I’ve been discussing the ‘Lake of Fire’ with an ECTer. After reading Revelation I was feeling quite negative about the prospects for those going in to the Lake. After I re-read Revelation, I was reminded of Matt 25: 41 where the goats go off into the fire prepared for the Devil and his angels i.e. the Lake of Fire. Hmmm, this sounds bad…I’ve just read further along to verse 46. I looked it up on Biblehub. I then clicked on ‘lexicon’:
I love to draw direct connections between Matt 25 and the LoF judgment.
I assume you saw in the lexicon where eonian kolasis could mean agelong corrective discipline? The answer (unfortunately) can’t be that simple, because it could theoretically mean neverending torment, too, and the comparative structure with eonian life does initially suggest a parallel intensive meaning: non-universalists aren’t just pulling that comparative argument out of their butts. But there’s strong evidence in the parable that eonian means two substantially different though similar things this time.
Thanks Jason. I’ve just read your post. Some good points to ponder. So, is it the case that Jesus’ audience and those at least in the first century reading Jesus’ words, would understand the punishment as being remedial, and thus our modern translations and lack of understanding of the scene being described, means it’s nigh impossible to appreciate what Jesus was actually saying? There is no need to ‘state the obvious’ e.g ‘the baby goats will go off to the punishment of the age by which they will learn obedience’ so to speak. If only at least one of these kind of verses said something like that.
They would have also made the link with the goat as the gully just near the wall of Jerusalem where they pushed the scapegoat into went like a cut right from Jerusalem all the way down to the Dead Sea which was referred to as the LOF by tradition. So it was using a natural example to give meaning to a symbolic lesson.
I actually think the original audience (Jesus’ apostles) would have totally missed the warning (as was their demonstrable habit) and thought Jesus was talking about hopelessly punishing the goats.
The judgment parable, like most of the complex parables, is set up as a surprise test to undermine expectations and/or get the audience to think they’re on one side of the parable while convicting them of being on the other side. Jesus had just earlier that day done exactly the same thing with a judgment parable aimed at the Pharisees. “Now what do you think the king should do to those wicked tenants?” Many of the Pharisees were still on Jesus’ side at this point (as evidenced a little earlier the same day when they praised Him for thwapping the Sadducees on the topic of the general resurrection), and probably thought He was criticizing them or the Herodian party.
In fact, He had not two minutes earlier done exactly the same thing with the second version of the parable of the talents; but the apostles probably didn’t get that either. Like Nathan told King David: “You are the man!” Refusing to cooperate with Christ in the family business (of evangelizing and saving sinners) and then trying to justify one’s refusal to help save sinners from sin by practically flattering Christ as a robber chief (who comes only to kill and sacrifice the sheep instead of giving His life for them)?
Not a good idea.
But that’s exactly what I used to do when I was a non-universalist; even though I was pretty lenient for a non-universalist! I can’t remember exactly when I started to realize the parables were aimed at me and people like me – I’m sad to say it was probably after I already believed Christian universalism was true in principle even if it still ended in a permanently ongoing stalemate – but when I was in a position to put the pieces together, I saw the judgment of the sheep and the goats was aimed against what I believed to be true about Christ not saving sinners from sin.
I had been the baby goat, who didn’t realize that he was not only just a baby goat but that the goats were only baby goats and the least of the flock right there on the scene; about to be put into the same punitive condition from which they didn’t expect the other least-of-the-flock to be saved. Those other people, the least of Christ’s flock, had already been punished by Christ – why even bother trying to help them anymore?! Why expect them to be saved from their sins and reconciled one day!?
At least I had enough sense to realize the ‘sheep’ couldn’t be formal Christians: I was gladly willing to grant that Christ could and would save ‘good’ non-Christians, and gladly welcome them into the kingdom in the judgment to come (like Emeth in The Last Battle). That’s the most I can say in my favor. But I had been still under judgment for my attitude about the actual “least of these my brethren” for whom Christ was about to send the goats into similar punishments.
I don’t want to sound superior now: I’m sure I’m still under judgment for other personal reasons. But now I know to have no less than the same hope for any other sinner as I have, in God, through Christ, in the baptism of the Holy Spirit, for myself.
Part of the problem was that, until I became a Christian universalist, or as I was first seriously approaching it (much to my surprise), I did not seriously regard myself as being on par with “the chief of sinners”. Seriously coming to realize that, in a significant way, I do not and cannot have any advantage over the worst of sinners (be that Satan or whomever), was a small but crucial step in coming to realize that if I can and should trust God to save me from my sins, I can and should trust God (not only believe but TRUST God) to save any other “worst of sinners” (be that Satan or whomever) from their sins.
Salvation in Christendom from “the lake of fire” is nothing other than ‘life / fire insurance’ where dues are paid in this life to guard against assumed loss by default in the next. It is a total misunderstanding and therefore misrepresentation of what the LoF was and represented.
John’s “lake of fire” was prophetic parlance equivalent to Jesus’ “gehenna”… they are both one and the same. Together and on the same page BOTH Jesus’ prophetic voice and John’s prophetic vision spoke to the “days of vengeance” Lk 21:22; 19:41–44] relative to the soon forthcoming Roman-Jewish wars of Ad66-70 and in particular Jerusalem’s fiery end, i.e., **the conflagrations of Ad70. **
IOW… ‘the lake of fire’ was a PAST historic event; it speaks NOT to POST-mortem realities beyond this life or their time, but is in the same parlance as Jesus’ historic warnings as per the likes of Lk 13:3-5, an event with very much “this world” consequences and something they could most definitely identify with. That is… IF they “repented and believed” and thus followed Jesus’ command to “get outta Dodge” Lk 21:21] they would in due course be duly “saved” as per Mt 24:13.
Understanding the reality of LoF in these terms unravels and does away with all the wasted anxiousness and angst engendered by traditionalism; it does in fact change everything.
Watchman, interesting point. Thank you.
Jason, thanks for further clarifying things. I’m not fully convinced of what you say (but want to be) but I can say a loud AMEN to your comment:
‘’ now I know to have no less than the same hope for any other sinner as I have, in God, through Christ, in the baptism of the Holy Spirit, for myself.’’
Davo, I’ve studied the preterist position and I can see that it works to a certain point. But you are surely wrong in your assessment. I just re-read Revelation and noted where the ‘Lake of Fire’ was mentioned and the order in which ‘things’ and ‘persons’ are thrown in. I can see 3 or 4 stages to ‘the Lake of Fire’: 1. Babylon the Great is destroyed; 2. The Beast and False Prophet are destroyed; 3. The Devil; 4. Death, Hades and the rest of unrepentant ‘sinners’ are destroyed; The first two stages occur before the return of Jesus or as you would say, before the destruction of Jerusalem. Stages 3 and 4 occur AFTER the millennial reign (whether that be a literal 1000 years or how ever long). Death and Hades are certainly not destroyed yet. People still die and go down to Hades ( the grave or the realm of spirits??).
If we understand the ‘Lake of Fire’ to be God’s holy fire (God is a consuming fire) and therefore his presence, then everyone will come into contact with this fire at some point. Those who have been washed in the blood of the Lamb will experience the fire in a positive way (like Moses did) but those who have not surrendered will experience it as a terrible fire (imagine the Raiders of the lost ark, and how the Nazis were destroyed but Indiana and the woman were ok). Every human has to give an account for their life one day, and meet the Fire: God. I just hope the Fire restores as well as destroys. This is what I am not certain of.
Catherine; the major problem with this criticism of the preterist position is that the events in Revelation cannot necessarily be taken chronologically.
Maybe some will find the linked video interesting and pertinent:
Actually with regards to the LoF if you have “studied the preterist position” then you will not have seen what I shared above because what I’ve shared is a pantelist perspective. When it comes to the LoF and ‘soteriology’ prêterists for the most part are infernalists, with a few less being annihilationists, and less again prêterist–universalists.
Again for the most part when it comes to “HELL” prêterism is miserably inconsistent simply exchanging Hell MKI (hades) with **Hell MKII **(lake of fire)… basically “same house different street”. Most infernalist prêterists hold the same basic view of Hell as do universalists, only from differing angles, BUT their conclusions are in lock-step; the real difference being the degree to which one suffers post-mortem.
As I understand it… the ‘things’ and ‘persons’, ‘Babylon the Great’, ‘the Beast and False Prophet’, ‘the Devil, Death and Hades’ cast head-long into the Lake of Fire were ALL relevant to and differing expressions or aspects of OLD covenant Israel. These were they Judaisers] who always OPPOSED the NEW covenant people of God; these were Paul’s “reprobate” who were under God’s “hardening in part” UNTIL in the Parousia fullness of redemption was fully wrought Rom 11:31-32].
That can only have traction when you bring such thoughts TO the text… you won’t find such in the bible outside of the audience to whom it was written, and even then such can be understood quite other than the spin you’re putting to it, IMO. Although a little dated I have further thoughts on this HERE.
HI Davidbo. Great video. I watched it a few weeks ago and hence why I’m beginning to view the Lake of Fire as God’s presence or His holy fire.
I can see that the events in ‘Revelation’ may not be occurring in a chronological order, but the ‘last enemy’ : Death, or rather its defeat, is surely a safe way of determining how these events are being fulfilled. Let’s assume most of the events in Revelation were fulfilled leading up to 70 AD. But the last enemy has still not been defeated. (two other events spring to mind that have not happened yet: war has not been done away with yet Isaiah 2:4, and all the ends of the earth have not been saved yet Isaiah 45:22 i.e. the earth is still not full of the knowledge of the Lord as the sea is full of water). So there are events in Revelation that still haven’t been realised.
Yes, I’d noticed that preterists vary a lot in their understanding of these things e.g. hyper, partial and in between I’ll get back to you regarding the points you’ve made. Thank you.
True, and logic dictates that there can be nothing in terms of enemies left IF “the last” enemy being death has been dealt with, i.e., “destroyed”. This being the case all other objections fall to the side.
So… it comes down to determining “what death” is in view. I submit that the “first death” was Adam’s death and that death was spiritual aka relational, that is, on the day of his infraction Adam’s RELATIONSHIP with his Father was broken – hence “in the day ye shall eat ye shall surely die” – physical death was NOT in view. Jesus came to re-establish the visage of God in man by healing man’s broken relationship with his Maker.
I think that the most important, challenging, and under appreciated thing about Revelation is that it is Apocalyptic Literature, a common 1st century Jewish style of literature that is not meant to be interpreted technically but artistically. It is not systematic but artistic! One should interpret it like one would a science-fiction or fantacy novel/movie like Lord of the Rings, The Matrix, or even Harry Potter. Historically, Revelation has been interpreted from 4 different perspectives, each having it’s own strengths and weeknesses. It is interpreted:
Preteristically focusing on how Revelation parallels the kingdom of God overcoming the kingdom of Rome.
Historically focusing on how Revelation parallels the kingdom of God overcoming kingdoms throughout history.
Spiritually focusing on how Revelation parallels the kingdom of God overcoming the kingdoms of darkness in us personally and corporately.
Futuristically focusing on how Revelation show that the kingdom of God will ultimately overcome all.
Concerning the LoF specifically, it’s also helpful to note that this was likely actually a reference to the Dead Sea, on whose Western banks are the ash remains of Sodom and Gomorrah, and into which flows the ashes of the deat of Jerusalem’s Hinnom Valley whenever Jerusalem was raised by the Babylonians and the Romans.
Also note that all references in Revelation to nations and kings before the LoF are anti-Christ, but post LoF the nations and kings are pictured worshiping Christ and being healed by the leaves of the trees by the river of life with Jesus and the Bride welcoming all into the new Jerusalem. The LoF is not the end of the story.
Frankly, I think the LoF (Dead Sea) speaks of the Judgment of God, whether that judgment happens in this life or the life to come. In judgment all death, sin, evil is consumed by the all consuming fire of God’s presence, truth, and love. He loves the hell outta us. All that is not of life is burnt up. This can be seen in what happened to Rome, throughout history, spiriturally in us, and we trust will happen in all.
So, shall we take the Red Pill or the Blue Pill?
The problem I have with futurism is that every generation keeps saying ‘Jesus is coming soon! I can feel it! Look at the world? It is totally horrible!’ - If you are willing to set aside the eschatology for a moment and look to history, you will see we are actually not in any worse shape than generations or centuries before. Certainly on a country level perhaps, but not the world as a whole. In fact, In some ways, you can argue the world is actually better now than it was 500 years ago.
That said, that doesn’t mean I am saying that Jesus isn’t coming again, but it does mean that I don’t think Jesus meant we were supposed to be living escapist lives when he said ‘be ready’. Being ready in my opinion, simply means loving the Father, obeying Him and and loving not your life even unto death.
The way I have understood Adam’s death, is that it was FIRSTLY spiritual i.e. Adam’s relationship with his Father was broken. Adam’s physical state was not affected UNTIL God prevented access to the tree of life (whatever that was??) and hence physical death then occurred too. So surely Jesus is destroying both kinds of death. From what you are suggesting, the FULL RECONCILIATION will not occur until this planet wears out and no more humans can be born into a physical body and thus everyone will have received a glorified body after death. Is this how you see Jesus restoring all creation, i.e. there will not be a literal new earth?
Good points Sherman. I hope you’re right about God loving the hell outta us. Well I know that is true for those being saved, I just hope it will be for everyone.
I agree that whether Jesus is coming again or not, and in my life time or not, it shouldn’t alter my focus on following Him and loving God and my neighbour etc. I hope Jesus is going to come back again, and there is some interesting chronology that seems to suggest we are right near the end of six thousand years which might suggest the 1000 year millennial reign is also literal and to do with the 7th day of creation?? So that’s interesting, but chronologies are often wrong, and like you say, every generation thinks they’re the one who will see Jesus return. Maybe He isn’t going to return physically? Maybe this world will just carry on dying off, and those being saved are saved into a different realm?? I don’t now…
I figure if He can love the hell outta me, he can do it for everyone. Jesus is the Savior of all, even me! Some people believe “Once Saved Always Saved”. I believe “Always saved, once, twice, three times saved!” Salvation is something Jesus has accomplished in heaven and is makeing realy in us now progressively.