Imagine that. The words of Bishop J.C. Ryle, penned back in the 1800s, condemns false prophet Rob Bell from the grave. For those of you who are not up on Rob Bell, he is the latest liberal pastor to come forth and espouse such nonsense as the fact that people do not really need Jesus to get into heaven. In his book, Love Wins, he puts forth the premise that all people will eventually get into heaven after they die because love wins. This basically means the God is truly cruel in making His Son go to the cross, die the most shameful death ever, for no reason at all. I always think it odd that when guys like Bell try to emphasize the love of God, at the expense of His other attributes, they always end up making God out to be even more cruel than they imagine. Remember, in their minds, they think it cruel that God would send anyone to hell.
The reality is that men like Bell fail to understand mankind’s sinful nature. Paul shows us in Romans (8:7-8) that we are at enmity with God in our natural state. This means our flesh is at war with God. We are rebellious to the core against our Creator and He has every right to do with us as He pleases. We ALL deserve hell for we ALL have rebelled against Him. Out of His love, He does choose to save some from everlasting punishment through His Son Jesus Christ. Those who believe in Christ for salvation are saved, and do not perish (John 3:16). Those who do not believe in Him for salvation stand condemned already (John 3:18).
Bell, and others like him, go on to make the case that those in hell, if they repent, knock on the door, etc., will be graciously accepted into God’s holy presence. This is not what Scripture puts forth for two reasons. First, they will not ever repent. Remember the flesh is at war with God. Romans 3:10-20 also shows us that no one seeks after God. No one! Not on this side of death and especially on the other side of death.
God must seek us first before we will believe in Him. He must change our hearts and convert us for us to become members of the Kingdom of Heaven (John 3:5), for we are spiritually dead in our trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1-3).
Secondly, we see from Scripture that they cannot pass between heaven and hell. Jesus tells us (notice that they are the words of Christ) in the story of the Rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31) that there is a great gulf fixed between heaven and hell preventing those on one side crossing over to the other side. Going between the two is not possible even if one in heaven wanted to take a day trip into hell. This is one of the deeper truths of Scripture. Jesus is telling us that when we reach our final destiny, it truly is a final destiny. This is how He created heaven and hell (Matthew 25:41, Colossians 1:15-18).
This story is instructive because it shows us that the rich man doesn’t desire heaven. Those in hell do not desire heaven. They merely want relief from their anguish. There is no desire to repent and trust in Christ, even after judgment. They remain in their sin and the very sin that kept them from ever trusting in Christ on this side of death, keeps them from trusting in Christ on that side of death. So the entire premise of Bell’s book is wrong. This is what happens when you emphasize human free will over and against what Scripture tells us. We can say that we are free to choose Christ, but not capable to choose Christ because out of the abundance of the heart, we speak and do as our heart desires. Since our hearts are rotten to the core to begin with, we will never freely choose Christ on our own accord. We need the new birth to take place in order for us to even see our need for Christ. That doesn’t happen in hell. (Hebrews 9:27 And as it is appointed for me to die once, but after this the judgment). There are no second chances. Bell, in his sinful, fallen attempt to make God out to be so gracious and loving, ends up making God out to be cruel and wicked for causing Christ to die needlessly.
Ryle, in his fantastic book Practical Religion, writes:
“Every reasonable conception that we can form of a future state is directly against these teachers (those who teach universalism). Fancy a heaven which should contain all mankind! Fancy a heaven in which holy and unholy, pure and impure, good and bad, would be all gathered together in one confused mass! What point of union would there be in such company? What common bond of harmony and brotherhood? What common delight in a common service? What concord, what harmony, what peace, what oneness of spirit could exist? Surely the mind revolts from the idea of a heaven in which there would be no distinction between the righteous and the wicked,–between Pharaoh and Moses, between Abraham and the Sodomites, between Paul and Nero, between Peter and Judas Iscariot, between the man who dies in the act of murder or drunkenness, and men like Baxter, George Herbert, Wilberforce, and M’Cheyne! Surely an eternity in such a miserably confused crowd would be worse than annihilation itself! Surely such a heaven would be no better than hell!”
What he is saying is that heaven really won’t be heaven if the likes of Peter and Adolf Hitler are there together. Where is the bond of fellowship? Where is the unity? One followed and died for Christ, the other despised Christ and wanted to become his own god. Peter sought to build up the church, Adolf sought to destroy it and replace it with his own religion. Peter was humbled time and time again for God’s glory, Adolf exalted himself over and over, even in his death, he refused to be humbled by God, and his sinful pride won out.
“The interests of all holiness and morality are directly against these teachers. If all men and women alike are God’s children, whatever is the difference between them in their lives,– and all alike going to heaven, however different they may be from one another here in the world, — where is the use of laboring after holiness at all? What motive remains for living soberly, righteously, and godly? What does it matter how men conduct themselves, if all go to heaven, and nobody goes to hell? Surely the heathen poets and philosophers of Greece and Rome could tell us something better and wiser than this! Surely a doctrine which is subversive of holiness and morality, and takes away all motives to exertion, carries on the face of it the stamp of its origin. It is of earth, and not of heaven. It is of the devil, and not of God.”
This last point is why this doctrine keeps coming back. What Bell is proposing is nothing new at all. The error was there in the Garden of Eden when the serpent said, “Did God really say…“Satan was challenging Adam and Eve with this premise: “does it really matter whether or not you obey God?” The answer is absolutely yes it matters. Our very conscious tell us this. How we live matters. For Adam and Eve, their righteousness was at stake in the command not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. They lost that righteousness and we did too. So now the difference comes in belief. If we trust in Christ for salvation, then we have His righteousness and are accepted into His fellowship and His heaven. If we refuse to believe, then we get to keep our own rotten righteousness and spend eternity in hell with it.
Bell brings us absolutely nothing new in his book Love Wins. He just recycles the same old lies of Satan. For that, Bell’s writings need to be condemned and he needs to get out of the ministry, return to the secular world and sell Blue Bell Ice Cream for a living. He would do mankind a much greater good than he is currently doing with his drivel.
BTW, I wonder if Rob Bell ever realize how much his universalist doctrine must anger the new atheist. Think about it. The new atheist is spending all his time and energy trying to say that there is no God, and that we are intellectual idiots for believing that there is a God. Then along comes Rob Bell and tells them: “Hey, it doesn’t matter that you don’t believe in God. You are going to end up in heaven any way.” The very point of the atheist is the fact that he wants nothing to do with God, and here Rob is telling them, “too bad, so sad. You’re going to heaven regardless of your beliefs!” I’m sure Bell is writing in such a manner so that he can “reach” the atheist. But he has to get past the point of angering them, and… looking like an stupid fool, for bringing down the condemnation of those of us who stand for the truth.
For more on Rob Bell, check out my earlier post here, and Neil’s post on Rob Bell’s take on John 3:16 here along with another post entitled Interesting Facebook Chat About Rob Bell. For more J.C. Ryle Quotes, go here.