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Bradley Jersak, Her Gates Will Never Be Shut

Her GatesBradley Jersak, Her Gates Will Never Be Shut: Hope, Hell, and the New Jerusalem (Eugene, Oregon: Wipf & Stock, 2009), 220 pages.

If you’ll pardon a somewhat tacky pun, the subject of Hell has been hot lately. First, Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived by Rob Bell (March 2011) stirred up a national controversy, especially within Evangelicalism, by suggesting the possibility of universalism. Immediately came responses to Bell such as Mark Galli in God Wins: Heaven, Hell, and Why the Good News is Better than Love Wins (July 19, 2011). Even more quickly was Francis Chan and Preston Sprinkle’s Erasing Hell: What God said about eternity and the things we made up (July 5, 2011). The writers of both of these books, as well as a host of blogs and other books, mention Rob Bell repeatedly (and sometimes heatedly). Jersak doesn’t mention him at all. Mainly, this absence is probably because Jersak was writing Her Gates before this frenzied fanfare got underway.1 Accordingly, readers should remember the current context is not the pretext for Jersak’s work. But it could’ve been; it’s that similar in its concerns. Only Jersak would be closer to Bell than to Galli or Chan and Sprinkle. However, Rob Bell doesn’t reference Bradley Jersak either, even though he wrote afterwards; but, Bell’s book is more conversational, less scholarly and so isn’t cluttered up with a lot of explanatory footnotes or supporting references. So it’s best to interpret Jersak, an author and seminar speaker based in Abbotsford, British Columbia, on his own terms. Yet Jersak also identifies himself as an Evangelical, so the context is not unconnected. And this work is quite recent as well.

Anyone interested in studying about the fate of human beings from a Christian perspective will probably benefit from this book. It’s written in accessible language with a conversational and quite personal style, but Jersak also supplies careful documentation without sidetracking the reader too much with secondary issues. A few well-placed charts are helpful too. Her Gates is probably a rare offering in that moves along at a pace where both scholars and non-scholars may follow and keep up without either feeling shortchanged or overwhelmed. In other words, Her Gates may be described as deep but not dense. It’s probably perfect for most clergy and students. Pentecostals and Charismatics will likely appreciate Jersak’s creative use of dreams and visions as part of a meditative and reflective process that enhances the intellectual and literary aspects of such a study. I especially enjoyed the non-critical and (again, pardon the pun) non-judgmental tone that Jersak maintained toward those of differing views throughout the work. He really does seem to understand that equally good Christians may have profound differences on this topic. However, that is not to say that he doesn’t have his own very strong opinion as well.

Her Gates is laid out in three slightly unequal parts. Part 1 theoretically looks at the biblical possibility of ultimate judgment. I say “theoretically” because although Jersak does a well enough job explaining differing views, usually with tact and diplomacy, he cannot resist debunking the opposition and defending his own view as he goes along. So this is not a neutral, unbiased, impartial work at all. From the beginning, Jersak is out to persuade us that what he prefers to call “ultimate redemption” (rather than universalism) is a real possibility. And Part 2 takes that task up a little more directly by surveying (and defending) this position. Part 3 is an extended study of Revelation 21 and 22, which for Jersak really points to an open-ended (literally, thus the title, Her Gates Will Never Be Shut) possibility of all being eventually redeemed. The book closes with an Afterword by Nik Ansell on “Hell: The Nemesis of Hope” that basically presents the same position as Jersak.

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Category: Biblical Studies, Pneuma Review, Spring 2012

About the Author: Tony Richie, D.Min, Ph.D., is missionary teacher at SEMISUD (Quito, Ecuador) and adjunct professor at the Pentecostal Theological Seminary (Cleveland, TN). Dr. Richie is an Ordained Bishop in the Church of God, and Senior Pastor at New Harvest in Knoxville, TN. He has served the Society for Pentecostal Studies as Ecumenical Studies Interest Group Leader and is currently Liaison to the Interfaith Relations Commission of the National Council of Churches (USA), and represents Pentecostals with Interreligious Dialogue and Cooperation of the World Council of Churches and the Commission of the Churches on International Affairs. He is the author of Speaking by the Spirit: A Pentecostal Model for Interreligious Dialogue (Emeth Press, 2011) and Toward a Pentecostal Theology of Religions: Encountering Cornelius Today (CPT Press, 2013) as well as several journal articles and books chapters on Pentecostal theology and experience.

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