Would you be willing to run into a burning building to save lives? On a vacation, Brian Jones did exactly that. Then he faced the reality of the question: if you were willing to do that, why aren't you concerned about hell and people going there?
Jones was a seminary graduate, becoming a pastor. He was sure hell was a myth. He knew the objections to hell (and he covers them). He went through the New Testament and what he found shocked him. He thought he'd find a few scattered references to hell. “I was wrong;” he says, “hell is taught everywhere.” (24)
Jones wants his readers to face that fact. He wants you to understand why hell makes sense. He wants you to believe in the Bible – all of it. He wants you to be confident in defending what you believe. And he wants you to know how to have an authentic conversation with your friends about it.
At the heart of Jones' book is what he calls apocalyptic urgency, “the all-consuming conviction that overtakes you when you realize hell is real, and that it is within your power to help people avoid going there.” (34) If you don't have that urgency, “You either don't believe in hell, or you don't care that your friends will go there when they die.” (37)
Jones reviews the various reasons Christians stop believing in hell. He then takes you through the biblical accounts of God's wrath, including the New Testament. Understanding the wrath of God is necessary, Jones says, to appreciate the urgency of the gospel. He admits that the concept of propitiation seems barbaric. (146) He reminds us that it results not because God is angry but because God is holy. (148)
Jones asks you to “repent of caring more about what non-Christian friends and family members think of you than what God says is going to happen when they die.” (174-5)
He does want you to have balance, however. Work in your yard and meet your neighbors. “The challenge is learning to do evangelism in the context of our normal, everyday lives...” (185) He gives sample ideas to do just that. He encourages you to build authentic relationships before you say anything about Jesus. “The art of sharing your faith is knowing when to open your mouth and when to shut it.” (237)
Early on Jones says, “My prayer is for God to so disturb you by what you read in the following pages that it will be impossible for your life to go back to the way you lived it before.” (39) Reading this book will do that.
Additional resources, such as a small group discussion guide, can be found at www.ifhellisreal.com. See more from Jones at www.brianjones.com.
David C Cook, 272 pages.
I received a copy of this book from The B & B Media Group for the purpose of this review.