In their latest cover story, Time Magazine has an article about Rob Bell and his views on hell. They seemed to be impressed with Bell for asking the “tough” questions. Their big question: “Is Hell Dead?” I guess that is thought provoking and such. It’s sort of like Nietzsche saying “God is dead.” Trendy and all. But hardly true.
For those of you who are behind the eight ball on the controversy, Bell has written a book entitled Love Wins in which he makes the case that in the end, love wins and everyone gets into heaven… even guys like Joseph Stalin, or Mahatma Gandhi, even though they rejected Christ in this life. This is just another evangelical pastor falling for the lie of Universalism, for it means, ultimately that Jesus really didn’t have to die on the cross.
Hell is not something that can die because hell is something that God created for Satan and his angels (Matthew 25:41). He is using the place to deal with the wicked and the condemned for rejecting Him and for their sin. Shortly after the most famous verse in the Bible, is the statement that those who do not believe in Christ are condemned already (John 3:18). This means that eternal punishment rests upon them. Back in the Matthew 25 passage, we get a picture of judgment day from Christ. Those who were His are given eternal life, those who were not, are cast into the “everlasting fire.” Those are Christ’s words, not mine. He is saying that hell is a place of everlasting fire, not just temporary fire, or some such nonsense like that, but eternal.
In Mark 9:43ff, Jesus warns us not to sin, to the point that it would be better to cut off our hand or pluck out an eye, than it would be sin because sin leads to hell, and hell is a place where the worm does not die, nor is the fire ever quenched. In other words, it is an eternal place made for those who do not have the righteousness of Christ. The point is that when hell is given a time reference, it is always eternal in nature. It’s not something that passes away after a time.
Why? It is eternal in nature because God is eternal in nature. He is dealing with sinners in a just fashion, or in a way that fits the crime. When we sin against an eternal being, then the punishment is eternal. Let me explain it this way. If I hit my neighbor in the jaw out of anger, I have sinned against my neighbor. It is wrong to hit. Besides the thrashing I would receive from my neighbor, who is a cop, I would probably have to spend a few days in jail and do community service. But if I hit President Obama in the jaw, suddenly the intensity of the crime has increase manifold. Not that Obama is more important in his person than my neighbor, but because of the authority he has as president of the United States. I have not just hit the man, but hit the one who represents the office. The punishment is far more severe even though it was the same crime.
The point is that when we sin against God, we sin against the most holy, most righteous, everlasting God. The offense is far worse than we can imagine because He is far more holy that we can know. Out of His holiness, justice must come about.
The Good News!!!
Since it is Resurrection Week, I will point out the good news in this. Jesus came to take care of the wrath of God for us by dying on the cross on our behalf. The eternal Son of God comes and deals with our sin against the Eternal God. Therefore, the debt is paid in full when we trust in Him for salvation. However, those who do not trust in Jesus Christ have no hope, for there is no one to deal with that eternal debt of sin they owe to God. So He takes out His wrath on them for all of eternity.
AS for the Time Magazine article, I would discuss more of it, but it’s not worth it. Just read this one paragraph and you get the idea:
Things many Christian believers take for granted are more complicated than they seem. It was only when Jesus failed to return soon after the Passion and Resurrection appearances that the early church was compelled to make sense of its recollections of his teachings. Like the Bible — a document that often contradicts itself and from which one can construct sharply different arguments — theology is the product of human hands and hearts. What many believers in the 21st century accept as immutable doctrine was first formulated in the fog and confusion of the 1st century, a time when the followers of Jesus were baffled and overwhelmed by their experience of losing their Lord; many had expected their Messiah to be a Davidic military leader, not an atoning human sacrifice.
But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, 4 whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them. 5 For we do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your bondservants for Jesus’ sake. 6 For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
Particularly galling to conservative Christian critics is that Love Winsis not an attack from outside the walls of the Evangelical city but a mutiny from within — a rebellion led by a charismatic, popular and savvy pastor with a following. Is Bell’s Christianity — less judgmental, more fluid, open to questioning the most ancient of assumptions — on an inexorable rise? “I have long wondered if there is a massive shift coming in what it means to be a Christian,” Bell says. “Something new is in the air.”