Fire, punishment and suffering


Hello friends

Take this verse: “Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death.”

The lake of fire is obviously not a place you’d want to go if you were thinking straight. And I’ve always associated being “thrown into the lake of fire” with agonising suffering and something like a vicious God throwing in bolts of pain, punishment and generally whipping people silly for all eternity… because that’s what they deserve.

In my ponderings recently (starting with Lefein’s post on John’s Holy Spirit and fire prophecy), I’m starting to wonder whether the Bible gives any clearer ideas of what the fire is for, or what happens in it. In other words, have we actually misunderstood the fire?

I’m sorry if the above is worded poorly, but does anyone know of some relevant parts that would shed light?


I realise you’re after Bible passages, and I’m sure someone with a better memory then me, will point out some, however, I thought the below might spark some ideas.

However, flames are also:

  • purity of the burning bush
  • furnaces for metal refining
  • temple/sacrificial system
  • cooking to improve and make things eatable
  • leading Israel during the night in the desert
  • Holy Spirit as fire
  • burning coals on head (bringing fire to people in the community?)
  • brimstone used for medicine
  • fire & light closely associated
  • Daniel’s friends in the furnace not getting burnt


None of them seem like punishment/suffering.

So far, so interesting.


Just read this yesterday, which is full of Scripture:

I also ordered his book yesterday, part of which you can look at online here and another part here


Hi rline,
I’ve been meaning to do a study on “fire” and judgment. So far I’ve only collected a few relevant passages:

1Cr 3:13-15 Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.

Deut 32:22,36,39 For a fire is kindled by my anger, and it burns to the depths of Sheol, devours the earth and its increase, and sets on fire the foundations of the mountains…"For the LORD will judge His people And have compassion on His servants, When He sees that their power is gone, And there is no one remaining, bond or free…See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god beside me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand.

Isa 50:11 Behold, all you who kindle a fire, who equip yourselves with burning torches! Walk by the light of your fire, and by the torches that you have kindled! This you have from my hand: you shall lie down in torment.

Jer 15:13 “Your wealth and your treasures I will give as spoil, without price, for all your sins, throughout all your territory.
I will make you serve your enemies in a land that you do not know, for in my anger a fire is kindled that shall burn forever.”

Jer 17:4 You shall loosen your hand from your heritage that I gave to you, and I will make you serve your enemies in a land that you do not know, for in my anger a fire is kindled that shall burn forever."

Jer 17:24 “‘But if you listen to me, declares the LORD, and bring in no burden by the gates of this city on the Sabbath day, but keep the Sabbath day holy and do no work on it, then there shall enter by the gates of this city kings and princes who sit on the throne of David, riding in chariots and on horses, they and their officials, the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem. And this city shall be inhabited forever.
Jer 17:27 But if you do not listen to me, to keep the Sabbath day holy, and not to bear a burden and enter by the gates of Jerusalem on the Sabbath day, then I will kindle a fire in its gates, and it shall devour the palaces of Jerusalem and shall not be quenched.’”

Lam 4:11 The LORD gave full vent to his wrath; he poured out his hot anger, and he kindled a fire in Zion that consumed its foundations.

Jer 23:19-21 Behold, the storm of the LORD! Wrath has gone forth, a whirling tempest; it will burst upon the head of the wicked. The anger of the LORD will not turn back until he has executed and accomplished the intents of his heart. In the latter days you will understand it clearly.

Jer 30:17-24 For I will restore health to you, and your wounds I will heal, declares the LORD, because they have called you an outcast: ‘It is Zion, for whom no one cares!’ “Thus says the LORD: Behold, I will restore the fortunes of the tents of Jacob and have compassion on his dwellings; the city shall be rebuilt on its mound, and the palace shall stand where it used to be. Out of them shall come songs of thanksgiving, and the voices of those who celebrate. I will multiply them, and they shall not be few; I will make them honored, and they shall not be small. Their children shall be as they were of old, and their congregation shall be established before me, and I will punish all who oppress them. Their prince shall be one of themselves; their ruler shall come out from their midst; I will make him draw near, and he shall approach me, for who would dare of himself to approach me? declares the LORD. And you shall be my people, and I will be your God.” Behold the storm of the LORD! Wrath has gone forth, a whirling tempest; it will burst upon the head of the wicked. The fierce anger of the LORD will not turn back until he has executed and accomplished the intentions of his mind. In the latter days you will understand this.

Mal 3:2-3 But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and they will bring offerings in righteousness to the LORD.


Gem, thankyou for that extended quote. It’s very interesting and I’ll be doing some more reading of that author.

Sonia, thanks for those verses. I think that so far I’m probably right: my traditional understanding of fire as an instrument of torture, burning alive type thing might be faulty.


In lieu of Sherman not being in here, I’ll quickly summarize the lake of fire, probably the clearest picture of the fire metaphor:

-sulphur = purification, used in meditation/medicines/sulfur baths, etc
-torment = “basanizos” or “basanite” which was a touchstone used to test the purity of metals, therefore
-fire = purification, as in 1 Cor. 3

Hope that helps!