Thursday, March 24, 2011

Heaven and Hell: The Debate Continues

You may have heard about a new book called "Love Wins" by Rob Bell. Bell is the pastor of mega-church Mars Hill Bible Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He's written a number of books--none of which I've read, including his latest. I'd never heard of Bell until the controversy arose over his new book. Apparently--and I'm only going off of what I've read in the news--Bell doesn't believe in the traditional Christian view of hell and who goes there. Which is his choice. No one is forced to believe anything if they don't want to. And truthfully, I understand Bell's position. I've had questions on the subject myself. Does everyone--literally billions of people--really, truly go to hell if they do not accept Jesus Christ as their God and Savior?

As with everything else in life, we have to go to the Bible for the answer.

In John 14:6 Jesus said: "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."

If we believe what the Bible says, then we understand that the Father is in heaven. So, if no one comes to the Father except those who go through Jesus--meaning those who believe He is who He says He is and accept his sacrifice on the cross to atone for our sins--then everyone who does not believe in Jesus will not be permitted into heaven. That is what Jesus himself is saying. They are not my words. They are not some pastor's words. They are the words of Jesus.

Back in January I wrote a blog called When the Cross is Not Enough. Basically I was talking about people who claim to be Christians yet continue in their sin. Jesus suffered and died upon the cross, spilling his blood as the ultimate sacrifice, so that we can be freed from the bondage and eternal death sin offers. When we question God's word and the validity of Jesus' claims, then basically we're saying the cross is not enough.

Chad Holtz, a pastor in North Carolina, was recently fired from his church because he agreed with Rob Bell. A married Navy veteran with five children, Holtz spent years trying to reconcile his belief that Jesus Christ's death on the cross redeemed the entire world with the idea that millions of people — including millions who had never even heard of Jesus — were suffering forever in hell.

"We do these somersaults to justify the monster god we believe in," he said. "But confronting my own sinfulness, that's when things started to topple for me. Am I really going to be saved just because I believe something, when all these good people in the world aren't?"

Yikes!! That last statement is a doozie! Me thinks Pastor Holtz has more issues that merely questioning who's going to hell!

To me, what Pastor Bell and Pastor Holtz are saying is that Jesus' death on the cross was not enough. If anyone can still go to heaven without believing in Jesus, without accepting his sacrifice on the cross, then what was the point of the cross in the first place? Why would God come to earth in the form of the Son and die a horrific death on a cross if it was pointless? If we didn't need that blood to wash away our sins?

Heaven is a real place. Hell is a real place. Jesus spoke about both of them. It is through Him that we will go to one and avoid the other.

It's your choice.


Lynda Schab said...

Rob Bell's church is about three miles from my house and I know several people who attend. I am not one of them. I don't agree with Bell's teaching and have gotten into discussions with members of his church.

Of course people have questions and there are definitely mysteries about heaven and hell. But there are many things that are spelled out in the Bible-- like the scriptures you quoted, Michelle. Bell is preaching what people want to hear. That maybe even if they don't accept Jesus as their Savior, they can still "make it" to heaven. He cloaks everything in "love." But the Bible also makes it clear that God is just and there will be judgement.

In the interviews I've seen, he skirts around the questions and never answers directly. One interviewer kept pressing him and Bell STILL managed to avoid answering. I think just the fact that so many people are confused by what his stance is is enough to signal warning bells. Confusion is not from God. There may be many gray areas of the Bible, but how you get to heaven (and the fact that there is a literal heaven and hell) is not one of them.

The Bible says that in the end times, even the elect will be deceived. Hmmm...

In my humble opinion... :-)

Michelle Shocklee said...

Thanks for leaving that great comment, Lynda! I feel a real sense of urgency these days to truly know what the Bible says as opposed to any particular man. My prayer is the folks buying Bell's book and those in his church will search out the truths in the Bible and see if they align with what they are reading and hearing.

Blessings and hugs to you!!

Anita said...

I only recently heard about this book because my church (a Methodist denomination) will be offering a class based on Rob Bell's controversial book. I, too, wonder that if there is no hell, then what is the judgement that is repeatedly mentioned in the Bible? What of sin? And redemption? Where is the motivation to believe in a real Christ when there is no difference, after all is said and done?
Great post, Michelle!

Michelle Shocklee said...

Thanks, Anita. Your questions are exactly the ones I hope Pastor Bell and the group at your chuch will seek answers for!
Michelle Shocklee