For as long as I can remember (I’m 65) evangelicals, including myself, have been attempting to soften the unthinkable notion of a hell of everlasting torment in hellfire and brimstone by using the less objectionable phrase “eternal separation from God”. A few months ago I decided to try and verify if this phrase accurately summed up the scriptural teaching on the destiny of all unbelievers. The only verse I could find was 2 Thessalonians 1:9 “They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might.” Upon further study of this verse I discovered that there were other alternative ways of translating it that would leave one with much different conclusions. It seemed to make more sense to think of the punishment as coming from or as a consequence of the presence of the Lord than to think of it as a separation from the presence of the Lord. Of course, if one were to eliminate this verse as a proof text for eternal separation from God, then it would seem a difficult task to prove it elsewhere. But upon reading the passage in Rev. 14:9-11 I was stunned to see what I had never seen or heard spoken of before, namely that the wicked were being tormented in fire not by being separated from the presence of the Lord but in the very presence of the holy angels and the Lamb! This discovery has opened a window of possibility that I’m still trying to come to grips with. I’m introducing this topic hoping that those of you who have received more light than I have on this passage will speak up. I’m also puzzled as to why this passage is not ordinarily listed among others in the book where the lake of fire is referenced, even though the actual phrase lake of fire is absent. Upon attempting to post this I was directed to a post by Aaron '10 which is very interesting and takes this in a completely different direction. Oh, to comprehend the length and width and height and depth of his love! Wow, I just realized for the first time that his love has 4 dimensions!
Hey mauialan, thanks for the post. I was actually thinking about this the other day and wanted to post on it, so I’m glad you did. It seems like a really odd one, and definitely one people haven’t thought about too much (if at all). There could be a point of corrective punishment, but I don’t know enough about it honestly.
mik, This was my first post and you’re my first responder. Destined to be friends for life I think! Reading your response Psalm 139:7-8 came to mind “Where shall I go from your Spirit? And where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!” I’ve been asking myself why the holy angels are present there. I think I might have the answer. Hebrews 1:14 (Weymouth) “Are not all angels spirits that serve Him- whom He sends out to render service for the benefit of those who, before long, will inherit salvation?” And is not this the same Jesus, the saviour of all men, that John pointed to saying, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” What comfort to think that our friends and loved ones whose lives were cut short before being granted repentance from their sins have not been cast into an eternal lake of fire solely for the purpose of satisfying the bloodlust of a capricious deity but for the purpose of experiencing the painful effects of their sins inevitably leading them to gladly accept the offer of the Lamb to wash their filthy robes in His precious blood. Now that’s a Deity worth calling forth the praises of every creature in heaven and on earth and below the earth and in the sea! Rev. 5:13
haha - I appreciate the kind words there @mauialan. I do have my certificate in first aid - so it’s good Im the first responder.
That seems like a pretty good theory. I don’t think people get a quick pass to heaven if they die early - yet I also don’t believe they are tormented for something that is uncontrollable. I guess you would be leaning more towards the corrective punishment view of ‘hell’ then?
mauialan and mik, I would like to offer what I think is a relevant excerpt from the end of, Is God Violent, Or Nonviolent?:
Hi mauialan and welcome…
The problem lies more with the evangelical mindset that can’t operate too well beyond its literalistic strictures. John’s Revelation produces a quagmire of worry for those employing a strict literal interpretation — which of itself that phrase ‘literal interpretation’ is actually an oxymoron.
The trouble for ETC advocates is also rather stunning. They can however take some joy and comfort in knowing that according to their literist logic they will at least be able to communicate with their loved ones in the Lamb’s presence (Rev 14:10)… albeit across a gulf (Lk 16:26), but at least they can chat.
Personally, if I are my loved ones were to end up in that lake of fire there’s no one I"d rather have watching over me/them than the holy angels who are said to be ministering spirits sent out to serve those that are to inherit the kingdom and the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!
Read it carefully, it doesn’t refer to the afterlife and only to those who worship the beast, it doesn’t say it is for ever or ages too, it’s only the smoke (which might mean the remembrance of these events) that ascends for ages of ages.
And another, a third, angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, If any one do homage to the beast and its image, and receive a mark upon his forehead or upon his hand,
he also shall drink of the wine of the fury of God prepared unmixed in the cup of his wrath, and he shall be tormented in fire and brimstone before the holy angels and before the Lamb.
And the smoke of their torment goes up to ages of ages, and they have no respite day and night who do homage to the beast and to its image, and if any one receive the mark of its name.