Hell Is For Real

Rob Bell

Image by feyip via Flickr

The study of prophecy must include what happens to people at the end of their mortal life.  Two books that are very popular right now deal with some of these questions.  One of them is Heaven is for Real: A Little Boy’s Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back.  It is the delightful story of Todd Burpo, a 3 year-old who apparently went to heaven briefly during an emergency appendectomy.  Little by little, his family discovered that he had experienced many wonderful contacts with Bible personalities and family members whom he had never even known existed.  This heartwarming message is not a Bible study.  It is offered as an account of one boy’s personal experience. It does not contradict orthodox Bible doctrine. 

The other book was just released two days ago, but it caused an enormous theological debate even before its release.  That book is Love Wins: A Book about Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived, by emergent church pastor Rob Bell.  Conservative Bible scholars are alarmed by Bell’s position that the traditional Christian teaching about hell is mean-spirited and untrue.  The book tries to answer to the question that all of us have: “How could a loving God condemn people to an eternity of torment in hell?”

While thoughtful theologians agree that there may be various levels of punishment for those who rebel against God’s will, Bell apparently thinks that judgment and hell are mostly descriptions of the awful events that happen to people during their lifetime (“hell on earth”). As I read the book, I noticed that he didn’t explain the Great White Throne Judgment.  How could a serious book about hell ignore this passage?

Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. The earth and the heavens fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. 12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. 13 The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what they had done. 14 Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. 15 Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire. – Revelation 20:11-15

Taking Bell’s arguments to their extreme leads to what is known as “universalism,” the belief that people will eventually be drawn by God’s love into his blessing instead of his punishment, even if they do not receive Christ’s offer of salvation during their mortal lifetime. 

The obvious problem with this view is that it is contrary to the clear teaching of Jesus and the rest of the Bible.  Jesus taught more about hell than all the prophets that came before him. Yet he loves sinners more than anyone else has ever loved them, and sacrificed his life for them! His stern warnings about hell are the direct result of his love for the people he came to save.

Bell agrees that God’s love is infinite (thus the title: “Love Wins”), and that salvation is accomplished through the atonement of Jesus’ death. But he thinks that those who respond to God’s love will receive the gift of eternal life even if they don’t know about Jesus.

This issue will undoubtedly create a great debate among Bible scholars in the days to come.  We will follow that debate and post more information in our blog from time to time. 

From the standpoint of Bible prophecy, the acceptance of universalism will make possible a final world-religion.  According to several passages of Scripture, there will be a great apostasy, or “falling away” of Bible-observing Christians (Matthew 24:12; 2 Timothy 3:1-5; 2 Timothy 4:2-4). Apostate Christianity will then be able to merge with other religions. The final evil one-world government will be supported by a united religion, symbolized by the adulterous woman who rides on the beast in Revelation 17.

For more information about Heaven, Hell, and the End-Times, see our book – Connecting the Dots: A Handbook of Bible Prophecy.

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Pastor and Bible teacher. Editor of Prophecy Central.
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6 Responses to Hell Is For Real

  1. Sharell Lee says:

    I have an semi-ongoing debate w. a minister I otherwise admire, Dr. Reagan of Lamb and Lion, who belives in annihilationism. The issue for me is that the same Greek word, ai?nios, is used in the NT for both eternal punishment and eternal life. I expect eternal life to be conscious and never-ending; and I likewise expect the same of eternal punishment, i.e. both conscious and never-ending. When you doubt the eternal conscious punishment of a soul in hell, then you cast doubt on the meaning and promise of eternal life. To be fair the Bible leaves the subject of hell somewhat sketchy; but of this I’m sure, I don’t want to go there. Bell’s book is obviously heresy, but let’s take heart in it because it just goes to show we are closer than ever to the end times in which heresy will abound. Maranatha.

  2. Ruben Manliguez says:

    Hell is not in the Bible because hell is an English word and the Bible is not written in English! The King of kings and the Lord of lords never spoke in English! This sounds simplisticizing or philosophicalizing! But let’s God truth be the truth! English translators should give justice to the truth by using the Greek words Hades, Gehenna, Tartaroo and the Hebrew word Sheol!
    It’s not universalism! But it’s the world salvationalism! The Lord Jesus Christ is the Saviour of the world! (Jhn 4.42 and 1 Jhn 4.14). God wants to save the world (Jhn 3:17). What God wants, God gets! We all know Jhn 3.16 and man’s will and choice and decision, however, God has the will to save all men (1 Tim 2.4). The whole world will be saved because it was crucified (Gal 6.14) when the Lord Jesus died on the cross. God is reconciling the world to Himself (2 Cor 5.19). God will draw all men to Himself (Jhn 12.32)
    God is love (1 Jhn 4.8, 4.16). His love overwhelms His judgment (Psa 103.9). Justice and judgment are in the same breadth with mercy and truth (Psa 89.14).
    The lake (safe haven) of fire (purifying and purging with brimstone) is God Himself because God is a consuming fire (Deu 4.24, Deu 9.3, Heb 12.29). Man is saved by grace (Eph 2.8) and saved by hope (Rom 8.24) and will be saved by fire (1 Cor 3.15).

  3. Tsvetan Sirmanov says:

    Ruben, you do not understand the Bible or rather you do not want to understand it. What you wrote is an arbitrary composition.

  4. Ruben Manliguez says:

    Thank you, Tsvetan, for taking time to read and critique my comments! God bless you!

  5. Paul says:

    Indeed hell is for real despite what other thinks. I am here to also affirm that hell is real because I know that demons are real. I am not here to simply quote scriptures but to testify that the Bible is real about hell. So if there is hell there must also be heaven. This means we have a choice to make. I hope you would take the time to read this short story / testimony, YOUR CHOICE YOUR DESTINY and you’ll see what I am saying.


    Then read a related link:

    There are many who believe that only heaven exist but not hell.


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