Monday, December 17, 2007

After Life (22) - Eternal Torment???

The one New Testament passage that could be interpreted to mean eternal torment is Revelation 14:9-12.

A third angel followed them and said in a loud voice: "If anyone worships the beast and his image and receives his mark on the forehead or on the hand, he, too, will drink of the wine of God's fury, which has been poured full strength into the cup of his wrath. He will be tormented with burning sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment rises for ever and ever. There is no rest day or night for those who worship the beast and his image, or for anyone who receives the mark of his name." This calls for patient endurance on the part of the saints who obey God's commandments and remain faithful to Jesus.
However, this passage does not refer to events in eternity, but to life on earth. The expression “in the presence of the holy angels and the Lamb” is misleading. The literal meaning is “in the sight of the Lord”. John is saying that Jesus and the angels see this event, it does not occur in their presence. Other aspects of this passage make this clear. The third angel is preceded by two who announce the proclamation of the gospel and the destruction of Babylon the Great. These events happen on earth. The saints are still enduring, but they will not need to endure in eternity. People are still dying (Rev 14:13), so the passage cannot be a description of eternity.

John warns that the judgments coming on earth at this time are so terrible, it will be like the days of Sodom and Gomorrah (fire and brimstone). Those who worship the beast will have no rest. The smoke rising forever is a declaration that these events will be so bad that they are never forgotten. Smoke is not the fire. Smoke continues after the fire has ceased. The memory of this event on earth will continue after it is complete.

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