LOCATION of the LAKE of FIRE
BY: JONATHAN MITCHELL
The Unveiling (Rev.) presents The Lake of Fire as “the second death,” or, death to “death and the grave (hades)” which are cast into it. I was reviewing Preston Eby’s study on this subject and it was either him or his quoting of Ray Prinzing that either we now take up our cross (execution stake) and follow Him as He immerses us in His Holy Spirit and Fire, or, upon the results of His judging, we will be cast into His Fire. In the end, everybody dies this second death (the death to death; the death to minding the flesh) because everyone is “salted with Fire.“ (Mark 9:49) But those who overcome in union with Him now will not be hurt by this second death — and I suspect that these are the agents who are present with those being tested in the Fire and Deity (Rev. 14:10).
I also noticed that this purging time in Rev. 14 is described right after the description of those who follow the Lamb, and that setting is Mt. Zion. Just as many scenes in the Unveiling (Rev.) are suggestive of the temple, and it is my current view that Babylon is a figure of Jerusalem; it makes me wonder about the setting for “the lake of the Fire and Deity.” Isa. 29 describes Yahweh’s judgment upon Jerusalem as His visiting it “with thunder and earthquake, and great noise with storm and tempest, and the flame of devouring fire.“ (vs. 6)
In Isa. 30:33 the setting is Tophet (Hebrew: altar; this was another name for the valley of Hinnom, which later became Gehenna) and it says “the breath of Yahweh, like a stream (valley or brook) of brimstone (= deity) doth kindle it.” And in Isa. 31:9 we see that it speaks of Yahweh, “whose Fire is in Zion, and His furnace in Jerusalem.” Recall that Heb. 12:22 tells us that we have come to Mount Zion, unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem.
Then in Isa. 33:5 I notice that “He has filled Zion with judgment and righteousness,” which shows the association of the two. And in vs. 11 He says that they “will conceive chaff and bring forth stubble [shades of Obad. 18]: YOUR breath, as fire, shall devour you.” Then vss. 14-15, “… Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? Who among us shall dwell with eonian burnings? He that walks righteously and speaks uprightly…”
Next we see Isa. 34:9-10, “And the streams thereof shall be turned into pitch, and the dust thereof into brimstone (= deity) and the land thereof shall become burning pitch. It shall not be quenched night nor day; the smoke thereof shall go up unto the Age: from generation to generation…” Note that “night and day” are here on earth — as are “generation to generation.”
The following is an excerpt from my comments on Revelation ch. 20:
The second death, which is described in vs. 14 as “the lake of the Fire,” equates to what Jesus referred to in Matt. 25:31-46 as the “age-lasting (or: eonian) fire” that was prepared for the devil and his agents (vs. 41). This we see fulfilled in Rev. 19:20 and 20:10. But we should also recall that in our Matthew passage it is the goats (literally: kids – the immature), those who did not recognize Christ in Jesus’ brothers (family members, vs. 40) when He was hungry, thirsty, a stranger, naked, sick or in prison – and did not minister to Him in them. Now although these kids were clean animals (goats were used in sacrifices to the Lord, and Christ as our atonement would have been symbolized as a goat, or kid, not a lamb), they were just “kids,” immature folks who were producing no fruit of the Spirit (love for their brothers in need). Thus they are judged and to go forth “into correction for an indefinite period of time (or: eonian pruning – which switches the metaphor).” The Greek word for correction is “kolasis,” and is an agricultural term that means to prune, or correct the growth of a vine or tree. The obvious meaning is that this fire is designed to cause better growth which will produce more and better fruit.
I suggest that this lake of Fire experience is the same experience that John the baptizer spoke of when he said that Jesus would dip, or immerse, you “within Holy Spirit and Fire.” (Lu. 3:16) This fire is meant to burn out any cowardice, unbelief, abominable things, and that which would cause us to murder, be involved in prostitution, sorcery or idolatry, or to be false and a liar (ch. 21:8). It is to also meant to remove the adversary from us, rid us of false prophesying, and free us from being agents of the beast nature – all the things that would keep us from living the Christ Life, figured here by being “written in the scroll of The Life.”
Is there any connection between the figure of the lake of the Fire here in the Unveiling, and the figure of “the Gehenna of fire” used by Jesus in the gospels? We know that, literally, Gehenna is the Valley of Hinnom which is located to the southwest of Jerusalem, and which had become the city dump in Jesus’ day. Refuse from the city, as well as bodies of criminals who were considered unworthy of burial, were dumped there to be burned. With all that decaying organic material, there were plenty of worms in the area anywhere the fire was not burning. This was the scene from which Jesus took this metaphor.
Gehenna is used twelve times in the NT: 7 times in Matt.; 3 times in Mark; once in Lu.; and once in James. It is first used in Matt. 5:22 where Jesus is making a comparison to the Law regarding the act of murder (vs. 21),
“However, I, Myself, am now saying to you people that EVERYONE, who – from internal swelling or agitated emotions of his natural disposition, or from the fruition of his mental bent – is habitually being impulsive or intensely angry to his brother (= fellow member of the society) will be held within the decision (or: held under the control of the crisis or the judging of the local court). Now whoever may at some point say to his brother, ‘Raca (an Aramaic word of verbal abuse: contemptible imbecile; worthless good-for-nothing; senseless empty-head; brainless idiot; blockhead)!’ will be held within (and thus: accountable to) the Sanhedrin (the ruling Jewish council). Yet whoever may at some point say, ‘Inept moron (Stupid scoundrel; Despicable fool; You perverse idiot)!’ will be held within (and thus: accountable to) [placement] into the [part of] the Valley of Hinnom which pertains to the fire (i.e., the incinerator for refuse in the dump outside of Jerusalem).”
Note here that all the offences are against another human being; they all led to judgment and punishment by a human court; they were misdemeanors that were relatively on a par with each other. But they all came from attitudes or spirits that were contrary to love – and they needed to be cleansed out of people. Keep in mind that the context of this saying is the “Sermon on the Mount,” which was directed to first of all to His disciples (Matt. 5:1), teaching the principles of the Kingdom (and in this case comparing them to a more serious crime in the Law: murder). Can we believe that Jesus is saying that, in the Kingdom which He is proclaiming, one can be sent to what institution Christianity calls “eternal fire (or: hell)” for calling someone “stupid”? Is that the “good news”? In vs. 20 He had just been giving a qualification for entering into the reign of the heavens: to have a right relationship with folks that exceeded the relationship and fairness exhibited by the scribes (scholars; theologians) and the Pharisees (practitioners and experts of the Law). He was in this sermon describing the characteristics of what Paul referred to as “the upward call in Christ Jesus.” He was presenting a narrower and more restricted path, in comparison to the broad highway of the Law, which only led to destruction.
But as none can keep the Law, other than Christ, so also none can have superabounding rightness, except for the Christ who lives within us. As another example, let us look at Matt. 5:29-30 where we see two more occurrences of “Gehenna.” These involve “looking at a woman to lust for her” (vs. 29), and stealing (vs. 30). The first is an inward thought; the second an outward act. In both of these infractions the judgment is “the whole body being cast into the city dump (Gehenna).” Did Jesus mean this literally? The Valley of Hinnom was a dishonorable place in which to end. It happened literally to criminals of that day.
In discussing these verses in our local gathering, Mark Austin suggested that the phrase “the whole body” may be a veiled reference to “the body of Israel” in that day. This was then end of the body politic of the Jews, in AD 70.
Was Jesus merely reiterating the Law? Did He mean that one should literally wrench out an offending eye or chop off one’s own hand, if he was failing when being tempted? If so, then this is not really good news that Jesus is bringing to us. Most rational individuals will realize that Jesus was using hyperbole here: a figure of speech. He meant to get rid of those situations in which a person’s weaknesses were causing him to fail. Paul addresses the same problem, as he discussed it in Rom. 7. But if Jesus’ admonition, graphic as it is, is a figure of speech, then why do we suppose that failure to follow His admonition would result in a literal judgment of being cast into an “eternal lake of fire”? And if we are being literal, Gehenna is no longer burning – as you can see for yourself if you tour literal Jerusalem today. The lake of the Fire, spoken of here in the Unveiling (Rev.), is also a figure, a symbol. It is called the second death in vs. 14. The first death brought us into this realm of the physical life here on earth, and thus we were “dead by and in trespasses and sins;” we were blind, living in the darkness of the Unseen; some of us were whited graves, full of dead bones. But the second death is death to the first death.
The next use of the Greek “Gehenna” is in Matt. 10:28. Who were those who “are killing the body, yet are not able to kill the soul”? The Romans, the Sanhedrin, murderers. Who is He telling us to fear in the next statement? Who can “destroy the soul, as well as the body, in Gehenna? God. He is telling them to fear God. God can destroy the body in many ways. He uses the figures of Gehenna, the “lake of the Fire,” to destroy the soul. Consider how He put it in Matt. 16:24-25,
“… let him deny himSELF, and take up HIS CROSS, and follow Me: for whosoever may be wanting to save his soul shall be DESTROYING IT [via the broad path]. Yet whoever should be destroying his soul on My account shall be finding it.”
We destroy our souls by submitting to His baptism of Fire, here and now; this is taking up our crosses. Remember, Gehenna is a figure of where He destroys our souls that we may find our true selves in Him.
Matt. 18:9 is a repetition of 5:29, and Mark 9:43, 34 & 47 tell us about the same. But Matt. 23:15 make His use of Gehenna as a figure of speech quite obvious. His is speaking of the Pharisees proselytizing, and in so doing making the proselytes “twice as much a son of Gehenna as yourselves” (Weymouth). The term “son of Gehenna” is “A Hebraism which equals Gehenna’s people” (Bullinger), or, “folks having the qualities and characteristics of the city dump, full of dead people’s bodies, and destined for shameful ruin.” This is answered by what Jesus said to them in vs. 33 of this same chapter,
“O serpents, O generation of vipers! How can you be fleeing from the judgment of Gehenna?”
That generation was on the “broad path which leads to destruction.” It happened to them in AD 70. But what does this say to us? Perhaps just that all who have the character which Jesus describes as “serpent” are destined for the purification process. Those who receive the serpent’s words and thoughts (its seeds) must endure the judgment which will burn over their fields (Heb. 6:7-8). Those who are serpents have the identity of the beast nature – the mark of the beast.
Now consider the use of this word as found in James 3:6,
“Well the tongue [is] a fire; [its fuel is] the System of injustice (or: the ordered and decorated but dominating world of culture, religion, politics and government which is unjust; or: The tongue, also, [is] fire: the world of disregard for what is right). The tongue is placed down within our members, continuously spotting (staining; = defiling) the whole body, and repeatedly setting on fire the wheel of birth (= the cycle of the origin [of life], or of generation; the wheel of genesis), as well as being continuously set on fire by (or: under) the garbage dump (the depository of refuse; Greek: Gehenna).”
If one has the nature of Gehenna (is one of Gehenna’s people), “out of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matt. 12:34). Obviously James is speaking figuratively. We must see Gehenna as a figure, but not as a figure of an eternal place of punishment.
“Who among us can sojourn with a fire that devours? Who among us can sojourn with burnings age-abiding? He that walks righteously, and speaks uprightly…” (Isa. 33:14, 15) Isaiah could have answered in vs. 15, “The overcomer – he will not be hurt by age-abiding burnings.”
“When you pass through the waters, with you I AM, or through the rivers, they shall not overflow you – WHEN YOU WALK THROUGH FIRE, you will not be scorched, and a flame shall not kindle upon you, For I – Yahweh, am your God, the Holy One of Israel, ready to save you.” (Isa. 43:2, 3)
He does take us through the Fire, but He is there ready to save us even while we are within the fire, as the three Hebrews in the furnace found out (Dan. 3). The fire delivered them from their bonds, and ended in God being glorified. All things return to the Fire, for,
“From out of the midst of Him, and then through the midst of Him, and then INTO the midst of Him [are] ALL THINGS.” (Rom. 11:36)
From my comments on Rev. chapter 21:
Being seated with Him in the heavenlies there are no more outcries, and no more religious works, painful toil to try to please God, or misery due to our failures and mistakes: Matt. 11:28, “So everyone come here, toward Me! – all those constantly weary and exhausted from toil and labor, as well as folks having been caused to carry a load, and continuing burdened down – and I, Myself, will refresh you and cause you folks to rest.” These conditions exist now, in Christ, but we need to see that all this is true in the context of the City (vs. 2), and apply at this point to God’s people (vs. 3), and the overcomer (vs. 7). Vs. 8 points out those who yet need the work of the baptism in the Spirit and Fire (the second death), and ch. 22:15 tells us that these folks are outside the City (New Jerusalem).
LOCATION of the LAKE of FIRE [Jonathan Mitchell] 1