Brian D. McLaren, author of A New Kind of Christianity and Naked Spirituality writes; “In Love Wins, Rob Bell tackles the old heaven-and-hell question and offers a courageous alternative answer. Thousands of readers will find freedom and hope and a new way of understanding the biblical story - from beginning to end.” [amazon review] A new way of understanding the biblcial story? Did God intend for us to create a “courageous alternative answer” to the heaven and hell question? If only we understood that the Word of God is just that- God's Word. It is God speaking to man. "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.[John 1:1]" It is God instructing man; "For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.[Romans 15:4] "God gave it to us because He wanted us to have hope. Not hope in a "new alternative answer" Hope; in what was already written. But, if, as Rob Bell believes, God is all inclusive, universal and all paths lead to Him without us even doing anything to get there, then, why do we need any hope at all? It would be wonderful to be able to say that many paths lead to God. But the fact is that Jesus said: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. [John 14:6]" Far too many people find this statement offensive and too hard to believe. They want God without Jesus or the cross. But, First John 2:23 says; "Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father either; he who acknowledges the Son has the Father also." and John 3:36 says: "He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him." The wrath of God? The word "wrath" is a pretty strong word. The definition of this word being "strong, stern, or fierce anger; deeply resentfulindignation; ire." [dictionary.com] This stirs up another pondering thought of Pastor Bell's book; if God is Love then how can He be an angry God? Love and anger just don't seem to mix, do they? After all, that seems to go against God's nature, doesn't it? Pastor Bell asserts that because God is love, He could never create hell as a place of eternal punishment. So, no one is going to hell. It's going to be an empty place. Because love wouldn't do that to anyone. Hell is here, on earth, now. Was God just kidding when He wrote about His wrath and judgment? Has God changed His mind about what He said regarding eternal life and the choice we need to make about where we want to spend eternity? Maybe God's not wrong about what He said about hell, maybe we are wrong in our interpretation of what He said. And maybe hell isn't the only thing we are wrong about.
Could it possibly be that we don't understand love, correctly? Might it be that our minds just can't comprehend what REAL love-the Love of God, looks like? We live in a society that views love as: feelings, sexual, material and nonconsequential. God's love is far different. His love is based on giving: "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.[John 3:16]" On obedience; " For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome.[1 John 5:3]" On mercy: "But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.[Jude 1:20-21]" On justice; "For the Lord loves justice and does not forsake His saints.[Psalm 37:28a]" "He is the Rock, His work is perfect; For all His ways are justice, A God of truth and without injustice; Righteous and upright is He.[Deuteronomy 32:4]" When we read about God being a Just God, or hear about his wrath, naturally we can become fearful. But, First John 4:18 tells us that "There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear." Oh that we would learn to love as He loves. His love is so balanced, so perfect, if we could only wrap our minds around the beauty of it! Then we might better understand real love.
Unforunately, we don't want to see a God of Justice. We want to believe in a God that loves like we love and that's not the truth of Who God is. He is a Just God with righteousness and justice being the foundation of His throne [Psalm 97:2] and when we deny that we bring forth the wrath of God. "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. [Romans 1:18-19]" Sometimes His mercy even gives way to judgment. It happened with the Israelites and they were His chosen people. [Joshua 11:20] If it can happen to them, what makes us think it can't happen to us?We must be very careful with our interpretations of the Bible. We are warned not to add to or take away from His Word. "For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Bookof Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.[Revelation 22:18-19]" I understand that it would make life easier on us if we could do whatever we wanted and still have God in the end. But, know what? That's not how it works. Whether we like it or not. We should take heed to Paul's words: "But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. For if he who comes preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or if you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted—you may well put up with it![2 Corinthians 11:3-5]" Once again that 'ol serpent is back whispering; "Did God really say"?? And when we allow ourselves to ponder that question for too long- we tend to want to change the book.
I am not good in math. In fact, I am terrible in math. I struggled with math throughout my entire education, kindergarten through graduation. I’m pretty sure that my sixth grade math teacher, Mr. Heslick, got so frustrated with my inability to comprehend his math problems, that he just passed me to get rid of me. Ninth grade Algebra? Oh algebra, how I did not like you! Mr. Priest did the best he could but, I think he did the same thing Mr. Heslick did. Passed me with a 65. The only reason I passed Business math is because I had Pat's book. He had taken the class before me and couldn’t resist my begging (crying, pleading) for his help, so he gave me his book. Why am I confessing my lack of math skills to you? The sins of my stealing a math book? No one changed the math book for me. No one ever told me that I didn’t have to come up with the right answer. 2 + 2 always equaled 4. I could say that it equaled 5, but that didn’t mean that it really did equal 5. It didn’t matter if I couldn’t understand the "formula" that correctly solved it. There was only one correct answer to the problem and it was my job to look at the examples that were written for me, listen to the instructors that had wisdom to teach me and trust that whoever had written the math book, knew what they were talking about. I may not have liked math. I may not have liked what the instructors had to say but that didn’t change the fact that it was good for me to learn and understand. I may never completely understand how the formulas work to solve a math problem, but somehow they work! The same can be said about God’s Word. We may not like what is said to us because it goes against our nature. It is hard to understand the "formula", and honestly, we like our sin. It feels good to us, it's easier to give in to our flesh than to deny it. But God has promised us that His ways are not too hard for us, nor are they out of reach for us. [Deuteronomy 30:11] God knows the formula- He created it. Our job is to trust in it.Rob Bell says that in the end Love Wins. Well, I believe that Love has already won. Love won when God refused to give up on His people. Love won when God sent His One and Only Son to die. His blood was the Atonement for all of mans sins. Mine and Yours. Every sin was put on Jesus Christ at the Cross. For those who choose Him- eternal life. For those who don't- separation. I know it's a hard truth to swallow but ultimately the decision is ours alone to make. Once we make the choice that we want Christ and all He died to give us, we have this incredible promise; "Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. [Romans 8: 37 & 38]" Love won when God breathed His Life into His Word that allowed us to know Him so intimately."For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.[Hebrews 4:12]" Love won when He sent His Holy Spirit to live inside of man and make it possible for us to change and become new creations. "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.[2 Corinthians 5:17]"
Yep. Love Won.