“What Jesus taught, what the prophets taught, what all of Jewish tradition pointed to and what Jesus lived in anticipation of, was the day when earth and heaven would be one. The day when God’s will would be done on earth as it is now done in heaven. The day when earth and heaven will be the same place. This is the story of the Bible.” ~ Rob Bell
One of the most common problems I contend with in my casual reading time is the neglect of context. It’s been taught to me all of my born-again life, but on any given day, I’m one who is susceptible to the temptation to read a passage from the Bible and assume it simply says something without giving the surrounding verses and the entirety of Holy Writ to interpret the author’s intent.
If this can be found true of my personal studies, imagine the possible complications when trying to understand something so grande as the eternal destinations of the image-bearers of God.
Most will be aware that the introductory quote by Rob Bell is from his now infamous work titled Love Wins. Mr. Bell argues that the common thoughts of Church history regarding the interpretation of hell are misleading and lack biblical evidence sufficient for a foundation.
While he may be right in concluding that the mainstream doctrine of hell as taught by the Church is one of lasting judgement, we should acknowledge that Mr. Bell is not the originator of its rebuttal.
Even in its infancy, there are records of church leaders questioning whether hell is the eternal state of torment for the lost. Origen, a second century theologian, believed that everyone and everything would one day be reconciled to God.
At least two movements have arisen from this qualm; the teachings of Universalism and the doctrine of annihilationism, with the former expressing the universal salvation of all, and the latter that the lost will suffer temporarily and then cease to exist.
While there are a host of variations of all of these interpretations, these three make it obvious that there are some pretty significant disagreements about the eternal state of the lost.
How is this possible? How can the same Bible share three completely contradictory views of hell? I’m sure you’re prepared for my transitional words; it can’t. It doesn’t.
The discrepancies must then lie in the reading. In the next of this series, my attempt will be to begin hearing what Jesus said about hell. I hope to show the necessity of reading what He said in its entire context to be able to hear His intended message. That may sound like oversimplifying the issue, but I’ve already been honest enough to tell you that I much too often fail to do so.
It is in the context of these passages where He spoke of hell that one can begin to see that all is not so crystal clear as we would like, or not like, to believe.
- When in Hell (mtsweat.com)
- Rob Bell’s Pop Culture Christianity (blottingoutgod.com)
- Overgrown: Life after Deconstruction (onetheology.com)
- Who’s in hell? ‘Love Wins’ book by evangelical Pastor Rob Bell sparks sparks eternal debate (miamiherald.typepad.com)
- Question: Do Christians Have To Believe In Hell? (jsparkblog.com)