WHY IS ROB BELL
SO WRONG ABOUT HELL?
(SERMON NUMBER 1 ON ROB BELL'S ERROR)

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord’s Day Morning, May 8, 2011

“These shall go away into everlasting punishment...”
(Matthew 25:46).


This may seem like a strange text to preach from on Mother’s Day. But this sermon is really not about Hell. The subject of this sermon is the false teaching of a young "emerging church" pastor named Robert Bell, Jr. The main point of the sermon is that many young evangelicals, like Bell, have never been converted.

It is very unwise for Christian mothers to encourage their children to say a “quick prayer” and be baptized without going through a real conversion experience. “Salvation by a prayer” has led millions of evangelical children into false conversions. That is why 88% of evangelical children leave the church for good by the time they are 25 years old, and the twelve percent that remain often turn to the errors of the “purpose driven” movement – or the heresies of the “emerging church.” Evangelical mothers have an obligation to make certain, as much as is humanly possible, that their children experience a real conversion. I urge every mother in our church to do so.

Continuing its yearly Easter attacks on Biblical Christianity, Time Magazine had a cover story titled, “What If There is No Hell?” (April 25, 2011). The subject of this article was Rob Bell's position on Hell. To “give the Devil his due,” I must point out that the title of the Time article does not exactly describe Rob Bell’s position. It was misleading for Time to imply that Rob Bell doesn’t believe in Hell. He does believe in Hell – but (and this is where he goes wrong) he doesn’t believe it is “everlasting.” Robert Bell, Jr. is an “emerging church” preacher who has caused a lot of pastors deep concern by his unscriptural teachings on Hell. Well known Christian leaders like Dr. John Piper, and Dr. Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, have openly repudiated Bell’s false teaching.

Jesus said, “These shall go away into everlasting punishment” (Matthew 25:46). Bell doesn’t believe that. Bell said, “Hell is not forever, and love, in the end, wins and all will be reconciled to God” (Rob Bell, Love Wins, HarperOne, 2011, p. 109).

Jesus said, “These shall go away into everlasting punishment” (Matthew 25:46). The Greek word translated “everlasting” means “perpetual, eternal” (James Strong, A Greek Dictionary of the New Testament) – “without end, everlasting” (George Ricker Berry, A Greek-English Lexicon, number 166, coded to Strong). Bell twists this word to make it refer “to a period of time with a beginning and an end” (Love Wins, p. 32). But James Strong and George Ricker Berry knew far more about the Greek language than Rob Bell will ever know. And they said that the Greek word means “perpetual, eternal” – “without end, everlasting.” Jesus said, “These shall go away into everlasting punishment” (Matthew 25:46).

Rob Bell called what Jesus said, “misguided and toxic” (Love Wins, p. viii). My associate, Dr. C. L. Cagan, said, “It is clear that Bell hates and resists historic Biblical Christianity, particularly Christ’s view of judgment after death.” Dr. John Gill (1697-1771) had a profound knowledge of the Biblical languages. Commenting on Matthew 25:46, Dr. Gill said,

They shall endure everlasting punishment...And that both in soul and body, as the just desert of sin; which being committed against an infinite God, cannot be satisfied for by a finite creature; who therefore must ever bear the punishment of it, because its pollution and guilt will always remain (John Gill, D.D., An Exposition of the New Testament, The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1989 reprint, volume I, p. 318; note on Matthew 25:46).

Yes, the Lord Jesus Christ said,

“These shall go away into everlasting punishment”
       (Matthew 25:46).

My purpose in this sermon is not to defend the doctrine of “everlasting punishment.” I assume that most, if not all of you, believe in it, since Christ spoke of it so clearly and so often in the four Gospels. Therefore, I am not going to defend the doctrine of endless punishment in this sermon. My purpose, in this sermon, is to attempt to explain why Rob Bell rejects the eternal nature of Hell. And it seems to me that there are two basic reasons he rejects those words of the Lord Jesus Christ, “These shall go away into everlasting punishment.”

I. First, Rob Bell rejects “everlasting punishment” because he was confused by liberalism.

Rob Bell graduated from Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California. It was there that Bell became confused about the authority of the Bible.

Fuller Seminary’s first statement of faith said, “The books which form the canon of the Old and New Testaments as originally given are plenarily inspired and free from all error in the whole and in the part. These books constitute the written Word of God, the only infallible rule of faith and practice” (quoted in Harold Lindsell, Ph.D., The Battle for the Bible, Zondervan Publishing House, 1978 edition, p. 107). Thus, Fuller Seminary’s original statement of faith taught the inerrancy of the Bible, that the Scriptures are “free from all error in the whole and in the part,” and that the Bible is “the written Word of God, the only infallible rule of faith and practice.” Although their first statement of faith said that, it was later changed. But Fuller Seminary originally taught what the Bible says about itself,

“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (II Timothy 3:16).

I will come back and tell you how Fuller Seminary changed, and how it confused Rob Bell when it became a liberal institution. But first I will read you a statement from Dr. W. A. Criswell (1909-2002) concerning the inerrancy of the Scriptures.

Dr. Criswell, long pastor of the First Baptist Church of Dallas, Texas, in his landmark book, Why I Preach that the Bible is Literally True, said this about II Timothy 3:16. Dr. Criswell said,

“All scripture is given by inspiration of God.” Two words used in this text present to us the apostolic view concerning the inspiration of the Holy Scriptures. One word is graphe¸ which means “writing,” and the other is theopneustos, which means “God-breathed.” It is the “writing,” the Scriptures, that is “God-breathed,” that is inspired. On the original parchment every sentence, word, line, mark, point, pen stroke, jot and tittle were put there by the inspiration of God. There can be no question of anything else...There are many who deny this and say that the Scriptures are inspired in spots, in portions, in pieces, in sections. However, no such doctrine as this is found in the Bible. The historical books, the books of Mosaic legislation, the poetical books, the prophets, the Gospels, the Epistles, the Apocalypse, all are inspired in every detail. The inspiration includes the form as well as the substance, the word as well as the thought. This is called the verbal theory of inspiration, which is vehemently denied by many modern theologians...But I am insisting upon, and presenting, no theory except that which is found in the Bible (W. A. Criswell, Ph.D., Why I Preach that the Bible is Literally True, Broadman Press, 1969 edition, pp. 33-34).

Rob Bell does not believe what Dr. W. A. Criswell said. He does not believe in the inspiration of all the words of Scripture (plenary verbal inspiration). Why? Because he graduated from Fuller Theological Seminary. Fuller Seminary changed its doctrinal statement in the early 1970s, long before Bell went there. Fuller now teaches that the Bible is full of errors. For a more complete explanation of how this happened, read Dr. Harold Lindsell’s book, The Battle for the Bible, chapter six, titled, “The Strange Case of Fuller Theological Seminary” (Zondervan Publishing House, 1978 edition, pp. 106-121).  Fuller Seminary no longer believes in the word-for-word inspiration of the Bible (plenary verbal inspiration).

Rob Bell graduated from this seminary. He learned not to trust the words of the Bible there. Rob Bell learned to twist the Scriptures there. That is why Dr. Richard Mouw, the current president of Fuller Seminary, defended Rob Bell’s book that attacks the everlasting punishment of Hell. Dr. Mouw, the president of Fuller Seminary, said, “It’s pretty hard [to attend Fuller] and come away with a closed mind-set that draws firm boundaries about theology” (Time, ibid., p. 43).

Well, I graduated from two seminaries that were as liberal as Fuller, and yet I came away with a “closed mind-set” that the Bible is true “in the whole and in the part.” I studied redaction criticism and form criticism, and Barth, Brunner, Tillich, Rudolf Bultmann, and other liberals that Rob Bell studied. Yet I never stopped believing in the word-for-word inspiration of the Hebrew and Greek Bible. And, because I believe the words of the Bible, I have no trouble drawing “firm boundaries about theology.” The Lord Jesus Christ said,

“These shall go away into everlasting punishment”
       (Matthew 25:46).

I may not like it. It may not appeal to my flesh. But Christ said it. I believe it. And that settles it! There is no “wiggle-room.” As Luther put it, “My conscience is shut up to the Word of God.”

“These shall go away into everlasting punishment”
       (Matthew 25:46).

But I am convinced there is another reason why Rob Bell rejects those words of the Lord Jesus Christ.

II. Second, Rob Bell rejects “everlasting punishment” because he was deceived by decisionism.

Liberalism at Fuller Seminary was able to undermine Bell’s faith in the Bible because, judging from his own words, he made a “decision” rather than experiencing real conversion. Rob Bell is almost young enough to be my grandson. If he reads this sermon on the Internet, and gets this far, I hope and pray that he will re-think his own “conversion.” I would be delighted if he experienced a real conversion. The Bible says,

“Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves” (II Corinthians 13:5).

I knew two men, who studied with me at a liberal seminary, who were later truly converted. I pray that will also happen to Rob Bell.

It appears to me that Rob Bell prayed a so-called “sinner’s prayer” without being born again and converted. In his book, Bell says,

      One night when I was in elementary school I said a prayer kneeling beside my bed in my room...With my parents on either side of me, I invited Jesus into my heart. I told God that I believed that I was a sinner and that Jesus came to save me and I wanted to be a Christian.
      I still remember that prayer. It did something to me. Something in me. In an innocent grade school kind of way, I believe that God loved me and that Jesus came to show me that love and that I was being invited to accept that love (Rob Bell, Love Wins, ibid., pp. 193-194).

What is wrong here? Several things. First, he invited Jesus to come “into [his] heart.” That is deadly. The Bible repeatedly tells us that Jesus Christ is up in Heaven, seated at the right hand of God. The Bible never once tells a lost sinner to “invite Jesus into his heart.” Not a single verse of Scripture teaches that. Second, he told “God that [he] believed [he] was a sinner.” Yes, I think he told God that. But was he under conviction of sin? He does not say he was. Was he convinced of his own sinful nature, deserving the wrath and judgment of Almighty God? He said he was “an innocent grade school” kid when he said that prayer. How can you be “innocent” and, at the same time, be under true conviction of sin? (John 16:8-9). He said, “I believed that Jesus came to save me” – from what? Since he felt that he was “innocent,” he certainly didn’t feel that he had a desperate need to be pardoned of his sin by Jesus. No wonder that there is no mention of Christ dying on the Cross in his place! No wonder that there is no mention of the Blood of Christ cleansing him of sin! No conviction of sin! No mention of the Cross! No mention of the Blood! Just the recitation of a very typical new-evangelical prayer. Then Rob Bell said, “I still remember that prayer. It did something to me.” It seems to me that he is right. That prayer did do something to him. It deceived him.

I pray that Christian mothers everywhere will stop rushing their children into meaningless “decisions for Christ.” Our young people need something far deeper. Their very hearts need to be changed, and only God can do that. Mothers should realize that their children’s eternal destiny depends on God convicting them of sin and drawing them to Christ. Mothers should pray “without ceasing” for God to perform these acts of grace on their children.

Oh, young people, don’t be deceived like Rob Bell! Pray for God to make you feel your guilt – for God to make you feel like Spurgeon. As a fifteen-year-old boy, Spurgeon said, “I knew myself to be so horribly guilty that I remember feeling that if God did not punish me for sin, He ought to do so.” If God makes you feel like that you will have no problem believing the Lord Jesus Christ when He says,

“These shall go away into everlasting punishment”
       (Matthew 25:46).

In fact, you will be surprised that you yourself are not going “into everlasting punishment.” Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones said, “It is only the man who has been brought to see his guilt in this way who flees to Christ for deliverance and redemption” (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, M.D., Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, InterVarsity, 1959, p. 235).

I pray that the Spirit of God will bring you under deep conviction of sin. I pray that God will draw you to Jesus Christ, for pardon by His death in your place on the Cross – and cleansing from sin through His Blood. I pray that you will experience a real conversion through the grace of God and the suffering of Christ. Amen.

 

Click here for Dr. Hymers' sermon, "Does Rob Bell Think Hell is a Protestant Purgatory?"

(END OF SERMON)
You can read Dr. Hymers’ sermons each week on the Internet
at www.realconversion.com. Click on “Sermon Manuscripts.”

You may email Dr. Hymers at rlhymersjr@sbcglobal.net, (Click Here)
or you may write to him at P.O. Box 15308, Los Angeles, CA 90015.
Or phone him at (818)352-0452.

Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan: II Thessalonians 1:7-10.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“I Know the Bible is True” (by Dr. B. B. McKinney, 1886-1952).


THE OUTLINE OF

WHY IS ROB BELL
SO WRONG ABOUT HELL?
(SERMON NUMBER 1 ON ROB BELL'S ERROR)

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

“These shall go away into everlasting punishment...”
(Matthew 25:46).

I.   First, Rob Bell rejects “everlasting punishment” because
he was confused by liberalism, II Timothy 3:16.

II.  Second, Rob Bell rejects “everlasting punishment” because
he was deceived by decisionism, II Corinthians 13:5;
John 16:8-9.