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ROB BELL AND THE JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES COMPARED
(SERMON NUMBER 5 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 22, 2011

“And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night” (Revelation 14:11).


Rob Bell is a pastor who has written a book called Love Wins (HarperOne, 2011). The main point of his book is that “hell is not forever, and love, in the end, wins and all will be reconciled to God” (ibid., p. 109). The book has become a best-seller. Why? A simple story gives the answer. The famous vaudeville and movie comedian W. C. Fields was an alcoholic and an outspoken unbeliever. One day a friend came into his room unannounced and found him reading the Bible. The friend was astonished and asked him why he was reading it. Fields said, “Looking for loopholes. Just looking for loopholes.” A “loophole” is a way to evade, a way to escape. That’s really what Rob Bell has given in this book – a series of loopholes, evasions, and attempts to escape the awful reality of an eternal Hell. It will certainly appeal to people, like W. C. Fields, who are “looking for loopholes.” Bell gives plenty of them, including the idea that “in the end....all will be reconciled to God” (ibid).

To get rid of eternal punishment, Mr. Bell has to do a lot of Scripture twisting, especially when he comes to the many teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ on eternal damnation. Another part of the Bible that gives Mr. Bell a great deal of trouble is the Book of Revelation. He calls Revelation “complex, enigmatic” (ibid., p. 111). “Enigmatic” means “obscure, mysterious, hidden.” Of course, the very name “Revelation” means the exact opposite of “hidden.” “Revelation” means “uncovering,” “revealing.” There is no question that some things in this book have not been made perfectly clear yet. But those particular things don’t really bother Mr. Bell. What really troubles him is the crystal clear verses on Hell given in the Book of Revelation, such as our text,

“And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night” (Revelation 14:11).

When I was finishing my B.A. degree at the California State University at Los Angeles (Cal State) all the classes I took were at night. I worked eight hours a day at the Department of Water Resources, in the mail room. There was a man there who was a Jehovah’s Witness. He was a nice enough man. But when we had a few minutes of conversation he would invariably bring up the subject of eternal damnation. He did not believe in it because the Jehovah’s Witnesses say that the wicked dead will not be punished with conscious torment, but will be extinguished, not tormented forever. They say,

Would a loving God really torment people forever?...When a [wicked] person is dead he is completely out of existence... And [Hell] is also a lie, which the Devil spread, that the souls of the wicked are tormented (You Can Live Forever in Paradise on Earth, The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, 1982, pp. 81, 89).

Again, the Jehovah’s Witnesses say,

Hell could not be a place of torment because such an idea never came into the mind or heart of God. Additionally, to torment a person eternally because he did wrong on earth for a few years is contrary to justice. How good it is to know the truth about the [wicked] dead! It can truly set one free from fear and superstition (You Can Live Forever in Paradise on Earth, ibid., p. 89).

And again, the Jehovah’s Witnesses say,

The doctrine of a burning hell where the wicked are tortured eternally after death cannot be true, mainly for four reasons: (1) Because it is wholly unscriptural; (2) it is unreasonable; (3) it is contrary to God’s love; and (4) it is repugnant to justice (Let God Be True, The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society,1946, page 99).

That is what I was told by the Jehovah’s Witness that I knew at work, back in the 1960s.

The Jehovah’s Witnesses differ from Rob Bell’s view of Hell on only one major point – they say that the unsaved dead are extinguished (go out of existence) at death. Rob Bell says that the unsaved dead do go to Hell for a while, but “there will be endless opportunities in an endless amount of time to say yes to God...even the most ‘depraved sinners’ will eventually give up their resistance and turn to God” (Love Wins, ibid., pp. 106-107).

The Jehovah’s Witnesses and Bell hold different positions on that point. The Jehovah’s Witnesses say that the wicked will go out of existence. Bell says they will have “endless opportunities” to be saved. Yet both the Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mr. Bell agree that eternal damnation in Hell is false. Mr. Bell gives exactly the same reasons for rejecting eternal damnation that the Jehovah’s Witnesses give in their book, Let God Be True. And I repeat the Jehovah’s Witness statement here, to show you it is exactly what Rob Bell believes,

The doctrine of a burning hell where the wicked are tortured eternally after death cannot be true, mainly for four reasons: (1) Because it is wholly unscriptural; (2) it is unreasonable; (3) it is contrary to God’s love; and (4) it is repugnant to justice (Let God Be True, The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society,1946, page 99).

I have now read Rob Bell’s book, Love Wins, four times. All the Jehovah’s Witness arguments against eternal damnation appear in Bell’s book. I cannot take time in this brief sermon to answer all four points Bell and the Jehovah’s Witnesses give against eternal damnation. But I will answer one of those four, their first objection. The Jehovah’s Witnesses and Bell both say that the doctrine of eternal damnation “is wholly unscriptural” (Let God Be True, ibid., p. 99). I will show you several Scriptures that prove eternal damnation.

I can still remember showing our text to the Jehovah’s Witness man where I worked.

“And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night” (Revelation 14:11).

The Jehovah’s Witness man brushed it off, and turned away laughing. He said that verse has no application to anyone living today. I’m sure Bell would say something quite similar. Bell goes through several Bible verses that speak of Hell. Then he brushes them off, and belittles what the Bible says about eternal damnation. He says, “The idea of hell is a holdover from primitive, mythic religion...and so the logical conclusion is that we’ve evolved beyond all of that outdated belief, right?” (Love Wins, pp. 69-70).

Wrong! There are still plenty of us who believe what the Bible says about Hell!

“And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night” (Revelation 14:11).

Commenting on that verse, the esteemed author and educator Dr. John F. Walvoord said,

The same Scripture which assures [true] Christians of the love of God and the grace of God as extended to those who trust in Christ is unequivocal [plain and clear] in its absolute statements of judgment upon the wicked...The love of God is not free to express itself to those who have spurned [turned away from] Jesus Christ. Their torment is not a momentary one, for it is described in verse 11 as continuing forever, literally “into the ages of ages,” the strongest expression of eternity of which the Greek is capable. To emphasize the idea of continued suffering, they are declared to have no rest day or night...as the worship of the beast is not interrupted by repentance, so their torment is not interrupted...How dangerous it is for men to trifle with false religions, which contradict the written Word (John F. Walvoord, Th.D., The Revelation of Jesus Christ, Moody Press, 1984 edition, p. 219; comments on Revelation 14:11).

“And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night” (Revelation 14:11).

Christ told us,

“Then shall he say...Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire” (Matthew 25:41).

Christ told us,

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

Then the Apostle John tells us about the Last Judgment of the Unsaved Dead,

“And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:12-15).

If you are unconverted, you will stand before God on that day. The Books will be opened. Every sin you have ever committed is recorded in those books. Every sinful thought, every sinful act, every sinful word you have ever said, every secret sin, that no one else knows about, will be read by God out of the Books of Judgment. When the record of the sins of your life is read, you will be speechless. You will have no arguments whatever in your own defense; no defense for a life of sin! Then you will be “cast into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:15). Does this not move you? Have you no emotion at all when confronted with the awful truth of that Judgment? Have you no fear? Have you no sorrow? Have you no tears? Should not the thought of Judgment and Hell make you weep? Jesus weeps for you! He is ready now to wash away your sins with His own Blood. But it will be too late after death, too late at the Last Judgment. Can you not weep for your own sinful, lost soul? Listen to the words of Dr. John R. Rice,

What will you say to Jesus then, When you face all you might have been,
   And the Redeemer long rejected through the years?
How will you answer in that hour, When to the Judge in all His power,
   You face your record and must answer through your tears?
What will you say? What can you say?
   If unforgiven you face Christ that day.
What will you say? What can you say?
   Facing the Lord you have scorned on that day.

What will you say; deny your sin? What poor excuse can hope to win?
   After your hardened heart for years turned Him away?
Looking into His piercing eyes, Hidden sin judged to your surprise,
   What can you say to Jesus on that awful day?
What will you say? What can you say?
   If unforgiven you face Christ that day.
What will you say? What can you say?
   Facing the Lord you have scorned on that day.

How will you answer calls deferred? Why did God’s Spirit plead unheard?
   Why were the Gospel, love and mercy so scorned?
Now you must face the risen Christ, Pay for your sins an awful price,
   If you have heeded not the judgment long forewarned.
What will you say? What can you say?
   If unforgiven you face Christ that day.
What will you say? What can you say?
   Facing the Lord you have scorned on that day.
(“What Will You Say Then?” by Dr. John R. Rice, 1895-1980).

Click here for Dr. Hymers' sermon, "Why is Rob Bell so Wrong About Hell?"

(END OF SERMON)
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Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan: Revelation 14:9-11.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“What Will You Say Then?” (by Dr. John R. Rice, 1895-1980).