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Erasing Hell: A Book Review

Updated on January 26, 2018
lambservant profile image

Lori Colbo is an online media writer who's passion is writing on her Christian faith. Her other passion is being Nana to 12 grandchildren.

"Hell is the backdrop that reveals the profound and unbelievable grace of the cross. It brings to light the enormity of our sin and therefore portrays the undeserved favor of God in full color.” ~ Francis Chan

Hell, the hot topic

Hell is a hot topic (no pun intended) in the Christian world today. Is knowing there is a hell important? Does it really matter if we believe in hell? How can a God of love send people to hell? Do we get a second chance if we go to hell? Does everyone go to heaven? Francis Chan and Preston Sprinkle have worked hard at giving accurate biblical answers to these questions and more. The results are compelling

Francis Chan's Feelings on Hell

Preston Sprinkle did most of the extensive biblical research on this uncomfortable topic. And although the biblical truth is the most important goal in writing this book, we have the unexpected blessing of hearing Francis Chan's heart. Humble and transparent, he confesses that he doesn't like believing in hell; doesn't even like to think of it. It hurts him to think that his loved ones and friends would end up there, and admittedly, he has danced around it in his many years as a pastor. Says Chan, "I would love to erase hell from the pages of Scripture."

Prior to writing this book, Chan was discomforted when he read Rob Bell's bestselling book, Love Wins. As he read it he kept thinking, "Maybe he has something here, I hope what he's saying is true." But Bell's belief that all people go to heaven didn't ring true with his (Chan's) understanding of Scripture. He grappled with his emotions and previous understanding of hell, preceding and during the writing of Erasing Hell. Rather than setting out to be the leading expert, with all the arrogance and pride that goes along with that, he simply wanted to know and understand what the Bible, specifically Jesus, taught on hell. In his introduction, Chan encourages us to "Test all your assumptions against the precious words God gave us in the Bible." And setting the example, he does just that. With humble determination, and a willingness to put aside all feelings and preconceived notions, Chan, with Sprinkle's help, jumped into God's Word with both feet.

Chan's Heart on Hell (9 minutes)

Second chance? Darkness, fire, Gehenna?

Francis Chan and Preston Sprinkle address one of the current beliefs that when an unrepentant sinner dies, they will get another chance at heaven with the idea that hell is only a time-limited season of correction. Although he admits he would love to believe that, a careful examination of the Scriptures, particularly Christ' words, reveals that hell is a place of retribution and punishment. Which then naturally leads them to examine the idea of hell being permanent and eternal.

In addition, the author's explore the idea of hell being a place of "utter darkness", "fire" and "torment," as Jesus often said. Are these figurative metaphor's, or the real deal? Sprinkle and Chan were surprised to find that the Bible was a bit nebulous on certain aspects of hell that they previously believed were absolute, and the opposite, that the Bible was very clear on things they once believed to be not very clear.

One particular section that I found interesting was when the author's address Christ's typical references to hell, with the translated word "Gehenna." He points out that it is often believed by pastors and Bible scholars alike, that Gehenna refers to the garbage dump outside of Jerusalem in the Valley of Hinnom. Chan's and Sprinkle's extensive research into this issue bring surprising results. They said they could not find any historical garbage dump in that location. But it once was a place in Old Testament times where child sacrifice occurred by throwing the babies into the fire.

Is hell a literal place of fire?
Is hell a literal place of fire? | Source

"If I were God..."

What particularly struck me with Erasing Hell is Francis Chan's discussion on how we (and that includes himself) have a tendency to say "If I were God, I wouldn't do that." Thinking that way, we assume that if we wouldn't, then God surely wouldn't. We hear all the time "If God is a loving God, why does or would he send people to hell?" At that, Chan brings us to Isaiah 55:9 where God says, "My ways are not your ways, and My thoughts are not your thoughts." In other words, we need to understand that we are not God and thus cannot understand why God chooses to do what He does. But that He has the right to do it. He brings up the clay challenging the potter found in Isaiah 29 and Jeremiah 18, as well as when Job asked God the "Why?" question and God answered "Where were you before the foundation of the earth."

Jesus didn't speak of hell so that we could study, debate and write books about it. He gave us these passages so that we would live holy lives. Jesus evidently hates it when we tear into our brothers or sisters with demeaning words, words that fail to honor the people around us as the beautiful image-bearing creatures that they are.”

― Francis Chan,

Chan and Sprinkle on Rob Bell's Love Wins

Unlike many critics of this book, who accuse Sprinkle and Chan of making Erasing Hell a rebuttal to Bell's Love Wins, I felt Bell's book gave Chan a moment of pause (actually more than a moment) to consider what the truth about hell is. It seems Francis Chan really wrestled with God on this issue, not to manipulate God into his own desired way of thinking, but to find the truth and accept it. Love Wins brought him to understand the vital importance of knowing the biblical truth, and to consider his responsibility to know and proclaim that truth. To leave the questions unanswered would be to place the eternal destiny of people in jeopardy.

Writing style

Erasing Hell is an easy and short read. Chan's writing style is refreshingly simple. You won't find a lofty, scholarly presentation with big words and an attitude of being the "expert." You won't feel like you're sitting in an doctoral theology class. The back of the book has an appendix with FAQ's, which is an additional, and appreciated help to readers.

God is sovereign

The author's of Erasing Hell are two honest, truth-seeking men, humbly presenting a vitally important, uncomfortable and controversial subject. In the end, we find out more about God's sovereignty; God's greatness and our smallness; that God is sovereign and we are not; that His way is right, even when it doesn't make sense to us. And in that vein, we can be reminded of Proverbs 3:5-6 which says "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your path."

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    • lambservant profile image
      Author

      Lori Colbo 5 years ago from Pacific Northwest

      The good news Paradise 7 is that there is a way to prevent going to hell. If only people would see Christ's death on the cross so that we might have eternal life and have our sins forgiven there would be no reason to fear or end up in hell.

    • Paradise7 profile image

      Paradise7 6 years ago from Upstate New York

      It does sound like hell doesn't get erased in the end; it sounds like the author comes to believe in a permanent, everlasting hell of fire and torment. I really just hope that's not true for anyone, still. It will never make sense; eternity is a very long time to punish someone, and there is no reformation in the aspect of an eternal damnation, so what would be the point?

    • lambservant profile image
      Author

      Lori Colbo 6 years ago from Pacific Northwest

      Hyphenbird, you are so right about how sad it is when someone dies and their salvation is uncertain. Both by parents are gone now and I doubt they are in heaven but I don't know for certain about my mother. She believed in God, and I shared the gospel with her, but to my knowledge, she never received Him into her heart. I don't even want to think where they might be and that I may never see them again.

      LG thanks for stopping by. I'll bet as a pastor you get asked those "why" questions a lot. You know, a pastor I know once said, "you can ask God why?" but you're not likely to get an answer because if he did give you the answer, you probably wouldn't like it. I asked God "why he allowed a trauma in my life and in the lives of children around the world, and I didn't get an answer. I know now that God is good, supremely good, and I just need to trust Him that he allowed it for reasons he'll answer when I go into glory. Thanks for stopping by.

      Northwind, thanks for stopping by. In the beginning I didn't like the title because I thought it was misleading, and it still can be. But it's intriguing enough to read it and once you do, you do indeed see how clever it is. thanks for stopping by.

      Sonfollowers, Nice to see you. Hope you enjoy the book. His two other books are outstanding. Crazy Love was a best seller. Thanks for taking the time to comment. blessings

    • sonfollowers profile image

      sonfollowers 6 years ago from Alpharetta, GA

      Interesting hub, for sure. Nice job. You've definitely piqued my curiosity regarding this book. I had never heard of it before ready your hub. It's now on my list as well.

      Thanks!

    • North Wind profile image

      North Wind 6 years ago from The World (for now)

      In order for God to be good, which He is, He has to be just. I do think hell is a place of eternal torment and really who likes to hear that? They chose a clever title because hell would be something that people would erase from the Bible if they could.

      This book sounds like a good read and I will have to put it on my list of books I like to call, "What to read next." There are quite a few books queued up and I can't wait to get them finally.

    • Hyphenbird profile image

      Brenda Barnes 6 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful

      I am always saddened when a person dies and his/her salvation was uncertain. Every one savedfrom Hell is another glory to Christ. You are right in that we must accept God's perfect plans and know He is righteous in every decision. What Jesus did is so huge that to reute that leaves a person unworthy of Heaven. That is sad anyway it is looked at. As lifegate said, He is holy and His justice must be holy also.

    • lifegate profile image

      William Kovacic 6 years ago from Pleasant Gap, PA

      LS,

      "We hear all the time "If God is a loving God, why does or would he send people to hell?" I hear that all the time, too. True, God is a God of love, but He also is holy. Holiness calls for justice and justice demands hell, whether we think so or not. Like you also mentioned, God's ways are not our ways. Thank God that Jesus took our punishment that we might have fellowship with the Father. Thanks for an interesting hub.

    • lambservant profile image
      Author

      Lori Colbo 6 years ago from Pacific Northwest

      Thanks for your comments Hyphen. Always good to hear from you. The topic of hell is so uncomfortable, and offensive to people that it is just easier to tell themselves, and believe, what will make them feel good. It doesn't work that way does it? It goes back to the old theory of "all things are relative" and "there are no absolutes." We try to put God in a box and keep Him there where everything will "feel good" and not accept responsibility for our lives and actions. I feel like Chan, I'd like to erase hell from the Bible. But to do that would be to nullify Christ's sacrifice on the cross. It would give the message that we don't need God cuz were all goin to heaven no matter what. How sad for those who refuse and refute the truth.

      A very Happy Resurrection Sunday to you Hyphen. He is risen!

    • Hyphenbird profile image

      Brenda Barnes 6 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful

      Thanks for the review Lambservant. The idea of a forever Hell is not something people will ever be comfortable with. Nor wil ltheyfor eternity when it happens to many people. I do understand why God allows people to go there. The sacrifice of Jesus was so important that denial of Him strips a person of any chance at Heaven. Love did win. Some folks just choose to push it away. And love will not allow those people to be around the One who redeemed them and was refused. The big picture os beyond my own knowledge but this I know. Heaven is real and Hell is real.

      I wil look for the book.

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