I could hardly wait to read Francis Chan’s new book, Erasing Hell. It may well be the ultimate answer to Rob Bell’s questions about hell from his book, Love Wins. Both men have had a profound influence on our generation. Both are young, relevant to the younger thinkers, and fresh in the way they express themselves. Bell’s book raised a multitude of questions that are asked by skeptics, and left most of them unanswered. He implied that hell may not be a literal place in the future as much as it is hellish conditions here on earth. And reviewers of his book, which I also read immediately when it was released three months ago, pretty much agreed that Bell’s teaching is Universalism – a belief that God’s love will ultimately win over the non-believers, if not in this life, then in some future drama.
Chan and his co-author Professor Preston Sprinkle have made a huge contribution to this subject, not only because of their commitment to the inerrancy of the Bible, but because Chan’s earlier books were so well received. Crazy Love was a New York Times best-seller with more than one and a half million copies sold so far.
This is a book you should read for yourself, and keep around as a reference manual on the subject. But here are some of my impressions. Like most of us Chan would rather not believe in hell, but he shows by the preponderance of clear Scripture references that we do not have that luxury. He demonstrates how prevalent the concept is in such Old Testament books as Job and (Jeremiah’s) Lamentations, and throughout the New Testament, starting with Jesus’ own extensive teachings about the subject.
Chan dares to voice what we all feel at times. He says that if he were God, he would not allow some of the suffering God allowed, or prescribe a punishment like hell. But, neither would he (or we) have permitted our Son to pay the awful penalty for our sin.
This gap between God’s ways and ours is given in Isaiah 55:8-9
8 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the LORD.
9 “As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
Furthermore, as Romans 9:19-21 teaches, God is the potter, and we are just the clay. Ultimately Job, Jeremiah, Paul and others realized that God’s ways are just. Knowledge about the reality of hell should cause us to be more genuine, more concerned for those who are in need, and more willing to let God be God.