Selected Books and Motion Pictures
"But beyond this, my son, be warned: the writing of many books is endless, and excessive devotion to books is wearying to the body." (Ecclesiastes 12:12)
23 Minutes in Hell
23 Minutes in Hell
by Bill Wiese
Reviewed by James T. Bartsch, WordExplain.com
Bill Wiese describes a frightening experience in which, in his words, he spent 23 minutes in hell (Book Title). He says, “I was catapulted out of my bed into the very pit of hell. My point of arrival was a cell that was approximately fifteen feet high by ten feet wide with a fifteen-foot depth” (p. 2). Later on he classifies his experience as a vision (p. 94). In his words, “Suddenly, at 3:00 a.m. on the 23rd [of November, 1998], without any notice, I found myself being hurled through the air, and then was falling to the ground, completely out of control” (Introduction, p. xv).
Wiese describes his experience in graphic detail. He was in a cell. He was accosted by four scaly foul-smelling beasts between ten and thirteen feet tall which were neither human nor animal, possessing enormous strength and malevolently evil. They began to shred his body, which had neither fluid nor blood (pp. 3-7). He could feel enormous pain, but his body continued to exist.
Shortly thereafter, outside the cell, he states, “I was horrified as I heard the screams of an untold multitude of people crying out in torment” (p. 8). He states that he saw a large flaming pit, “a gigantic raging inferno approximately one mile in diameter and about ten miles away” (p. 10). Later he stood near the pit. “It was raining fire and burning rock, similar to the way lava falls from the sky when a volcano explodes.... I saw many people reaching out of the pit of fire, desperately trying to claw their way out. But there was no escape” (p. 29).
He continues, “I turned my head, and I noticed that I was standing in the middle of a cave. The wall wrapped around me and led to the vast expanse of the pit. As I looked at the walls, I saw that they were covered with thousand s of hideous creatures. These demonic creatures were all sizes and shapes. Some of them had four legs and were the size of bears. Others stood upright and were about the size of gorillas. They were all terribly grotesque and disfigured. It looked as though their flesh had been decomposing and all their limbs were twisted and out of proportion.... There were also gigantic rats and huge spiders at least three feet wide and two or three feet high.... I was petrified and could not believe my eyes” (pp. 29-30).
“Suddenly, I began ascending up through the tunnel.... I could now see more of the enormous pit, which looked to be as much as a mile across. However, this was just a fraction of hell’s space. To the right of the large inferno were thousands of small p its, as far as I could see. Each pit was no more than three to five feet across and four to five feet deep – each pit holding a single lost soul” (p. 30).
“Continuing up, it seemed as if about thirty seconds had passed, when suddenly, a burst of light invaded the entire tunnel. The light was so brilliant, a pure, white light such as I have never seen. It was so bright that I could not see the face of the one who was before me, but I instantly knew who He was. I said, ‘Jesus,’ and He said ‘I AM,’ and I fell as his feet. It was as if I died..... As soon as He appeared, He restored an awareness to my mind that I was a Christian. (He had removed the knowledge that I was a Christian in hell. I will explain the reason shortly.)” p. 31....
“Jesus reached down and touched my shoulder.... 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 ... Even some of My own people do not believe that hell is real’ (pp. 32-33).... “Jesus said to me, ‘Go and tell them about this place. It is not My desire that any should go there. Hell was made for the devil and his angels’” (p. 34).
Wiese continues to relate his experience of ascending with Jesus high above the earth. Then they began to descend and to his home in California and he reentered his body. As soon as the Lord left him his fear returned. “I started screaming and lay there in a traumatized state.... My cries were loud enough to reach the bedroom and wake my wife up from a deep sleep” (pp. 45-46).
Wiese continues to relate how traumatized he remained by the event, hardly daring to tell a single person outside of his wife for a substantial time. Eventually he was able to share his story and received remarkable confirmation of the authenticity of his experience through the responses of Christians and the conversion of many who had not been believers. In chapter six he asks and answers in the affirmative the question, “Can ‘Good’ People Go to Hell?”
Part II is entitled is entitled, “Research After the Return: Questions and Answers about Hell” (p. 81). He addresses such questions as “Why should you believe me?” “Why should you believe the Bible?” “Does God use dreams and visions?” “Has anyone in the Bible experienced hell?” He writes, “I wanted to know if there was an person in the Bible who had an experience in hell (Sheol).” He then answers his question, “Some theologians think that Jonah was in hell” (p. 96), and proceeds to agree with these theologians. He continues to ask, “Has anyone else experienced hell?” and then states that others have. He references only one specifically, Dr. Richard Eby, in his book Caught Up Into Paradise (p. 97). He closes this section by asking, “Why would God take me to hell?” He answers, “I believe that the only reason God took me to hell was to draw attention to His Word on this subject” (p. 98).
In chapter eight, Wiese addresses “Important Facts About Hell.” He addresses questions like “Why would God allow me to experience pain in hell?” “Is hell a literal burning place?” “Where is hell located?” Here he writes, “I believe the scripture states that presently it is in the center of the earth. I have listed some of the verses below. I somehow knew that I was in the lower part of the earth, and I sensed it to be approximately thirty-seven hundred miles deep. It was as if my senses were keener or more aware than normal” (p. 107). He proceeds to ask and answer questions, “Do you have a body in hell? (Yes) “Are there children in hell?” (No).
In chapter nine, “Understanding What Happens in Hell,” the author asks, “How could I ‘see’ in hell?” He believes the total darkness is yet to occur after “death and hell are cast into the lake of fire and into outer darkness” (p. 115). He asks and answers in the affirmative the question, “Are there prison cells and bars in hell?” addressing Scriptures which in his estimation give credence to his experience (pp. 116-117); also the question, “Are there degrees of punishment in hell?” (Yes, pp. 118-121.)
He discusses demons in hell in chapter ten. “Are there demons in hell?” (Yes); “Do demons have great strength?” (Yes); “Can demons torment people on earth?” (Yes); “Can demons torment people in hell?” (Yes).
What does one make of Wiese’s encounter? It is extremely difficult to deny that Wiese had a life-changing experience. It is also accurate to say that a great deal of what he experienced can be supported by Scripture. One caution: Wiese takes the Old Testament Sheol to refer every time to hell. This is not tenable exegetically. Sheol simply means, in the Old Testament, “the place of the dead.” The Old Testament does not give us a full-orbed theology of the after-life, whether of saints or sinners. To his credit, Wiese seeks to support, with varying degrees of success, each part of his anecdote and his “theology of hell” with Scripture. If one grants that Wiese had a bona fide vision from God (his contention), then to me it is not quite accurate to say, “I have been in hell.” It would be more accurate to say, “I was given a vision in which I was transported to hell.”
Theologically, the most difficult question is, “Why would Jesus send one of His own to hell, when salvation delivers us from that place?” Again, it would help solve that problem by saying, not that he went to hell, but that he experienced a vision of hell.
Whatever the validity of Wiese’s experience may be, Scripture is our only reliable, authentic source of information about the hereafter. A certain portion of what Wiese purports, for example, that demons have scales and a bad odor, and that hell is approximately 3700 miles deep within the earth, cannot be confirmed in Scripture. If the Bible is our rule of faith and practice, we might safely say, “Hell may indeed be like that,” but we cannot know for sure, for Scripture does not tell us.
I tend to remain on the conservative side and say, “We will let Scripture be our final arbiter of what hell or the lake of fire is like. These are some interesting ideas and illustrations of what hell and the lake of fire may be like, but only God can tell us for sure, and He has not chosen to reveal everything in Scripture that there is to know about those subjects. If you would like to know what the Bible does say about hell, see the article on The Lake of Fire.
Nevertheless, the book is a sobering reminder that hell is real and not to be trifled with. Because this book’s content is so critical, I give it a four-star rating. For me, the book is a plausible illustration of what hell may be like. Since I have placed my faith in Jesus Christ (John 3:16-18, 36), I plan never to experience it first hand. I pray the same for you, my friend.
See also the following articles: on Heaven; on New Jerusalem; on New Heaven and Earth.
Published December 16, 2006
Updated June 22, 2015