This week and the next, the subject of ‘hell’ will be featured prominently in the spotlight of the Christian world. Three books have recently been published in the Dutch language, particularly because of the success within the English-speaking world of the book “Love Wins”, by Rob Bell. Today, at the initiative of the EO (Evangelische Omroep) and the ND (Nederlands Dagblad), a study will be published on what Christians believe concerning hell. And for next week Thursday evening, a debate is to be held, organized by the same clubs. That is also the limitation of the debate, because no opportunity will be provided for a sound, Biblical perspective on this topic. True, the book by Rob Bell will be defended, but anyone believing that Johan ter Beek will bring the biblical vision into the spotlight, will be disappointed. Today, he gave a shot across the bow in the ND, but got no further than: “we need to stimulate our imagination again” … In an announcement of the EO [a Dutch evangelical radio and television station;WJ], we read the following:
The existence of hell and the question whether it still conveys a message to people is central to a special theme-broadcast.
Whether or not hell still conveys a message to people is completely uninteresting, at least, such it is for someone who is looking for the truth. “What does Scripture say?” That is the question! The approach of the EO and the ND is typical of organizations for whom the feelings of the grassroots are normative. Bread-eating prophets, the Bible calls them. The EO continues:
The reason for the discussion is whether people, for all times, will be punished in an eternal hell or that people, even after death, will have a second chance.
Three concepts ,expressed in one sentence, make the confusion evident!
1. “Eternal” is in Scripture: eonian, i.e., pertaining to an eon/s. Eons are time periods that have a begin (“before the aeons”) and an end (“consummation of the eons”). The second coming of Christ is not the beginning of an endless eternity, but the beginning of “the oncoming eons”. Because translations have been trying to translate this away, the average Bible reader has no longer any idea of “things to come.”
2. The same applies to the concept of “hell“, which we encounter in our Bible translations. That word goes back to the word Gehenna, which is the valley of Hinnom near Jerusalem. That is generally well known, but this information is ignored. When Jesus spoke of Gehenna, He was referring to the last verses of Isaiah, which foretold that in the coming Kingdom, in that valley of Hinnom, will be seen the decomposition of the carcases of ungodly men. Whoever wants to make of this specific, geographic location and prediction a mythological hell, is guilty of gross deception.
3. The Bible teaches no “second chance“, nor a first chance, either. God, surely and purposefully, will save all, but “each in his own order.” The judgment at the great white throne (Rev.20) is a disciplinary judging, i.e., everything will be set right. “Affliction and distress, will come on every human soul which is effecting evil”, Paul wrote (Rom.2:9). For everyone, whose name does not appear in the book of life, will be awaiting “the second death”. When death, as the last enemy, will be nullified, and everyone of humanity will be made alive (beyond the reach of death), only then will GOD become “all in all” (1Cor.15:22-28). This is not a chance, but a certainty!
The American author, Rob Bell, says that the love of God is so great that we cannot exclude [i.e., a second chance after death; AP], in advance.
Rob Bell has successfully managed to throw a club in the Christian chicken coop. He has asked probing questions … but he gave no answers. Rob Bell does not proclaim that “God is the Saviour of all men”. He believes only “that we cannot rule this out, in advance”. With this we should be content, it seems. It looks risky what the EO ventures to do next week. Wlll then again, the tough answers, straight from Scripture, be jealously kept outside the door?
Translation: Peter Feddema