Wednesday, March 2, 2011

All People Go to Heaven?

Perhaps you have seen that Rob Bell is coming out with a new book, Love Wins: Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived. In it he allegedly sets forth his case for universalism, the belief that everyone goes to heaven.

In his promo video--you can see that here--he takes offense at the thought that anyone would think Gandhi is in hell. Then he goes on to address the idea that "billions and billions" will end up in hell while only a "few select" will make it into heaven. If that's the case, he asks, then how does one become one of the select few? Is it what you say or believe or know, or do you have to be initiated into something or be born again or take a class?

Then he goes on to suggest that millions and millions of people have believed (erroneously) that God will send you to hell unless you believe in Jesus, and the implication is that Jesus rescues us from God. If that's the case, what sort of God is this? Surely such a God is not good. Surely such a God cannot be trusted. And surely that is not good news.

This is why, Bell argues, so many people are turned off by Christianity, because they see it as an endless list of absurdities and inconsistencies and say, "Why would I ever want to be part of that?"

Let me just briefly respond to each point.

I don't know whether Gandhi is in heaven or in hell. But I do know that if he never put his faith in Jesus Christ, then he is in hell; and I also know that, if, when his end came, he was trusting in Christ for his salvation, then he is in heaven. That's what the Bible says. I don't presume to know different than the Bible.

What of the idea that billions and billions will burn forever while only a select few make into heaven? I wonder if billions and billions is a bit high and "a select few" a bit low. Though the Bible does say that the road is narrow and a relative few find it (Mt 7:13-14). But beyond that, Jesus died for all. What more could God have done? People who end up in hell are not there because they didn't have a second chance. They're there because they spurned God's sacrificial gift and refused to believe in Christ.

How does one become part of the select few? Bell seems to reject the idea that there might be some stipulation to entrance into heaven. But did not Jesus establish stipulations? Yes, you have to believe something. You have to believe in Christ. "Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life" (John 3:36). And Bell mentions, "Do you have to be born again?" Does he not know John 3? What did Jesus himself say? "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God" (v. 3).

Does Jesus rescue us from God? That's not what the Bible says. Jesus rescues us from sin, from the devil, from "this present evil age" (Gal 1:4).

Who came up with this plan to save us? Was it not God the Father? "For GOD so LOVED the world that HE GAVE his only Son ..." (John 3:16). The plan of salvation originated in God the Father.

The heart of the Father toward all of humanity is one of love and mercy. God's justice must be satisfied, or else he is not a just and righteous God, and so God provided a way that we could escape the consequences of our sins and he still be just. That way is the cross of Christ. And to receive that enormous blessing, we must put our faith in Christ. Is that too much of God to ask, surrendering our lives to Christ? Apparently Bell thinks so.

Does God send people to hell? In one sense, yes. But he's provided a way out. If they refuse that way, that costly, blood-bought way, that only way, do they not consign themselves to hell? If someone gives you two options and you refuse one option, are you not choosing the other?

So I disagree with Bell. I think such a God is good. I think he can be trusted. And I think the news that Jesus died so that I don't have to go to hell, that I can be reconciled to God and enjoy the blessings of heaven and eternal life--I think that is indeed good news.

People may be turned off by Christianity's perceived inconsistencies and absurdities, but they are only perceived. In truth Christianity--the Bible--is amazingly consistent, as is our God and his plan of salvation. At the cross God's holiness and love meet. At the cross his justice and mercy are both wonderfully manifested. Where is the greatest manifestation of God's love? At the cross: "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8).


MMR said...

Good post.
It is tempting to believe that everyone ends up in Heaven because we all love people who might not, and that's an uncomfortable thought. I agree with your trust in God on this issue. Frankly, it's beyond my comprehension how it all works out, but it does--I'm sure of it.

Anonymous said...


Dear Kent, the previous post to this one is very good! And in addition to your thoughts, as well as those, I am truly amazed at so many people I've run into who are "I thinkers." Such people think they already know about what God will or will not require of them. “Musts” from the New Testament are taken lightly by them; and they don’t bother to read them such as in John 3:3 and Acts 4:12 wit Luke 13:1 throug 5 -- We must be born again. We must be Saved in Jesus’ name. We must repent of sin, etc. Such people usually don't even think about meeting Him when they die. But people prepare for everything else! (That is to say for such things as graduation, college, marriage, home and family and, especially retirement.) But it seems that they totally ignore the mighty grace of God and how it is that none of us as sinners on the earth [His holy footstool, according to Scripture] aren't being prosecuted by His high, high court just yet this very moment, starting from the time of the Garden of Eden. Such people have checked out the "right college" to go to. They've check out the "right lady to marry." They've checked out the "right hospital" in which to have their children born. And, with their prospective retirement, some even have their funeral plans already in hand. How can they be so stupid after having checked on EVERYTHING that concerns TEMPORAL LIFE, to bungle along on EVERYTHING that concerns ETERNAL DEATH??? They all drive passed graveyards. They know this life won't last forever! Indeed, the Bible calls them "FOOLS!" (Proverbs 1:7 with Remans 1:28). God even gives up on some of them, so that they reach a point even now where they CANNOT repent and avail themselves of the provisions of His cross. They are ignorant about the wretchedness of their own, deceiving, wretched lustful, sinful human heart (Jeremiah 17:9; Matthew 15:19; Mark 7:21; Romans 7:24; Romans 8:1).
Kent, I THINK that such people better repent now and believe the Bible while they still can! They MUST quit acting on their own guesses about what God will or will not do, and about their own assumptions about God and His eternal judgments against the world. But if they don't, Kent, they, most certainly, will fall under His infinite justice and wrath (Psalm 9:7 & 8; Remans 1:28, and verse 32) --Dad