Surprised by Hell: Eternal Fire

We continue our word study by looking at some of the many passages that speak of the damned being sent to the lake of fire, eternal fire, or the like.

Fire

(2 Pet 3:7) By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.

Once again, Peter says it plainly. This destruction is by fire — the same fire that destroys the present heavens and earth. He specifically joins the burning of the present heavens and earth with the destruction of the ungodly. This language is, of course, familiar to readers of the Gospels —

(Mat 13:40-42) “As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. 41 The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. 42 They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

Notice that Jesus says this happens “at the end of the age,” that is, when the old heavens and earth are burned with fire. And while Jesus says evil doers will weep and gnash teeth, he doesn’t say they’ll do so forever.

We sometimes think of this fire as fire that lasts forever, meaning that the burning up of the lost lasts forever, based on such verses as —

(Mat 3:12) “His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”

“Unquenchable” doesn’t mean that the chaff burns forever. It means that the fire can’t be put out — God’s decree is irrevocable. As we considered earlier, “unquenchable” refers back to Jer 7:20 and 17:27, which speak of the fall of Jerusalem at the hands of the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar. God’s verdict against Jerusalem could not be changed, once made. It would be destroyed. But the destruction itself lasted months, not forever.

(Mat 18:8 ) If your hand or your foot causes you to sin cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life maimed or crippled than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire.

Here, Jesus speaks of the fire being eternal (aionios), but not of torment being eternal. Of course, “eternal” can very easily mean “fire of the next age,” so that Jesus is making the point that this death, this second death, will occur in the next age, with the damned being judged and destroyed after their first death.

Now, we need to pause to consider Jesus’ references to the fire prepared for the devil —

(Mat 25:41) “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.”

Compare Rev 19:20 with 20:10 —

(Rev 19:20) But the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who had performed the miraculous signs on his behalf. With these signs he had deluded those who had received the mark of the beast and worshiped his image. The two of them were thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulfur.

(Rev 20:10) And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever.

Verse 20:10 occurs 1,000 years (whatever that symbolizes) after 19:20 and further indicates that the torment of the devil, the beast, and the false prophet will be in torment forever. “For ever and ever” which is literally “ages of ages,” the same phrase used of God (1:18, 4:9-10, 10:6, 15:7) and of God’s reign (1 Pet 4:11, Rev 1:6, 5:13-14, 7:12, 11:15).

Some (such as the Scofield Bible notes) argue that this proves that the damned will suffer unending torment. But this is hardly the case. The passages speak solely of the devil, the beast (the Roman Empire or, as Mounce argues in the New International Commentary on Revelation, any secular authority that allows itself to be deified), and the false prophet.

The false prophet, also called the beast which comes out of the earth in chapter 13, is a reference to the religious authorities in Rome, specifically the priests of the imperial cult and the provincial councils charged with enforcing emperor worship. Of course, the symbolism further applies to any religion that encourages worship of secular powers (which should be a warning to the modern church!)

Therefore, although we can interpret Revelation to say that the devil and his minions will suffer never-ending torment, that hardly proves that damned humans will do so. In fact, the Revelation argues very much to the contrary. You see, in Rev. 20:21, we find that although the beast and false prophet are thrown into the lake of fire, those who followed them — humans — were “killed with the sword that came out of the mouth of the rider on the horse, and all the birds gorged themselves on their flesh.” This obviously suggests a different fate: death.

Later on, in Rev 20, those who follow Satan are defeated by fire from heaven that devours them (20:9). Again, they die.

Finally, John pictures Judgment Day in 20:12-15 —

(Rev 20:14-15) Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. 15 If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

And so, after repeated pictures of those outside of Jesus being killed, we are told they will suffer a “second death.”

(Rev 2:10-11) Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life. 11 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes will not be hurt at all by the second death.

The second death is contrasted here with a “crown of life.” The choice is death or life, not a blissful life or an agonizing life. There are two “deaths” (thanatos, in the Greek) — one in this age, which may well come from martyrdom, and a second death in the next age, reserved for the unfaithful.

About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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4 Responses to Surprised by Hell: Eternal Fire

  1. Alan says:

    If time is a feature of this creation, and souls of the dead live outside this creation, then by definition they do not experience time. So they are eternal. Perhaps they can observe creation (and therefore can observe all points in time). It's hard to imagine how anything would be temporary in a realm where there is no time.

  2. paul says:

    This new book provides the answer for Christian's as to why King Nebuchadnezzar had a 2nd dream depicting Babylon as a corrupt tree giving bad fruit. The book explains why God commanded the angels to cut down this evil tree and destroy it, but,"leave the stump and the original roots alive within the earth.""Daniel 4.

    The foundations of Babylon are still in Iraq today perfectly preserved until the latter days came. The stump of the evil tree sits in Iraq today as only the foundations of the city stand above ground.

    In this Biblical dream, God speaks through symbolism and medaphores. Babylon is compared to the evil tree in the garden of Eden in a Bible prophecy.

    God gives you a prophetic clue to test how perceptive you are as a Christian.

    If you cut down a tree and water the stump, and keep the roots living for centuries to come. Follow this prophecies specific instructions.

    What will it eventually become? Another tree growing back again? No, not possible!
    It can only become a tree Bush in the future, never a new tree. Why? Because the trunk will not grow back again once cut down.

    Obviously ancient Babylon was cut down just a few miles from Baghdad in Iraq today, and you can witness the foundations of the ancient city sticking up out from the earth today. Soddam Hussein re-built the city of Babylon directly on top of the old ruins a few years ago. This prophetic event made worldwide news. This was an attempt to restore the ancient tree as before by Soddam himself trying to imitate what Nebuchadnezzar had accomplished, but, instead of it becoming a symbolic tree again in modern times, it became like a Bush.

    George Bush destroyed Soddam Hussein and freed Iraq which is today like a modern Babylon. Bush will be known as the liberator of Iraq for all time to come.

    Iraq has become a free democratic state with its memorial city today. The stump of the tree was freed by a modern Bush. America transforms the ancient roots into a Bush of liberated freedom.

    Babylon could never again return to the evil tree it once had been in Bible times.. Can we possibly understand why God declares that Babylon will someday grow eagle's wing's as stated in "Daniel 7:4.

    The lion image of Babylon is transformed into an eagle. This is the miracle Jesus has accomplished through George Bush in Iraq today bringing a great democracy upon American eagle's wings…

    This event fulfills a huge prophecy that no one could have possibly understood unti now.

    The Bible also states that a modern young Lion (Soddam) had a lot to do with destroying the eagles tree, and transformed it into a memorial stump."Daniel 4." "Let a 2nd fallen tree also happen to Babylon's enemy Daniel declares!" "This modern economic tree of the eagle (America) could only describe the World trade center as it also was also cut down to a memorial stump upon holy ground, located at ground zero.

    This sacred stump was where the American tree fell and must be memorialized forever by the very same Bush presidency. A memorial stump watered by the people's tears having eternal roots.

    George Bush fulfilled this prophecy when he spoke at ground zero to unite America as one nation under God. America went back to her churches by the millions as a result of the tree of life type..
    Symbolically, it was an event like unto gathering Israel at the burning Bush
    or a Bush fallen freedom tree. .

    Get ready to see a real Bible prophecy explode upon the world written directly from the Bible. Both George Bush and Nebuchadnezzar were world leaders who made human mistakes, but God uses them to send you and I a personal message intended for our time.

    This Bible message is so powerful it is opening the hearts of Blacks and Hispanics who generally trust their Bible. This Bible message could potentually turn millions of such democratic voters toward the conservative side once the Bible speaks to their hearts..

    This message from the Bible may assure us a Palin presidency within four years if we can get this message out to christians. The 400 page book completely exposes Obama's socialism efforts as Satans plan to deceive millions. Investigate this matter first yourself to gain a firm testimony that this is real Bible prophecy unlike modern manipulations of Bible context. This message is found within one context coming straight from your own Bible. The online video will take you through scripture and demonstrate just how clear and obvious this all is.

    You will understand why Satan worked so hard to get you to hate the name of Bush! He tried to stop this Bible prophecy from being known. This book will destroy the democratic plan to make America a socialist nation if you can help us get this out to the world. To see how the Bible scriptures open up into an amazing message about Iraq and 9/11 watch the short youtube video now.

    www. eternaltruth.

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    Paul

    Table of Contents

    Provocative

    Preface

    Introduction

    Forward

    Chapter 1 Connecting Dots of the Eleventh Horn

    Chapter 2 Basic Biblical Foundations for 9 – 11

    Chapter 3 The King’s Second Dream

    Chapter 4 Biblical Shadows with George Bush's Election

    Chapter 5 Babylon at Our Door

    Chapter 6 Unified, Civil and Religious, Constitutional Laws

    Chapter 7 Prophets On the Street Corner

    Chapter 8 Pariah to Paragon

    Chapter 9 Monsters and Beasts

    Chapter 10 Heads and Horns; Queens and Harlots

    Chapter 11 Days and Years

    Chapter 12 Popes

    Chapter 13 Abomination of Desolation

    Chapter 14 Cleansing the Sanctuary

    Chapter 15 Babylon Today

    Chapter 16 The Invisible Shadow

    Chapter 17 Secretive Organizations

    Chapter 18 Faceless Terrors

    Chapter 19 Armed Citizens

    Chapter 20 Biblical Scams

    Chapter 21 Chasing Armageddon's Shadows

    Chapter 22 A Holy War

    Chapter 23 Leaving Babylon

    Chapter 24 The Man of Sin Revealed

    Chapter 25 Elusive Beasts

    Chapter 26 Beastly Images Unraveled

    Chapter 27 Opposing Forms of Unity

    Chapter 28 Begotten Beasts of the Flesh

    Chapter 29 The Viral Nature of the Mark

    Chapter 30 The Secret Covenant

    Chapter 31 Buying and Selling the Mark

    Chapter 32 The Destructive Image of Status

    Chapter 33 True Freedom

    Chapter 33 Understanding God’s Covenants through Birthright

    Chapter 34 Distinguishing True Spiritual Fruits and Feasts

    Chapter 35 The Challenge

    A Clarification On the “Mark”

    Place orders (for paperback, 978-1-60477-029-2)
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  4. Marco Gracin says:

    Your interpretation is ridiculous. If, as YOU say, the Devil and his angels are tormented in the Lake of Fire “forever and ever,” how do those whose names are NOT found in the Book of Life, who ARE thrown into the Lake of Fire (Revelation 20:15), escape the same eternal torment? You have to do some SERIOUS twisting of Scripture to get to annihilation for the damned, and you didn’t even do a good job at that.

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