By Gary Amirault, Tentmaker Ministries
Based upon all the Twitter twatter, Facebook posts, Blogger blops and secular and Christian media articles it’s getting hot as Hell in the Evanglical world. Maybe the “Gates of Hell” Jesus spoke of are finally being breached, but not the way we expected. Rob Bell’s new book Love Wins: Heaven, Hell and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived is causing sparks to fly from some pulpit pounding preachers and their members.
Jesus said in the Gospel of Matthew that the “Gates of Hell (Hades)” would not prevail against His Church (ekklesia), that is, those who have been called of this world by the Holy Spirit. The traditional church, whether Catholic, Protestant or Orthodox, through its teachings, has consigned the vast majority of mankind to eternal torments in a lake burning with fire and brimstone. Was Jesus mistaken when He said this? That the Gates of Hell would NOT prevail against those He called to Himself to be a light to the world? And if Jesus was not mistaken, could it be that the institutional Church has been wrong about Hell and its occupants?
When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, “Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?” And they said, “Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets.” He saith unto them, “But whom say ye that I am?” And Simon Peter answered and said, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered and said unto him, “Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:13-19, KJV)
From Jesus’ words we can gather that Christ’s Body, the Ekklesia, the called-out ones would grow ultimately extending even to the Gates of Hell/Hades, the place of the dead. But the traditional Church for the last 1500 years or so through its doctrines has told us we cannot go to the dead. The Church’s authority, they say is only here on earth. Not only that, but even Christ’s evangelizing cannot go beyond the grave. If a human being does not become a true Christian on this side of the grave, according to the institutional Church, that soul is doomed to eternal torments for all eternity with absolutely no hope of redemption! That is what the institutional Church has taught. But is that so?
As anyone who is familiar with Church history knows, the Church has been dominated by men. Authoritative men, militarily-minded men, brute-beast men, stubborn men, sexist men, “dog”matic men, unreasonable men, compassionless men. I, (the author) am a man. I can talk about my half of humanity. Most of the tyrants and psychopaths of this world that have wreaked havoc upon humanity have been men. Paul C. Vitz in his book Faith of the Fatherless: The Psychology of Atheism informs us that men like Hitler, Stalin and Mao Zedong all had abusive fathers. Hitler received daily unmerciless beatings from his father. I was raised in Germany. I have a better understanding of Church history than the average American. Believe me, fatherhood, in the historic Church, has not reflected anything remotely like what Jesus said His Father was like. “If you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father.” (John 14:9) How many Church leaders could say that without making themselves liars?
A little sidenote, the early believers in Christ made up of Jews and gentiles, would not have called themselves “Church.” See my article Circe (Church) Daughter of the Sun. In Jesus day, everyone knew who Kirke (Circe in Anglo-Saxon, Chirche in Church Latin and Church in modern English) was. In Greek mythology, Kirke, Circle, Church was the daughter of the sun god who was banished to the island Aeaea. She had power to turn MEN into animals. It is interesting that male leaders of the Church have behaved like wild animals for most of its history. I realize there are many exceptions, but for the most part, since the Dark Ages, the “fathers” of the Church have not exemplified the heart of a loving, compassionate Father who disciplines only for remedial purposes. The teaching of Hell does not promote the idea of a loving father who whose chastisement is for corrective purposes â€“ no â€“ the teaching of Hell paints God the Father as a wrathful, merciless, vindictive tyrant resembling the Hitlers, Stalins, Mao Zedongs, Kim Jong-ils, of this world.
We become what we worship. The doctrine of a Hell of everlasting punishment has driven the church insane. The Church has terrorized the world while thinking we are God’s righteousness in the earth. We have become the Pharisees of Jesus’ day and are just as blind as they were. The Pharisees in Jesus’ time gnashed their teeth at the Truth and the pulpit pounders of today are gnashing their teeth at those who teach that God not only loves His enemies, but will eventually overcome them and bring them all to heaven.
The leadership of the Church throughout its history have been men. Yet Christ’s body in Scripture is described in feminine terms. She is the bride of Christ. What would the church have been like if there was more of the feminine voice within its leadership? I’m reminded of an illustration in J Preston Eby’s classic God is Love. He writes:
“While reflecting upon the parental love of God, a story came to mind that I read some months ago. In this story a man who was entirely careless of spiritual things died and went to hell. And he was much missed on earth by his old friends. His business manager went down to the gates of hell to see if there were any chance of bringing him back. But, though he pleaded for the gates to be opened, the iron bars never yielded. His cricket captain went also and besought Satan to let him out just for the remainder of the season. But there was no response. His minister went also and argued, saying, “He was not altogether bad. Let him have another chance. Let him out just this once.” Many other friends of his went also and pleaded with Satan saying, “Let him out, let him out, let him out.” But when his mother came, she spoke no word of his release. Quietly, and with a strange catch in her voice, she said to Satan, “Let me in.” And immediately the great doors swung open upon their hinges. For love goes down through the gates of hell and there redeems the damned! Our Father and God, incarnate in the Person of Jesus Christ, holds in His nail-pierced hand the keys of death and hell. O grave, where is Your victory? O gates of hell, you shall not prevail, for the Redeemer of Israel and the Saviour of the world, the God who IS LOVE holds in His triumphant hand your key!” endquote.
Aahhhh!! Here, here is a voice that harmonizes with the words of our Lord and Savior. Here is a voice that rises to the bar Jesus set when He went to the Cross.
“And I, if I am lifted from up from the earth will draw (Gr. Helkuo, literally drag) all mankind unto Myself. This He spoke signifying what manner of death He should die.” (John 12:32, 33)
And to the bride Jesus says:
“If anyone will come after me, let them take up their cross, and follow after me. Matt. 16:24
“For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit: by which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water. (1 Peter 3:18-20, KJV)
The early Church councils believed, based upon verses such as these, that Jesus descended into Hades (mistranslated Hell in future generations). What did Jesus do in Hades/Hell? He evangelized the dead. He preached to them GOOD NEWS, not eternal damnation in burning sulfur! He “led captivity captive.” (Eph. 4:8) He preached a “Good News” that would be a joy to all peoples. (Luke 2:10) Only an insane person would consider most of mankind rotten in eternal torments a joy.
This world is dead in sin and trespasses against each other. God has reconciled the world to Himself. (Rom. 5:10, 2 Cor. 5:19, 20) The world needs to know this. We, living in the world need to reconcile with each other. The world needs to experience the love of God. It needs a warm body of Christ, a living Being, not a dead institution, not denominational boxes. Church denominations don’t work any better to preserve dead bodies than coffins.
The man Moses said, “An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth and a life for a life.” The Rabbis, who claim to be descendents of Moses today teach “Teeth for a tooth.” Vengeance on top of vengeance. This kind of ethics produces teethless, eyeless corpses! But what did the Son of Man teach?:
“Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” For in doing so, you will be perfect even as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Read Matthew 5:38-48) Apostle Paul tells us the vengeance of God is revealed by feeding our enemy and clothing them. (Rom. 12:19-21) Imagine what the world would be like if Christians actually picked up their crosses, laid down their lives for their enemies rather than kill them like we, American Christians in the military are doing in the Middle East. What would happen if the 2 billion people on the earth who called themselves Christians REALLY bore their cross as Jesus commanded of all who wanted to be His disciples? Do you think the Gates of Hell might be shaking?
If the modern “fathers in the faith” are not going to manifest a compassion comparable to a mother’s love, then they should step aside. Perhaps they already have. The average American spends 15 years of their life watching television. Men have had thousands of years to prevail against the Gates of Hell. They seem more interested in enlarging it than emptying it.
So, go to Hell Rob Bell. Go into that Evangelical world and stir up some dead bodies. Empty some graves. In times past, the graveyard was next to the Church. I think God had a difficult time discerning which part of the church property had more life, those in the graveyard or those in the church building. God only knows how little of His Holy Spirit is allowed to move in most churches, past and present.
Ring your bell of freedom, Rob Bell. Rob those graveyards, snatch a few bodies out of that Evangelical land filled with “the traditions of men that make the word of God of no effect.” (Matt. 15:6-9) A Christian without the Living Word, a body filled with traditions of men and doctrines of demons that make God look more like Satan than the Savior of the whole world, needs to be baptized with fire and the Holy Spirit. Stir those Emerging Evangelicals up, Rob Bell. Jesus said He’d spit out the luke-warm ones. Help them make up their minds to either serve a hot compassionate God who loves all and conform to His image or to let that Pharisaic self-righteous spirit manifest fully so its plain for all to see.
Rob Bell’s new book Love Wins: Heaven, Hell and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever lived is coming out at the end of March, 2011. Many people expect Rob Bell to be sharing a message that has been long buried in the Church, the message of universal salvation. The early believers in Christ called it apokatastasis, that is, “the restoration of all things” as spoken by the prophets of old. Most Christians are unaware that the Church taught this glorious message for the first 500 years after Christ’s resurrection. When the church was taken over my power-hungry, militant, wrathful men, it abandoned the Victorious Gospel of Jesus Christ for a gospel that has no “Good News” in it for anyone really.
In recent decades, many books have come out teaching Christian Universalism, that Jesus will save all mankind. These authors of these books believe the original languages of the Bible did not teach Hell. Many who have followed Rob Bell’s teachings in recent years believe Rob is going to teach universalism in this book. I hope so. I’d like to see more of the Gates of Hell that have held people’s minds in captivity be torn down. The iron curtain has come down. The Bamboo curtain has come down. The Berlin wall has fallen. The only institutions and nations that seem bent on building walls with gates is Israel and the church with its tens of thousands of denominational walls that divide the body of Christ.
Before Love Wins has even come out there is already a firestorm raging in the Evangelical world provoked on by secular media like CNN, Huffington Post, and the New York Times. Heavy hitter evangelicals such as John MacArthur, John Piper, Mark Driscoll and Christian media giants such as Christianity Today and Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) are adding enough wood to this fire to keep it raging for some time to come. Who knows, maybe it will reach the Gates of Hell from the outside in. On the other hand, those Jesus called “sons of Hell” (sons of Gehenna, the city dump full of refuse) were those who considered themselves most righteous and closest to God. Maybe those behind the gates of Hell are Christians who need to be set free from their lies, murderous hearts, idolatry to false images of God, who have impure motives and beliefs they project on to God. Maybe the CHURCH is Hell! Oh my, what a thought!
For more articles on Rob Bell and his book Love Wins: Heaven, Hell and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived visit:
Remember, LOVE WINS. If you have compassion for the lost in your heart, these words should bring joy to your heart, not gnashing teeth.