What follows is a response to a dear relative’s request, “please explain these verses” – specifically from this Facebook post:
I want to be as brief as possible – but that’s hard to measure out properly because this issue is very deep – getting us into the very nature and heart of God as He is revealed to us in Christ, who IS the Word of God.
If I had to condense all of what follows into a couple of sentences, they would be:
- “God is Love” (as Love is defined specifically by 1 Cor.13) and
- “God is a consuming fire”.
I do not and cannot believe that when any human being dies that their fate is sealed (where does the Bible clearly define this?) – but I especially cannot believe that God ceases to love them (and how could eternal conscious torment ever be understood as an expression of Love?!).
So – regarding hell – this ultimately means (in my understanding of it) it is a place where the fiery, purifying love of God is experienced as corrective judgment (the word for “punishment” in Matthew 25:46 is from the Greek, “kolasis” – with the root meaning of “pruning”).
Now for my rather long and fuller response….
First – I want to briefly address the passage referenced in the link you shared (Revelation 20) – but then I will spend a lot of time in this post on the larger framework in answering “how we are to approach the issue of ‘eternal’ punishment in hell?”. What is “the sum” of a Biblical perspective on this? (“The sum of thy word is truth” – Psalm 119:160)
So – relevant to the teaching by Les Feldick – THE major issue here is the word “eternity”. Entire books have been written on this one word – but I will only briefly summarize the problem with our “translations”. And herein lies the rub: Rev. Feldick says, “They will be separated from God for all eternity, and then verse 15 makes it as plain as English can make it.” -Revelation 20:15
But wait a minute: what does verse 15 actually say? It says NOTHING about “eternity”: “Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.” Apparently he is echoing back to 20:10, where it says, “and [they] shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever.”
Now let’s look at what the Greek actually says “behind” this passage:
the key word here translated (or interpreted) as “forever” is the Greek word αἰών – or “aión”. And here’s the essential point: the word means “age” (a long period of time) – Strong’s Concordance defines it: “a space of time, an age” – “an age, a cycle (of time), especially of the present age as contrasted with the future age, and of one of a series of ages stretching to infinity.”
Thus a more literal translation (not interpretation) is:
Berean Literal Bible
And the devil, the one deceiving them, was cast into the lake of fire and of sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet also are; and they will be tormented day and night to the ages of the ages.
Literal Standard Version
and the Devil, who is leading them astray, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet [are], and they will be tormented day and night through the ages of the ages.
Weymouth New Testament
and the Devil, who had been leading them astray, was thrown into the Lake of fire and sulphur where the Wild Beast and the false Prophet were, and day and night they will suffer torture until the Ages of the Ages.
Young’s Literal Translation
and the Devil, who is leading them astray, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where are the beast and the false prophet, and they shall be tormented day and night — to the ages of the ages.
What I suspect Rev. Feldick is doing is bringing in his understanding of other texts (especially Matthew 25:46) where a related Greek word is interpreted (NOT translated) as “eternal”. That word is αἰώνιος – or aiónios. It is the word from which we get the English word, “eon”.
This word literally means “age” – NOT “eternity”!
“Usage: age-long, and therefore: practically [!] eternal, unending; partaking of the character of that which lasts for an age, as contrasted with that which is brief and fleeting.”
So – again – a literal (not interpreted) translation is:
Weymouth New Testament
“And these shall go away into the Punishment of the Ages, but the righteous into the Life of the Ages.”
Young’s Literal Translation
And these shall go away to punishment age-during, but the righteous to life age-during.’
The Concordant New Testament
“And these shall be coming away into chastening eonian, yet the just into life eonian.”
It is my deep and firm conviction that this is the most tragic MIS-translation of the Bible in the English language!
Now – lest this become an entire “book” 🙂 – I will refer you to an excellent study on the Greek word (mis-translated “eternity”) and its Biblical usage in Gerry Beauchemin’s excellent book, Hope Beyond Hell.
I cannot stress how important this is if you really want to understand the Biblical answers to the question of “eternal” hell:
I simply challenge you to read from the beginning through to the end of chapter 1…
Here is the link to the FREE PDF of his book:
A couple of other observations about what the book of Revelation teaches us about the end of the ages:
The nations and kings come to the New Jerusalem… and they are those who are most strongly aligned with Satan and the Beast up until this point!
Revelation 21:24 And the nations shall be walking by means of its light, and the kings of the earth are carrying their glory into it. 25 And its portals should under no circumstances be locked by day; for there shall be no night there. 26 And they shall be carrying the glory and the honor of the nations into it
As opposed to only a few being saved – a number beyond counting are found there…
Revelation: 9 After these things I perceived, and lo! a vast throng which no one was able to number, out of every nation and out of the tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lambkin, clothed in white robes and with palm fronds in their hands.
The New Jerusalem’s gates are never shut…
Revelation 21:25, 22:14 “On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. …Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city.” NOTE: The “direction” of this movement is important: while there are those who are on the “outside” – this passage clearly tells us that they can still wash their robes and go through the gates INTO the city to eat of the tree of life!
Finally – Jesus says,
Revelation 21:5 “Behold, I am making ALL THINGS new!”
If you want to dig deeper specifically into the book of Revelation– I recommend Brad Jersak’s book “Her Gates Will Never Be Shut: Hell, Hope, and the New Jerusalem”
(to be continued…)