Chapter 2

Here Is The New There - Well, Unless You Read Your Bible

Again, where to start?

It’s really hard to know just how much to write when Rob Bell has 41 pages dedicated to redefining heaven and making it something that the scriptures never intended it to be.  But I’ll try to cover enough of it so one can see how little of an understanding of the scriptures he has, and hopefully you’ll also be able to see the nature of his deception.  In this chapter of his book, there are a couple things said that are good and may make one think about certain aspects of their Christian walk.  Nevertheless, it is for the most part another attempt to distort what the Bible teaches by taking scripture out of context and giving new meanings to ideas and truths that have already been defined in the Bible.  Simply because one can find a few good things Bell says in this chapter is no reason for someone to endorse him or what he teaches.  If you found a small piece of good bread sitting in the middle of a pile of cow manure, would you eat it?  Or would you tell others to go get their food there?  I would hope not.

In talking about heaven and hell, you often end up talking about eschatology.  Eschatology is the study or topic of “end time” things.  There are many different views on this topic that cover a wide spectrum of ideas.  I personally don’t have it all figured out.  My purpose though is not to outline how the “end of time” events fully play out.  My main goal is to help people see how Bell craftily twists the scriptures, giving them new meanings in order to introduce new ideas, ideas that are not found in the Bible, ideas that change the focus and meaning of the “Good News” and make it into something else.  Something that is very in vogue today. 

End time apostasy? 

Who would have thought?

Bell starts out the chapter by talking about this photo that was in his grandmother’s house as he was growing up:

He describes this picture by saying: 

It’s as if Thomas Kinkade and Dante were at a party, and one turned to the other sometime after midnight and 
       uttered that classic line, “You know, we really should work together sometime…” (page 22)

He then says:

       When I asked my sister Ruth if she remembered this paining, she immediately replied, Of course, it gave us 

       the creeps.  (page 22)

So here is a picture that, when looking at the scriptures as a whole, can and does certainly represent some biblical truth.  In fact, if you know the scriptures, you can probably think of many passages that this painting could represent.  But Bell doesn’t go there.  In talking about the picture, he goes on say:

       One of the only violent images Jesus ever uses is when he speaks about those who cause children to 

       stumble.  With a shocking hyperbolic flourish, he declares that the only fitting punishment is to tie a giant 
       stone around their neck and throw them into the sea (Matt 18).  Death by drowning – Jesus’s idea of 
       punishment for those who lead children astray.  A haunting warning if there ever was one about the 
       sponge-like nature of a child’s psyche.  I’m not saying that my grandmother’s painting did that, but it clearly  
       unnerved at least two of us.  (page 22)

So Bell uses this picture, that actually conveys spiritual truth found in the scripture, to begin to tear down what people believe about heaven and later hell.  How does he do this?  He does this by insinuating something but then denying that he’s insinuating anything!  Almost sounds like a politician, doesn’t he? 

Bell says this picture gave him and his sister “the creeps” when they were children.  Then he tells about how Jesus will kill those who make children stumble. Then he denies that he is relating the passage about Jesus killing those who offend children to those who hold a traditional view of heaven and hell, which is what the picture conveys.  Do you see how he’s working to sow fear into people?  He wants to subtly sow into people the fear that if they believe what the Bible says – what many hold as the traditional view of heaven and hell – and teach it to their children, they might cause them to stumble and are therefore worthy of death.

But of course, in typical Bell fashion, he then denies that’s what he’s saying.  He says:

       I’m not saying that my grandma’s painting did that, but it clearly unnerved at least two of us.  (page 22)

But if that’s the case, then why bring up the passage in Matthew 18?  Is it just to fill the pages, to make his book longer?  Why bring something up and then say it doesn’t relate to what you are saying?  It’s easy actually, because it IS what he is saying.  He may deny it if he likes, but he deliberately put it there to place doubt and fear into those who hold to a traditional view of heaven and hell.  Fear of what?  Fear of offending a child and being killed by God.  Again, doesn’t he sound like a politician?  When politicians want to pass a piece of legislation that they know might run up against objections, what do they do?  Well, if they can, they will say, “This is for the children.”  After all, who could deny something good to children?  Does anyone want the label of being against children?  Of course not.  So the objections go away and the legislation passes.  Do you want to possibly offend children and be in jeopardy of having a stone tied around your neck and then being drowned in the sea?  Well then, leave your traditional view of heaven and hell behind, and let Bell teach you the new understanding. 

Like the devil.
Subtly sowing doubt.
Subtly sowing fear.

And that is how he begins chapter 2.

Bell continues:

       “From what we see, the people in the painting are going somewhere, somewhere they’ve chosen to go, and  

       they’re leaving something behind so that they can go there.”  (page 23)

Hallelujah!  It’s like he can almost see some biblical truth!  Almost. 

So what does he almost see?
People, going somewhere.
Like pilgrims and strangers. (1 Peter 2:11, Heb. 11:13)

People, looking for a city which God built.  (Heb. 11:10, 16)
People that have chosen to go. (John 3:16, Luke 9:23)
People that have forsaken all.  (Luke 14:33)
People that have left something behind.

Like sin. (1 Cor. 6:9, 10)
And the love of the world. (James 4:4)
And the wisdom of the world. (1 Cor. 1:20, 21)

Getting from one place to another by that foolish cross.  (1 Cor. 1:18)

Bell continues his discussion about the painting, saying:

       “Giant crosses do not hang suspended in the air in the world that you and I call home.  Cities do not float.  And 

       if you tripped and fell off the cross/sidewalk in this world, you would not free-fall indefinitely down into an abyss 
       of giant red caves and hissing steam.”  (page 23)

To that I would answer, “Well, obviously.”  It seems interesting that Bell would take this photo so literally since he’s such a promoter of “redemptive art” in all its obscure, widely interpretive forms.  But this discussion about the painting wasn’t written to treat it like he would other art; it was written to put fear and doubt in your mind about what is traditionally taught and then to point out how unrealistic that is in the “real” world.  He does this by saying something that no one else believes either. 

Bell then begins to ask questions about what heaven will be like.  He says:

       And then there are those whose lessons about heaven consist primarily of who will and who won’t be there.  

       And so there’s a woman sitting in a church service with tears streaming down her face, as she imagines 
       being reunited with her sister who was killed in a car accident seventeen years ago.  The woman sitting next 
       to her, however, is realizing that if what the pastor is saying about heaven is true, she will be separated from 
       her mother and father, brothers and sisters, cousins, aunts, uncles, and friends forever, with no chance of any 
       reunion, ever.  She in that very same moment has tears streaming down her face too, but they are tears of a   
       different kind. 

       When she ask the pastor afterwards if it’s true that, because they weren’t Christians, none of her family will be 

       there, she’s told that she’ll be having so much fun worshipping God that it won’t matter to her.  Which is quite   
       troubling and confusing, because the people she loves the most in the world do matter to her.  (page 25)

I wish I could play a sad violin sound, with an accompanying big neon light that flashes “humanism” every time Rob Bell plays to human emotions for determining and judging what is right and wrong.  I’m afraid though that if I were able to do that, it would play on almost every page of the book.  Notice there is no appeal to scripture, no explanation of what the cross means, no mention of what God requires, just an appeal to a person who’s sad – an appeal to their emotions.  If Bell would take his time to read, just as plain as day, say for instance, the book of Romans, all this matter could be cleared up (not that he hasn’t read it; he just doesn’t believe it).  It’s no different than how Bell starts off his book in his preface.  He says: 

       “For God so loved the world…”
       “That’s why Jesus came.”

Notice he conveniently leaves out the rest of John 3:16, which says:

       For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but 

       have eternal life.  (John 3:16)

Why does he leave it out?
Because that actually IS why Jesus came.
To save those who believe, from perishing, by demonstrating the love of God, giving them eternal life. 

Bell’s glaring problem is that he doesn’t understand, or more likely doesn’t believe, what the crucifixion of Jesus means and says about both God and man.  Nor does he understand how the benefits of the cross are received by those who receive eternal life.  Actually, as far as I can tell, he does understand what the Bible teaches; he just rejects it.  He rejects it because he’s a humanist.  What ultimately matters to him is not what God has said on the matter, but what seems right in his own eyes.  Since people love their relatives, and God is love, then there must be another explanation that allows for everyone to go to and partake of heaven. 

In fact, Bell says:

       Are there other ways to think about heaven, other than as that perfect floating shiny city hanging suspended 

       there in the air above that ominous red and black realm, with all that smoke and steam and hissing fire?  I say 
       yes, there are.  (page 26)

I would say that the author of that painting didn’t mean for every detail to be taken literally, as Bell implies; BUT nevertheless, from Bell’s assumption, we now move on to see what Bell believes about heaven.

To do this, Rob Bell uses the story of the rich man, out of Matthew 19.  The rich man says to Jesus, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?”

Bell says:

       The rich man’s question, then, is the perfect opportunity for Jesus to give a clear, straightforward answer to the 

       only question that ultimately matters for many.  First, we can only assume, he’ll correct the man’s flawed   
       understanding of how salvation works.  He’ll show the man how eternal life isn’t something he has to earn 
       or work for; it’s a free gift of grace.  Then, he’ll invite the man to confess, repent, trust, accept, and believe 
       that Jesus has made a way for him to have a relationship with God.  Like any good Christian would do.  
       (page 27)

Here again, we have Bell questioning what it is for one to be a believer, how it is that they “get saved.”  At the beginning of Love Wins, Bell talks about all the different ways people either had their sins forgiven and/or were saved or accepted by God (chose your terminology).  But the fact is, no matter what the event, in each case you have someone that exhibits saving faith in Jesus.  That is what Jesus is attempting to lead this rich man to do.  Jesus, standing there in the flesh, is leading this man to a life of “leaving all to follow Him.”  (You will notice however that, after Christ’s resurrection, Jesus clearly tells the disciples what to say and teach people.  Then, if you read the book of Acts, you will see how the disciples and apostles understood Jesus by what they said to those they preached to.  Bell never addresses this, because it would throw much of his book underwater and render many of his examples useless.  More on this later).

       Jesus, however, doesn’t do any of that.  He asks the man: “Why do you ask me about what is good?  There is 

       only one who is good.  If you want to enter life, keep the commandments.”

       “Enter life?”  (page 27)

Entering life is the same as eternal life.  Jesus told this man that if he wanted to enter life, he needed to keep the commandments.  However, this guy hadn’t kept the commandments of God, just like everyone else hadn’t either. 

       Jesus refers to the man’s intentions as “entering life”?  And then he tells him that you do that by keeping the

       commandments?  This wasn’t what Jesus was supposed to say. (page 27)

Actually, that’s exactly what Jesus was supposed to say.  He was showing this man that he, in fact, had not kept the commandments and was a lawbreaker in God’s sight. 

       For all who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the 

       law will be judged by the law.  (Rom. 2:12)

       Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may 

       be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God.  (Rom. 3:19)

       For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge 

       of sin.  (Rom. 3:20)

Bell continues:

       Jesus then tells him, “Go, sell your possessions, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven,” 

       which causes the man to walk away sad, “because he had great wealth”.  Did we miss something?  The big 
       words, the important words – “eternal life,” “treasure,” “heaven” – were all there in the conversation, but 
       they weren’t used in the ways that many Christians use them.  (page 29)

Notice how Bell leaves out the part where Jesus says… “and come and follow me.”

Bell continues:

       The man says he’s kept all of the commandments that Jesus mentions, but Jesus hasn’t mentioned the one 

       about coveting.  Jesus then tells him to sell his possessions and give the money to the poor, which Jesus 
       doesn't tell other people, because it’s not an issue for them.  It is, for this man.  The man is greedy – and 
       greed has no place in the world to come.  He hasn’t learned yet that he has a sacred calling to use his 
       wealth to move creation forward.  How can God give him more responsibility and resources in the age to 
       come, when he hasn’t handled well what he’s been given in this age?

       Jesus takes the man’s question about his life then and makes it about the kind of life he’s living now.  

       (page 41)

Bell says that “greed” has no place in the world to come.  But the Bible doesn’t say that.  It says that no “greedy person” has a place in the world to come (or Kingdom of God).  A greedy person will be excluded from God’s Kingdom.  The point of the story is not that the man “hasn’t learned yet that he has a sacred calling to use his wealth to move creation forward.”  The point of the story is that this man’s greed is the idol in his life that is keeping him from receiving eternal life and following Jesus.  Jesus was leading this man to repentance for his sin and to faith in Jesus Christ (come and follow me).  Bell implies that this man just needs to modify his behavior and help the poor when in fact, this man needs to get rid of his idol, his greed and selfishness, and then leave all to follow Jesus. 

Bell continues:

       When the man asks about getting “eternal life,” he isn’t asking about how to get to heaven when he dies.  

       This wasn’t a concern for the man or Jesus.  This is why Jesus doesn’t tell people how to “go to heaven.” It 
       wasn’t what Jesus came to do.  (page 30)

That’s only partially true.  The primary message Jesus came to give was not “how to get to heaven,” IF you want to put it into those terms.  Jesus came to give people life – eternal  life.  He came to reconcile men to God (2 Cor. 5:19).  He came that men might have eternal life (John 3:16), which is more than just living in this age and the age to come (as Bell puts it).  Eternal life is most accurately summed up in John 17:3:

       And this is eternal life, that they may know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.  

       (John 17:3)

Eternal life is not simply getting rid of certain sins that will not be permitted in the “age to come.”  It is knowing God and knowing Jesus Christ, who themselves are eternal. When one has God dwelling IN them, they have eternal life, as God is eternal. 

And Jesus did tell people what would exclude them from heaven, and what they needed to enter heaven:

       For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the 

       kingdom of heaven.  (Mat. 5:20)

       Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.  

       (Mat. 18:3)

Eternal life.

They are all connected in what Jesus came and taught.  To say that He did not teach this is to disregard scripture and not be truthful. 

Bell then talks about different passages that talk about the “age to come.”  He uses different passages from the prophets to talk about this new day/time coming when ALL will be saved (more on that later).  Of course Bell is not consistent with the word ALL, nor is he faithful to some passages.

For instance, Bell says:

       The prophet Isaiah said that in that new day “the nations will stream to” Jerusalem, and God will “settle the 

       disputes for many peoples;” people will “beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning 
       hooks.”  (chap. 2) (page 33)

Continuing he says:

       First, they spoke about “all the nations.”  That’s everybody.  (page 34)

Here, Bell begins to sow the seeds of universalism.  He believes that “all the nations” means that every single person will stream to Jerusalem and that God will bring peace on earth, meaning that they are all saved.  First, “all nations” does not mean everyone in that nation.  If all the nations are gathered at the UN, does that mean that every, single person in the world is gathered at the UN?  Secondly, and more importantly, one of the truths that anyone who reads the Bible will know is that when the word ALL is used, it doesn’t always mean ALL, as in every single one.  Bell recognizes that there are different meanings for words such as eternal (olam) and forever (aion) but doesn’t realize that the same is true for the word ALL.  There are countless places in the Bible where ALL doesn’t mean “every single one/person.”  (This will come up later in his book, and I’ll address it more there.)

The chapter then shifts to Rob Bell explaining what Jesus meant by the word “heaven.” 

Bell says:

       Jesus consistently affirmed heaven as a real place, space, and dimension of God’s creation, where God’s will 

       and only God’s will is done.  Heaven is that realm where things are as God intends them to be.  (page 42)

I agree with that, because the scriptures agree with it.  Heaven is a place where only God’s will is done.  However, what I disagree with is what Bell also implies and says about heaven.  That as we do God’s will, we are bringing heaven to earth and helping create the new earth that God desires.  Why?  Because Jesus never said that as we do the will of God, we bring heaven to earth.  He said, “May your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”  Distinctly two different places, even when the will of God IS being done on earth. 

In the middle of this discussion, Bell talks about possessions.  He says:

       (By the way, when the writer John in the book of Revelation gets a current glimpse of the heavens, one detail 

       he mentions about crowns is that people are taking them off [chap. 4].  Apparently, in the unvarnished 
       presence of the divine a lot of things we consider significant turn out to be, much like wearing a crown, quite 

       absurd.)  (page 44)

I personally have a feeling that the Lord is not going to allow anything absurd into His eternal kingdom.  In fact, it’s not as if these men went to the local market in heaven and bought their crowns.  They were given to them by THE LORD.  Are you comfortable saying that something the Lord gives His people is absurd?  While people might have a different understanding of why these elders are casting their crowns at the feet of the Lord, the reason is certainly not because the crowns are absurd.  I personally like what one commentator says on this subject:

       And cast their crowns before the throne – They are described as “crowned” (Rev. 4:4), that is, as 

       triumphant, and as kings (compare Rev. 5:10), and they are here represented as casting their crowns at his 
       feet, in token that they owe their triumph to Him. To his providential dealings, to his wise and merciful 
       government, they owe it that they are crowned at all; and there is, therefore, a propriety that they should  
       acknowledge this in a proper manner by placing their crowns at his feet.

Here are some passages on “crowns”.  See if the Lord thinks they are absurd:

       Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will 

       to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.  (2 Tim. 4:8)

       Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the 

       crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.  (Jas. 1:12)

       And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.  (1 Peter 5:4)

       And lastly, from the mouth of Jesus Himself:

       I am coming soon. Hold fast what you have, so that no one may seize your crown. (Rev. 3:11)

Bell continues:

       When Jesus tells the man that there are rewards for him, he’s promising the man that receiving the peace of 

       God now, finding gratitude for what he does have, and sharing it with those who need it will create in him 
       all the more capacity for joy in the world to come. (page 44)

Actually, that’s not true.  Nothing that Bell says above is found in that passage.  Jesus told the rich man to give away his idol, his possessions, to the poor and then to come and follow Jesus.  He said nothing about increasing the man’s “capacity for joy in the world to come.”  Again, Bell leaves out that important detail of “come and follow me.”

Bell continues:

       Taking heaven seriously, then, means taking suffering seriously now.  Not because we’ve bought into the myth 

       that we can create a utopia given enough time, technology, and good voting choices, but because we have 
       great confidence that God has not abandoned human history and is actively at work within it, taking it 
       somewhere.  Around a billion people in the world today do not have access to clean drinking water.  People 
       will have access to clean water in the age to come, and so working for clean-water access for all is 
       participating now in the life of the age to come.  (page 45)

So let me get this straight.  In heaven, there will be no dandruff, so we should work to make sure there is no dandruff today?  In heaven, everyone will wear white robes, so we should make sure everyone wears white robes today?  Are we pulling heaven into the present if we do such things?

Can you find any of the disciples or apostles laboring for such things in the book of Acts?  Surely these men, who walked and talked with Jesus, must have understood what Jesus meant.  I think though that their concern was that something greater would take place.  In heaven, everyone has faith in God and has no sins laid to their account.  The men who “most” understood Jesus and what He wanted us to do went about preaching a foolish message that reconciled men to God.  It’s called the gospel, the good news.  They didn’t run around drilling Jesus Wells and teaching sustainable living or redemptive art.  They taught men how to be saved, how to fellowship as believers, how to walk a holy life, how to love their brethren, and how to reach the lost.  Maybe they should have read Love Wins so they could have spent their time really bringing “heaven to earth.”

I have personally been a missionary in both India and Mexico.  In India, I have seen Christian groups come in and put Jesus Wells (water wells) in Hindu villages.  This was an attempt to show the “love of Jesus.”  While I’m sure these people appreciated the well, what they really needed was the gospel – the very thing Jesus said to preach.  They needed the good news of what the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ means for them.  They needed life, eternal life, which is only found in Christ.  Yet when I went to these villages, they were still in bondage to idol worship, which God says is demon worship (1 Cor. 10:20).  Instead of Living Water, they were given literal water.  If these people end up perishing in their sins and standing before God, I’m sure at that point they will realize that they would have much more appreciated having the Living Water that Jesus Christ gives than the literal water that Rob Bell advocates giving.

Many times, groups that believe like Bell will say that when they do these good works, they have “no agenda,” which really is absurd.  Of course they have an agenda, even if they say they don’t.  And that’s ok.  Jesus had an agenda.  His agenda was to do the will of the Father and give life to those who would BELIEVE.  The apostles also had an agenda, and it wasn’t to start a bunch of non-profits to rid the world of injustices.  They were interested in ridding people of the injustices that they had been committing against God, which is the greatest injustice there ever was.  They were peacemakers in the truest sense.   

Bell continues:

       It often appears that those who talk the most about going to heaven when you die talk the least about bringing

       heaven to earth right now, as Jesus taught us to pray: “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”  At the 
       same time, it often appears that those who talk the most about relieving suffering now talk the least about 
       heaven when we die.  (page 45)

Actually, that’s because Jesus never gave anyone a commandment to bring heaven to earth.   Jesus taught people to pray, “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”  So there’s this place called heaven where only the will of God is done. Then there’s this place called earth were God’s will is almost never done.  Jesus tells people to pray that God’s will would be done ON earth as it is IN heaven.  There is nothing said about bringing heaven to earth.  The issue is about seeking to have God’s will done in this place called earth like it is in this place called heaven.  What is God’s will?  It is that we would believe in His Son Jesus Christ and keep His commandments.  What about relieving suffering?  Was that the main focus in the last great commission that Jesus gave to His disciples before He ascended to heaven?  Was His commission that His people become nothing more than a glorified Red Cross?  Let’s look at some of the last words of Jesus and see what He says.

       And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Go therefore 

       and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy 
       Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end 
       of the age.”  (Mat. 28:18-20)

       And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.  Whoever believes 

       and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.  And these signs will 
       accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they 
       will pick up serpents with their hands; and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay 
       their hands on the sick, and they will recover.”  (Mark 16:15-18)

Notice that the primary instruction/command from Jesus has to do with making disciples, preaching a gospel that must be believed for salvation, baptizing these believers, and teaching them to obey everything Jesus commanded.  How does Jesus tell His disciples to deal with suffering?  He tells the disciples to cast out demons and to lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.  It sounds like Jesus is telling them to do the same works that He did while He was on earth.  Notice that He didn’t tell them to bring clean water to the world, but Jesus did tell people where they could get living water that wells up into eternal life (John 4:14).  He said nothing about working together with Hindus and Muslims to promote human rights or working to end injustice.  He said to proclaim the gospel, make disciples, baptize them, teach them to obey what He taught, cast out demons, and heal the sick.  If you will take the time to read the book of Acts, you’ll see that the apostles and disciples did that very thing.  They believed what Jesus said and then obeyed His commandment.  (More on this later.)

Bell continues:

       If you believe that you’re going to leave and evacuate to somewhere else, then why do anything about this 

       world?  A proper view of heaven leads not to escape from the world, but to full engagement with it, all with 
       the anticipation of a coming day when things are on earth as they currently are in heaven.  (page 47)

Bell subtly implies that this earth gets to the “new earth” status because of what the saints do while we are here.  That sounds nice, but it’s certainly not what God teaches.  This earth does not get to its new, glorified form because believers somehow make heaven on earth.  The earth becomes the “new earth” because God brings this one to an end and makes a new one.  Whether you believe that God totally destroys this earth and creates a new one or that God uses the same earth but makes everything new (renovating it, in a sense), it is God who brings this about by bringing this corrupt world to an end.

       But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great 

       noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be 
       burned up.  Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in 
       all holy conversation and godliness,  Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein 
       the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat?  Nevertheless 
       we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.  
       (2 Peter 3:10-13)

So basically, this earth is going to be burned up; therefore, live a holy and godly life and look and wait for the new heavens and new earth where righteousness dwells. 

       And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and 

       there was no more sea.  (Rev. 21:1)

What is the goal?  This earth OR the new earth where righteousness dwells?  Are you able to discern?  Are you trying to save the planet that God will destroy or renovate?   

Bell continues:

       In Matthew 20 the mother of two of Jesus’s disciples says to Jesus, “Grant that one of these two sons of 

       mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom.”  She doesn’t want bigger mansions 
       or larger piles of gold for them, because static images of wealth and prosperity were not what filled people’s 
       heads when they thought of heaven in her day.  She understood heaven to be about partnering with God to 
       make a new and better world, one with increasingly complex and expansive expressions and dimensions of 
       shalom, creativity, beauty, and design.  (page 47)

You’ll find nothing of what the mother of Zebedee’s children though about heaven in Matthew 20:20-23.  Rob Bell just makes this part up, clearly adding to the word of God. 

Then Bell transitions back to talking about the rich man and his need to have a heart change.  Then Bell says:

       The apostle Paul writes in 1 Cor. 3 that “the Day” the prophets spoke of , the one that inaugurates life in the 

       age to come, will “bring everything to light” and “reveal it with fire,” the kind of fire that will “test the quality of 
       each person’s work.”  Some in this process will find that they spent their energies and efforts on things that 
       won’t be in heaven-on-earth.  “If it is burned up,” Paul writes, “the builder will suffer loss but yet will be 
       saved, even though only as one escaping through the flames.”  (page 49)

This is a favorite passage of those who believe that ALL will be saved and ultimately be reconciled to God.  Notice how Bell uses it.  He talks about the rich man who walks away from Jesus because he is full of greed.  Ephesians 5:5 and 1 Corinthians 6:10 say that “no greedy/covetous person will inherit God’s kingdom.”  So Bell claims that this verse in 1 Corinthians 3 says that the flames will burn up their greed, because it won’t survive in the new “heaven-on-earth” but that the man will ultimately be saved…yet saved as through fire.  So the fact is, with Bell’s misunderstanding, the man ultimately gets to keep being greedy and eventually still inherit God’s kingdom.

So what is Paul actually saying in 1 Corinthians 3?  Well, let’s look at the verse “in context.”  (Now, there’s a thought!)

       I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.  So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, 

       but only God who gives the growth.  He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his 
       wages according to his labor.  For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building.  
       According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone 
       else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it.  For no one can lay a foundation 
       other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.  Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, 
       silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw – each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose
       it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done.  If the work 
       that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward.  If anyone’s work is burned up, he 
       will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.  Do you not know that you are God’s 
       temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?  (1 Cor. 3:6-16)

First of all, the letter is written to a church; it is written to believers who have the spirit of God dwelling in them (1 Cor. 3:16).  Paul is talking about himself and Apollos as those who plant, water, and build in the field of God, which is the church.  Paul then talks about how each person builds on the “foundation of Jesus Christ.”  Paul says that this work, this building on the foundation of Jesus Christ, will be tested by fire to see what sort of work it was.  If the building on this foundation survives, then the man will receive a “reward.”  If it doesn’t survive the fire, the man will lose the reward, or suffer loss, yet he himself will be saved – because he is a believer, part of the temple of God in which the spirit of God dwells.  There is nothing in the context of this verse that says it would apply in any way to a non-believing, covetous, greedy, idolater.  This verse has nothing to do with an unbeliever at all.  It only has to do with believers, their rewards or loss of them, and how they BUILD on the FOUNDATION OF JESUS CHRIST. 

It’s interesting how many things will get cleared right up if one reads them in context.

Bell continues:

       Imagine being a racist in heaven-on-earth, sitting down at the great feast and realizing that you’re sitting next to

       them.  Those people.  The ones you’ve despised for years.  Your racist attitude would simply not survive.  
       Those flames in heaven would be hot.  (page 50)

Actually, there won’t be any racists in heaven, because followers of Jesus aren’t racist.  You cannot hate people, which is murder, and inherit God’s kingdom.  No murderer has eternal life (1 John 3:15).

Bell continues:

       Jesus makes no promise that in the blink of an eye we will suddenly become totally different people who have 

       vastly different tastes, attitudes, and perspectives.  Paul makes it very clear that we will have our true selves  
       revealed and that once the sins and habits and bigotry and pride and petty jealousies are prohibited and 
       removed, for some there simply won’t be much left.  “As one escaping through the flames” is how he put it.  
       (page 50)

Again, God says totally the opposite.  The Spirit of God says through the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:

       And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.  Now this I say,   

       brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption.  
       Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,  In a moment, in the 
       twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, 
       and we shall be changed.  For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on 
       immortality.  (1Cor. 15:49-53)

This passage says exactly the opposite of what Bell says.  It says we will bear the image of the heavenly and that this corruption must put on incorruption.  As we have borne the image and nature of Adam: being sinful, sick, weak, flesh and blood, having an earthly body; we will then bear the image of the heavenly: without sin, without sickness or weakness, in a spiritual body.  When does this happen?  “In the blink or twinkling of an eye;” that quickly we are changed.  Praise God for that!  Our corruption puts on incorruption.  Why is our body corrupted?  Because of sin.  Then, we will put on incorruption and be without sin.  When you are free, totally free, from the effects of indwelling sin, your desires will be changed.  They will be totally pure.  As the scripture says:

       Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he 

       appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.  (1 John 3:2)

That is one of the blessed hopes of every saint, that one day we will be like Him!  When we are like Him, all of our desires will have changed; they will be perfect and undefiled.    

Bell continues:

       Much of the speculation about heaven – and, more important, the confusion – comes from the idea that in a 

       blink of an eye we will automatically become totally different people who “know” everything.  But our heart, our 
       character, our desires, our longings – those things take time.  (page 51)

Again, that is completely false.  The scripture teaches that we will be changed in the blink of an eye.  Can you 

hear that voice saying, “Has God really said?”  (Gen. 3:1)

Bell continues:

       The flames of heaven, it turns out, lead us to the surprise of heaven.  Jesus tells a story in Matthew 25 

       about people invited into “the kingdom prepared for the [them] since the creation of the world,” and their first   
       reaction is….surprise.

       They start asking questions, trying to figure it out.  Interesting, that.  It’s not a story of people boldly walking in

       through the pearly gates, confident that, because of their faith, beliefs, or even actions, they’ll be welcomed in.  
       It’s a story about people saying.

       When did we ever see you?
       What did we ever do to deserve it?”  (pages 51, 52)

Bell gets it wrong again.  Let’s look at the passage to see what it really says.

       When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne 

       of his glory:  And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a  
       shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats:  And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on 
       the left.  Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the 
       kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:  For I was [hungry], and ye gave me meat: I was 
       thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:  Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, 
       and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.  Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, 
       when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?  When saw we thee a stranger, 
       and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?  Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?  
       And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of 
       the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.  (Mat. 25:31-40) 

Bell says these people are surprised to be in heaven.  Yet the passage says nothing about them being surprised that they are in heaven.  What they were surprised at was the fact that they had fed, given a drink to, took in, and clothed THE LORD, and visited THE LORD when He was sick and in prison.  That is what they were surprised at.  They were surprised that they had done all these things to the Lord Himself when they had never, in fact, seen the Lord.  Then Jesus tells them, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these MY BRETHREN, ye have done it unto me.”  So when believers serve and love other believers, they are in fact doing it to Jesus Himself. 

This passage is so often used as a passage to promote good works to the lost.  Yet this passage says nothing of doing good works to the lost.  (There are other passages though that do.)  This passage clearly speaks of doing good works to the brethren of Christ.  The brethren of Christ are those who believe in and follow Christ.  If one does not have the spirit of God dwelling in them from being born again, they are not “the brethren of Christ.”

The other interesting thing about this passage is the fact that Bell does not tell the whole story.  At the end of this account, you have a whole group of people, who did not love Christ by serving the brethren, getting cast into everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 

       Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for 

       the devil and his angels:  (Mat. 25:41)

       And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.  (Mat. 25:46)

That doesn’t sound like they are being reconciled to God, now does it? 

Let’s look at a couple more quotes from Bell in which he twists the meaning of scripture to put doubt into the reader as to who will be accepted by God.  If he can blur the lines enough, and get you to believe it, then he can ultimately get you to accept what he is teaching.

Bell says:

       In other stories he tells, very religious people who presume that they’re “in” hear from him:  “I never knew you.

       Away from me, you evildoers!”  (Mat. 7) (page 52)

So are these people “evildoers” because they are religious?  You see, Bell intentionally doesn’t provide those details.  If he did, it would clear up the meaning of Matthew 7, and therefore, he could not use it to promote what he is promoting.  Here’s the full story from Matthew 7:

       Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will 

       of my Father which is in heaven.  Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy 
       name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?  And then will I 
       profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.  (Mat. 7:21-23)

Notice how Bell leaves out the first part of the passage that says only “he that does the will of my Father which is in heaven.” 

Sounds exclusive.
Like only some people will make it. 

But that part doesn’t fit with Bell’s theology, so he doesn’t bring it up.  Now, here you have some people, calling Jesus, “Lord.”  They had prophesied in His name, cast out devils, and had done many “wonderful works” (Jesus Wells perhaps?) in His name.  But the key is that they are those “that work iniquity.”  These are people who take the name of Jesus, call Him Lord, and yet live in willful sin.  They are not just religious.  They are religious hypocrites.  There is a difference.  Jesus does not know them because they are not His.

But that’s ok.  If we believe what Bell is teaching, then these people will not have to “depart from Jesus” for very long, because they can go through the “fires of heaven” and be purged of their sinful ways and then enter the kingdom of heaven, even though they did not do the will of the Father, as Jesus said they must.

Bell continues to misrepresent scripture by saying:

       In a story Jesus tells in Luke 18 about two men going up to the temple to pray, it’s the “sinner,” the 

       “unrighteous man,” who goes home justified, while the faithful, observant religious man is harshly judged.  
       (page 52)

So Bell would have you believe that if you are a faithful and observant religious man that you just might be harshly judged while unrighteous sinners get justified.

Here’s what Luke 18 says – in full.

       And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised 

       others:  Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican.  The 
       Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, 
       unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.  I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.  And 
       the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast,
       saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.  I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the 
       other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.  
       (Luke 18:9-14)

Can you see some important details that Bell has intentionally left out again?  After a while, you really do have to question Bell’s motives.  As the scripture says, this parable was spoken to those who TRUSTED IN THEMSELVES THAT THEY WERE RIGHTEOUS and DESPISED OTHERS.  Believers in Christ trust that they are “the righteousness of God through faith in Christ” (Romans 3:22) and righteous not because they are sinless but because they believe God (Romans 4:3, 5).  They certainly do not despise others.  The Pharisee in this passage was being prideful and exalting himself before God.  He trusted “in himself” and “despised” others.  That’s a far cry from Bell’s description that this was a faithful man.  He certainly wasn’t faithful to God “in the inward parts.”  But can you see what Bell is doing?  He’s trying to sow the seeds of doubt that maybe the unconverted will be accepted by God, while you religious people, who think you know what Jesus is saying, might be harshly judged.  And of course, he says all this without actually directly saying it.

Bell continues:

       Think about the single mom, trying to raise kids, work multiple jobs, and wrangle child support out of the kids’ 

       father, who used to beat her.  She’s faithful, true, and utterly devoted to her children.  In spite of the 
       circumstances, she never loses hope that they can be raised in love and go on to break the cycle of 
       dysfunction and abuse.  She never goes out, never takes a vacation, never has enough money to buy 
       anything for herself, she gets a few hours of sleep and then repeats the cycle of cooking, work, laundry, 
       bills, more work, until she falls into bed late at night exhausted. 

       With what she has been given she has been faithful.  She is a woman of character and substance.  She 

       never gives up.  She is kind and loving even when she is exhausted. 

       She can be trusted.
       Is she the last who will be first?

       Does God say to her, “You’re the kind of person I can run the world with?”  (page 53)

Wow, what a sad story. 

Can you feel the strings of your heart being pulled?  Can you feel the humanism?  Do you notice that the whole story is “man-ward” and there is nothing “God-ward”?  So here’s a single mom trying to raise kids, working all the time, beat by her ex-husband or boyfriend; she slaves day and night for her children, never thinks of herself (and apparently never about God either because He’s not mentioned once), doesn’t get any sleep, and then falls into bed every night just exhausted.  Sure, she’ll be in heaven, right?  I mean, can’t you see she’s practically sinless?  Surely God will overlook His word about the sinfulness of all men and their need for faith in Christ to save them, and He will save this woman because of her tough circumstances and her love for her kids, right?  That’s what Bell is implying.  Then Bell conveniently sneaks in something from the Bible.  He says:

She’s been faithful with what she’s been given.

When Bell says that, you’re supposed to think, “Oh yeah, I remember Jesus saying something like that.  Bell must be right.”  But let’s look at the passage where that quote comes from:

       He said therefore, “A nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom and then return.  Calling 
       ten of his servants, he gave them ten minas, and said to them, ‘Engage in business until I come.’  But his 
       citizens hated him and sent a delegation after him, saying, ‘We do not want this man to reign over us.  
       When he returned, having received the kingdom, he ordered these servants to whom he had given the 
       money to be called to him, that he might know what they had gained by doing business.  The first came 
       before him, saying, ‘Lord, your mina has made ten minas more.’  And he said to him, ‘Well done, good 
       servant! Because you have been faithful in a very little, you shall have authority over ten cities.’  And the 
       second came, saying, ‘Lord, your mina has made five minas.’  And he said to him, ‘And you are to be over 
       five cities.’  Then another came, saying, ‘Lord, here is your mina, which I kept laid away in a handkerchief;  
       for I was afraid of you, because you are a severe man. You take what you did not deposit, and reap what 
       you did not sow.’   He said to him, ‘I will condemn you with your own words, you wicked servant! You knew 
       that I was a severe man, taking what I did not deposit and reaping what I did not sow?  Why then did you not 
       put my money in the bank, and at my coming I might have collected it with interest?’  And he said to those 
       who stood by, ‘Take the mina from him, and give it to the one who has the ten minas.’  And they said to him, 
       ‘Lord, he has ten minas!’ 

       ‘I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but from the one who has not, even what he has will 

       be taken away.  But as for these enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, bring them here 
       and slaughter them before me.’”  (Luke 19:12-27)

Can you see who the nobleman called?  He called His servants.  His servants who call him “Lord.”  He gives them money (or “talents”) which they must use and increase so that the Lord may receive them when He returns.  This is clearly speaking of the gifts and resources that the Lord gives His disciples, the ones who call Him Lord, to use to expand His kingdom while He is away.  This parable has nothing to do with a woman raising her kids, as Bell would have you believe.  In fact, in Bell’s story, there is nothing about this woman’s faith in Christ or submission to Him.  It’s just a story of a woman raising her kids.  But notice what else Bell leaves out in the above parable:

       “But his citizens hated him and sent a delegation after him, saying, ‘We do not want this man to reign over us.’”

       “‘But as for these enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, bring them here and slaughter 

       them before me.’”

Those people who did not want the “Lord” to reign over them are called “His enemies.”  What did the Lord do to these enemies?  They were brought before the Lord and slaughtered.  Now that doesn’t sound like they were reconciled to God, does it? 

So in Bell’s story above, the woman has not been given a “talent” by God because it does not appear that she even serves Him.  So no, she has not been faithful with what she has been given, because she hasn’t received anything.  And no, God will not say to her, “You are the kind of person I can run the world with.” 

Rob Bell likes to throw out emotional stories to pull at your heart and throw in half a verse to justify what he’s trying to say, but ultimately, he is leading you down a path that the scriptures do not.  How is that any different than what Satan seeks to do? 

So, the whole chapter is spent trying to convince you that you are supposed to bring heaven to earth, and that all kinds of people, who God says will be excluded, will in fact be included in heaven.  And the fear that Bell seeks to lay on you is that you who think you know what the Bible says might actually be the ones who receive the harsher judgment.  He wants you to doubt what the word of God says, by using partial verses to justify what he’s teaching.  He takes verses out of context to make them say something totally different.  It’s the only way he can get you to doubt God’s word and believe what he wants to teach instead.  He can’t directly say what he wants to say and use scripture in context because he knows people will reject it outright.  That is why he will say something without really saying it, either by asking a leading question or by insinuating something by making up a story and using a verse out of context.  Can you see the nature of deception?  It’s Genesis chapter three played out all over again.  

So let’s move on to his next chapter….Hell.

Click here to go to chapter 3