The traditional understanding of hell, long held by the vast majority of conservative Christians, is under heavy fire today. Both universalism and annihilationism have made considerable inroads into evangelicalism. Perhaps the best recognized proponent of annihilationism is John R. W. Stott, while the most recent champion of universalism is Rob Bell. There continues to be, therefore, a need for serious and scholarly examination of this subject. Hell Under Fire is just such an examination as nine different authors contribute to this well-written and well-organized book of the afterlife.
Al Mohler writes the opening chapter, “Modern Theology: The Disappearance of Hell,” which clearly defines and illustrates the modern theological landscape on the subject of hell. This is followed by detailed study of what the Old Testament has to say on hell (Daniel I. Block), what Jesus said (Robert W. Yarbrough), what Paul wrote (Douglas J. Moo) and what the Book of Revelation teaches (Gregory K. Beale). One of the most enlightening sections within these articles is a discussion of the five New Testament texts used by universalists to support their view (pp. 97-102).
These discussions are followed with an excellent chapter by Christopher W. Morgan, “Biblical Theology: Three Pictures of Hell,” which provide a helpful overview of how each New Testament author views hell (pp. 136-142) and the predominant pictures of hell found in Scripture: punishment, destruction and banishment (pp. 143-151). Robert A. Peterson supplements Morgan’s chapter by viewing hell from the vantage points of the Trinity, divine sovereignty and human freedom and the “already—not yet” concept.
J. I. Packer tackles universalism in chapter eight, showing the various types, why it is gaining in popularity and why it must be rejected biblically. Annihilation is given the same treatment in the following chapter written by Morgan. Sinclair Ferguson concludes the volume with “Pastoral Theology: The Preacher and Hell.” His quote of Robert Murray M’Cheyne to his friend Andrew Bonar, who had just preached on hell, summarizes the chapter well. M’Cheyne asks his friend, “Did you preach it with tears?” This is a fitting end to Hell Under Fire. We must know well what the Bible teaches on hell but this knowledge should lead to soft hearts as we recognize, and warn about, the very real dangers of the eternal destiny of the lost.
In light of ever increasing pressure to abandon the conservative biblical understanding of hell, both on the scholarly and the popular level, Hell Under Fire is a must read.