Is Hell Eternal?
Or Will God's Plan Fail
By Charles Pridgeon
Chapter Eleven: The Lake of Fire and Brimstone
There are only three chapters in the Bible that distinctly mention “the Lake of Fire and Brimstone.” They are Rev. 19, 20, and 21. In order to have them clearly before us we will quote each passage:
Rev. 19:20, “And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone.”
Rev. 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 the ages of the ages” (literal).
Rev. 20:13-15, “And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hades delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.”
Rev. 21:8, "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."
The Lake of Fire and Brimstone signifies a fire burning with brimstone; the word “brimstone” or sulfur defines the character of the fire.
The word theion translated “brimstone” is exactly the same word theion which means “divine.” Sulfur was sacred to the deity among the ancient Greeks; and was used to fumigate, to purify, and to cleanse and to consecrate to the deity; for this purpose they burned it in their incense. In Homer's Iliad (16:228) one is spoken of as purifying a goblet with fire and brimstone. The verb derived from theion is theioo, which means to hallow, to make divine, or to dedicate to a god. (See Liddell and Scott Greek-English Lexicon, 1897 Edition.)
To any Greek, or to any trained in the Greek language, a “lake of fire and brimstone” would mean a “lake of divine purification.” The idea of judgment need not be excluded (see Chapter on The Judgments of God). Divine purification and divine consecration are the plain meaning in ancient Greek. In the ordinary explanation, this fundamental meaning of the word is entirely left out, and nothing but eternal torment is associated with it.
“The Lake of Fire” does not appear in Scripture until the introduction to the Millennium, altho many theologians send the wicked there now. Satan is not there yet. There is not a single Scripture that teaches that Satan is confined either in Hades or in the Lake of Fire now. He is not utterly cast out of the heavenlies yet, and many of his angels and demons still have access there (Eph. 6:12). He and they are to be cast down at the time of the Great Tribulation (Rev. 12:9,10). The demons that possest the Gardarene 's swine prayed that they might not be cast into the abyss (Luke 8:31, literal). They evidently were not yet confined there.
Toward the end of the age called the Millennium, Satan and his helpers are to be cast into the Lake of Fire and Brimstone and tormented there “day and night” for the rest of the millennial Age. (This Age, as we have shown, probably lasts far longer than the thousand years. The saints reign one thousand years.) Satan also will be tormented in the next age which is the great final age. We have seen in the Chapter on The Ages, that these two ages comprise “the ages of the ages.”
The word “torment” needs study. In the New Testament the same word is used of one “sick of the palsy, grievously tormented (Matt. 8:6). It is used of the disciples' ship in Galilee, and is translated “tossed with waves” (Matt. 14:24). It is translated by the word “toiling” in Mark 6:48. It is translated by the word “vexed'” in speaking of Lot (2Pet. 2:8). It is translated by a word that means “birth-pains” (Rev. 12:2). In the other Scriptures it is translated by the word “torment” or “tormented.” The original idea of the verb is “to put to the test by rubbing on a touchstone.” Then it means “to question by applying some test or torture to discover whether true or not.” The original idea was to test some metal that looked like gold to find whether it was real or not. It also signifies “to torture in order to extort a confession.” The meaning and usage of this word harmonizes with the idea of divine purification and the torment which is the test to find whether there has been any change or not in the sufferer. Through the hidden, loving purpose of God, every pang of torment will be a birth pang; and the grace of God will not be absent--and as He says, “Behold, I am making all things new” (literal). He will leave no spot in the whole universe unrenewed. “Every knee shall bow and every tongue . . . confess” (Phil. 2:10,11, literal). The ages of the ages come to an end. “Then cometh the end” (1Cor. 15:24-28). Time ceases and eternity begins. There will be no ''day and night'' in eternity. The suffering lasts only while there is “day and night” (Rev. 20:10).
There is another phrase that may throw further light upon this great theme and that is “the second death,” “in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”
The Second Death implies that there must be a first death. The first death is what is usually called a physical death. The second death that a Christian has to endure is the death of the self-life (Gal. 2:20; Rom. 6:6). To be a real overcomer we must trust the Lord that our self-life was “crucified with Christ.” Only those who have had this second death wrought in them will “not be hurt of the second death” (Rev. 2:11). Practically all those who are condemned to the Lake of Fire have endured the first death; but the self-life has been untouched or so hardened as to have kept them, up to that time, from yielding to the grace of Christ.
In the cross of Christ there was provision for the first death (Col. 2:20), “Dead with Christ from the rudiments (or elements) of the world.” Also Gal. 6:14, “The cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, whereby the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.” Besides this elemental death, there is a spiritual death of self that has to be wrought. This is all provided for in the cross of Christ. Man fell at least into two conditions or stages, and in his redemption he has to retrace these two stages, to return to the plane upon which he was originally created. The cross of Christ will deliver from both the first and the second death.
Sin develops till it slays the Son of man. In slaying Him, it reaches its fulness of iniquity, the crime of the universe. Sin always aims to kill the Christ, the Life and Light, and in the death of Christ it attained its object; but by so doing, it potentially slew itself, for by death Christ conquered him who had the power of death, even the devil (Heb. 2:14). So then the death of Christ slew death. “For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil” (1John 3:8). “The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death” (1Cor. 15:26). Then there will be a universe without death; then there will be no first death nor second death; then all things will have been made new; then the Son will hand over a finished work to the Father.
This world is especially concerned with the forces of good and the forces of evil, and is the seed plot of the universe. It was the place where our Lord was born and died, where He is to come again and reap the fruits of His victory on the Cross. This world has been the theater for the heading up of evil and its final overthrow, so, not only is this world the seed plot, but also the greatest battlefield in the universe.
We do not know the location of the Lake of Fire but it might be on this earth; if it is to be here, Babylon and its region would be the most likely quarter. The smoke of Babylon ascends for the ages of the ages and also the smoke of the Lake of Fire. Rev. 19:3, “And her (Babylon) smoke rose up for the ages of the ages” (literal). Rev. 14:11,” The smoke of their torment ascendeth for the ages of the ages” (literal).
Isa. 34:9,10 indicates that the land of the Lord's enemies will become lands burning with fire and brimstone. The whole description harmonizes with the judgments on Babylon, for this same Babylon has been the center of defection from God from the earliest times. In Rev. 9:14, the voice from the golden altar bids the angel “Loose the four angels which are bound in (or at) the great river Euphrates.” Rev. 16:12-14 tells of a vial of wrath poured upon the great river Euphrates, and evil spirits were released. This place of the special detention of evil angels and evil spirits might be a location of sufficient spiritual manifestation to punish and purify spiritual beings. “And he cried mightily with a strong voice, saying, Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird” (Rev. 18:2). It will also have enough of natural location and characteristics for the beast and the false prophet to be cast into it “alive” (Rev. 19:20). Wherever it is, even this place will yield to the renewing work of Him who makes “all things new” (Rev. 21:5; Acts 3:21; Rom. 8:19-21). The divine purification will be complete. Those confined in the Lake of Fire are not saved by their suffering, but plowed and harrowed by it, or punished and judged till willing for all of Christ and none of self.
Christ becomes “all and in all,” that God “may be all in all.”
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