Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Death for the Christian

Three seemingly random thoughts...

1)  My middle daughter loves to read Revelation.  Revelation?  Really?  Yes, really.  I'm not exactly sure why, but it may have something to do with how much she loves the Chronicles of Narnia, if I were to wager a guess.  

2)  A friend of mine told me that her mom's pastor doesn't believe in Hell and preaches that if you are a good person, you'll go to heaven.  My friend was concerned about new believers who hear this message.

3)  A few years ago, Rob Bell wrote Love Wins created quite a stir by proclaiming that God would not send people to hell, or at least only a very few.  He proclaimed that a loving God would not send people to Hell.  What he actually believes is difficult to pinpoint, because he is known for making unclear and evasive statements.

Three thoughts that all link together because of a common thread--hell and death.  Is there really a hell?  What does it look like?  What does the Bible say about it?  Everyone has questions.  Some people I know leave them at the Lord's feet and trust God with what they don't understand.  Some people I know dig into the Word to find what it says about hell and death.  Some people like me, simply feel puzzled.

Because of my quandary and uncertainty of how to explain death to my children, I was interested in a new book a friend recommended to me, written by Michael Allen Rogers.  The title of the book is 
What Happens After I Die?  The book is the compilation of a sermon series that he preached to the congregation of Westminster Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.  

This is a pretty deep book.  I learned a lot from it, though.  This book is a sound response to the liberal theology of Rob Bell and others that is getting a lot of press.  Rogers begins by examining the Old Testament idea of hell and then moves on to what the New Testament says.  He examines the claims of folks who believe there is no hell or that hell is not everlasting--that there is a one time punishment (annihilation).    Finally, he examines what the Bible says about children and hell.  

For me, this is a reference book.  I have so much going on that it is difficult for me to sit and process all of the information in it.  For this reason, it has taken me several months to get around to reading it.  I finally got through a large portion of it on our two most recent road trips.  Reading keeps my quiet and my husband gets to drive in peace without me constantly talking.  So, it works for both of us.  

There was one particular point that he makes early in the book that was very interesting to me.  He explains in the book that the Old Testament is very vague about hell, or sheol.  As a result, Jews have looked to God primarily for protection and provision--in this life.  Their emphasis is on the quality of life--in this life.  In Contrast, Christians focus on what Christ did on the cross for them.  He died.  For us.  Why?  To save us from Hell.  As sinners, we would go to hell if we aren't forgiven.  So, for Christians, the emphasis of their faith is on God's protection, provision, and salvation  

I appreciated Rogers connecting each chapter to current illustrations.  He makes it personal and helps the reader understand why all of this examination matters.  Because it does matter quite a lot.  

I was quite concerned when I heard about Rob Bell's book and I am thankful to have a resource that has all the theological support I need to discuss Bell's ideas in an intelligent manner.  I tend to get into such discussions in random and unlikely places.  

If you have been confronted by another Christian's claims that there is no hell, I'd recommend this book.  You don't have to read the whole book, though it would make more sense read as a whole.  You can jump around and still get the gist of the theological underpinnings of a biblical idea of hell.  

Please note that I received a complimentary copy of this book for review from Crossway Publishing for review.

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