I recently finished reading Francis Chan’s book Erasing Hell. As with any serious book on the subject of hell, it was not an easy read. One thing I appreciated about Chan’s approach was that he was very up-front about his own feelings on the subject. I also appreciated his sensitivity. He continually emphasized the fact that when we talk about hell, we must not let it just be a doctrine that is divorced from reality; in other words, if we believe what the Bible says about hell, people are going to be there. People we know. People we love. It’s not just an idea, it’s an actual destiny–and a destiny that’s eternal.
In chapter one he gives a brief survey of the different types of universalism–i.e. the belief that all will eventually be saved and go to heaven. He examines the Scriptures upon which the theories of universalism are based and answers them with other Scriptures.
In the second chapter, Chan looks at the views of the Jewish contemporaries of Jesus. What did the people of Jesus’ day believe about the afterlife, and more specifically, about hell? Surprisingly, their views were not much different from our Lord’s–i.e. that hell is a place of never-ending punishment after judgment. He gives a number of quotes from first century Jewish writers to back up his assertion. In this chapter he also debunks Rob Bell’s view that hell is a “garbage dump.”