Rob Bell moved from well-known to notorious with the publication of his book ‘Love wins’. Ironically, it generated more lambaste than love. The thing that got under the skin of the Evangelical church in general was the apparent denial of the reality of an eternal Hell for those who do not know Jesus as saviour.
I have defined the Christocentric Principle as ‘Interpreting the Bible and the world primarily through the lens of Jesus’ Words, Works, and the biblical revelation of His Nature, Character, and Values’
Take the last part of that definition first. Would the biblical revelation of the nature, character, and values of God, as reflected by Jesus, indicate that He desires to eternally punish people in Hell?
Jesus grieved over Jerusalem when the Jews refused to receive Him (Matthew 23:37-39), He showed compassion for the crowds of lost and helpless people of the land (Matthew 9:36), and He extended grace to the Canaanite woman even though she was not part of the ‘chosen race’ (Matthew 15:21-28). So the answer must be ‘no, God does not desire to punish people eternally in Hell.’
Paul identified God’s love for all people when he instructed the church to intercede for the lost and then wrote; ‘This is good, and pleases God our Saviour, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth’ (1 Timothy 2:3-4).
However, Jesus had a fair amount to say about Hell, and perhaps His most well-known teaching was the story of the rich man and the beggar (Luke 16:19-31). There has been much scholarly discussion about the meaning of the word in this account translated as ‘hell’, but what cannot be escaped is the picture that Jesus paints – separation from God, torment, agony, fire, and so on. What Jesus revealed in His teachings on Hell was that there is indeed an eternal condition of separation from God that is the destiny of some. We can debate the ‘who will go to Hell?” question, but Jesus quite obviously believed and taught the existence of a real Hell, existing in another dimension, where some abide after death.
Application of the Christocentric Principle settles the question “Does Hell exist?” with a clear “Yes it does.” However, application of the same principle leads us to conclude that Hell is not God’s choice for anyone. If it isn’t God’s desire that people go to Hell, then why in fact do some go to Hell? The answer is too complex to develop in a short Blog post like this, but it goes something like this: Adam and Eve chose to separate themselves from God – to be separated from God is to experience all that is not of God (Hell) – many remain separated from God – therefore many are destined to continue to be separated from Him in the life to come (Hell).
Other posts in this series:
A Divine Endorsement
The Christocentric Principle
The Key Further Revealed
The Key Revealed
Seeking the Key
Jesus the Interpreter of Scripture