Revelation 14:10,11

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Revelation 14:10,11
"He shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb: And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever;"

 

Revelation 19:3
"And her smoke rose up for ever and ever."

 

Revelation 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.

 

Problem:
These verses are stock references quoted in proof of eternal hell torment for the wicked.

 

Solution:
  1. "Fire and brimstone" is used figuratively, not literally in Revelation. Consider the evidence:
    1. In the first occurrence of the expression, "fire and brimstone" is said to issue from horses' mouths. (Rev. 9:17). This is certainly no hell-fire.
    2. If literal torment in hell were intended, then the language of the passage would require Jesus to be with his angels in hell, since it is stated: "He shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels . . . and the Lamb." (Rev. 14:10).
    3. Consistency demands that if "tormented with fire and brimstone" is literal, so much "the same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation". (Rev. 14:10). But the latter is an obvious figure drawn from Jer. 25:15. Why then insist on literal fire and brimstone?
    4. A figurative interpretation of "fire and brimstone" is in keeping with the general symbolic character of the Revelation. The woman = "that great city" (Rev. 17:18); water = "peoples" (Rev. 17:15); the Lamb similarly represents Jesus Christ. (Rev. 17:14).

     

  2. Fire is used in Scripture for utter destruction, not for preservation in torment. Sodom and Gomorrha were destroyed by fire and brimstone and are now set forth as "an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire". (Jude 7 cf. Gen. 19:24). But are these cities still burning? Scripture affirms that these cities were overthrown in a moment (Lam. 4:6) and turned to ashes. (2 Pet. 2:6; Deut. 29:23). See also Lev. 10:1,2; Num. 16:35; 2 Kings 1:10).

     

  3. "And her smoke rose up for ever and ever" (Rev. 19:3) is no hell-fire torment for the scene is the destruction of "Babylon the great", and is witnessed by lamenting merchants and shipmasters. (Rev. 18:8-10,15,18). "For ever and ever" emphasizes complete destruction.

     

  4. Rev. 19:3 appears to draw its symbol from Isaiah 34:10. In this passage a fire from the Lord on Idumea (Idumea = "Edom", R.S.V. vs. 6) "shall not be quenched night nor day; the smoke thereof shall go up for ever." (Isa. 34:10). But again, this is no hell-fire since the prophet Isaiah continues to speak of the land lying waste, a dwelling place for the owl and raven. (vs. 11).
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