Vol. 18, No. 20 – May 19, 2019
The Doctrine of the Eternal Lake of Fire / Hell
Throughout His ministry Jesus taught that the lost would depart into eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; an eternal punishment. In other words, they will suffer endless, conscious agony away from the presence of God and His Son.
2 Thes 1:9-10, “These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, 10when He comes to be glorified in His saints on that day, and to be marveled at among all who have believed—for our testimony to you was believed.”
Jesus’ last extended teaching about how the lost would spend eternity came in His description of the sheep-and-goat judgment in Mat 25:31-46, where He made pronouncements of judgment regarding two groups. The pronouncements will come when He returns to earth to initiate His Millennial reign and will deal specifically with the living Jews and Gentiles on earth at that time. He will reach His verdict on the basis of how the two groups have treated believing Israelites during the persecutions of Daniel’s seventieth week, treatments that will reflect whether they have trusted in Him to receive eternal life. The consequences of Jesus’ pronouncements will be happy for believers, but for unbelievers they will be unspeakably horrible. The latter group, the goats, will depart from His presence into unending punishment worse than the suffering one experiences when he has his flesh consumed with fire.
The Lake of Fire is the final destination for both fallen angels and unbelieving mankind. It is both literal and eternal. It was prepared originally for Satan and his angels, Mat 25:41; Rev 20:10.
Mat 25:41, “Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels.”
Yet, unbelievers also go there, and there is no way out, John 3:18, 36; Heb 9:27. Hell is eternal and irreversible, Rev 20:11-15; 21:8.
Heb 9:27, “And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment.”
John 3:36, “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”
Rev 14:11, “The smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever and they have no rest day and night.”
Rev 20:14, “Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire.”
Rev 20:15, “If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.”
The first occupants of the Lake of Fire will be the beast and false prophet of the Tribulation, Rev 19:20. The devil will also join them in the Lake of Fire, Rev 20:10.
After the Great White Throne Judgment of Jesus Christ, all unbelievers of the human race will be there, Rev 20:14. In that process, unbelievers are pulled out of the fire of Hades, judged, and cast into the Lake of Fire, Rev 20:15; 21:8.
In fact, Hell had to be enlarged to accommodate the unbelievers of human history, Isa 5:14a, “Therefore Sheol has enlarged its throat and opened its mouth without measure.”
In a parable, our Lord warns to correct our lives by having faith in Him for salvation, otherwise we will suffer the results of His judgment into the Eternal Lake of Fire, as it is also described as a place, “where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.” Cf. Isa 66:24; Mark 9:43, 48-49.
Isa 66:24, “Then they will go forth and look on the corpses of the men who have transgressed against Me. For their worm will not die and their fire will not be quenched; and they will be an abhorrence to all mankind.”
One difference between fire as known in the present life and eternal fire is that this fire will never run out of fuel and burn out. Jesus described the fire as “unquenchable,” Mark 9:43, as did John the Baptist in our verse and the parallel of Mat 3:12. Jesus said it will be a fire that acts like salt, preserving rather than destroying, when He said, “Everyone will be salted with fire,” Mark 9:49. Its burning will never end. Therefore, this suffering and punishment will be for all of eternity, Mat 25:46; Jude 1:7.
Jude 1:7, “Just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities around them, since they in the same way as these indulged in gross immorality and went after strange flesh, are exhibited as an example in undergoing the punishment of eternal fire.”
Mat 25:46, “These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
Key Facts about Eternity:
1. Everyone will exist eternally either in heaven or hell, Dan 12:2, 3; Mat 25:46; John 5:28; Rev 20:4-5.
2. ln Everyone has only one life in which to determine their destiny, Heb 9:27.
3. Heaven or hell is determined by whether a person believes, puts their trust in Christ alone to save them, John 3:16, 36, etc.
4. Hell is conscious torment forever, Mat 13:49; Mark 9:48; Rev 14:10.
Mat 13:49, “Furnace of fire…weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
Mark 9:48, “Where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.”
Rev 14:10, “He will be tormented with fire and brimstone.”
Erroneous Views of Hell:
1. The second chance view – After death there is still a way to escape hell.
Answer: Heb 9:27, “It is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment.”
2. Universalism – All are eternally saved.
Answer: It denies the truth of salvation through Christ which means that a person decides to either trust in Christ or else he/she rejects Christ and goes to hell, John 3:16; 3:36.
3. Annihilationism – Hell means a person dies like an animal – ceases to exist.
Answer: It denies the resurrection of the unsaved, John 5:28, etc. It denies conscious torment.
John 5:28-29, “Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs shall hear His voice, 29and shall come forth; those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment.”
4. Atheist / Humanist view; There is no such thing as Hell.
5. Buddhist view; Hell is temporary for its inhabitant, life is cyclic. Buddhists do not accept that these places are eternal. It is unreasonable to condemn a man to eternal hell for his human weakness but quite reasonable to give him every chance to develop himself. From the Buddhist point of view, those who go to hell can work themselves upward by making use of the merit that they had acquired previously. There are no locks on the gates of hell. Hell is a temporary place and there is no reason for those beings to suffer there forever. The Buddha’s Teaching says there are heavens and hells not only beyond this world, but in this very world itself.
6. Jehovah’s Witnesses view; They believe people who die pass out of existence, from Psa146:4; Ecc 9:5, 10. They do not suffer in a fiery hell of torment and that God will bring billions back from death by means of a resurrection, Acts 24:15. However, those who refuse to learn God’s ways after being raised to life will be destroyed forever with no hope of a resurrection, Rev 20:14-15. It is a form of annihilationism.
7. Seventh Day Adventist’s view; they believe Hell is not an eternity of suffering and torture. They believe God is just but also merciful and it’s not in the nature of God to torture the unrighteous for eternity. Instead, sinners and unbelievers will ultimately die for eternity. They believe in a variant of annihilationism.
8. Catholicism view; Purgatory, people have a second chance. The Catholic Church holds that “all who die in God’s grace and friendship but still imperfectly purified” undergo this process, which the Church calls purgatory, “so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.” They get this doctrine from the misinterpretation of 1 Cor 3:15 and 1 Peter 1:7, and to the mention by Jesus of forgiveness in the age to come in Mat 12:32.
1 Peter 1:7, “That the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
Many of the erroneous views of today regarding Hell come from the 14th century writings of the Italian Dante Alighieri. In the first part of his writing called Divine Comedy, he writes a story about being in “Inferno,” which is the Italian word for Hell. It is followed by Purgatorio and Paradiso. In Inferno, he tells a story of the journey of Dante through Hell, guided by the ancient Roman poet Virgil. In the poem, Hell is depicted as nine concentric circles of torment located within the Earth; it is the “realm … of those who have rejected spiritual values by yielding to bestial appetites or violence, or by perverting their human intellect to fraud or malice against their fellowmen,” As an allegory, the Divine Comedy represents the journey of the soul toward God, with the Inferno describing the recognition and rejection of sin. The nine circles of torment include:
1. Limbo, for the unbaptized and virtuous pagans, who are punished for eternity in an inferior form of Heaven. They live in a castle with seven gates which symbolize the seven virtues.
2. Lust, where souls are blown about in a violent storm preventing them from finding hope of rest and peace. Strong winds symbolize the restlessness of a person who is led by the desire for fleshly pleasures.
3. Gluttony, for the gluttons who are forced to lie in vile freezing slush produced by never-ending icy rain. The vile slush symbolizes personal degradation of one who overindulges in food, drink, and other worldly pleasures, while the inability to see others lying nearby represents the gluttons’ selfishness and coldness.
4. Greed or Avarice and Prodigality, here are the souls of people who are punished for greed. They are divided into two groups: those who hoarded possessions and those who lavishly spent it, jousting. They use great weights as a weapon, pushing it with their chests which symbolizes their selfish drive for fortune during their lifetime. The miserly and spendthrift push great heavy weights together, crashing them time and time again.
5. Anger or Wrath and Sullenness, where the wrathful fight each other on the surface of the Styx river, while the sullen gurgle beneath it. Again, the punishment reflects the type of the sin committed during their lifetime.
6. Heresy, where the heretics are trapped in flaming tombs.
7. Violence, where the violent against people and property, the suicides, the blasphemers, the sodomites and the usurers reside. It is divided into three rings. The Outer Ring houses murderers and others who were violent to other people and property. In the Middle Ring, the poet sees suicides who have been turned into trees and bushes which are fed upon by harpies. But he also sees here profligates, chased and torn to pieces by dogs. In the Inner Ring are blasphemers and sodomites, residing in a desert of burning sand and burning rain falling from the sky.
8. Fraud, where panderers and seducers, flatterers, sorcerers, false prophets, liars, and thieves are. This circle of Hell is divided into 10 Bolgias or stony ditches with bridges between them. In Bolgia 1, Dante sees panderers and seducer. In Bolgia 2 he finds flatterers. After crossing the bridge to Bolgia 3, he and Virgil see those who are guilty of simony. After crossing another bridge between the ditches to Bolgia 4, they find sorcerers and false prophets. In Bolgia 5 are housed corrupt politicians, in Bolgia 6 are hypocrites and in the remaining 4 ditches, Dante finds hypocrites (Bolgia 7), thieves (Bolgia 7), evil counselors and advisers (Bolgia 8), divisive individuals (Bolgia 9) and various falsifiers such as alchemists, perjurers, and counterfeits (Bolgia 10).
9. Treachery, where betrayers of special relationships are frozen in a lake of ice. It is divided into 4 Rounds according to the seriousness of the sin, although all residents are frozen in an icy lake. Those who committed more severe sin are deeper within the ice.
In addition, Dante assigned various historical figures to each of the circles as examples. Some even Biblical figures like Judas Iscariot.
Degrees of Punishment in Hell:
Though now definition of degrees or levels of punishment in Hell are given to us in Scripture, it does seem to allude to the fact that there will be different degrees of punishment in the Eternal Lake of Fire for the unbeliever. Luke 12:47-48, clarifies that all the unbelievers will not endure the same degree of suffering: “And that slave who knew his master’s will and did not get ready or act in accord with his will, will receive many lashes, 48but the one who did not know it, and committed deeds worthy of a flogging, will receive but few. From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more.”
The measure of a person’s punishment will depend on how much of the Lord’s will a person knew and rejected / disobeyed, but even those knowing the least will face unimaginable anguish that never ends. Incidentally, an annihilationist has no response to the Biblical teaching of degrees of punishment. If the lost are to become obliterated, degrees of nonexistence are impossible.
This doctrine / belief comes from two directions. The first is logical in that since there are different rewards for believers in heaven there must be different levels of punishment for those in Hell. James 1:12, is one of the verses that tells us of different rewards in heaven. And the fact that in Rev 20:11-15, unbeliever’s works are judged, may allude to not only the proof of their unbelief in Jesus, but also to the degree of punishment they will receive in the Lake of Fire. The second direction is from various scriptures that emphasize punishment in Hell, Luke 20:45-47. Notice the last phrase of vs. 47.
Luke 20:45-47, “And while all the people were listening, He said to the disciples, 46“Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and love respectful greetings in the market places, and chief seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets, 47who devour widows’ houses, and for appearance’s sake offer long prayers; these will receive greater condemnation.””
This is also stated in Mat 23:14; Mark 12:40. Greater condemnation is viewed as greater levels of punishment in Hell. This doctrine has few scriptures for comparison, so many commentators skip over it and act like it is not even there. So, there has not been a lot of discussion in theology about this topic.
The Greek word for Condemnation is the word KRIMA that is the basic/root word for “judgment” that also means, “sentence and condemnation.” So, a greater/more extensive judgment is brought against these individuals.
Luke 10:10-16, is another passage that leads to the doctrine of greater judgment. In vs. 14, the word for judgment is KRISIS, which also means, “judgment or a decision made or sentence.” Cf. Heb 10:29-31.
In addition, Judas is said to be in “his own place,” Acts 1:25, which has been interpreted by some as referring to a reserved spot in Hell, and the Pharisees’ converts were said to be “twice the son of Hell” as their mentors, Mat 23:15. Cf. Psa 62:12; Prov 24:12; Jer 17:10; Ezek 18:20, 30.
That there are degrees of punishment in the afterlife is strongly implied in the teachings of Scripture. It is accurate to think of Hell as a place with physical dimensions that can be experienced as a reality.
On the other side of the coin, those who do not believe in different levels of judgment in Hell for the unbeliever view these scriptures as Divine punitive judgment on the individuals while here on earth.
Eph 3:18, “So with many other exhortations he preached the gospel to the people.”
This verse tells us that Luke is not reproducing one of John’s sermons word for word, but rather is giving a sampling of his teachings. No one had recorded John the Baptist’s teachings. Yet, Luke had access to early eyewitnesses who had heard the sermons. He probably had access to many of the actual speakers in the Book of Acts too. So, Luke is saying this was what John was in the habit of doing, preaching, and teaching.
From this we can also see that John the Baptist used the doctrines of the Baptism with Holy Spirit and the Baptism with Fire, plus “many other exhortations,” (PARAKELEO) to “continually preach the gospel” (EUANGELIZO, Imperfect, Middle, Indicative), of Jesus Christ, “to the people,” (LAOS).
To preach the gospel always means to preach the “good news” of God about His plan of and offer for salvation through His Son Jesus Christ. Therefore, preaching about the union with Jesus Christ that believers receive at the moment of salvation through the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, and the judgment of the Eternal Lake of Fire for the unbeliever who rejects Jesus Christ as their Savior, are part of the “good news” / gospel of Jesus Christ.
Next we come to our fifth section:
5. John Preaches Against Herod and Herod’s Retribution Toward John, vs. 19-20.
Here, we see the persecution of John the Baptist by Herod Antipas, who was the “Tetrarch” of the region of Galilee at that time, as we noted in verse 1. In vs. 1, Luke used the Verb TETRARCHEO τετραρχέω, “to be a tetrarch.” Here he uses the noun TETRARCHES τετράρχης. This word is only used for Herod in the NT, here and in Mat 14:1; Luke 9:7; Acts 13:1. Herod Antipas was the Tetrarch of Galilee and Peraea, ca. 4 B.C. – 39 A.D. 39.
Luke 3:19, “But when Herod the tetrarch was reproved by him on account of Herodias, his brother’s wife, and on account of all the wicked things which Herod had done.”
In this verse, we once again see the adulterous and incestuous relationship Herod had with his current wife Herodias, who was previously married to his half-brother Philip, who is also another half-brother of Aristobulus’ daughter, making Herodias Herod’s niece.
Here, we see an important fact that only Luke mentions, that is John also preached against Herod, “was reproved by him,” which uses the Present, Passive, Participle of the Verb ELENCHO ἐλέγχω that means, “refute, convict, or reprove.” In classical Greek, it meant, “to disgrace or to put (someone) to shame.” Secondly, it referred to “cross-examine, question for the purpose of disproving or reproving, to censure, or to accuse.” Also the sense of “to expose” should not be overlooked, because reproof “exposes” sin for examination, John 3:20; Eph 5:11-13.
John 3:20, “For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.”
Nevertheless, although it involves reproof of sin, it has as its goal a restoring or an establishing of a relationship, whether that relationship is between persons or a person and God. John was trying to get Herod, and others, to repent so that they could be entered into union with Jesus Christ through the Baptism with the Spirit and avoid the judgment of the Baptism with Fire.
As we preach and witness, we have the authority as Royal Priests and Royal Ambassadors to reprove and rebuke, in our exhortation. But remember, it does not always necessarily generate success in turning someone away from sin. That is still an issue of their own volition. All we can do is tell them the truth about Christ and about sin, e.g., the Baptism with the Holy Spirit and the Baptism with Fire. This is especially a part of the Pastor/Teachers’ and Deacons’ authority, 1 Tim 5:20; 2 Tim 4:2; Titus 1:9, 13.
1 Tim 5:20, “Those who continue in sin, rebuke in the presence of all, so that the rest also will be fearful of sinning.”
Titus 1:13, “This testimony is true. For this reason reprove them severely so that they may be sound in the faith.”
Vs. 19, also says that John exhorted Herod and others, “on account of all the wicked things Herod had done,” where the word “wicked,” is the Adjective PONEROS πονηρός that means, “painful, serious, grievous, bad, wicked, evil, or depraved.” It was also used to describe the desire to do evil and hurt others; for example, a woman who intended to seduce a man was called a PONERA. When the Article HO is used with it, it becomes a title for Satan, “the Evil One,” 1 John 2:13-14; 5:18-19; cf. Luke 8:12.
Ultimately, John’s call for repentance caused trouble for the corrupt government. The Herods who were naturalized Jews were well-known for their affinity with heathen ethics. Therefore, John called out Herod’s many sins and transgressions, first to get Herod to wake up and repent, and secondly, as an example for the people as to what not to do, by pointing out the differences between Satan’s cosmic kingdom and God’s Heavenly Kingdom that is gained through faith in Jesus Christ.
Luke 3:20, “He added this also to them all, that he locked John up in prison.”
Here we see that Herod compounds his sin. John had spoken the truth to Herod as fearlessly as he did to the Pharisees, tax-gatherers, and soldiers. As a result of John’s reproving and rebuking preaching against Herod, and especially his wife Herodias, Herod “locked him up,” KATAKLEIO, “shut up, lock up, or confine.” It is used only here and in Acts 26:10, regarding Saul’s actions against the early church before his conversion.
“In prison,” is the Preposition EN with the Noun PHULAKE in the Dative Case for, “guarding, a guard, prison, or a watch.” Here, it means putting John in prison, where he was held for about two years, which latter resulted in John’s martyrdom. So, “added this to them all,” includes illegally putting John the Baptist in prison and killing him unjustly.
Luke does not go into detail here about John’s persecution or martyrdom, as Matthew and Mark point out that Herodias was responsible for John’s death in prison, Mat 14:3-12; Mark 6:17-29. Luke does not record John’s death, but alludes to it in Luke 9:7-9.
Josephus states that John was arrested because he was popular with the people and Herod feared what John might tell them to do, (Josephus, Antiquities 18.5.2). Herod has heard about john and his preaching. He wanted to see the strange desert-preacher. We are told he sent for him and he liked to hear John talk. There was something about that earnest man that appealed to the poor, wretched, godless Herod, and he was stirred within. Josephus also noted that John’s imprisonment was in the fortress at Machærus, east of the Dead Sea, which was a combination palace, fortress, and prison near the southern tip of Herod’s territory.
The accounts in Josephus present various motives for Herod as well as an interesting reconstruction of the events. Herod feared John’s power but hesitated to move against him until John verbally attacked him, which Luke records here. Once imprisoned, Herodias forced Herod to execute John. John the Baptist’s imprisonment and illegal execution was also a foreshadow of Jesus’ fate, for this was the fate of all the prophets, Luke 13:33; cf. Luke 4:24; 11:49–51; Acts 7:52.
This is the last we see of John for a while as Luke records that John was imprisoned, then promptly drops him from the story line until Chapter 7, and therefore does not record John’s execution as do Matthew and Mark. Luke also does not explicitly tell us that John was the one who baptized Jesus; although, it is easy to ascertain from this narrative that it would be John who baptized Him. Once John has defined true repentance, prophesied about Jesus, and predicted the coming of the Holy Spirit, the Gospel of Luke views John’s task as essentially complete. The duration of the ministry of John the Baptist is variously estimated at fourteen to eighteen months. Nevertheless, John had faithfully finished his God-given assignment and prepared the people to meet the Messiah, the Son of God.
John gives us a model of persevering faithful witness in several ways.
1. John remains faithful with the gospel itself, vs. 18. He keeps preaching the good news in many ways and fashions.
2. We see his faithfulness no matter the audience, vs. 19. He preached the same gospel to Herod the Tetrarch. He does not bend the message to suit the itching ears of his hearers.
3. We see John’s faithfulness no matter the cost, vs. 20. For preaching the gospel without compromise to Herod, John finds himself locked up in prison, and before long, Herod will have John beheaded, Mat 14:1-2; Mark 6:14-29. Sometimes, our preaching will cost us our freedom or our lives, which may be the only way we make it clear that Jesus is Lord in both our preaching and our pain, that we fear God and not man. This is God’s calling on the Christian life and how the world will know who Jesus is.
4. Herod liked to hear him preach as long as he did not touch the sin of Herod’s own life. There are many people like that. They can enjoy fervent, earnest preaching as long as it is directed to somebody else, but when it comes home to them it is too personal. They do not like it.
5. John could have compromised his message and spared his life, but he was a faithful witness who declared God’s truth without fear or favor.
6. His ministry was a brief one and may have appeared to be a failure, but he fulfilled his work, Acts 13:25 and was pleasing to the Lord, Acts 7:18-35.
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If you would like more information on this subject, you may watch/listen to lesson:
#19-051 & 19-052 & 19-053
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A PERSONAL NOTE FOR YOU
If you have never accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, I am here to tell you that Jesus loves you. He loves you so much that He gave His life for you. God the Father also loves you. He loves you so much that He gave His only Son for you by sending Him to the Cross. At the Cross Jesus died in your place. Taking upon Himself all of your sins and all of my sins. He was judged for our sins and paid the price for our sins. Therefore, our sins will never be held against us.
Right where you are, you now have the opportunity to make the greatest decision in your life. To accept the free gift of salvation and eternal life by truly believing that Jesus Christ died for your sins and was raised on the third day as the proof of the promise of eternal life.
So right now, you can pause and reflect on what Christ has done for you and say to the Father:
“Yes Father, I believe that Your Son, Jesus Christ,
died on the cross for the forgiveness of my sins.”
If you have done that, I welcome you to the eternal Family of God!