Spiritual Myth-Busters: The Lake of Fire

What is the Lake of Fire? It is assumed that the Lake of Fire is a place of eternal torment, or hell. That is the standard modern definition in most churches in America. But is that true?

I read one person that believes the lake of fire is the sun in our solar system. Others think it is the magma core of the earth. 

Others in church history… even many of the early church Fathers saw the lake of fire as a spiritual place where everyone in humanity was purged of their unbelief and sins so that they eventually believe in God. That is the universalist position. They teach that God is love. So when it says that God is a consuming fire, it must mean that is the fire of his love.

But I think I can show scripturally and logically that the Lake of Fire is a symbol for the fires that destroyed Jerusalem in AD 70.

But first let's read an eye-witnesses to the fire of AD 70 in the city of Jerusalem... 

“While the Temple was ablaze, the attackers plundered it, and countless people who were caught by them were slaughtered. There was no pity for age and no regard was accorded rank; children and old men, laymen and priests, alike were butchered; every class was pursued and crushed in the grip of war, whether they cried out for mercy or offered resistance.

Through the roar of the flames streaming far and wide, the groans of the falling victims were heard; such was the height of the hill and the magnitude of the blazing pile that the entire city seemed to be ablaze; and the noise – nothing more deafening and frightening could be imagined.

There were the war cries of the Roman legions as they swept onwards en masse, the yells of the rebels encircled by fire and sword, the panic of the people who, cut off above, fled into the arms of the enemy, and their shrieks as they met their fate. The cries on the hill blended with those of the multitudes in the city below; and now many people who were exhausted and tongue-tied as a result of hunger, when they beheld the Temple on fire, found strength once more to lament and wail.

The Temple Mount, everywhere enveloped in flames, seemed to be boiling over from its base; yet the blood seemed more abundant than the flames and the numbers of the slain greater than those of the slayers. The soldiers climbed over heaps of bodies as they chased the fugitives." (Josephus' account appears in: Cornfield, Gaalya ed., Josephus, The Jewish War (1982); Duruy, Victor, History of Rome vol. V (1883).)

Among the tragic events that at this time occurred, the following is more particularly deserving of notice: A false prophet, pretending to be a divine commission, said that if the people would flee to the Temple, they should behold signs of their speedy deliverance. Accordingly, about six thousand people, chiefly women and children, assembled in a gallery that was yet standing, on the outside of the building. While they waited in anxious expectation of the promised miracle, the Romans, with the most wanton barbarity, set fire to the gallery. Multitudes, rendered frantic by their horrible situation, threw themselves from the gallery onto the ruins below and were killed by the fall. Meanwhile, awful to relate, the rest, without a single exception, perished in the flames. (Welton, Jonathan (2013-11-01). Raptureless: An Optimistic Guide to the End of the World - Revised Edition Including The Art of Revelation (Kindle Locations 1380-1385). BookBaby. Kindle Edition.)

HOW TO INTERPRET THE BOOK OF REVELATION

There are many styles or types of writings in the Bible. Some are poetry and have to be interpreted understanding that it is poetry. Some are prophecies. Some are historical accounts. But people sometimes get confused when it comes to apocalyptic language and try to start taking literal what was not meant to be. Apocalyptic language is exaggerated pictures, symbols, and metaphors that are designed to evoke heart encounters, because our primary way we get meaning is through the heart and the main way the heart understands is through pictures. 

Many times, it is filled with cosmic exaggerations like the sun going dark and the stars falling from the sky or cartoonish exaggerations like how Daniel has a vision of the statute with the head of gold, etc in one chapter, he gets another vision of the same kingdoms as different beasts like the jaguar/leopard. 

Revelation 1:1, "The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show His servants—things which must shortly take place. And He sent and signified it by His angel to His servant John…"

He at the very beginning of the book makes clear that this is an apocalyptic vision “Revelation” which means an uncovering of something/someone and that the angel is going to “signify it”, ie, tell him things in the form of signs. NT: 602 apokalupsis (ap-ok-al'-oop-sis); from NT: 601; disclosure: KJV - appearing, coming, lighten, manifestation, be revealed, revelation. (Strong's.)

Apocalyptic language mixed with signs that point. Those signs are usually the 400 OT scripture references that point out a prophecy event in the past either that is being fulfilled soon, or it points out a scripture event in the past that will happen in a similar way in their day.

Let’s take Armageddon for instance. Revelation 16:16, "And they gathered them together to the place called in Hebrew, Armageddon."

How many movies, books and fearful things are taught about a battle of Armageddon? Do you know what that word means? It literally means "Ar" which means "mountain" and Meggido. It refers to the mountain of Megiddo. Do you know what the problem with that is? There is no Mt Meggido. Nor has there ever been one. There are a few hills and there is a plain of Meggido. It was never meant to be a literally interpretation. 

Jerusalem was set on a small mountain. The mountain of the Lord. That’s why it talks about going UP to Jerusalem. (2 Ki. 9:27; Zech. 12:11). 

So this is a sign- pointing to when a slaughter happened in the valley of Meggido, and it means the same thing happening to them in Jerusalem. Megiddo is the place in history where wars and the blood-shed of kings took place. (2 Kings 9:27; 2 Kings 23:29, and historically)

Zechariah prophesied it as well using the same idea about Jerusalem: "On that day the weeping in JERUSALEM will be as great as the weeping of Hadad Rimmon in the plain of MEGIDDO." (12:11) It was used by John as a figure of speech to say Jerusalem would experience death and war just as in Megiddo in the past.

So Armageddon in Revelation is not about a great end time battle in our future. It was a sign to describe in apocalyptic language the destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD. In other words, just as there were slaughters in Megiddo in the past (sign pointing-Revelation 1:1), now in John's day, Jerusalem, which sits on a mountain (Mt Zion-2500 ft elevation), will experience slaughter. 

WHAT IS THE SYMBOL OF THE LAKE OF FIRE?

What event in their past does it point to, that the generation that John lived in was in danger of experiencing? Every Israelite, every Jew in that day knew the history from their scriptures. When someone spoke of the greatest fire and brimstone story related to the judgment of a city, it was the story of Sodom and Gomorrah. And do you know where that is? It is the cities around the dead sea… which is a large lake, historically a lake of fire.

Imagine John speaking of the lake of fire to his contemporaries. He would be warning them that just as Sodom and Gomorrah fell, through fiery destruction, they were in danger as a Jewish legalistic system of ending in the same manner. He was pointing to the past, in order to warn them that just as what happened in the past… A SIGN POINTING.

Jude verse 7,  uses the illustration of Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities around them, to warn the apostate Jews in his day.

Did you know that in the NT era, there were still active fires and smoke around the dead sea according to Strabo, the first century geographer, who called it “a land of fires” (XVI, 764). 

A hundred years before Strabo, there is the record of a Jewish author who described the Dead Sea area. “Wisdom saved a man [Lot] from a destruction of the godless, and he escaped the fire that came on the Five Cities, cities whose wickedness, is still attested by a smoking waste” (Wisdom of Solomon 10:7, italics mine).

Diodorus Siculus, who also lived in the 1st century BC said: “The fire which burns beneath the ground and the stench render the inhabitants of the neighboring country sickly and very short lived” (Book II, 48).

A few years later, in the time of Christ’s childhood, the Jewish writer Philo gave witness to the burnings and smoke that was still ascending. “The fire is most difficult to extinguish, and creeps on pervading everything and smoldering. And a most evident proof of this is to be found in what is seen to this day: for the smoke which is still emitted, and the brimstone that men dig up there” (On Abraham XXVII). [References from Associates of Scriptural Knowledge]

BUT… in the Bible IS Jerusalem associated with Sodom? YES!

In Deuteronomy 29:22-24, the book of the Law, was a prophecy that one day they would be overthrown like the burning and brimstone of Sodom and Gomorrah. The prophets multiple times say one day Jerusalem would be overthrown like Sodom and Gomorrah. 

Jesus said in Matthew 11:24, "Nevertheless I say to you that it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for you.” 

But does Revelation teach that Jerusalem is Sodom? Yes… Revelation 11:8, “And their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city which mystically is called Sodom and Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified.”

So everyone knew that the lake of fire was a symbol of the dead sea lake region of Sodom, and Jude and John pointed back to it saying that was going to happen to Jerusalem. 

Did that happen? Yes… in AD 70 fires ravaged the city killing hundreds of thousands. 

YES, BUT WHAT ABOUT THOSE "ETERNAL" REFERENCES?

BUT someone will say… "it says the FIRES would be eternal. If you look at Jerusalem today, it is not still burning, so it can’t be about the natural city! And the devil is still around, obviously right?"

Revelation 20:10, "And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever."

So lets talk first about the language of day and night forever and ever… Scholars will tell you this passage is about the judgment of Edom which was fulfilled in history just as the prophet said. 

Isaiah 34:9-11, (KJV)... 9 And the streams thereof shall be turned into pitch, and the dust thereof into brimstone, and the land thereof shall become burning pitch. 10 It shall not be quenched night nor day; the smoke thereof shall go up for ever: from generation to generation it shall lie waste; none shall pass through it for ever and ever. 11 But the cormorant and the bittern shall possess it; the owl also and the raven shall dwell in it: and he shall stretch out upon it the line of confusion, and the stones of emptiness.

But the streams today are not still pitch, nor is the land still brimstone, or do the fires still burn night and day. Why? Because it wasn't meant to be literal. It was apocalyptic language to evoke an impact on the heart with words. So too Revelation 20 is the same thing. 

WHAT ABOUT THE DEVIL?

"Ok, but what about the devil... are you saying the devil doesn’t exist, that satan was cast into the lake of fire. If that is so then why so much trouble in the world?" That really is the big question isn’t it? That is the one that people stumble over. So let’s see. 

The word satan just means adversary, and the word devil means false accuser

Who and what system was the adversary and false accuser of Jesus and the early church? The Jewish scribes and Pharisees tried hard "that they might find an accusation against" the Lord Jesus (Lk. 6:7); their false accusation of Him was especially seen at His trials. Pilate's question to them "What accusation do you bring against this man?" (Jn. 18:29) shows the Jews as the ultimate false accusers of God's Son. For it was because of their playing the ultimate role of the Devil, the false accuser, that the Son of God was slain. No wonder the ideas of 'devil' and 'satan' are often associated with the Jewish system's opposition of Christ and His people. 

The same Greek word for 'accuser' is five times used about Jewish false accusation of Paul in an attempt to hinder His work for Christ (Acts 23:30,35; 24:8; 25:16,18). For instance: 1 Thessalonians 2:14-16 says how “the Jews...have persecuted us (Paul and his helpers)...forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles”. But Paul goes on to say in verse 18: “wherefore we would have come unto you ...once and again but Satan hindered us”. The “Satan” refers to Jewish oppositions to the Gospel and Paul’s planned preaching visit to Gentile Thessalonica. (John Epps, The Devil, A Biblical Exposition of the Truth, Sherwood & Co.,23 Paternoster Row, London 1842)

Romans 16:20, And the God of peace will crush Satan under your feet shortly. Did you get that? The God of peace, who enforces peace, will soon crush the adversary under your Roman feet very soon. In AD 66 ½ to AD 70, that is exactly what happened in Jerusalem. The adversary was the Law system and the Romans crushed it. 

Specifically in the book of Revelation Jesus calls them synagogues of satan two times.

So IN AD 70, the satan, the adversary, the Law system, the devil, the false accuser that sought to destroy Jesus, and the Jewish believers… 

BUT DEATH IS CAST INTO THE LAKE OF FIRE… 

Let’s go back to 2 Cor. 3, where Paul says that the ministry of death was written on stones. The Law, the 10 commandments and the whole system that supports it. Paul is saying that it is the Law that brings death to the soul, death to relationships, death to being able to see who God really is. 
Then he says that when MOSES is read there is a veil over their eyes, but when anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. The veil is the Law of Moses right?

Same context flows into the next chapter… where Paul says in 2 Cor. 4:3, “But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, 4 whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them.” The Law had become their god which blinded them.

1 Cor. 15:56 says, “The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law.“

So let's go back to Isaiah 25:6-8 "On this mountain the Lord Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for ALL PEOPLES, a banquet of aged wine— the best of meats and the finest of wines. On this mountain he will destroy the veil that enfolds all peoples, the sheet that covers ALL NATIONS; he will swallow up death forever. The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears from all faces; 

Remember REVELATION is about the unveiling of Jesus Christ… the uncovering of Christ… what covered him was the Law, the ministry of death. So when he swallowed up death… he was swallowing up the law so that ALL nations could KNOW him as he really is. 

Death was cast into the lake of fire! 

OUTSIDE THE GATES?

Revelation 21:8, "and to fearful, and unstedfast, and abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all the liars, their part [is] in the lake that is burning with fire and brimstone, which is a second death.'" Revelation 22:15, adds they were called dogs.
 
Who were these people? These were not literal "dogs", but it was referring to those under the Law.

Dogs/Evildoers -> Those Jews who practiced circumcision
Philippians 3:2, "Watch out for those DOGS, those evildoers, those mutilators of the flesh.....the circumcision"

Adulterers -> Christ created a new covenant but there were Jews who were neither loyal to the Law in which God was their husband, nor Christ who created the NEW covenant.  
•    In Revelation it is Jerusalem who is the great whore…
•    James 4:4, "You adulterous people....."
•    Romans 7:3, "So then, if she has sexual relations with another man while her husband is still alive, she is called an ADULTERESS. But if her husband dies, she is released from that LAW and is not an adulteress if she marries another man. 4 So, my brothers and sisters, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead"

Magic Arts/Sorceries? --> Those who preached Law
Galatians 3:1, "You foolish Galatians! Who has BEWITCHED you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified"

Revelation 18:23,24, "By your MAGIC SPELL spell all the nations were led astray. 24 In her was found the blood of prophets and of God’s holy people, of all who have been slaughtered on the land.” (CJB)

Murderers-> They were children of the Law (ministry that killed)
Matthew 23: 34 Therefore, indeed, I send you prophets, wise men, and scribes: some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from city to city, 35 that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth, …36 Assuredly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.

LIARS: as we already saw these were the devils, false accusers (Thank you Matthew Simon for the insights here).

EVERYONE NOT FOUND WRITTEN IN THE BOOK OF LIFE WAS CAST INTO THE LAKE OF FIRE. 

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Revelation 20:15,  Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.

Revelation 3:5, "He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels." 

One of the most misunderstood ideas in the church. The BOOK OF LIFE? Most of us were taught that the book of life is the book that you get written into when you believe in Jesus right? There was a song  we used to sing, “There’s a new name, written down in glory, and its mine, oh yes its mine. And the white robed angels sing the story, A sinner has come home!”  

But verses like this in Revelation made us believe that if we mess it up, God will erase our name. It gives rise to speculation of eternal IN-security. So which is it? Names being written or blotted out of the book of life was a distinctively Jewish old covenant concept that had to do with the Law, not the new covenant. 

Remember when Jesus said to his disciples... "Do not rejoice that the SPIRITS are subject to you, but that your names are written in heaven…" (Luke 10:20). NOTICE THIS IS BEFORE THE CROSS, BEFORE being BORN AGAIN which means your name isn’t written down in heaven when you say yes to Jesus. The new covenant had not even started yet!

So the book of life has nothing to do with us today. The book of life had to do with the Jewish day of atonement and who would be blessed or cursed the following year. 

The Jewish book called the Book of Jubilees, said there are two tablets: the Book of Life for the righteous and the Book of Death for the adversaries of God. It says that those who create evil against their neighbors would be blotted out of the book. The book of Enoch said the book of life was about those under the Law system. When one reads the words of Jesus AND Revelation through the lens of AD 70, it becomes clear WHO was being blotted out.

The Book of Life speaks of books IN heaven, not going TO heaven. The Jews still teach that today!

We have seen over and over that the unbelieving Jews were persecuting and killing their believing Jewish brothers and sisters. When God spoke to Moses about the THEIR eschatology as a people, which was fulfilled in AD 70 notice atonement for the land: 

Deuteronomy 32: 43 “Rejoice, O Gentiles, with His people; For He will avenge the blood of His servants, And render vengeance to His adversaries; He will provide ATONEMENT for His land and His people.” That is what Isaiah is speaking of when it speaks of the judgment on Jerusalem in AD 70 and the Book of Life…

Isaiah 4:2 In that day the Branch of the LORD shall be beautiful and glorious; And the fruit of the earth shall be excellent and appealing For those of Israel who have escaped. 3 And it shall come to pass that he who is left in Zion and remains in Jerusalem will be called holy—everyone who is WRITTEN UNTO LIFE in Jerusalem. 4 When the Lord has washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion, and purged the blood of Jerusalem from her midst, by the spirit of judgment and by the spirit of BURNING. 

Finally, this is verified in Daniel 12 where an angel lifts both hands to God and swears to Daniel that ALL the things he spoke of, including the books being opened, would take place in the 3.5 year period where Jerusalem was under siege by Rome.  He promises that Daniel's people (believing Israel... this is a Jewish concept promised to THEM) would be delivered. 

Daniel 12:1, At that time Michael shall stand up, The great prince who stands watch over the sons of YOUR PEOPLE; And there shall be a time of trouble, Such as never was since there was a nation, Even to that time. And at that time YOUR PEOPLE shall be delivered [saved], Every one who is found WRITTEN IN THE BOOK... (the book of life—last Jewish day of atonement--)

7 Then I heard the man clothed in linen, who was above the waters of the river, when he held up his right hand and his left hand to heaven, and swore by Him who lives forever, that it shall be for a time, times, and half a time; and when the power of the holy people has been completely shattered, ALL these things shall be finished.

The book is about Daniel's people. The Book of Life speaks of books IN heaven, not going TO heaven. Only ONE GENERATION applies to... AD 70! The Jews not written in the book of life died in the fires of Jerusalem. 

CONCLUSION:

That is good news friends.

While there is no more space to cover an additional important point, let me just answer one simple question. What happens to all then? In the light of the gaze of the perfection of love, every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord... and as John said, "When we see him we will become like him for we shall see him as he is."

There is no such thing as a lake of fire in your future. No such thing as an eternal hell. I created a powerful audio using this material ...

The Lake of Fire Mythology: Future, Fact, or Fantasy?
12.00

The Lake of Fire is at the center of modern Christian theology. We have images of souls burning for eternity, tormented by the fiery justice of God.

Others see it as a spiritual place where humanity is purged of her sins before all enter into heaven. 

But is the Lake of Fire in the future? Is it fact? Or is our interpretation just a fantasy. Is there an alternate view that is both biblical and consistent with the nature of God? 

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