Hell: From James to John

In a previous post we looked at what Jesus taught about hell. The traditionalists contend the rest of the authors of the New Testament tow the line alongside Jesus. Today we want to sketch what Edward Fudge, in Hell: A Final Word, summarizes about James, Acts, Peter, Paul, Hebrews, and 2 Peter-Jude say about hell.

James speaks of the end of the wicked five times: death (1:15), destruction (4:12), consumed (5:3), slaughter (5:5), death (5:19).

The Book of Acts does not motivate by fear. Four refs to final judgment, and they are stated by Peter and Paul, and Fudge turns to them.

Peter: the only reference to the kind of final judgment in the preaching of Acts, from the lips of Peter, is destruction (3:22-23). Paul’s preaching: Acts 17 we see from Paul that God will judge the whole world, his judgment will be just, Jesus Christ is the judge, God raised him from the dead, and in Acts 24 Paul mentions “future judgement.” Not a word on the nature of that final judgment.

What about Paul’s own writings? Paul talks about “hell” more than anyone, though he doesn’t use the word “hell.” Instead, he says the wicked will not inherit the kingdom (1 Cor 6:9-10); they will perish (Rom 2:12); they are anathema (1 Cor 16:22), they will be destroyed (Rom 2:12; 1 Cor 3:17) — sudden and everlasting (2 Thess 1:9). … it is marked by distress, fury, tribulation, and wrath.  ”It is strange beyond understanding how anyone can read these words… and explain them to mean anything other than total extinction, unending cessation, and complete annihilation” (128). These words are countered by the opposite: eternal life. Paul teaches, Fudge argues, endless death.

Hebrews warns the apostate of worse than physical death (2:2-3) — of destruction (10:39), one created by a raging consuming fire (10:27-31; 12:29) — torments, purifies or consumes?

2 Peter-Jude: swift destruction and condemnation (2 P 2:1, 3), like those of Sodom [above image] (2:6); Jude 7 says Sodom illustrates “eternal fire.” They will experience blackest darkness, total darkness (2 Pe 2:17; Jude 13). The Flood — destruction again (2 P 2:5-7).

John: John’s Gospel speaks of perish and destruction and death (3:36; 1 John 5:16-17 too).

Next post… the Lake of Fire.

If the rest of the NT followed Jesus, then the emphasis is destruction. The evidence for endless torment is not evident to Edward Fudge. What do you think? Any evidence for endless torment?

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than forty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.

  • http://whatyouthinkmatters.org/blog Andrew Wilson

    This has been a fascinating series, although it does feel like the key text for ECT is being saved until last (like Bisto, perhaps). The clearest expression of ECT in the NT is surely the way Rev 20:10 describes the fate of the devil, false prophet and antichrist, so I’m interested to see how that is handled.

  • scotmcknight

    Andrew, Rev 20:10 will be in the final post because it is near the end of Fudge’s book.

  • David Hardin

    Scot, I agree with andrew this has been a fascinating series. looking forward to reading the book.

  • J.L. Schafer

    Agreed, fascinating series. On a related note, has anyone seen the movie Hellbound? It appears to explore the sociological implications of beliefs about hell.
    http://www.hellboundthemovie.com/about-the-movie/

  • http://drawntotorah.wordpress.com Jon Phillips

    So far it seem Fudge has done a good job of presenting the argument against eternal conscious torment.

  • Paul

    Scot and others,

    How much support for annihilation is there in the writings of the church in the first 3-500 years? The argument for annihilation is appealing to me and it seems to make sense with many of the passages in the NT, but I’m curious how “new” this idea is to the church.

  • http://drawntotorah.wordpress.com Jon Phillips

    I’ve really been wanting to see Hellbound, but it’s not playing anywhere near me at the moment.

  • JustforQuix

    At my “bible-based” non-d church they continually emphasize we must let scripture interpret scripture, and let dominant statements on a theme weigh stronger than minor statements on a theme. Not that I expect such a perspective to always be easy or consistent, (and nor am I surprised that a non-d church is still pretty denominational *smile*) it seems generally wise of a perspective on hermeneutics. Therefore I struggle why ECT has been taught on occasion with statements like, “The Bible says….” as if there is one clear position to draw. If this paradigm is truly believed I think the dominant swath of interpretive strength should go to Fudge instead of John Piper.

    Yet I’d be actually more impressed if they were honest enough to say something like, “This is how believers through the centuries have grappled with this subject: The New Testament is consistent that Life is found through God in Jesus, but what is the actual nature of the opposite of that Life there has been some differences of perspective drawn from the text… .” I don’t think even Francis Chan was quite honest enough to do that in his Hell book in spite of his insistence of his goals otherwise.

  • Sherman Nobles

    I agree with Fudge that there is little or no scriptural evidence of ECT. Because of tradition, ECT is read into many passages, especially if one reads English translations which mistranslate Gehenna, Sheol, and Hades as Hell; but ECT is not actually affirmed in those passages. And if not for the evidence I see in scripture that judgment and punishment/chastizement is meant for our good, to deliver/purge us from evil, and if not for the passages that affirm universal reconciliation, and if not for the passages that seem to affirm post-mortem repentance and salvation, if all I weighed were the passages that affirmed destruction of evil then I too would believe in annihilation.

  • Mark Edward

    Andrew (#1),
    The lake of fire sends to be an assisted adaptation of the river of fire in Daniel 7, which destroys the best thrown into it. Take note of four of the five named entities thrown in the lake of fire: the beast, the false prophet, death, and hades. Many would argue that the beast and false prophet are corporate symbols for a kingdom and false religion (again drawing on Daniel 7), but death and hades are abstract concepts for sure. Such things aren’t alive to begin with in order to experience pain or torment. But John clarifies that torment in the fire is the symbol; the reality is the ‘second death’, a phrase found in the Targums of Isaiah 66 for the valley of dead bodies.

  • Percival

    Reading Sherman Nobles’ comment makes me mindful that the real debate on the end of the wicked is yet to come. I think the ECT position is so weak that it will soon (in 15 years?) be set aside by most evangelicals (but not fundamentalists or Catholics) and we will be able to turn our attention to the more intriguing questions like what it means that every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. Those ‘universalist’ passages are plentiful in the NT and they have mostly been ignored (or twisted) by evangelicals.

  • Mark Edward

    Paul (#6),

    The idea seems to have been an almost three-way tie between annihilation, eternal torment, and purification. (Which as far as I could tell, none consisted the others heretical?) The further along we go, purification becomes less and less popular, but eternal torment more and more popular. But as Fudge would point out, those who believed annihilation use language most consistent with what we’ve seen so far in the Bible, while traditionalists would rely more on just a small handful of passages in addition to Platonic philosophy regarding the immortality of the soul, occasionally coming up with newer arguments along the way.

  • Mark Edward

    Guh, worst commenting system to have typos. In my comment on the lake of fire, ignore ‘assisted’, and change ‘best’ to ‘beast’.

  • Sherman Nobles

    J.L.Schafer @4, yes I’ve seen the movie HellBound and enjoyed it. It effectively opens the debate concerning Hell, Annihilation, and Universal Reconciliation. Lipscomb University hosted a viewing and discussion of it with the producer and some of those interviewed in the movie. I look forward to it coming out on DVD, March 2013, I think. It’ll be a great discussion starter. To me, the producer did try to present in the best light ministers/theologians from the various sides, though it does tend to lean in favor of Universal Reconciliation. The movie was good and the discussion afterwards was even better, though too short.

  • Kenton

    Percival (#11)-

    I like your prediction. I give a little more credit to our Catholic friends, and think they will be setting it aside too. (Indeed there are some out there that already have.)

    I think the timing will be interesting to watch. I don’t know which side of the 15-year mark it is, but I think it will be a “tipping point” thing, and once it falls it will crash pretty hard. I was hoping that “Love Wins” would be the tipping point, but I’m not seeing it right now. (OTOH, Luther’s reformation was drawn out over a length of time, maybe “Love Wins” might have been the Wittenberg Door turning point after all?)

  • J.L. Schafer

    Sherman #14, thanks much. I guess I’ll have to wait until March.

  • http://conditionalism.net/blog/ Ronnie

    Andrew (1):

    This has been a fascinating series, although it does feel like the key text for ECT is being saved until last … The clearest expression of ECT in the NT is surely the way Rev 20:10 describes the fate of the devil, false prophet and antichrist, so I’m interested to see how that is handled.

    As far as traditionalist scholarship is concerned, you’re correct: Revelation 20:10 is used by traditionalists as a controlling passage by which they interpret (or filter) every single other passage regarding future punishment. It matters not that all of the straightforward, didactic passages use language such destruction, perishing, kill, death, abolish, consume, etc. It’s an amazing sight to behold: Evangelicals who are supposedly interested in doing serious exegesis interpret a symbolic, apocalyptic vision literally, and all the straightforward language is interpreted figuratively.

    Most conditionalists (myself included) have the utmost respect for Fudge and great appreciation for the work he’s done. That said, some of us are not satisfied with his approach to Revelation 20:10.

    And a correction: Revelation 20:10 mentions a “beast” (the beast from the sea introduced in Revelation 13), not the “antichrist.” To interpret the beast as an individual person is a mistake; it’s a symbol which represents a kingdom.

  • http://getrad2.blogspot.co.nz Blessed Economist

    Scot
    I agree with Fudge. When I did a detailed study of all the biblical reference to the afterlife several years ago, I was surprised at how many clear textual descriptions there are and how clear they are about destruction. Even the favourite verse John 3:16 refers to perishing.

    Jesus and John both used powerful images like Gehanna and fire, to enhance their communication. These images are capable of various interpretations, eg fire can represent pain, purification or destruction. The problem is that Christians have used the images without considering the clearer textual descriptions. We should work the other round, and use the textual descriptions to interpret the emotive images. (http://kingwatch.co.nz/Times_Seasons/hell.htm).

  • Mark Day

    I am enjoying this series for its straightforwardness, accessibility, soberness, and mostly for its succinct layout of the relevant Biblical material – because it feels like most discussions I hear about hell are none of the above. If those statements could also be applied to Fudge’s book, then I am going to give it a read.

  • Scot McKnight

    Ronnie,
    In some senses you are right about the use of Rev 20:10. But hermeneutically I cannot be impressed with the logic that says “since Rev 20:10 is apocalyptic, and apocalyptic is metaphor, therefore what it says can’t be taken seriously.” Not saying you are saying this. The fact is that “torment day and night forever and ever” is not a metaphor but flat-out clear. More importantly, this description is connected to God by it being the kind of judgment God can mete out. So there is a reason why many go to Rev 20:10, even if it is highly unusual. Many trads won’t admit that the vast majority are about destruction. Even if all others are about destruction, what are we to say about this language in Rev 20:10?

  • Norm

    Paul #6
    Christian History magazine has a short piece “The History of Hell – A brief survey and resource guide” that sketches beliefs from Justin Martyr to George MacDonald. I expect if you visit their website http://www.christianhistorymagazine.org you may find that piece there.

  • Sherman Nobles

    John’s Revelation is an interesting book, people seem to either make everything of it, or nothing of it. “If” one takes Rev. 20:10 literally instead of metaphorically, and “If” one views it primarily or solely from a Futuristic perspective as oppose to a Historical, Spiritual, or Preterist perspective, and “if” αἰῶνας τῶν αἰώνων is meant to reference endless time technically, then one could see in that passage ECT for the devil and the beast, assuming that the devil and the beast are to be understood literally, and assuming that the lake of the fire and the brimstone is Hell and not the Dead Sea or the fire of God’s consuming presence. I think though we need to understand John’s Revelation more like a series of movie clips from The Matrix or paintings like Picasso’s Guernica than we do as a technical manual.

    Concerning ECT, I think that if it was a real threat then God in His mercy, grace, and justice would have warned of it in Genesis 1-3 in the creation stories, and if not there surely in the Law, and if not there surely in the Prophets, and if not there surely Jesus would have said the Greeks have it right and there is a Tartarus, and if not there surely Paul would have clearly and repeatedly warned of Tartarus (The wages of sin is ECT) but he/they didn’t. I do not think God would not have left such an important concept as ECT to be communicated only in a couple of verses in a series of apocalyptic visions given to John after most, if not all, of the other apostles had already died. ECT colors one’s entire perseption of God. Thus I think we need to interpret John’s Revelation through the lens of the rest of scripture, not visa versa. I believe that is taking ECT and Revelation seriously.

  • Aaron

    Sherman, #22, well said.

  • Josh T.
  • http://http;/www.friartucksfleetingthoughts.blogspot.com Clint

    Are you going to share your opinion, Dr. McKnight?

  • scotmcknight

    Clint, I’ve published on this in One.Life. No more to say right now.

  • Merv Olsen

    In 2 Thessalonians 1:9 Paul speaks of “eternal destruction”.

    `eternal` means `age-long`. In the NT there is never a hint that the coming age has an end. `eternal life` has no end.

    Logically, `eternal destruction` has no end either. It amounts to being eternally separated from the presence (face) of the Lord …to me this is what HELL really is!

  • http://www.rethinkinghell.com Chris Date

    Tormented forever and ever is, in fact, a symbol, inasmuch as it describes what John *sees* take place in the symbol that is the lake of fire. But John and God both *interpret* the symbol as representative of the second death in reality.

    2 Thessalonians 1:9 does say the destruction is eternal, but like Hebrews’ eternal salvation and eternal redemption, what is eternal is the outcome of the verb that corresponds to the noun, not the verb’s process. The result of being destroyed–destruction–is eternal: the wicked will never, ever live again.

  • http://www.rethinkinghell.com Chris Date

    What’s more, death and Hades are seen in the symbolism thrown into the fire too, abstractions incapable of being tormented to begin with, symbolizing the end of each. The angel interprets the imagery from which it draws in Daniel 7, saying the beast’s fate in the fire symbolizes the annihilation of a kingdom’s dominion. Everything points to the lake of fire as symbolism for annihilation.

  • http://newsongchurchkpt.org Craig Cottongim

    Jimmy Allen, another influential member of the Church of Christ (Taught at Harding for 50 years), adheres to the same view as Fudge.

    I can’t see annihilation as an option in the NT, but, I don’t think it is essential that we understand Hell fully to be saved; I think the longevity of hell falls under “opinions” part of, “In the essentials unity, in matters of opinions liberty, in all things love”

  • http://www.rethinkinghell.com Chris Date

    With regard to the second death, we know that it is the straightforward interpretation of the otherwise perplexing symbolism that is the lake of fire and what is seen taking place there. That’s how biblically offered interpretation of its own imagery works. We see this dynamic as early as the life of Joseph, in his interpretations of the dreams of Pharaoh and his officials.

  • Scot McKnight

    Lake of Fire is Second Death, to be sure. But the problem is not Lake of Fire, but “tormented day and night forever and ever.” What if that defined what Second Death is? That’s the traditionalist view, by the way.

  • http://wholereason.com dgsinclair

    Also, Chris #28, if as the traditionalists teach, ‘eternal’ always means ‘ongoing,’ does this mean that things like judgment and destruction are ongoing? To be consistent, they would have to say ‘yes,’ as you alluded to in discussing salvation and redemption being ongoing.

    Otherwise, they would have to develop reasons why it sometimes means the process, and sometimes the outcome. And that’s exactly the point we Conditionalists are making.

  • http://www.rethinkinghell.com Chris Date

    That cannot be. Tormented forever and ever is a description of what takes place in the imagery; it is not part of its interpretation. And that reading fails to account for the other factors I mentioned.

  • http://www.rethinkinghell.com Chris Date

    It’s like when the beast’s body is killed and thrown into the fire in Daniel 7. That’s what happens in the imagery; the annihilation of a kingdom’s dominion is its interpretation.

  • http://www.rethinkinghell.com Chris Date

    dgsinclair (#33),

    :)

  • http://wholereason.com dgsinclair

    >> SCOT #20: But hermeneutically I cannot be impressed with the logic that says “since Rev 20:10 is apocalyptic, and apocalyptic is metaphor, therefore what it says can’t be taken seriously.” Not saying you are saying this. The fact is that “torment day and night forever and ever” is not a metaphor but flat-out clear.

    Scot, this is a typical misunderstanding, if not straw man of the Conditionalist hermeneutic of Rev 20:10. We are definitely NOT saying that apocalyptic literature is less important at all – the subject of final judgement is of utmost seriousness – perhaps as serious as hermeneutics itself ;) ! But we are saying, as a general rule, that since apocalyptic literature is primarily symbolic (as well as perhaps historic and prophetic), a first approach of taking something literally from it, then using THAT interpretation as the lens to interpret non-apocalyptic passages that perhaps are more reasonably interpreted as literal in themselves, seems a very suspicious, if not atypical hermeneutic.

    Regarding the apparent literalness of smoke rising forever and ever, if we cross reference the OT apocalyptic passages to see how this exact phrase was used in the prophets, such as in Isaiah 34:9-10. The question is, is Edom still burning?

    Edom’s streams will be turned into pitch,
    her dust into burning sulfur;
    her land will become blazing pitch!
    10 It will not be quenched night or day;
    its smoke will rise forever.
    From generation to generation it will lie desolate;
    no one will ever pass through it again.

  • http://wholereason.com dgsinclair

    BTW, my last comment shows how dangerous it is to interpret passages that are translated into our own language as functional equivalents – we may easily miss idioms and take them literally.

  • http://newsongchurchkpt.org Craig Cottongim

    Really, who cares? If the wicked are separated from God eternally, what difference does it make anyway? I think a lot of energy is wasted arguing over the issue.

  • http://www.rethinkinghell.com Chris Date

    I think God would that we seek to understand what He communicates in His word.

  • http://newsongchurchkpt.org Craig Cottongim

    Is 100% comprehension of every doctrine essential? If so, no one will be saved.

  • http://www.rethinkinghell.com Chris Date

    Who said it’s essential? But non-essential is not synonymous with not worthwhile, or even with unimportant.

  • http://communityofjesus.wordpress.com/ Ted M. Gossard

    What about Revelation 14:9-11?

    *A third angel followed them and said in a loud voice: “If anyone worships the beast and its image and receives its mark on their forehead or on their hand, they, too, will drink the wine of God’s fury, which has been poured full strength into the cup of his wrath. They will be tormented with burning sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment will rise for ever and ever. There will be no rest day or night for those who worship the beast and its image, or for anyone who receives the mark of its name.”* http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=rev%2014:9-11&version=NIV

  • http://www.rethinkinghell.com Chris Date

    Ted,

    dgsinclair addressed that a few comments ago.

  • http://newsongchurchkpt.org Craig Cottongim

    To disagree that the doctrine hell is real is one thing to debate, but to argue endlessly over the nuances of hell, to me falls under the category of, “Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels.” (2 Timothy 2:23 ESV)

  • http://www.rethinkinghell.com Chris Date

    You’re welcome to that opinion, but I see no reason why anyone should share it with you.

  • http://newsongchurchkpt.org Craig Cottongim

    Well, it makes more sense to agree to disagree over grey areas, that’s one reason why.

  • http://www.rethinkinghell.com Chris Date

    And many on both sides of the debate would disagree that we’re debating mere nuance.

  • http://www.rethinkinghell.com Chris Date

    I see no evidence in Scripture that we’re to agree to disagree over grey areas. Rather, I think we’re called to press forward lovingly and respectfully toward agreement.

  • http://newsongchurchkpt.org Craig Cottongim

    That’s probably why we have a hard time reaching the lost. Our “in house” quarrels aren’t very productive, in the long run.

  • http://www.rethinkinghell.com Chris Date

    I see Scripture saying make disciples, not converts, of all nations. Hebrews says believers should move on from milk to meat.

  • http://newsongchurchkpt.org Craig Cottongim

    Meat is meant for moving one to action/application, not splitting hairs.

  • http://wholereason.com dgsinclair

    CRAIG #39 – I think this doctrine is very important, because many people either reject Christianity, or leave it (I did for a while) over the seeming gross injustice of Eternal Conscious Torment. If this doctrine is incorrect, we are putting a serious stumbling block in the way of faith for many. Also, we may be disgracing God with this mistake. Remember how the Catholics disgraced God with such things as indulgences? Or how the Reformers persecuted the Anabaptists for teaching that water baptism was for believers, and not some salvific child rite? I think this doctrine is at the same level of impact, whether or not we think it is important.

  • http://newsongchurchkpt.org Craig Cottongim

    The ultimate goal of the Scriptures is transformation, not information.

  • http://wholereason.com dgsinclair

    CRAIG – I agree that we should not wrangle over details. That’s why, for instance, in the Conditionalist movement (if you will), there are a broad range of opinions on such things as the intermediate state, or the means by which God does meet out proportional punishment, for example.

    But we are not niggling about small differences here – the differences between Universalism, Conditionalism, and ECT are pretty big in their views of who is saved, how long the damned are punished, and how God balances mercy and justice, and in turn, how we should as well.

  • Scot McKnight

    DGSinclair, that connection to Edom is for me one of the most significant considerations. Lake of Fire and Second Death connection doesn’t resolve it for me; nor does apocalyptic or metaphor or symbolic resolve anything for me.

    But a text like Isa 34 where it can be argued “forever and ever” language is exaggerated rhetoric expressing finality, etc … that is the sort of argument that needs to be mounted. The text Ted quotes from Rev 14 is not as powerful as Rev 20. But exaggerated rhetoric may be the only way to read Rev 20:10 in anything other than a traditionalist mode.

  • http://newsongchurchkpt.org Craig Cottongim

    @ #53, I see your point, and I think that hell is ontologically an important doctrine. I differ from you in that, Hell will always be unpalatable to the unbeliever, no matter how we couch it.

  • http://newsongchurchkpt.org Craig Cottongim

    @#55, Fudge isn’t arguing for universalism. Universalism isn’t synonymous with annihilation.

  • http://wholereason.com dgsinclair

    CRAIG #54 – Don’t bail on us man. While that phrase you through out is true, you can’t use that to dismiss difficult but important theological issues. Trust me, the more time I spend around academia, the more I want to be sure that we focus on transformation of souls, not just big heads. But I am pleading with you – think of the people, some whom you may know and love, who may be rejecting Christ over this issue.

    I am becoming convinced that many, many people reject Christianity based on this issue alone – in part because, it is connected to the the most significant challenge to Christianity, the problem of evil – that is, if God is just, why did he allow evil? When you add the question of ECT in, the question then becomes “If God is just, how could he allow evil with the possibility of ECT?”

    I don’t think this is a triviality, any more than believer’s baptism was in the Anabaptist days – in fact, this may be MORE significant! Just think on it a while.

  • http://newsongchurchkpt.org Craig Cottongim

    #59, I’m thinking people will reject Christianity over the doctrine of hell, regardless if hell is eternal or temporary. But, I will do as you ask and give it some more thought.

  • http://communityofjesus.wordpress.com/ Ted M. Gossard

    Thanks, Chris Date, and dgsinclair.

  • http://wholereason.com dgsinclair

    CRAIG #57: “Hell will always be unpalatable to the unbeliever, no matter how we couch it.”
    Yes, I totally agree. But we should not be adding to the offense of the truth by coating it with lies (or as I’ve seen in some evangelism, bad attitudes!)

    CRAIG #55: Yes, I was not saying that Fudge is a Universalist. I was just trying to say that there are three distinct positions that are sufficiently different to not be considered something more than arguing over trivialities.

  • http://wholereason.com dgsinclair

    SCOT #56: I agree that reading Rev 20:10 as an idiom is the alternative to the traditionalist view – I don’t like the term “exaggerated rhetoric” since it sounds a little pejorative, though perhaps technically correct :D

  • http://newsongchurchkpt.org Craig Cottongim

    #62, I don’t think we add offence or coat anything by admitting that we believe Hell is real, but we are not able to definitively describe it with 100% accuracy.

  • http://conditionalism.net/blog/ Ronnie

    Scot (20):

    But hermeneutically I cannot be impressed with the logic that says “since Rev 20:10 is apocalyptic, and apocalyptic is metaphor, therefore what it says can’t be taken seriously.” Not saying you are saying this.

    It’s not a question of taking the genre seriously or not, it’s about the propriety of interpreting symbolic visions as if they are literal description of reality. They aren’t.

    Of course, if someone wanted to take the vision as a literal description of the future, he could do that. But at most, Revelation 20:10 would teach that a dragon, and two grotesque beasts, one of which is composed of different animals, will be tormented forever in a lake of fire. So even the traditionalist’s strongest passage doesn’t teach what he wants it to.

    Typically what happens is the traditionalist will pick and choose which parts of the vision are to be interpreted literally and which are to be regarded as symbols. And I’m not misrepresenting the view, this is actually what they do (paraphrased):

    “Ok, so the beasts, those are symbols. The lake of fire, that’s a symbol. Being tormented by fire, that’s a symbol; hell is really just “separation”—God doesn’t literally and actively torture people with fire! But the part about being tormented day and night forever and ever, that’s a literal description of reality! And it applies to human beings, even though they aren’t mentioned in verse 10.”

    The fact is that “torment day and night forever and ever” is not a metaphor but flat-out clear.

    Wait, but it’s part of the vision. John sees a dragon and two beasts being tormented in a lake of fire. What does all that mean? We know what it doesn’t mean: it doesn’t mean that these three entities will be tormented forever in a lake of fire. That’s the whole point of visions; they communicate something other than what they literally depict.

    I mean you could say the same thing about Daniel 7:11 (and this is especially fitting because John’s beast imagery is taken almost directly from Daniel):

    “Then I continued to watch because of the boastful words the horn was speaking. I kept looking until the beast was slain and its body destroyed and thrown into the blazing fire.”

    You could say that “slain and its body destroyed and thrown into the blazing fire is not a metaphor but flat out clear” Well, yes, the language sounds literal enough, but it’s all part of the same vision. It would be completely inappropriate to conclude from Daniel’s vision “therefore, in the future, the people who are members of the kingdom that the beast represents will be slain and thrown into fire!” That’s just not how these visions work.

    As far as what “tormented day and night forever and ever” represents, I’m not 100% certain. It may communicate something as simple as “their judgment will last forever.” It may not communicate anything in particular, and serve merely to imbue the entire vision with a certain visceral quality.

    Interestingly, both times John mentions humans being thrown into the lake of fire, he is careful to interpret the lake of fire symbol as “the second death” (Rev 20:14 and Rev 21:8).

    So there is a reason why many go to Rev 20:10, even if it is highly unusual.

    The reason, by my lights, is that this is the only passage in all of Scripture that explicitly ties torment together with endless duration. For some Christians who read these things at face value, it’s obvious why they’d turn here for support. For theologians and exegetes who know better, it’s by and large a desperate attempt to cling to any passage that has offers some semblance of support to the traditional view. That may sound uncharitable, but it’s hard for me to see it any other way, given the interactions I’ve witnessed and been part of myself.

    Many trads won’t admit that the vast majority are about destruction.

    Right, but these are the same guys who refuse to admit that Matthew 10:28 is about destruction (in any literal sense, at least). The mere presence of disagreement shouldn’t surprise anyone.

  • http://facebook.com/priceofdiscernment David M

    Hey Craig. I can’t speak for everyone else, but for someone like me who has little to no solid community in my area, forums/blogs like this are awesome to help inspire me to get in the Bible and study. I totally know where you are coming from with how it seems to be pointless, but from what I’ve seen, the conversations here are fairly productive! But hey. Just one guy’s over here. :)

    To everyone else: I’ve enjoyed the thoughts so far, especially with DGSinclair’s ability to see the correlation between OT apocalyptic literature and what we see in Revelation. As a partial preterist myself, I’m about to tackle Revelation in the near future, and the thing that sold me on PP is how apocalyptic Matthew 24 appears to be, and I see that with Revelation, as well. So much OT imagery, and I think that’s for a good reason: the Christians at that time were fairly familiar with the OT. The Jews were raised on it, and I’m pretty sure (but not definitive) that the Gentile Christians didn’t have much else to read apart from the letters that they may have received.

    So…for what it’s worth, I’m going to keep studying, but I appreciate the encouraging and uplifting minds in here. Jesus is so good, eh? :)

    PS: Hopeful universalist here. haha. Just saying.

  • http://facebook.com/priceofdiscernment David M

    Man. My grammar and word choice was awful. This is why I need to go to bed before midnight. I am a bad college student, haha. English major, my butt…

  • Peter McKenzie

    One thing to be considered in the “literal vs. metaphoric” discussion of Rev 20:10, is the fact that in Revelation 22 we are told that there will be no more night. My apologies if this has been raised already, but I think it is good evidence pointing towards a metaphoric interpretation of the aforementioned verse – ie. helping us better understand what “tormented day and night” might mean.

  • http://wholereason.com dgsinclair

    david, in your study of Revelation, check out this short volume, it is pretty excellent. http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0014DG7QI/ref=wms_ohs_product