Hell Lives on the Horizon
Rob Bell wrote a book called “Love Wins” in which he subtly and not so subtly relegates the concept of hell to a non-enlightened doctrine. And those, like Bell, who have a difficult time ingesting the clear teaching of Scripture cannot completely eviscerate the Biblical teaching concerning hell. So today’s pop doctrine is called universalism. It’s been around a ling time, but its popularity has begun to soar in the west. This upbeat and success oriented culture has no stomach for uncomfortable truth and hell is perhaps the most uncomfortable of all truths.
But Bell is not the first to suggest a less painful way to navigate Biblical teachings, but he has a large following and therefore he is very influential. He is a little slippery and seems not to have the courage to make his views crystal clear. You see, being controversial while still implying your critics misinterpret your views sells books. However when you stand and proclaim what you believe clearly and in the language the Proletariat can understand, you run the risk of losing some of your popularity. That always translates to less book sales and less tour sites.
But in the wake of whatever Bell was attempting to pass off on the public, a man named Francis Chan wrote a book called “Erasing Hell” in which he defended the doctrine of hell based upon Scriptural teachings. I have received some edification from some of what this man says, and he is definitely more Biblically sound than men like Bell. But there is more to erasing hell than just the statement of faith.
Let us be painfully honest. If the Bible is true, and if there is an eternal place colloquially called “hell”, and if every person who dies without Christ spends eternity separated from God in that awful place, then we all stand under a blistering indictment.
This is the crux of the spiritual war now raging invisibly and visibly around the world. If every human spends eternity in either heaven or hell (again labels that help identify), and if Christ alone is the door to eternal life, then our mission is all too clear. And if we who doctrinally espouse the reality of hell are honest with ourselves, we must admit that this western church practice is tepid, earthly, and void of the desperate passion that should accompany an authentic embrace of the eternal realities. We are so much more interested in money, politics, buildings, and almost anything else but eternity.
It is a tragedy of immense proportions that we who say we believe the written revelation called the Bible can so carelessly lead narcissistic lives guided to and fro by the present culture. And if our individual compromises were not sufficient to indict our professions, we have also been very diligent to mold church practices into ear pleasing stations, well organized, and gatherings where pleasantries can be exchanged without any systematic alterations in our lives. Redundant would be a generous description since it goes much deeper than that.
Think about this. If the worldwide scientific community suddenly discovered an asteroid that was hurtling toward earth, and they all agreed that its path would undoubtedly collide with Earth in six months and that its enormous size would destroy life as we know it, tell me, would people be concerned? Would people just go about their business? Would rising gas prices be a major issue? Would who got elected president be a consuming passion? Would the church still reverence the "founding fathers"? And as the pictures of this gargantuan object were broadcast into our homes and thereby solidifying its coming collision, would we still go to church and leave the same?
As far as I know there is no such asteroid at this time, however there is another event that has been broadcast around the world. No one knows the day or time, but we have been given incontrovertible proof of it coming. The Creator of the Universe is coming, and He will judge the entire planet. And He will divide people into two categories. Those who are headed for heaven, and those who are headed for hell. Now, armed with that information there are a group of people who claim to believe it and a larger group who do not believe it at all.
You should honestly expect the group that believes such a thing to live with a shocking and observable difference than the group of unbelievers. I mean if this believing group says they believe that the Creator is returning and that eternal life and eternal death are at stake, nothing in this world should affect them. Right? They will still eat and sleep and work, but their entire lives would be driven to serve the coming King and prepare for His entrance as well as passionately, aggressively, demonstratively, and desperately warn others concerning the coming event. Right? And even if they waxed cold during the week, when they met together and sat under a man who had spent hours upon hours in prayer with the coming King, no one could leave unchanged or dispassionate. Right?
Oh my dear friends, what have we done to His precious name? And what have we concocted and called it “church”? And what spiritual hubris does it take to pridefully parade our orthodox credentials while still living such unremarkable and emotionless lives? We show more emotion over a touchdown or over a dog’s death than we do over the stream of sinners walking through death’s door into a Christless eternity and into a place of immeasurable torture. And yet we claim to believe in such a place and believe that all men have been offered the gift of salvation. And furthermore we insist we have been given that gift through faith and that we have been rescued from hell and are headed for heaven. And all that with less emotion than someone who finds a twenty dollar bill.
While we scaled the watchtower to look for heretics and false teachers, our own camp has fallen asleep. And like Sampson, we don’t even know it. We can cry “The Philistines are upon us!” all we want, but without the power of God it soon becomes not much more than shadow boxing.
So regardless of all the theological games of badminton, the truth concerning hell is no longer a reality in the western church. All we are left with are some doctrinal scraps with which to “prove” our doctrinal orthodoxy. And in spite of the outrage over men like Rob Bell excoriating the concept of hell, the outrage is minimized by the lack of any compelling urgency within the church, which includes the conference and book and Cd laden orthodox community. In fact, can we even embrace the label “orthodox” just because we have laid out a Biblical theology with pen and paper? Systematic theology without works is dead.
A man is invited into his neighbors house. He sits down to watch the football game with his friend and neighbor. A few minutes into the game the neighbor looks over at his friend and says, “By the way, the entire south end of your house is engulfed in flames. I noticed it as I walked across the street”. The neighbor resumes watching the game. Now I ask you, would the owner of that house really believe that man? And if indeed the house was in flames, what kind of man treats such news with such callousness and void of the emotion it should elicit?
And because of all the wealth and material things afforded the western culture, any real concern about eternity is extremely shallow. I heard a prosperity preacher state that only broke people are longing for heaven. Can you even imagine a preacher saying such a thing! And yet that is actually the unspoken attitude throughout western evangelicalism. Our time is absorbed by things of this earth, and when there appears to be some extra time it is usually used for some kind of entertainment. We all are in a cultural black hole.
If God would grant us a few meager seconds to see into hell it would have to revolutionize the church. As it is, we remain comforted by our doctrinal statements. Very, very sad.
And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.
And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.