The latest book in the ‘Questions Christians Ask’ book series ‘Is Hell For Real? And other questions about judgment, eternity and the God of love’ is a topic that I have grappled with time and again. This book – actually any Christian book on the subject of hell – makes for uncomfortable reading. However, as it is part of the short, readable series it is a great place to start unpacking this topic that is often shied away from.
Erik Raymond starts the book at the Niagara Falls where he reflected and compared humanity like a river which ‘grows as it threads its way through life’, but in the end there is only one destination – over the waterfall. Death. He begins to ask questions about what will happen when we die, the judgement we all face, the existence and nature of hell and that popular statement ‘how can a loving God judge and speak of an eternity in hell?’
The author makes it clear that this is not an exhaustive exploration of judgement and hell but it will hopefully serve as an accessible overview. It does make it easy to follow starting with whether hell is a real place by observing the meta-narrative of the Bible from the Old Testament through to the New Testament sharing bible verses to highlight his points. The following chapter examines what hell is like in terms of duration and experience. Again, it draws upon verses from both the Old and New Testaments. It then explores the character of God and who He is before carefully unpacking sin in light of God’s goodness demanding justice. The final chapter concludes with Jesus experiencing hell on earth and taking our place dying for our sins on the cross; He rescued us from hell. He has provided a way out, but we have to turn to Christ who lovingly took the punishment of sin upon Himself so we would be spared.
Each chapter is broken into short, snappy subheadings which makes it quick to read and easy to digest. I feel that a key strength of this book is how it interweaves the gospel clearly: the problem of sin, the reason and urgency of repentance, the good news of Jesus taking sin upon Himself and what that means for us in light of the here and now and eternity.
This book gets to the point and answers many questions. It’s a great place to start on this topic. I would love to go deeper as I felt some of the questions left me asking further questions, which is not the fault of the author – he made his intentions clear that it is only an overview! However, I would recommend this book as a foundation before further reading on the subject due to its conciseness and clarity. I think that ‘Is hell for real?’ is an asset to the ‘Questions Christians Ask’ series.
Available to order from The Good Book Company.
Erik Raymond (Twitter): @erikraymond