Rethinking Hell contributors Joey Dear and William Tanksley join Chris Date for the second of a series of episodes reviewing Hell Under Fire: Modern Scholarship Reinvents Eternal Punishment, edited by Christopher Morgan and Robert Peterson. This second episode in the series reviews the second chapter, “The Old Testament on Hell,” by Daniel Block, and chapter 5, “The Revelation on Hell,” by G. K. Beale. Continue reading “Episode 102: "Hell Under Fire" Under Fire, Part 2: Progressive Revelation of Hell”
Two passages from the vision shown to John on the island of Patmos, as recorded in the book of Revelation, are the “most debated passages in Revelation concerning the nature of the final punishment.”1 In the minds of many traditionalists, however, there is really no debate at all, and the conclusion one must draw from them “is irresistible. Unsaved human beings also will suffer eternal conscious torment.”2 Larry Dixon boldly claims, “There is no exegetical basis whatsoever in  for suggesting that the devil…will be put out of existence at the end of time,”3 and that to simply read the text is to refute annihilationism.4 Robert Morey, with equal boldness, says that “By every rule of hermeneutics and exegesis, the only legitimate interpretation…is the one that clearly sees eternal, conscious torment awaiting the wicked.”5
Early on in the process of rethinking hell, I discovered that the debate over these texts is very real, and that these passages from Revelation are quite compatible with conditionalism. As I studied further, I soon became convinced that these passages are, in fact, stronger support for the final death and destruction of the risen impenitent than they are for their eternal torment. Consequently, in my first two formal debates I included these passages in my opening presentation as part of a positive case for conditional immortality.6 In this new series of articles, I will demonstrate why the book of Revelation serves as compelling evidence for a conditionalist understanding of hell, beginning in this first article with an examination of the nature of John’s vision. Continue reading “Annihilation in Revelation, Part 1: Worth a Thousand Words”
- Gregory K. Beale, “The Revelation on Hell,” Hell Under Fire: Modern Scholarship Reinvents Eternal Punishment, eds. Christopher W. Morgan & Robert A. Peterson (Zondervan, 2004), 112.
- Robert A. Peterson & Edward W. Fudge, Two Views of Hell: A Biblical & Theological Dialogue (Spectrum, 2010), Kindle edition, 107.
- Larry Dixon, The Other Side of the Good News (Christian Focus, 2003), 112.
- Ibid., 113.
- Robert Morey, Death and the Afterlife (Bethany House, 1984), 144.
- My first debate is available for download or streaming in two parts: “Episode 70: Perish in Fire” (part 1) and “Episode 71: Forever the Pain” (part 2). My second debate is available in three: “Episode 88: Death Eternal” (part 1), “Episode 89: God of Wrath” (part 2) and “Episode 90: Christ Died For Us” (part 3).
10 and the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.
The nature of final punishment is a topic which falls under the theological category of eschatology, the study of last things. Also discussed as part of that category is the timing of the fulfillment of certain biblical prophecies, such as the coming of the Son of Man foretold by Jesus in his Olivet discourse, the nature and activity of the beast of Revelation, and so forth. Perhaps constituting the majority view of the church in America today, futurists believe that most of these prophecies will be fulfilled in our future; preterists like me, on the other hand, believe most of these prophecies—but not all of them1—were fulfilled in our past, specifically in the first century surrounding the destruction of the Jerusalem temple in A.D. 70.
As I mentioned in a previous article, there’s a strong argument to be made in favor of conditionalism from the apocalyptic imagery of death and Hades in Revelation . This argument carries force regardless of one’s eschatological position concerning the timing of prophetic events, and I will make that argument in the future here at Rethinking Hell. In the meantime, however, because of my interest in this particular eschatological persuasion, I want to reach out to my fellow preterists and make a bold, provocative and controversial statement: You can’t be a consistent preterist unless you’re also a conditionalist.
- I’m referring to what was historically termed preterism, which has in recent years been unfortunately called “partial” preterism. I am not a hyper- or “full” preterist. For more information, listen to Episode 3 of my friend Dee Dee Warren’s podcast or read her article, “Perfuming the Hog.”
20:1 Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding in his hand the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain. 2 And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, 3 and threw him into the pit, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he might not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were ended. After that he must be released for a little while.
4 Then I saw thrones, and seated on them were those to whom the authority to judge was committed. Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. 5 The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended. This is the first resurrection. 6 Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years.
7 And when the thousand years are ended, Satan will be released from his prison 8 and will come out to deceive the nations that are at the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them for battle; their number is like the sand of the sea. 9 And they marched up over the broad plain of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city, but fire came down from heaven and consumed them, 10 and the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.
11 Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. 12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. 13 And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. 14 Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. 15 And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.