Read Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory: Rethinking the Things That Matter Most by Jerry L. Walls Online


Will heaven be boring? How can a good and loving God send people to hell? Is there such a place as purgatory? If so, why is it necessary, if we're saved by grace? Questions about the afterlife abound. Given what is at stake, they are the most important questions we will ever consider. Recent years have seen a surge of Christian books written by people claiming to have receWill heaven be boring? How can a good and loving God send people to hell? Is there such a place as purgatory? If so, why is it necessary, if we're saved by grace? Questions about the afterlife abound. Given what is at stake, they are the most important questions we will ever consider. Recent years have seen a surge of Christian books written by people claiming to have received a glimpse of the afterlife, and numerous books, films, and TV shows have apocalyptic or postapocalyptic themes. Jerry Walls, a dynamic writer and expert on the afterlife, distills his academic writing on heaven, hell, and purgatory to offer clear biblical, theological, and philosophical grounding for thinking about these issues. He provides an ecumenical account of purgatory that is compatible with Protestant theology and defends the doctrine of eternal hell. Walls shows that the Christian vision of the afterlife illumines the deepest and most important issues of our lives, changing the way we think about happiness, personal identity, morality, and the very meaning of life....

Title : Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory: Rethinking the Things That Matter Most
Author :
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ISBN : 9781587433566
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 240 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory: Rethinking the Things That Matter Most Reviews

  • Stephen
    2019-05-22 05:53

    Interest in heaven, hell, and the afterlife have seen a dramatic increase in recent years. Myriads of books, movies, and articles have been published reporting both sensational experiences and profound skepticism. Yet what this resurgence has often lacked is sustained, thoughtful, theological reflection on these matters of extreme importance. Jerry Walls’ Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory seeks to fill that void. Having written multiple scholarly works related to Christian doctrines of the afterlife, this volume communicates Walls’ central claims in a more accessible format. The book opens with an account of Heaven drawn from Revelation 20-22 and then seeks to tease out the logic of this vision as it relates to Hell, Purgatory, and a host of issues surrounding the afterlife (such as, ‘are souls saved with or without bodies?’ ‘Does the joy of heaven make up for suffering?’ and ‘How does heaven shape our moral life?’). Along the way, Walls explains his vision by appealing to the likes of Dante, Dorothy Sayers, and C.S. Lewis and then facing various Christian and secular objections to his position. His argument for a literal heaven and hell rests on the belief that humanity was created for relationship with God and that this relationship requires a free, autonomous choice by both parties. Heaven is both the end and goal of human life, since it is union and deep fellowship with the Triune God who made us in his image. Therefore heaven is a place of incredible joy and the perfect union of beauty, goodness, and truth. Since heaven is fundamentally relationship with God, to reject relationship with God is to reject heaven. According to Walls, true loving relationship requires a truly free response, which even God cannot override. Because of God’s respect for our creaturely freedom, Walls argues, hell is a logical side-effect of God’s desire to be in loving relationship with us. Both heaven and eternal hell exist as a result of God’s love for humanity. Walls argument for purgatory functions somewhat differently. Instead of being based upon created human nature, purgatory is a logical consequence of the doctrine of salvation. Walls argues that because we need to be holy to stand before God and that none of us is perfectly holy in this life, the process of becoming perfectly holy (sanctification) must continue between death and our arrival in heaven. The rest of the book explains how his vision of heaven, hell, and purgatory makes sense in the face of various questions raised about the afterlife. Walls claims that each of his subsequent positions (body-soul dualism, post-mortem repentance, and heaven as the ground of morality) have precedent in the Christian tradition, even if they are not always the majority view. Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory is strongest when speaking of heaven. It is here that his argument is most biblical and most persuasive. By connecting heaven to creation, Walls manages to both center human identity in union with God and provide external grounds for moral actions. In particular, I found his chapter on heaven as ethical motivation to be both challenging and thought-provoking.However, I also have serious concerns with much of the book. While I do not disagree with every conclusion he makes (for instance, the existence of heaven and hell, and even the possibility of a ‘purgation’ after death), both the method and substance of his arguments were troubling. Walls is trained as a philosopher of religion, so his use of logical and philosophical arguments was not surprising. However, outside of his discussion of heaven, analytic logic seems to guide his arguments more than Scripture. This might make sense in section where he is dealing with secular challenges to Christian beliefs, but even when dealing with other Christian positions, Scripture rarely made a substantive appearance. For instance, in his 24-page chapter arguing that we should believe that God allows for repentance after death (post-mortem repentance), barely two pages deal directly with Scripture. As a Christian pastor who has to consider whether to recommend this book to my parishioners, this is a distinct weakness of the book. While I don’t deny that his methodology might be helpful in conversations with skeptics of Christian teaching, a lack of biblical engagement is a drawback as I think of my parishioners. Also as a Reformed pastor, Walls caricatures of the reformed tradition often left me puzzled and frustrated. A significant part of my dissatisfaction with the book is connected with some of the real theological differences between Reformed and Arminian theology. In his book Love Wins, Rob Bell provocatively asked, “Does God get what God wants?” If God is all-powerful and all-loving and wants all to be saved, does God get what he wants or is his will thwarted by human disobedience? This fundamental question led Bell to hope for a post-mortem repentance that would eventually lead to the emptying of hell. Eventually, love wins. Where Bell answers the question, “Does God get what God wants?” with a definitive ‘yes,’ Walls answers this negatively. Because God respects our creaturely freedom, even though God wants us all to come to relationship with Him, if we resist, ultimately God does not get what he wants. His will is thwarted by human rebellion. For Walls, it seems, the important question is not ‘does God get what God wants?’, but ‘do we get what we want?’ Our will, not God’s, becomes the determining factor in salvation. In fact, according to Walls, God does not want there to be hell, but is powerless to do anything about it. In other words, our freedom is stronger than God’s will. Jesus doesn’t actually save people, he only potentially saves people. We, in fact, make the decision that determines salvation. Walls’ Arminian theology of salvation leads to a doctrine of hell where God is both passive and powerless. God simply cannot do anything about hell, but ‘do his best’ to encourage us to come to him. While Bell and Walls come down on different sides on this question, they share a fundamental outlook on God and the human condition: God can be reduced to love and we know exhaustively all that God wants from his creation. In studying Bell’s Love Wins, one of my seminary professors suggested that we ask a different question. Instead of asking ‘Does God get what God wants?’ (or ‘Do we get what we want?’) we should ask ‘Do we know all that God wants?’ I suggest that we must answer ‘No.’ We know God’s will truly, but not exhaustively. God is neither powerless, passive, nor thwarted by human rebellion, and yet Scripture teaches that not all will be saved. I am not suggesting that there are no challenges in my position, but that Walls articulation of heaven, hell, and purgatory suggests that God is powerless in the face of human freedom and rebellion, which I find biblical and theologically problematic. Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory serves as a thoughtful and sustained engagement with the Christian story of the afterlife. He addresses multiple common objections and presents an intriguing vision for grounding ethics in the doctrine of heaven. However, the books weaknesses outweigh its strengths. It’s lack of biblical engagement and his treatment of divine and human agency make it difficult for me to recommend without serious reservations.

  • Rod
    2019-06-15 05:49

    Hell is one of my favorite topics: fascinating stuff. And Heaven is always exciting to read about. But purgatory is just baffling and unclear. And such is this book.There is only one authority on these issues: The Bible. Nothing more, nothing less. This author seems to favor C.S. Lewis, Dante's Inferno (Divine Comedy), And sayings of Dorothy L. Sayers over any clear Biblical or theological scholarship. It appears Jerry Walls is not a Calvinist - this seems to get him into lots of Doctrinal messes. He even quotes John Wesley --- which shows how desperate he is to make sense of the Bible like a good arminian = but he fails at times. Now Heaven and Hell are mostly clear. Although He seems to have a better clue on Heaven than N.T. Wright and he stops just sort of the muckish hell of Rob Bell's babblings. I did enjoy his philosophical approaches to these issues - they get the old brain turning. But it's better to simply read a John MacArthur book on these Doctrines and rest at ease with Systematic Biblical truth. The Fun is in the chaos of Purgatory. Jerry really wants purgatory to be a hopeful scenario. So he grabs anything he can to wrestle this away from the Roman Catholics and throw a few twisted scholars at it to see what sticks. He really didn't even have one clear Bible verse to justify any need for purgatory. Some verses were lightly pushed in that direction - but actually didn't budge. This is what happens when Arminians just don't accept that God is fully in-charge. They just keep trying to dig themselves out of hell - with a bunch of different shovels. Same failed results every time.Purgatory always seems to come down to the same complaint: "They can't go to hell; they were NICE people. Only mean people go to hell. And the gates are locked from the inside of course. Our lovey nice God would never send someone to a fiery hell without an escape plan. How could we ever survive knowing they are there?"Remember that brutal verse that everyone tries NOT to remember: Luke 14:2626“If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters — yes, even his own life — he cannot be My disciple. 27And whoever does not carry his cross and follow Me cannot be My disciple.…What a weird verse eh? And yet.Here's the verse that destroys that challenge: Matthew 722Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ 23Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you workers of lawlessness.’ These folks won't be locking the gates from the inside - God himself will be locking them. Jesus will indeed say, "Depart From ME."People are often nice and religiously tolerant until they come across a Biblical account they disagree with --- this is when we start seeing just how rebellious a persons heart is. When they side with humanity, or secular science, or hippy love... instead of siding with the God of the Bible and HIS WORD. Or like those who were told to depart, they USED God's love for their own selfish desires and pride. There's no fooling Jesus. Here's how to clarify this book's desperate attempts:Heaven is for God's elect. (get over it! God has chosen)Hell is for those who do not and will not accept Christ's authority and Righteousness and truth.Purgatory is not necessary or Biblical.Apparently the author has 3 entire books on Heaven, Hell and Purgatory. I might try and find them...just for fun.

  • Spencer
    2019-05-22 06:00

    Good book that I will be using for a class on the afterlife at Thorneloe University. Walls looks at the nature of heaven, hell, and purgatory and how the afterlife structures morality, theodicy, and the purpose of life. Philosophically he did a great job. His free will defence for hell is less than convincing. He argues that there must be a hell because people have the capacity to reject God. Since people are eternally made (annihilationism not withstanding, which he does not even treat here), eternal hell is the consequence of the choice. He argues that just as evil exists because of free will so also hell does. This does not work since evil will eventually be eliminated. Will hell also be eliminated too?He does seem to suspect the possibility that all could be saved it seems in the final chapter, with a discussion on posthumous salvation, but it is a bit vague.

  • Joshua
    2019-06-06 06:12

    It was a decent book written from a Methodist perspective of salvation, etc. The part that really made me think was the Purgatory section. While not an exhaustive study or even really a theological piece, it was still rather good. It was clear, precise, and the content was easy enough to read. Overall, not a bad introduction to the 3 doctrines.

  • Jordan
    2019-06-12 08:55

    Let me begin by describing what you won’t find in this book: elaborate descriptions of angels, demons, the pearly gates, St. Peter, and the exquisite tortures of hell. Jerry Walls is a philosopher who has done extensive work in the philosophy of the Christian afterlife, and Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory: Rethinking the Things that Matter Most, is primarily concerned with the ideas of those places. What the final destinations of our souls will be like, after all, is unknowable in this life, and the Bible itself, contrary to popular belief, does not offer a lot of detail. Rather than catalog the underworld, Walls intends to defend the contested aspects and philosophical foundations of heaven, hell, and purgatory, and “rethink” some of what we know about all of them. Walls is a philosopher and proceeds logically, building arguments from premises. Though the book is not awash in Bible references Walls predicates all of his philosophical arguments on a handful of basic revealed truths: the Trinity, the goodness of God, his desire to save all, the requirement of holiness. From these assumptions—again, philosophical premises derived from revelation—Walls argues for a literal hell, heaven, purgatory of some kind, and even the possibility of a final chance at salvation beyond the grave. The Trinity, for example, marks God himself as a relational being, and the freedom he accords his creatures gives his relationships with them meaning. Walls defends hell—a doctrine only barely more popular than purgatory nowadays—primarily in terms of this freedom, which he argues is necessary to make salvation and, importantly, God’s own goodness intelligible. Here he takes square aim at predestination or Calvinistic schemes of salvation and damnation, especially those that lose sight of God’s desire to save all in logical contortions meant to save his appearance as an arbitrary monster. Walls also addresses, both in dedicated chapters and in passing throughout, objections to the classic Christian teachings on hell, purgatory, and heaven and potential objections to his own ideas. He draws on sources as diverse as Aristotle, Pascal, Dante, CS Lewis, Victor Hugo, and Dostoevsky for examples and illustrations of his arguments. Especially pertinent and closely examined are Lewis’s notion of the doors of hell “locking from the inside,” and Ivan’s painful meditation on the problem of evil and suffering in The Brothers Karamazov.Walls courts controversy from the title page onward and the book is well worth reading because of it. Probably the most controversial passages in the book are those on purgatory. The doctrine of purgatory has a nasty reputation in evangelical Protestantism, and has had since Luther. In my own experience, evangelicals view purgatory as a cynical Late Medieval accretion to the already compromised teachings of Catholicism, a teaching created solely to bring in cash from credulous peasants. This stereotype aside, most Protestants at their most charitable view purgatory as unnecessary, since Christians are saved sola fide, sola gratia. Walls briefly explains the Early Modern corruption of the doctrine of purgatory—an incorrect focus on satisfaction of punishment rather than sanctification—before moving on to a biblical understanding of the doctrine. In short, purgatory, as originally and logically elucidated (Walls cites Dante’s allegorical depiction as an example, one with which I’m intimately familiar), is the final postmortem stage of what is usually called sanctification. Walls points out that forgiveness of sin is not the same as purification from sin, and in order to unite with God in heaven the believer must be holy as he is holy. This process is incomplete at death, and so some form of purgation is logically necessary even by the terms of those who reject the classic formulation of purgatory. In purgatory, grace continues to work to purify the believer. “So understood,” Walls concludes, “purgatory is not a matter of human works or an alternative to salvation by grace. . . . it is a form of grace. Again, to pit purgatory against grace is to totally misconstrue the doctrine understood in terms of sanctification” (115).Again, the focus throughout is on those basic Christian concepts of the relational character of the triune God, his desire to save all, the holiness ultimate salvation requires, and what these assumptions mean when taken together.I did not find a lot new here, but Walls argues coherently and compellingly for all of his positions. The tone is warm and open throughout, and Walls does a good job of making potentially heady philosophical and theological ideas understandable. This book is geared toward the general reader and is ideally suited to them—it’s an excellent introduction. But even beyond raising questions and provoking thought, the greatest value of this book is laying out why heaven, hell, and purgatory—“the things that matter most”—matter so very much. Recommended.Disclosure: I received this book for free through a GoodReads First Reads giveaway.

  • David Smith
    2019-05-30 09:49

    Let me say first that Jerry Walls has a very engaging writing style – probably important to emphasize since he is a professor of philosophy and a scholar. He writes well. I resonated with his biblical and Protestant views of heaven and hell. He argues these truths from Scripture through the lens of philosophy. Well done.He also wrestles through a plausible view of purgatory that is shared by a lesser number of Protestants. Rather than the traditional Catholic view of purgatory as satisfaction for our sins, Walls presents a sanctification view. In essence since most believers in Christ are not holy as God is holy when they die, they still need a completed sanctification process after death before they can fully share in the glories of heaven and see God face to face.Though Walls makes a strong case philosophically, unlike the voice of authority he uses from the Word of God in writing about heaven and hell, he leans heavily upon the authority of C.S. Lewis. The clear and numerous Scripture texts that articulate the doctrine of purgatory – unlike the doctrines of heaven and hell – are missing.Of course, the notion of purgatory intersects with another series of questions including what about those who never heard the gospel of Jesus Christ. Walls thus proposes the possibility for some or even a few post-mortem conversions. One unanswered issue that I would like to address with Jerry Walls, however, is that people die the way they live. As people grow older, they have a hardening of the attitudes. Even if they are sitting in hell and see the glories of heaven from a distance and desire to be there, their sin remains and keeps them locked in their own prison separated from God. Why would a person who has rejected God for a lifetime, even with the light they did have, be forced to spend eternity with a God that never wanted to know and love? Of course, Walls wants to hope that under these new conditions some will change their mind. But without the power of the gospel present in the dominion of hell and no one to proclaim the good news to them, how will they know what is really true and good and beautiful?Still, I’m grateful for Walls’ explanation of purgatory from a Protestant viewpoint. Most Protestants have not wrestled with this component of our sanctification. Will our completed sanctification really be instantaneous upon death or will there still be a process of transformation that makes us fully fit for heaven and the intensity of the fullness of God forever? Finally, I loved Jerry’s chapter on heaven – that will preach – and his defense of hell is outstanding!

  • Wouter
    2019-05-30 13:45

    Walls, a protestant theologian, intends the book primarily for evangelical protestants (re-)considering their views of hell and purgatory. As this book contains a protestant plea for purgatory, it will be useful for Roman Catholic and Orthodox scholars, and ecumenical theologians in general, to look at its reasoning.Walls’ book is well written in a conversational style, anticipating the major problems his reasoning will have for his primary audience. Although this is not a heavy-handed book, it is clear throughout that it is based on serious academic scholarship. Scholars doubting whether Walls’ three monographs are worth investigating, might well start with this little book.Walls’ book is a brave proposal that is well argued and cleverly communicated. It deserves a wide readership across denominational divides.

  • Skeetor
    2019-06-08 11:56

    I received this book for free through Goodreads First Reads. (Thank you!)I truly enjoyed reading this book. The author relates his central views (largely Protestant) concerning the afterlife in a “more popular form” than his academic books and essays. He does not attempt to browbeat the reader but presents a clear discussion of various Christian and atheistic thoughts, what he holds to be true and exactly why he does. I do not agree with all of his logic as presented, but I still found this book to be an engaging discussion relating to beliefs of what happens after death.

  • Connie Hintz
    2019-06-03 07:46

    This book helped me to rethink my understanding of heaven, hell and purgatory. Walls is definitely not universalist but he does offer hope for redemption for the repentant even beyond death. His view of purgatory as the continuing work of sanctification makes sense to me -- it is not about punishment but about formation.

  • Drew
    2019-05-22 07:44

    A really interesting take on the last things from a provocative Christian thinker. If you are a Protestant who has never considered why hell is significant or why purgatory might be necessary, this book is for you. Here is my full review over at Seedbed:

  • Matt Manry
    2019-06-09 05:43

    Honestly, this book has a good amount of things that I disagree with. However, I do believe that Walls writes very clearly, and a lot of his ideas are very interesting and accessible. I will definitely be reading Dr. Walls' other books on Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory.

  • Deb Cruver
    2019-06-11 07:47

    Jerry is a brilliant guy and he does a great job of bringing this topic to the everyday person. Excellent book.

  • Jason Gardner
    2019-06-04 07:50

    See my review at

  • Janelle Zeeb
    2019-05-27 09:01

    This book has some very good chapters, and some chapters that were less satisfying. I wish I could give it 3.5 stars. In general he brings up some interesting points to consider and I tend to agree with his ideas of heaven, resurrection, theodicy, and the need for heaven to inspire morality. I also like how he emphasizes God's love and grace. Overall, this is an interesting book to explore theological and philosophical issues as they relate to Christian eschatology, and which contains some helpful insights and a very positive and encouraging view of God's character as love.In comparison to Randy Alcorn's book on Heaven which is primarily focused on what heaven will be like, Wall's book is more about the philosophy and theology of heaven and how it relates to issues such as theodicy, hell, human freedom, morality, hope, and salvation. I liked how Walls explores the debates around these issues and argues for a fairly traditional Christian interpretation that says we should look forward to heaven and that it is an essential part of the Christian faith. The aspect I didn't like so much was his repeated emphasis on endorsing a version of "purgatory" where those who are saved complete their sanctification before entering heaven. I prefer the idea that we are instantly sanctified at death the moment our bodies die and we are freed from the sinful nature of our flesh. Plus, I just can't imagine how purgatory would work, practically. I was also disappointed at the appeal to C.S. Lewis as an authority on this issue. C.S. Lewis may be an influential Christian thinker and author, but his fictional account of hell in The Great Divorce is not canonized and so does not have the same authority as scripture. Lewis was also not infallible, so he may very well be mistaken. And as this book's subtitle is a "Protestant View of the Cosmic Drama," Walls should know that Protestants are generally not convinced by appeals to authority if there is not a solid scriptural basis. This is what the Reformation principle of sola scriptura is all about! In a similar way, I also disliked how he often referred to Dante's works as support for some of his theological arguments, again, because it is fiction and therefore only speculative and not on equal footing with scripture. His arguments would be stronger if he relied less on appeals to speculative fictional works by authors like C.S Lewis and Dante and focused more on scripture.