What is the final destiny of those who don't believe in Christ? Combating resurgent universalism and annihilationism, these esteemed contributors (e.g. Daniel Block, Gregory Beale, Sinclair Ferguson, J.I. Packer) insist that the biblical position remains clear and unambiguous.
Of all the teachings of Christianity, the doctrine of hell is easily the most troubling, so much so that in recent years the church has been quietly tucking it away. Rarely mentioned anymore in the pulpit, it has faded through disuse among evangelicals and been attacked by liberal theologians. Hell is no longer only the target of those outside the church. Today, a disturbing number of professing Christians question it as well. Perhaps more than at any other time in history, hell is under fire. The implications of the historic view of hell make the popular alternatives, annihilationism and universalism, seem extremely appealing. But the bottom line is still Gods Word. What does the Old Testament reveal about hell? What does Paul the apostle have to say, or the book of Revelation? Most important, what does Jesus, the ultimate expression of Gods love, teach us about Gods wrath? Upholding the authority of Scripture, the different authors in Hell Under Fire explore a complex topic from various angles. R. Albert Mohler Jr. provides a historical, theological, and cultural overview of The Disappearance of Hell. Christopher Morgan draws on the New Testament to offer three pictures of hell as punishment, destruction, and banishment. J. I. Packer compares universalism with the traditional understanding of hell, Morgan does the same with annihilationism, and Sinclair Ferguson considers how the reality of hell ought to influence preaching. These examples offer some idea of this volumes scope and thoroughness. Hell may be under fire, but its own flames cannot be quenched by popular opinion. This book helps us gain a biblical perspective on what hell is and why we cannot afford to ignore it. And it offers us a better understanding of the One who longs for all people to escape judgment and obtain eternal life through Jesus Christ.
Christopher W. Morgan is professor of theology and dean of the School of Christian Ministries at California Baptist University in Riverside, California. Author/editor of ten books and a teaching pastor of Helendale Community Church, he and and his wife, Shelley, have been married for twenty years and live in Helendale, California.
Robert A. Peterson is Professor of Systematic Theology at Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri. He is author or editor of twenty books, including Salvation Accomplished by the Son: The Work of Christ (Crossway, 2012), Our Secure Salvation: Preservation and Apostasy (P&R Publishing, 2009), and, co-edited with Christopher Morgan, Hell Under Fire (Zondervan, 2004).
The traditional understanding of hell, long held by the vast majority of conservative Christians, is under heavy fire today. Both universalism and annihilationism have made considerable inroads into evangelicalism. Perhaps the best recognized proponent of annihilationism is John R. W. Stott, while the most recent champion of universalism is Rob Bell. There continues to be, therefore, a need for serious and scholarly examination of this subject. Hell Under Fire is just such an examination as nine different authors contribute to this well-written and well-organized book of the afterlife.
Al Mohler writes the opening chapter, "Modern Theology: The Disappearance of Hell," which clearly defines and illustrates the modern theological landscape on the subject of hell. This is followed by detailed study of what the Old Testament has to say on hell (Daniel I. Block), what Jesus said (Robert W. Yarbrough), what Paul wrote (Douglas J. Moo) and what the Book of Revelation teaches (Gregory K. Beale). One of the most enlightening sections within these articles is a discussion of the five New Testament texts used by universalists to support their view (pp. 97-102).
These discussions are followed with an excellent chapter by Christopher W. Morgan, "Biblical Theology: Three Pictures of Hell," which provide a helpful overview of how each New Testament author views hell (pp. 136-142) and the predominant pictures of hell found in Scripture: punishment, destruction and banishment (pp. 143-151). Robert A. Peterson supplements Morgans chapter by viewing hell from the vantage points of the Trinity, divine sovereignty and human freedom, and the "alreadynot yet" concept.
J. I. Packer tackles universalism in chapter eight, showing the various types, why it is gaining in popularity and why it must be rejected biblically. Annihilation is given the same treatment in the following chapter written by Morgan. Sinclair Ferguson concludes the volume with "Pastoral Theology: The Preacher and Hell." His quote of Robert Murray MCheyne to his friend Andrew Bonar, who had just preached on hell, summarizes the chapter well. MCheyne asks his friend, "Did you preach it with tears?" This is a fitting end to ,em>Hell Under Fire. We must know well what the Bible teaches on hell but this knowledge should lead to soft hearts as we recognize, and warn about, the very real dangers of the eternal destiny of the lost.
In light of ever increasing pressure to abandon the conservative biblical understanding of hell, both on the scholarly and the popular level, Hell Under Fire is a must read. Gary Gilley, www.ChristianBookPreviews.com
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