Today is my last post (part 3 of 3) discussing the subjects of hell, Rob Bell and his latest book Love Wins.
The above title comes from a sermon given by Dr. Bobby Conway (you can view the full video teaching here).
Why am I taking time to discuss this very difficult and sobering topic?Because we are commanded in Scripture to teach “the whole counsel of God,”(Acts 20:27) and not just “pick and choose” those doctrines that we like and throw out those doctrines that we don’t like. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 tells us that “All Scripture is inspired by God” (literally “God-breathed”). From Genesis to Revelation – it’s all “God-breathed.”
In 2 Timothy 4, the Apostle Paul tells us that in the last days people will be drawn away from the faith by teachers that will tell them “what their itching ears want to hear.” In other words, these pastors and bible teachers will only preach and teach subjects that are pleasing to the audience’s ears. These pastors conveniently “skip over” the tough subjects in Scripture.
A word of caution: Always be careful of a pastor, a church or a bible teacher that seems to never talk about certain biblical subjects that are clearly taught in Scripture (and are of importance for people to know). They may talk about Jesus, the gospel, heaven, grace, joy, love, how to have a happy marriage, how to have a happy family, how to be good parents and many other good, biblical subjects. But they may conveniently never mention anything about things like the reality of hell (or other politically incorrect subjects – and there are certainly many more). God commands us to teach, read and study “the whole counsel of God’s Word.” Not just the parts that we like and which make us feel good.
Many people in America today want a God of love, but not of holiness. A God of compassion, but not a God of justice. God is both holy and loving. He is bothcompassionate and just.
I believe it was J.I. Packer who said that if he were to pick a two-word phrase that best describes God, it would be “holy love.” If you only focus on “holiness” and not love, you do not have the God of the Bible. But equally so, if you only focus on “love” and not holiness, you also do not have the God of the Bible.
I think if we were all honest with ourselves, we would agree that hell is a subject that is not particularly enjoyable to talk about, think about, read about or discuss. I certainly do not enjoy preaching and teaching (and writing) on it. But Scripture makes it crystal clear that hell is real and those that do not come to faith in Christ will spend eternity there.
Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)
In Acts it says (referring to Jesus), “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)
Jesus talked more about hell than heaven.
I’m convinced that one of the main reasons people cannot comprehend a literal eternal hell is because they do not understand the profound holiness of God and the utter sinfulness of mankind (all of us). I think every Christian should be required to read R. C. Sproul’s book The Holiness of God. Until we begin to understand God’s profound holiness and our utter sinfulness, we will (at best) only have a half-hearted appreciation for God’s love, grace and plan of salvation.
As A.W. Tozer said, “A low view of God is the cause of a hundred lesser evils. A high view of God is the solution to ten thousand temporal problems.”
One other reason why people have a hard time comprehending a literal eternal hell is because all they are ever taught is the love of God, the grace of God, the kindness of God. They hear regularly about God’s “immanence,” but rarely ever hear of God’s “transcendence.”
I think it is important to mention here one of Spurgeon’s famous quotes, when he said (I’m paraphrasing): “To preach about hell without a tear in one’s eye is to be inhuman and un-compassionate.”
The truth must be proclaimed, but people must never feel that we are “joyful and happy” that non-believers will spend billions of years in eternal torment with no hope of it ever ending. Just typing that last phrase absolutely breaks my heart (and makes my tiny, finite mind literally hurt).
I know Scripture says that “God does not delight in the death of the wicked” (Ezek. 18:23) and “This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:3-4).
People will often say today (even people within evangelical churches), “I just couldn’t believe in a God like that” (whatever “that” happens to be – usually meaning a God that could allow seemingly ‘good’ people to spend eternity in hell).”The problem with that statement is this: They are placing what they “think” above what Scripture clearly teaches. Scripture is our final authority for faith and practice.
A person’s belief or non-belief doesn’t make something true or not true. I can say, “I just couldn’t believe in a God that allows anyone to go to hell!” The fact is, it doesn’t matter whether I believe it or not – what’s true is true. And what’s false is false. My belief does not make something “true” or “not true.” I can “believe” as hard as I want that there is no hell after death, but that won’t make “hell” disappear.
As Mark Driscoll has pointed out so well in speaking to a non-believer, “If I am wrong in my belief about heaven & hell, I lose nothing. But, if you are wrong, you lose forever…and spend eternity in hell.”
I leave you with this quote from Spurgeon…
“Meet me in heaven! Do not go down to hell. There is no coming back again from that abode of misery. Why do you wish to enter the way of death when heaven’s gate is open before you? Do not refuse the free pardon, the full salvation which Jesus grants to all who trust him. Do not hesitate and delay. You have had enough of resolving, come to action. Believe in Jesus now, with full and immediate decision. Take with you words and come unto your Lord this day, even this day. Remember, O soul, it may be now or never with you. Let it be now; it would be horrible that it should be never. Farewell. Again I charge you, meet me in heaven.”– C. H. Spurgeon, from his book All of Grace
Here are several links to articles and videos that I have found very worthwhile in dealing with this whole subject…
Rob Bell, Hell and Why I Hope I’m Wrong (by Joshua Harris)
To Hell with Hell? (by Mark Driscoll)
A Chronology of Rob Bell on Hell (from Resurgence website)
Why Hell is Integral to the Gospel (by Greg Gilbert – on 9Marks website)
How Can a Loving God send anyone to Hell? (from Christianity Explored website)
Doing Away with Hell? Part 1 (by Albert Mohler, Jr.)
Doing Away with Hell? Part 2 (by Albert Mohler, Jr.)
We Have Seen All This Before: Rob Bell and the (Re)Emergence of Liberal Theology (by Albert Mohler, Jr.)
Faithfulness Means Full of Faith (by Jared Wilson – from The Gospel-Driven Church blog)
I Hate Hell (by Tim Challies)
Rob Bell and the Controversy over Hell (by Randy Alcorn) (Part 1)
Rob Bell’s “Love Wins,” and the Biblical Doctrine of Hell (by Randy Alcorn) (Part 2)
Follow-up on Rob Bell and the Hell Controversy (by Randy Alcorn) (Part 3)
A Massive Shift Coming in What it Means to Be a Christian? – TIME Magazine considers Rob Bell (by Albert Mohler, Jr.)
The Truth about Hell (by Tommy Clayton of Grace To You radio ministry)
Christ Alone: An Evangelical Response to Rob Bell’s Love Wins (by Michael E. Wittmer). This is a review done by Douglas Phillips on The Gospel Coalition’s website.
Love Wins – A Review of Rob Bell’s New Book (by Tim Challies)
The New Evangelical Virtues (by Tim Challies)
Bell, Hell and What We Did Well (by Tim Challies)
Q&A: Francis Chan on Rob Bell and Hell (from Christianity Today magazine)
Review of Erasing Hell (by Aaron Armstrong – Gospel Coalition website)
The Reality of Hell (by Chuck Swindoll)
Pastor John Caprine of Summit Ridge Church in Las Vegas did a three-part sermon series on hell. The sermon titles were 1) Getting a Grip on Hell, 2) What is Hell? How Long is it? Who Goes? 3) If Hell is Real, now What?
The Hell Controversy (by Greg Laurie)