Universal Salvation: The Lake Of Fire Part Two
Just to recap the last paragraph:
"If all that is so, tell us what 'tormented forever and ever in the lake of fire' means."
Look at it this way. If the second death is the same as the first death, and is non-existence, how can anyone be literally tormented forever and ever? If you believe that "tormented forever and ever" means literally tormented forever and ever, you now have God in the eternal torture business. Could you approve of that? Could you honestly trust someone with a mind like that? Let me say this in the clearest terms possible: when you are dead, you cease to exist.
Ecclesiastes 9:10 says: "Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work or device or knowledge or wisdom in the grave where you are going."
And Ecclesiastes 9:5 says: "For the living know that they will die; But the dead know nothing…" The American Standard Version says: "…But the dead do not know anything…"
Because they no longer exist, and are all totally dependent upon God for a resurrection.
"Wait a minute. What about the rich man and Lazarus, at Luke 16:19-31?"
The rich man and Lazarus is just a parable, and you do not have to be too clever to see that. If it were not a parable, Jesus would be telling a story that would already have happened, and that really is impossible.
Colossians 1:18 speaks of Jesus as "…the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the pre-eminence." Since both the rich man and Lazarus died and are alive, it can be nothing else but a parable, because when Jesus told this, He had not died, let alone been resurrected. And He was to be the first. And that means that anyone who believes that the rich man and Lazarus is a real story, is jumping the gun. This parable has the rich man and Lazarus alive and resurrected before Jesus, and that can not be so. Therefore, it can not be a literal story.
As the lake of fire means non-existence for everyone in there, the symbolism of being "tormented forever and ever" can not be speaking of physical torment, now, can it?
We know that those who go into the symbolic lake of fire literally have to die a second time, and that it is a fixed penalty for all those who sin. A fixed penalty is a fixed punishment. And being "tormented forever and ever" is, symbolically, what is being done to them at the hands of someone else after they have died a second time, because it is future passive. But in no way can it add more punishment to the already fixed penalty of having to die a second time.
Everyone had to die the first time around, but not the second. Hebrews 9:27 tells us: "And as it is appointed for men to die once…" Dying the first time was not up to you; you did not have a choice. Death, whether the first death or the second death, was due to sin. But eternal life is a free gift from God. And God will make sure that everyone will take hold of His free gift. Once again, it is not left up to you; you have no choice. Romans 6:23 says: "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." Remember, Jesus' sacrifice was for all.
God is not literally going to "torment people forever and ever". His magnificent gift to everyone is eternal life.
Let us take a look at the scripture in question. It is to be found at Revelation 20:10, and it says: "The devil, who deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and false prophet are. And they will be tormented day and night forever and ever." And Revelation 20:15 goes on to say: "And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire."
We have already said that if we know what the purpose of the lake of fire is, then the symbolism that it portrays will be in line with that purpose. And so the words used sometimes symbolise events, rather than mean exactly what they say.
For example, Revelation 20:1-2 says: 1 "Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, having the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. 2 He laid hold of the dragon, that serpent of old, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years".
Do you think that a literal chain could possibly bind Satan? No, he is a spirit person. It is symbolic language, showing that Satan is going to be restrained. Symbolism does not have to be literal. And neither does torment have to be literal.
Many assume, incorrectly, that all the people in the lake of fire are alive, because in their minds, they have to be alive to be tormented. But that is not so.
The Greek word for "torment" in Revelation 20:10, is from the verb basanizo, and it does mean to torture, to torment - among other things.
Matthew 14:22-24 uses the word basanizo to speak of something that was not alive. There, it says: "22 Immediately Jesus made His disciples get into the boat and go before Him to the other side, while He sent the multitudes away. 23 And when He had sent the multitudes away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray. Now when evening came, He was alone there. 24 But the boat was now in the middle of the sea, tossed by the waves, for the wind was contrary."
The word for "tossed" there is from basanizo. It is not speaking of the boat as being conscious of being tortured; it was simply being tossed by the waves, and conscious of nothing.
And remember that Death and Hades were also in the lake of fire (Rev 20:14). Were they also being literally, consciously tortured? You know they were not.
Look at the Greek Septuagint at Ezekiel 3:20, where it says: "And when the righteous turns away from his righteousness, and commits a trespass, and I shall bring punishment before him, he shall die…"
Punishment, here, is translated from the noun form of the verb basanizo. It uses the noun, basanos, to mean punishment, and is most definitely associated here with punishment, and not just torture.
But look at this! Basanos meant a touchstone. A touchstone was used to test the purity of gold, silver and other metals. So the verb, basanizo, can also mean to test by the touchstone. Basanizo (to test by the touchstone) tested the purity. In actual fact, it was an examination.
In the case of the ones being tormented forever and ever - remember, it was future passive, and therefore being done by someone else - it was, symbolically, an examination by someone to test the quality of those who are dead in the lake of fire, the second death. They have paid the fixed penalty. What is being addressed here is an examination, to show what was necessary to remove sin forever, so that the end result would be for them never, ever, to sin again.
"That is all very well. But what about Matthew 25, where it tells us about the separating of the sheep from the goats?"
What about it? What everyone is looking at is Matthew 25:46, where it says: "And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."
That is the same punishment as the eternal torment or punishment in Revelation. A different Greek word, but having the same result: the correction of the offender. However, in Matthew 25:46, the terminology is more specific.
The word for "punishment," there, is from kolasis. And kolasis actually conveys the idea of punishment for the correction of the offender. If it is punishment for the correction of the offender, that means that the wickedness in the person is what is being addressed, and not the taking of the life of that person. Death can not correct anyone. It is the input of new knowledge and understanding when they are resurrected that will change them. They all need to be refined, by someone else, which is part of a fuller picture of grace. God is doing them the greatest favour anyone could ever do for them: the fullness of His grace is His ability to make sure that everyone takes hold of His free gift of eternal life, and all the benefits that He has to give them. Universal Salvation.
John 1:29 says: "…Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!" What is being removed is sin, not people. Jesus is Saviour of the world. That means that He is going to rescue everyone. God's will is that all will be saved.
So, now, we have people who had to die a second time because of their own sin - a fixed penalty - who, upon their second death, will be symbolically examined to see what is necessary to have their impurities removed, to bring them up to God standard; and in so doing, to totally and utterly remove their sinful nature, forever and ever.
That is a job for Jesus. That is what He came for.
Malachi 3: 2,3 says of Jesus: "2 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 launderers' soap. 3 He will sit as a refiner and a purifier of silver…"
The word "refiner" here is speaking of the process whereby impurities are removed.
Just look what it says at Revelation 21:5: "Then He who sat on the throne said, 'Behold, I make all things new…' "
"All things" has to include all in the lake of fire, or second death, otherwise He would have no right to say that. What He should have said, if the ones in the lake of fire are not going to have a resurrection and a new nature, is: "Behold, I am making some things new…" But He did not say that. He specifically said: "I am making all things new." The Greek word for "new" is kainos, and it means new in quality. Having examined all in the lake of fire, Jesus will remove all their impurities: represented, symbolically, as cleansing by fire.
All in the lake of fire are, symbolically, seasoned with fire. Mark 9:49 says: "For everyone will be seasoned (future passive: by the hands of someone else) with fire…" The Greek word for "seasoned" there, is halisthesetai from the verb halidzo, meaning to salt, or to sprinkle with salt. Salt, in the Bible, represents freedom from corruption, and has a preserving influence. The Bible also associates salt with purifying properties. Look what God's prophet, Elisha, did with salt:
2 Kings 2: 19-21: "19 Then the men of the city said to Elisha, 'Please notice, the situation of this city is pleasant, as my lord sees; but the water is bad and the ground barren.' 20 And he said, 'Bring me a new bowl, and put salt in it.' So they brought it to him. 21 Then he went out to the source of the water, and cast in the salt there, and said, 'Thus says the Lord, "I have healed this water; from it there shall be no more death or barrenness." ' "
The people who are resurrected from the lake of fire will have been symbolically seasoned, or salted, with fire, and will have been healed of their impurities, and made new in quality. With them will be no more death, and therefore, no more sin.
The Song of Solomon 8:6,7 says this: "6 Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm; For love is as strong as death, Jealousy as cruel as the grave; Its (love's) flames are flames of fire, A most vehement flame. 7 Many waters cannot quench love…"
Love's flames cannot be quenched, because love never fails.
The lake of fire symbolically represents the cleansing flames of God's love, and the guarantee, that as long as those unquenchable flames burn, nothing impure can ever come upon the earth again. It does not represent eternal torture, but eternal love.
So the purposes represented symbolically by the lake of fire are:
- Some will have to die a second time. The lake of fire represents their second death.
- Since no one can sin again, it represents the removal of all impurities: they can never sin again, when resurrected.
- It represents the cleansing flames of God's eternal love.
God knew the ending from the beginning, because, as hard as some people find it to believe, He planned it.
For Universal Salvation, 'all you need is love'.
So when is the separating of the sheep from the goats? And what is the great white throne judgement? Be sure to read "The Lake of Fire Part Three."
Next article: The Lake of Fire Part Three