In the beginning of Rob Bell’s book, “Love Wins” he states, “a staggering number of people have been taught that a select few Christians will spend forever in a peaceful joyous place call heaven, while the rest of humanity spends forever in torment and punishment in hell with no chance for anything better. It’s been clearly communicated to many that this believe is a central truth of the Christian faith and to reject it is, an essence, to reject Jesus. This is misguided and toxic and ultimately subverts the contagious spread of Jesus’s message of love, peace, forgiveness and joy that our world desperately needs to hear.” (Kindle Location 38) The universalism viewpoint of this author is misleading and lacks biblical support. He has taken the unity of God’s love and applied it to a concept that excludes the way to heaven. The universalism is a weak outlook of what God intended to convey in the apostles, disciples, prophets, and the ultimate way in Jesus Christ. In addition, Mr. Bell takes a stance that hell is purgatorial in nature which is contrary to scripture. There is no mention in the bible that suffering is for a season to cleanse sins. This belief denies the sufficiency of Christ’s atoning blood that he shed on the cross, “When he had received the drink, Jesus said “it is finished.” (John 19:30 NIV). With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. The act of stating such, indicates Jesus is the only way that can justify mankind. The view of universalism and the nature of hell has been misinterpreted and is reason to cause much debate that deviates from biblical doctrine.
Sovereignty of God
Universalism denies the sovereignty of God by denying the work of Christ at the cross as the only way that leads to salvation. In the biblical text found in the book of Acts, it is clear there is no other name that has the power of God. “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory in the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in Heaven.” (Hebrew 1:3). According to Mathew Henry, the apostle begins with general declaration of his excellency of the gospel dispensation above that of the law, which he demonstrates from the different way and manner of God’s communicating himself and his mind and will to men in the one and in the other: both these dispensations were of God, and both of them were very good, but there is a great difference in the way of their coming from God. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him. In love, he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.” (Ephesians 1:3-7). The sovereignty of God is undisputable.
Without love, there is no justice. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16). The following commentary expands on this great verse.
3:16. Whether this verse was spoken by John or Jesus, it is God’s Word and is an important summary of the gospel. God’s motivation toward people is love. God’s love is not limited to a few or to one group of people but His gift is for the whole world. God’s love was expressed in the giving of His most priceless gift—His unique Son (cf. Rom. 8:3, 32). The Greek word translated one and only, referring to the Son, is monogenē, which means “only begotten,” or “only born-one.” It is also used in John 1:14, 18; 3:18; and 1 John 4:9. On man’s side, the gift is simply to be received, not earned (John 1:12–13). A person is saved by believing, by trusting in Christ. Perish (apolētai) means not annihilation but rather a final destiny of “ruin” in hell apart from God who is life, truth, and joy. Eternal life is a new quality of life, which a believer has now as a present possession and will possess forever (cf. 10:28; 17:3).
Mr. Rob Bell uses the wrong definition of a Greek word for eternal, being seasonal, instead of using another meaning of eternal without end. God exercises his loving and fair justice to lawbreakers. Would it be loving for a judge to not give any punishment to a person who raped a little girl or to a person who murdered an innocent elderly lady, or to someone who robbed numerous charity of their finances. Should a man who stole billions like Bernie Madoff tell those that were financially ruined overnight by his deception that he should go free with no jail or prison time and no restitution? Would a loving, fair and just judge allow this man to continue to harm numerous people without consequences? Another example would be, is it wrong for all the nations of the world to build prisons for people who violated the law and to protect law abiding citizen from these criminals? Would it be wrong to give a person a life sentence without the possibility of parole if they were found guilty of first degree premediated murder? Is God merciful? Absolutely, he is merciful in that all humanity belongs crucified on the cross. Jesus was the substitute for humanity’s sin. He died in our place and he didn’t deserve punishment, we did, how merciful is that?
Entry to Heaven
The entry to heaven is presented like entering through a narrow or straight gate. Those who follow their flesh without the ability to walk in the spirit because the spirit of Christ does not dwell within them, shall follow the path that leads through the gate of eternal death and destruction, unending, everlasting separation from God which is the most tormenting experience a human being can ever have.
The way of the righteousness is the narrow path. In Acts 4:12 (Christ alone) not universalism which leads to the broad gate. Why is it that people do not want to enter through the narrow gate? What is the judgement that God holds (the reason) why people choose the broad gate? The answer is found in (John 3:19) This is the verdict, that light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. This explains the reason why people will not come into the light.
Also, those who think they are righteous according to their own deeds find themselves in the same boat. “I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” (Luke 5:32). There are two types of sinners in this world. The first type is those who think they are righteous and the other type, is those who know they are sinners. True and false disciples are mentioned in the book of Matthew. “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesize in your name and in your name, perform many miracles?” (Matt 7:21-22). “Then I will tell him plainly, I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!” (Matt 7:23). If people think they can justify themselves through their works, or somehow outside of Christ, this is what the prophet Isaiah said, “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.” (Isaiah 64:6). If this what God thinks of people’s righteous acts, then what does God think about our unrighteous deeds? First, that the gate is straight. Conversion and regeneration are the gate, by which we enter into this way, in which we begin a life of faith and godliness; out of a state of sin into a state of grace we must pass by the new birth John 3:5. This straight gate which is hard to find, and hard to get through; like a passage between two rocks. (1 Sa 14:4). There must be a new heart, and a new spirit, and old things must pass away. The best of the soul must be changed, corrupt habits and customs must be broken off; what we have been doing all our days must be to love again. We must swim against the stream; much opposition must be struggled with, and broken through, from without and from within. It is easier to set a man against all the world than against himself, and yet this must be in conversion. Those that are going to heaven are but few, compared to those that are going to hell; a remnant, a little flock, as the eight that were saved in the ark, (1 At 3:20). This is opposite what Rob Bell is stating in his book, “Love wins” he states, “a staggering number of people have been taught that a select few Christians will spend forever in a peaceful joyous place call heaven while the rest of humanity spend forever in torment and punishment in hell with no chance for anything better.” Then Mr. Bell states how horrendous it is to think such a way.
Nature of Hell
The nature of hell is not hyperbole but literal in its interpretation. The nature of hell is hell because God withdrew his attributes. God is love, so there is no love in hell. “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” (1 John 4:8). God is merciful so there is no mercy in hell. “But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.” (Titus 3:4-5).
God is light and in hell there is no light but only darkness. “This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light in him there is no darkness at all.” (1 John 1:5). Everything good comes from God and everything bad comes from the kingdom of darkness. Because of our sins we have been separated from God and need to be restored to a right relationship with our creator. “But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear.” (Isaiah 59:2). The opposite of love is fear and the perfect love of God casts out all fear. “There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” (1 John 4:18). Because there is no love in hell then only fear exists and what is more painful than to be frightened in conscious torment 24/7. Hell is literal because in order to have smoke rise there has to be real fire. “But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in then lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.” (Revelation 21:8).
Would a just judge allow a person or persons to go free having committed first degree premeditated murder? Doesn’t a just judge uphold the law and keeps society safe by sentencing murders to life in prison or death? Would a loving judge say, “don’t worry, what you did was no big deal, I will let you go so you can continue to take the lives of more innocent people.” As you see, justice is a loving and injustice is pure hatred.
Are we appalled that we have prisons that hold such people here on earth? Are we appalled that a judge hands out a life sentence or a death sentence to a first-degree premeditated murderer? No, we are not appalled, we expect to see such justice, actually, we demand such justice! So why are we appalled that God created an eternal prison to satisfy eternal justice? We are created in God’s image and our soul and spirit will remain eternally conscious either in heaven or hell. Jesus doesn’t send people to hell, people send themselves to hell by refusing to repent of their sins and asking the only person who can forgive them which is Christ only.
Unbelievers will be given eternal sinful bodies that never stop sinning and since the dammed have committed the only unpardonable sin which is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, they have no forgiveness for their sins. Punishment is never ending. Mark 3:29 means to go your entire life in reject of Christ, the only forgiveness for anyone’s sins and then die. This person has then committed the unpardonable sin.
Forgiveness in the new testament is Christ alone who fulfilled the ancient prophesies written in the old testament. Only God can forgive sin. “I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake and remembers your sins no more. Review the past for me, let us argue the matter together, state the case for your innocence.” (Isaiah 43:25-26). “Repent then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord.” (Acts 3:19). “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (Ephesian 4:32). According to the new testament, a person can only find forgiveness in Christ. “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12).
The only thing Mr. Bell is winning with universalism is the approval of the unbelieving masses instead of 2 Timothy 2:15 to be approved by God. “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.” (Ephesian 1:710).
13 “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.
15 “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 16 By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thorn- bushes, or figs from thistles? 17 Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.
21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and, in your name, perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!”
Matthew 7:13–24 (NIV)
I fear that many who think they are Christian will point to their works on the day of judgment rather than pointing to Jesus. Why? Because they never knew Jesus and they took confidence in themselves because of their works. “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.” (Isaiah 64:6). No one is justified by their works.
8 For it is by grace [God’s remarkable compassion and favor drawing you to Christ] that you have been saved [actually delivered from judgment and given eternal life] through faith. And this [salvation] is not of yourselves [not through your own effort], but it is the [undeserved, gracious] gift of God; 9 not as a result of [your] works [nor your attempts to keep the Law], so that no one will [be able to] boast or take credit in any way [for his salvation].
Ephesians 2:8-9 Amplified Bible (AMP)
The world needs to hear the truth found in the bible and not an individual’s opinion of these truths. It is a universal truth that God is Almighty who loves unconditionally and at the same time hates sin. The message of Christ is to repent because you believe. Heaven is a gift for all who follow Christ. Hell is for the unbelievers. These destinations are permanent and not temporary. God punishes with the 2nd death and rewards with heaven to those who accept the free gift of salvation through Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior ONLY.
ESV: study Bible: English standard version. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2007
Edwin A. Blum. “John,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures. ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck, vol. 2 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985)
Rob Bell. HarperOne. Love Wins, January 2011
Henry, Matthew. Genesis. Matthew Henry Commentary on the Whole Bible
(Complete). N.p., 1706. Accessed March 18, 2011
Bill Wiese. 23 Questions about Hell. Charisma Media, 2010. ISBN 1616380276, 9781616380274. 149 pages