The Evangelical Universalist Forum

Fire & Brimstone

Hello all…I’m new here. Live just outside the Minneapolis/St Paul area (in the United States of course). My question pertains to the reference to “fire and brimstone” in Revelation 21:8. It seems that many have suggested that brimstone would have been widely assumed to be a purifying agent to any individual familiar with the Greek language, and that the 2nd death is a necessary experience for those without faith. Is there any merit to this observation? How do others interpret this verse in Revelation?

Brimstone == sulphur, as far as I know; and sulphur is even today still an important anti-infection medicine. So yes, I do tend to think of it as being medicinal in intention in the revelations of scripture (including your RevJohn reference). Fire and even (weirdly enough) the “worms that die not” are also ancient anti-infection medical practices. (The worms are maggots; not earthworms. Maggots eat dead flesh and leave living flesh alone, however. Perhaps the most popular recent example of how a few cultures recognized the medical benefits of letting those maggots have their way, is a scene in Ridley Scott’s movie Gladiator.)

That doesn’t mean everyone would have instantly understood these things to be actually medicinal, though, including the inspired authors: maggots are disgusting, sulphur smells nasty, and fire is scary and painful and overtly destructive.

Thanks Jason. So it’s possible there is quite a bit of irony when pulpit-pounding pastors preach “fire and brimstone”. Maybe they don’t realize they are playing right into the hands of universalists? :wink:

In all seriousness, I’ve heard it said that the “second death” for believers is the death of self/surrender to Christ and that the “second death” for non-believers will be an uncomfortable purgation of sorts in the lake of fire, which will drive them to repentance The difficult thing for traditionalists to grapple with, in my view, is the lack of clarity in Scripture concerning the inescpabaility of those souls sequestered in hell. Hard to prove this as there are precious few references to the length of one’s stay in hell.

And don’t forget

Ezekiel 16:55

When thy sisters, Sodom and her daughters, shall return to their former estate, and Samaria and her daughters shall return to their former estate, then thou and thy daughters shall return to your former estate.

Yep! Plus, somewhere in the major prophets (except I’ve misplaced where I read it… sigh…) God reveals that the tree of life is in Sheol with Egypt and other archetypically sinful nations so that they may all be restored together.

willieH: Hi F & B… :mrgreen:

The 2nd Death… is due ALL… but only HURTS some… There is no Scripture which states that the “2nd Death” is avoided by “Christians”… the Scripture states that it does not HARM them…

The 2nd Death (in my observation) is the death of the FLESH of which ALL are candidates here is the list, if any man has either “been or done” ANY of these at ANY TIME they shall experience the “2nd DEATH”:

(Rev 21:8) but the FEARFUL [ever been fearful?], and UNBELIEVING [ever "unbelieved? - [b]Rom 11:32], and the ABOMINABLE [all SIN is ABOMINABLE to Holiness], and MURDERERS, and SORCERERS [Gk for drugs / pharmaceo], and IDOLATORS [ever "idolized anyone or anything?], and ALL LIARS [now EVERYONE qualifies here!] SHALL HAVE THEIR PART in the Lake that burneth with FIRE, which …IS… the 2nd DEATH.

Revelation is a book of SYMBOLS which notes the REVEALING of JESUS CHRIST… Many observe this book as CHRONOLOGICAL (some parts future, some parts past)… this cannot be, for anything which is REVEALED is already COMPLETELY there, all TIME does, is UNVEIL its presence…

EXAMPLE: You go to an art gallery and a veil is covering a yet unseen piece of art… the removing of that veil does not in fact, bring the painting “into existence”, it merely exposes what is already there, but has yet to be SEEN…

The REVEALING of something which does NOT CHANGE (Heb 13:8)… CANNOT, …“become”… something that it WAS NOT… to include TIME (future or past) ( being affected by, and subject TO, the passing of TIME - Past or Future)

On the contrary… CHRIST is ETERNAL, and IS both the (unchanging) Beginning and (unchanging) End of those things (all Creation) which HAVE beginnings and endings (because of their membership in TIME)… In other words the END, …IS… the BEGINNING, and the BEGINNING, …IS… the END…

We ENTER time BY CHRIST… He authors FAITH in each, and then we EXIT time by CHRIST, back to the ETERNAL existence as children/body of YHVH… who has NO BEGINNING and NO END…

CHRIST who HAS NO BEGINNING or END, …IS… the beginning, and is the entry point of men who become sinful by sinning… CHRIST the END is the ending point of sin and sinners… Men begin without sin, and they end without sin

The REVEALING of JESUS CHRIST happens in THIS LIFE time for some, for others, at the Resurrection on the LAST DAY (of TIME - John 6:44,54 / John 11:24)… in either case, the FIRE and BRIMSTONE mentioned IN the book of REVELATION is about THIS LIFE… which was, is and will occur from the FIRST day (Gen 1:5), unto the LAST day (John 6:44)…

We, as did JESUS CHRIST, suffer in THIS LIFE… (Rev 3:18) His “trials” took place on the Earth as a member of the Human Race…

GOD is NOT PARTIAL to any MAN… CHRIST is noted as a MAN by Himself: (Luke 12:40 - and many other places) and by His followers: (1 Tim 2:5)…

Our “suffering” as MEN, is in THIS LIFETIME, thus… within the FIRE (suffering) is the BRIMSTONE (correction)… and is administered to ALL in THIS LIFE… :open_mouth:

The RESURRECTION is about JUDGMENT of those deeds done in this life… JUDGMENT is NOT a bad thing… for the learning of RIGHTEOUSNESS is its RESULT (Is 26:9)

Those “deeds” shall either be noted as done, IN CHRIST and abide, or be done in VAIN (our own), and find destruction (obliterated from existence 1 Cor 3:11-15)… in this JUDGMENT process is GRACE enacted…

Where SIN (our works which are JUDGED) abounds …GRACE (CHRIST’s work on our behalf) does MUCH MORE ABOUND…

Might I say in closing, that you are completely welcome to accept or reject anything I have said above, it is hoped by me that my words have been helpful… it is GOD’s decision to use or not use these words, …at His descretion… and I leave them in HIS capable hands…

Peace be unto you… :wink:

…willieH :smiley:

I had previously written some thoughts of sulphur (brimstone):

I had thought that the mention of brimstone (sulphur) was just there to add to the misery. I hope you find the following interesting:

The nature of Sulphur: What most people know about it is that it is a yellow powder and stinks when
it is burned. The odor actually happens only when combined with something else like hydrogen. It is one
of the more abundant elements occuring naturally in our world. Fools Gold (iron pyrite) is mined for its sulphur. The chemistry of sulphur is more complex than that of any other elemental substance, because it exists in the largest variety of structural forms. The viscosity of melted sulphur (resistence to flow) increases 10,000 fold as it is heated from 319 to 383 degrees. When heating most other liquids their visosity decreases. It does not dilute in water.

Sulphur is the king of remidies. It was used to treat skin disorders such as acne or scabies i.e, to remove blemishes. It was used as an internal cleanser. It has no side effects. It is used to treat fevers. It stimulates the bodies natual healing powers. Sulphur is used in treating gout, rheumatism, bronchitis and digestive problems. Sulphur is required for life!
Sulphur is used in refining low grade ore into gold! Sulpher (actually sulphuric acid)
is used to separate the copper from the Gold.

It works like this. In a blast furnace low-grade ore, fluxes,coal, lead oxide, iron, pyrites and slags from other processes are mixed. Oxygen enriched air is blown in the base of the furnace . The whole mixture heats up and melts and 3 main reactions take place:

  1. The fluxes combine with the non-metallic components of the mix to form a slag or covering.
  2. The pyrite (fools gold) decomposes to form ferros sulphide and sulphur which converts any copper present in the mix to copper sulphide or matte.
  3. The lead oxide is reduced to lead which then collects most of the gold metals with it to form a lead bullion.

Only the waste is consumed, the precious metal (gold) is left within the lead brick. By another electro-chemical process the pure gold is separated from the lead.

The mention of sulphur in Rev 19 & 20 was not to add a foul stinking odor to the torment of the fire but to refine that which was in the fire! The symbolic sulphur is a necessary part of the process, not an added misery to torment. Its purpose is help to change those from detrious (death) to Gold! From death to life!

So even that which we associate with a foul, stinking, odor our God uses it to His purpose and creates purity.

Welcome bhark54,

Those are very good points you make - and ones of which a lot of Christians have never even heard.

willieH: Hi Bhark54 :smiley:

Though you only posted once… it was INDEED, …a DOOZY! :laughing:

Great post! Most (purposely) ignore the “brimstone” portion of the Lake of Fire:wink:

…willieH :sunglasses:

Sulfur was burnt as incense by the Greeks and Romans during their “worship” of the gods as a means of spiritual purification. It’s healing benefits are widely known. Hot Sulfur Springs were well known for their healing benefits. They even burnt sulfur as an incense for medicinal purposes. And sulfur is the foundation of many drugs used today for healing.

Brimstone, theon, actually means “divine fire”. Any fire not created by man was considered theon - lightening and volcanic lava especially. Both of these give off the smell of burning sulfur and thus sulfur was also called brimstone.

Sulfur was also burnt in Gehenna, Jerusalem’s trash dump, as a fuel to keep the trash fires burning.

Good thing that Hebrews didn’t partipate in pagan worship practices…right?

The thing is that John’s Revelation was addressed to the churches of Asia Minor which were likely predominantly Gentiles, not Jews. Though both Jews and Gentiles of Asia Minor would have been aware of the common uses of brimstone. As you know, the cultural context is a key element of understanding any literature written from/to that culture.

I wasn’t talking about John’s Revlelation. I was talking about the Hebrews understanding of Fire and Brimstone. What does false gods and idols have to do with the One True God? Nothing. Therefore it doesn’t matter what gentile or false god practices understood fire and brimstone as. To continue on that route, commits a culturally fallacy.

The thread is talking about fire and brimstone in John’s Revelation, and thus the social/cultural context of the churches of Asia Minor to whom John wrote is very significant. Thus noting that the “pagans” of Asia Minor used brimstone in their worship is important. These pagans who had become members of the churches of Asia would have associated brimstone with what they knew.

Last week though as I was reconsidering the passages on the Lake of Fire and Brimstone, I noted that:

  1. Death and Hades (mistransalted Hell in some English translations) are cast into the LOF.
  2. The LOF is in the presence of the Lamb and the presence of the angels. This LOF is surrounded by the angels and Jesus.
  3. Jesus sits at the “right hand of God”.
  4. Angels surround the throne of God.
  5. Theon (brimstone) actually means “Divine Fire”.
  6. God is an all consuming fire.

In short, I’ve come to believe that the LOF in Revelation is metaphorical of the “All-consuming presence of God”. And for me, encountering the fire of God’s presence sure was remedial, delivering me from much evil and freeing me to live right.

As to a theology of Revelation, I don’t have one an overall view that is firmly established in me. Thus I study still!

that’s a fascinating proposition… i’m a little skeptical, but it’s certainly worth considering.

Luke 12:47-48 and Matthew 5:25-26 bring this to mind. it also lends credence to the Catholic concept of Purgatory, at least in some sense.

it may be applicable in some senses, yet Revelation 20:10 says that their torment shall be day and night, forever and ever. seeming as there does seem to be (from what i have read from other posters, and also heard preached) a difference between the present hell, and the later lake of fire, is it likely that while the present hell is a temporary state, the lake of fire after the final Judgment is permanent?

Note that the word “torment”, *basanizo *, is related to the testing of metal, rubbing metal against a touch-stone to see how much it needs to be purified. Also notice that Rev.20.10 says that it is the devil, the beast, and the false prophet that endure this tormenting “unto the ages of ages”; this passage doesn’t say that people will be cast there. Also, I do not believe “unto the ages of ages” is meant to be taken literally, much less meaning “forever and ever”; rather, it simply means beyond site and likely beyond understanding. It’s similar to when I say, that meeting lasted “forever”. I do not mean that literally, but as an overstatement meant to emphasize that the meeting drug-out on and on and on like it was never going to end. And of course, any chastisement or punishment seems to last “forever”, like it’s never going to end.

The concept that God plans to leave any of His creation whom He loves bound in sin, cut off from right relationship with Him, bound in evil is simply not scriptural and does not reflect His character. And of course, the concept that God would torture anyone or anything endlessly is not even “humain”, much less “Godly”.

Sherman ~

that is true. as to those who worshipped the Beast, Revelation 14:9-11 mentions suffering for them, yet in front of the holy angels and the Lamb, as opposed to the lake of fire. the smoke of their torment is described as rising forever and ever, and they themselves are desribed as having no rest.

which, in light of what you’ve mentioned, Sherman, may not mean that they suffer forever. it does seem to be a unique kind of suffering, however, especially reserved for those who worshipped the Beast, and took his mark. i can’t quite imagine, as Christ our King reigns in the New Jerusalem, that before Him forever and ever, in this beautiful city, the unbelievers will be in torment. Revelation 20:14-15 states that any of the dead whose names are not written in the Lamb’s Book of Life will be thrown into the firey lake, with hell and death. and then, after this, comes the New Jerusalem.

so what do we make of those described in Revelation 20:14-15, who are thrown in with hell and death, and who are they, exactly? and does their suffering have an end? i know traditional, Protestant theology would have it that only those who died as saved Christians will have their names in the Lamb’s Book of Life, but based on Revelation 20:12, and based upon the very interesting idea which i’ve read here that those who suffer in the present hell do so until they cry out to Christ for salvation, it is possible that many more will also have their names in His Book. that still leaves those who do not, however.

Sherman this statement (in my mind) is what has lead me to embracing UR

that and passages that point toward all be saved in their own order

Hi Grace,

As you likely know, due to the symbolic, metaphorical nature of Revelation there are at least 4 significantly different ways of interpreting it - Preterist, Historical, Metaphorical, and Futuristic; and each of these have different sub interpretations, especially the Futuristic approach. Preterist believe Revelation was all fulfilled in the destruction of Jerusalem. The Historical view sees Revelation being fulfilled in history, some in the history of each nation. A metaphorical interpretation sees Revelation as the ongoing struggle between good and evil in our lives personally, in our families, communities, and cultures. And of course, those who interpret Revelation futuristically see it as how God is going to bring this age to a close. The futuristic view is the one “assumed” most often today, thoug it is also the one with the most variations. Because of the widely different ways Revelation is interpreted I simply do not use it as a foundation for Systematic Theology – trying to figure out how everything fits together and ends up. Rather, I use the more didactic material of scripture as my primary foundation for systematic theology.

The Lake of Fire being the All-consuming presence of God makes sense to me based on the evidence from the literary context. All evil being being consumed by His presence speaks powerfully to me. In my life personally, I seek to be filled with His Presence (having the hell burnt out of me!) For my family, I seek the manifested presence of the Lord. For my job, for my friends, for my city, for my country, etc., I seek the all-consuming presence of the Lord. And from experience I’ve found this to be true. Whenever I’ve encountered the Lord, I’m freed from sin, freed from evil, healed and purified in some way. Some of these encounters are very painful for I encounter the truth concerning myself and am delivered from the most serious of all deception - self deception!

That’s a powerful testimony Sherman - thank you.