Sunday, March 20, 2011

Rob Bell, Hell, and the Party for Everyone (Part II: 10 Questions to Ask Him)

The following are 10 penetrating questions to ask Rob Bell, and those of his ilk, on the nature of the Lord Jesus Christ's own view regarding the ultimate state of man in the consummation:

"1. During one of his frequent confrontations with the Pharisees, Jesus told them, 'I am going away, and you will look for me, and you will die in your sin. Where I go, you cannot come' (John 8:21). Why did he damn them in this way if he knew perfectly well that eventually, along with the rest of humanity, they would be with him in heaven?

2. At one point, the Pharisees accused Jesus of using satanic power to perform miracles. Jesus easily exposed their stupidity by explaining that Satan would hardly co-operate in the destruction of his own kingdom, then added this devastating verdict: 'And so I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come' (Matthew 12:31-32).

The phrase 'every sin and blasphemy' means 'all kinds of sin and blasphemy'. Even 'a word against the Son of Man' is included in the scope of God's gracious forgiveness; many of Christ's critics have subsequently been converted. The one exception Jesus made was 'blasphemy against the Spirit'. This is not an isolated act, but 'an attitude of defiant and deliberate rejection of light'. It is an unrepentant refusal to accept the truth of the gospel revealed in Scripture by the Holy Spirit, and Jesus said that this sin would not be forgiven 'either in this age or in the age to come'. If universalism is true, will there be those in heaven with unforgiven sin?

3. In the course of a final meal with his disciples, when Jesus revealed that Judas Iscariot was about to betray him to the religious authorities, he added, 'But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born' (Matthew 26:24). If Judas is to be in the kingdom of heaven along with the rest of humanity, and will rejoice for ever in God's glorious presence, how could Jesus say that never having been born would be even better for him?

4. In the story of the rich sinner who died and went to Hades and the poor believer who died and went to Paradise, Jesus said that between the two places 'a great chasm has been fixed' and that it would be impossible for anyone to move from one place to the other. Why did he not add that the chasm would one day be 'unfixed' and that everyone not already there would cross over into heaven?

5. When someone asked him, 'Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?', Jesus replied, 'Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to' (Luke 13:23-24). Why did he say such a thing if eventually there will be nobody left outside?

6. Towards the end of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus used a similar metaphor: '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' (Matthew 7:13-14). If everyone will eventually find 'the road that leads to life', why did Jesus make such a misleading statement?

7. Speaking of his death on the cross to pay the penalty for the sins of believers, Jesus said, 'I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep' (John 10:11). If his death secures the salvation of everyone, why did he not say, 'The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep and for the goats', that is to say, for believers and unbelievers?

8. After the parable of the wedding feast, Jesus added this postscript: 'For many are invited, but few are chosen' (Matthew 22:14). Why exclude so many from the wedding feast of heaven if he knew that nobody would be excluded?

9. When Jesus warned that unrepentant sinners would 'go away to eternal punishment' (Matthew 25:46) was he showing himself to be ignorant (not knowing that their punishment would not be eternal) or unethical (frightening people to repent of their sin and trust him as their Saviour when he knew that they would be saved regardless of their response)?

10. When Jesus promised the penitent criminal being crucified alongside him, 'I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise' (Luke 23:43) why did he not extend the promise to the unrepentant criminal hanging next to him?" [1]

[1] John Blanchard, Whatever Happened to Hell [New York: Evangelical Press, 2003], 206-208).

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