Here is one of Rob Bell’s explanations of one of the Universalists’ arguments against hell as an eternal place of torment,
“And so they expand the possibilities, trusting that there will be endless opportunities in an endless amount of time for people to say yes to God. As long as it takes…At the heart of this perspective is the belief that given enough time everybody will turn to God and find themselves in the joy and peace of God’s presence. The love of God will melt every hard heart and even the most ‘depraved sinners’ will eventually give up their resistance and turn to God…Could God say to someone truly humbled, broken and desperate for reconciliation, ‘Sorry, too late’? Many have refused to accept the scenario in which somebody is pounding on the door, apologizing, repenting, and asking God to be let in, only to hear God say through the keyhole: ‘Door’s locked. Sorry. If you had been here earlier, I could have done something. But now, it’s too late.” Rob Bell, Love Wins, 107-108
This quote makes hell the most effective evangelist that has ever existed! I don’t read that in scripture but that is what is being said here. The point some universalists make is that a loving God could certainly never turn anyone away. And so like Hinduism, we get chance after chance until we all finally get it right. The point came up in our discussion of hell in Bible class this morning that of course people will want to choose God once they are five seconds into the hell experience. It only makes sense once you have seen that God is real and that Jesus is the way that you would knock furiously on the doors of heaven, if that were possible, pleading for mercy.
What is amazing to me is that Rob never cites what Jesus taught on this exact scenario in Luke 13. Someone comes up to Jesus and asks him the universalist question, “Will only a few be saved?” Jesus gives us the answer to that question. Again, I am puzzled why this is never brought up in Love Wins,
22 Then Jesus went through the towns and villages, teaching as he made his way to Jerusalem. 23Someone asked him, “Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?”
He said to them, 24 “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to. 25 Once the owner of the house gets up and closes the door, you will stand outside knocking and pleading, ‘Sir, open the door for us.’
“But he will answer, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from.’
26 “Then you will say, ‘We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.’
27 “But he will reply, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from. Away from me, all you evildoers!’
28 “There will be weeping there, and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but you yourselves thrown out.” – Luke 13:22-28
Seems pretty clear to me. Christian Universalism makes hell into the greatest evangelist of all time. But scripture never, ever teaches that hell is a place of conversion. In fact, Jesus also said that once someone is in hell it is impossible for them to cross over into life (Luke 16:19-31). Hell is not an evanglists whose purpose is to win people to Christ. Hell is a place of eternal punishment where God makes things right toward those who stood in rebellion to His will (Matt 25:31-46). The question for me is not will love win, will God get what God wants. The question is can we trust what God has to say on the matter or will we explain it away in a manner that is cognizant of our culture’s avoidance of pain and punishment?