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Is Rob Bell right about Hell?

I have read the book, “Love Wins”, and found it quite a mess of conflicting views about what scripture says and doesn’t say. Bell is understandably rejecting the idea of unmitigated punishment for lost souls. Bell has apparently embraced Universalism as the answer to this problem and this is where he has erred. Jesus certainly did not say, “

    Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few”

…unless it was true.

When I was very young, I was raised under preaching that talked about God’s wrath, eternal torment, forever free-falling in the Bottomless Pit (no indication that anyone will be thrown into this in scripture!), and being tortured by demons (no scriptural reference to that either!). I spent much of my childhood in abject fear of Judgment Day because the emphasis was on perfection…or else!

I believe that the traditional view of Hell as a place of unending torment is the root cause of Bell’s dismissal of such an end for a person who never hears the gospel. God is a fair, just, and blameless Sovereign. So, what is “just” about throwing Satan, the False Prophet, and all who did not obey the gospel into the same Lake of Fire? To eliminate them from the New Earth and New Heaven, where only righteousness dwells (2 Peter 3:13, Rev 21:1-5) with an emphasis on God saying “Behold I am making ALL things new.”.

It is absolutely incomprehensible that Satan and Joe Nobody, who never heard the gospel or rejected it because of a bad experience with a false professor of religion, should share the exact same punishment.

This is what causes many to stumble: the idea that God will torment Grandma forever, just like John Wayne Gacy, because she couldn’t wrap her head around a particular theology, even though she was a good neighbor and was a very moral person. Yes, she will be damned to eternal destruction

    because of her unbelief

, but I believe, in God’s fairness, she will suffer much, much less and for a shorter time than Mr. Gacy, or Hitler, for that matter. That’s my opinion, of course, but it’s based on the overall picture God paints us of Himself.

I reject the idea of eternal torment, not because it doesn’t suit me, but because the emphasis on punishment in the Bible is destruction, not never-ending pain and torture. This is the only reasonable interpretation of Jesus’ statement in Luke 12:48 and the emphasis of the “dead bodies” in Isaiah 66:24, which is what Jesus references when He speaks of “their worm” not dying and the fire not being quenched. Jesus states it plainly, when He says, “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Matthew 10:28) Can anyone argue that God does not know how to destroy both?

Part of the issue is the false notion, propagated by tie-ins to Socrates’ and Plato’s teaching of an eternal soul.

Scripture informs us that only “those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life” to (Romans 2:6-8). Some erroneously refer to Paul’s writing, “So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.” (1 Corinthians 15:42-44). Paul is explicitly speaking to believers here. How can an unbeliever be able to lay hold of this declaration, “”O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:55)

The emphasis is on eternal (no recourse) destruction, or punishment for unbelievers. The only thing Jesus says never dies is “their worm”, which simply emphasizes that there will be no halfway consumption or elimination. Eternal death, or the Second Death mean the same thing: absolute annihilation. When something dies, without any hope of resurrection, it ceases to be. I realize that some will say, “Then I don’t care if I go to Hell. I’ll just cease to exist.” While that may be true, there is not a word in scripture about how long it will take for the Lake of Fire to consume YOU! It may be a very, very long time, depending on your level of rejection and sin. Rejecting God’s free offer of forgiveness is not something God takes lightly. “For our God is a consuming fire.” (Hebrews 12:29)

It’s not a pretty picture for those who reject the Gospel of Jesus Christ. “So it will be at the close of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” It will not be a place where you will be partying with all your friends (Matthew 13:49-50).

Notice, too, that only at the end of the age (not at the Rapture) will the evil ones be separated from the righteous. This conforms with the order of things in Jesus’ parables concerning the Last Day, when Christ appears and is seen by ALL (Read Matthew 13, again).

The Resurrection of the dead to eternal life in a perfect new world is the Great Hope of the Christian. Period!