What view of Revelation 20-22 do you take?
This whole Rob Bell debacle seem to be basically about competing Bible interpretations [Again, still waiting on my copy… so all these posts could be completely off-base.] It’s not even about who interprets the Bible more literally than the other… it’s really about a) which verses you pick to be representative of what the vague terminologies about hell actually mean, and b) as I said in yesterday’s post (perhaps a bit too casually), whether or not you take the images of atonement in the Old and New Testaments and try to blend them all into one singular event, or if you are okay with saying that atonement happened in a variety of ways.
The (b) on this list deserves a more thorough explanation—and since atonement is one of my FAVORITE theological subjects [yes, I am a nerd. And I don’t know nearly as much as I act like I do. I’m a know-it-all nerd. God help me. ] I will have to come back to this later.
As for (a), allow me to offer one example, from the Book of Revelation.
If there is only one view of hell that’s “biblical,” then I guess the image must be that of Revelation 20:10—> where the devil, and beast and the false prophet are all thrown into a lake of fire and sulphur, and tormented day and night for eternity. And sharing in that fate, we should include everyone who does not give the hungry food, give the naked clothes, or visit prisoners, because in Matthew 25:46, Jesus says that these will face “eternal punishment…” which must mean “eternal torment,” based on Revelation 20:10.
REV 20:13 And the sea gave up the dead that were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and all were judged 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 anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.
REV 21:8 But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the polluted, the murderers, the fornicators, the sorcerers, the idolaters, and all liars, their place will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.
So, we’ll be judged according to what we’ve done… and the cowardly, faithless, etc…. [uh oh…] will be thrown into the fire…. and be killed. It’s a “second death,” after being raised from the dead in order to be judged…So, they’re NOT eternally tortured, they’re just destroyed. Okay, got it.
REV 21:24 The nations will walk by (the new City of God’s) light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it.25 Its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there. 26 People will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations. 27 But nothing unclean will enter it, nor anyone who practices abomination or falsehood, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life.
REV 22:12 "See, I am coming soon; my reward is with me, to repay according to everyone’s work. 13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end." 14 Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they will have the right to the tree of life and may enter the city by the gates. 15 Outside are the dogs and sorcerers and fornicators and murderers and idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.
How can all the sinners be outside the city gates…. if they were annihilated?… Not being formally “punished,” but not being allowed inside the gates, which still I can’t imagine would be very pleasant…
But these three images can’t all be literally true.
[But also the “nations” and the “kings of the earth” are brought into the city…. in submission to the King of Kings…. so what does that mean? And out of these passages, only 22:14 mentions anything that could mean “faith in Christ” is what “gets us into” the new city… but even that passage emphasizes “works,” and all the judgment passages seem to emphasize “works” over “faith” quite emphatically! But that can’t be…. right? Arrrgh! ]
Look at the words of Jesus (and the meaning of the word “hell”), and you run into similar difficulties.
The point seems to be…. nothing broken/no one who commits wrongs against God or others will enter the new city, that ALL people will be held to account for their lives, and that Jesus is the Judge.
Beyond this, do we even NEED to know or speculate? (Or condemn differing opinions?)
Um….. can I at least wear clothes at the Judgment?
(Btw, acc. to Matthew 25, shouldn’t the people on the left panel be handing clothes to the people on the right? Just thinking out loud, here….)