THE SMOKE OF THEIR TORMENT (revised) Sept 26, 2009 15:45:47 GMT -5
Post by tomdurst on Sept 26, 2009 15:45:47 GMT -5
THE SMOKE OF THEIR TORMENT
By Thomas E. Durst
By Thomas E. Durst
Revelation 14:9-12 (New International Version)
9 A third angel followed them and said in a loud voice: "If anyone worships the beast and his image and receives his mark on the forehead or on the hand, 10 he, too, will drink of the wine of God's fury, which has been poured full strength into the cup of his wrath. He will be tormented with burning sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and of the Lamb. 11 And the smoke of their torment rises for ever and ever. There is no rest day or night for those who worship the beast and his image, or for anyone who receives the mark of his name." 12 This calls for patient endurance on the part of the saints who obey God's commandments and remain faithful to Jesus.
These verses have been used to prove that some people will burn in a very literal hell throughout eternity. Many scholars have pointed out that the expression "for ever and ever" as in the Greek is often used in the sense of "as long as the situation lasts" or "of a limited duration until a particular contingency no longer exists." A literal translation would be "to the ages of the ages." The age of ages” does not refer to an endless duration of time but rather a specific age that serves a specific purpose. That age will end when its purpose is accomplished.
The Greek word "basonos" translated as "torment" should be properly translated as "tested" and is so rendered or something close that in a number of NT verses. So we have a testing process going on here which lasts as long as it needs to. The verse is NOT teaching that people will be tormented throughout eternity. Many articles and whole books have been written on this topic by earnest Bible students.
There was an immediate, historic application for "the beast and its image" at the time John wrote this. It is beyond the scope of this article to go into all of that. However, in a much larger sense, I believe that the beast and his image represent that ego based, self-centered way of thinking and living which is the essence of what is called "sin" in Christian faith. All who engage in the egocentric system in which most of our present world still operates will indeed receive "the mark of the beast" which I believe is self-centered living taking over the life with all of the consequences that results from this. We see this played out everyday if we pay any attention at all to the media that bombards us continually. The power struggles and personal or international wars are endless.
There is indeed no rest day or night and continual suffering for those who live within the system of the world. They suffer forever and ever for as long as they continue to live in bondage to the ego. There is no peace for them. Our God is a consuming fire and only the fire of His unfathomable love can burn out of us the impurities that keep us from experiencing His peace (see Hebrews 12:29). This refining process is "hell" in its purest form. The suffering that we bring upon ourselves is indeed like "hellfire and brimstone." The burning sulphur is used as a symbol of whatever processes are necessary to purify our hearts to be fit for fellowship in the Kingdom of God. A simple concordance study will show how often in scripture fire is used in connection with judgment and purification.
As a case in point, if you talk to a drug addict or alcoholic who has recovered he/she will tell you of the terrible suffering that accompanied the addiction until one day it was decided enough is enough! The person says, "I'm sick and tired of suffering like this and must change." Through God's help and oftentimes with the encouragement of a supportive community committed recovery starts. The reason why 12 Step recovery groups are so effective is that people receive unconditional love to work through their problems instead of having guilt [hellfire and brimstone] heaped upon them. This love provides motivation for change.
Anything in our life that is bringing suffering, such as holding on to the "pleasure" of resentments and refusing to extend forgiveness and love will only be forsaken through the same process of finding more about God's unconditional love and forgiveness and experiencing its awesome power. We have barely scratched the surface of the power of love and forgiveness
Yes, the smoke of their torment will rise forever and ever until repentance and change takes place. We need to realize also that God's purifying fire [hell, wrath] is often very painful. The hell that we inflict upon ourselves by our wrong choices often can't be stopped in a flippant easy way. I wouldn't be prepared to spell in detail just how God's purifying fire works in our lives right now except to say that it is very thorough and surrender is better than prolonging the suffering by being stubborn and resistant. How God works in purifying us and our own choices to stop heaping suffering upon ourselves all fit together is a topic that all of us need to study more. I don't profess to have all the answers but am searching for more light.
In the natural world we usually use fire to bring light or to consume trash that we want to get rid of and when the trash is burned up the fire will go out as there is nothing left to destroy. The same is true with God's cleansing fire which I believe in the ultimate sense is such a revelation of love which is now incomprehensible that it will literally purify the ego-based consciousness out of us forever. There is a revelation of Divine Love yet to come that will "burn the hell" out of us. We will see the futility of the self-centered way and never want to live that way again. Sin will be fully conquered by the blood [life] of the Lamb.
According to verse 12 of the above quoted passage this whole process of purification takes patient endurance and faithfulness. Most of us really struggle with that as we want instant cures from our issues but most of the time it doesn't work that way. The ego, that old devil and Satan, doesn't give up without a huge struggle. This ego is very deeply embedded in our consciousness--far more than we usually realize. So if you're serious about purification in your life fasten your seat belt as there could be a bumpy ride ahead. Trying to avoid this process is to choose a lot of pain and suffering but sooner or later we all must learn anyway. There is no escape--not for anyone. Why delay the inevitable?
2 Corinthians 6:1-2 (New Living Translation)
1 As God’s partners, we beg you not to accept this marvelous gift of God’s kindness and then ignore it. 2 For God says,
“At just the right time, I heard you.
On the day of salvation, I helped you.”
Indeed, the “right time” is now. Today is the day of salvation.
For more thoughts on this topic read IS THERE EVERLASTING PUNISHMENT on the link below:
IS THERE EVERLASTING PUNISHMENT?