Erasing Hell: What God said about eternity, and the things we made up
Reviewed date: 2011 Nov 3
What happens when a popular, beloved Evangelical pastor named Rob Bell writes a book called Love Wins in which he preaches a theology where everyone goes to heaven and there is no literal hell? First, he becomes less beloved in Evangelical circles. Second, he becomes much more popular in some other circles. And third, evangelical voices will speak up and let people know that Rob Bell is a false teacher.
Francis Chan's little book Erasing Hell is a response to Love Wins. It's not very long, because it's really not too complicated. Just have a look at the Bible, check the historical context, and it's obvious that Jesus did indeed teach about hell as a literal place of punishment for wrongdoing. Jesus's hell isn't "hell on earth" as Rob Bell suggests. Nor was Jesus referring to a garbage dump when he says "gehenna" (translated as hell.) The garbage dump theory didn't appear until over 1000 years after Christ, is not supported by historical or archaeological evidence, and that's all there is to it.
Erasing Hell is surprisingly short, and very folksy. It's not an academic discussion, and Chan avoids delving into word studies of the Greek except where it is absolutely necessary in order to combat Rob Bell's idea that "everlasting punishment" should really be translated "a period of correction." Personally, I find it too folksy. I'd rather he skip the soliloquies and just focus on the theology--but as he says repeatedly, this isn't just about theology, it's about people's destinies. This stuff really matters.
I hope Rob Bell is right. I hope everyone goes to heaven. I hope there is no hell. I hope everyone gets as unlimited number of chances to repent and submit to God. But Jesus didn't preach that. Paul didn't preach that. The church throughout history has never taught that. Looking at the revelation God has given us in the Bible, it's clear that we have our chance in this lifetime to repent and trust in Jesus Christ for salvation from our sins. After death, we will be judged and those who did not repent will receive the appropriate punishment: conscious, everlasting torment in a place called hell. I don't like that story. Rob Bell's story is much nicer--but it's not the story I see in the Bible.