Does hell exist? Are biblical references to it just metaphoric? And if it does exist, what are the implications for our everyday life?
Francis Chan addresses these issues in his new book: Erasing Hell. He co-wrote the book with Dr. Preston Sprinkle (best name ever!) I love Francis Chan’s writing mostly because of the zeal that He has for God, not just in the things he says, but in the way that he lives his life. He is not afraid to live out the things he teaches; in fact I dare say, he is afraid not to.
Erasing Hell is only an exception to this in the sections that Dr. Sprinkle (still the best name ever!) helped write, and it’s fairly easy to tell where he jumps in because instead of focusing on God and how we should live for God in light of the issue of hell, he focuses on history and context.
These things aren’t bad, and I learned some things for them. For instance there is no record of the Gehanna Valley being a city dump for trash and corpses with fires that burned continuously. That idea doesn’t even appear until the 13th century from a European rabbi trying to dispel Christian thought on the idea of hell. The references Jesus makes to Gehanna is in reference to the Jewish 1st century understanding of hell as punishment after judgment, which is evidenced in other Jewish writing of the time.
And that’s a good thing to know. Jesus is talking about a real, honest to goodness, fire and brimstone, hell. Nothing else. But it’s Francis’ parts of the book that make the idea of hell less abstract.
He talks about how sometimes he thinks about his grandmother who denied Christ until her death and how much sorrow he feels knowing that she is probably spending eternity in hell. He talks about how he was sitting in a coffee shop writing this book, and when he looked up and saw all the people sitting in front of him, he realized they might all be going to hell too. And how he had to stop writing and talk to them about Jesus.
This is the rub isn’t it?
If you believe there is a hell, and that your friends and family, coworkers, peers at school, teachers, your boss, the wait staff at the restaurant, the guy on the street corner, anyone who doesn’t know Christ may be heading there, how can you go on with life as usual. The only way to do it is to push thoughts of hell out of your mind, and just send all those people on to their eternity.
Is that loving others as you love yourself? Is that loving God with all your heart, soul, and strength?
I recommend the book, but don’t get if you’re just looking for some more knowledge about the subject. Get it if you want to gain the heart of Christ when it comes to hell and the multitudes trekking blindly towards it everyday.