Book Review: 23 Minutes In Hell

23 Minutes In Hell: One Man’s Story About What He Saw, Heard, And Felt In That Place Of Torment, by Bill Wiese

[Note:  This book was provided free of charge by Charisma House.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.]

As someone whose beliefs on death and the afterlife are considerably different from the author’s [1], I knew that there would be a great deal of variance between our views on the subject.  I thought, though, that this book would have something interesting to provide to the larger discourse within the Christian world concerning matters of judgment and this book certainly provided that.  Although there was much about the author’s rather poor exegesis that I found unconvincing, I found this book surprisingly aware of the larger implications of visions for Christians and suprisingly willing to engage in the larger debate of the validity of drawing doctrinal implications from dreams and visions.  This is all the more remarkable because this book’s genesis is a story of the author’s own nightmare which he attributed to a visit to a supposed hell, and his own thoughts and conclusions about that journey are themselves subject to the same sorts of questions and objections as the author’s critique of visions of a more universalist nature such as that by other writers about near death experiences that purport to include visions of heaven.  In short, I found this book to be worthwhile even though I found much I disagreed with based on a different understanding of scripture.

This book, including in appendices and supplementary material, made an easy read of slightly more than 200 pages, and should not be a difficult read.  The fact that the book has sold more than a million copies in ten years–this book was a slightly expanded 10th anniversary edition–is demonstrative of its broad appeal in our discussion about the reality of God’s judgment, about which the author and I are agreed, although we strongly differ as to its details.  After some introductory material, including acknowledgements, a foreword, and a preface as well as an introduction, the first part of this book looks at an account of the author’s experience in a nightmare of a supposed experience in hell that included a cell, a pit, a gateway, and various torments, the absence of children, and supposed confirmations of the validity of the author’s vision.  The second part consists of the author’s summary of the research he took into questions about heaven and hell after his terrifying dream, and they include brief snippets of scriptural references, almost all of them one or two verses or less, as well as quotations from mostly Calvinist sources (especially John MacArthur [2]) and a large amount of testimonials from readers who have found this book and the author’s talks, of which this book has quite a few photos, to be inspiring.

Thankfully, reading this book is not 23 minutes of hell, but there were a few areas of difficulty I had with the author’s approach to scripture that I feel compelled to mention as an honest reviewer.  The author conflates references to emotional torment, physical death, and eternal judgment into one picture of hell.  This conflation provides plenty of areas where the author distorts the biblical material because the Bible is speaking about something else entirely than what the author perceives him to mention.  At other times, the author’s approach to scripture is an exercise in prooftexting, as well as in misrepresenting the content of passages like the parable of Lazarus and the rich man, with the author refuses to accept is a parable, and in hunting for particular words as evidence that an author is talking about hell rather than talking about a more layered view of life, death, and resurrection.  Characteristic of these failures is a belief that the Bible’s references to Sheol/hades is talking about hell when it is really talking about the grave.  The author believes he spent 23 minutes in hell in a terrible nightmare that left him shaken.  Imagine his surprise when he spends a lot more time in the grave awaiting for the general resurrection.

[1] See, for example:

[2] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in Bible, Book Reviews, Christianity, Church of God and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Book Review: 23 Minutes In Hell

  1. Pingback: Book Review: Sinners In The Hand Of A Loving God | Edge Induced Cohesion

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