He entered a year-long research project to search out the truth on hell. He meticulously read through every reference—direct and obscure—in both the Old and New Testament about the final fate of the wicked.
When he finished, he was surprised by the conclusion he was forced to acknowledge.
After deliberating what to do with his newfound knowledge, Edward Fudge decided he had to share it, even at risk to his professional and personal reputation. He published a 500-page book, The Fire that Consumes, in 1982 (now in its Third Edition, 2011).
Now thirty years and much discussion later, he’s summing it up again in a smaller, more accessible book, Hell: A Final Word.
You probably formed your own beliefs about hell long ago, hopefully based on scriptures you read for yourself and scholars you know you can trust. But don’t let that stop you from re-reading scriptures in proper context to continue gaining knowledge.
As Fudge says in his introduction,
“If, like me, you take the Bible seriously (whether or not you also take it literally), you know that hell is part of its vision of the final future. That means we also must take hell into account in our own understanding of Last Things, else we will find ourselves looking at a distorted picture when measured by the book we all claim to follow.
“That, of course, will require much thought—which itself calls for certain preparation if we are to do it well. Chief among those preparations, I suggest, are an open Bible, an open heart, and an open mind.”
So for the next 51 short chapters, Fudge takes you through scripture after scripture on all verses relating to hell and eternal destinies.
While his conclusions might not be the popularly accepted “traditional” view (if there is one such thing), they are backed by highly-respected scholars and are very logical. He encourages you to take a fresh look at what the Bible really says (or doesn’t say) on hell, eternal punishment, judgment, death and Hades, immortality of the soul, and more.
The book concludes with “A Most Surprising Quiz on Hell,” followed by “Check Your Answers by the Bible.”
Here are a couple samples:
3. Based on an actual event, the Bible uses the expression “eternal fire” to signify:
a) fire that destroys forever (Sodom and Gomorrah);
b) fire that cannot destroy what is put in it (Shadrach, Meshach & Abednego);
c) fire that continues to burn indefinitely (the Burning Bush of Moses).
3. In the Bible, the expression “eternal fire” signifies choice (a), fire that destroys forever, as with Sodom and Gomorrah.
Popular tradition says hell will be like Moses’ Burning Bush which never went out, or like the non-consuming furnace into which their enemies threw Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. However, the Bible warns that hell is a consuming fire which destroys both body and soul.
Jude 7; Matthew 25:41; Matthew 10:28.
16. Throughout his writings, Paul says that the lost will:
a) go to hell and burn alive forever;
b) die, perish, and be punished with eternal destruction;
c) go to heaven but hate every minute of it.
16. It’s choice (b). Throughout his writings, Paul says that the lost will: (b) die, perish, and be punished with eternal destruction.
If you picked choice (a) “go to hell and burn alive forever,” you will really be surprised when you look for anything like that in Paul’s writings. Choice (c) is wrong, since all who finally inhabit God’s eternal kingdom will enjoy every “minute” of unending eternity!
Romans 6:23; Romans 2:12; 1 Thessalonians 5:2-3; 2 Thessalonians 1:9; 1 Corinthians 3:17; Philippians 1:28; Philippians 3:19.
I found Fudge’s book easy to read, yet thought- and study-provoking. In the end (no pun intended), I know God will do what God will do, regardless of what theory I believe, and I’m fine with that. But in the meantime, it’s nice to understand his will and character a little more clearly, and love him even more because of it.
* * *
Thanks to ACU Press/Leafwood Publishers
for the review copy of this book