Some pastors preach every Sunday about pending punishment in hell, Meatloaf loved to sing about it, even came Back from Hell in 1993. Bobby Conway, in his reaction to Rob Bell‘s Love Wins, Hell, Rob Bell, and What Happens When People Die (2011) accused preachers of being closet universalists, stating everyone will go to heaven, believer or not. Many books were written on a single view of hell (without ever having been there). Steve Gregg dared to write a book that dives into the three most popular views on hell, while remaining undecided (yet) about which one is right. Though All You Want to Know About Hell has a pretentious title, it’s up to reader to delve in each position, do the cross-examinations and re-read the numerous Bible quotes in context. Unfortunately, that requires balancing, since many quotes are ambiguous, in favor to at least two paradigms. Surprisingly all three had their followers during the first centuries of Christianity, until the so-called traditional view became the one endorsed by the Roman Catholic Church. Until modern times however, all three have their defenders. In the Bible you will not find a specific chapter on the topic, Jesus Christ spent no sermon on it, neither did Paul. And so, it takes a lot of grabbing verses, (Greek) philosophy, pick and choose from possible translations of Hebrew and Greek words and interpretations, while one may loose sight of the consequences or the practical applications. Is the view man-centered or God-centered? How to explain ‘hell’ to your neighbor? Who will benefit from eternal punishment or a total destruction?
- traditional view: hell is a place of eternal torment, without repentance. You either choose Christ before you die, otherwise will be tormented eternally.
- annihilationist (or the conditionalist) view: the damned will simply be put out of existence forever, eventually after a period in hell.
- restorationist view: all human sinners will in the end be reconciled to God.
I admired Gregg’s position in this: delivering in-depth research and challenging his readers. Too many presented their views as written in stone without any room to think, reflect and discuss. Let this book spark good conversations among believers and with non-believers.