Bell’s Inferno

Grace to You Blog (a follow up) Friday, April 21, 2011

If anyone advocates a different doctrine and does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the doctrine conforming to godliness, he is conceited and understands nothing; but he has a morbid interest in controversial questions and disputes about words, out of which arise envy, strife, abusive language, evil suspicions, and constant friction between men of depraved mind and deprived of the truth, who suppose that religion is a means of gain (1 Timothy 6:3-5).

No one in all the Scriptures had more to say about hell than Jesus. No stern messenger of doom from the era of the Judges, no fiery Old Testament prophet, no writer of imprecatory psalms, and no impassioned apostle (including the Boanerges brothers)—not even all of them combined—mentioned hell more frequently or described it in more terrifying terms than Jesus.

And the hell Jesus spoke of was not merely some earthly ordeal, some sour state of mind, or some temporary purgatorial prison. Jesus described hell as a “place of torment” in the afterlife (Luke 16:28)—a place of “unquenchable fire” (Mark 9:43), “where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched” (v. 48). It is a “place [where] there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 25:30)—a place of “eternal punishment” (v. 46).

Rob Bell is clearly unhappy with Jesus’ teaching about hell. He finds the very idea of hell morally repugnant and believes it is one of the main reasons “why lots of people want nothing to do with the Christian faith.” He scoffs at the idea that divine justice requires endless punishment for unrepentant sinners. In direct opposition to what Jesus Himself taught in Matthew 25:46, Bell insinuates that it would be a gross, cosmic atrocity if the doom of the reprobate is everlasting in the same sense that heaven’s blessings for the redeemed are everlasting.

Bell’s notion of sin seems to be that its main evil consists in the hurt it causes to the sinner rather than the offense it causes to a righteous and almighty God. His concept of “justice” makes the punishment of sin wholly optional. His idea of mercy falsely holds forth a false promise of automatic leniency and a second chance after death to people already inclined to take divine clemency for granted anyway.

Rob Bell’s god is clearly no one to be feared.

That all stands in direct and deliberate contradiction to everything Jesus ever taught about sin, righteousness, and judgment.

By thus pitting his own ideas against Jesus’ message, Bell makes it inescapably clear that he “advocates a different doctrine and does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ” (cf. 1 Timothy 6:3). He is wrong—seriously wrong—heretically wrong—to question the justice of God and to hold out false hope to unbelievers. He is, as we have seen from the start of this series, a textbook example of the false teacher who secretly introduces destructive heresies (2 Peter 2:1).

That must be said plainly and emphatically.

Just how serious is Rob Bell’s heresy? It is not merely that he rejects what Jesus taught about hell; Bell rejects the God of Scripture. He deplores the idea of divine vengeance against sin (Romans 12:9). He cannot stand the plain meaning of texts like Hebrews 12:29: “Our God is a consuming fire.” He has no place in his thinking for the biblical description of Christ’s fiery return with armies of angels: “dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus” (2 Thessalonians 1:7-8). Bell’s whole message is a flat contradiction of Jesus’ words in Luke 12:5: “But I will warn you whom to fear: fear the One who, after He has killed, has authority to cast into hell; yes, I tell you, fear Him!”

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7 thoughts on “Bell’s Inferno

  1. Elmarie,
    I have heard that there were people tht did not believe in hell, but I have never known of a specific teacher that taught this false doctrine. Now I do. It is a mystery to me that anyone can read the bible and come to the conclusion that hell does not exist in the form of fire as Christ says that it exists and that it is not eternal punishment as Christ has clearly said that it is. It is incomprehencible that there would be even any question of this.Your article sums it up very well.


    • Hi Sylesa

      This article has a link at the bottom, it is a blog post written by John MacArthur and the discussions that follow below the article at GTY Blog is very interesting to follow. Yes I agree the summation is very well written and Biblicaly there is no doubt that Rob Bell is dangerous and a false teacher, typically of what we are warned about in the Word.


  2. Sylesa

    It is a mystery to me that anyone can read the bible and come to the conclusion that hell does not exist…

    You are right, but it is not so much a mystery. We should regard this as being another addition to the huge amount of bewildering misinterpretations of God’s Word, which have come from the widest variety of sources over time. Some have originated from within the vast assortment of churches and others from the secular world of unbelievers which Bell represents.

    Also, a completely different conclusion will be reached by those such as Bell (if they ever actually read a classic Bible version), as opposed to the simplicity of the Truth a baptized believer has at his disposal, through a Holy Spirit led ability.

    I think for somebody like Bell, reading God’s Word would be like a non-musical person regarding a page of sheet music. Most would be able to tell you that it represents music in the written form, but few would have any clue as to how it should sound.

    In addition, some of them would never be able to learn to interpret and perform the sheet music either, as those would have been born tone deaf or dysmelodic. Of course, that shortcoming does not make them inferior, only unable. Bell’s predicament is described within the Doctrine of Inability.


  3. Grant,
    You said,

    I think for somebody like Bell, reading God’s Word would be like a non-musical person regarding a page of sheet music. Most would be able to tell you that it represents music in the written form, but few would have any clue as to how it should sound.

    So well put, that is a perfect analogy i had never thought of! It must be true , because how else could he read the same bible and come up with so radically different a theology?

    Many different Bible versions also as you made mention. My pastor told me that he saw a version that was called “the prisoners version” he said that it had cursing in it and used “prison” language to “reach” prisoners. Can you imagine such a thing?


  4. Can Bell’s position really by that surprising? For decades, even evangelical Christians have been letting the world mold their conceptions of key Biblical teachings.
    ‘In Testaments of Love, Leon Morris asks, “How do we
    harmonize the assurance that ‘God is love’ with the assertion
    that ‘our God is a consuming fire’? Most of us never
    think about such problems, and in the end our idea of love is
    indistinguishable from that of the world around us.”’ [from Love, Prayer and Forgiveness: When Basics Become Heresies, amazon link ]

    That was thirty years ago! Little has been done since then to reclaim the basics of Christian faith in the life of the everyday Christian.

    Morris’s book never caught on.


    • Hi Micheal Snow

      Here is an excerpt that makes sense to me. Quote taken from Grace to You Blog.
      From the outset, let’s acknowledge that Hell is a hard doctrine to digest—perhaps the hardest doctrine. It stretches our puny human minds to comprehend how divine justice responds to human guilt. We naturally resist the idea of God tormenting human beings in a lake of fire for all eternity. If you’ve never struggled with those issues, you’ve probably not thought deeply or seriously enough about Hell. If you have struggled, you’re not alone; some of God’s choicest saints have shared your experience:

      Jonathan Edwards wrote of Hell:

      This doctrine is indeed awful and dreadful. It is dreadful to think of it, but yet tis what God the eternal God who made us and who has us soul and body in his hands has abundantly declared unto us, so that so sure as God is true there will absolutely be no end to the misery of hell. (“Concerning the Endless Punishment of those who die Impenitent”).

      Spurgeon said from his pulpit:

      Until we know the power of divine grace, we read in the Bible concerning eternal punishment, and we think it is too heavy and too hard, and we are apt to kick against it, and find out some heretic or other who teaches us another doctrine; but when the soul is really quickened by divine grace, and made to feel the weight of sin, it thinks the bottomless pit none too deep, and the punishment of hell none too severe for sin such as it has committed. (“Confession of Sin Illustrated by the Cases of Dr. Pritchard and Constance Kent”)

      John MacArthur had this to say about preaching on the subject of Hell:

      This truth of eternal punishment to come on those who do not believe the Gospel savingly is a painful message to preach. I can give you testimony to that. It is not only a painful message to preach, it is a painful message to hear. It is a painful message to process. It is a painful truth to apply, but it is biblical. (“A Testimony of One Surprised to Be in Hell,” Part 1: 42-212)

      One factor contributing to the difficulty of pondering hell is that we all probably know someone especially resistant to the gospel—a parent, child, neighbor, or friend—who at the same time lives an outwardly moral life, exhibits kindness, engages in acts of philanthropy, gives to charity, someone who is the model of the ideal citizen. Imagining that person as the object of God’s eternal wrath makes hell seem even more unbearable.

      And maybe that’s part of the problem. When the subject of Hell comes up, we often think of others—and not ourselves. C. S. Lewis, no stranger to the difficulty of Hell himself, once wrote, “In all discussions of hell we should keep steadily before our eyes the possible damnation, not of our enemies nor our friends…but of ourselves.”

      It’s important to keep that in mind. The biblical context for Hell and final judgment is often an address to professing believers or an epistle to the church, not a fiery sermon aimed at atheists and murderers. So the next time you hear a message on Hell, or read about Hell in Scripture, think of your own fate first, then consider your family and neighbors.


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