I know I’m quite late on the bandwagon of commentators of Rob Bell’s “Love Wins” book, but I had a conversation with someone that made me think about it. A lot.
I didn’t quite share my understanding of the book, so I thought: Let’s make my next book review about something controversial.
Just a foreword: If you’re looking for a hate post that dismisses “Love Wins” as a blasphemous book with half-truths in it, look somewhere else. For me, it was one of the books that transformed the way I see God and built His love into the foundation of my being.
Hell has been banished
There was a moment in Love Wins where the traditional concept and idea of Hell was shattered completely. I had this idea that only an exclusive handful of people, who believed the right set of things, got to enter the password at the end of their life and enter Heaven.
This concept though had its challenges for me.
Some of the questions that started popping up were:
- What about the billions of people who didn’t know the password? (So to speak).
- Is a good God really going to punish people who has never had the opportunity to learn what the password is?
- What if my password isn’t quite right, and I have a couple of characters missing?
Rob Bell systematically unpacked the scriptures and placed them in the Hebrew context. So, I can’t put my finger on the parts that broke this open for me, but there was a peace and surety that came in that moment after following the scriptures and the train of thought.
I ultimately understood that there is no Hell. Only Heaven where God reigns over all peoples and creatures in a way that is harmonious and perfect.
That brought a deep, deep sense of relief and freedom from a lot of worries I had about the nature of God (and the afterlife).
Hold on, no Hell? Why follow Jesus?
Good news everybody! (I think). Truth cuts both ways.
In the same moment that the image of Hell was broken, I received a good and solid injection of fear of the Lord (yes, fear. Wisdom starts at fear, not “healthy respect”).
I had a revelation of what Heaven will be like – God’s perfect reign over all creatures where they do His will out of love and in submission. This revelation made me realise that I would be in a spot of trouble if I had to enter Heaven at this moment.
Please understand that I don’t think I would be excluded, I know that the righteousness of Christ has been transferred to me through His sacrifice. I know that part of that sacrifice, through very mysterious ways, things in my life changes because of it. I know that I am saved by faith, through grace.
But I also know that there will be some bits of God’s perfect reign I’ll have trouble with. And that is why I need to take following Jesus seriously. It’s why I need to deal with my sin and why I want to follow Jesus.
Why Heaven can be a Hellish place
So, imagine if you will, a place where there is no greed allowed. The type of place where the produce of the earth is shared equally, so that everyone will have no more than they need, and where no one will have less than what they need.
If I were to enter this place with an unwillingness to give up on my desire to have more than I need (aka greed), I’ll likely feel as if I am in hell. In this hellish place I’ll likely walk away from God and his perfect kingdom.
I’ll also use racism as an example. If I entertain the racism in my heart, where my wilful choice is to always see another race as inferior to mine, I will not like Heaven all that much.
I’ll walk in there, see people from the race that I hate and will, by choice, walk away from God and His perfect kingdom (Heaven).
See the pattern? God’s Kingdom is perfect and follows His laws. The problem in the picture isn’t the place He created and rules over, but the things in my heart I choose over His Kingdom.
And every time I choose to walk away from community and fellowship from God, God will let me because He will not override the very thing that He has given me to love Him. Every time I say, “My will be done”, He will let it be done so.
As He lets my will be done, I will create a place of teeth gnashing and loneliness (unquenchable thirst) for myself. It will be my little kingdom, where I’m Queen and it will be a very, very miserable place.
That is why Heaven scares me a little, and that’s a good thing because I’ve stopped taking my sin with a pinch of salt.
It’s a good book. There is the pitfall where people could take sin less seriously because they’ve only gleaned the purpose of the book without digging into what the whole truth is.
I’d recommend it to anyone who has difficulties with the traditional views of Heaven and Hell.
If you’re done reading it, and you’re not left with a deep sense of freedom that includes a reverent, fearful, awe of the Lord, chuck what you’ve read in the bin.
Another good book to read for a good view on Heaven is The Great Divorce by CS Lewis. These two (Love Wins and the Great Divorce) has shaped the thoughts I’ve shared in this post.