The Rich Man and Lazarus

“There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day:  And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores, And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame. But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented. And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence. Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father’s house: For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment. Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent. And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.” – Luke 16:19-31

The above passages from the sixteenth chapter of Luke are cited as a sufficient case for rejecting two doctrines, namely the annihilation of the wicked and the sleep of the dead. These statements are taken to support the concept of the immortality of the soul, and therefore brought forth as proof along with an array of stock arguments to suggest that those who hold to contrary doctrines are nothing short of heretics. Therefore any further investigation into the matter of death or final punishments is effectively stifled, or so it would seem.

Many have been silenced by the above cited verses, shrinking at opposition thus encountered from those who cling to traditional views. Yet no one stops to ask much needed questions. If these statements of holy writ are indeed to be taken as though they support the traditional view of hell, does this then mean that the Bible contradicts itself? Do we as Christians run around with a contradictory Bible, which teaches one point and then turns around and teaches the opposite?

The prudent would admonish one to think on this matter carefully. In the book of 1st Timothy, we find passages which present glaring contradictions to the way in which the above statements from Christ have been interpreted. The passages read, “That thou keep this commandment without spot, unrebukeable, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ: which in his times he shall shew, who is the blessed and only potentate, the King of kings and Lord of Lords; who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see: to whom be honour and power everlasting. Amen.” – 1 Timothy 6:14-16

These verses from 1st Timothy are clear. Reading all of the surrounding details, it should be apparent that only God/Jesus is immortal. The words “Who only hath immortality” could not be a more straight forward declaration. With such clarity, the conclusion is inescapable. If only God is immortal, than obviously no part of man is immortal, which means that man does not possess some kind of immortal soul which separates from the body at death. This is what is required in order for a man to receive rewards or punishments immediately upon dying, or to be whisked away to some kind of conscious intermediate state. If man does not possess an immortal soul, then any of the previously listed states in death are impossibilities. In addition, the lack of an immortal soul means that one could not burn in the fires of hell for any length of time without being killed.

Thus a contradiction exists between 1 Timothy 6:14-16 and these statements of Christ. Further complicating the matter are Christ’s own teachings found elsewhere in the gospels. From the fifth chapter of John we find the following, “Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.” – John 5:28-29.

These passages from John present a problem for the literal interpretation of the above words of Christ. The words “in the graves” present glaring contradictions for this kind of thinking. How is it that anyone could be ‘in the graves’ if they are in either heaven or hell, or some kind of vat for the supposedly conscious dead? Some might attempt to get around this by simply contending that these statements only reference the body, but this would be nothing short of eisegesis. The lack of references to the body present in these passages make any attempt to read the word “bodies” into the verse a clear case of twisting the scriptures. By placing everyone who has died unanimously in the graves, Christ’s words clearly reference the entire man, and cannot be applied to the body alone.

Those who believe that rewards are given at death are immediately confronted with the problem of resurrection. John 5:28-29 clearly gives two resurrections, one of life and the other of death. The titles attached to each indicate their purpose. Yet these would be made obsolete by the idea that when a man dies, he is whisked away to receive his rewards or punishments. It is nothing short of confusion to imagine the soul sent to hell, only to be placed back in the body, so that both soul and body can be raised up, only to be burned some more. Those who hold to this type of a position would do well to re-examine the foundations for their beliefs, while others who think the soul goes to a conscious intermediate state had better ask themselves why Jesus described anyone as being in the graves.

Yet there is one story in the book of John that complicates the matter further. Many Christians are perhaps familiar with the story of the resurrection of Lazarus, found in the eleventh chapter of John. The verses which most stand out in view of the words of Christ in Luke 16 read, “These things said he: and after that he saith unto them, Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep. Then said his disciples, Lord, if he sleep, he shall do well. Howbeit Jesus spake of his death: but they thought that he had spoken of taking of rest in sleep. Then said Jesus said unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead.” – John 11:11-14.

In these verses, Jesus seems to cryptically state that Lazarus is asleep. The confused disciples responded by saying that “he shall do well”, in view of the fact that if he slept he would merely awaken and be fine. However, scripture is very clear that Jesus was mentioning Lazarus’ death. These passages generate the obvious inescapable conclusion that Jesus is here referring to death as a sleep. But why is it exactly that Jesus is doing this? For the simple fact that there is no consciousness in death, otherwise sleep would not be a fitting statement to attach to it. This would explain the expressions of Solomon in Ecclesiastes 9:5-6, where he clearly stated “the dead know not anything.”

These facts create serious problems for the literal interpretation of the Rich man and Lazarus. One of the largest is the name of the individual involved. Many Christians contend that the words of Christ in Luke 16 are to be read as a literal history. If this is indeed the case, than we are to believe that Lazarus both slept in his grave and went into the bosom of Abraham. Yet this cannot be possible, as the word “sleep” suggests unconsciousness. A lack of consciousness eliminates the idea that the ‘soul’ is to be immediately transported anywhere upon death, as the whole man sleeps until the resurrection. This fact can be made much more clear by comparing John 11:11-14 with John 5:28-29.

Due to the fact that these passages from the eleventh chapter of John strike directly at the heart of tradition, many might attempt to get around these verses. Some might go so far as to suggest that no consciousness in death is a heresy, and that the word “sleep” as used by not only Jesus himself but by the apostle Paul [1 Thessalonians 4:13-18] references the body alone. If one really contemplates such an idea, it becomes clear just how ridiculous the assertion sounds. Jesus clearly used the words, “Our friend Lazarus sleepeth” before he said “Lazarus is dead.” Why did he not say, “Lazarus is in Abraham’s Bosom” or “Lazarus has gone to heaven” or perhaps even “His soul has gone to heaven, while his body sleeps..”? If we are to believe that the body sleeps while the soul goes somewhere else, would these not be more fitting statements? The fact of the matter is the words, “Our friend Lazarus sleepeth” clearly is a reference to the entire man.

Even the concept of sleep itself creates problems for the literal interpretation of Christ’s words in Luke 16. Near the very beginning of the story, there are three passages that I would like to especially focus in on. They read, “And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue, for I am tormented in this flame.” – Luke 16:22-24.

To begin, these verses have “consciousness” written all over them. This is evident by the fact that the rich man is described as lifting up his eyes and crying out to “Father Abraham.” Than if this part of the sixteenth chapter of Luke is to be read literally, a contradiction is created between the passages of Luke 16:22-24 and John 11:11-14, both of which contain the words of Christ. Unconsciousness in death would obviously eliminate any possibility of being able to cry out to any one, there being any torment for the rich man to experience when he died, or there being any ability to ‘lift up his eyes’. Yet Jesus clearly stated that death was to be compared to a sleep [which is unconsciousness], and then seemingly turned around and told a story in which a man was consciously transported to hell when he died.

The question therefore remains, does the Bible contradict itself? It is an unfortunate reality that such would cause Atheists to exult and exclaim that we as Christians have been lied to, and that we are foolish for believing in the scriptures. Therefore these contradictions must be resolved. In the very beginning of these statements from the sixteenth chapter of Luke, we find a certain recurring phrase that appears elsewhere in the gospels, usually in connection with parables. Two such examples may be seen below.

“And he said, A certain man had two sons: and the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his living. And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living. And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want.” – Luke 15:11-16

“Hear another parable: There was a certain householder, which planted a vineyard, and hedged it round about, and digged a winepress in it, and built a tower, and let it out to husbandmen, and went into a far country:” – Matthew 21:33

The phrase “there was a certain” or “a certain man” is used by Christ frequently in connection with parables. As shown by the above examples, scripture sometimes directly identifies the parable and sometimes does not. Note that Christ used an obviously fictitious narrative in the fifteenth chapter of Luke as a teaching point. He describes a son, who takes his father’s goods into a far country and wastes “his substance with riotous living.” Most Christians recognize this as the parable of the prodigal son. We find a similar phrase occurring again in Matthew 21, this time connected with a clear statement that he is about to speak a parable.

Does this mean that since Jesus did not directly identify the prodigal son story as a parable, it must be read as literal history? Any Christian spoken to recognizes these descriptions given in Luke 15 as a parable, and will more than likely not take it as a literal history. Indeed, if we are to believe the story given is always literal merely because a clear statement that it is a parable is missing than perhaps we should believe that trees talk. One need only look in the ninth chapter of Judges to verify this fact. “And when they told it to Jotham, he went and stood in the top of mount Gerizim, and lifted up his voice, and cried, and said unto them, Hearken unto me, ye men of Shechem, that God may hearken unto you. The trees went forth on a time to anoint a king over them; and they said unto the olive tree, Reign thou over us.” – Judges 9:7-9

Christians recognize Jotham to be speaking a fable, which is also a fictitious narrative. Yet there are no clear indicators of this fact before he begins to speak. It is only evident from an obviously fictitious element present in the story, such as the concept of talking trees. Therefore the fact that a clear statement of “this is a parable” missing from the text before, after, or during the story does not necessarily mean it is to be taken as literal history. Yet quite a few Christians still mistakenly treat the story of the Rich man and Lazarus this way, thereby wresting it in support of tradition.

The phrase “there was a certain rich man” indicates that the story of the rich man and Lazarus is a parable. This is demonstrated by the fact that Jesus used similar statements and phrases in connection with fictitious narratives in various locations in the gospels. For more evidence that this story is not to be taken literally, one need only look to the obvious fictitious elements present in the story. The story furnishes us with details such as the Rich man calling out to ‘Father Abraham’ and a request for water to cool the Rich man’s tongue. If one was ablaze in fiery torment, a drop of water for your tongue wouldn’t be very helpful. Additionally, what would be the use in calling out to ‘Father Abraham’? What authority does Abraham have to really do anything? It is obvious that there wouldn’t be much good done in calling out to him.

Even beyond this, Abraham and the Rich Man are described as talking to each other. This conjures the horrific thought that while the saved are in heaven, the lost are burned in full-view of the saved. They are apparently even capable of hearing the shrieks and cries of the lost as they burn throughout all eternity. Yet if that were the case, how would the promise of Revelation 21:4 find it’s fulfillment? [“And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.” – Revelation 21:4] Enjoying the abodes of heaven is an impossibility with the thought of your suffering friends and loved ones ever before you, much less having to hear it on a day-to-day basis. Unless one holds to the inhumane sadistic conclusion that the saved will find the suffering of the lost “most entertaining” [hint: this position is not found anywhere in the Bible], these facts cannot be observed as anything other than an obvious fictional element.

These fictional elements, taken together with the obvious contradictions, indicate strongly that this story from the sixteenth chapter of Luke is just a parable. As such, interpreting these passages as a literal history is nothing short of a fallacy, if not eisegesis. Worse yet, the literal interpretation of the story creates a paradox between the literal resurrection of Lazarus and the story told by Christ in Luke 16, namely that one was resurrected and the other clearly was not. Therefore how could this parable be taken as literal history? One must think on this carefully, as the word “Lazarus” standing alone does not leave much room for differentiating between characters, if the story is to be read literally. This means that were this a literal history, it would be impossible to take it as referencing anyone other than the Lazarus mentioned in John 11:11-14, therefore creating the paradox of “Was he resurrected…or not?” [See Luke 16:28-31.]

The sheer weight of the contradictions and paradoxes crushes any possibility of basing one’s conclusions of the afterlife on this parable alone. It therefore cannot be taken to be teaching about final punishment, man’s state in death, or some kind of post-death vat for the conscious dead. Others who have sought to answer this and other stock arguments have expounded upon the true meaning of the parable. As for us, we would counsel students of the word who have held to traditional viewpoints to avoid building doctrines off of one or a few obscure verses. It is prudent to line up every single passage on the subject in question, in order to help avoid errors and misunderstanding and to gain a clearer picture on the subject.

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Forever – An Answer to Revelation 14:9-11, 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.” – Revelation 20:10

“And the third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, if any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and 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: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name.” – Revelation 14:9-11

For ever…

These texts are said to support the idea that this is exactly how long the wicked will burn. It is also claimed from these passages of scripture that this is the duration of the flames. The flames supposedly last for ever and the victims of the lake of fire are claimed to burn for just as long. On the surface, these passages seem to support the traditional view. They outright use the words “for ever,” seem to be talking about the lake of fire in both cases, and at least one of them seems to reference the punishment of the wicked while the other is more directly targeting the devil.

With that in view, it is usually at this point that an exultant believer in eternal hell fire exclaims “See! I told you so!” Peter once issued a warning, speaking specifically about the difficulties of understanding scripture. He said, “As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things: in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.” – 2 Peter 3:16. The passage directly above verse sixteen mentions Paul [“even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you” – 2 Peter 3:15], a fact which makes this a direct reference to his writings specifically.

Targeting Paul’s writings, Peter warned of things present in them which were difficult to understand. He stated that they could be easily wrested from their true meaning, and used to give a message which they did not originally convey. Although Paul’s writings are the primary target, a point worth noting is that Peter specifically mentioned the rest of scripture in this passage. He says, “as they do also the other scriptures” making the statement that people twist the Bible all the way across the board. It is perhaps therefore logical to conclude that this passage is applicable to the rest of scripture as well.

At this point, I want to direct your mind to focus specifically on the statement “hard to be understood.” Anyone who has attempted to study the Bible should be able to recognize that you can find scriptures which fit this description everywhere from Genesis to Revelation. The book of Revelation is especially filled with passages which can be described as “hard to be understood”, to the point where many claim that they cannot understand Revelation. In view of this fact, these passages here would obviously fall under this category. This would logically make 2 Peter 3:16 applicable to this case.

Dear friends, we should be careful not to wrest these passages to our own destruction. We should not conclude that they support traditional thinking without thorough investigation. Previously examined passages, such as Malachi 4:1-3, would seem to create a contradiction between all mentioned verses. Do we as Christians run around with a contradictory Bible? Many have been skeptical of Christianity because of the claim that the Bible contradicts itself. Perhaps for the sake of defending the validity of the Bible, we owe it to ourselves to investigate these matters thoroughly before jumping to conclusions.

A fact often overlooked in regards to both of these passages is their deep symbolic nature. Revelation 20:10 mentions the “Beast and the false prophet.” Revelation 14:9-11 mention the “beast and his image.” If we’re going to take this passage literally, than we need to imagine for a moment that the lake of fire currently has a monstrous beast and some false prophet sizzling in the flames. Perhaps while we are at it we should take Revelation 17:3-4 as though CNN will cover a story about a woman riding a seven-headed beast at the end of time. Friends, this is not how we properly interpret symbolic texts.

What does a beast represent in Bible prophecy? In the book of Daniel, we find the answer to this question. “Thus he said, the fourth beast shall be the fourth kingdom upon earth, which shall be diverse from all kingdoms, and shall devour the whole earth, and shall tread it down, and break it in pieces.” – Daniel 7:23. A beast is therefore a kingdom in Bible prophecy. Are we to believe that an entire kingdom will be burning in the lake of fire throughout all eternity, structures included? My friends, I hope that you are starting to see the foolishness of interpreting symbolic passages literally.

Perhaps we might do well to ask ourselves, what of the primary individual whom the text targets? In order for some one to burn for ever, their existence needs to be perpetuated. Either they need to already be naturally immortal or immortality needs to be granted to them some how. Searching the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, you will not find one text which even remotely suggests that the devil will be granted eternal life. That would be a fairly ridiculous thought, and a heresy in the extreme.

The next question we must therefore ask is, does the devil have an immortal nature? In the book of 1st Timothy we find the following passages, “That thou keep this commandment without spot, unrebukeable, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ: Which in his times he shall shew, who is the blessed and only potentate, the king of kings, and Lord of Lords; Who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see: to whom be honor and power everlasting. Amen” – 1 Timothy 6:15-16.

The fact is that the devil is not immortal. According to this passage, he can be destroyed and he is incapable of living for ever. Only Christ is immortal, and it is therefore impossible for the devil to literally ‘burn for ever’. Since we have already seen that there is no tree of life in the lake of fire, which is the only means that anyone can be perpetuated in order to have eternal life, than it should be clear that the term “for ever” is not to be understood in this sense to mean “through out all eternity” as we might look at it in our limited human understanding.

The term “for ever” in the Scriptures is found in connection with a variety of things which have an end. One such example is found in the book of Jonah. The first passage reads, “I went down to the bottoms of the mountains; the earth with her bars was about me for ever: yet hast thou brought up my life from corruption, O Lord my God.” – Jonah 2:6. In the second passage we find the following, “Now the Lord had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.” – Jonah 1:17

It would be rather strange to interpret the term “for ever” as used in Jonah 2:6 to mean that Jonah was in the belly of the whale throughout all eternity, when the Scriptures are clear that he was only there for three days and three nights. We may best define the term “for ever” in the biblical sense as simply referencing a period of time, limited or unlimited. It is essentially a type of Hebrew poetic language meaning “until it is over.” We find this concept all over the Old Testament and the Bible. In the book of Deuteronomy there is the following passage of Scripture, “An Amorite or a Moabite shall not enter into the congregation of the Lord; even to their tenth generation shall they not enter into the congregation of the Lord for ever” – Deuteronomy 23:3.

In this particular case, “for ever” was defined clearly as being “ten generations.” This is another case in which the term “for ever” was connected to something found to have an end in the Scriptures. Still more striking is what we find in the book of Exodus. For a moment, you should perhaps consider the feasts of the Old Testament sacrificial system. For the most part, the Christian world today does not recognize or keep them. This is simply because most of us recognize that these were done away with, a fact which I will not here dwell upon at this time.

“And ye shall observe the feast of unleavened bread; for in this selfsame day have I brought your armies out of the land of Egypt: therefore shall ye observe this day in your generations by an ordinance for ever.” – Exodus 12:17. Those who would interpret the term “for ever” in the Bible to always mean “throughout all eternity” would do well to check the foundations for their thinking, especially in view of the fact that this term is clearly connected to something which we learn from later Scriptures was done away with [Colossians 2:14-17]. Interpreting the term “for ever” to mean “throughout all eternity” in this particular sense would not be a sound principle of Bible study, as you would not be comparing one passage with another and therefore ignoring what the rest of the Bible says.

The same mistake has quite obviously been made with Revelation 20:10 and 14:9-11, as many have discarded clearer texts such as Malachi 4:1-3 and 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9 in favor of the term “for ever.” Or they have ignored terms like “death” and “perish” all throughout the bible [John 3:16, Romans 6:23] in favor of the phrase “for ever”, completely neglecting to compare scripture with scripture and basing whole doctrines off one or a few verses.

Beyond the meaning of the term “for ever”, we find other passages in the Bible which speak about the ultimate fate of the adversary of souls. In the book of Ezekiel there is a section which speaks about the enemy. It reads, “Thou hast been in Eden the Garden of God; every precious stone was thy covering, the sardius, topaz, and the diamond, the beryl, the onyx, and the jasper, the sapphire, the emerald, and the carbuncle, and gold: the workmanship of thy tabrets and of thy pipes was prepared in thee in the day that thou wast created. Thou art the anointed cherub that covereth; and I have set thee so: thou wast upon the holy mountain of God: thou hast walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire. Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created, till iniquity was found in thee. By the multitude of thy merchandise they have filled the midst of thee with violence, and thou hast sinned; therefore I will cast thee as profane out of the mountain of God: and I will destroy thee, O covering cherub, from the midst of the stones of fire. Thine heart was lifted up because of thy beauty, thou hast corrupted thy wisdom by reason of thy brightness: I will cast thee to the ground, I will lay thee before kings, that they may behold thee. Thou hast defiled thy sanctuaries by the multitude of thine iniquities, by the iniquity of thy trafick; therefore will I bring forth a fire from the midst of thee, it shall devour thee, and I will bring thee to ashes upon the earth in the sight of all them that behold thee.” – Ezekiel 28:13-18

There are many identifying marks in these six passages proving that they are really targeting the devil. The first is the phrase “Eden the garden of God.” Very few people were in the garden of Eden. Adam & Eve, Satan, and God are all that the Bible records as having been there. The fact that these passages use the term “Cherub” multiple times indicates that this is really talking about an angelic being of some kind. Verse twelve uses the phrase “Thus saith the Lord” indicating who is doing the talking [Ezekiel 28:12]. These facts are sufficient to eliminate Adam & Eve and God, leaving only Satan left by process of elimination.

Other identifying marks include the fact that this being is described as having its heart “lifted up.” This is a clear statement of pride. In fact, the language used here is identical to that which is used in the book of Isaiah to speak of Lucifer. The verses read, “For thou has said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the North: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most host high.” – Isaiah 14:13-14.

What is the fate of the individual described in these passages? The eighteenth verse states “therefore will I bring forth a fire from the midst of thee, it shall devour thee, and I will bring thee to ashes upon the earth in the sight of all them that behold thee.” Terms such as “ashes” and “devour” paint an obvious picture of complete destruction. Just a few passages prior the word “destroy” is used. Since there are clear connections to the devil in Ezekiel twenty-eight, and terms painting a picture of complete destruction are used, it should be clear that the ultimate fate of the devil is destruction and not eternal conscious torment. The adversary of souls, who is not immortal, will eventually be destroyed according to Scripture.

In an effort to get around this fact and support tradition, some have attempted to prove that this is not talking about the devil by citing verse twelve. Their argument is essentially that this verse places the context of the passage around the king of Tyrus, and therefore this cannot be talking about the devil. The entire passage reads, “Son of man, take up a lamentation upon the king of Tyrus and say unto him, Thus saith the Lord God: Thou sealest up the sum, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty.” – Ezekiel 28:12.

We acknowledge that this passage does in fact reference the king of Tyrus, and that he is in fact the target of Ezekiel 28:12-18. However, this is a phenomenon which is often found in prophecies in the Old Testament. Places, cities, and individuals are used as symbols of future events or other persons. Examples of this fact can be found in Jeremiah 4:23-26 [description of the earth after the second coming], and Isaiah 13:1-17 [where we find obvious end times descriptions such as “For the stars of heaven and the constellations thereof shall not give their light: the sun shall be darkened in his going forth, and the moon shall not cause her light to shine.” – Isaiah 13:10]

This fact should also be made evident by terms such as “Anointed Cherub” and “Eden the garden of God.” A cherub is obviously an angelic being, completely eliminating any possibility that this can only be a reference to an earthly king. The clear reference to the garden of Eden, a place where no earthly king has ever been, is a fact which also destroys any possibility that these passages only refer to the king of Tyrus. This case also bears similarities to when Jesus rebuked Peter, saying “Get thee behind me Satan” [Mark 8:33]. Was Jesus talking to Peter or Satan? He was obviously addressing both, because the spirit behind the man was under rebuke. The evidence should be clear that the case is here is similar.

What of Revelation 14:9-11? One might think that the rising of smoke for ever and ever is clear. The mind may picture fires that never go out due to the apparent perpetually rising smoke, yet mental pictures should be set aside in favor of the facts. The symbolic nature of this passage previously dwelt upon should remind us that this passage is not to be taken literally. The imagery used of the “smoke of their torment rising for ever” is a symbol as well. It borrows heavily from old testament imagery.

In the nineteenth chapter of Revelation, we find a similar symbol used to describe the end of the whore of Babylon. “And after these things I heard a great voice of much people in heaven, saying, Alleuia; Salvation, and glory, and honour, and power, unto the Lord our God: For true and righteous are his judgments: for he hath judged the great whore, which did corrupt the earth with her fornication, and hath avenged the blood of her servants at her hand. And again they said, Alleuia. And her smoke rose up for ever and ever.” – Revelation 19:1-3.

Clearly these passages from Revelation 19 must be telling us that smoke will be literally coming off of the great whore for ever. The redeemed will be in heaven witnessing a smoking whore riding a beast, just sort of sizzling. This simply must be what these passages are teaching. In all reality, I hope that you might once again see the fallacy of taking symbolic texts far too literally. Going that route would require us to believe that there will be a literal dragon with wings that breathes fire trying to devour a pregnant woman standing on the moon with stars on her head [see Revelation 12]. Perhaps this is also something CNN will cover a story on as we get closer to the end of time.

To my knowledge, the book of Revelation uses this symbol twice. Once in the fourteenth chapter and again in the nineteenth. So we are then left with the question, “just where does this symbol come from and what does it mean?” In the book of Isaiah we find similar language used to describe the destruction of Idumea. Below are the passages which show us these facts.

“For my sword shall be bathed in heaven: behold, it shall come down upon Idumea, and upon the people of my curse, to judgment.” – Isaiah 34:5 [Context]

“For it is the day of the Lord’s vengeance, and the year of recompenses for the controversy of Zion. And the streams thereof shall be turned to pitch, and the dust thereof into brimstone, and the land thereof shall become burning pitch. It shall not be quenched night nor day; the smoke thereof shall go up for ever: from generation to generation it shall lie waste; none shall pass through it for ever and ever.” – Isaiah 34:8-10

“But the cormorant and the bittern shall posses it; the owl also and the raven shall dwell in it: and he shall stretch out upon it the line of confusion, and the stones of emptiness. They shall call the nobles thereof to the kingdom, but none shall be there, and all her princes shall be nothing. And the thorns shall come up in her palaces, nettles and brambles in the fortresses thereof: and it shall be a habitation of dragons and a court for owls.” – Isaiah 34:11-13

In the tenth verse of Isaiah thirty-four, we find the words “the smoke thereof shall go up for ever”. The language here used is similar to that which is found in the nineteenth and fourteenth chapters of Revelation and is therefore the exact same symbol. The language which immediately follows is that of complete destruction. We find words used such as “from generation to generation it shall lie waste” immediately followed by descriptions of emptiness and fortresses becoming dwelling places for animals. Even though the smoke was said to “go up for ever” and flames were said not to be “quenched night nor day”, the flames therefore went out. We might therefore conclude that the rising of the smoke is completely symbolic in nature, and does not mean that the flames are perpetually active. In this case, it seems to be a symbol designating complete destruction.

This same symbol is clearly used in the fourteenth chapter of Revelation. We may therefore go so far as to state that these passages symbolize complete destruction and not eternal conscious torment as many claim. To further illustrate this fact, we need only ask the question “will the flames eventually go out?” In 2 Peter we find some passages that shed light on this subject.

“But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.” – 2 Peter 3:7

“But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.” – 2 Peter 3:10

“Seeing then that all these things shall be disolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and goodness. Looking for and hasting the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.” – 2 Peter 3:11-13

The first passage uses phrases such as “kept in store” and “reserved” to reference the “heavens and the earth”, stating that they are “reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.” The term “against” clearly connects the fate of the wicked with the destruction of the earth by fire. No one would deny the fact that the punishment of the wicked is here referenced in this passage from 2 Peter, as terms such as “day of judgment” and “perdition of ungodly men” are used. In view of this fact, it is logical to conclude that the punishment of the wicked will take place on the earth at the end of time.

In 2 Peter 3:10, we find an expansion of the information given in 2 Peter 3:7. The verse states, “the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.” Terms like “heat” and “burned up” display the obvious presence of fire in this passage, connecting the verse back to 2 Peter 3:7 which stated that the Earth was “reserved unto fire.” The phrase “burned up” implies that the earth will be completely consumed in the fire, and nothing will be left. It is also logical to conclude that everything on it will be destroyed with it, ungodly inhabitants who are being punished included. This is a fact which is confirmed by other passages of scripture [Malachi 4:1-3].

The language used just a few verses down in 2 Peter 3:11-13 not only expand on this, but hammer the last nail in the coffin of the “eternally burning hell.” Peter starts out by saying “Seeing that all these things shall be dissolved”, a statement which is a clear reference to his early language in 3:10 and 3:7. He then goes on to reference the earth melting with fervent heat. The thirteenth verse sticks out the most out of the three. It states, “Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.” – 2 Peter 3:13.

Given the order in which Peter mentions events, starting first with the destruction of the earth by fire, and then moving into the creation of the new earth, it is logical to conclude that the flames will eventually go out. If the earth is to be burned up, and then eventually made new, how is it to continue burning with its ungodly inhabitants throughout all eternity? Such a thought does not make any sense given the facts. It would make even less sense to suggest that the wicked will be still burning somewhere on the new earth. It is therefore impossible for Revelation 14:9-11 to be suggesting that the lake of fire will burn for ever.

Revelation 14:9-11 and Revelation 20:10 do not prove the doctrine of eternal conscious torment any more than Matthew 5:30 proves Jesus to be commanding us to literally chop our hands off. Such would of course be a foolish thought in the extreme that any thinking Christian in the right mind would question and condemn as error. These verses prove nothing and have been perverted to support a false theory which has invaded the Christian Church thousands of years ago.

Everlasting Destruction

Hell…

Never has a word in the English language generated so powerful an emotional reaction. Disturbing images grip the imagination as the mind grasps the full implications of the word. Perhaps one might picture a place of fire and torment, where the dammed suffer throughout all eternity. The mind conjures up images of flames of fire engulfing the shrieking lost, and demonic entities tormenting and torturing as though it were an activity of leisure. The thought crosses the mind of people dying one minute, and the next waking up in fire to be tormented without end.

While these images fill the mind, what is said of such a place is all the more disturbing. There are many who claim that Hell is a place where those who do not love or serve the monarch of the galaxies go to be tormented forever. We are told and expected to believe that Hell is the realm of the suffering dammed, where those who have died without our precious savior in their lives are now suffering in a lake of fire. The report has circulated that at an undisclosed location in the universe the lost are now in torment, and will be there throughout all eternity.

Dear friends, have you ever burned your hand on a hot stove? Dare I say that you might be feeling the agony of your mistake for a time? Now let us imagine that pain on a much grander scale, and toss eternity into the mix. Never ending pain and suffering is the product of our analysis. Spellbound by the horror of such a thought, one can only clench their fists as questions in regards to the character of our redeemer fill the mind. What is it that a man can do that would warrant such punishment? One cannot help but question the justice of never-ending torture as the sheer implications of the concept sink in.

It is perhaps such questions that have lead others to reject the monarch of the galaxies totally. Unable to resolve apparent philosophical flaws in such teachings, many have rejected the very idea of our Lord’s existence and have stormed away from him in anger. With every sense of justice offended, they are left with no other option. Than it is clear that the stereotypical concept of Hell has lead many to atheism, severely hindered the advancement of our Lord’s work, and provided those skeptical of the Bible with more than enough ammunition for criticism.

I am therefore lead to inquire, who is your God? As stated before, this subject matter deals very heavily with the character of our Father in Heaven. We do well to remember that we tread on holy ground. It has been said, “And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love, dwelleth in God, and God in him.” – 1 John 4:16. Supposing that the stereotypical teachings in regards to the punishment of the wicked are not the truth, than it is clear that rather serious railings upon our Lord have been accepted as fact by the masses.

The obvious inconsistencies between the above passage of scripture and what appear to be the traditional teachings of Christianity display these facts to us. Yet, supposing such traditions have a strong foundation in God’s word we find ourselves in a position where we have no right to question this teaching. We are therefore left with the question, why investigate the matter at all? It perhaps seems sound to reason that since it has been the traditional teaching of Christianity for as long as many can remember, and so many have believed it than it must be correct.

In all reality, popularity and tradition are not proof of the truthfulness of doctrine. In addition, the length of time in which a particular teaching has been believed does not attach biblical accuracy to it either. History is filled with the testimony of men who have discovered the traditional doctrines of the established Church to be false and have no foundation in the word of God, and who were then placed in the peculiar position of having to stand up for the truth. We are told plainly by the testimony of scripture, “To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.” – Isaiah 8:20. In the face of such a warning from scripture, we should not be afraid to place the matter to honest investigation, especially if the teaching in question is only a tradition of men.

Jesus made a very interesting statement in the book of John. He said, “Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.” – John 5:28-28. These passages present some rather serious questions for us. Why is it that there are any in the graves? After all, is it not the truth that as soon as some one dies they will be instantly transported to either heaven or hell? Were this the case, the thought certainly crosses the mind that a resurrection is a rather pointless exercise. It is an obvious logical flaw and point of sheer confusion to imagine oneself sent down to hell at death, only so that you can be brought back up into your body to be taken back down to Hell again.

In light of this fact, it should be very clear to us that no one is in Hell at this moment. My dear friends, it is my hope that this revelation is a source of relief to you. There are many who have been tormented day and night with the thought that their unsaved loved ones are suffering in Hell, yet these passages clearly teach us that this is not the case. At this point in time all reside in their graves, awaiting resurrection. Yet even beyond this, we find obvious inconsistencies between the traditions of men and the word of God. Is it therefore logical to conclude that if scripture has provided us with such a massive contradiction to what is commonly taught, than we are dealing with nothing more than a false theory?

With the evidence tending toward such deductions, we may therefore press our inquiry without fear. What else than may be found in the scriptures to further validate what we have discovered? Consider the parable of the wheat and the tares, the interpretation of which reads: “The enemy that sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels. As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world. The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.” – Matthew 13:39-42.

What is the ultimate fate of those who are cast into this ‘furnace of fire’? Further to the point, do these passages refer to the punishment of the wicked in general or are they only in reference to the fate of the tares? Supposing that these passages are in reference to the general punishment of the wicked, than that would logically place that event at the end of the world in connection with the second coming of Jesus Christ. Theoretically, this chronology of events would present serious problems for the traditional viewpoint of the punishment of the wicked. Pieced together with the fact that the dead reside in their graves, the idea of Hell as a place of torment beneath your feet or at some undisclosed location that burns for eternity starts to vanish.

Paul once said of this very event, “And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power;” – 2 Thessalonians 2:7-9. As you wrap your mind around these facts, compare the above passages with that of Matthew 13:39-42. Are not the messages of the two sets of passages undeniably identical? Than we may logically come to the conclusion that those who are cast in the furnace of fire at the end of this world are “punished with everlasting destruction.”

It is therefore clear that those who were cast into the furnace of fire were completely destroyed. The term “destruction” places this fact on display. The obvious literal meaning of this term shows us the true fate of the wicked. Those who obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ will, at the time this world comes to its end, face complete destruction for all eternity. There will be no resurrection for them, and there will be no second chances. The fate of the wicked is an eternal death from which there is no return.

Even in the face of such evidence, it can be tempting to cling to traditional thinking. Many have brushed aside the exposure of plain contradictions between the sayings of men and the words of scripture, claiming that the conclusion that the wicked are destroyed is based off of one bible verse alone. They say, “you are basing your conclusions off of just that!” At this point, people then brush the truth aside and cling tenaciously to tradition.

If this is indeed not the case, than one should be able to produce more evidence from the scriptures with ease. What other passages of scripture may be found conveying a similar message? The book of Malachi contains a fascinating description of the fate of the wicked. In the third chapter of Malachi, we also find a question which has perhaps baffled many even in our day. Why is that God has allowed good things to happen to bad people?

“Your words have been stout against me, saith the Lord. Yet ye say, what have we spoken so much against thee? Ye have said, It is vain to serve God: and what profit is it that we have kept his ordinance, and that we have walked mournfully before the Lord of hosts? And now we call the proud happy; yea, they that work wickedness are set up, yea, they that tempt God are delivered.” – Malachi 3:13-15

“Then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another: and the Lord hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon his name. And they shal be mine, saith the Lord of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels; and I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him. Then shall ye return, and discern between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth God and him that serveth him not.” – Malachi 3:16-18

These passages from the book of Malachi establish the context of what is to be found in the fourth chapter of Malachi. They clearly determine the subject matter presented between these two chapters. A question is asked in the third chapter, and that is clearly  a question of “why does God allow good things to happen to bad people?” Language such as “they that tempt God are delivered”, “And now we call the proud happy”, and “they that work wickedness are set up” make this fact apparent to us. The question is also asked as to what the point in serving the Lord is, when all of this takes place.

The response that immediately follows is filled with salvation language. We read, “And they shall be mine, saith the Lord of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels.” The obvious promise here is that something positive will eventually happen to the righteous, we do not follow the Lord in vain while the wicked prosper. All of this and what follows is an obvious response to the questions asked in these texts.

In the fourth chapter of Malachi we read, “For, behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the Lord of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch.” – Malachi 4:1

“And ye shall tread down the wicked; for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet in the day that I shall do this, saith the Lord of hosts.” – Malachi 4:3

The language here used indicates complete destruction. When Malachi 4:1 says “the day that cometh shall burn them up”, the obvious conclusion is that the wicked shall be consumed. The fact that the wicked “shall be stubble” is further evidence of this fact. The word “stubble” in Hebrew means “straw” as shown below. No one would argue against the fact that straw is material which burns rapidly when lit ablaze to the point in which it is utterly consumed. The fact that the scriptures use this kind of a picture makes it very clear and plain that the wicked are to be destroyed.

H7179
קַשׁ
qash
kash
From H7197; straw (as dry): – stubble.

As if this evidence were not enough, Malachi 4:3 expands on the information already given. We are given the description that the wicked “shall be ashes under the soles of your feet.” This imagery indicates that there is to be nothing left of the wicked, that they are to be completely consumed by the flames.

We find this concept again in the book of Job. In the twentieth chapter we read, “Therefore do my thoughts cause me to answer, and for this I make haste. I have heard the check of my reproach, and the spirit of my understanding causeth me to answer. Knowest thou not this of old, since man was placed upon earth, That the triumphing of the wicked is short, and the joy of the hypocrite but for a moment? Though his excellency mount up to the heavens, and his head reach unto the clouds; yet he shall perish for ever like his own dung: they which have seen him shall say, Where is he? He shall fly away as a dream, and shall not be found: yea, he shall be chased away as a vision of the night.” – Job 20:2-8

A close examination of this language further confirms what we have discovered. The question here found in Job appears to be addressing a similar problem to that found in Malachi. It reads, “Knowest thou not this of old, since man was placed upon earth, That the triumphing of the wicked is short, and the joy of the hypocrite but for a moment?” The target in question here is the wicked, and their apparent triumph and prosperity here on this earth. But this is stated to be “short” alongside the joy of the hypocrite being defined as “but for a moment.”

The very next thing mentioned is they “perish for ever.” To suggest that the term “perish” in this text means anything other than what it says on the surface is dishonesty and foolishness, and an attempt to twist scripture in an effort to support traditional thinking. The word perish suggests “death”, and is found linked with “for ever” indicating that the wicked are to be destroyed permanently. The poetic language that follows hammers this point in further, stating “they which have seen him shall say, Where is he?” The implication here is that the wicked have been thoroughly destroyed to the point where nothing is left. They are therefore completely consumed.

Knowing that John 5:28-29 speaks of a resurrection of damnation in which the wicked are to rise to meet their doom, it should be obvious to us that this text cannot be applied to the first death here on earth but must rather be applied to the ultimate fate of the wicked. In spite of the fact that these passages do not reference the word “hell” and do not mention fire, this application should be made clear to us by the questions presented and their apparent response. This application is also made undeniably clear to us by words such as “perish for ever”, eliminating the possibility of this referencing anything other than this application.

Even beyond all of this, there is something often overlooked by many. Many read over the plainest statements of scripture without the slightest thought that they contradict traditional thinking. In the book of Genesis, we find in the third chapter a description of something powerful.

“And the Lord God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever: Therefore the Lord God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken. So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.” – Genesis 3:22-24

In the beginning, man had access to something called the “tree of life.” As long as he ate from this tree, he had access to eternal life. Man was enabled to have immortality. This was the only way that men could be immortal. The passages above make this fact clear to us. They demonstrate that the entire purpose of kicking mankind out of the garden of Eden was so that he would not have access to this tree and he would not be able to live for ever.  This is a fact which sets up a standard. God showed that he would not immortalize sin or sinners.

The question should then be asked, is there a tree of life in the lake of fire? If the tree of life is the only way that men may be enabled to have immortality, than there would logically need to be a tree present in the lake of fire in order to keep those who were burning alive permanently. Without this, the inhabitants of the flames would inevitably burn up.

“Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city. For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie.” – Revelation 22:14-15

“In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielder her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.” – Revelation 22:2

“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.” – Revelation 21:8

A comparison of Revelation 21:8 with 22:15 displays to us the position of the lake of fire. Revelation 21:8 mentions “whoremongers”, “murderers”, “sorcerers”, “idolaters”, and “liars”. These same sins are pointed out as causing an individual to be outside the city in Revelation 22:15. This would logically connect the two passages, since they are talking about the same subject matter. Revelation 21:8 mentions that these people will be burned in the lake of fire, while simultaneously being defined as being outside the city, therefore positioning the lake of fire outside the city.

With that being the case, note the location of the tree of life. Revelation 22:14 states that the righteous will have access to the tree of life, and be able to enter the city. Revelation 22:2 states that the tree is located in the “midst of the street of it.” Revelation 21:1-2 provide the context, since there has been no change in subject from those passages up to this point.  Both texts read, “And I saw a new heaven, and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. And I John saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.” – Revelation 21:1-2.

The “midst of the street of it” is therefore an obvious reference to the New Jerusalem, placing the tree of life in the middle of the city. With the tree of life in the middle of the city, and those who are lost described as being outside of it, than we can therefore conclude that there is no tree of life in the lake of fire. One might spend the rest of their life searching through the different scriptures which speak of the fate of the wicked and not find one single statement describing a “tree of life” in the lake of fire. With this fact before us, it is therefore impossible for the wicked to burn for ever, since there are no means present to sustain them throughout eternity.

But what of terms in the scriptures such as “everlasting fire” and “everlasting punishment”? Or what about when the Bible says the fire “shall not be quenched”? Doesn’t the scriptures use the phrase “for ever” to describe how long the wicked burn? What about the rich man and Lazarus? The use of the phrase “for ever” in the Bible is a complex issue, which will have it’s own article. The Rich man and Lazarus is something we will also examine separately. However, we will examine the rest of these terms here. There are perfectly logical answers to all of these questions.

The term “everlasting fire” is found twice in the new testament.

“Wherefore if thy hand or thy foot offend thee, cut them off, and cast them from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life halt or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet to be cast into everlasting fire.” – Matthew 18:8

“Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.” – Matthew 25:41

It would seem that these terms are clear, and that they simply must support traditional thinking. However, an important principle when studying the scriptures is that we must allow the bible to explain itself rather than jumping to conclusions. We find an answer for these terms in three passages of scripture.

“Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.” – Jude 1:7

“And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrha  into ashes condemned them with an overthrow, making them an ensample unto those that after should live ungodly;” – 2 Peter 2:6

“But the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all.” – Luke 17:29

Jude 7 states that the inhabitants of Sodom & Gomorrha were to “suffer the vengeance of eternal fire.” Obvious questions are raised as to whether or not Sodom & Gomorrha are burning today. You would be hard pressed to locate the smoke of their cities still rising. Perhaps this is something which CNN will soon do a story on? Or maybe it is more likely to appear on Fox News? These two cities are clearly not burning today, yet they are described as “suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.”

In 2 Peter, we find an identical passage where Peter states that these two cities are an example for those who live an ungodly life. Jude 7 uses the same language. Therefore we may conclude that whatever happened to these cities will be the same fate of the wicked. Peter then states that they were turned into “ashes”, a fact which provides a parallel to Malachi 4:3. However, the book of Luke finishes everything off with a statement from Jesus saying that “fire and brimstone rained from heaven, and destroyed them all.”

It is an undeniable fact that terms such as “everlasting” and “eternal” carry virtually the same meaning. This is a fact that only he who is grasping at straws would argue against. We may therefore connect Jude 1:7 with the statements from Matthew which use the phrase “everlasting fire.” The chain of evidence provided by the three passages above make the meaning of the term “everlasting fire” plain to us.

Everlasting fire is fire which destroys, the effects of which are everlasting. This should be clear to us given the fact that these two cities are defined as being destroyed by “eternal fire”, and that they are not burning today. It should be therefore obvious to us that terms such as “Everlasting fire” do not hold the meaning they appear to on the surface, and that they are wrested to support traditional thinking.

We can see this kind of thing happening again with the phrase “the fire is not quenched.” In the book of Mark we read, “And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched: Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.” – Mark 9:43-44

These passages are misinterpreted by many. The phrase “worm dieth not” is misread as though this is some how referencing an undying soul, which will never die in the flames as it is tortured. The phrase “the fire is not quenched” is interpreted to mean that the flames therefore go on for ever. Is this the proper way to interpret this passage?

We find the following curse in the book of Jeremiah, “But if ye will not hearken unto me to hallow the sabbath day, and not to bear a burden, even entering in at the gates of Jerusalem on the sabbath day; then will I kindle a fire in the gates thereof, and it shall devour the palaces of the Jerusalem, and it shall not be quenched.” – Jeremiah 17:27. Were Israel to not do as it was told, the punishment to be inflicted on it was a fire which “shall not be quenched.” Does this mean that Jerusalem was to be on fire throughout all eternity? Is Jerusalem on fire today?

“And they burnt the house of God, and brake down the wall of Jerusalem, and burnt all the palaces thereof with fire, and destroyed all the goodly vessels thereof. And them that had escaped from the sword carried he away to Babylon; where they were servants to him and his sons until the reign of the kingdom of Persia: To fulfil the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah, until the land had enjoyed her sabbaths: for as long as she lay desolate she kept sabbath, to fulfil threescore and ten years.” – 2 Chronicles 36:19-21

The description here given in 2 Chronicles indicates that Jerusalem was completely destroyed. Jerusalem was burnt to the ground and the inhabitants of it were carried away captive. It is obvious that Jerusalem is not on fire today. This would be a very ridiculous suggestion that nobody would attempt to defend. In view of that fact, we can see the phrase “fire shall not be quenched” in connection with a fire which eventually went out. It is therefore logical to conclude that this phrase merely means that the fire cannot be put out, and not necessarily that it goes on for ever.

As for the phrase “worm dieth not” in Isaiah we read the following, “And they shall go forth, and look upon the carcasses of the men that have transgressed against me: for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched; and they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh.” – Isaiah 66:24. The language here used is identical to that which appears in Mark. In fact, we might go so far as to say that Jesus, who had a thorough knowledge of the scriptures, was likely quoting from this text. We must point out that while the worm doesn’t die, the individual it belongs to is a carcass. We are more than likely dealing with worms feasting on carcasses rather than some kind of undying soul.

What of the phrase “everlasting punishment?” In the book of Matthew we read, “And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.” – Matthew 25:46. It is at this point that a believer in eternal conscious torment will exult, saying “See! I told you! The punishment is everlasting!” What exactly then is the punishment in this passage defined as?

“In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power;” – 2 Thessalonians 1:8-9. In response to this question, we present some previously examined texts. Note that in verse 9 when it says “Who shall be punished” this must logically be a reference to those who “obey not the gospel” mentioned previously, and that this sentence in of itself speaks of their ultimate fate while the verse before hand targets their fate at the second coming of Christ.

This statement found here in 2 Thessalonians defines their punishment as “everlasting destruction.” It is to be compared with the passage found in Matthew in order to obtain a proper definition of exactly what the “everlasting punishment” mentioned is. The everlasting punishment mentioned in that passage from the book of Matthew is “Everlasting destruction”, a death from which there is no return, and not eternal conscious torment in fire.

The wicked are to be destroyed for ever. They will not return to cause further problems for God or the righteous. The universe will be purged from sin by fire. The fate of the wicked is Everlasting destruction, not torment for ever in fire.