Recently, the media has ignited in a brimstone blaze of controversy over the question of Hell, and the idea that’s generating so much attention is that Hell isn’t real, and even if it were, a loving God wouldn’t possibly send people there. Is Hell real, or is it a concept that is misguided and out of place in today’s Christianity? Many believe the answer to this question will have profound implications on the future of the faith, and important personalities on both sides of this question are drawing lines in the sand.
Brian Jones, a pastor in suburban Philadelphia, can relate to this controversy. Jones had a secret he’d been hiding for years: He didn’t believe in Hell. In Hell Is Real (But I Hate to Admit It) (David C Cook, August 2011), Jones relates that after seminary he came to the conclusion that “the Bible’s teaching about Hell was inaccurate at best and hateful at worst. What I was taught as a child was a lie, and now that I was becoming a pastor I was sure I’d never perpetuate that ridiculous myth again.”
But after an amazing experience that required him to rescue several people from an apartment fire, Jones began to re-think his stance on Hell. His uncertainty on the subject led him to Scripture, and as he studied God’s Word, he felt an overwhelming sense of conviction. “What I discovered shocked me. I had always assumed that the Bible contained only a few scattered references to Hell. I was wrong; it is taught everywhere.”
Drawing upon Scripture and his own experience as a pastor who didn’t believe in Hell, Jones began writing Hell Is Real with the hope that he would humorously and transparently push readers into a head-on collision with what he calls “apocalyptic urgency,” the all-consuming conviction that overtakes someone when they realize that Hell is real and it is within their power to help people avoid going there. The key to this apocalyptic urgency, according to Jones, is for Christians to realize that the largest need that faces mankind is the need to be saved from God’s wrath, which results in a real, literal Hell. Without the urgency that a belief in Hell instills, Christians “will inadvertently create the single greatest holocaust human civilization has ever seen.” In the end, Brian believes that the reason most Christians don’t tell their friends about Jesus has nothing to do with not knowing how—it’s because they don’t think they need to. “Hell Is Real is about transforming apathetic Christians into sold-out evangelists,” states Jones.
In a world eager to toss aside the distinctive beliefs of historical Christianity, voices like Brian Jones’ must be heard. It’s imperative that Christianity is represented by people who have wrestled with these relevant questions, but who’ve come to more thoughtful and traditional understandings on such crucial matters. Hell Is Real is interesting and entertaining, but it is, above all, unflinching in its endorsement of a literal, biblical Hell.\
Hell Is Real (But I Hate to Admit It) by Brian Jones
David C Cook/August 2011
ISBN: 978-0-7814-0572-0/272 pages/$14.99
About the Author:
Brian Jones is the senior pastor at Christ’s Church of the Valley, an innovative community of faith in the suburbs of Philadelphia. Brian is a graduate of Cincinnati Christian University (B.A.) and Princeton Theological Seminary (M. Div.) and has served in leadership positions in churches for over twenty years. His humorous and raw style has made him a popular speaker for conferences, seminars, churches and retreats.
Once a month, Brian would take a spiritual retreat and go off to a monastery to pray, journal, walk in the woods, and then leave late in the afternoon. One day he received a spiritual revelation at the monastery. God connected with him and impressed on him that his life as a pastor was a charade, as he wasn’t preaching the whole Bible, particularly about Hell. To challenge God’s words about Hell, like “Russian roulette,” he opened his Bible randomly to see if what God was saying was true. To his surprise, everything he opened up to related to Hell. This led to conviction, repentance, and the writing of this book.
It seems fair to say that at least one time in many of our lives, we thought of God as a loving God who wouldn’t punish anyone in hell. However, we fail to acknowledge that He is also a holy God of justice and punishes unrepentant sinners with eternal death. He cannot allow sin to enter His holy presence. Even mankind wants justice when someone has committed a crime against them. Where do we get this sense of justice?
Brian Jones, in his book, Hell is Real (But I Hate to Admit It), starts out with six ‘logical’ reasons why he didn’t believe in hell. I am sure many of us can resonate with his objections.
Brian challenges us, based on the teachings of Jesus, to witness as though people’s’ eternal lives depended on it, because it does! He examines reasons why Christians avoid talking about Hell. His book is also a compilation of how-not-to and how-to methods of reaching those who don’t trust and believe in Jesus. Most of the presentations are based on his own experiences. The subject headings help ground you in his style of writing.
Initially I felt the author dwelt too heavily on just avoiding hell. But as he progresses in the book, he balances out the urgency of bringing people to the Lord because He wants us to live with Him eternally in relationship. So if you seem to get bogged down part way through, keep going to the end of his book. You’ll be glad you did!
What Brian doesn’t mention is that eternal fire was initially prepared for the devil and his angels. But in Mathew 25:41, we see that He does send those who are accursed to eternal fire also. A sobering thought–one to spur you on to reach people for Jesus! So don’t fall for today’s media controversy and ideas that Hell isn’t real. Peoples’ lives depend on it!
Many people have heard John 14:6, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” There’s another powerful Scripture that deals with Jesus in Acts 4:12, “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.”
This book was provided by Audra Jennings of The B&B Media Group, Inc., in exchange for my honest review. No monetary compensation was exchanged.