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Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Lake of Fire and Torment? Yes, But No (Part 1)

Readers of this blog know that I reject the traditional view of "hell." I've covered the topic numerous times from different perspectives. We have looked at the context and use (or lack of use) of different biblical words and doctrines such as "Sheol," "Hades," "Gehenna," and "Tartarus." God is not running a fiery torture chamber in which he torments your unbelieving aunt with out hope or relief. That is a monstrous doctrine and a blasphemy.

Here I'd like to take a look at the "Lake of Fire" on its own. It is spoken of in the Revelation (and only in the Revelation).

Then the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who worked signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image. These two were cast alive into the lake of fire burning with brimstone.
 -Revelation 19:20
The devil, who deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet are. And they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.  -Revelation 20:10
Then Death and Hades (Hell) were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second [final] death. -Revelation 20:14
And [if] anyone [was] not found written in the Book of Life [he] was cast into the lake of fire. -Revelation 20:15

As noted, this phrase is unique to the Book of the Revelation and judgments found there.
λιμνην του πυρος (Greek) = límnē ho pŷr (phonetic)
These judgments take place after the return of the Lord (Rev 19) and then at the end of the millennial reign of Christ (Rev 20). We there see the following cast into the lake of fire:

  • The Beast (Antichrist)
  • False Prophet
  • The Devil
  • Death and Hades (Hell)
  • Anyone not found in the Book of Life

Now let's see what is connected to the lake:

  • Brimstone
  • Tormented Day and Night Forever and Ever
  • The Second Death

When we can we let scripture interpret, or help interpret, scripture. We will start by looking back at the judgment of Edom in Isaiah 34:

For it is the day of the Lord’s vengeance,
The year of recompense for the cause of Zion.
Its streams shall be turned into pitch,
And its dust into brimstone;
Its land shall become burning pitch.
It shall not be quenched night or day;
Its smoke shall ascend forever.

From generation to generation it shall lie waste;
No one shall pass through it forever and ever.

But the pelican and the porcupine shall possess it,
Also the owl and the raven shall dwell in it.
And He shall stretch out over it
The line of confusion and the stones of emptiness.
They shall call its nobles to the kingdom,
But none shall be there, and all its princes shall be nothing.

The language here is figurative on the one hand (concerning a literal destruction), and we must understand what it means when the Bible speaks of "forever." When we look at Young's Literal Translation we read, "To the age go up doth her smoke." Often the plural is used. If we continued to use "forever and ever" we would have to say things like, "forevers and evers" or "evers and evers." That makes no sense. However, "ages and ages" or "age of the ages" is far more accurate and clear.

In any regard, surely the smoke will not ascend into eternity (as we use it). Will pelicans and porcupines be there into eternity? Shall we be calling for its nobles into eternity?

Burning With Brimstone

Now let's look at the "brimstone" and the concept of "night and day" as well. We first see "brimstone" (sulfur) in scripture in connection with the destruction of Sodom.

Then the Lord rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah, brimstone and fire from the Lord out of heaven...
-Gen 19:24
Then [Abraham] looked toward Sodom and Gomorrah, and toward all the land of the plain; and he saw, and behold, the smoke of the land which went up like the smoke of a furnace.
-Gen 19:28

Let us turn to the epistle of Jude to see how this destruction is referred millenia later:
And the angels who did not keep their proper domain, but left their own abode, He has reserved in everlasting chains under darkness for the judgment of the great day; as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities around them in a similar manner to these, having given themselves over to sexual immorality and gone after strange flesh, are set forth as an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.
-Jude 6-7

Do we contend that Sodom is still suffering in fiery brimstone?  Of course not. Let us look again at the literal translation of the word translated "eternal" here: "age-during." Sodom shall not rise again. In that sense, it's punishment endures the ages.

Day and Night Forever

Before we leave Part 1, let us take a look at "day and night forever" which we see in both Isaiah and in the Revelation. We've already noted that the English word "forever" is not the correct expression of the concept here. But what of Day and Night?

In Revelation 21 we are told that the current earth will "pass away." We pause to note that Edom and Sodom, therefore, even if they were still burning, could no longer burn for they will be destroyed. Peter teaches us that the "heavens and earth which are now... are reserved for fire..."

When we have the creation of the new (third) heavens and earth, we no longer will have a night.

Its gates shall not be shut at all by day (there shall be no night there).
 -Revelation 21:25
There shall be no night there: They need no lamp nor light of the sun, for the Lord God gives them light. And they shall reign forever and ever. -Revelation 22:5

The "Lake of Fire" is figurative for total destruction. It is unique to this future age wherein we see final judgments related to the tribulation, the Antichrist, the Millennial Kingdom, Satan, and all unbelievers. All will go down into "perdition" (that is, waste).

We know from John 3:16 and 5:24 that the question before men is will they choose Faith and Life or No Faith and Perishing (No Life). This is context of all judgment.

Too often the mythology which has crept in unawares to Christianity unnecessarily confuses our understanding. It creeps into translations and commentaries. We see the Greek concept of "Hell" plugged in to every reference to the grave. We need to put away the traditions of men and let scripture speak to us plainly.

In Part 2 we will look at the Second (Final) Death.