Judgment and the lake of Fire

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The Creation Concept

The Great Light

Is Gehenna a symbol of hell?

Gehenna in the Old Testament

Gehenna in the New Testament

Gehenna in Prophecy

Jesus is the Light of the World

Sheol in Jonah 2:2

Gehenna and the Gospel

What is our promised "rest"?

Metaphors of the judgment

Eternal Torment?

Gehenna in J.A. Alexander's Matthew Commentary

Is the soul immortal? Edward White's "Life in Christ"

Winchester's Dialogues

Hanson's Aiõn-aiõnios

In the table below, several shared elements are identified, in the prophecies of Daniel 12, Matthew 24, Revelation 7, and Revelation 20. These prophecies all appear to describe, in part, various aspects of the end time judgment, that prophecy shows occurs when Christ comes.

Dan. 12 Matt. 24 Rev. 7 Rev. 20
Michael, Son of man, Christ
Yes Yes Yes Yes
Global scope Yes Yes Yes Yes
Sorting Yes Yes Yes Yes
End time Yes Yes
Great tribulation Yes Yes Yes
Saints delivered Yes Yes

Dead raised Yes

Book of life Yes

Unique Yes Yes

A of D revealed Yes Yes

Salvation results
Yes Yes
Yes Yes

Many interpret the "lake of fire" of Revelation 20 as a literal lake, and a literal fire; however, the expression is best understood as a metaphor. John usually incorporates prophecies from the Old Testament in his prophecies, in the book of Revelation, rather than introduce totally new concepts. But they are often modified, and combined with other prophecies.

The idea of a "lake of fire" is seen to combine two ideas, both of which are figures in the Old Testament. The word of God is called a "fire," [Jeremiah 5:14; 23:29] and Isaiah used the idea of waters filling the sea, to express the idea of the knowledge of God becoming widely disseminated in the earth. Isaiah wrote, "the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea." [Isaiah 11:9]

When viewed figuratively, the prophecy of the lake of fire in Revelation 20 is seen to correspond in several ways with other prophecies that refer to the future judgment, as illustrated by the table above. The prophecy of Daniel 12 refers to a time of trouble, when people would be raised up from their graves.

Daniel 12:1-4
1 And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people: and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book.
2 And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.
3 And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the sun; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever.
4 But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased.

Verse 3 is changed slightly above, to agree with Matt. 13:43, "Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father," where Jesus may have quoted from Daniel. 

The time of trouble mentioned in Daniel 12:1 is unique, and it fits the description Jesus gave in Matt. 24:21.

The time Daniel spoke of is also a time of resurrection, and deliverance for those whose names are "written in the book." In Revelation 20:15, it is those whose names are not written in the book of life who are cast into the "lake of fire."

If the "lake of fire" in Revelation 20 and the great tribulation in chapter 7 are separate events, the question arises, which is worse, the "lake of fire," or the "great tribulation?" And another question is, which comes first? Is it the great tribulation, or the lake of fire?

Consider also the warnings about "Gehenna" which were mentioned by Jesus. There are 12 references to Gehenna in the NT.

Gehenna was a valley in the southern part of Jerusalem. It was where the refuse of the city was burnt up.

In the New Testament, the idea of being cast into Gehenna is associated with being rejected as unfit for the kingdom of God. Christians are encouraged to watch, and pray, and seek entry to the kingdom at all costs, even if involves the loss of an eye or a limb.

Gehenna represents the judgment; to miss out on the resurrection of the saints, implies one has to look forward to the judgment, which the New Testament depicts in terms of shame, where a Christian is involved; there will be "weeping and gnashing of teeth."

But the judgment is not the same for everyone. From those who were given much, much is required. Jesus said the people of Sodom, and Nineveh, will have a more tolerable time in the judgment, than those Jews who saw the miracles and signs he had performed, yet did not believe the gospel.

Christians who miss out on the resurrection, and who are rejects from the kingdom, will likely be in a position similar to those Jews.

The warnings in the Matthew 24 about the great tribulation, may refer to the judgment, and so would be intended for those called to follow Christ, and become sons in the kingdom of God. In the time of Jesus, many of the publicans and sinners who heard the gospel preached repented, while many of the religious folk did not. Similarly, many of the Gentiles accepted the gospel, while many of the Jews rejected it. Jesus said, "the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light." [Luke 16:8] And, "While ye have light, believe in the light, that ye may be the children of light." [John 12:36] There was a reason for these statements, as events turned out.

Matthew 8:11-13
And I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven.
But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Gentiles came into the kingdom, as a result of the preaching of the apostles, but Jews missed out. This was not forever, though, as Paul said, in Romans 11:32, "For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all."

The Jews who did not believe, are "concluded in unbelief" so that God can be merciful to them in the judgment. Those who are enlightened by the gospel need to respond in an appropriate way, or risk God's judgment. I think this is what lies behind Christ's warning.

Matthew 18:8-9 (Young's Literal Translation)
'And if thy hand or thy foot doth cause thee to stumble, cut them off and cast from thee; it is good for thee to enter into the life lame or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet, to be cast to the fire the age-during. And if thine eye doth cause thee to stumble, pluck it out and cast from thee; it is good for thee one-eyed to enter into the life, rather than having two eyes to be cast to the gehenna of the fire.'

Gehenna is associated with fire, which suggests that it corresponds to the "lake of fire." It represents the destiny of those who miss out on the kingdom, who were called to be part of it, but were counted unworthy.

This may be what Paul refers to, when he spoke of those who build on the foundation of the gospel with "wood, hay, and stubble" rather than with gold, and precious stones.

1 Corinthians 3:10-16
10 According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon.
11 For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.
12 Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble;
13 Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is.
14 If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward.
15 If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.

Again, fire is mentioned. Could this be the "lake of fire"?

Fire is also connected with the two witnesses, which I think represent the Word and the Spirit of God. Those who would hurt them, are to be killed by the fire from their mouth.

Revelation 11:5
And if any man will hurt them, fire proceedeth out of their mouth, and devoureth their enemies: and if any man will hurt them, he must in this manner be killed.

I suggest this "fire from their mouth" refers to the "lake of fire," which is the judgment, when the knowledge of God fills the earth. The carnal human nature is what needs to be killed, just as the saints today are taught to "mortify the deeds of the body."

Romans 8:13
For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.

Colossians 3:5
Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry: For which things' sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience:

When Jesus said, in Luke 21:21, "Then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains," perhaps he meant seek the promises of God, rather than seek to save our own lives. His words must be understood in the light of his words in Luke 17:33:

Luke 17:33
Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it.

Luke 21:21 & 17:33 don't contradict each other; in prophecy, the "mountains of Israel" are metaphors, that represent the promises of God to the saints, and covenants, and prophecies. See Galatians 4:24-25, for example, where Sinai represents the covenant made at Sinai. Similarly, other revelations are represented by the places where they were given. Jesus gave his "sermon on the mount" on one of the mountains of Israel, so the mountains Jesus spoke of, that he said we should flee to, may represent his teachings in the sermon on the mount!

The New Testament depicts the judgment in terms that encourage Christians to avoid it, at all costs! Jesus said, "pray ye that your flight be not in the winter." [Mark 13:18] Fleeing in the winter implies one has missed out on the "harvest" which occurs in the fall; "neither on the sabbath day." The "sabbath day" is the time of God's "rest," which is the eternal inheritance of the saints.

Hebrews 4:11
Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief.

Copyright © 2010 by Douglas E. Cox
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