I usually do not address things like this since there are a plethora of blogs out there that do. I want to give my perspective on hell because I feel there is one fundamental issue that many people are overlooking. With the release of Rob Bell’s new book Love Wins, there has been an explosion of reactions ranging from praise, to criticism, to cautious defence. Many of these reactions center around the work of Christ on the cross, God’s holiness, or speculation on how exactly hell will be experienced. These are all worthy subjects to turn to in light of the subject matter of whether all will ultimately be saved, or whether God will sentence some to eternal torment in hell or the lake of fire.
My point of view is going to come from how we view sin, including our own sinfulness. I have not read the book and will not dignify buying it. I have read a quote of a question he asks upon which he builds his doubts about hell. He asks, “Does God punish people for thousands of years with infinite, eternal torment for things they did in their few finite years of life?” What Bell is doing by phrasing the question this way is attempting to make our sin seem finite in nature and God’s punishment infinite in nature making God out to be unfair or unjust if he sentences people to hell for eternity for their sin.
The problem is that this is an unbiblical view of our sin nature. The scriptures lay out condemnation as resulting from mankind loving darkness more than light, John 3:19. The human race is content in darkness, in sin. We love being in this darkness and not exposed to God’s holy light. The reason is, if we are exposed by His light, it shows how sinful, rotten, and depraved we really are, see also Ephesians 5:13. We don’t come to God because we don’t want to see our sin, we don’t want others to see our sin, and most of all we don’t want God to see our sin. So all of these people living in sin, they don’t want to come to God and they don’t want God to come to them. Will that change just because they die?
Sin is not to be viewed as certain finite actions confined to this life. Sin is so pervasive like the ripple effects of a stone thrown into the middle of a pond. Sexual sins bring into existence people with living souls. Our sinful choices have results that simply cannot be confined to this life alone. Sinful choices that I made years ago continue to produce evil fruit. I have lied to people, stolen from them, and hurt them. These wrongs have resulted in scars which remain to this day. The LORD proclaimed His name to Moses in Exodus 34:5-7 showing His reaction to the ongoing consequences of sinfulness from generation to generation. A man’s sins are not confined to his own generation, but passed on to his children, his grandchildren, and even his great grandchildren. That’s quite a ripple effect. Notice how Romans 5:12-14 shows that death reigns over all sin beginning from one sin at the beginning of creation. Adam’s sin began the ripple effect for the human race in the garden of Eden. Haggai 2:11-14 demonstrates the nature of sin by showing that everything we touch becomes defiled.
Do sinners stop sinning when they die? Old Testament imagery for the afterlife has two graphic metaphors. One pictures death like a gated city. Upon death, one would enter the city with the gates locking behind never to come out again. This metaphor is seen in Hezekiah’s prayer in Isaiah 38:10, and I would include Job 38:17, Psalm 9:13, and Psalm 107:18 in this as well. Death is also pictured as a giant pit. When one dies, they fall into this giant pit being completely unable to crawl out again. Psalm 88:3-12 is probably the most graphic illustration of one personally experiencing death as a pit. Isaiah 38:18 (Hezekiah’s prayer again), Psalm 30:2-3, 28:1, 143:7, but especially Ezekiel 32 can all be examined as well. Ezekiel 26:19-21 contains the phrase, “I will make you to dwell in the world below… with those who go down to the pit.”
When Jesus proclaimed over and over again, Matthew 8:10-13, 13:41-42, 49-50, 22:13, 24:48-31, 25:30, 41-46, that many would be cast into the outer darkness (or fiery furnace or eternal fire) where there would be weeping and gnashing of teeth, he was further explaining the nature of life after death. This was not the cessation of human existence, but the beginning of their eternal destiny. Weeping and gnashing of teeth shows a conscious, ongoing existence whereby they would spend their time apart from God weeping over and over again. In Mark 9:42-50 Jesus is echoing Isaiah 66:24 to show an ongoing existence whereby sinners will receive ongoing punishment in flames that will not be extinguished and where life would not cease. The eternal nature of our sinfulness demands an eternal punishment.
A failure to see our sinfulness as God sees it will result in views like those of Rob Bell. How does God view our sins? Jesus told a parable in Matthew 18:23-35. The debt accrued was ten thousand talents. A talent was a year’s wage. This servant had amassed a debt so great that it could not be paid back in 100 lifetimes. His cry for mercy was, “Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.” How laughable! There was no way the king would believe this wicked servant. The servant’s only hope was that the king would be merciful and simply forgive the debt. It was impossible that this man could pay the debt. In the absence of mercy, the debt would have to be paid with the very life of the individual.
Our view of our own sin will lead to either a small love for the Saviour or a great love for the Saviour. If you view your sin as some finite thing confined to this life only, your love for Christ will be small. If you see your sin as something so deplorable that will go on for all eternity, then you will begin to understand the great price that Jesus paid on Calvary. Luke 7:36-50 tells of two people who encountered Christ. The sinful woman understood her sinful condition. The Pharisee had a limited view to his sin, therefore his love for Jesus was quite small. When we really understand how unpayable the debt, how unfathomable the depth of depravity, how eternal the sin nature within, then we begin to experience a great love for our Saviour.
In case you missed it, Rob Bell has a false premise. The false premise is trying to depict sin as something finite and confined to this life. It doesn’t stop at death. Sin goes on for eternity. Eternal consequences demand eternal punishment.
Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13
-The Orange Mailman