Here is a very long article about the controvery surrounding the book Love Wins written by Rob Bell. This book became a part of the conversation at CCC when we took a look at hell in our BACKDRAFT series entitled : Hell’s Bells.
So the notes are a compliation of some of the background work and study for that particular study :
Time Magazine had a cover story titled, “What If There is No Hell?” (April 25, 2011). The subject of this article was Rob Bell’s position on Hell. To “give the Devil his due,” I must point out that the title of the Time article does not exactly describe Rob Bell’s position. It was misleading for Time to imply that Rob Bell doesn’t believe in Hell. He does believe in Hell – but (and this is where he goes wrong) he doesn’t believe it is “everlasting.”
Rob Bell is an “emerging church” preacher who has caused a lot of pastors deep concern by his teachings on Hell. Well known Christian leaders like Dr. John Piper, and Dr. Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, have openly repudiated Bell’s false teaching.
At CCC this became some illustrative material for the final installment of our BACKDRAFT series entitled Hell’s Bells.
There are a number of problems that emerge in the writing and teaching of Bell. Jesus said, “These shall go away into everlasting punishment” (Matthew 25:46). Bell doesn’t believe that. Bell said, “Hell is not forever, and love, in the end, wins and all will be reconciled to God” (Rob Bell, Love Wins, HarperOne, 2010, p. 109).
Jesus said, “These shall go away into everlasting punishment” (Matthew 25:46). The Greek word translated “everlasting” means “perpetual, eternal” (James Strong, A Greek Dictionary of the New Testament) – “without end, everlasting” (George Ricker Berry, A Greek-English Lexicon, number 166, coded to Strong). Bell twists this word to make it refer “to a period of time with a beginning and an end” (Love Wins, p. 32). But James Strong and George Ricker Berry translate it differently. It is in the subtle differences that Bell begins to weave a work together that sounds like it “might” be right.
It is funny, in a weird sort of way, this is similar to some of the other articles you will find on this website about the New World Translation of the Bible as offered by the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Translation tweaks and new spins on truth can leave the hearer dizzy and confused.
Rob Bell hinted that if the historical view of what Jesus taught is embraced it is “misguided and toxic” (Love Wins, p. viii). But if the doctrinal work is correct in essence Bell is calling the teachings of Jesus misguided and toxic. This is not to be taken lighty and it is pretty scary stuff. One writer, Dr. C. L. Cagan, said, “It is clear that Bell hates and resists historic Biblical Christianity, particularly Christ’s view of judgment after death.”
So Is Hell Real?
Bell believes that the church today is teaching a misguided view on hell and calls this teaching toxic. The problem with the evangelical church view on hell is for him that it is real, it is eternal, and it is in the future.
Hear me carefully, it is easy to read this as an attack on Bell, it is not, I am differing over his own version of the gospel.
What he says is not eternal, Jesus says is everlasting. In Matthew 18:8-9 Jesus says, “If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life maimed or crippled than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell.”
The word for hell in these verses is Gehenna, an English word that is translated from the Greek “Valley of Hinnom”. It was a garbage dump just south of the walls of Jerusalem where trash, dead criminal’s bodies, dead animals, and refuse were thrown and burned. Since it was always being added to, it burned day and night.
Gehenna is the word that Rob Bell uses to excuse the belief that the unrepentant would not be in an eternal place of torment and fire but that they would cease to exist. However the Old Testament Jewish Talmud uses the word Hinnom (the Greek translated from the English Gehenna) as a place of eternal torment and this is just the way that Jesus referred to it in Matthew 18:8-9 and several other places. He did not refer to it as a present state but one that is destined for future unrepentant sinners. Jesus referred to Gehenna 11 times and it was not a temporary place or a present place but a future one and spoken of as a fire that was “unquenchable” (Mark 9:43).
Hades is the place of the dead. That is, a place for those awaiting judgment (Rev. 20). Eventually, even Hades (death) itself will be thrown into the lake of fire (Gehenna) so these two are not the same thing and this explains why Jesus used Hades in a different way than Gehenna.. Either way it is used, they both refer to a place of eternal judgment.
The rich man in the story of the rich man and Lazarus shows that Hades is not a ceasing to exist of an unrepentant sinner. If the rich man continues to exist in Hades (death) and it is a fiery torment, then Bell is wrong on both accounts. Hell is a future judgment after death, it is about a permanent state of suffering, and the unrepentant do not cease to exist after their death but they are destined to remain there forever.
Jesus did not duck the topic of Hell
Jesus talked more about hell than anything in the New Testament next to treasures/money and fear or worry. So since He put so much weight on the subject, it must be real and it must be extremely important.
Jesus gave us what hell will be like after death in the story of Lazarus and the rich man in Luke 16:19-31: This is the passage used in Hell’s Bells
19 “There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. 20 At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores 21 and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores. 22 “The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. 23 In Hades [hell], where he was in torment [suffering], he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. 24 So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’ 25 “But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. 26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’ 27 “He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my family, 28 for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’ 29 “Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’ 30 “‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’
31 “He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’”
Clearly the place where the rich man was could not be a place he could return from or learn from and had any hope of escaping. The rich man could not bridge the great chasm between his place of torment and paradise where Abraham was (v 26). The rich man was plainly in torment and the fire was unquenchable (v 23, 24).
Whose Hell Are We Talkig About?
In Love Wins, Bell tries to relegate the word “hell” as if it is inconsequential and associate it with the old English word that was also used for a place to keep potatoes in the ground. But listen to the context of how Jesus used the word hell. He was most certainly not talking about a place to store potatoes!
In Mathew 23:33 Jesus says, “Snakes! Sons of vipers! How will you escape the judgment of hell? There is judgment and no once can escape.
Matthew 25:29-30 Jesus says, “For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
Matt 25:41 Jesus says, ““Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” This is not a place for potatoes to be stored.
Matt 25:46 Jesus says, “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” There is no talk here about ceasing to exist.
Mark 9:43-48 Jesus says, “If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out. And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than to have two feet and be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell where “‘the worms that eat them do not die, and the fire is not quenched.”
Luke 12:5 Jesus says, “But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after your body has been killed, has authority to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him.”
Matt 10:28 Jesus says, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”
In Matthew 13:41-43 Jesus says about Himself: “The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They will throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Whoever has ears, let them hear.”
Jesus says in Matthew 13:49-50, “This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
There ain’t no small potatoes in those verses!
So the controversy will swirl for a time and people are going to find another anchor to hold onto that will help them argue that hell isn’t real and it just doesn’t exsist. However as we shared in our study, “that dog won’t hunt!”
The following is taken from the notes of the CCC Celebration Worship Event Hell’s Bells!
I was reading R. C. Sproul, the Presbyterian Reformed author. He was talking about this kind of commentary on hell, and he made a point I’d never thought about before.
He said he thinks this is symbolic. Then he said, “But remember, if it’s symbolic, it’s symbolic because the reality is too awful for words. It’s not better than this; it’s worse.”
Then he said, “Whatever hell is, it will be so bad that the people in hell will pray for fire and brimstone as a relief.”
Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father but by me.”
Paul “Red” Adair was the oil field firefighter first made famous by a 1968 John Wayne movie The Hellfighters. After the first Gulf War, he led the effort to cap the Kuwaiti oil wells set ablaze by Iraq. Adair was a brash, fearless fighter. He joked in 1991 that it would be no different after he died. “I’ve done made a deal with the devil,” he said. “He said he’s going to give me an air-conditioned place when I go down there, if I go there, so I won’t put all the fires out.”
Adair died at age 89 on August 7, 2004. The devil, he may have discovered by now, is a liar.
Source of illustration :Lee Eclov, Vernon Hills, Illinois; source: Obituaries, Chicago Tribune (8-10-04)
The good news is that you don’t have to go to hell.
The only way to heaven is through Jesus
So PLEASE Don’t GO!
I want to make it hard to go to hell from CCC!