Let me just say to begin this article that Francis Chan is one of my heroes. I love and desire to have the passion for the lost that this pastor/writer from California has. If you get to hear him in person, you will be moved and challenged in a way that is both piercing and encouraging. He motivates people to follow Christ. I can’t give a much better endorsement than that. Chan has recently written a book about an uncomfortable topic, the topic of hell. This article will give a brief overview of his writing and the inspiration for this book.
Today only 59% of Americans believe in hell (it is slightly higher in the church). It seems that hell isn’t as hot as it used to be. Hell has become more of a deep funk than a pit of fire. Many people today think of hell as a state of mind rather than as a real place.
One of my earliest childhood memories was one Sunday after going to church  and Sunday school; I was scared to death about a lesson that I just heard. I don’t remember the specific story or Bible passage that was used but I remember being scared that if I died I would be going to hell. That was not where I wanted to go. In my 5-year-old mind, I wasn’t embracing the good news as much as I was scared to death of the alternative. But things seem different today…
Hell is joked about… In a speech to the National Press Club, Ted Turner said,
“Heaven is going to be a mighty slender place. And most of the people I know in life aren’t going to be there. There are a few notable exceptions and I’ll miss them. [Laughter] Remember, heaven is going to be perfect. And I don’t really want to be there…Those of us that go to hell, which will be most of us in this room; most journalists are certainly going there. [Laughter] But, when we get to hell we’ll have a chance to make things better because hell is supposed to be a mess. And heaven is perfect. Who wants to go to a place that’s perfect? Boring. Boring.” [Laughter]
Why Francis Chan Wrote Erasing Hell
I believe that many Christians are ashamed of the doctrine of hell. We don’t like to sound judgmental or intolerant and often try to soften or water down what the Bible teaches. These are exactly the types of questions that Francis Chan has recently addressed in his book called “Erasing Hell: What God said about eternity, and the things we’ve made up.”
The topic of hell has been on the forefront of many minds recently. Rob Bell  seemed to stir up this beehive with his book called “Love Wins.” The controversy that Bell’s book created is because of the questions Bell asks and the conclusions that he seems to come to concerning people and their ultimate destiny. Bell questions the traditional evangelical belief that hell is a place where people will suffer for their beliefs while on the earth. It is clear that Francis Chan read “Love Wins” and his book is a direct response to Bell’s book.
Erasing Hell Summary and Review
So that is the starting point for “Erasing Hell.” Chan decided to go back to the Scriptures to see what they say and also what they do not say. He does interact with some of the writings of Rob Bell but not in a harsh way but rather by looking to the Holy Scriptures for guidance and clarity. Francis Chan begins by confronting the topic of universalism or the belief that all eventually will make it to heaven  (this seems to be endorsed by Bell). Universalism at its core implies that there will be a second chance or even more chances to turn to God after this life is over. Chan tries to pull back every preconceived notion that he has about hell and the afterlife and look to the Scriptures. He asks the question of does the Bible give hope of a second chance? He goes to great detail at looking at the words of Jesus concerning judgment and hell. Chan clearly writes that Jesus was not afraid to use terms of judgment and a final punishment. He also writes that Jesus never gave us any hope of another chance one day to choose Him. This concept is simply not found in the Bible in my view. For anyone to imply that there is a second chance after this life is just not found in the words of Jesus or in the other writings of Scripture.
Chan writes in a way that is blunt and bold but not in a pious or self-promoting or self-righteous way. He seems to confront the topic without making it personal. He wrestles with many passages and comes to the conclusion that hell is indeed a place that is real. It is a place of final punishment. Chan writes over and over that “we can’t afford to be wrong about this.” He is so right about that point. This is not just some philosophical argument where we can just throw our hands up in the air and maybe get right or wrong. We cannot try to force the Scripture to say something in the way we want it to be said. Chan says that he would love to believe that everyone will eventually come to Christ but the Word of God simply does not say or even imply that. This simple worldview will affect the way we live or even do mission work . If one believes that all will come to Christ eventually, then why not just sit back and forget about missions. Why bother agonizing over a loved one that does not know God…if we believe they will make it anyway. Chan argues that a correct belief and a right view of hell will affect the way we live. It will make us feel more compassion for the lost that do not know Christ. It will make us ache the way Jesus ached when he saw people who were lost and he showed compassion on them. This is the thought that I took from this book. It made me look to the Bible for myself and meditate on the words of God concerning hell.
I am thankful that Chan wrote this passionate response on the topic of hell. Reading this book has renewed my compassion for the lost and made me want to be more like Jesus. Regardless what view you have of heaven and hell, I highly recommend that you read this book and to be challenged for yourself.
Have you read Erasing Hell by Francis Chan? Share your thoughts in the comments!
Copyright 2011 Preston Sprinkle, Francis Chan. Erasing Hell published by David C Cook. Publisher permission required to reproduce. All rights reserved.