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Posts Tagged ‘Hell’

Is Sin really all that big of a deal? Unconvinced – Session 03

the fat test

At Unconvinced we’ve been enjoying a front row seat to the life, teachings and claims of Jesus.  Rico Tice is taking us through Mark’s Gospel account with an engaging blend of video teaching and live interaction around our tables.  If you have questions about the basics of Christianity, what the Bible teaches about Jesus or are just curious spiritually but wouldn’t consider yourself a believer, then Unconvinced is a great venue for you to check out.

Sunday mornings, 10:45 in Room D-126

Each week 15 to 20 of us meet around tables for the purpose of exploring the Bible from the perspective of an unconvinced mind.  If you are a Christian with a friend you find yourself in spiritual conversations with, invite your friend to attend with you.  If you’re a skeptical seeker of truth, you’re our guest of honor!  You’ll find great company with others who my have similar questions.

This week Rico will take us into the world of “The Fat Test”.  Actually we’ll be talking about sin.  And how Jesus taught about it.  Come on out and join in the discussion!

Beyond The Message: Love Wins

Seven months after the book’s release, and subsequent controversy, Tim Perry and I sit down to discuss Rob Bell’s latest book Love Wins.

Why now? Because they, along with other staff, are continually asked for their opinion about the book, and questions relating to universal reconciliation, by people outside the church.

We had a lengthy discussion covering a number of questions and topics. Topics discussed are:

Intention of reviewing Love Wins and discussing universal reconciliation.

  • How often is Hell/judgment referenced in the Bible?
  • What is the meaning of the gates to the city being open in Heaven?
  • What does Luke 16:19-31 mean?
  • What does it mean when God says He’ll bring all people to Him in the end?
  • What does it mean when everyone (kings) bows before Jesus in the end?
  • What does sin truly do to us?
  • Are their other attributes of God beyond love?
  • Are God’s attributes isolated?
  • Has universal reconciliation been a theme of Christianity since the beginning?
  • Why has the book been frustrating for us?
  • Is there any scripture that supports a second chance for people, after they die, to escape Hell?
  • Who will be in Heaven?
  • Romans 1:18-23

Additional resources:

On my personal blog, I explain a bit more as to why Tim and I decided to do a review of this book now.

Beyond The Message: Hell

In this Beyond The Message, Robert Murphy sits down with Tim Perry to discuss a number of questions surrounding the topic of Hell. Some of the questions discussed are:

  • Why would God create someone if they would ultimately go to Hell?
  • Luke 16:19-31
  • Does a loving God send people to Hell even if they’ve never heard the Gospel?
  • Is Hell a literal place, and if so why is it necessary?
  • Does an eternal punishment fit the crime, especially if they lived a moral life?
  • Do we get a second chance if we were to go to Hell?
  • Rob Bell’s book “Love Wins”

Click here to find out more about the Gathering message series Hell.

Also, check out the message series 5 Minutes After… for more related resources.

Will God’s love melt every hard heart?

As we’re coming into the final week of our series on Hell at CCC’s Gathering, we’ll take a look at the slight theological avalanche set off by author and Mars Hill, Grand Rapids pastor Rob Bell in his book Love Wins.

We’ve enjoyed a lively dialogue for the past four weeks. No signs of letting up. Knee deep questions every week. Here’s a bit of the territory we’ve covered.

Week One: Is Hell Real?

Tim Perry considered whether our culture’s depictions of hell are even remotely relevant to the stark pictures of hell Jesus himself gave. No, hell isn’t a tacky Larson cartoon with people cracking jokes to pass the time. No, hell isn’t where wicked cats like Sylvester accumulate all nine lives before permanent damnation takes affect (a great disappointment to all cat haters in the crowd). The parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus points us toward an agonizing experience that cannot be undone. Accountability in THIS life determine eternal destiny. Repentance and putting your faith into practice are essential. These things demonstrate actual faith in Jesus.

Week Two: What’s Hell Like?

The imagery of Hell is daunting to even conceive. What kind of reality was Jesus speaking about? Some would say that since the language depicting hell is metaphorical, even hyperbolic, that we might as well dismiss knowing anything literal about hell. But words like Sheol, Gehenna and Hades all are terms with rich antecedents that were far from arbitrary. Tim Anstead made the point that regardless the wording, hell as a place of utter separation from God is a destination to avoid. Jesus used the most lively language he could to describe a place God supremely agonizes over anyone inhabiting. If hell exists it makes perfect sense that Jesus would bend over backwards to warn us about it and it would indeed be cruel for him to do otherwise.

Week Three: Is Hell Fair?

Marty Barnhart took the entire session to answer the question – does God inflict eternal punishment in response to temporary sin for those who choose to reject Jesus. When we pry hard into the can of worms we call original sin, out pops the reality of how sin works. Sin is woven into our nature as humans ever since the fall of Adam and Eve. It bears eternal consequences. Sin is a terminal condition. Sin leads to one outcome no matter how good a person is, where they were born, what family they grew up in. So the question of eternity and the justice of God is already decided – what remains is God’s reaction to the fall of man into sin. God decided to pay for sin himself and offer healing and forgiveness from it. To reject his offer is to merely ride out the natural course of sin’s terminal nature. No God does not “inflict” eternal punishment but offers reconciliation instead. Rejecting peace confirms a person in an already terminal condition. Put this way hell is totally fair – heaven is exceptional, and we’d be crazy not to opt for heaven but it must be a decision of our will based on the recognition of our need.

Week Four: Does God predetermine who will go to hell?

God knows everything. How he knows who will accept him and who will reject him is up to him. Walt Hooker shouted at the top of his lungs – “People – stop trying to put God in a box – his ways are higher than our ways, his thoughts are higher than our thoughts.” Of course God can do whatever he wants to do. But God has also made us responsible for our choices. Our job isn’t to stand around paralyzed by the tension between sovereignty and responsibility. Our job is to hear, and respond to God! So if we haven’t received Christ yet, from that vantage point he is merely giving us more time to respond to him. A meaningful choice can be made on our part even if on God’s part he’s already determined what he is going to do. We will be held responsible. If we have received Christ, it’s not our business to second guess “who God has elected” and who he has not. Only God has a right to know that. Our job is to tell others about Christ and urge them on in their consideration of the Gospel.

“When people have trouble with election—and many do—their real problem is not with the doctrine of election, although they think it is, but with the doctrine of depravity that makes election necessary.”

Get over it people. If you’re hearing the Gospel, you need to respond and you know it. I love Walt’s way of putting it all on the line!

Week 5: Why Christians simply have to talk about Hell!

For a more in depth interview about Rob Bell’s book, check out Francis Chan’s interview with Christianity Today.

SO, what’s left to talk about? Lot’s of unfinished business, not the least of which is the troubling debate about universalism. Here’s a few choice Rob Bell quotes we’ll take a look at tomorrow:

“At the heart of this perspective is the belief that, given enough time, everybody will turn to God and find themselves in the joy and peace of God’s presence.”

“The love of God will melt every hard heart, and even the most ‘depraved sinners’ will eventually give up their resistance and turn to God.”

“Beginning with the early church, there is a long tradition of Christians who believe that God will ultimately restore everything and everybody, because Jesus says in Matthew 19 that there will be a renewal of all things, Peter says in Acts 3 that Jesus will restore everything, and Paul says in Colossians 1 that through Christ God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven.”

Its somewhat unclear where Mr. Bell is landing with his own view on eternal judgment, but the questions he raises are extremely important and relevant for our discussion on Hell. Feel free to jump in at Gathering or look for this series on our website along with related print resources.

Get an update on Rob Bell’s future plans upon his upcoming departure from the pastoral ministry at Mars Hill church in Grand Rapids, Michigan from this CT Article.

Do I have Free Choice or Am I Elected?

What follows is a dialogue I’ve been in with a Gathering attender. This month we’ve been doing a series about Hell.

Hit this link if you’re curious about the interaction we’ve been having at our lunch venue:

Click here for mp3 audio of Gathering sessions on Hell

Next this Sunday we’ll be hosting Gathering favorite, Pastor Walt Hooker of Bellevue Christian Center as he addresses the topic of predestination and hell. If God predestines those he’ll save, does he also predestine those who will wind up in hell? A very troubling question. But a very dynamic and engaging speaker to tackle the topic. Come on out – CCC’s student center at 12:30. Lunch for $5 (free for High School and College Students).


Pastor Perry,

Thank you for taking time to answer my question. Your response has been helpful. This concept of predestination is a tough one to grasp. I will take the scriptures you have given me and continue my journey.

I will be out of town this week end, I look forward to being in your class again.

God bless your work,



On Thu, Sep 22, 2011 at 8:25 AM, Tim Perry <> wrote:


Thanks for attending Gathering this week and for filling out a card! On the back of your card, you mentioned that you’re curious about predestination. “Do I have free choice or am I elected?”

Great question! We’re going to deal with that in week four of the series. I can give you a few thoughts now though. Here are a few basic facts that we have to start with:

1. God has made us as beings that have a meaningful sense of choice in all aspects of life. If that were not true, God would not hold us accountable for our choices. If he is going to someday judge us for the decisions we make, this basic responsibility of using our will must be taken seriously!

2. The words Election and Predestination ARE in the Bible. Paul teaches us that God does make choices about who and how he saves people long before we are even born!

3. The biblical idea of election is never meant to short-circuit human responsibility toward God (that would be nothing more than Christian fatalism).
Conclusion: YES, our choices are meaningful! It is an extremely serious thing to engage God’s offer of salvation with our God-given decision-making ability. Predestination in the end is a check on our pride. We’ll never be able to congratulate ourselves on picking God as if he had nothing to do with our choice. Without his initiative we are dead in sin.

The word “Free” in “Free-will” can be a bit problematic. Scripture gives us an answer to your question that is a little of both. Yes, we have a meaningful choice in responding to God AND yes, God does choose us in love. Somehow both are true at the same time.

Below are a few scriptures that reinforce that salvation is a work of God in a person’s life, but it is a work of God people are culpable for ignoring. Let me know if this has been helpful! Keep coming back to Gathering. Thanks for being there this week!



Romans 8:28-31 28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. 31 What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us?

2 Peter 1:3-12 3 His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 4 Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. 5 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6 and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7 and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. 8 For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins. 10 Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall, 11 and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 12 So I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have.

Ephesians 1:11-14 11 In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, 12 in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. 13 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession– to the praise of his glory.

Ephesians 2:1-10 As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. 4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions– it is by grace you have been saved. 6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith– and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God– 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Beyond The Message: Doling out rewards, benefits and punishments

The second installment of Beyond The Message features Gavin Johnson and I talking about his recent Future Shock judgment. We discuss:

  • What are the types of judgment?
  • What happens after we die?
  • Do we really get rewards for our works?
  • God is good, even with judgment.

And more banter…

How long has Hell been around?

Interesting thought from one of our participants at Gathering during our current series on Hell. This person feels hell is plausible because the idea has been around a long while and is taught by other religions.

What are your thoughts about hell? Bring them with you and come out to Gathering this week. We will be trying to dealing full-on this time with the issue of predestination! Come hear guest speaker Walt Hooker, a Gathering favorite every time he comes.

Check out our Facebook Gathering Page as well for more thoughts. It’s shaping up to be one of our most interesting series. Come join in and bring your toughest questions.

5 Weeks in Hell – Off and Running!

The first big question we sought to tackle at Gathering this week was this: Did Jesus teach that hell is real and that it is a place of eternal separation and punishment? (We always love jumping in at the deep end)!

Two passages we looked at really got under our skin. Churned up all kinds of dialogue. First of all there’s that narrative of the Rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16. Click here and give it a read. Whether Jesus is telling a parable or describing a real scenario he may have known about, you have to face the fact that he’s essentially describing the difference between heaven and hell with a huge hint about how one winds up either place.

The bottom line with the rich man was un-repentance! What an ugly word, Jesus! It set off a miniature avalanche at just about every table at Gathering. The man suffering in hell suggested that poor Lazarus be sent back from Abraham’s side to earth to warn his relatives about eternal punishment. “If they didn’t listen to the law and the prophets, they’re not going to listen to a person resurrected from the dead!” Jesus went on to indicate that there was an impassible gulf between paradise and hell – even IF someone wanted to traverse between the two he could not.

Here were a few of the questions that popped up:

  • If the issue is repentance, how does one ever know he has genuinely repented?
  • What is repentance?
  • Does praying at a Church service really constitute repenting?
  • What about a person who lived an exemplary life but didn’t ever repent? Would that person go to hell?
  • How about a child who doesn’t know right from wrong?
  • Would a person who grew up in a place totally isolated from the possibility of hearing about Jesus go to hell when he/she dies? Is that fair?

Got any thoughts? When you look at it, Jesus did dig himself pretty deep with some of his sayings about hell. Hell either doesn’t exist at all and Jesus was somehow using the concept of punishment to motivate moral behavior. OR he knew exactly what he was talking about and it makes perfect sense that he would very emphatically warn about it.

We’ll look at that sheep and goats thing in my next post. Check out the CCC Facebook page where I have posted more comments and questions.

Also you might find this downloadable resource sheet on hell interesting that we handed out at the first session.