In Genesis 1:1 we read “in the beginning was God.” Echoing the opening declaration of the Bible, in John 1:1 we read that “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” But John goes on to say “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). The fact that God chose to reveal himself in the person of Jesus Christ (the eternal word made flesh) brings us to the subject of the inspiration and authority of the Bible.
Like heaven, hell is described in Scripture with vivid metaphors and analogies drawn from everyday experience. Whatever is meant by such images and expressions as “lake of fire,” where “the smoke goes up forever” and “the worm doesn’t die,” the referent is clearly a place and not just a state of mind. Every evangelical expositor I’ve come across points out the term for hell as Gehenna, referring to the city dump near Jerusalem. However, for Bell, once again it’s subjectivized
In this chapter the central dogma becomes especially evident. It’s the old conundrum: God is either sovereign or loving. Bell bases his conclusion on the premise that God has determined to save everyone and that it’s only their absolutely free will that makes the difference. “Will all people be saved, or will God not get what God wants? Does this magnificent, mighty, marvelous God fail in the end?” (98).
If you were to drive the freeways of southern California, you would see from time to time billboards proclaiming the Judgment Day on May 21, 2011 and declaring that the Bible guarantees it. Presumably these billboards may be seen in many other parts of the country as well. Who is responsible for these signs and what do they really mean theologically?
For me, the greatest danger of Bell’s interpretation in this book is his view of Christ’s cross. Obviously, if there is no wrath or judgment, then whatever Christ achieved for us on the cross cannot be understood in terms of a vicarious substitute. There is no objective propitiation and, since everyone is already God’s friend (regardless of whether God is theirs), no objective reconciliation.