Erasing Hell 3

[Notice: You will want to read this whole post. There’s a surprise at the end.]

I’ve been blogging on the soon-to-be released book by Francis Chan and Preston Sprinkle Erasing Hell: What God said about eternity, and the things we made up. In this last post, I want to touch on a subject whose treatment was tantalizing brief: the duration of hell.

F & P in chapter 2 present what can be pieced together of the ancient Jewish view on hell at the time of Jesus. They present three ideas that were common among Jews at the time:

  1. Hell is a place of punishment after judgment.
  2. Hell is described in imagery of fire and darkness, where people lament.
  3. Hell is a place of annihilation or never-ending punishment.

The third in the list is interesting. Second Temple Jewish writers were ambivalent on the question of the duration of hell, some suggesting annihilation others unending punishment.

Then, in the third chapter, F & P turn to the teaching of Jesus in order to compare Jesus with the other Jewish teachers of the time. In general, they conclude “Jesus agreed with His Jewish contemporaries about the realities of hell” (pg 97). So what about the issue of annihilation versus unending punishment? F & P observe that both ideas are present in the teaching of Jesus. They write,

“In almost every passage where Jesus mentions hell, He doesn’t explicitly say that it will last forever. He speaks of torment, and we get the impression that hell is terrible, that it’s a place to be avoided at all costs, but He doesn’t clearly tell us how long it will last” (pg. 81).

However, they point to the “most suggestive statement—perhaps the only statement” about the duration of hell in Matthew 25:41-46.

Now those who read Love Wins will remember that this was an important passage for Rob too. If we were to vote on whose exegesis is better and whose conclusions then are sounder, F & P would win by a landslide. This is a very good explanation of the meaning of aionios kolasis “everlasting punishment” (25:45-46).

So after discussing the meaning of the phrase, they conclude

“The debate about hell’s duration is much more complex than I first assumed. While I lean heavily on the side of that says it is everlasting, I am not ready to claim that with complete certainty” (pg. 86).

I appreciate this humble approach and their lack of dogmatism on this issue. I think is attitude is indicative of the book’s tone. Let’s state this in the form of a question:

Is it appropriate for evangelicals to take a different view on the question of hell’s duration than the traditional view of unending punishment?

I think I would state my view in a similar manner as F & P have. While I lean toward the unending punishment view, primarily because it’s how the church has understood Jesus’ teaching, I’m somewhat agnostic at this point. I hope soon to read Edward Fudge’s very recently revised and updated The Fire That Consumes: A Biblical and Historical Study of the Doctrine of Final Punishment. 3rd edition, fully updated, revised and expanded.

Ok, now for the surprise. I have 9 copies of Erasing Hell to give away to the first 9 people who provide me with their email addresses.

  • Chad Bradford
  • Chad Bradford
  • Pamela

    Thank you for blogging about this new book! I heard so much hype about Rob Bell’s book and have heard little about Erasing Hell–aside from your blogs. From what you’ve written, it sounds like it is well written, will be a reliable source and gets right to the difficult issues surrounding hell. I am looking forward to reading it!

    myerspamelal@aol.com

    -Pamela Myers
    (NPU ’08)

  • Pamela

    Thank you for blogging about this new book! I heard so much hype about Rob Bell’s book and have heard little about Erasing Hell–aside from your blogs. From what you’ve written, it sounds like it is well written, will be a reliable source and gets right to the difficult issues surrounding hell. I am looking forward to reading it!

    myerspamelal@aol.com

    -Pamela Myers
    (NPU ’08)

  • http://twitter.com/noellebellphoto Noelle Bell

    Joel,

    I’d love a copy of the book. nbellphotos@gmail.com.

    An old friend,
    Noelle (Wilson) Bell

    Hope all is well with and your family!

  • http://twitter.com/noellebellphoto Noelle Bell

    Joel,

    I’d love a copy of the book. nbellphotos@gmail.com.

    An old friend,
    Noelle (Wilson) Bell

    Hope all is well with and your family!

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_CKUQAI2MSLVDW2V3UT77VHV534 Eric

    Count me in -

    papaweiss1@yahoo.com

    I love The Faith of Jesus Christ, so I’m eager to read anything Sprinkle or Bird writes.

    Eric Weiss (I’ll give you my mailing address when you email me)

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_CKUQAI2MSLVDW2V3UT77VHV534 Eric

      Thanks for the book! :)

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_CKUQAI2MSLVDW2V3UT77VHV534 Eric

    Count me in -

    papaweiss1@yahoo.com

    I love The Faith of Jesus Christ, so I’m eager to read anything Sprinkle or Bird writes.

    Eric Weiss (I’ll give you my mailing address when you email me)

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_CKUQAI2MSLVDW2V3UT77VHV534 Eric

      Thanks for the book! :)

  • Nick Nowalk

    I’d love one! nick.nowalk@gmail.com

  • Nick Nowalk

    I’d love one! nick.nowalk@gmail.com

  • Ken

    kenmattson29@yahoo.com :) love to read a copy!

  • Ken

    kenmattson29@yahoo.com :) love to read a copy!

  • Pvl
  • Pvl
  • Justin B.

    Please add me to the list! jboulmay@gmail.com

  • Justin B.

    Please add me to the list! jboulmay@gmail.com

  • Justin B.

    I’m not entering my name twice. I just wanted to say thanks for offering free copies of this book!

  • Justin B.

    I’m not entering my name twice. I just wanted to say thanks for offering free copies of this book!

  • Jeansebastien Hubert

    Hi,
    I would like a copy
    jeansebastien.hubert@gmail.com

  • Jeansebastien Hubert

    Hi,
    I would like a copy
    jeansebastien.hubert@gmail.com

  • M Allen
  • M Allen
  • M Allen
  • EBS
  • EBS
  • EBS
  • Tim Emmett

    I’d love a copy.

    pastor.flippenumc@gmail.com

    Tim Emmett

  • Tim Emmett

    I’d love a copy.

    pastor.flippenumc@gmail.com

    Tim Emmett

  • Anonymous

    OK. That’s nine from Hubert! Congrats to those who responded. I’ll be passing your emails directly to the publisher David C. Cook.

  • Anonymous

    OK. That’s nine from Hubert! Congrats to those who responded. I’ll be passing your emails directly to the publisher David C. Cook.

  • Pingback: Joel Willitts

  • Pingback: Noelle Bell

  • Jjl

    OH, shoot! This book has been popping up everywhere for me. Know God is getting my attention. Need to read it! Thanks for blog insights!

  • Jjl

    OH, shoot! This book has been popping up everywhere for me. Know God is getting my attention. Need to read it! Thanks for blog insights!

  • Jeansebastien Hubert

    Hi Joel,
    Thank you very much for the book, really appreciate
    Thanks

  • Jeansebastien Hubert

    Hi Joel,
    Thank you very much for the book, really appreciate
    Thanks

  • John Smuts

    Meh.

    I’m too late.

    Turns out it was works, not grace after all.

    The last shall be … last.

  • John Smuts

    Meh.

    I’m too late.

    Turns out it was works, not grace after all.

    The last shall be … last.

  • Anonymous

    We talk about a monthly paycheck but we don’t talk about a monthly month. Why is this? It is because the word MONTH in itself tells about the duration of that time period.

    In the same way we talk about “eternal life” in a very strange way. In the Bible there are expressions that talk about “eternal life” and the word here in the Greek is transliterated ZOE for the English word LIFE. ZOE life is immortal life. There are other occurrences in the Bible using the word LIFE which are not ZOE life and have a different Strong’s number. ZOE has the number 2222.

    So what does “eternal life” mean? It really means “eternal eternal life” and that is stupid – just as stupid as saying “monthly month” or “weekly week” – you get my drift now? There is no need to put the English adjective “eternal” in front of life that is ZOE life because ZOE life in itself is immortal life (“eternal” life)… but it is done many times in the King James Bible and others too.

    The word before life is not “eternal” it is “EONIAN” which is the adjective of the word EON. EON is an AGE which has a beginning and an ending point in time even when the duration of the time is not generally known or is very, very long or even is known – such as the Millennial age of 1000 years. So the adjective, EONIAN, is forced to have the meaning of a limited time period and is never expressing endlessness PERIOD. (English grammar 101)

    EONIAN has the Strong’s number of 166 and the Strong’s number for EON is 165.

    I can provide all the verses where ZOE is and where it is not where the English word LIFE shows up. I can show you the Strong’s number for the words involved too. Are you interested? Dig out your own concordance and see for yourself. Write to me k7vhq@earthlink.net

  • Anonymous

    We talk about a monthly paycheck but we don’t talk about a monthly month. Why is this? It is because the word MONTH in itself tells about the duration of that time period.

    In the same way we talk about “eternal life” in a very strange way. In the Bible there are expressions that talk about “eternal life” and the word here in the Greek is transliterated ZOE for the English word LIFE. ZOE life is immortal life. There are other occurrences in the Bible using the word LIFE which are not ZOE life and have a different Strong’s number. ZOE has the number 2222.

    So what does “eternal life” mean? It really means “eternal eternal life” and that is stupid – just as stupid as saying “monthly month” or “weekly week” – you get my drift now? There is no need to put the English adjective “eternal” in front of life that is ZOE life because ZOE life in itself is immortal life (“eternal” life)… but it is done many times in the King James Bible and others too.

    The word before life is not “eternal” it is “EONIAN” which is the adjective of the word EON. EON is an AGE which has a beginning and an ending point in time even when the duration of the time is not generally known or is very, very long or even is known – such as the Millennial age of 1000 years. So the adjective, EONIAN, is forced to have the meaning of a limited time period and is never expressing endlessness PERIOD. (English grammar 101)

    EONIAN has the Strong’s number of 166 and the Strong’s number for EON is 165.

    I can provide all the verses where ZOE is and where it is not where the English word LIFE shows up. I can show you the Strong’s number for the words involved too. Are you interested? Dig out your own concordance and see for yourself. Write to me k7vhq@earthlink.net

  • Anonymous

    Oh, yes… EONIAN life is life of the ages. God made the ages as we see in Heb 1:2. Not “worlds” but AGES (plural) Strong’s number 165 and the adjective of that noun is EONIAN. If you block you mind up to believe in ETERNAL HELL there is nothing I can say to change your mind. Only the grace of God can. See you on the other side one day and we will have a laugh about our stupidity in this life.

  • Anonymous

    Oh, yes… EONIAN life is life of the ages. God made the ages as we see in Heb 1:2. Not “worlds” but AGES (plural) Strong’s number 165 and the adjective of that noun is EONIAN. If you block you mind up to believe in ETERNAL HELL there is nothing I can say to change your mind. Only the grace of God can. See you on the other side one day and we will have a laugh about our stupidity in this life.

  • IReceived

    bobwtodd. Not sure if you are trying to parody something or someone. If you are, then good job. If not, I have some observations.

    It is ironic because in the above post the writer had acknowledged the attitude of F & P in taking the humble approach and their lack of dogmatism on the above issue, and you are doing the exact opposite to press home your point, albeit arguable (not the issue here is it).

    I am keen to explore your logic but I end up with a strange configuration on John 3:16 -For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have “not eternal” “eternal life”.

  • IReceived

    bobwtodd. Not sure if you are trying to parody something or someone. If you are, then good job. If not, I have some observations.

    It is ironic because in the above post the writer had acknowledged the attitude of F & P in taking the humble approach and their lack of dogmatism on the above issue, and you are doing the exact opposite to press home your point, albeit arguable (not the issue here is it).

    I am keen to explore your logic but I end up with a strange configuration on John 3:16 -For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have “not eternal” “eternal life”.

  • Dad22boys

    Great post

  • Dad22boys

    Great post

  • Giles C Sieburg
  • Giles C Sieburg
  • Jsquiggles23

    Utterly ridiculous. It’s funny that Rob Bell is the biased one, yet in all of these “responses” the “traditionalists” still can’t separate themselves from their own biases. This book and the others are what happens when Christians fail to realize the limitations of scripture and scriptural interpretation. We should all have a humble viewpoint on the afterlife since none of us know for sure.

    • http://johngreenview.wordpress.com/ John Thomson

      We should be humble even silent in our viewpoint where Scripture is silent or unclear. Where it is clear we should be firm and the issue is nothing to do with humility but is about faithfulness and integrity.

      In my view the evidence for unending punishment is all too frighteningly clear.

  • Traeco

    Hell was something that was going to happen in the first century.

    Matthew 23:33  Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?
    34  ¶Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city:
    35  That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar.
    36  Verily I say unto you, All these things shall come upon this generation.
    37  O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!
    38  Behold, your house is left unto you desolate.

    All those things, including gehenna, were coming upon that generation, as verse 36 says. They would be killed and thrown into the garbage dump, gehenna.

  • Traeco

    Hell was something that was going to happen in the first century.

    Matthew 23:33  Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?
    34  ¶Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city:
    35  That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar.
    36  Verily I say unto you, All these things shall come upon this generation.
    37  O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!
    38  Behold, your house is left unto you desolate.

    All those things, including gehenna, were coming upon that generation, as verse 36 says. They would be killed and thrown into the garbage dump, gehenna.

  • http://www.jesusourpeace.com Thomas Dohling

    Edwin Fudge? Edward Fudge is the author of the book, “The Fire That Consumes…”

  • http://www.jesusourpeace.com Thomas Dohling

    Edwin Fudge? Edward Fudge is the author of the book, “The Fire That Consumes…”

  • http://johngreenview.wordpress.com/ John Thomson

    We should be humble even silent viewpoint about that where Scripture is silent or unclear. Where it is clear we should be firm and the issue is nothing to do with humility but is about faithfulness and integrity.

    In my view the evidence for unending punishment is all too frighteningly clear.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Scott-Arnold/1138810315 Scott Arnold

    Guess I’ll just wait and borrow yours. ; )

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Scott-Arnold/1138810315 Scott Arnold

    Guess I’ll just wait and borrow yours. ; )


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