Heaven And Hell And The Book By Rob Bell

Love Wins: Heaven, Hell and the Fate of Every Person Who Has Ever Lived by Rob Bell the founding pastor of the Mars Hills Bible Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan, has created a stir. Or should I say, the book’s promotional video has. Lines are being drawn, camps are being set up, all in the name of God. All we’re missing is bloodshed. People supporting Pastor Bell are sadly shaking their heads at the nay-sayers and vice versa.

One blogger at least, Rachel Held Evans, realizes that the issue is bigger than this particular controversy or the personalities involved. You see, people want to know about heaven … and to a lesser degree, about hell. I realized that again yesterday when I scanned the NY Times best-seller list and saw another “heaven” book ensconced in the top ten.

This should be no surprise. The Baby Boomers are growing old, and death has been known to follow aging. What comes after death? so many want to know.

Now, along comes Rob Bell’s book, with a subtitle that brings the questions to the surface and a promotion video slanted toward universalism, and we have a controversy over a topic virtually everyone wants to know about.

The thing that stands out most to me is what seems to be missing in Pastor Bell’s promotion. Here’s part of the transcript as provided by Kevin DeYoung in his post “Two Thoughts on the Rob Bell Brouhaha”

Will only a few select people make it to heaven? And will billions and billions of people burn forever in hell? And if that’s the case, how do you become one of the few? Is it what you believe or what you say or what you do or who you know or something that happens in your heart? Or do you need to be initiated or take a class or converted or being born again? How does one become one of these few?

The focus of his compassion seems to stem from the physical pain and suffering ascribed to hell, but the greatest loss is actually God. He is love and people going to hell will be separated from love. He is holy, and they will have no part in holiness. He is just and they will have nothing to do with justice.

Their torment will be self-inflicted to a degree, just as Scripture describes it.

Can a throne of destruction be allied with You,
One which devises mischief by decree?
They band themselves together against the life of the righteous
And condemn the innocent to death.
But the LORD has been my stronghold,
And my God the rock of my refuge.
He has brought back their wickedness upon them
And will destroy them in their evil;
The LORD our God will destroy them.
– Psalm 94:23 (emphasis mine)

Granted, this Psalm is referring to God’s intervention in this life, but I don’t see why He won’t work in a similar way in the judgment. Yes, He will punish. But in a place without His restraining hand, where wickedness is unchecked, how much worse will that punishment be?

I’m reminded of what Corrie ten Boom wrote about her imprisonment at the hands of the Nazis during World War II. The conditions were deplorable, but when her sister Betsy showed the love of Christ, she brought peace where chaos had reigned.

Hell will know no peace.

How can we accuse God of wrong doing when His absence alone would make a place hell? And who is it that suffers His absence? The wicked who reject Him.

Last point: how can anyone accuse Omniscience of getting it wrong that those He declares to be wicked, actually are?

Published in: on March 1, 2011 at 5:34 pm  Comments (10)  
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  1. This makes me feel ill. Of course Jesus rescues us from God. The wrath of God is coming upon man, Paul tells us, because we traded the truth of God for a lie. The good news is that Jesus rescues us from that wrath, at great cost to himself.

    Rob Bell is saying that such a God, the God of the Bible who is holy and just, is an ogre. And he is saying that Jesus was an idiot for dying in our place.

    I can take it when atheists, who admit to thinking the Bible is a fantasy, tell us we’re stupid. But it’s so hard to stand by while professing Christ followers take the name of the Lord in vain, and Rob Bell is doing just that. He’s slandering God the Father and God the Son and he’s doing it in the name of Christian love.


  2. I’ll need to look this book up to really see what my opinion is here. Glad to have this brought up onto my “screen” though!


  3. Love wins! That’s true. God is Love. God wins.

    Winning infers that there are losers.


  4. Unfortunately, Bob, what Rob Bell is saying is that hatred is the loser. The exclusivist Christians who say the Bible is God’s word and Jesus is the only way to God are the hate-mongers and the losers according to the video.


  5. Its not that God saves us from hell or even from Himself (Jesus saves us from God). Rather, God saves us from ourselves.

    We forget how terrible sin is. It destroys relationships, damages us (both physically and mentally), lies to us, steals our peace and joy and eventually kills us (the wages of sin is death).

    We are helpless to save ourselves from sin. Not only that, because God is holy and just, His nature dictates that He judge our sin.

    So what does God do? He pays the price for our sin, both fulfilling His holiness, righteousness, and justice yet at the same time extending His love towards us. He frees us from the power of sin, washes us white as snow, bandages our wounds, gives us hope and peace back and walks with us in this life and into the next.

    That is love my friends!


  6. Universalism mocks, worse, tramples the blood of Christ. By nature we are haters of God, breakers of His law. Our consciences bear witness against us and even our finite sense of justice anticipates there must be a payment. As it turns out, it must be an infinite payment.


  7. I’m a logical kind of person. I love logical explanations- they makes sense 😉 I understand Rob’s position because I’ve been there in my mind. I think most children who have grown up on the stories of the Old Testament, and the stories of Jesus have grown up feeling the tension between them, and have crossed through that divide finding one way or another to reconcile the Holy God with the Loving God in their minds.

    We are told from the beginning they are one and the same God- but it’s presented as “This is Truth and you have to believe it” by people who don’t seem to understand it themselves. So we are left to wrestle, rationalize, and try to come up with something that seems logical to our imperfect human brains.

    Can we really fault someone for thinking that way? I’m not sure. But, my hope for people who go there- is that this just a step in the process of accepting God in Truth. Hopefully they will come to the point of realization that God just IS what God IS regardless of what any human thinks- and it may never make logical sense- and that’s okay- because I have a relationship with the God of the Universe that is SO strong that I know I can Trust God- regardless of my inability to fully comprehend God.

    My thoughts keep going- thinking about a short logical debate I had with an atheist once. Perhaps I’ll write about that later. I know Love does win. But the confusion seems to be regarding what the battle is over- where the lines are drawn- and who is responsible for what is wrong with the world and us.

    Lots of talk about the promo-video. I wonder what he says in the book? Maybe that was the intention of the video? Rob is known to start with the natural condition of where we are; to entertain our faulty assumptions- only to take us somewhere unexpected; challenged by truth. That has been my impression of him in the past, so I’m still holding out hope for him in this controversy.


  8. Morgan, I agree with you wholeheartedly and yet, I do think in a very real sense, God the Son, saves us from God the Father (at the same times as he saves us FOR God the Father).

    I was surprised when I realized one day that a lot of my Christian friends thought that Jesus saved us from Satan. They pictured Satan as this evil being who was going to put us in hell, and Jesus as the one who could take us away from Satan. But Satan does not throw people into hell. God does.

    But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him! (Luke 12:5)

    For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge his people.” It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. (Hebrews 10:30 & 31)

    We have lost the fear of God.

    And in Psalm 2 we see that not only will God the Father bend his wrath upon men, but God the Son, is not just a Savior, He’s also a king and a judge:

    Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD and against his Anointed, saying,“Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.” He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision. Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury, saying, “As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.” I will tell of the decree: The LORD said to me, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.” Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth. Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him.

    Yes, Jesus saves us from ourselves. And he saves us from Satan. He also saves us from wicked men and governments and he also saves us from his wrath and from his Father’s wrath.

    But many in the church today feel they need to soften God up and give him a makeover so people can like him better.

    So many people see God as a cosmic Santa Clause–no, weaker than that. Santa had a list and checked it twice and gave coal to the naughty boys and girls. God simply can’t be angry at anyone for anything these days. That would be unloving.

    I’ll tell you what we need. We need to start spanking our children again so they can understand that discipline is loving and not abusive.



  9. Sally, amen to that last post. I agree wholeheartedly.


  10. Great discussion. Thanks for each of these thoughtful comments. Millard and Patrick, I can hope Rob Bell’s book will be different than the promotional video, but then the publisher will have deceived the public, not only with the content of the video but with the subtitle of the book.

    Sally, I agree we need to return to the fear of the Lord. I may need to write a post on that if you don’t beat me to it. And yes, not disciplining our children lovingly can be part of the problem. A bigger part, I think, is that we aren’t reading our Bibles as we should.

    BTW, I have a little different take on Mr. Bell’s idea about a Jesus/God clash — one I explained in today’s post. It’s pretty long, but if you hang in until the end, you’ll come to it eventually. 😀

    Bob, I’m with you. Love does win. Mercy even triumphs over justice, as the book of James says. And God’s mercy is available for all who believe. But sadly, not all will believe.



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