Wednesday, December 19, 2007

After Life (24) - The Devil and his Angels

This is my last post on hell. For completeness I will comment on what happens to the the devil. I am not totally sure what happens to him. The passage that describes his fate at the end of the age is hard to interpret.

And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulphur… They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever (Rev 20:10).
This verse comes after the last judgment, so it describes his final fate. The lake of burning sulphur symbolises destruction and death (cf Rev 21:14-15). This would imply his death and destruction. The second part of the verse is more difficult.

The greek word translated as “tormented” is “basanizo”. It can mean torture. However, its other meaning is a testing by touchstone, which is a black siliceous stone used to test the purity of gold or silver by the colour of the streak produced when rubbing it with either metal. I see nothing in God’s character to suggest that he is interested in torturing the devil. He would gain no pleasure from it and no purpose would be accomplished. When a word has two possible interpretations, we should choose the one that is most consistent with God’s character. Therefore “basanizo” should be translated as “testing”.

The word is used in several places in the book of Revelation. I think testing is the better translation, because God never tortures, just for the sake of tormenting. Rather, he allows people to experience the consequence of their choices. This testing should sharpen up their choices, so they make better choices in the future. This is the purpose of all the judgments describe in Revelation.

Getting back to Rev 20:14, I am not sure why God would still be testing the devil after life on earth is complete and I do not understand why this testing would go on for ages. The verb “bansnizo” is future passive indicative. One possibility is that the conjunction is “but” and the verb “he will have been tested”. John might be saying that the devil will be destroyed, because he has been tested day and night for several ages (and found wanting.)

This interpretation seems to be confirmed by Hebrew 4:12.
Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil.
This message seems to be very clear. Jesus will destroy the devil.

In the end, I do not need to know what happens to the devil. Maybe God has left it unclear because he does not want me to know. Nevertheless, I presume that the devil does know his fate and is trembling in fear.

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