The controversial book by Rob Bell, “Love Wins” has just gotten a pastor from a United Methodist church in North Carolina fired. Pastor Chad Holtz lost his job because he doesn’t believe in hell.
Well let’s dissect this a bit. First of all, Rob Bell has been a critic of the “traditional” view of hell as being a place of eternal torment. So now we are upgrading hell? It is no longer a place of torment? I believe it says in the book of Revelations that we aren’t to take away from the Word of God and we aren’t to add to it.
Now here is the thing, in a promotional “YouTube” video, Bell shows a piece of artwork where it features a quote by Gandhi. There was a note attached that says Gandhi is in hell. Bell questions this and here is where I side with him. I question it too. As a matter of fact, I question the destination of many souls who have gone before me. Because the truth of the matter is that I can’t say what was in their heart. Only God really knows that.
To be honest, I think we might be surprised at who shows up in heaven one day. But my point really is that we aren’t God and we shouldn’t attempt to play God by deciding who we “think” will be in hell and who will be in heaven. We can make an educated guess but that’s really all it is, a guess. I think we should focus more on the state of our own soul.
Now Bell says that it can’t be true only a “select” number of Christians will spend eternity in heaven and everyone else will be in hell. The Bible is very clear on the path to heaven and who gets us there. How do you possibly deviate from that?
While we would all love to focus solely on the message of love and peace that Jesus spread, He also warned about judgment and punishment. If we make Jesus to be nothing more than a flower child of the 60’s and 70’s, we are misdirecting people.
I don’t think we can necessarily go around pointing a finger and deciding who will be there and who won’t. We don’t know what happens in those last seconds of time.
We don’t know if someone had heard the message of the gospel at some point in their life and decide to surrender at the last minute. But we also don’t know if the person sitting next to us every Sunday is going to be in heaven either.
Heaven AND hell are real places and real people will go there. We can’t pick and choose which parts of the Bible we like. We also can’t decide eternity for others. We can only make a decision today to live as Christ would have us live.