I just read this book. And let me begin by saying this: I really didn’t want to read it.
Let me clarify. My desire to steer clear of this book wasn’t because I lacked respect for Francis Chan as a teacher of the Word and an author — cause in fact, I respect, value and appreciate him greatly. And it wasn’t because I thought it was a response to what others have written about hell, even though, in my opinion, it was.
The topic of hell has long been a headliner of conversations within the evangelical community.
And my uneasiness came from a growing concern: Am I spending too much time thinking about hell?
But, I picked up the book anyway. And do you know what the first sentence Francis wrote was?
“If you are excited to read this book, you have issues.” (p. 13)
I was encouraged to read that we were on the same page.
Hell is not an exciting topic. When I first “accepted Christ” or “prayed the prayer” or “invited the Lord” into my life as a young 10-year-old girl; yes, I did love Him and wanted Him to be the center of my life. However, much of my decision to accept Jesus as my Savior was because people were telling me that if I didn’t, I would go to hell.
I had felt convicted about this for years. I’d be lying if I said I don’t feel some sort of shame when I think back about it now.
But I believe the Holy Spirit imbedded within me a sense of responsibility to learn, and not just believe what I’ve been told my whole life.
Before this book, I had never picked up the Bible and dissected what God’s word actually said about hell. Have you?
Much like Chan says in his first few sentences of his book, I would love to erase hell from the pages of Scripture. I struggle with this topic. Whenever it comes up in conversation, I brush it aside and divert my thinking to something more appealing.
But you know what? God is compassionate and just, loving and holy, forgiving and wrathful. Who am I to sideline His more difficult attributes to make room for palatable ones? (paraphrase p. 101)
This is an important topic to educate yourself about. Think about it. I’m going to use Francis’ words because I can’t say it any better:
If we say there is no hell, and it turns out there is a hell, I may lead people into the very place I convinced them did not exist! If I say there is a hell, and I’m wrong, I may persuade people to spend their lives frantically warning loved ones about a terrifying place that isn’t real! When it comes to hell, we can’t afford to be wrong. This is not one of those doctrines where you can toss in your two cents, shrug your shoulders, and move on. Too much is at stake. Too many people are at stake. And the Bible has too much to say. (p. 14).
This book is more than just a book about hell. It’s a book about embracing a God who isn’t always easy to understand, and whose ways are far beyond us. Our God’s thoughts are much higher than our own. As God says in Isaiah 55:
My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. (v. 8-9)
This book offers a foundational understanding of what Scripture actually says about hell while explaining why it actually matters.
He is a God who, as the sovereign Creator and Sustainer of all things, has every right to do, as the psalmist says, “whatever He pleases” (Psalm 115:3).
This book pushed me to a sobering reality: this is not just about doctrine, this is about destinies.
This book pushed me into Scripture: it challenged me to wrestle with the truths written in His word.
You must let Jesus’ words reconfigure the way you live, the way you talk, and the way you see the world and the people around you.
What I’m saying is this — you need to read and learn what God’s word says. As Paul wrote in Philippians 2:12, “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.”