The Evangelical Universalist Forum

Fire & Brimstone

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.

Sherman ~

your reading of the Lake of Fire as God’s consuming love, power, and purifying holiness is a beautiful, hopeful one. if that is true, there may be one more point of hope on this matter. i’m sure others have mentioned it, but anyway…

Revelation 20:12-15 describes the dead whose names were not written in the Book of Life being cast into the Lake of Fire.

Revelation 22:15 describes the same kind of people as being outside of the New Jerusalem.

i am reminded of the story of St. Mary of Egypt, a young prostitue and generally loose, blasphemous woman who sailed from Egypt to Jerusalem with pilgrims, using her time on the trip to seduce those on route. when she came to Jerusalem, she attempted to enter through the open door of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre for the adoration inside, and found she was physically unable to enter- though the door was open, something invisible was holding her back. she looked through the open door to behold an incon of the Virgin Mary, and cried out in repentance, realizing her sin and wretchedness was keeping her from entering the Church. she then attempted to enter the church, and was allowed in.

Revelation 21:25 mentions that the gates of this New Jerusalem will not be shut at all by day, for there is no more night, meaning that they will be perpetually open. is it possible that they are open in order to allow those outside, once repenting, to enter? because if everyone on the inside of this beautiful city who is going to enter has already entered, and as no one is leaving (who would want to leave the presence of God?), why else would the gates of the City be left open perpetually, except to allow enterance?

Scripture tells us that all who call upon the Name of the Lord Jesus will be saved. that grace through faith saves us, and gives us a new nature, and a new inheritance. as God is all in all, what presents someone in the Lake of Fire from calling out like Mary of Egypt, and being allowed through repentance, faith, and grace, to then enter?

Hi Grace, notice that it says “If anyone’s name is not written in the Lamb’s book of life”, the key word being “IF”. Who did Jesus die for, redeem? Everyone. So everyone’s name is written in the Lamb’s book of life. But “IF” there be anything or anyone that is not ultimately reconciled to God through the blood of the Lamb, then even that is ultimately brought back to the all-consuming healing purifying presence of God the Source of everything. I believe that it’s a picture of the ultimate triumph of God over everything.

Sherman ~

Sir, while i sincerely would love to share in your certainty… i guess i’m still hopeful about this, but not certain. hopeful because the Bible doesn’t mention that all will not be saved, and does give us reason to look forward to the salvation of all. uncertain, because the Bible does mention that some will be found in the Lake of Fire, and that some will be outside of the New Jerusalem (Revelation 21:8, Revelation 22:14-15).

yet the doors of that city remain open day and night, perhaps, though the Bible does not say so, to allow the men and women outside and in the Lake of Fire to someday enter, after repenting of those things which kept them out. kind of like St. Mary at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

Do you guys think that the Lake of fire in rev. 20:11-14 is the same fire that burned Satan as well as Satan’s followers after the 1000 years?

Who do you think Satan is?

  1. A supernatural being who rebelled from Heaven?
  2. An anthropomorphous term to describe evil that exists?
  3. A supernatural being who was created on earth and has struggled against Heaven?
  4. Evil men who persue religion as a course to find God?
  5. An ambiguous term for a title or position a person, place or thing that may play in opposition to the Truth in God?

Hi Ricky,
I really haven’t studied Revelation that much. I tend to like the Metaphorical interpretation perspective; and the Futuristic interpretations of it seem so speculative that I just haven’t put much study into it. So as far as the 1000 years go, I don’t know what it represents. I think Revelation is a book that is so widely interpreted because its metaphorical nature lends itself to be interpreted based on the assumptions that one brings to it, the lens through which one views it. I wish I had a better answer, but oh well.