Everything Will Be Okay: A Book Review of Holy Hell

Written by
Wesley Prindle
Feb 2, 2024
Wesley Prindle

Holy Hell: A Case against Eternal Damnation by Derek Ryan Kubilus (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2024) is an unignorable invitation to rethink the ubiquitous depictions of the eternal doom awaiting unfortunate unbelievers. With the care of a wise pastor and the passion of an expert storyteller, Kubilus has written a case for universal salvation that will speak to every Christian, no matter what they believe about the afterlife.

For Christians who hold to the doctrine of eternal damnation, Holy Hell is a wake-up call. Kubilus relentlessly lays bare the sketchy presuppositions undergirding much of modern Evangelicals’ teaching on hell. From the Italian poet Dante to Pastor Mark Driscoll, Kubilus highlights well-known proponents of eternal damnation who have conveniently proclaimed the eternal torment of all those outside their small tribe. The threat of hellfire has become a weapon in the hands of church leaders with selfish agendas. But what about the supposed Biblical support for the concept of an eternal hell? Kubilus surveys the judgment texts, persuasively demonstrating the Bible’s teaching on the afterlife is filled with mystery and hope rather than dogma and despair.

Kubilus helpfully considers how to understand the words of Jesus on judgment and the afterlife. While Jesus did warn of dire consequences for rejecting His message, He also shocked His audience by including Gentiles in His portrayal of the Kingdom of God (Luke 13:29-30). This “would have sounded like a form of universalism to first-century Jewish ears.” Indeed, Kubilus suggests, Christ’s radical departure from the standard Israel-centric eschatology would have been “something akin to heresy.” Through His dramatic parables and striking sermons, Jesus continually reminds us of “the humanity of those we would put into different compartments from ourselves.” Kublius calls us to dare to allow the relentless love of Christ to break down our carefully constructed walls.

For Christians hurt by the dark rhetoric of an eternal, hopeless hell, Holy Hell is a healing balm. To many doubting Christians the teaching of an eternal hell filled with nightmarish horrors is a gaping wound contributing to the agonizing death of their faith. Church history is filled with quack doctors offering mere Band-Aids: God-belittling, self-exalting, Scripture-twisting justifications for eternal damnation. Kubilus points hurting readers instead to the Great Physician, the One Who came not to judge the world but to save the world (John 3:17).

The same reasons we fell in love with Jesus in the first place are the same reasons we must joyfully believe He will draw all people unto Himself. At the heart of the Good News is God’s boundless, relentless love for His entire creation. If this Good News is in fact true, Kubilus argues, then the doctrine of eternal damnation must be false.

For convinced Christian universalists, Holy Hell is a reminder of the scandal of the Gospel. Even if we can articulate the all-inclusive nature of God’s love, our hearts are often slow to embrace the implications. We struggle to view our fellow humans as God’s beloved children. Kubilus challenges us to see others with the eyes of faith, to allow the Spirit to enflame our hearts with love for our neighbor.

But Kubilus does not only present us with the challenging implications of universalism. He also reminds us that believing God will not leave any of His children behind means we can “take a nice, deep breath and relax.” Through Jesus, we have escaped fear. But not just fear; we no longer need to heap guilt upon ourselves for our lack of fever in evangelism. Saving souls is God’s job, not ours. And He’s got it under control. We are free to truly enjoy the abundant life Jesus gives us. When we no longer cower under the impassioned rants of fire-and-brimstone preachers, we can hear anew the still, small voice of God’s Spirit speaking joy and peace.

If you are interested in learning more about Christian universalism, you should read Holy Hell. If you are convinced universalism is a dangerous heresy, you should read Holy Hell. And if you are wondering where to turn for hope in a dark, broken world, you should read Holy Hell.

No matter what you believe, you will find Holy Hell is a joyful affirmation of the profound, simple truths of Christianity: God is good. No one is ever beyond the reach of Jesus. Everything is going to be okay.

A big thank you to Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company and NetGalley for providing me with a digital review copy of Holy Hell in exchange for my honest review.

Wesley Prindle lives in Iowa where he dreams about traveling the world someday. He is passionate about theology, missions, cross-cultural studies, and the intersections between these subjects.