I shall add this book to the small list of books* that has powerfully shaken my grip on my perceived reality only to give me a far greater appreciation for the love of God and His holding together all things.
Her Gates Will Never Be Shut: Hope, Hell and the New Jerusalem by Bradley Jersak is an exhaustive study into the origins of the western doctrine of hell, the biblical understandings of hell, careful analysis of punishment vs. judgement, and finally an inspiring contemplative work on what the New Earth will look like.
Jersak does not only approach the topic of hell theologically. In the opening chapters of the book, he exhausts the historical understandings and uses of the Gehenna (Valley of Hinnom) by comparing Jesus and Jeremiah's prophetic use of the valley laying outside Jerusalem's walls to the presence of Gehenna in the writings in the Book of Enoch - an inter-testamental book of prophecy and history that is not included in either the Jewish or Christian canon. Bringing such light on a word that is often understood as referring to hell where the damned will suffer for eternity is vital - and in fact redeeming to the gospel.
There is also a great element of pastoral concern for Christians. Jersak writes as an evangelical to evangelicals knowing that any challenge to a deeply rooted doctrine concerning the character of God is going to raise some ire. What is remarkable is Jersak's gentleness and caution when drawing conclusions. From my perspective, with God's love in your heart and the call of Jesus to "love your enemies," it would be near impossible to reject the hopefulness, beauty, and life spring that is proclaimed in the final chapters of this book. It is also reckless to not heed the warnings associated with hating your brother or sister as the gaze of Christ is inevitable.
*The other four books are:
- A New Kind of Christian (Brian McLaren)
- Walking with the Poor (Bryant Myers)
- Surprised by Hope (NT Wright)
- The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind (Mark Noll)