After reviewing this chapter, I feel it best to make this into a multi-part chapter review. There are three verses that Beale tackles in this chapter and I will take each one as a separate part. This way, I will be able to explain with a bit more depth the inter-weaving of the texts and their association with the Old Testament, which is critical toward understanding the revelation given to John.
I have avoided an in-depth study of this book simply because of the “mystery” involved within it. Or, at least that is what I have thought for years. I, like many of you, have not sought understanding because everyone seems to have their own interpretation of it, and who could know which is right. After all, it is filled with shadows, and types, and figures, and numbers, and a host of things that us “ordinary” Christians do not have a clue about. Anyone who has told us they know what the book says either has been looked at as extremely deep or extremely conspiratorial, at least in the circles I have run in. To say that the Revelation has a straight-forward meaning or is easy to understand is looked upon as very naïve. Some have stated that everything contained in it is literal and this has spawned teachings such as The Left Behind series. Others have taken it as completely figurative and have advanced theories that we are in the end-time age and there is no millenium or parousia (rapture, in Latin).
Because of such varying understandings Christian leaders have come up with many categories to describe the different belief systems. Pre-, mid-, or post-tribulationists, pre-, post-, or a-millenial are some of the categories you will hear talked about in churches today. Some churches even make it a point of orthodoxy for church membership. If you don’t believe in a pre-tribulation rapture of the church and a pre-millenial return of Christ for His people, then church membership will be denied to you.
Fortunately, I will not be discussing any of these topics in this review. The topic of hell in the Revelation is important for many reasons. One reason is that there is a relationship to salvation involved here. There is also the importance of destiny after death, not to mention the all-important topic of the nature of God and His forgiveness. These are things that we will touch on in this review.
The three verses discussed in this chapter are Revelation 14:9-12, 20:10, 20:14. Unfortunately, from a universalist perspective, the questions and concerns dealing with the salvation of all mankind will most likely not be addressed because, “These passages will be the focus of this exegetical essay, though other relevant passages in the book may be considered tangentially, and in passing I will evaluate the annihilationist view. The goal of this discussion is not only to determine John’s concept of “final punishment,” but also how it fits into the flow of ideas in the wider context of each passage.”
At this point in the book, after saying this so many times in past chapter reviews, universal salvation is passed over for taking on the annihilationist view. This book should have been sub-titled, “Hell Under Fire: Destroying the Annihilationist View.” Be that as it may, I again will look at what is written from an evangelical universalist point of view.
(Rev 14:9)And another, a third agent (messenger), followed them, repeatedly saying in a great voice, “If any one is continuously worshiping the little wild animal, and its image, and is continuously receiving an imprinted mark upon his forehead or upon his hand,
(Rev 14:10)he will also drink out of the wine of God’s rushing emotion (strong passion; anger) — of the one having been mixed undiluted within the cup of His inherent fervor (natural bent; impulse; indignation; wrath). And he will be examined (scrutinized with the touchstone to test his “metal”)within Fire and Deity (Divine qualities) in the presence of (before; in the sight of) the set-apart agents, and in the presence of (before) The Little Lamb.
(Rev 14:11)And the smoke of their examination by the touchstone continually ascends into (for) ages of the ages.And those continually worshiping the little animal and its image — and if any one continually receives the imprinted mark of its name — they, continually, are not having rest DAY and NIGHT.
(Rev 14:12)Here exists (is continually) the patient endurance (the remaining under) of the set-apart ones (the saints) — the ones continually keeping watch upon (guarding, observing, having custody over) God’s commands (orders; precepts) and the Faith of Jesus (the Faith pertaining to Jesus; the Faith belonging to Jesus). (JMNT)
Let me say, right from the outset here, that I see nothing in these verses that talks about an eternal conscious torment in hell, nor annihilation, nor anything like what the traditional theology believes. I will explain further after I show how convoluted the modern theology gets and the depths to which they will sink to find proof-texts for their man-made theology.
Beale begins with verse 9, stating that the third angel appears and announces a judgment much worse than death to those who are aligned with the beast in verse 10. He says, “The effect of this wine, however, will not be temporary. God’s wine will make the nations submissive to his judicial will forever.” He further states, “’In the cup of His anger’ reiterates “he…will drink of the wine of the wrath of God” in order to emphasize the definitiveness and severity of the last judgment to which all unbelievers are forced to submit. At the last day they will be “tormented with fire and brimstone.”” This torment is supposedly spiritual and psychological. Beale says this is the meaning of the word (torment) elsewhere here in Revelation, referencing the nature of trials that come before the final judgment or are part of the final judgment. He lists the following verses as support. By the way, the term used in each of these verses is the Greek term basanizo or basanos, which literally means to test using this special stone, a touchstone, to test the quality of gold. I have highlighted the Greek word that was translated into English below in bold print, using the Jonathan Mitchell New Testament (JMNT) translation.
(Rev 9:5)And it was granted (given) to (for) them, not that they should be killing them, but rather that they may be examined (tried as metals by the touchstone; distressed)[for] five months. And their examination [is/was] as the distress (metal testing) of a scorpion whenever it may strike a human.
(Rev 9:6)And in those days the humans (the men) will seek (search for; pursue) death, and will by no means (under no circumstances) find it. And they will set their desire to die, and death will flee (escape) from them.
(Rev 11:10) And the ones continuously having a house down upon the earth (the ones continuously dwelling upon the Land) are continuously rejoicing upon them, and they will be gladdened (made glad) and will send presents to each other, because these, the two prophets, tested and examined (applied the touchstone to test the purity of the metal of) those continuously having a house down upon the earth.
(Rev 18:7)As much as she glorified (glorifies) herself and indulged (lives in proud luxury), so much give to her examination (testing) by the touchstone and mourning (grief; sadness; sorrow), because within her heart she is continually saying, “I continually sit as a queen, and I am not a widow; I may by no means see mourning (grief; sadness; sorrow).”
(Rev 18:10)standing away, at a distance, on account of the fear of her examination (testing) by the touchstone,repeatedly saying, “Woe, woe, the great city! Babylon, the strong city! Because in one hour your judgment (judging) came!”
(Rev 18:15)The merchants of these things — those becoming rich from her — will stand away at a distance, because of the fear of her testing (examination) with the touchstone,continually weeping and mourning,
(Rev 20:10)And the devil (slanderer, accuser; one who thrusts-through), the one continuously deceiving them (repeatedly leading them astray) is cast (or: was thrown) into the lake of the Fire and Deity, where the little wild animal and the false prophet [are] also. And they will be examined and tested by the touchstoneday and night, into the ages of the ages.
Beale says that the point is that those who deny God will be forced to acknowledge Him as they are being punished. He says these scriptures indicate a torment day and night forever and ever. That this punishment will be a memorial for all to see forever. Though Edom was destroyed, or annihilated, these ones will not be annihilated, but preserved forever in a state of torment. The reason they will not be annihilated is that there is a parallel in Rev. 20:10 relating to the devil, the beast, and the false prophet. Those three will be thrown into the lake of fire and tormented forever and so will all those who worship them. Therefore, no annihilation. Beale spends the next four pages explaining from every conceivable angle why this is not annihilation. I think he proves his case. However, why is it that all these authors keep taking on annihilationism rather than universalism? Me thinks it is easier to debunk than evangelical universalism!
Now, let me spend a little time explaining why I think he makes much out of something relatively simple, and still misses the mark significantly.
Neither verse 9 nor verse 10 say anything about death. They do speak of God’s wrath and His anger, and the testing that comes for those who still do not worship God. When the word basanizo or basanos is correctly translated into English, we don’t get the word “torment,” but the word testing as shown above. This, of course, alters what these verses are actually saying. “The smoke of their testing” is figurative language and is not literal. There is no smoke (though this terminology fits with the traditional view of hell, a hell that is about eternal burning, sulfur, etc!). The testing by God is not actually with fire and sulfur, but a very deep and painful understanding that they have sinned against God and are paying a penalty for that sin. Also, eternal is not in these verses either. Eternal is a mistranslation of aions of aions (ages of ages) as shown above. It only means for a period of time, most likely a long period of time, they will suffer under God’s wrath and anger.
These other verses used by Beale also show the same thing: a wrong understanding of the term aionios, and the term basanizo/basanos. When the correct words are used the meaning is changed. Testing connotes a period of time that has an end. The testing comes to an end and the end, as we shall see, is that all are reconciled to God, just as Revelation indicates.
Now, let me ask a very serious question. Why does the majority of the Christian world, i.e. traditional Christianity, always focus on the negative aspects of things like judgment, wrath, vengeance, death, “hell, meaning eternal conscious torment, and the like, rather than God as love and everything He is, flowing from that love?
My case in point: The focus on hell, under fire, and how this is a tragic thing, and must be reclaimed and then the misrepresentation of such texts as Revelation 14. Why? Because as you continue to read, chapter 15 comes right after this text. What does chapter 15 say?
(Rev 15:4)O Lord[= O Yahweh], who may by no means(or: who may in no way) fear You and glorify (bring good reputation to) Your Name? Because [You] only(alone; without accompaniment) [are] appropriately pious, sanctioned, benign [Vat. 2066 reads: Set-apart (Holy)]. Because the multitudes (nations: ethnic groups) WILL arrive, and they WILL worship in Your presence (in Your sight; before You), Because Your righteous acts (rightful ways; acts of fairness & equity; just decrees and decisions; actions according to the way pointed out; ACT OF JUSTIFICATION and actualization of justice; rightwising of relationships) ARE MANIFESTED(were brought to light; were made to appear).”
Why do men of God choose to give us only half the story? Why didn’t Beale follow up his explanation of judgment with the fact that all nations will come to worship God? Chapter 15 shows that one day all nations will worship God. And, I might add, worship cannot be forced! In other words, it is not worship, if it is not done willingly from the heart! What is seen is that those who don’t worship God will one day be judged for a period of time, and that judgment will be painful, but that eventually, through the “testing” comes purification, just like the silver is put in the fire and the dross skimmed off., and once purified, these former worshipers of the devil will now be worshipers, true worshipers of the one True God.
There are other verses here in Revelation that follow this “final judgment followed by salvation motif.” They are as follows: Revelation 6:12-17 (judgment) and Revelation 7:9-17 (salvation). Rev. 11:18a (judgment) and Rev. 11:18b (salvation), Rev. 14:6-20 (judgment) and Rev. 15:2-4 (salvation, Rev. 16:17-18:24 (judgment) and Rev 19:1-10 (salvation); and Rev. 20:7-15 (judgment) and Rev. 21:1-22:5 (salvation).
At this point, I think I need go no further to show what Revelation is saying and to deny the teachings of Beale regarding Rev. 14:9-12. I will take a further look at the remaining two texts and most likely make some briefer comments, since what is said here is damaging enough to his case of hell in Revelation. Until next time, God bless you as you seek His truth and His love!