First off I would like to explain what I mean by the “doctrine of Hell” so not to speak in generalities or make you guess what side of the coin I’m on.
This is from my church, Central Bible:
We believe in a literal heaven and in a literal hell. We believe all who turn to God through Christ will spend eternity in heaven. We also believe that those who do not accept Christ will be eternally lost— suffering the torments of hell forever. There is no opportunity for anyone to be saved after death.
Matthew 28:18, John 14:3, Matthew 10:28, 25:41,
In my opinion, this judgment of eternal torment and separation from God will occur at the time the dead are judged, not when a person dies because Hell has not been created yet, and if it has nobody will inhabit it until God judges the dead.
Now you may be asking the question, “Why do you feel it’s important to write on this topic?” The main reason that I am writing on this topic (other than Rob Bell’s book) is because I feel that the doctrine of Hell should be convicting in our hearts to share the Gospel with as many people that we can; not just because we don’t want them to go to Hell, but because we want them to come to know Christ in a personal relationship. I want the people I come into contact with to know the joy of having a relationship with Christ. Spending eternity in torment and isolation does not sound like anything that I want people close to me to experience. For me it’s hard enough to be by myself, so to imagine an eternity without relationships sounds terrible!
I am not only passionate to see non-believers who I am close to receiving Christ, but I want the youth that I minister with to know Him more fully and receive salvation in order for them to live a life holy and pleasing to God so that they can offer that as their gift to God now and in eternity.
In order to faithfully present the Gospel we must talk about the reality of Hell, not to scare, but to inform people how God’s justice will operate. God’s justice does not withhold love. If God took everyone to Heaven then he would be breaking humanity’s free will because those people who did not believe in him did not choose to want to be in a relationship with Him. Holding people against their will would not be ultimately loving. We who choose Christ now will be able to experience His fullness of love and joy for eternity in full restored relationship with Him and each other in His Kingdom.
A good book that discusses this is Randy Alcorn’s book “If God is Good: Faith in the Midst of Suffering and Evil.”