Chapter 5


I decided to combine these two chapters because there are only a couple things I wanted to point out in both.  Instead of covering the overall topic for each chapter, I want to point out some things Rob Bell says and then, again, look at them in light of the scriptures.  First, in “Dying to Live,” Rob Bell says:

 In a different book in the New Testament, Paul writes to the Colossians that through the cross God was 
       reconciling “to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his 
       blood, shed on the cross” (chap 1).  “Reconciliation” is a word from the world of relationships.  It’s what 
       happens when two people or groups have had something come between them, some argument or 
       difference or wrong or injustice, and now they’ve found a way to work it out and come back together.  Peace 
       has been made.  They’ve been reconciled. 

       Paul takes something we experience in relationships and says, essentially, “That’s what happened on the 

       cross.”  God has made peace with “all things.”  (pages 125, 126)

Rob Bell is only partly right.  He again takes a truth, that God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself, and leaves out other scriptures that say this reconciliation MUST be received.  It is not unilaterally automatic.  God has dealt with our sins on the cross, but for us to receive the benefit of the cross and to be reconciled with God, we must, in faith, receive (believe on) Christ and what He has done for us. 

       All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 

       that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and 
to us the message of reconciliation.  Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his   
      appeal through us.  We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.  (2 Cor. 5:18-20)

So God, through Christ, was reconciling the world unto Himself.  However, Paul is imploring his readers on behalf of Christ, BE RECONCILED TO GOD. There is something that the readers must DO to receive the “reconciliation.”  (We’ll look at this more later on when we look at what the apostles preached.)

Bell’s assumption is that this reconciliation is applicable to everyone, because God has said that He was reconciling “the world” unto Himself.  Paul, the very one who said that “God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself,” also said in 2 Thessalonians:

       And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty

       angels, In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord 
       Jesus Christ:  Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the  
       glory of his power;  (2 Th. 1:7-9)

If these unbelievers had received reconciliation as Bell implies, doesn’t it seem strange that the Lord is now going to punish them with everlasting destruction?  This is from the epistles, and we haven’t even looked at the book of Revelation yet, which is an account of God killing most of the world for their sin and rebellion as He brings this age to a close.  Obviously, these people are not reconciled to God.  If they were, then we could rightly ask, “Will not the judge of all the earth do right?  Will you condemn the righteous with the wicked?” 

Again, Bell is wrong.

Now, on to the chapter “There are Rocks Everywhere.”

In this chapter, Bell seeks to convince us that Christ is saving all kinds of people who may not even know that they are being saved by Christ.  He starts out with the account in Exodus 17 in which Moses strikes the rock to bring forth water for the complaining Israelites.  After briefly explaining the account, Bell says:

       But the rock – we don’t hear any more about the rock.  Until more than a thousand years later. 

       In the letter to the Corinthians, the apostle Paul refers to this story about this rock, saying that those who 

       traveled out of Egypt “drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ” 
       (1 Cor. 10)

       That rock was…Christ? Jesus?

       Jesus was the rock?

       How is that?  Christ is mentioned nowhere in the story.  Moses strikes the rock, it provides water, and the  

       people have something to drink. 

       Story over.

       Paul, however, reads another story in the story, insisting that Christ was present in the moment, that Christ 

       was providing the water they needed to survive – that Jesus was giving, quenching, sustaining. 

       Jesus was, he says, the rock.

       According to Paul,
       Jesus was there.
       Without anybody using his name.
       Without anybody saying that it was him.
       Without anybody acknowledging just what – or, more precisely, who – it was.  (pages 143, 144)

So here we have Bell recounting this story to help us see that Jesus is at work everywhere, saving people that don’t even know He is the one that is saving them.  But is that really the meaning of this story?  Is that why Paul shared this account?  Because the scripture shows that God killed off most of the Israelites who actually drank from the rock. 

       Surely none of the men that came up out of Egypt, from twenty years old and upward, shall see the land which 

       I sware unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob; because they have not wholly followed me:  Save Caleb 
       the son of Jephunneh the Kenezite, and Joshua the son of Nun: for they have wholly followed the LORD.  
       And the LORD'S anger was kindled against Israel, and he made them wander in the wilderness forty years, 
       until all the generation, that had done evil in the sight of the LORD, was consumed.  (Num. 32:11-13)

So was Jesus saving the Israelites only to later kill them off?  If Bell believes that Jesus is saving others in this same way, is Jesus also going to kill off these other people in the same way?  Let’s look at 1st Corinthians and see what Paul wanted us to learn from this account.

       Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and 
       all passed through the sea;  And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea;  And did all eat the 

       same spiritual meat;  And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that 
       followed them: and that Rock was Christ.  But with many of them God was not well pleased: for they were   
       overthrown in the wilderness. 

       Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted.  

       Neither be ye idolaters, as were some of them; as it is written, The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose 
       up to play.  Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed, and fell in one day three and twenty 
       thousand.  Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents.  
       Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer.  Now all these 
       things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of 
       the world are come. 

       Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.”  (1Cor. 10:1-12)

Paul did not write these passages in 1 Corinthians 10 to show us the marvelous ways that Jesus is saving people all over the world without them even knowing it.  Notice who Paul is addressing.  He says, “Moreover, BRETHREN.”  Paul is talking to believers in Jesus Christ and giving THEM a personal warning.  Paul is telling them how God redeemed Israel from the Egyptians, baptized them, and provided for them; but then because they sinned, God overthrew (killed) them in the wilderness.  They were destroyed by the God who had saved them.  Paul even tells them why this happened: “Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples; and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.”  These things happened and were recorded so that we who believe would have a warning about how God works, how serious He is, and how serious we should be about following Him and about our salvation.  The point of Paul sharing this account, contrary to what Rob Bell believes, is not because he wanted to point out how Jesus was mysteriously saving people without them knowing it. 

Bell continues:

       Paul’s interpretation that Christ was present in the Exodus raises the question:
       Where else has Christ been present?
       When else?
       With who else?
       How else?

       Paul finds Jesus there,
       In that rock,
       Because Paul finds Jesus everywhere.  (page 144)

So because Paul sees Jesus at work in the nation to which God chose to reveal Himself, Bell assumes that God is also doing the same thing in other nations.  However, God had specifically chosen to reveal himself through the nation of Israel, and they were to be a light to the world.  Bell says that Paul “finds Jesus everywhere,” which is hardly the case.  Paul finds Jesus at work in the people group that God called forth to reveal Himself to the world.  Paul sees Jesus in all the types and shadows that God sovereignly ordered to teach us about Jesus Christ.  Paul never refers to any pagan example to show Christ “secretly at work in their midst.”  Notice what Paul says in Acts 17 at Mars Hill.  Paul finds an altar there to an unknown God and says:

       For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD.

       Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you.  (Acts 17:23)

The men of Athens worshipped many gods and even had this altar to “the unknown God;” because they worshipped so many gods, surely there might be one they did not know.  Paul then said He would declare this unknown God to them, who indeed is the only true God.  Notice Paul did not say “I found and altar, and that altar IS Christ.  He has been saving you and you just don’t know it.”  Why?  Because that was not the case.  Paul did not “see Jesus everywhere.”  Paul did see an opportunity to preach about Jesus, but Paul did not say that Jesus was at work in their midst already saving them.  Then, notice what Paul tells these men:

       And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent:  Because 

       he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath 
       ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead 
       (Acts 17:30, 31)

Paul did not say that God was saving everyone.  Nor did Paul say that they were already reconciled to God.  Paul told them that God “commands all men to repent.”  He tells them that they will be judged by a man that God raised from the dead.  He did not tell them, “Don’t worry, Love Wins.” 

Now, Rob Bell builds on his false assumption from the story in Exodus to continue teaching that Jesus is saving people, and sometimes they just don’t know it or Him.

Bell says:

       John remembers Jesus saying, “I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except 

       through me” (chap. 14)

       This is as wide and expansive a claim as a person can make.

       What he doesn’t say is how, or when, or in what manner the mechanism functions that gets people to God 

       through him.  He doesn’t even state that those coming to the Father through him will even know that they 
       are coming exclusively through him.  He simply claims that whatever God is doing in the world to know and 
       redeem and love and restore the world is happening through him.  (page 154)

The whole testimony of the New Testament bears witness that what Rob Bell has just said is false.  Nobody comes to the Father without knowing Jesus, His name, and what He has done for them through the cross.  Jesus Himself commissioned His disciples to preach that it was only through believing their message about Him that men could have their sins forgiven.

       And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third 

       day:  And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning 
       at Jerusalem.  (Luke 24:47)

There is not one example in all of the New Testament of anyone coming to the Father through Jesus and not knowing it.  That’s like saying, “I got married to my wife.  We now live together.  I just don’t know her name, and I’ve never met her.”  Obviously, that’s absurd. 

Now, though God does send people to preach the gospel, He sometimes reveals Himself to people even when there is no preacher.  (God is not worried if the missionary gets a flat tire.)  In fact, God often reveals Jesus to Muslims through dreams and visions.  You can view many of these types of testimonies here:  (I encourage you to do so; they are very edifying.)  One thing you will notice though is that everyone comes to know who Jesus is, what His name is, and what He has done for them through the cross.  God exalts His Son and does not leave men whom He’s saving in the dark in regards to the name of His Son and the salvation He has provided. 

It almost wants to make you ask Bell some of his own questions.

Is God weak?
Is He not all powerful?
Is He impotent to reveal His Son to people?

What kind of God is that?

No, Jesus meant that people only come to the Father through Him.  They know His name, they know what He has done, and they believe it. 

Bell continues:

       What Jesus does is declare that he,
       And he alone,
       Is saving everybody.  (page 155)

I’m sorry, what verse was that?  Actually, what Jesus says is come to Him to have life, repent and believe, and you will be saved.  If you don’t, then you will be damned (Mark 16:16).  So Jesus is actually saving some people and damning others. 

Bell continues this theme of Jesus secretly saving people through the rest of the chapter.  However, he makes one other statement I want to address.  Near the end, Bell says:

       The world is being redeemed.  (page 160)

The world is not being redeemed.  The world is under a curse and will continue to get worse until Christ comes back.  2 Peter 3 and the whole of Revelation make this clear.  Ultimately, this world will pass away, and then God will make a new heaven and a new earth.  People are being redeemed; the world is not. 

So, there are rocks everywhere, but they are only rocks.
Jesus is not secretly saving anyone.
He is the only way to the Father.
You must come to Him and know it.
This cursed world is passing away and God will make a new one.
And people, not the world, are being redeemed.…those who believe. (John 20:31)

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