hear my name mentioned by one of the infernal crew; and therefore 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 upon earth and had almost persuaded you to be of my opinion. I am the author of the celebrated book so well known by the title of ‘Leviathan.'”
“What! the great Hobbs?” I said. “Are you come hither? Your voice is so much changed I did not know it.”
“Alas,” replied he, “I am that unhappy man indeed. But so far from being great that I am one of the most wretched persons in all these sooty territories. Nor is it any wonder that my voice is changed; for I am now changed in my principles, though changed too late to do me any good. For now I know there is a God. But oh! I wish that there were not, for I am sure He will have no mercy on me. Nor is there any reason that He should. I do confess I was His foe on earth, but now He is mine in hell. It is that wretched confidence I had in my own wisdom that has thus betrayed me.”
“Your case is miserable, and yet you needs must own you suffer justly. For how industrious were you to persuade others, and so involve them in the same damnation. None has more reason to know this than I, who had almost been taken in the snare and perished forever.”
“It is that,” said he, “that stings me to the heart to think how many perish by my means. I was afraid when first I heard your voice that you had likewise been consigned to punishment. Not that I can wish any person happy, for it is my plague to think that many are so while I am miserable; but because every soul that is brought hither through by seduction while I was on earth, doubles my pain in hell.”
“But tell me, for I fain would be informed and you can do it. Did you indeed believe when upon earth, there was no God? Could you imagine that the world could make itself? And that the creatures were the causes of their own production? Had you no secret whispers in your soul that told you it was another made you and not you yourself? And had you never any doubts about this matter? I have often heard it said that though there are many who profess there is no God, there is not one that thinks so; and it would be strange there should, because there is none but carry in their bosom a witness for that God whom they deny. Now you can tell whether it is so or no, for you have now no reason to conceal you sentiments.”
“Nor will I, Epenetus,” answered he. “Although the thoughts thereof sting me afresh, I did at first believe there was a God, but falling afterwards to vicious courses, which rendered me open to His wrath, I had some secret wishes there was none. For it is impossible to think there is a God, and not withal to think Him just and righteous, and consequently that He is obliged to punish the transgressors of His law. And being I was conscious of myself as obnoxious to His justice, it made me hate Him, and wish that there was no such Being. But still pursing the same vicious courses, and finding justice did not overtake me, I then began to hope there was no God; and from those hopes began to frame in my own breast ideas suitable to what I hoped. And having thus in my own thoughts framed a new system of the world’s origin, excluding thence the being of a Deity, I found myself so fond of these new notions that I at last prevailed upon myself to give them credit, 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 checks in my own conscience for what I did, and all along was now and then troubled with some strange uneasy thoughts, as if I should not find all right at last; which I endeavored to put off, as much as in me lay. And now I find those checking thoughts that might have been of service to me then are here the things that most of all torment me. And I must own the love of sin hardened my heart against the Maker, and made me hate Him first, and then deny His being. Sin, that I hugged so close within my bosom, has been the cursed cause of all this woe; the serpent that has stung my soul to death. For now I find, in spite of my vain philosophy, there is a God. I find, too, now that God will 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 abroad my cursed notions, which I always found very successful. For those I could but get to ridicule oracles I always looked upon to be in a fair way to become disciples. But now the thoughts thereof are more tormenting to me than all the torments I sustain by whips of burning steel.”