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Monday, March 28, 2011

Is Hell Real?

Pastor Rob Bell has written a book, Love Wins, to debate the traditional theological view that hell exists as a place of eternal torment. According to him, the traditional teaching about hell is “misguided and toxic and ultimately subverts the contagious spread of Jesus' message of love, peace, forgiveness and joy that our world desperately needs to hear."

But isn’t the message of Jesus’ love and forgiveness desperately needed because hell is real and Jesus demonstrated indescribable, self-sacrificing love to save us from hell? Isn’t that same message priceless because all who welcome it and believe on Jesus are bound for heaven instead of hell?

I probably won’t read Rob Bell’s book. As you can tell, my mind is already made up. I believe hell is a real place of punishment. Some readers may find Rob Bell’s book persuasive, but the book that persuaded me to believe in hell is much older and far more reliable that Bell’s. As a matter of fact, it is infallible and fully authoritative. It is the Bible.

The Bible doesn’t quote Rob Bell, but it quotes Jesus. Jesus described hell as a place of eternal fire (Matthew 18:8, 9). He also said He would consign unbelievers to “eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (25:41).

Of course the devil and his angels won’t share royalties from the sale of Love Wins, but don’t you think they will be working hard to promote it?

Revelation 20:10-15 describes the Great White Throne Judgment of all unbelievers. Verse 15 predicts: “If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.”

For me, the belief that hell exists as a place of eternal, conscious suffering springs from my belief that the Bible is God’s verbally inspired Word. I also believe in plenary inspiration, that all parts of the Bible are equally inspired. I can’t air-condition hell or deny its existence without cutting certain passages from the same book that tells us “God so loved the world, that He gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

I’m glad God’s love won me, and Jesus saved me from eternal hell.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Barking Christians

Our three little dogs, Molly, Rosie, and Sadie go wild when a dog appears on TV. They charge across the room, stop just short of the TV screen, and bark for all their worth. When I switch channels, they must think the dog left the family room and retreated to the back yard, because they rush to the back yard in search of the TV dog.

Barking at a canine TV image is like barking at the wrong crowd, something far too many Christians do. They show up at a church business meeting and make themselves obnoxious by barking about a new expenditure or policy. They criticize the board’s leadership or complain about something the pastor either did or should have done. The slightest proposed change to the church constitution drives them wild. They crank up their barking to unbearable decibels.

These are the same people who phone or email others to bark about the visitors who had the audacity to sit in their seats last Sunday. Wiggling kids or giggling teens are also targeted for barking.

Like our dogs’ attacks on harmless TV images, barking Christians almost always attack the wrong crowd. The devil is the foe they need to confront. Instead of wasting energy and time by venting grievances against fellow believers, they should join forces to oppose the devil and his evil actions.

The apostle Paul decried the senseless barking that was evident in the churches of Galatia. He warned, “If you keep biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other” (Galatians 5:15). He urged the Galatian believers to “love your neighbor as yourself” (v. 14).

Surely the best anti-bark remedy for disruptive Christians is a little bit of love.

—Adapted from Meditations for Dog Lovers by Jim Dyet, © 2005, published by AMG Publishers/Living Ink Books