(Cue deep, scary voice & SUPER scary sounds effects)
“Hell hath no fury like an angry Evangelical.” Saw that quote during the thick of the Rob Bell controversy over this book. Laughed and then was immediately saddened at its truth.
So, the chapter everyone’s waiting for. What’s all the hubbub about? Is Rob Bell (cue scary music reprise) a universalist? Will he regulate Jesus’ sacrificial death meaningless by asserting that all people will be saved, even if they flat out reject Jesus? And, did I really spell “hubbub” right?
(First, an aside: Did you know that Christ followers have protested Rob Bell on his speaking tours? BEFORE this book was even a thought?? What were they protesting? “Stop talking about Jesus in artsy ways that also help bring out His Jewish roots for us to re-connect with this Rabbi better”?)
Bell carries the idea about Heaven being on Earth currently into the chapter on Hell. I think he rightly makes the point that we see and can experience Hell on Earth—the glimpse of it (like Jesus talks about the Kingdom of Heaven/God being here) before the full reality can be experienced.
The killing fields of Cambodia.
Slums built on trash heaps.
Leper colonies in India.
If you’re looking for the quick answer about whether he believes in the traditional eternal Hell or not, Rob lines it out on page 79.
“There are individual hells and communal, society-wide hells, and Jesus teaches us to take both seriously.
There is hell now and there is hell later, and Jesus teaches us to take both seriously.”
There you have it.
But not really, because he keeps going.
Bell refers to Sodom, of Sodom and Gomorrah, those dubious towns that had such a dynamic tourism trade. He brings out Ezekiel 16’s mentioning that the fate of that town isn’t sealed in brimfire. “The story isn’t over for Sodom and Gomorrah? …Ezekiel says that where there was destruction, there will be restoration.” I like that he is bringing out these passages (there are more, from other parts of Scripture). They are important to chew on. I just wish Bell would dig into them more.
Without making this post novella size, the bottom line is that Bell begins to paint a picture of Hell as we think of it (for the fate of people we typically think of going there) as similar to Purgatory. He talks about the words used for “eternal punishment,” as in Matthew 25:46, as having a sense of “period of pruning” or “time of trimming.” Hell is closer to Purgatory with this line of thought.
Pink is the new black.
Black is the new black.
So, Hell is the new Purgatory?