Hell Under Fire – Chapter 5 – The Revelation on Hell Part 2
I am going to finish Chapter 5’s review today. It has been a long time coming due to my work schedule. I appreciate your patience. Let me quote a few statements made by Beale regarding Revelation 20:10-15. He says,
“The “lake of fire” of Revelation 20:10 is not literal since Satan (and his angels) is a spiritual being. Therefore, the “fire” describes a punishment that is not physical but spiritual in nature. Neither are “the beast and the false prophet” merely two literal individuals but figurative for unbelieving institutions composed of people. Even the phrase “day and night” is not literal but figurative for the idea of the unceasing mature of the torment…Strictly speaking, even the expression aionas ton aionon literally can be rendered “unto the ages of ages.” At the least, the figurative point of the phrase connotes a very long time. The context of the passage and of the book must determine whether this is a long but limited time or an unending period. Both immediate and broad contexts of the book indicate that the expression refers to an unending period.”
In support of this reference to context being “eternal” for aionas ton aionon, Beale lists the following verses supporting the eternality of God’s power and glory and life, and the eternal reign of the saints. (Revelation 11:15; 1:6; 5:13; 7:12; 4:9-10; 10:6; 15:7; 1:18; 22:5) This is quite a list, but just like so many professors and Bible teachers, words and “concepts” are extracted from chapters with little attention paid to the context of the storyline of scripture. Here’s what I mean. All of these verses are literally rendered as “ages of the ages” or “into the ages of the ages.” Most modern translations translate these Greek terms as eternal or some derivative of the word eternal. The common definition of eternal is an unending period, something without beginning or ending, or a period that began but will never end, something that will always exist.
When the true context is looked at, and it is harmonized with other scripture, what we come away with is something different than the typical meaning of “eternal.” As I said, the literal translation is ages of ages or into the ages for all the verses Beale lists. When these verses are looked at in conjunction with the events of the end of everything that Paul explains in 1 Corinthians 15:24-28, a different yet totally understandable picture is seen. Revelation talks mainly about the Kingdom age where Christ will rule and reign and believers are with Him. This picture John paints of the Revelation given him is not of the ultimate end, but the age just before the ultimate end. So, John portrays the judgment of God on unbelievers, Satan, etc., a vindication of the believing ones who will have a sanctified place in Christ’s future kingdom, and, as I will speak about down the page, the ultimate reconciliation of all people.
The reason we know John’s Revelation is not the end of all time and the end of all things is because of 1 Corinthians 15. Look at the actual end of all time:
(1Co 15:20) Yet now – at this present time! – Christ is roused and awake from having been raised up from out of the midst of dead ones: a Firstfruit of those having fallen asleep, and yet sleeping (reposing).
(1Co 15:21) For since through a man [came] death, through a Man, also, [comes] resurrection of dead ones.
(1Co 15:22) For just as within Adam all keep on (everyone continues) dying, in the same way, also, within the Christ all (everyone) will be made alive
(1Co 15:23) – yet each person within his (her) own class or division (or: ordered rank; place or appointed position [in line]; arranged [time] or order of succession): Christ a Firstfruit, next after that, those belonging to the Christ (or: the ones who have their source and origin in Christ; those who are [a part] of the Christ) within the midst of His presence,
(1Co 15:24)thereafter, the goal (the finished work; the embodiment of maturity and perfection; the fulfillment; the result; the outcome; the end attained; the realization of the perfect discharge; or: the end; the closing act; the consummation), when He can proceed handing over (or: may progressively pass along and entrust; should by habit give over) the reign (or: kingdom) to God, even [the] Father (or: in [His] God and Father), at the time that He should bring down to idleness (make unemployed and ineffective; nullify; abolish; render useless and unproductive) every rulership of government (all headship and sovereignty), even all (or: every) authority and power!
(1Co 15:25)For it is binding (necessary) for Him to be continuously reigning (ruling as King) until which [time] (or: until where) He should (may) put (place) all the enemies under His feet.
(1Co 15:26)[The] last enemy being progressively brought down to idleness (made unemployed and ineffective; rendered useless and unproductive; nullified; abolished) [is] the Death.
(1Co 15:27)For, “He subjects (arranges in subordination, bringing under full control) all things under His feet.” Now whenever He may say thateverything (all things) has been arranged in subjectionand placed under full control, [it is] evident (clearly visible) that [it is] with the exception of and outside of the One subjecting the whole (arranging all things in subordination under) in Him (to Him; for Him).
(1Co 15:28)Now whenever the whole (all things) may be subjected in Him (to Him; for Him), then the Son Himself will also be subjected (placed and arranged under) in the One (to the One) subjecting the whole (all things) in Him (to Him), that God can be all things within the midst of and in union with all men (or, as a nuet.: may be everything in all things; or: should exist being All in all).
Notice the language Paul uses here. Everything is subject to Christ. This is kingdom language. Subjects are in submission to the King. But, in the VERY end, when all things are in subjection to Christ, verse 24, Christ hands over the Kingdom to the Father; all rulership, all authority, all power. Then, in verse 28, after all things are handed over to the Father, and Jesus Himself subjects Himself to the Father, then and only then, will God become all in all. Then and only then will ALL people worship God willingly from the bottom of their changed hearts and wills. Then and only then will the things the Father created, and said they were all good, be finally restored to what they had been created for (worship of the one true God and to reflect Him and His glory and love). This is the true end!
And so, the passages Beale cites in Revelation truly should be rendered as occurrences and positions and essence in Christ’s kingdom age (this is the Millenium that Christians speak about).God receives glory and power during this age. Jesus, which most of these verses specifically speak about, is praised and worshiped and glorified. Jesus has life during these ages of ages, just as the Father does. The saints will reign with Christ during theses ages (since, when everything culminates and God becomes all in all, there will be no more kingdom to rule over nor kingdom to co-rule with Christ in). So, does Beale’s explanation of “eternal torment” hold according to all of Scripture? I don’t think so. And because of the explanation given about the Revelation and also Paul’s text in 1 Corinthians, the whole concept of ECT in hell, the lake of fire, etc. is not accurate, nor biblical. These things were “revealed” to us (hence the term “revelation”) not to be mystic or cloudy or beyond our understanding, therefore all we can do is speculate about these end things. These things were revealed by God through John IN ORDER THAT we would know what would happen in or towards the end of time and IN ORDER THAT we would hope in the Lord and praise and glorify Him because of this wonderful eternal plan. Below, I will explain the blessed hope and the ultimate reconciliation of all things to the Father, so hang in there!
I want to finish the two remaining passages because there is a hope for you to see and an understanding of Revelation that will tie all things together into an understandable, complete story that will no longer cause you to shy away from this book. Let’s dive into the last two verses (Rev. 20:10, 14) by looking at the passage itself, verses 10-15.
I am sure you have many questions about the Revelation and how events fit together and what things mean. One of the questions/concerns I have always had since the first time I read Revelation was this: Why are the leaves on the tree for the healing of the nations if all those in heaven at that point have already been healed by the precious blood of the Lamb? Why are the leaves necessary? Who are the “nations” being spoken about in Revelation 22? If you have had or still have these same questions, you will receive the answer in this post! Hallelujah! Share your joy with me when that time comes, OK?
Now, Beale puts together these verse like this. The devil, Satan, and the beast and the false prophet will be finally judged and cast into the lake of fire forever. They will never escape this judgment because it is eternal conscious torment. It is what many call hell. Then death and Hades, or those who have died physically and are now in hell will be handed over to the permanent bonds of the lake of fire. All those cast into the lake of fire will suffer forever and those who aren’t will be with God forever. This is also considered to be eternal separation from God, along with the suffering. This is significant because of what we see in the next chapter of Revelation, as well as chapter 22.
(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 touchstone day and night, into the ages of the ages.
(Rev 20:11) And I saw a great bright, white throne, and the One continuously sitting upon it from Whose face the earth (or: Land) and the heaven flee (fled). And a place is not found for them (by them).
(Rev 20:12) And I saw the dead ones — the great ones and the little ones — standing before the throne. And scrolls are (were) opened up. And another scroll is opened up, which is of (or: the one pertaining to) The Life. And the dead ones are judged (were evaluated) from out of the things having been written within the scrolls, according to their works (acts; deeds).
(Rev 20:13) And the sea gives (gave ) [up, back] the dead ones within it, and death and the Unseen give (gave) [up, back] the dead ones within them. And they are judged (evaluated) according to their works (acts; deeds).
(Rev 20:14)And death and the Unseen are cast (were thrown) into the lake of the Fire. This is the second death: the lake of the Fire.
(Rev 20:15) And if anyone is not found (or: was not found) written within the scroll of The Life, he is cast (or: was thrown) into the lake of the Fire.
Compare the key verses (10, 14) in a typical modern translation used by mainline churches.
Revelation 20:10–15 (ESV)
10and the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur (brimstone, NASB, NKJV) where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.11Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. 12And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. 13And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. 14Then Death and Hades (hell, KJV) were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire.15And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.
What is actually taking place is a testing by use of a touchstone, referencing how the quality of gold was tested during biblical days. This testing was taking place day and night for, or into, the ages of the ages. As we will see, this testing has an end and is definitely not “eternal” as Beale believes. The understanding John is giving is one of trial by fire, in a sense, just as Paul talks about as well. All people’s works (beliefs also) will be tested against God’s standard. God’s standard is His Son Jesus. Those who have done works for the least, who have believed in the one and only Son, Jesus, will be tested and found pure (because of the blood of the Lamb) and those who are found wanting in works and belief in Jesus will be tested for the ages UNTIL purified and found worthy of entrance into the New Jerusalem. I will show that in Revelation 21-22 shortly. The lake of fire is that testing ground, that place of purifying for those cast into it, so to speak.
The belief that Beale holds (as does most of Christianity today) in conjunction with ECT in hell is that this life is the only time available to believe in Christ. His belief in salvation only in this life is shown in his translation of these texts as well. All the talk of eternal and the finality that brings negates the biblical passages that speak of the opportunity for salvation after this life is over, after one has experienced physical death from this life. If this life is the only time when one can be saved, what do we make of Peter’s teaching in 1 Peter 3:18-22?
(1Pe 3:18)because even Christ (or: considering that Christ also) died [other MSS: suffered], once for all, concerning and in relation to failures to hit the target (about errors and mistakes; around and encompassing sins [note: some MSS: our failures; other MSS: your failures]) — a Just One (a rightwised One; One in accord with the Way pointed out; a fair and equitable individual) over (for the sake of) unjust ones (capsized ones; those out of accord with the Way pointed out; unfair and inequitable ones), to the end that He may bring (or: lead; conduct) you folks [other MSS: us] to (or: toward) God. [He], on the one hand, being put to death in flesh, yet on the other hand, being made alive in spirit (or: indeed, being put to death by flesh, yet, being engendered a living one by spirit or: [the] Spirit),
(1Pe 3:19) journeying (going from one place to another; passing on) within which, He also proclaimed (published; preached; heralded) the message to the spirits in prison (within a guardhouse):
(1Pe 3:20)to those being at one time unconvinced (unpersuaded; disobedient; uncompliant) within [the] days of Noah, when (while) he was continuing to be receiving forth and taking away from out of God’s state of emotional quietness (taking a long time before rushing or being in a heat of passion; long-enduring patience) while [the] ark was progressively being prepared and equipped (constructed to readiness) — into which a few folks, that is, eight souls, were brought safely through [the] water (or: were brought safely through, by means of water),
(1Pe 3:21)[to] which, also, an echo of correspondent form (a copy; an antitype; an impress which answers back) is now progressively delivering (rescuing) you folks (bringing you to safety): baptism — not [the] putting off of [the] filth (removal of dirt) away from [the] flesh, but rather — an inquiry (a putting of a question; an asking) into God made by a good (virtuous) conscience, through means of [the] resurrection of Jesus Christ,
(1Pe 3:22)Who continuously exists (is) within God’s right [side, or hand — i.e., the place of authority and ability to exercise power], going from place to place, journeying into [the] heaven of those being subjected (placed under) by Him (or: in Him; to Him): of agents (messengers), and of authorities, and of powers.
Does it not make more sense that Jesus went to those spirits, those who died (or those in Noah’s say who died unbelieving) to proclaim salvation to them, rather than rubbing their noses in something they can never have? I say this because this is the typical understanding of Peter’s writing, that Jesus went to proclaim what salvation is and what they missed out on. Do they really need to know what they missed out on? If they are in hell right now, does Jesus have to go and proclaim Himself and His sacrifice to those who already know separation from God and eternal conscious torment in hell? Is this not God or Jesus rubbing their loss in their own faces, in other words, a type of vengeance exacted against them? No, I do not believe that is why Jesus went to those spirits in prison. I believe He went there truly to proclaim salvation to them and for even some of them to believe and be rescued from that punishment. Those who remain will still have opportunity to believe. Some are more hardened than others and will take longer to believe, but will one day be overcome by God’s love and His plan for all His image bearers and will walk into the city whose gates will never be closed. Oops, I tipped my hand a bit. Well, let’s venture into Revelation 21-22 and truly understand what John was revealing to us.
Beale ends his dealing with the Revelation on Hell with Rev. 20:14. Unfortunately for Beale, this is not the last word on what happens in the end, which is supposedly what hell is about, that and ECT. Let’s look at chapter 21.
Revelation 21:1-8 show a separation between the saved and the condemned, believers and unbelievers. It is clear that there is a place called hell, a place where judgment and suffering for sins takes place. This is really undeniable. The condemned will be in a place of suffering that is apart from those found in Christ.
Revelation 21:9-22 describe in great detail the walls of the New Jerusalem. The description is truly remarkable, even beyond our full understanding. But notice what comes after this description. Verse 22 says that God the Father and The Lamb, Jesus Christ are the city’s temple. Verse 23 goes further.
(Rev 21:23)And the City continually has no need of the sun nor of the moon, to the end that they may (should) continually shine for her, for the Glory of God illuminates (enlightens; gives light to) her, and her lamp [is] the little Lamb.
Then verse 24: (Rev 21:24)And the multitudes (nations; Gentiles; ethnic groups) will walk about [i.e., live their lives] by means of her LIGHT. And the kings of the Land (earth) continually carry (bring; bear) their glory [Codex Vat. +: and honor] into her.
And now a very interesting thing takes place.
(Rev 21:25)And her gates shall by no means be closed (locked) [by] day, for night will not be in that place (or: for there will not be night there).
Why are the gates of the city not closed? Why are there walls in the New Jerusalem? Walls are meant to separate those outside from those inside and are also a means of protection. When the gates are closed, a fortress is created in the sense that those outside cannot come in and those inside cannot go out. We have just seen that there is a separation between the saved and the condemned. Those condemned are not in the city, only the saved are. Before we get fully into this line of reasoning, let me add a few verses.
(Rev 21:26)And they will carry (bring) the glory and the honor of the multitudes (nations; Gentiles; ethnic groups) into her.
(Rev 21:27)And under no circumstances may anything common (profane; ceremonially unclean) — even the one continuously making an abomination and a lie — enter into her, except the ones having been written (being engraved) within the scroll of “The Life of the little Lamb” (or: the little Lamb’s scroll of “The Life”).
Verses 23-27 show us that the nations, the multitudes, and the kings of the earth (Land) will walk around the city praising God and bringing glory to Him. They have entered the city which has permanently open gates. Those formerly in the lake of fire are now milling about the streets of gold with all the previously redeemed praising God! If you were of the redeemed and not in the lake of fire, would you have any reason to venture outside the city where God dwells? The answer is, of course, NO! So the open gates MUST be for those outside to come in. It also would make no sense for those inside to peer out and, and maybe, peer into the fate of the wicked in hell, for that would cause undo pain for the redeemed, wouldn’t it?
The nations or multitudes are not only coming into the New Jerusalem through its always open gates, but they are being ushered into it by the kings of the earth! Who are these multitudes and kings? We know from Rev. 1:5 that Jesus is the ruler of the kings of the earth. We also know that these kings hide in fear from the wrath of God (Rev. 6:15). Those same kings of the earth align themselves with Babylon and share in her fate (Rev. 17:2, 18). We see these same kings bringing their glory to Babylon in chapter 18. Then we see that the multitudes and the kings of the earth are aligned together with Babylon and share in that same judgment in Rev. 18:3, 9. These same kings wage war against the King of kings (Rev 19:19, 21).
These are the same kings of the earth that enter the New Jerusalem to bring their glory to God now, rather than to Babylon as they had before. Because of the focus of this book and thereby the chapter itself, Beale does not delve into a discussion of these things nor offer any explanation of these kings of the earth and the nations (multitudes). However, his commentary on Revelation, which is considered a classic and foremost work on Revelation, does tackle these issues. I want to briefly explain his position as contained in his commentary. Due to the length of his explanation which spans over 10 pages, I want to mention two key points.
First, Beale explains that John’s writing in Rev. 21:23-27 parallels Isaiah 60. In Isaiah 60 the kings of the earth submit their wealth to Israel to show their subservience or perish. And, after verse 11 we see the nations bowing before Israel in seeming acknowledgment of her sovereignty, basically in worship of Israel for her greatness. Beale takes Revelation 21:23-27 and refers it back to Revelation 5:9 and 7:9, saying that John is speaking of the redeemed as the nations. However, the redeemed are never referred to as the nations, but redeemed FROM among the nations. Nations always refers to the larger group, the total group of all people, and the redeemed as a subset of the nations. So, the nations and the redeemed are different groups of people.
Second, the nations are always referred to as enemies of Christ and enemies of the church. Why would John change that meaning, in mid stride, and now refer to “the nations” and “the kings of the earth” as the redeemed who will come and worship God? I think the reason for this is to fit his theology. If the nations and the kings of the earth do not refer to the redeemed then the only other conclusion is that of universal salvation. The conclusion to be drawn is that the reason for the open gates, the praise and worship of God by the nations and the kings of the earth is that somewhere along their journey in the lake of fire, they came to repentance and faith and were then allowed into the New Jerusalem, perfected by the blood of the Lamb and their robes washed clean. The conclusion must be that there is, in fact, salvation after physical death. And putting all these things together, in my mind, and the minds of many others, makes the best sense out of the Revelation than any other offering through the years.
This is why in Revelation 22 we read about the leaves of the tree being for the healing of the nations. If all those who are redeemed reside in the New Jerusalem, what need do they have for healing? They have already been healed. But, those who find repentance in the lake of fire and then walk out of the lake of fire into the New Jerusalem, they are ones who need the healing and they receive it! This is why the Spirit and the Bride say “Come” three times. Who are they calling to come forth? I believe, in the context shown here, they are calling forth those in the lake of fire to come forth in repentance that they may be healed and worship Almighty God! This picture fits perfectly with a God who is LOVE and who said HE will one day draw all men to Himself and will finally restore all things to Himself!
With this, since I have taken so much time here today, I will end this excerpt. I say to you, Glory be to the Father, and to the Lamb. All love and praise and worship are given to Him who holds all things in His hands. Fall down and worship this perfect God who continuously calls out to “Come to Me for rest!” How magnificent and powerful and wonderful is He who is our salvation! Glory in Him and tell the world to avoid judgment in hell / the lake of fire and throw yourself on His mercy today! Take of His life-giving water and enjoy the Good News that was given to all men!
Praise be to God! Amen and Amen!
In loving service to my Creator, Sustainer, and Savior!