On the evening of Nov. 23, 1998, Bill Wiese and his wife Annette came home from a prayer meeting at their church in Santa Ana, Calif., and went to bed with the same concerns most do, the tasks of the next day and thankfulness for the day passed. Yet what transpired that night profoundly changed Wiese’s perspective and work — a conservative real estate broker, not susceptible to metaphysical realities became a witness to the “geographical place we know from the scriptures as hell.” Wiese said.
“I woke in a jail cell — just like the jails on earth, with cold bars and rough stone walls. In this place the fire is real, not symbolic, and the flames burn at an intolerable heat. There are maggots and worms that never die eating away at your flesh. They are never satiated and the fire is never quenched.” Wiese explained. More than the physical torture of hell, Wiese experienced the feeling of “eternal hopelessness” that any non-Christian would feel upon arrival after death. “God revealed to me that there is a literal hell, and He blocked my own identity as a Christian so that I could experience what it would actually be like for the un-saved.”
When Wiese “came back into his body” he was in severe emotional agony. Screaming and shaking, his wife Annette began to pray. “I was in a tormented state and felt that I was dying. I told my wife I couldn’t live with this horror and I began to pray to God to take away the tangible terror.” Very uncomfortable in sharing his experience at first, Wiese told only a very dear friend and his mother. Worried that no one would believe his story, or that he wouldn’t be able to clearly explain what he had experienced, Wiese began to research Biblical scripture to find confirmation of his new knowledge.
“There are many biblical references to hell within the scriptures. It only takes someone to actually look and read, to understand that God has warned us.” Wiese feels that his vision of hell was given to him so that he can help spread God’s healing. “God spoke to me: It is not your burden to convict their hearts, it is the Holy Spirit’s job to do that. Your job is to share.”
Soon word of Wiese’s experience spread and churches began inviting him to speak to their congregations. “I see myself as a sign-post encouraging people to take God’s warning seriously. It is not too different than the warnings before Hurricane Katrina hit. Some people listened, some people didn’t, and some people could leave. But the warnings were real.” Wiese said. “Just like people wanting to be warned about hurricanes, God is trying to warn us that there is a wrong road, and it leads to hell.”
Wiese is concerned that in the climate of secularism and a cultural shifting toward a metaphoric interpretation of scripture, even the mention of hell has been slowly decreasing from the pulpits across the country. Not at all interested in self-promotion or any type of lucrative benefit from his experience, Wiese said, “I personally don’t care at all if people believe my story or not. It’s not about me. But I feel sad for the people who choose to disregard God’s message … it is a horribly frustrating feeling when I know how real it is.”
After spending only “23 minutes in hell” Wiese and his wife Annette have dedicated their time to sharing their story.
Wiese was approached by Strang Publishers to write an account of his experiences in a book — now sold nationally through Wal-Mart and Barnes & Noble.
“I can’t believe that without a celebrity introduction or any formal status myself that this book has done so well,” he said. “It is a testament to God’s power that the word is spreading and doors are opening.” Weiss spent seven years paying his own expenses to travel and speak, now churches approach him and the couple is able to travel to two states per month.
On Sunday, March 4, Bill and Annette Wiese will speak to Lihu‘e’s Aloha Church at 7 p.m.
Beyond sharing his horrifying experience in hell, they will show a three-minute film comprised of a Hollywood depiction of purgatory. Chosen by Wiese, the clips “visually show what hell is like. I had the film edited by a church in California and chose the films based on my vision.”
Wiese welcomes the Kaua‘i community to attend his talk. “It’s really not about me at all. I don’t care if you believe my story. I only encourage you to investigate the scriptures for yourself and heed God’s warnings.”
Wiese will speak on O‘ahu at the River Church Hawai‘i during his visit to the Aloha State. “It’s ironic that in one of the world’s most beautiful places, I’m coming to talk about the absolute ugliest.”
For more information, contact the Aloha Church at 241-7177 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wiese’s book, “23 Minutes in Hell,” was published by Strang.
• Keya Keita, lifestyle writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 257) or email@example.com