First I want to tell you what I think:
Jesus Christ is the best person for erasing hell. He has been erasing hell for people, one person at a time, for a long time, and He is very good at it!
This is a quick read written mainly by Preston Sprinkle and not Francis Chan. It is worth reading because it is a good Bible Study and reflection on 2 important questions
1. How could a loving God send people to hell – a place of torture – forever and ever? The short answer is God doesn’t have to do what we want him to do, which is not to send the people we love to hell, and he doesn’t have to give us a reason (see Romans 9).
2. Will people have a chance after they die to believe in Jesus and go to heaven? Francis Chan does not unequivocally answers this question in either direction, but says that it is not responsible to give this question an absolutely Yes answer:
“So where Do I land?
The Debate about hell’s duration is much more complex than I first assumed. While I lean heavily on the side that says it is everlasting, I am not ready to claim this with complete certainty. I encourage you to continue researching, but don’t get caught up on this debate that you miss the point of what Jesus was trying to communicate. I even deleted several pages that I wrote about the issue because I feared it would distract from the heat of Christ’s message.” (p. 86)
Francis, I am curious about your missing pages, and if you will send them to me I promise to give you more stars in my review! And I will not be distracted or fail to miss the point of what Jesus was trying to communicate!
The other really helpful thing I got from this book is that there are different kinds of Universalism. There is (1) non-Christian Universalism that claims that there are many ways to get to heaven besides Christ (Jesus taught there is only one way to heaven – through Him John 14:6). (2) Hopeful Christian Universalism that hopes that everyone will go to heaven by believing in Jesus Christ as the only way to get there, but perhaps because of free will some will choose eternal hell, and (3) Dogmatic Christian Universalism – that teaches that every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord (phil 2:10). Everyone will end up in heaven. The Bible says it. I believe it. The book does an adequate job of knocking down dogmatic Christian Universalism (by looking at each verse) and the New Testament does not teach non-Christian Universalism, so that only leaves us with hopeful universalism. He rejects hopeful universalism as bad spiritual advice that is not backed up by the urgent message of repentance in view of the coming of God’s Kingdom. Teaching hopeful christian universalism could damn people to hell if they use that as an excuse for ignoring believing in Christ today.
There is one verse he did leave out which I wish he hadn’t – baptism for the dead in 1 Cor 15:29. Paul, who is sometimes difficult to understand, throws out some rhetorical questions about whether if the dead are not raised, why are you getting baptized for them? Could the Corinthians have believed that somehow getting baptized for their dead unbaptized relatives could effect their eternal destinies? The reason I thought of that is that he says “No passage in the Bible says that there will be a second chance after death to turn to Jesus”
This book has many good things to recommend it but Crazy Love was much better. I got through this entire review without mentioning Rob Bell! (oops)