"The Lake of Fire!"
A Scriptural Journey Through the Lake Burning with Fire and Brimstone,
Which is the SECOND DEATH
Some time in the last half of the first century AD, the apostle John (whom Jesus loved) was on the Isle of Patmos when he found himself "in spirit on the Lords day." Among his many remarkable visions he saw this:
Revelation 19:20, "And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone."
Rev. 20:10, "And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever."
Rev. 20:14-15, "And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire."
Rev. 21:8, "But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death."
Concerning the "Second Death," John also has this to report:
Rev. 2:11, "He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death."
Rev. 20:6, "Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years."
And finally this one:
Rev. 14:10, "...and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb."
These are all the Scriptural references in the entire Bible that mention the lake of fire and the second death."
Theologians and clergymen by the thousands have been telling the world that this lake of fire is little more than an eternal torture chamber. It is the final HELL of eternal separation from God accompanied by unfathomable pain, torture, and despair.
We have been told that there is absolutely no possibility of ever being rescued from this hellhole of suffering and human misery where there will be wailing and gnashing of teeth, as real fire barbecues their bodies, and while worms will be eating their flesh. This hideous scene is to continue day and night for trillions of billions of quadrillions of centuries upon centuries--for EVER!
We are told that those who will spend eternity in this prison of pain have themselves chosen to spend eternity there. That God doesnt send anyone to hell, but that people actually choose, themselves, to go there. Even a fool knows that no person would ever choose such a fate, but theologians must somehow get God off of the hook of responsibility, for surely this place exists and will continue to exist for eternity they assure us.
Famous TV preachers like John Hagee tell us that "...every boy and every girl who dies without knowing Jesus Christ spends an eternity in a city where the fire is never quenched and the worm dieth not." And Mr. Hagee adds, "AND ITS JUSTICE!"
World renowned pastor, educator, and theologian Dr. James Kennedy tells the world that for a man in India who told a lie, and for a man in the Islands who stole chickens by night to feed his family, their sins will put them into the tortures of an eternal hell, even if they never heard of the name of Jesus Christ their only possible Savior. And Dr. Kennedy adds, "HELL IS FAIR!"
Does the Word of God actually and literally teach such a hellhole of eternal torture in fire from which there is no redemption ever? Dont be too sure till you have read this paper and compared it with Scripture. That the Scriptures do speak of a "lake of fire which is the second death" there is no denial. However:
- What is it?
- Where is ?
- When is it?
- Why is it?
- Who will go there?
- Is it an actual place?
- And How long will it last?
- What actually takes place in this lake of fire which is the second death?
- Is Johns vision to be taken literally?
- Does this lake of fire and second death serve no purpose other than to vent Gods frustration and vengeance on most of humanity which He Himself created?
- Would a loving God really create billions and billions of people which He knew in advance He would torture for all eternity?
- If ninety to ninety-five percent (a ballpark statistic used by many theologians) of humanity is destined for this atrocious destiny, how could any sane person worship a god who would design and carry out such a vile and eternal nightmare on so many billions of helpless and weak creatures?
The Scriptures answer all of these questions, and the answers are not even in the same universe with what has been popularly taught by theologians.
Some have even taught that God and His Saints will actually derive happiness and pleasure from this fabled eternal torture and misfortune of the majority of all humanity who has ever lived.
Men are bold and audacious in how they characterize the very nature of God Almighty. I heard just tonight on one of the major news channels that Saddam Hussein enjoys his leisure by watching videos of men being tortured! Most of us shudder at the very thought of anything so satanic and evil. And yet ... and YET, many theologians (and Christian lay members as well) would put God Almighty and our Lord Jesus Christ in the base company of such depraved minds! God have mercy on them all; they know not what they say!
FIVE GENERAL SCENARIOS
Lets look at five general possibilities for the interpretation of this lake of fire and second death.
- The teaching comprising the largest number of adherents (Christian Fundamentalists) state that the lake of fire is indeed literal fire, but that the second death part is figurative or symbolic seeing that its victims never actually become literally dead or even unconscious, but rather they interpret this second death as separation from God.
Their explanation of their belief, however, contradicts the idea that the lake of fire is literal. They teach that the lake of fire is literal fire that burns like real fire, but they then contradict the literalness of this fire by teaching that it doesnt actually burn up anything: It just causes INSANE PAIN. But really, can a fire that doesnt actually burn up physical, material things, be called a literal fire? And although Ive heard many state that this metaphor is literal, this group certainly denies the literalness of the second death because they dont believe they ever die and loose consciousness.
It is a physiological impossibility for a literal fire to cause pain on the nervous system of a person and yet never actually kill them and burn them up. Furthermore, real fire does not cause symbolic or figurative death--real fire causes real death.
- Others (as the Jehovah's Witnesses) teach that both the lake of fire and the the second death are symbolic and not literal. They believe that this metaphor is a "word picture" that does not represent a place or condition of literal torment in literal fire. However, they believe that it does picture or represent the total annihilation of all those who are judged and are not granted salvation.
This teaching is certainly billions of times more merciful than the Christian fundamentalist theory, however, it too is unscriptural as we shall see. Not to mention the fact that it would prove our heavenly Father either unable or unwilling to save most of His own children.
What kind of an eternal example would that be for those who are saved? Does God really teach us to "train up a child in the way that he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it" (Prov. 22:6), but that God Himself is incapable of training His children in the way that they should go and that most of them WILL DEPART FROM IT?
Does God really teach us to "LOVE OUR ENEMIES" while God Himself "HATES OUR LOVED ONES" by destroying most of them for all eternity? This teaching is also blasphemous.
- Still others teach that the "lake of fire" is figurative, but that the "fire" part of the symbolic phrase "lake of fire" is literal fire which will burn up its victims. So they interpret this as a symbolic "lake of fire" which is made up of a literal lake and literal fire. And that the second death is literal death so that its victims will be killed by this literal fire in a literal lake, which then becomes a symbolic "lake OF fire."
However, this group has a unique twist to their teaching. They believe that when the victims are thrown into the lake of fire, they have already gone through the white throne judgment and have turned to God, are now righteous, have accepted Christ as their Lord, but they must die a second time anyway. Why? I dont know!! I am at a loss as to how Rev. 21:8 would fit into this theory,
"But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, SHALL HAVE THEIR PART in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone; which is the second death."
They dont sound too converted to me at this point in time when they enter the lake of fire.
This group then believes that at the consummation of the ages (just as they have died a second time), they will be resurrected a second time, but this time to immortality and life with God in His Family. Though maybe not quite as blasphemous, this teaching is still unscriptural and foolish.
- I know of no group who teaches that the lake of fire is figurative, but that the second death is literal. Such a doctrine would be akin to literally drowning in symbolic water.
- And so that leaves one more combination, and that is that the lake of fire is figurative or symbolic and that the second death is also figurative or symbolic. I am one of a very tiny group who is of this latter persuasion.
It is the only way that these Scriptures on the lake of fire and the second death will harmonize and not contradict the rest of Gods Word. Furthermore, God plainly tells us in chapter one, verse one, that an angel "signified" this whole "Revelation of Jesus Christ" contained in this book. He "SYMBOLIZED" it, for that is what "signifies" means--to make known by signs, and signs are symbols. Therefore it cant be literal.
THREE FALSE ASSUMPTIONS
Fundamentalist Christians are the largest group who hold three bedrock doctrinal teachings, which are really only assumptions, regarding the lake of fire:
- The "lake of fire" part of this verse must positively be taken LITERALLY.
- This lake of fire and second death are just other terms for HELL.
- All the wicked, unsaved, and unbelieving sinners will be consciously TORTURED in this lake of fire hellhole by having their flesh barbecued FOR ALL ETERNITY, which is said to be "the second death."
Are any of these three assumptions true or Scriptural? Absolutely and unequivocally NOT!
In our journey we will clearly see that these verses are NOT to be taken literally, and they do NOT represent a place called hell, and God will NOT torture anyone for all eternity.
We will also see from the Scriptures that God never punishes for the sole purpose of torturing. God always punishes and chastises for the ultimate purpose of correcting, righting, amending, changing, fixing, rectifying, redeeming and saving. That God can and will accomplish these things with every creature in heaven and earth is fully substantiated by hundreds of Scriptures in His Word.
And there are no Scriptural doctrines or teachings to the contrary. NONE! This IS the Good News Gospel which precious few on this earth have ever heard. It is Gods "WILL" that all mankind be saved (I Tim. 2:4), and Gods "will" WILL be done (Matt. 6:10 and Isaiah 46:10-11)!
But seriously, dont these Scriptures (at least in the King James Bible) sound like the beast, the false prophet, Satan, and all who are not found written in the book of life will be tortured for ever and ever in the lake of fire and brimstone which is the second death? Granted, in King James translation, it does definitely sound that way. But when we remove a few unscriptural assumptions, a few pagan traditions, and a couple of totally mistranslated words, words that never appear in the Greek manuscripts, we will discover an even more profound love that God has for His creatures, rather than some monstrous god of eternal hatred which has been concocted by theologians and promulgated through bad translations for centuries.
LITERAL OR SYMBOLIC?
In many cases it is not difficult to determine whether a verse is literal or not. But, since we use figures of speech so often we tend to forget that much of what we say daily is not literally true. Many of us would hardly be able to carry on a conversation if we had to drop out of our vocabulary every word and every phrase we speak that is NOT LITERALLY TRUE. The English language, as well as all other languages, is just filled with symbolic and metaphorical phrases.
The first eleven verses of Chapter one in Revelation are an introduction regarding where, how, and what John is going to record for us. Much of this introduction can be taken literally, however, not all. Beginning with verse twelve, however, we are confronted with one symbol after another for the remainder of the entire twenty-two-chapter-book.
Everything written in Revelation is true, but most is not literally true.
The fact is there are many many truths in the Bible that are not literally true.
Jesus "said" that the bread He gave His disciples at the Lords supper was His body. Yet, Jesus Himself explains in other places that this was not literally true. He gave them literal bread, and not His literal physical flesh. What that bread represented, and symbolized, was indeed, His body--but not his physical body.
Jesus said that the words that he spoke were SPIRIT (John 6:63). Jesus Christ changes not. His words are STILL spirit and they certainly were spirit when John wrote the words of Christ regarding His unveiling or revelation. Just as we physically feed on physical bread for PHYSICAL LIFE, thus also we spiritually feed on Jesus Christs spiritual body for SPIRITUAL LIFE.
Understand this! Some think that by accepting the Scriptures as they are given (in the case of Revelation that means AS SYMBOLS), that somehow this "spiritualizes away" the teaching. What? It is the "spiritual" aspect of these symbols that IS THE REAL THING; THE REAL UNDERSTANDING! Physical things "pass away" whereas spiritual things are eternal! The very FACT that this book is written in "symbols" is proof positive that the understanding of them is SPIRITUAL and not physical or literal.
Symbols, metaphors, and parables ARE NEVER LITERALLY TRUE! But they powerfully demonstrate SPIRITUAL TRUTHS!
"This is the second death--the lake of fire" (Rev. 20:15 and 21:8) is a metaphor that is no more literal than "Jesus taking the bread...said, Take, EAT. This IS My body" (Mat. 26:27).
Paul did not instruct Timothy to "STUDY" the scriptures if a mere casual reading is all that is necessary to comprehend its many deep and profound teachings. On the other hand, I believe that those who have "studied" Gods Word are able to open up much understanding to those who are not called to teach (even babes, or minors as our Lord stated).
I want to quickly show my readers just how impossible it is to assume most of Gods word is literal.
Again I state: All Gods Word is TRUE, however, much of it is figurative language which is not literally true to fact, but rather in what the figurative language of symbols, metaphors, and parables represent.
If the following section is too heavy for you, just skip to the next heading.
BIBLICAL FIGURES OF SPEECH
Here are some of the fully substantiated figures of language used in Scripture. I borrowed many of these examples from an appendix in the back of The Concordant Literal New Testament.
We will begin with FIGURES OF LIKENESS which include:
- similes (when something is like, or as something else, it is a simile rather than a metaphor)
- metaphors (where one thing is said to actually be something else) as in, "all life is grass" I Pet. 1:24. Therefore, the subject of this paper IS a metaphor and CANNOT be literal: John says, "...the lake of fire, This IS the second death" (Rev. 20:15), and "...the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which IS the second death" (Rev. 21:8)
- parables (there are many, the shortest one being, "Physician, heal Thyself" Luke 4:23)
- allegories (as in the two women standing for two covenants, Gal. 4:22-28)
- visions (as in a sheet let down from heaven, Acts 10:11-16)
- signs (as in the sign of Jonah the prophet, Matt. 12:39)
- types (as in Adam corresponding with Christ, Rom. 5:12-21)
- shadows (as in the law being a shadow of good things to come, Heb. 10:1)
- examples (as in the tabernacle vessels being examples of what is in heaven , Heb. 9:23)
- images (as Christ is the image of God, Col. 1:15)
- impersonations or personifications (where things are spoken of as persons)
- condescension's (as where God takes on human attributes)
- diminutives (as in "little women, heaped with sins" II Tim. 3:6)
There are FIGURES OF ASSOCIATION which include:
- association or metonymy's
- appellations (as when a quality or office is used instead of a proper name, as in "Son of Mankind" instead of saying Jesus Christ)
- compound associations (as "the word of the cross" I Cor. 1:18, which has to do with Christs shameful and agonizing death)
- near associations (as in a phrase that is partly literal, "Then went out to Him Jerusalem [that is the people of Jerusalem]", Matt. 3:5)
- retention's (this one is too complicated to explain, but Ill give you an example, "the tablets of the heart" II Cor. 3:3)
- circumlocutions or periphrasis (what is "circumlocution"? Well, its a descriptive phrase in place of a name in order to emphasize the association. Examples, "the product of the grapevine [though not named is, wine]" Matt. 26:29, "the city of David [though not named is, Bethlehem]" Luke 2:11,
- enigmas, and symbols (where a known object or something else is used to typify something else, or even an intangible quality such as love, power, beauty, etc.)
Here are many of the words from the book of Revelation used as SYMBOLS:
book of life
tree of live
water of life
rod of iron
And even heaven and earth are used as symbols in this great book of symbols.
There are also FIGURES OF OMISSION which include:
- omitted nouns (as in "the wicked [people is understood]," "the blind [people]," "the rich [people]," "the poor [people]," "the twelve [apostles is omitted but understood])
- omitted verbs (as in incongruous omissions like, "Milk I give you to drink not solid food" The omission of "to eat" is understood, as one does not "drink solid food" I Cor. 3:2)
- unfinished sentences (the King James usually finishes sentences that are unfinished in the Greek, such as, "As I swear in My indignation, If they shall be entering into My rest___!" Heb. 3:11)
- omission or non-sequence (as in "These which you are beholding___there will be coming days..." Luke 21:6)
I did not include this basic listing of "figures of speech" in the Scriptures, just to fill another page. It is most important to understand that the study of the Scriptures is not the same as studying a high school or college text book. It is far different. School text books, as a rule, would not contain even one percent of the figures that I have presented here. And if we do not have even an elementary understanding of these many and varied figures of speech, we will hardly be in a position to TEACH Gods Word to others.
It is the height of naivety to believe that whenever some one shouts, "My King James Bible SAYS... ", that what follows will be non-refutable Scriptural proof of that persons doctrinal preference. Thank God that:
"...no prophecy of the Scripture is of any private interpretation" (II Pet. 1:20).
The Scriptures themselves really do interpret other Scriptures. This is true for interpreting prophesies and doctrinal issues.
PARABLES ARE NOT LITERALLY TRUE STORIES
The parables of Jesus are certainly true, but they are not literally true. Example: one cannot possibly put a "beam" (a large piece of lumber) in or out of ones eye, Mat. 7:3-5. The moral of this parable is certainly a great truth. The symbols used to teach that truth (namely a large piece of lumber in ones eye) is, of course, not literally or possibly true. The beam represent a huge character flaw, not foreign matter in ones eye. Its a figure of speech.
We too use such figures dozens of times a day without even realizing it. We say such things as "Dont cry over spilt milk" although we are not literally speaking of crying, nor are we speaking of milk, but rather a disappointment that has caused sadness.
When we show our respect for the our countries flag, we are not even thinking about respecting a piece of cloth, but rather the nation that the flag represents. A flag is a symbol that represents a nation. A band of gold is just a band of gold, but a wedding ring is symbolic of something much larger, something huge, something GRAND!
Who "wears the pants" in your family? Has "the cat taken your tongue" lately? Can you "carry a tune in a bucket?" Do you follow the "spin doctors" with their commentary on the "shakers and movers" in Washington, DC? Where do you stand when "the tire hits the road?" Do you know for a fact that "the early bird gets the worm?" Does "a stitch in time saves nine?" Are any of your friends "square?" Is it "cool" to eat chili on a hot day? Do people turn "blue" when they are sad? Do cowards really have "a yellow stripe down their back?" Are you "worth your salt?" Do you know people who are "pigeon heads" and "hot heads?" If people realized that "silence is golden," maybe they would stop "breaking your ear drums." Do you think that I am just " pulling your leg." And just when will "hell freeze over?"
All languages have many many figures of speech that are not literally true. And God too uses symbols, figures, idioms, metaphors and parables, over and over in His Word--hundreds and hundreds of times!
I know of very few who will believe it, but it is true nonetheless, that Jesus taught the masses in parables and parables ONLY so that they would NOT understand the message He was giving them (See Matt. 13).
Figures, parables, metaphors, and symbols are in many ways like poetry. Take the phrase, "No man is an island" from one of my favorite poems. How wonderfully worded and true are those words?
Or this line, "Every mans death diminishes me, for I am involved in mankind."
How many unsaved friends do you have? Will YOU not be diminished for all eternity if they are not saved? Will GOD not be diminished for all eternity if billions and billions of His creatures are not saved but are rather separated and tortured in some hellhole of fire?
Elementary school children are not likely to understand such a poem as "No man is an island." They would say, of course no man is an island, neither is a man a house or a car or a telephone pole either. Yet this is the same childish mentality that many theologians us in interpreting Scripture such as the lake of fire and second death.
For all too many, these marvelous Scriptures have no meaning beyond the literal meaning of the literal words. And so, for most, the Word of God remains a giant enigma. How sad!
Right now, here in Miami, it is "raining cats and dogs." Or is it really? It sometimes rains real fish, but cats and dogs? But if it ever does rain cats and dogs, Ill eat my hat.
Some of these things are extremely elementary and others are extremely complex. God told Daniel that the wise will understand. It is not wise, but foolish to insist that countless symbols in the Bible are literal.
With that all said, let us now see that most of what is said in this marvelous book called Revelation is not literal, but symbolic.
My King James Bible says:
"The Revelation of Saint John the Divine."
And then verse one says,
"The revelation of Jesus Christ..."
Which is it? It is, of course, the latter, seeing that the title is merely mans interpretation which is obviously wrong. The book of Revelation is a revelation OF Jesus Christ. It is not just a revelation from Jesus Christ, but a revelation of or about Jesus Christ. It is a revelation of HIM!
Most of my life I believed that the book of Revelation was a literal prophecy about events that will happen at the END OF THE WORLD! Prophesies that had virtually no meaning for those who have lived during the past two thousand years since it was written. But for most of my life, I WAS IN ERROR!
Now for a most important understanding. Just how was this revelation to John to be recorded and preserved? Notice it:
"...and he sent and SIGNIFIED it by his angel unto his servant John" (Rev. 1:1)
What does it mean to "signify?" Certainly this prophecy of the revelation or unveiling of Christ was written down (ver. 19), but it means more than just that. To "signify" has to do with signs and symbols. From my Webster's Twentieth Century Dictionary p. 1541, first definition of signify:
"to make known by signs or words"
First definition of sign:
"any symbol ...that represents an idea"
That which, being external, represents or signifies something internal or spiritual.
The synonym for sign is: symbol.
There is no mistaking this language. The book of Revelation is written in SYMBOLS! So what is written externally, on paper, in symbols, has a SPIRITUAL meaning and application.
Let us now see the symbolism of this prophecy. I will pick out some of the most obvious things that would be impossible to understand literally.
Notice that in verse ten John informs us that,
"I was IN THE SPIRIT on the Lords day..."
And then he begins to tell us what he hears and sees. Now the very fact that he was "in the spirit" on the Lords day conclusively proves that he was not literally there! Let us never loose sight of this fact: John WRITES what has been SIGNIFIED (WITH SYMBOLS) the things that he SEES and HEARS IN A VISION--IN SPIRIT!
Beginning in verse twelve John starts to tell us what he sees and heard,
"And I turned to see the voice that spake with me ... his eyes were as a flame of fire, and his feet like unto fine brass ... And he had in his right hand seven stars and out of his mouth went a sharp two-edged sword..."
NONE of what I underlined is literal. Have you ever "seen a voice?" All these things are symbols that stand for other things. And God immediately gives us proof positive of this in verse 20,
"The mystery [this is not literal--it was a mystery until God tells us that one thing really means or represents another and DIFFERENT THING] of the seven stars which thou sawest in my right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks. The seven stars ARE THE ANGELS OF THE SEVEN CHURCHES: and the seven candlesticks which thou sawest ARE THE SEVEN CHURCHES."
The stars are not literal and the candlesticks are not literal. In the first 20 verses of Revelation we can find eleven statements that are not literal, but rather symbolic. They represent truths that are presented in symbols. The literal language is not the literal truth being presented. The statements themselves do not teach us the truth OF the statements. We must look elsewhere in the Scriptures for the interpretation.
Now chapter one was pretty easy as God told us just what some of those symbols represented. But there are dozens and dozens of more symbols in this book of Revelation that are not explained in the immediate verses that follow. How shall we understand all those symbols. First of all, without the spirit of God, the answer is we will never understand these symbols. But guided by Gods spirit, God can show us in other places in His Word what these mysterious symbols represent. It is God Who provides us with "ears to hear and eyes to see."
Now look at chapter two:
Verse 5, Will God literally punish the church of Ephesus by removing a literal candlestick? NO! Removing a literal candlestick would be no great loss to anyone. But from what we learned in verse 20 of chapter one, the candlestick IS one of the churches . So Christ is threatening to REMOVE THE WHOLE CHURCH, not some piece of furniture or candlestick from the building of a church.
Verse 7, Is the tree of life a literal tree that one literally eats?
Verse 9, Was the church in Smyrna literally in poverty and literally rich at the same time? Does "synagogue of Satan" mean a literal synagogue where Satan has a Rabbi teaching the Law to a congregation every Sabbath day?
Verse 13, Is a name something that one literally holds fast to with ones hands?
Verse 16, Will Christ literally do battle by using a literal sword which He literally keeps in His mouth? Or do we not read in another place in Gods word that this "sword" IS Gods Word? (Heb. 4:12).
Verse 17, Will Christ reward the faithful with a literal little white stone? Cant we see that the stone and the name written in it represents something else? Something of much greater value?
Verse 20, Was the harlot Jezebel literally in the Thyatira church? Literal Jezebel died CENTURIES before this book was written by John. Jezebel in the physical represents or symbolizes a SPIRITUAL condition in the church of Thyatira.
Verse 22, Will Christ literally throw literal Jezebel into a literal bed where she will literally commit adultery with literal men?
Verse 23, Will Christ kill literal children of the literal harlot, Jezebel?
Verse 27, Will the saints beat the nations with a literal rod of iron into literal small pieces like broken pottery?
Verse 28, Will Christ give the literal morning star to His saints? Where would they put it? What would they do with it?
Chapter 3:1, Was the Sardis church literally alive and literally dead at the same time?
Verse 4, Were members of the Sardis congregation wearing literally soiled clothing?
Verse 7, Is there literally a metal key of David that is needed to open a literal lock?
Verse 12, Will Christ literally turn people into stone pillars in the temple?
Verse 16, Will Christ literally spit the church of Laodocia out of His mouth?
Verse 17, Were the members of the Laodocian church literally poor and literally blind and literally naked without clothing to wear? Are there not other Scriptures that tell us what it means to be SPIRITUALLY "poor, blind, and naked?"
Verse 18, Did Christ try to sell Laodocia literal gold? What would they do with the gold? What, pray tell, would Christ do with the money?
Verse 20, Does Christ literally knock at the doors of our homes and then come in and eat a literal home cooked meal and pecan pie with us?
Is it necessary for me to go through this entire book verse by verse before we can fully realize that this book is written in figurative, symbolic, and metaphoric language?
Lets look at just a few more:
Chapter 4, Was a literal trumpet "talking" with John?
Chapter 5, Is Jesus Christ literally a "Lion," an "animal?"
Chapter 6, Are these literal "horses?" Do the literal stars of heaven fall on the earth? The smallest known stars are a million times larger than the earth.
Chapter 7, Were angels literally holding back four "winds" on four literal "corners" of the earth? I thought the earth is round without corners? Can one literally wash his clothe "white" in red "blood?"
Chapter 8, Will a an angel cast a literal mountain burning with fire into the sea?
Chapter 9, During the fifth trumpet will it literally be impossible for mortal men to die?
Will there be literal locusts shaped like "horses?" Locusts that literally have "hair like a woman, teeth like a lion, and breastplates of iron?" LOCUSTS with breastplates of "iron?"
Chapter 10, Did John eat a literal book? That was literally sweet in his taste buds, but literally bitter in his stomach? Why would anyone "eat" a literal book?
Chapter 11, Are Gods two witnesses that prophecy, literally two olive trees and two candlesticks? But if we study Zechariah 4 we can determine what is meant by "two witnesses."
Chapter 12, Will there literally be a pregnant woman "clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars?" Was this same woman able to literally "fly into the wilderness with wings of an eagle?"
Chapter 13, Will there be a literal lamb that will speak like a dragon? Just how do dragons "speak" anyhow?
Will people be literally tattooed with marks (bar codes, swastikas, Social Security numbers, implanted with computer chips or one of a hundred unscriptural marks being suggested by fundamentalist prophets) in their hands and on their foreheads so that men cannot buy or sell ice cream or automobiles without these marks? Self-appointed prophets of doom havent a clue as to what this mark of the beast really is or the number of his name. I have already been bared from buying and selling recently because I refuse to brandish this "mark of the beast"!
Chapter 14, Does Babylon cause all nations to literally drink of the wine of the literal wrath of her fornication? I thought wine came from grapes not wrath (of course there is that famous novel, The Grapes of Wrath).
Chapter 15, Are the seven last global plagues and catastrophes really contained in seven literal tiny gold vials or bottles?
Chapter 16, Is Jesus Christ going to return to this earth as a literal "thief"? Will every island and mountain on earth literally disappear?
Chapter 17, Will there really be a women who will ride a literal scarlet coloured beast, having seven heads and ten horns. Can whole nations literally fornicate with a harlot? But here once more in this chapter God does reveal to us who this beast is and what the symbolic horns represent which again proves that ALL OF THESE THINGS are not literal but symbolic and represent things other than what is being described.
Chapter 18, Will the entire social, political, and economic system of the world literally collapse in just one hour because one literal city (Babylon) is destroyed?
Chapter 19, Will a literal prostitute "corrupt" the entire earth? Will a literal "lamb" marry a literal "wife?" Will the King of the universe really wear clothing dripping with literal "blood?" Is Gods wrath a literal "winepress?" Will literal armies of heaven follow Christ to earth riding on literal "flying horses?" No, NONE of these things are literal!
Any theologian or preacher on international television would be laughed to scorn if he were to preach a sermon trying to prove that all of the above Scriptures are to be taken absolutely literally. Such a sermon would be seen as foolish by nearly everyone. No educated man in the Word of God would ever dare to present anything so STUPID!
And yet ... and YET, when we come to verse 20: will a literal beast and a literal false prophet be cast alive into a literal "lake of fire burning with brimstone?" How do these same theologians and preachers answer? They answer: "Yes, of course they will be thrown into a literal lake of fire, because THIS IS LITERAL."
Chapter 20, Will the devil, the false prophet and the beast be cast into a literal lake of fire and be literally tortured day and night "FOR EVER AND EVER"?
And will all those not found written in the book of life be cast into a literal lake of fire? Answer: "Yes, THIS TOO IS LITERAL, ABSOLUTELY LITERAL," shouts our fundamentalist friends once more.
Chapter 21, And will the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, be cast into a literal "lake of fire burning with brimstone?" "Yes, Yes, A THOUSAND TIMES YES, THIS IS SOOO LITERAL, ABSOLUTELY TOTALLY LITERAL" shouts every red-blooded fundamentalist worth his salt!
Amazing. Absolutely amazing--the power of the carnal mind to self-deceive. Why are fundamentalists totally sure that these verses on a lake of fire are literal? Well, of course, they aren't sure; they just pretend to be sure. They desire with their whole heart and being that this lake of fire is real fire. Why? Because the eternal torture of billions of men and women and boys and girls in some fabled hellhole doesnt "diminish" them one iota! They want people who dont believe as they believe to have their flesh barbecued over fire and brimstone for all eternity. The very idea gives them great joy. And it makes them proud. They have no love for sinners as God does. They hate sinners. They hate unbelievers. They love only themselves. They pronounce CURSES on me for quoting Scriptures that show God will save everyone. They highly disapprove of God being the saviour of the whole world. The wont hear of it; they wont have it! They dont approve of a God Who would save everyone by bringing them to repentance, and purging them, and turning their hearts to God. If God were to save everyone through the purging of his SPIRITUAL FIRE, then they could not wag their fingers at all these people sizzling and popping like bacon in a hit skillet saying, "I told you so, I told you so..." for all eternity. Husein and Bin Laden are not the only ones out there with depraved religious minds.
God did not write nineteen whole chapters of Revelation giving us symbol after symbol and metaphor after metaphor, and then in chapter 20 switch to writing in literal language with literal meanings.
The book of Revelation was "signified" by the use of signs and symbols. Signs and symbols always represent or mean something other than the sign or symbol itself. We are all familiar with symbols and signs so that we should never be confused as to what a sign or symbol is or is not. A red and white striped barbers pole is not a barber shop, neither is it a barber, but it is a sign or symbol that immediately conveys to our understanding what it represents--namely a barber shop with a barber.
There are many more Scriptures that will prove that this lake of fire has a much more benevolent purpose than barbecuing human flesh for all eternity for the sheer sick and depraved entertainment of Christian Fundamentalists.
Be it known however, that the lake of fire and the second death DO INDEED picture something spiritual that relates to or has some properties of, LITERAL FIRE and LITERAL DEATH. Without some similar properties, the metaphor would be meaningless. I have read some extremely complex definitions of a metaphor which were totally wrong. A metaphor is where one thing is said to BE something else. Heres a Scriptural example: "All flesh is grass" (I Pet. 1:24). Thats simple enough. Now then, is that statement by Peter true? Yes, of course, it is true. Is it literally true? No, it is not literally true. Then how do we know for sure what there is ABOUT this metaphor that is true? If a metaphor is not literally true, how is it true at all?
MAKING THE SIMPLE COMPLICATED
Reading some theories about the meaning of metaphors causes me to think of the man who when describing the feats of a circus performer stated: "He performs feats of ease with the greatest of difficulty." It is absolutely amazing how theologians can make relatively easy to understand principles seem most difficult. I will now show you an exercise of just such grammatical gymnastics. Its just three very short paragraphs, so indulge me and I will try to simplify the whole thing immediately thereafter.
Here then is a complicated example from "Concordant Studies--The Lake of Fire" page 9:
"The lake of fire is the second death. That is, the lake of fire is the cause of, or the agency which produces, the second death. This represents that. The idea is, the lake of fire--by figure of association in which the cause is put for the effect--represents the second death. This is a compound figure. That is, it incorporates more than one figure of speech. In such a case as this, is itself is also a figure of speech. Instead of its literal significance (which denotes existence), is, as a symbolic metaphor, means represent. The concept is this: Part A represents Part B; thus Part A symbolizes Part B. As a symbol of Part B, Part A itself has become a figure."
From page 10:
"The lake of fire, which, by virtue of being its cause, thus, represents the second death." "In the interpretation of a metaphor, the goal is to take note of the essential way in which the symbolic subject is like the literal predicate. Indeed, if in the presence of a symbolic, subject-expression, the meaning of the predicate-expression were itself unknowable--which would be the case if the predicate expression were a figure of speech--it would be impossible to note the likeness between the two."
And finally, from page 11:
"When one thing (or things) which represents another thing, is finally said to be that other thing, whether or not the representative thing itself is a literal entity, in any case, that which it finally represents consists in a literal expression and is a literal entity." (Italics is authors throughout).
Okay, did you get all that? I want to just borrow a few statements from the above explanation of a metaphor and see if these things be so or not. Trust me, we will get through this quickly:
- "The lake of fire, which, by virtue of being its cause, thus, represents the second death.
- "...the symbolic subject [the lake of fire] is like the literal predicate [the second death]."
- When one thing (or things) [in this case the lake of fire] which represents another thing [in this case the second death], is finally said to be that other thing [the second death], whether or not the representative thing itself is a literal entity [second death], in any case, that which it finally represents consists in a literal expression and is a literal entity [a LITERAL second death]."
KEEPING THE SIMPLE , SIMPLE
Must we all be theologians with a 150 IQ to understand these things? That leaves me out.
Lets just take a couple of very simple metaphors from the Scriptures and apply the above conclusions to them. Heres a simple one:
"All life is grass" (I Pet. 1:24).
Can we apply the first deduction made by the author quoted above? Lets try it:
"All life is [that is, REPRESENTS] grass."
No, this is clearly not true, anymore than all life REPRESENTS trees, or all life REPRESENTS worms, or any other thing! We can certainly use the word "represents" with reference to metaphors, but not in the way the above author does. It is wrong to say that the subject of a metaphor "represents" the predicate, and it is equally wrong to say that the predicate of a metaphor "represents" the subject. Neither is true. However, both the subject AND the predicate TOGETHER, do "represent" something. And THATS why it is called a metaphor rather than a statement of fact!
What about number 2: The subject of a metaphor is symbolic, while the predicate is literal Lets try this out on our sample metaphor:
"All [SYMBOLIC] life [the subject] is [LITERAL] grass [the predicate]."
No, that doesnt work either. How in the world can "symbolic life" BE "literal grass?"
And now number 3: Is it true that the subject of a metaphor must "represent" something that "...consists in a literal expression and is a literal entity"? Nope. Not true. All life is not LITERALLY grass! PEOPLE are not grass, ELEPHANTS are not grass, BIRDS are not grass, FISH are not grass, BACTERIA are not grass, and a thousand other forms of life are NOT literal grass! Am I going to fast for anyone?
Earlier I stated that most believe one of the following:
the lake of fire is literal and the second death is literal,
or the lake of fire is literal but the second death is symbolic,
or the lake of fire is symbolic (with literal fire) but the second death is literal.
I believe that the lake of fire AND the second death are both symbolic and figurative language.
Is it true that one part of a metaphor must be literal or there is no way to understand the metaphor? No, that is not true. Let me give you an example that I doubt many have really meditated about:
"Now at their eating, Jesus, taking the bread, and, blessing, breaks it, and, giving to the disciples, said, Take eat [this bread], This [bread] IS my body" (Matt. 26:26).
The greatest minds in theology have haggled for hundreds of years over this metaphor that Christ used at the last supper. Does the bread literally turn into the body flesh of Christ when we eat that bread as the Catholic faith demands? What a silly question. ITS A METAPHOR! And the idea that one of the two parts of a metaphor must be literal is likewise silly.
In this metaphor, the bread is a symbol. Is there anyone who cannot recognize that Christ used bread from the table as a "symbol" of something? Then when used as a symbol it is no longer literal. Is there anyone who cannot recognize that Christ used His own body as a "symbol" of something? Then when used as a symbol it neither can be any longer literal. That being said then, the bread is symbolic AND Christs body is also symbolic! Jesus used literal "bread" from the table and used the literal words "my body." When Jesus picked up the bread and broke it, no one thought that He was talking about CHEESE! When Jesus said, "my body," no one thought He was speaking of His clothing or His shoes. Everyone at that table knew what "bread" was and what Christs "body" was. However ... HOWEVER, Christ used the words "bread" and "my body" in a METAPHOR! He said, "Take eat, This [bread] IS My body." That my friends is a METAPHOR! And, as a metaphor, neither the bread nor Christs body is to be taken literally! "I am the BREAD OF LIFE..." (John 6:35).
We do NOT eat physical bread to partake of the symbolic or spiritual life-giving food of Christs body. Nor would we be partaking of spiritual or symbolic bread by eating Christs literal flesh and blood body. Can we not see that neither part of a metaphor must always be literal. The bread is used as a symbol because literal bread is called the staff of life. Christs body is used in this metaphor because our spiritual nourishment comes from no other source but Jesus Christ. They say that we are what we eat. When we partake of the real staff of life--the spiritual food of Christs body, we ourselves BECOME the very body of Christ ourselves!
Heres the Scriptural proof:
"I am the BREAD OF LIFE..." (John 6:35).
"For we, who are many, are ONE BREAD, ONE BODY, for we all are partaking of the ONE BREAD" (I Cor. 10:17).
"The Jews, then, murmured concerning Him, that He said, I AM the Bread which descends out of heaven." (John 6:41).
"I am the living Bread ... Now the Bread also, which I shall be giving for the sake of the life of the world IS MY FLESH" (John 6:51).
But just as most are totally blind regarding the meaning of Scriptural metaphors today, they were also ignorant of Christs words when He spoke them:
"The Jews, then, fought with one another, saying, HOW THEN CAN THIS ONE GIVE US HIS FLESH TO EAT?" (John 6:53)
They too thought that metaphors were LITERAL! Christ is the Bread that come down FROM HEAVEN, not the bread that comes from wheat out of the ground. Christ is NO LONGER flesh and blood. He has been raised with a SPIRITUAL BODY
I Cor. 15:44, "...it is raised A SPIRITUAL BODY."
Besides "flesh and blood CANNOT inherit the Kingdom of God."
We partake of Christs spiritual body, not literal flesh, blood and muscle protein.
If we fight and argue as the foolish Jews did over what part of metaphor must be literal, we will learn nothing. If we cant understand a simple metaphor as "Take eat, this [bread] IS by body," how will we ever understand "The lake of fire which IS the second death?"
I dont wish to belabor this point, but it is of paramount importance and sometimes if we would hunger and thirst after righteousness, there is definitely some labor involved.
The easiest way I know to explain a metaphor is to simply state how metaphors are used, and it all becomes rather simple. If Peters statement that "all life is grass" is not literally true, then why say it? Why use it? Because when we understand metaphors, they speak volumes about a subject in just a very few words--much like poetry. "All life is grass" means that all life is like grass IN CERTAIN WAYS. Thats it! Thats just how simple it is. Life is like grass in certain ways, in that it is fragile, easily killed, short-lived, here today; gone tomorrow, etc. But, on the other hand, ALL life is NOT like grass in certain other ways. Not all life is attached to the ground, unintelligent, and colored green! Am I going to fast for anyone?
PHYSICAL FIRE VERSUS SPIRITUAL FIRE
Without realizing it, those who defend a literal fire in this judgment of God will have a very hard time showing that anyone can be "tormented day and night for ever and ever" in a literal fire. If the fire is literal, then the idea that anyone could be tormented for ever and ever is totally impossible! How so? We will see.
Notice who are thrown into this lake of fire:
- "And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet ... These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone" (Rev. 19:20).
If the beast and false prophet are humans, then a real lake of fire would BURN THEM UP making it impossible for them to be tortured for ever and ever! If the beast and false prophet are supernatural, superhuman, or spirit in nature, then physical fire CANNOT HARM THEM in any way. So, if the fire is literal, it can serve NO useful purpose!
- "And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire..." (Rev. 20:10).
As this is Satan, he is a spirit, and therefore CANNOT be tortured with REAL FIRE! Real, physical fire has NO effect on SPIRIT! Since God "makes His angels SPIRITS; His ministers a FLAMING FIRE" (Psalm 104:4), it isnt likely that the Head of the "sinning angels" would be the least bit hurt by literal fire!
- "And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire" (Rev. 20:12 & 15).
If it is argued that these resurrected to judgment are still mortal, then physical fire will BURN THEM UP, hence there can be NO torture or torment for ever and ever. If they are resurrected with "SPIRITUAL bodies" as we are told in I Cor. 15:44 is the case with all who are resurrected back to life from the dead, then a physical fire CANNOT harm a "SPIRITUAL BODY." If spiritual bodies can be pained or injured by physical things, then we will continue to have accidents and injuries for ALL ETERNITY! I dont think so. Gods Word says no. Again, a literal fire is of no value!
So now what will our fundamentalist friends do with this evidence? Real, physical, literal fires, BURN UP physical bodies! And, real, physical, literal fires CANNOT burn or harm spiritual bodies! Sorry, but thats just the way it is!
But these verses say that there is "fire" and that those in it are "tormented." So what kind of fire are we talking about and what kind of torment are we talking about? First, the fire.
If this lake of fire is not real, physical, literal fire, is there then such a thing as "figurative fire" or "spiritual fire?" Im so glad you asked. As a matter of Scriptural fact, yes there is such a thing as "figurative and spiritual fire." Lets start with the most profound Scripture regarding spiritual fire. As we all know, "God IS SPIRIT" (John 4:24). But have you never read:
"For our God IS A CONSUMING FIRE" (Heb. 12:29)!
God has shown Himself to be not only a fire, but a CONSUMING FIRE all through the Scriptures. You will be amazed how often God speaks of fire in bringing judgment on humanity. ALL IS OF GOD, II Cor. 5:18, Rom. 11:36, Eph. 1:11, etc. God IS a consuming FIRE.
God IS this lake of fire!
But since it is not literal fire, what does it burn? What does it consume? -- It is the "works of the flesh" that made sinners of those thrown into the lake of fire in the first place. And we shall see from the Scriptures that it is these very works of the flesh that are consumed in this lake of fire. And dont think for a moment that it is not a most painful and tormenting experience to have ones carnal mind with all its ungodly passions, thoughts and deeds, burned clean and pure by the consuming fire of Gods Holy Spirit!
God doesnt change. He will use the same method in the day of judging at the white throne as He uses on US. Although the intensity will get considerably more severe for those who blaspheme till the end.
We are saved by grace through faith (Eph. 2:8). However, that does not purge us from all our filthy thoughts and deeds. No, there is more. There is also a consuming FIRE that God uses on us:
"For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is JESUS CHRIST. Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, WOOD, HAY, STUBBLE; Every mans work shall be made manifest; for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed BY FIRE; and the FIRE shall TRY EVERY MANS WORK of what sort it is. If any mans work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any mans work shall be BURNED, he shall SUFFER LOSS; but [pay close attention to this BIG BUT] BUT HE HIMSELF [the one who had his works burned and consumed in Gods consuming fire] SHALL BE SAVED [What will save him?], yet so AS BY FIRE" (I Cor. 3:11-15)!!!
Ah dear readers, can we begin to understand the workings of God? God consumes with fire, the wood, hay and stubble in our lives. The things that dont deserve to continue. But he REFINES the gold, silver, and precious stones (those doctrines and godly character traits of Gods spirit that abide the fire). It is figurative language, it is an analogy, it is a parable, it is metaphorical (where one thing is called another thing). Our lives have either qualities of character (which are likened to gold and precious stones, things of value to refine and retain), or gross lacks in character (which are likened to wood, hay, and stubble and which are not worthy to retain or preserve).
And just as real literal fire is used to refine and purify gold and precious metals, so Gods SPIRITUAL FIRE refines and purifies us from our sinful and carnal nature. And likewise, as real literal fire is used to burn up wood and stubble, so Gods all consuming SPIRITUAL FIRE will consume and burn up all the impurities in our life. These things MUST DIE. This purging is the SECOND DEATH. And whether the person God subjects to His consuming fire has many good qualities or none, the person himself shall be purged, purified, and SAVED BY GODS ALL-CONSUMING SPIRITUAL FIRE!!! We just read it in Gods Holy Word. How can any deny it? Every person who has ever lived will be subjected to the cleaning fire of Gods spirit.
God is the JUDGE (Rev. 20;12). NOT Satan. This judgment throne is "WHITE" not black! God judges in righteousness.
"He shall judge the world with RIGHTEOUSNESS" (Psalm 96:13)
"Because He [God] hath appointed a day, in the which He will judge the world in RIGHTEOUSNESS" (Acts 17:31)
Next I present a Scripture that many fundamentalists hate. Ill bet if you attended a fundamentalist church, you never heard a sermon on this verse. We read that God has appointed a day (a period of time) in which He will "JUDGE" the whole world. Revelation 20:10-15 IS THAT DAY OF JUDGMENT! Now we know that those not found in the book of life will be put into FIRE, and they will be TORMENTED. This is certainly part of this judgment. But it is not literal fire. Literal fire burns up physical things and literal fire cannot harm spiritual things. So what does the fire do or accomplish? MUCH!
This judgment in Revelation 20 IS that worldwide judgment spoken of in many prophecies. But is the purpose of this worldwide judgment to torture people by burning their flesh in real fire for all eternity? Is that HOW God judges in "righteousness"? Absolutely not. We just read where God burns up our fleshly WORKS, and this is "tormenting" for sure. But God does not torture our flesh for all eternity. Dont get me wrong, there will be severe chastisements on those who despise God and His Savior and His Gospel. But out of there ashes will come salvation. Here is another marvelous Scripture which answers what happens to sinning humanity when God JUDGES THE WORLD in righteousness.
"For he [GOD] bringeth down them that dwell on high; the lofty city, he layeth it low, HE LAYETH IT LOW, even to the ground, he bringeth it even to the dust" (Isa. 26:4)
Make no mistake, God will judge the wicked with great severity. However, ALWAYS FOR A BENEVOLENT PURPOSE:
"With my soul have I desired thee in the night; yea, with my spirit within me will I seek thee early: for when Thy judgments are in the earth, THE INHABITANTS OF THE WORLD WILL LEARN RIGHTEOUSNESS" (Isaiah 26:9)!!
There will come a time when those who only knew how to blaspheme the name of God, will come to LEARN RIGHTEOUSNESS. They will not just "hear" of righteousness, no, they will actually "LEARN RIGHTEOUSNESS"!
The whole book of Isaiah speaks of judgments on Israel and on the nations. But the end of all these judgments is SALVATION TO ALL. Notice Isa. 45:22-23,
"Look unto me, and BE YE SAVED, ALL THE ENDS OF THE EARTH: for I am God, and there is none else. I have sworn by Myself, the word is gone out of my mouth in righteousness [as in, For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior; Who WILL HAVE ALL MEN TO BE SAVED, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth, I Tim. 2:4] , and shall not return, That unto me EVERY KNEE SHALL BOW, EVERY TONGUE SHALL SWEAR" (See also: Phil. 2: 9-11 & I Cor. 12:3).
Gods words will NOT return empty or void. When God speaks, it will be done. When God wills, it will be done. When God desires, His desires WILL BE DONE:
"Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, MY COUNSEL SHALL STAND, and I WILL DO ALL MY PLEASURE ... I have spoken it, I WILL ALSO BRING IT TO PASS; I HAVE PURPOSED IT, I WILL ALSO DO IT" (Isa. 46:10-11).
Oh the blasphemy of those who teach that Gods most heartfelt desires WILL NOT COME TO PASS, but will utterly fail!!! Jesus Christ is not the potential Savior of the world; He IS THE SAVIOR OF THE WORLD!!! HE WILL SAVE THE WORLD!!!
How many self-appointed, bible-thumping, doomsday, fire and brimstone, eternal torture in hell preachers believe these verses in Isaiah? Not one that I know of! Most Christians have never been taught the Scriptures that I am giving you. These things are despised by many who call themselves "Christian." And yet, Gods Word is FULL of such statements of Gods salvation to all.