The Road to Hell: Everlasting Torment or Annihilation? by David Pawson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Road to Hell ends with the words, “on which sober note we conclude our study”, referring to the author’s statement that those whose names are not in the Lamb’s book of life will suffer torment with the fallen angels in hell, quoting the book of Revelation from the Bible. David Pawson’s The Road to Hell does have that kind of tone at times: a shot to the heart. Yet, The Road to Hell is other things as well. Challenging one out of complacent thinking and living so to avoid the dangers of hell as well as comforting one with thoughts of heaven and grace. Pawson is adamant, however. Getting to heaven is not by ‘cheap grace’ where one can do as they please while still being under God’s grace, but by continuing in the faith in Jesus, not disowning him, and renouncing one’s sins. Hell is a step away with complacency, but Pawson in his gentle manner encourages due diligence in the faith, although a small few of his statements may seem blunt if not preachy, however, one gets the impression in that there are not as many words to always deliver eloquently such an urgent message to Christians and non-believers.

Two-thirds of The Road to Hell is Pawson’s argument for defending the doctrine of hell in an increasingly watered-down approach to the subject in the church. Although his raison d etre to restore the doctrine is not obvious in the text, with several well-written chapters that are interesting in their own right: historical views on hell and how these have influenced the contemporary church, the early church’s view of hell, biblical data on hell and how to read it, and the implications of believing and not believing in hell, with imagined descriptions of heaven and the pit.

Much detail describes the ‘ins and outs’ of after world theology. It is interesting that ‘hades’ is often wrongly defined as hell and Pawson elaborates fascinatingly on what happens to the body after death.

This study by Bible teacher David Pawson is not a workbook as such where one is prompted to keep notes. But one should think and pause and reflect.

The second third of the book is devoted to relevant Bible passages and Pawson expounds these passages for further reflection. Ten scripture studies are of reasonable length some shorter than others, in total about 100 pages. Here, ‘difficult’ passages are tackled well and convincingly argued, such as the parable of the sheep and the goats and the dying man on the cross, who died with Jesus. Pawson draws out cogently the arguments around these passages and other ones, while coming down on a satisfying conclusion. He claims that a seldomly seen ‘reality’ in scripture is that many of the passages about hell are directed to Jesus’ disciples so to avoid it themselves and not be counted with the fallen. In that vein, Pawson is directing his book towards Christians, as well as others.

For all these reasons it is worth reading if a little short on captivating the imagination. Ultimately, The Road to Hell challenges and inspires one to keep on applying to their faith in Jesus a holy life and lifestyle because, as Pawson advises from scripture, “without holiness no one will see the Lord.” A risky book to write but challenges this reader to the core and certainly more than worthwhile.

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