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Re: [biblicalapologetics] Re: Divine Truth or Human Tradition?

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  • Patrick Navas
    Hi Rob, No, I was referring to the June 2nd apologetics conference in the Inland Empire here in Southern CA. Do you know Gene Cook, host of the Narrow Mind? If
    Message 1 of 25 , May 14 9:45 PM
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      Hi Rob,
       
      No, I was referring to the June 2nd apologetics conference in the Inland Empire here in Southern CA. Do you know Gene Cook, host of the Narrow Mind? If you go to his site you will see the conference advertized.
       
      Best wishes,
       
      Patrick Navas
    • Robert M. Bowman, Jr.
      Patrick, Actually, I don t know Gene Cook, although I have heard of him. I used to live about half an hour from where he is now. Too bad I can t go. In
      Message 2 of 25 , May 15 9:45 AM
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        Patrick,

        Actually, I don't know Gene Cook, although I have heard of him. I used
        to live about half an hour from where he is now. Too bad I can't go.

        In Christ's service,
        Rob Bowman


        --- In biblicalapologetics@yahoogroups.com, Patrick Navas
        <patrick_navas@...> wrote:
        >
        > Hi Rob,
        >
        > No, I was referring to the June 2nd apologetics conference in the
        Inland Empire here in Southern CA. Do you know Gene Cook, host of the
        Narrow Mind? If you go to his site you will see the conference
        advertized.
      • Patrick Navas
        To Rob Bowman and everyone on the biblicalapologetics forum. I will be participating in a public debate with Dan Mages and Steve Scianni
        Message 3 of 25 , May 16 5:10 PM
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          To Rob Bowman and everyone on the biblicalapologetics forum. I will be participating in a public debate with Dan Mages and Steve Scianni http://hungertruth.com/ in a few weeks. We will be discussing/debating the subject of "the nature and duration of hell" with Evangelicals Gene Cook, Mike Sarkissian and Joel Hughes.
          Worldviews 2007, The Inland Empire Apologetics Conference, June 2, 2007.
           
          In preparation for the debate I have composed a 9 page paper on Revelation 20:10. I am posting it on this forum for all to see and comment on, if anyone is interested.
           
          Best wishes to all,
           
          Patrick Navas
           
           
          A Closer Look at Revelation 20:10
          By Patrick Navas (2007)
           
            
           "Even if we [traditionalists] conceded Matthew 25:46 to the
          annihilationists, what could they possibly say in response to
          John's words...'they will be tormented day and night forever
          and ever'?" --Professor Alan Gomes, Evangelicals and the
          Annihilation of Hell Part 2, Christian Research Journal,
          Summer 1991
           
          “…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.”
          —Revelation 20:10, Young’s Literal Translation of the Holy Bible
           
           
          The expression that occurs in Revelation 20:10—“they will be tormented day and night forever and ever” (NASB)—has long been perceived by traditionalists as conclusively establishing from scripture the notion that the wicked will be condemned by God to suffer a perpetual, conscious state of fiery torment that will never come to an end. In fact, according to the tradtionalist way of thinking, even the unfortunate human souls cast into the lake of fire thereafter—“anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life”—will be deliberately made immortal and indestructible by God, forced to consciously endure a literally eternal, never-ending sentence of physical or spiritual torture—the final judgment of God against the wicked (Rev. 20:15). This is, generally speaking, the traditional, orthodox conception of “hellfire,” maintained and defended by conservative, evangelical Christians to this day.[1]
           
          The “lake of fire” imagery, of course, is taken by traditional interpreters to represent the place where the wicked will be burned alive for all of eternity, never to be completely consumed or put to an end—the result of the just judgment of God against evil men. However, it should be noted that— contrary to the misleading impression given by some—the powerful, graphic and fear-inspiring image of the “lake of fire” is clearly a symbolic reference, for both “death and hades” are thrown into it (Rev. 20:14). Obviously, “death” and “hades” (the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew sheol; the grave in general), are abstract concepts, not physical objects that can be be literally “thrown” into a real lake of physical fire. But the clear sense—communicated by means of graphic, poetic language and intensified symbolism—is that death itself (and the entire grave as a general concept) will ultimately be brought to nothing. In the end, in the new heavens and new earth where “righteousness dwells,” death and the grave will no longer be. Since “the wages of sin is death,”[2] the absence of sin will mean the absence of death in God’s righteous kingdom. This is in fact verified by Revelation 21:4 (only a few verses after) which explicitly states that, in the new heaven and new earth, death itself “will be no more.” This corresponds to Paul’s statement in 1 Corinthians 15:24-25 about the point in time when “the last enemy, death, will be brought to nothing [‘destroyed’ (RSV), ‘defeated’ (TEV), ‘abolished’ (NEB )],” and in 15:54 when death is finally “swallowed up in victory.” This is, clearly, the same point poetically described in the book of Revelation when death and hades are figuratively hurled into the symbolic lake of fire, “the second death.”
           
          These are facts strongly suggesting that, in the book of Revelation, “the lake of fire” serves not to denote a literal place where immortal souls are endlessly tortured throughout eternity, but as a vivid and fearful “sign” or image symbolizing the reality of ultimate destruction, obliteration or complete eradication.[3] The lake of fire (defined specifically as ‘the second death’) thus represents a point where that which is figuratively thrown into it—particularly all that is contrary to God’s righteous will, including those whose names are not found written in the book of life—are eventually “brought to nothing,” including death which “shall not exist any more.” (Rev. 20:14; 21:4, 8, Darby Translation)
           
          The other seemingly difficult aspect of this verse states the following:

          “…
          [the devil, beast and false prophet] will be tormented day and night forever and ever [tous aiõnas ton aiõnon]
           
          This is certainly a text (perhaps the preeminent text) that, on the surface, seems to weigh heavily in favor of the traditionalist doctrine of hell-fire. Before making a determination about its true meaning and purpose, however, there are several important points that must be taken into consideration.
          (1) The expression occurs in the book of Revelation—a book remarkably dominated by poetic language and prophetic symbolism. The apostle John’s Revelation is, in fact, permeated by hyperbolic imagery (exaggerated language), vivid signs, dramatic word pictures, and figures of speech, all used to convey the eventuality of certain, real concepts and events “that must very soon take place.” Yet this is precisely what should caution interpreters from making hasty decisions about the significance of various images, expressions and themes occurring throughout the book. It is, in fact, “The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave to him, to show his slaves what must shortly take place. He made it known by signs, sending his angel to his slave John who gives witness to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ…” (Rev. 1:1).
          Of the expression regarding signs in the introduction to the Revelation, Albert Barnes noted: “He indicated [the revelation] by signs and symbols. The word occurs in the New Testament only in John 12:33 John 18:32; 21:19; Acts 11:28; 25:27 and in the passage before us, in all which places it rendered signify, signifying or signified. It properly refers to some sign, signal, or token by which anything is made known, (compare Matthew 26:28; Romans 4:11; Genesis 9:12-13; 17:11 Luke 2:12; 2 Corinthians 12:12; 1 Corinthians 14:22) and is a word most happily chosen to denote the manner in which the events referred to were to by communicated to John—for nearly the whole book is made up of signs and symbols. If it be asked what was signified to John, it may be replied that either the word ‘it’ may be understood, as in our translation, to refer to the Apocalypse or Revelation, or what he saw...or it may be absolute, without any object following... The general sense is that, sending by his angel, he made to John a communication by expressive signs or symbols[4]
          In this light (the fact that John’s revelation is expressed through ‘signs’ and symbols), we should be extremely careful about taking as strictly literal that which was never intended to be.
          (2) The phrase “tormented day and night forever and ever” only applies to the devil, beast and false prophet directly,[5] not to mankind in general or to those whose names are not written in the book of life. These are said to be thrown into the lake of fire as well (as are death and hades), but John nowhere states that these will suffer everlasting torment.
          (3) The “lake of fire” is, in fact, defined as “the second death” (Rev. 20:14; 21:8). Death and Hades are thrown into it; and we know this represents the point when death “will be no more,” “brought to nothing,” “destroyed,” “abolished”—completely and finally “swallowed up…” This suggests, again, that the lake of fire is a symbol of ultimate and irrevocable eradication, although it may very well torment persons thrown into it, for an unstated, unspecified duration, before bringing them to complete destruction. However, unlike the first death, frequently likened unto “sleep” in scripture[6], and which is experienced by all of humankind, the second death carries with it no stated expectation or hope of resurrection—no future “awakening.”
          (4) The expression “forever and ever” is literally “to the ages of the ages” in Greek. One question worth asking is, does the expression “to the ages of the ages” necessarily mean “(absolutely) never-ending” as the traditional English translation suggests to many minds? Could it mean “into the ages of ages,” i.e., “into an unstated, unspecified duration of time and succeeding epochs”? It will be argued below that the surrounding context favors this interpretation completely.
          (5) The weight of scriptural evidence overwhelmingly supports the “conditionalist” understanding of final, aionion (eternal) punishment.[7] Upon careful analysis Rev. 20:10 becomes the only biblical text that actually appears—based on the traditional English translation—truly difficult to reconcile with “conditionalism.”[8] Not even Matthew 25:46 (‘eternal punishment’) lends solid support to the traditionalist view; nor does it represent difficulty for the ‘conditionalist’ view, at all. This is made clear when we consider the term “eternal” (aionios: more literally: ‘age-enduring,’ ‘age-lasting’ or ‘of the age’) when applied to other concepts, like “eternal judgment” (Heb. 6:2), “eternal redemption” (Heb. 9:12), “eternal sin” (Mark 3:29), “eternal destruction” (2 Thess. 1:9), and so forth. That is to say,—as it has been noted by several interpreters in the past—none of these references carry the idea of “a never-ending process of judging” or “an everlasting process of redeeming” or “a process of sin (or destruction) that never ends.” Yet this is in fact the ultimate sense that traditionalists attribute to the phrase “eternal (aionion) punishment, i.e., the wicked shall go into a never-ending process of torturous punishment,” since these too will go into the “eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels” where the devil and his messengers “shall be tormented day and night forever and ever” (Matt. 25: 41; Compare Rev. 20:10).
           
          But the general idea of “eternal” (aionion) used in connection with these terms seems to be either (1) a reference to a judgment/redemption/sin/destruction with everlasting, permanent results—yet the act itself is clearly not everlasting; or (2) a judgment/redemption/sin/destruction having to do with the age in view, that which has the quality belonging to the age to come; or a judgment/redemption/sin whose effects extend into the coming age, or both.
           
          Traditionalists believe that in Matthew 25:46 Jesus intends “aionion kolasin” (eternal punishment) to convey the sense of “never-ending punishment, i.e., everlasting, conscious torture in the fires of hell without the possibility of relief.” But that is to read far too much into the statement and language than is warranted. The literal meaning of the phrase is “age-lasting punishment/chastisement”; yet the nature of that “punishment” in this case is not specified. But it is, like other nouns of action qualified by the adjective eternal, that which carries with it a permanent and everlasting (aionion) result; and that is why it can, like other scriptural concepts, be described as “eternal,” even though the actual act—whether it be sin, judgment, destruction, redemption, salvation, punishment, etc.—does not literally continue on forever without end. Or we could also safely accept—based on the term’s derivation from aion (‘age,’ ‘period of time’)—that it is the kind or quality of punishment belonging not to this present age but to the age to come. It is an “aionion” (of the age [to come]) punishment. It might even be rendered “age-lasting chastisement” or “cut off” (reflecting the Old Testament expression ‘shall be cut off from his people.’ Compare Ge. 17:14; Ex. 30:33, 38; Lev. 7:20, 21, 25, 27; Num. 9:13). The language itself certainly does not convey the sense of “never-ending process of (torturous) punishment,” a meaning unwarrantedly read into the text by traditional proponents of hell-fire.
           
          However, with respect to Revelation 20:10 specifically, it may be pointed out that although the devil, beast and false prophet will be tormented “day and night” in the symbolic lake of fire “to the ages of the ages,” (a reference to a long, indefinite duration of time, with no end specified in the expression itself),[9] John immediately after speaks about the brand new creation which follows, when there will no longer be any more pain or outcry; for, as John indicates, at that time, the things that once were will no longer be in existence.
           
          “And I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away…And I heard a loud voice out of the heaven, saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God [is] with men, and he shall tabernacle with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them… And he shall wipe away every tear from their eyes; and death shall not exist any more, nor grief, nor cry, nor distress [pain, NASB] shall exist any more, for the former things have passed away. And he that sat on the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he says
          [to me], Write, for these words are true and faithful
                                      —Revelation 21:1-5, Darby Translation
           
          When we seriously reflect on the significance of such a hopeful and joy-inspiring vision of what the future holds for the righteous, is it reasonable to believe that the one who intends to create a world where “pain shall no longer exist,” and who intends to “make all things new” will, on the other hand, preserve a corresponding realm or co-existing dimension where the wicked will be kept alive against their will to be consciously tortured by fire throughout the endless stretches of eternity, without the remotest possibility of relief or cessation? What would be the benefit or purpose of this? And how would such truly harmonize with the spirit of God’s intention to ultimately “make all things new” through Jesus Christ?
           
          With respect to the expression “to the ages of the ages,” it was pointed out by one source:
           
          Attempts have been made to show that these are reduplications, if no other forms of the word convey the idea of eternity. But the literal meaning of [tous aiõnas ton aiõnon] is the ages of the ages…It is perfectly manifest to the commonest mind that if one age is limited, no number can be unlimited. Ages of ages is an intense expression of long duration, and if the word aiõn should be eternity, ‘eternities of eternities’ ought to be the translation, an expression too absurd to require comment. If aiõn means eternity, any number of reduplications would weaken it…The thought of eternal duration was not in the mind of Jesus or his apostles in any of these texts, but long duration, to be determined by the subject.”[10]
           
          Although one respected source expressed partiality toward the traditionalist interpretation of Revelation 20:10 (that ‘ages of ages’ means ‘absolutely forever without end’), it was nevertheless harmoniously acknowledged,
           
          “Strictly speaking, even the expression ‘they will be tormented forever and ever” is figurative; eis tous aionas ton aionon literally can be rendered ‘unto the ages of the ages’; at the least, the phrase figuratively connotes a very long time. The context here and in the whole Apocalypse must determine whether this is a limited time or an unending period…”[11]
           
          This is why I would suggest that although the expression “to the ages of the ages” can implicitly carry the idea of “forever and ever” in reference to a certain number of concepts that demand such a meaning, that—contrary to the conclusion of traditional interpreters and that of the reference work cited above—this sense is not demanded in the case of Revelation 20:10, and is, in fact, qualified, deliberately overshadowed, and ultimately limited by the closely following expression regarding the creation of a new heaven and a new earth, and which explicitly indicates this will represent a point in time when both death and pain “will no longer exist.”[12] Thus, the larger, surrounding context of Revelation 20:10 determines “unto the ages of the ages” to denote a long and intense but limited duration, for the period of time itself is qualified by John’s vision of the future state when “all things” will be made “new” (Rev. 21:5), for the “former things”—including mourning, outcry and pain—will have “passed away
           
           
          This article may be read, printed and distributed for free from the Resources page of the Divine Truth Website: http://divinetruth.homestead.com/index.html   


          [1] Although traditionalists believe that all persons sent to hell will suffer some form of never-ending conscious torment, they do believe that the degree of severity and pain will be determined by the extent to which the person sinned against God in his or her earthly existence.
          [2] 2 Peter 3:13; Romans 6:23
          [3] “The ‘lake of fire’ in Rev. 20:10 is not literal since Satan (along with his angels) is a spiritual being. The ‘fire’ is a punishment that is not physical but spiritual in nature. ‘The beast and false prophet’ are not literal but figurative for unbelieving institutions composed of people. Even ‘day and night’ is not literal but figurative for the idea of the unceasing nature of the torment...” —The New International Greek Testament Commentary, The Book of Revelation, A Commentary on the Greek Text, by G. K. Beale (Grand Rapids, Eerdmans/Carlisle, Paternoster Press, 1999), pp. 1029, 1030.
           
          [4] Barnes’ Notes on the New Testament, Revelation (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1847; 2005), pp. 35, 36 (emphasis added).
          [5] It was even noted by respected Baptist minister George Eldon Ladd: “They will be tormented day and night forever and ever. It is impossible to visualize the actual terms of this verse. The devil and his angels are spirits, not physical beings; fire belongs to the material physical order. How a lake of literal fire can bring everlasting torture to nonphysical beings is impossible to imagine. It is obvious that this is picturesque language describing a real fact in the spiritual world: the final and everlasting destruction of the forces of evil which have plagued men since the garden of Eden. Verse 11. After the destruction of Satan, John witnesses the final judgment, the destruction of the old order, and the inauguration of the eternal state.” —A Commentary on The Revelation of John, by George Eldon Ladd, Professor of New Testament Theology and Exegesis, Fuller Theological Seminary (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1972), pp. 270-271.
          [6] Compare Daniel 12:2; John 11:11; Acts 7:60; 13:36; 1 Corinthians 15:20
          [7] According to one source: “Allowance should be made for use of hyperbole in Revelation 20:10. The traditional interpretation of 20:10 imposes a literal meaning of this verse, in a context (20:1-10) that abounds in symbolic elements. Apart from this text, there is no indication of eternal torment, and much evidence of final destruction.” —R. G. Bowles, ‘Does Rev. 14:11 Teach Eternal Torment? Examining a Proof-Text on Hell’, EQ, 23 (2001), 33 note 33 (op. cit., 30).
          [8] Even the noted Bible scholar Edward Fudge felt that, from his perspective as a ‘Conditionalist’, there was “no easy solution” to the expression made in Revelation 20:10. —The Fire That Consumes, A Biblical and Historical Study of the Doctrine of Final Punishment ( Lincoln : Universe.com, 2001), p. 304.
          [9] It was noted by scholar of languages Solomon Landers: “The Coptic text of Revelation 20:10 translates eis tous aionas ton aionon by the Coptic Egyptian phrase sa eneh neneh. Like the Greek phrase, this could be translated ‘for ever and ever,’ but not necessarily so. Like aion, the Coptic word eneh can mean simply ‘age, period of time’ (Crum’s Coptic Dictionary, page 57). So the basic significance is, to put it another way, ‘for long periods of time.’ That could be ‘forever,’ but it need not be. The context would have to be consulted for clues” (Correspondence: May 6, 2007).
           
          [10] John Wesley Hanson, The Greek Word Aion—Aionios, Translated Everlasting-Eternal in the Holy Bible, Shown to Denote Limited Duration, 1875.
          [11] Beale, The New International Greek Testament Commentary, The Book of Revelation, A Commentary on the Greek Text, p. 1030.
          [12] One example which helps to illustrate how an intense expression like “to the ages of the ages” (‘forever and ever,’ NASB) can be qualified is found in Jude 1:6, where it is written, “And the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal [Gk. aidiois; ever-existing] chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day…” (Jude 1:6, ESV). Unlike the word aionion (normally translated ‘eternal,’ yet which means more literally ‘age-enduring’ or ‘pertaining to the age’), the term aidiois in Greek actually means, unequivocally, everlasting. Yet we should note that—in reference to the chains used by God to confine the rebellious angels—Jude seems to nevertheless limit the technically absolute sense of aiodios, a term that does actually denote “never-ending duration.” The context thus seems to rule out the notion that the confining chains spoken of in this case are literally everlasting in the absolute sense, for the angels are kept by these “eternal” chains “for (‘unto’ ASV or ‘until’ ESV) the judgment of the great day.” In the same way, in Revelation 20:10, where it is said of the devil, beast and false prophet (and not of the unsaved in general), that they “will be tormented day and night unto the age of the ages,” it is purposefully and shortly after stated—in an illuminatingly hopeful vision a future, righteous world—that God will eventually bring a new creation into existence, and the former things will have passed away.
           
        • Paul Leonard
          Hi Patrick, Can you give time and place or post a link. I can attend but need specifics. Look forward to seeing you. Patrick Navas
          Message 4 of 25 , May 16 6:11 PM
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            Hi Patrick,

            Can you give time and place or post a link. I can attend but need specifics. Look forward to seeing you.

            Patrick Navas <patrick_navas@...> wrote:
            To Rob Bowman and everyone on the biblicalapologetics forum. I will be participating in a public debate with Dan Mages and Steve Scianni http://hungertruth. com/ in a few weeks. We will be discussing/debating the subject of "the nature and duration of hell" with Evangelicals Gene Cook, Mike Sarkissian and Joel Hughes.
            Worldviews 2007, The Inland Empire Apologetics Conference, June 2, 2007.
             
            In preparation for the debate I have composed a 9 page paper on Revelation 20:10. I am posting it on this forum for all to see and comment on, if anyone is interested.
             
            Best wishes to all,
             
            Patrick Navas
             
             
            A Closer Look at Revelation 20:10
            By Patrick Navas (2007)
             
              
             "Even if we [traditionalists] conceded Matthew 25:46 to the
            annihilationists, what could they possibly say in response to
            John's words...'they will be tormented day and night forever
            and ever'?" --Professor Alan Gomes, Evangelicals and the
            Annihilation of Hell Part 2, Christian Research Journal,
            Summer 1991
             
            “…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.”
            —Revelation 20:10, Young’s Literal Translation of the Holy Bible
             
             
            The expression that occurs in Revelation 20:10—“they will be tormented day and night forever and ever” (NASB)—has long been perceived by traditionalists as conclusively establishing from scripture the notion that the wicked will be condemned by God to suffer a perpetual, conscious state of fiery torment that will never come to an end. In fact, according to the tradtionalist way of thinking, even the unfortunate human souls cast into the lake of fire thereafter—“anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life”—will be deliberately made immortal and indestructible by God, forced to consciously endure a literally eternal, never-ending sentence of physical or spiritual torture—the final judgment of God against the wicked (Rev. 20:15). This is, generally speaking, the traditional, orthodox conception of “hellfire,” maintained and defended by conservative, evangelical Christians to this day.[1]
             
            The “lake of fire” imagery, of course, is taken by traditional interpreters to represent the place where the wicked will be burned alive for all of eternity, never to be completely consumed or put to an end—the result of the just judgment of God against evil men. However, it should be noted that— contrary to the misleading impression given by some—the powerful, graphic and fear-inspiring image of the “lake of fire” is clearly a symbolic reference, for both “death and hades” are thrown into it (Rev. 20:14). Obviously, “death” and “hades” (the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew sheol; the grave in general), are abstract concepts, not physical objects that can be be literally “thrown” into a real lake of physical fire. But the clear sense—communicated by means of graphic, poetic language and intensified symbolism—is that death itself (and the entire grave as a general concept) will ultimately be brought to nothing. In the end, in the new heavens and new earth where “righteousness dwells,” death and the grave will no longer be. Since “the wages of sin is death,”[2] the absence of sin will mean the absence of death in God’s righteous kingdom. This is in fact verified by Revelation 21:4 (only a few verses after) which explicitly states that, in the new heaven and new earth, death itself “will be no more.” This corresponds to Paul’s statement in 1 Corinthians 15:24-25 about the point in time when “the last enemy, death, will be brought to nothing [‘destroyed’ (RSV), ‘defeated’ (TEV), ‘abolished’ (NEB )],” and in 15:54 when death is finally “swallowed up in victory.” This is, clearly, the same point poetically described in the book of Revelation when death and hades are figuratively hurled into the symbolic lake of fire, “the second death.”
             
            These are facts strongly suggesting that, in the book of Revelation, “the lake of fire” serves not to denote a literal place where immortal souls are endlessly tortured throughout eternity, but as a vivid and fearful “sign” or image symbolizing the reality of ultimate destruction, obliteration or complete eradication.[3] The lake of fire (defined specifically as ‘the second death’) thus represents a point where that which is figuratively thrown into it—particularly all that is contrary to God’s righteous will, including those whose names are not found written in the book of life—are eventually “brought to nothing,” including death which “shall not exist any more.” (Rev. 20:14; 21:4, 8, Darby Translation)
             
            The other seemingly difficult aspect of this verse states the following:

            “…
            [the devil, beast and false prophet] will be tormented day and night forever and ever [tous aiõnas ton aiõnon]
             
            This is certainly a text (perhaps the preeminent text) that, on the surface, seems to weigh heavily in favor of the traditionalist doctrine of hell-fire. Before making a determination about its true meaning and purpose, however, there are several important points that must be taken into consideration.
            (1) The expression occurs in the book of Revelation—a book remarkably dominated by poetic language and prophetic symbolism. The apostle John’s Revelation is, in fact, permeated by hyperbolic imagery (exaggerated language), vivid signs, dramatic word pictures, and figures of speech, all used to convey the eventuality of certain, real concepts and events “that must very soon take place.” Yet this is precisely what should caution interpreters from making hasty decisions about the significance of various images, expressions and themes occurring throughout the book. It is, in fact, “The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave to him, to show his slaves what must shortly take place. He made it known by signs, sending his angel to his slave John who gives witness to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ…” (Rev. 1:1).
            Of the expression regarding signs in the introduction to the Revelation, Albert Barnes noted: “He indicated [the revelation] by signs and symbols. The word occurs in the New Testament only in John 12:33 John 18:32; 21:19; Acts 11:28; 25:27 and in the passage before us, in all which places it rendered signify, signifying or signified. It properly refers to some sign, signal, or token by which anything is made known, (compare Matthew 26:28; Romans 4:11; Genesis 9:12-13; 17:11 Luke 2:12; 2 Corinthians 12:12; 1 Corinthians 14:22) and is a word most happily chosen to denote the manner in which the events referred to were to by communicated to John—for nearly the whole book is made up of signs and symbols. If it be asked what was signified to John, it may be replied that either the word ‘it’ may be understood, as in our translation, to refer to the Apocalypse or Revelation, or what he saw...or it may be absolute, without any object following... The general sense is that, sending by his angel, he made to John a communication by expressive signs or symbols[4]
            In this light (the fact that John’s revelation is expressed through ‘signs’ and symbols), we should be extremely careful about taking as strictly literal that which was never intended to be.
            (2) The phrase “tormented day and night forever and ever” only applies to the devil, beast and false prophet directly,[5] not to mankind in general or to those whose names are not written in the book of life. These are said to be thrown into the lake of fire as well (as are death and hades), but John nowhere states that these will suffer everlasting torment.
            (3) The “lake of fire” is, in fact, defined as “the second death” (Rev. 20:14; 21:8). Death and Hades are thrown into it; and we know this represents the point when death “will be no more,” “brought to nothing,” “destroyed,” “abolished”—completely and finally “swallowed up…” This suggests, again, that the lake of fire is a symbol of ultimate and irrevocable eradication, although it may very well torment persons thrown into it, for an unstated, unspecified duration, before bringing them to complete destruction. However, unlike the first death, frequently likened unto “sleep” in scripture[6], and which is experienced by all of humankind, the second death carries with it no stated expectation or hope of resurrection— no future “awakening.”
            (4) The expression “forever and ever” is literally “to the ages of the ages” in Greek. One question worth asking is, does the expression “to the ages of the ages” necessarily mean “(absolutely) never-ending” as the traditional English translation suggests to many minds? Could it mean “into the ages of ages,” i.e., “into an unstated, unspecified duration of time and succeeding epochs”? It will be argued below that the surrounding context favors this interpretation completely.
            (5) The weight of scriptural evidence overwhelmingly supports the “conditionalist” understanding of final, aionion (eternal) punishment.[7] Upon careful analysis Rev. 20:10 becomes the only biblical text that actually appears—based on the traditional English translation—truly difficult to reconcile with “conditionalism.”[8] Not even Matthew 25:46 (‘eternal punishment’) lends solid support to the traditionalist view; nor does it represent difficulty for the ‘conditionalist’ view, at all. This is made clear when we consider the term “eternal” (aionios: more literally: ‘age-enduring,’ ‘age-lasting’ or ‘of the age’) when applied to other concepts, like “eternal judgment” (Heb. 6:2), “eternal redemption” (Heb. 9:12), “eternal sin” (Mark 3:29), “eternal destruction” (2 Thess. 1:9), and so forth. That is to say,—as it has been noted by several interpreters in the past—none of these references carry the idea of “a never-ending process of judging” or “an everlasting process of redeeming” or “a process of sin (or destruction) that never ends.” Yet this is in fact the ultimate sense that traditionalists attribute to the phrase “eternal (aionion) punishment, i.e., the wicked shall go into a never-ending process of torturous punishment,” since these too will go into the “eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels” where the devil and his messengers “shall be tormented day and night forever and ever” (Matt. 25: 41; Compare Rev. 20:10).
             
            But the general idea of “eternal” (aionion) used in connection with these terms seems to be either (1) a reference to a judgment/redemption /sin/destruction with everlasting, permanent results—yet the act itself is clearly not everlasting; or (2) a judgment/redemption /sin/destruction having to do with the age in view, that which has the quality belonging to the age to come; or a judgment/redemption /sin whose effects extend into the coming age, or both.
             
            Traditionalists believe that in Matthew 25:46 Jesus intends “aionion kolasin” (eternal punishment) to convey the sense of “never-ending punishment, i.e., everlasting, conscious torture in the fires of hell without the possibility of relief.” But that is to read far too much into the statement and language than is warranted. The literal meaning of the phrase is “age-lasting punishment/chastise ment”; yet the nature of that “punishment” in this case is not specified. But it is, like other nouns of action qualified by the adjective eternal, that which carries with it a permanent and everlasting (aionion) result; and that is why it can, like other scriptural concepts, be described as “eternal,” even though the actual act—whether it be sin, judgment, destruction, redemption, salvation, punishment, etc.—does not literally continue on forever without end. Or we could also safely accept—based on the term’s derivation from aion (‘age,’ ‘period of time’)—that it is the kind or quality of punishment belonging not to this present age but to the age to come. It is an “aionion” (of the age [to come]) punishment. It might even be rendered “age-lasting chastisement” or “cut off” (reflecting the Old Testament expression ‘shall be cut off from his people.’ Compare Ge. 17:14; Ex. 30:33, 38; Lev. 7:20, 21, 25, 27; Num. 9:13). The language itself certainly does not convey the sense of “never-ending process of (torturous) punishment,” a meaning unwarrantedly read into the text by traditional proponents of hell-fire.
             
            However, with respect to Revelation 20:10 specifically, it may be pointed out that although the devil, beast and false prophet will be tormented “day and night” in the symbolic lake of fire “to the ages of the ages,” (a reference to a long, indefinite duration of time, with no end specified in the expression itself),[9] John immediately after speaks about the brand new creation which follows, when there will no longer be any more pain or outcry; for, as John indicates, at that time, the things that once were will no longer be in existence.
             
            “And I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away…And I heard a loud voice out of the heaven, saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God [is] with men, and he shall tabernacle with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them… And he shall wipe away every tear from their eyes; and death shall not exist any more, nor grief, nor cry, nor distress [pain, NASB] shall exist any more, for the former things have passed away. And he that sat on the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he says
            [to me], Write, for these words are true and faithful
                                        —Revelation 21:1-5, Darby Translation
             
            When we seriously reflect on the significance of such a hopeful and joy-inspiring vision of what the future holds for the righteous, is it reasonable to believe that the one who intends to create a world where “pain shall no longer exist,” and who intends to “make all things new” will, on the other hand, preserve a corresponding realm or co-existing dimension where the wicked will be kept alive against their will to be consciously tortured by fire throughout the endless stretches of eternity, without the remotest possibility of relief or cessation? What would be the benefit or purpose of this? And how would such truly harmonize with the spirit of God’s intention to ultimately “make all things new” through Jesus Christ?
             
            With respect to the expression “to the ages of the ages,” it was pointed out by one source:
             
            Attempts have been made to show that these are reduplications, if no other forms of the word convey the idea of eternity. But the literal meaning of [tous aiõnas ton aiõnon] is the ages of the ages…It is perfectly manifest to the commonest mind that if one age is limited, no number can be unlimited. Ages of ages is an intense expression of long duration, and if the word aiõn should be eternity, ‘eternities of eternities’ ought to be the translation, an expression too absurd to require comment. If aiõn means eternity, any number of reduplications would weaken it…The thought of eternal duration was not in the mind of Jesus or his apostles in any of these texts, but long duration, to be determined by the subject.”[10]
             
            Although one respected source expressed partiality toward the traditionalist interpretation of Revelation 20:10 (that ‘ages of ages’ means ‘absolutely forever without end’), it was nevertheless harmoniously acknowledged,
             
            “Strictly speaking, even the expression ‘they will be tormented forever and ever” is figurative; eis tous aionas ton aionon literally can be rendered ‘unto the ages of the ages’; at the least, the phrase figuratively connotes a very long time. The context here and in the whole Apocalypse must determine whether this is a limited time or an unending period…”[11]
             
            This is why I would suggest that although the expression “to the ages of the ages” can implicitly carry the idea of “forever and ever” in reference to a certain number of concepts that demand such a meaning, that—contrary to the conclusion of traditional interpreters and that of the reference work cited above—this sense is not demanded in the case of Revelation 20:10, and is, in fact, qualified, deliberately overshadowed, and ultimately limited by the closely following expression regarding the creation of a new heaven and a new earth, and which explicitly indicates this will represent a point in time when both death and pain “will no longer exist.”[12] Thus, the larger, surrounding context of Revelation 20:10 determines “unto the ages of the ages” to denote a long and intense but limited duration, for the period of time itself is qualified by John’s vision of the future state when “all things” will be made “new” (Rev. 21:5), for the “former things”—including mourning, outcry and pain—will have “passed away
             
             
            This article may be read, printed and distributed for free from the Resources page of the Divine Truth Website: http://divinetruth. homestead. com/index. html   


            [1] Although traditionalists believe that all persons sent to hell will suffer some form of never-ending conscious torment, they do believe that the degree of severity and pain will be determined by the extent to which the person sinned against God in his or her earthly existence.
            [2] 2 Peter 3:13; Romans 6:23
            [3] “The ‘lake of fire’ in Rev. 20:10 is not literal since Satan (along with his angels) is a spiritual being. The ‘fire’ is a punishment that is not physical but spiritual in nature. ‘The beast and false prophet’ are not literal but figurative for unbelieving institutions composed of people. Even ‘day and night’ is not literal but figurative for the idea of the unceasing nature of the torment...” —The New International Greek Testament Commentary, The Book of Revelation, A Commentary on the Greek Text, by G. K. Beale (Grand Rapids, Eerdmans/Carlisle, Paternoster Press, 1999), pp. 1029, 1030.
             
            [4] Barnes’ Notes on the New Testament, Revelation (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1847; 2005), pp. 35, 36 (emphasis added).
            [5] It was even noted by respected Baptist minister George Eldon Ladd: “They will be tormented day and night forever and ever. It is impossible to visualize the actual terms of this verse. The devil and his angels are spirits, not physical beings; fire belongs to the material physical order. How a lake of literal fire can bring everlasting torture to nonphysical beings is impossible to imagine. It is obvious that this is picturesque language describing a real fact in the spiritual world: the final and everlasting destruction of the forces of evil which have plagued men since the garden of Eden. Verse 11. After the destruction of Satan, John witnesses the final judgment, the destruction of the old order, and the inauguration of the eternal state.” —A Commentary on The Revelation of John, by George Eldon Ladd, Professor of New Testament Theology and Exegesis, Fuller Theological Seminary (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1972), pp. 270-271.
            [6] Compare Daniel 12:2; John 11:11; Acts 7:60; 13:36; 1 Corinthians 15:20
            [7] According to one source: “Allowance should be made for use of hyperbole in Revelation 20:10. The traditional interpretation of 20:10 imposes a literal meaning of this verse, in a context (20:1-10) that abounds in symbolic elements. Apart from this text, there is no indication of eternal torment, and much evidence of final destruction.” —R. G. Bowles, ‘Does Rev. 14:11 Teach Eternal Torment? Examining a Proof-Text on Hell’, EQ, 23 (2001), 33 note 33 (op. cit., 30).
            [8] Even the noted Bible scholar Edward Fudge felt that, from his perspective as a ‘Conditionalist’ , there was “no easy solution” to the expression made in Revelation 20:10. —The Fire That Consumes, A Biblical and Historical Study of the Doctrine of Final Punishment ( Lincoln : Universe.com, 2001), p. 304.
            [9] It was noted by scholar of languages Solomon Landers: “The Coptic text of Revelation 20:10 translates eis tous aionas ton aionon by the Coptic Egyptian phrase sa eneh neneh. Like the Greek phrase, this could be translated ‘for ever and ever,’ but not necessarily so. Like aion, the Coptic word eneh can mean simply ‘age, period of time’ (Crum’s Coptic Dictionary, page 57). So the basic significance is, to put it another way, ‘for long periods of time.’ That could be ‘forever,’ but it need not be. The context would have to be consulted for clues” (Correspondence: May 6, 2007).
             
            [10] John Wesley Hanson, The Greek Word Aion—Aionios, Translated Everlasting- Eternal in the Holy Bible, Shown to Denote Limited Duration, 1875.
            [11] Beale, The New International Greek Testament Commentary, The Book of Revelation, A Commentary on the Greek Text, p. 1030.
            [12] One example which helps to illustrate how an intense expression like “to the ages of the ages” (‘forever and ever,’ NASB) can be qualified is found in Jude 1:6, where it is written, “And the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal [Gk. aidiois; ever-existing] chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day…” (Jude 1:6, ESV). Unlike the word aionion (normally translated ‘eternal,’ yet which means more literally ‘age-enduring’ or ‘pertaining to the age’), the term aidiois in Greek actually means, unequivocally, everlasting. Yet we should note that—in reference to the chains used by God to confine the rebellious angels—Jude seems to nevertheless limit the technically absolute sense of aiodios, a term that does actually denote “never-ending duration.” The context thus seems to rule out the notion that the confining chains spoken of in this case are literally everlasting in the absolute sense, for the angels are kept by these “eternal” chains “for (‘unto’ ASV or ‘until’ ESV) the judgment of the great day.” In the same way, in Revelation 20:10, where it is said of the devil, beast and false prophet (and not of the unsaved in general), that they “will be tormented day and night unto the age of the ages,” it is purposefully and shortly after stated—in an illuminatingly hopeful vision a future, righteous world—that God will eventually bring a new creation into existence, and the former things will have passed away.
             

          • Benjamin Berrios
            Hi Patrick, I ve read material like yours before but where I always end up after all the volumes is Matthew 24:46. Whatever aionion really means for the
            Message 5 of 25 , May 16 6:51 PM
            • 0 Attachment
              Hi Patrick,
              I've read material like yours before but where I always end up after all the volumes is Matthew 24:46.  Whatever "aionion"  really means for the "these"  is the same amount of time for the "righteous".  Is the righeous' life really temporal life?  That's where the debate always ends for me.  So I see that "aionion" in this context is for ever.  I may be wrong.  But that's the way I read it.
              Good luck in your debate.  I believe you're wrong but I hope I'm wrong.   
               
              Mr. Bowman:  Am  I wrong to believe it doesn't matter whether or not one believes in a forever Hell for a Christian to be saved?
              Ben
              ----- Original Message ----
              From: Paul Leonard <anotherpaul2001@...>
              To: biblicalapologetics@yahoogroups.com
              Sent: Wednesday, May 16, 2007 9:11:30 PM
              Subject: Re: [biblicalapologetics] Re: To Rob Bowman (Revelation 20:10)

              Hi Patrick,

              Can you give time and place or post a link. I can attend but need specifics. Look forward to seeing you.

              Patrick Navas <patrick_navas@ yahoo.com> wrote:

              To Rob Bowman and everyone on the biblicalapologetics forum. I will be participating in a public debate with Dan Mages and Steve Scianni http://hungertruth. com/ in a few weeks. We will be discussing/debating the subject of "the nature and duration of hell" with Evangelicals Gene Cook, Mike Sarkissian and Joel Hughes.
              Worldviews 2007, The Inland Empire Apologetics Conference, June 2, 2007.
               
              In preparation for the debate I have composed a 9 page paper on Revelation 20:10. I am posting it on this forum for all to see and comment on, if anyone is interested.
               
              Best wishes to all,
               
              Patrick Navas
               
               
              A Closer Look at Revelation 20:10
              By Patrick Navas (2007)
               
                
               "Even if we [traditionalists] conceded Matthew 25:46 to the
              annihilationists, what could they possibly say in response to
              John's words...'they will be tormented day and night forever
              and ever'?" --Professor Alan Gomes, Evangelicals and the
              Annihilation of Hell Part 2, Christian Research Journal,
              Summer 1991
               
              “…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.”
              —Revelation 20:10, Young’s Literal Translation of the Holy Bible
               
               
              The expression that occurs in Revelation 20:10—“they will be tormented day and night forever and ever” (NASB)—has long been perceived by traditionalists as conclusively establishing from scripture the notion that the wicked will be condemned by God to suffer a perpetual, conscious state of fiery torment that will never come to an end. In fact, according to the tradtionalist way of thinking, even the unfortunate human souls cast into the lake of fire thereafter—“anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life”—will be deliberately made immortal and indestructible by God, forced to consciously endure a literally eternal, never-ending sentence of physical or spiritual torture—the final judgment of God against the wicked (Rev. 20:15). This is, generally speaking, the traditional, orthodox conception of “hellfire,” maintained and defended by conservative, evangelical Christians to this day.[1]
               
              The “lake of fire” imagery, of course, is taken by traditional interpreters to represent the place where the wicked will be burned alive for all of eternity, never to be completely consumed or put to an end—the result of the just judgment of God against evil men. However, it should be noted that— contrary to the misleading impression given by some—the powerful, graphic and fear-inspiring image of the “lake of fire” is clearly a symbolic reference, for both “death and hades” are thrown into it (Rev. 20:14). Obviously, “death” and “hades” (the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew sheol; the grave in general), are abstract concepts, not physical objects that can be be literally “thrown” into a real lake of physical fire. But the clear sense—communicated by means of graphic, poetic language and intensified symbolism—is that death itself (and the entire grave as a general concept) will ultimately be brought to nothing. In the end, in the new heavens and new earth where “righteousness dwells,” death and the grave will no longer be. Since “the wages of sin is death,”[2] the absence of sin will mean the absence of death in God’s righteous kingdom. This is in fact verified by Revelation 21:4 (only a few verses after) which explicitly states that, in the new heaven and new earth, death itself “will be no more.” This corresponds to Paul’s statement in 1 Corinthians 15:24-25 about the point in time when “the last enemy, death, will be brought to nothing [‘destroyed’ (RSV), ‘defeated’ (TEV), ‘abolished’ (NEB )],” and in 15:54 when death is finally “swallowed up in victory.” This is, clearly, the same point poetically described in the book of Revelation when death and hades are figuratively hurled into the symbolic lake of fire, “the second death.”
               
              These are facts strongly suggesting that, in the book of Revelation, “the lake of fire” serves not to denote a literal place where immortal souls are endlessly tortured throughout eternity, but as a vivid and fearful “sign” or image symbolizing the reality of ultimate destruction, obliteration or complete eradication.[3] The lake of fire (defined specifically as ‘the second death’) thus represents a point where that which is figuratively thrown into it—particularly all that is contrary to God’s righteous will, including those whose names are not found written in the book of life—are eventually “brought to nothing,” including death which “shall not exist any more.” (Rev. 20:14; 21:4, 8, Darby Translation)
               
              The other seemingly difficult aspect of this verse states the following:

              “…
              [the devil, beast and false prophet] will be tormented day and night forever and ever [tous aiõnas ton aiõnon].”
               
              This is certainly a text (perhaps the preeminent text) that, on the surface, seems to weigh heavily in favor of the traditionalist doctrine of hell-fire. Before making a determination about its true meaning and purpose, however, there are several important points that must be taken into consideration.
              (1) The expression occurs in the book of Revelation—a book remarkably dominated by poetic language and prophetic symbolism. The apostle John’s Revelation is, in fact, permeated by hyperbolic imagery (exaggerated language), vivid signs, dramatic word pictures, and figures of speech, all used to convey the eventuality of certain, real concepts and events “that must very soon take place.” Yet this is precisely what should caution interpreters from making hasty decisions about the significance of various images, expressions and themes occurring throughout the book. It is, in fact, “The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave to him, to show his slaves what must shortly take place. He made it known by signs, sending his angel to his slave John who gives witness to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ…” (Rev. 1:1).
              Of the expression regarding signs in the introduction to the Revelation, Albert Barnes noted: “He indicated [the revelation] by signs and symbols. The word occurs in the New Testament only in John 12:33 John 18:32; 21:19; Acts 11:28; 25:27 and in the passage before us, in all which places it rendered signify, signifying or signified. It properly refers to some sign, signal, or token by which anything is made known, (compare Matthew 26:28; Romans 4:11; Genesis 9:12-13; 17:11 Luke 2:12; 2 Corinthians 12:12; 1 Corinthians 14:22) and is a word most happily chosen to denote the manner in which the events referred to were to by communicated to John—for nearly the whole book is made up of signs and symbols. If it be asked what was signified to John, it may be replied that either the word ‘it’ may be understood, as in our translation, to refer to the Apocalypse or Revelation, or what he saw...or it may be absolute, without any object following... The general sense is that, sending by his angel, he made to John a communication by expressive signs or symbols.”[4]
              In this light (the fact that John’s revelation is expressed through ‘signs’ and symbols), we should be extremely careful about taking as strictly literal that which was never intended to be.
              (2) The phrase “tormented day and night forever and ever” only applies to the devil, beast and false prophet directly,[5] not to mankind in general or to those whose names are not written in the book of life. These are said to be thrown into the lake of fire as well (as are death and hades), but John nowhere states that these will suffer everlasting torment.
              (3) The “lake of fire” is, in fact, defined as “the second death” (Rev. 20:14; 21:8). Death and Hades are thrown into it; and we know this represents the point when death “will be no more,” “brought to nothing,” “destroyed,” “abolished”—completely and finally “swallowed up…” This suggests, again, that the lake of fire is a symbol of ultimate and irrevocable eradication, although it may very well torment persons thrown into it, for an unstated, unspecified duration, before bringing them to complete destruction. However, unlike the first death, frequently likened unto “sleep” in scripture[6], and which is experienced by all of humankind, the second death carries with it no stated expectation or hope of resurrection— no future “awakening.”
              (4) The expression “forever and ever” is literally “to the ages of the ages” in Greek. One question worth asking is, does the expression “to the ages of the ages” necessarily mean “(absolutely) never-ending” as the traditional English translation suggests to many minds? Could it mean “into the ages of ages,” i.e., “into an unstated, unspecified duration of time and succeeding epochs”? It will be argued below that the surrounding context favors this interpretation completely.
              (5) The weight of scriptural evidence overwhelmingly supports the “conditionalist” understanding of final, aionion (eternal) punishment.[7] Upon careful analysis Rev. 20:10 becomes the only biblical text that actually appears—based on the traditional English translation—truly difficult to reconcile with “conditionalism.”[8] Not even Matthew 25:46 (‘eternal punishment’) lends solid support to the traditionalist view; nor does it represent difficulty for the ‘conditionalist’ view, at all. This is made clear when we consider the term “eternal” (aionios: more literally: ‘age-enduring,’ ‘age-lasting’ or ‘of the age’) when applied to other concepts, like “eternal judgment” (Heb. 6:2), “eternal redemption” (Heb. 9:12), “eternal sin” (Mark 3:29), “eternal destruction” (2 Thess. 1:9), and so forth. That is to say,—as it has been noted by several interpreters in the past—none of these references carry the idea of “a never-ending process of judging” or “an everlasting process of redeeming” or “a process of sin (or destruction) that never ends.” Yet this is in fact the ultimate sense that traditionalists attribute to the phrase “eternal (aionion) punishment, i.e., the wicked shall go into a never-ending process of torturous punishment,” since these too will go into the “eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels” where the devil and his messengers “shall be tormented day and night forever and ever” (Matt. 25: 41; Compare Rev. 20:10).
               
              But the general idea of “eternal” (aionion) used in connection with these terms seems to be either (1) a reference to a judgment/redemption /sin/destruction with everlasting, permanent results—yet the act itself is clearly not everlasting; or (2) a judgment/redemption /sin/destruction having to do with the age in view, that which has the quality belonging to the age to come; or a judgment/redemption /sin whose effects extend into the coming age, or both.
               
              Traditionalists believe that in Matthew 25:46 Jesus intends “aionion kolasin” (eternal punishment) to convey the sense of “never-ending punishment, i.e., everlasting, conscious torture in the fires of hell without the possibility of relief.” But that is to read far too much into the statement and language than is warranted. The literal meaning of the phrase is “age-lasting punishment/chastise ment”; yet the nature of that “punishment” in this case is not specified. But it is, like other nouns of action qualified by the adjective eternal, that which carries with it a permanent and everlasting (aionion) result; and that is why it can, like other scriptural concepts, be described as “eternal,” even though the actual act—whether it be sin, judgment, destruction, redemption, salvation, punishment, etc.—does not literally continue on forever without end. Or we could also safely accept—based on the term’s derivation from aion (‘age,’ ‘period of time’)—that it is the kind or quality of punishment belonging not to this present age but to the age to come. It is an “aionion” (of the age [to come]) punishment. It might even be rendered “age-lasting chastisement” or “cut off” (reflecting the Old Testament expression ‘shall be cut off from his people.’ Compare Ge. 17:14; Ex. 30:33, 38; Lev. 7:20, 21, 25, 27; Num. 9:13). The language itself certainly does not convey the sense of “never-ending process of (torturous) punishment,” a meaning unwarrantedly read into the text by traditional proponents of hell-fire.
               
              However, with respect to Revelation 20:10 specifically, it may be pointed out that although the devil, beast and false prophet will be tormented “day and night” in the symbolic lake of fire “to the ages of the ages,” (a reference to a long, indefinite duration of time, with no end specified in the expression itself),[9] John immediately after speaks about the brand new creation which follows, when there will no longer be any more pain or outcry; for, as John indicates, at that time, the things that once were will no longer be in existence.
               
              And I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away…And I heard a loud voice out of the heaven, saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God [is] with men, and he shall tabernacle with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them… And he shall wipe away every tear from their eyes; and death shall not exist any more, nor grief, nor cry, nor distress [pain, NASB] shall exist any more, for the former things have passed away. And he that sat on the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he says
              [to me], Write, for these words are true and faithful.”
                                          —Revelation 21:1-5, Darby Translation
               
              When we seriously reflect on the significance of such a hopeful and joy-inspiring vision of what the future holds for the righteous, is it reasonable to believe that the one who intends to create a world where “pain shall no longer exist,” and who intends to “make all things new” will, on the other hand, preserve a corresponding realm or co-existing dimension where the wicked will be kept alive against their will to be consciously tortured by fire throughout the endless stretches of eternity, without the remotest possibility of relief or cessation? What would be the benefit or purpose of this? And how would such truly harmonize with the spirit of God’s intention to ultimately “make all things new” through Jesus Christ?
               
              With respect to the expression “to the ages of the ages,” it was pointed out by one source:
               
              Attempts have been made to show that these are reduplications, if no other forms of the word convey the idea of eternity. But the literal meaning of [tous aiõnas ton aiõnon] is the ages of the ages…It is perfectly manifest to the commonest mind that if one age is limited, no number can be unlimited. Ages of ages is an intense expression of long duration, and if the word aiõn should be eternity, ‘eternities of eternities’ ought to be the translation, an expression too absurd to require comment. If aiõn means eternity, any number of reduplications would weaken it…The thought of eternal duration was not in the mind of Jesus or his apostles in any of these texts, but long duration, to be determined by the subject.”[10]
               
              Although one respected source expressed partiality toward the traditionalist interpretation of Revelation 20:10 (that ‘ages of ages’ means ‘absolutely forever without end’), it was nevertheless harmoniously acknowledged,
               
              “Strictly speaking, even the expression ‘they will be tormented forever and ever” is figurative; eis tous aionas ton aionon literally can be rendered ‘unto the ages of the ages’; at the least, the phrase figuratively connotes a very long time. The context here and in the whole Apocalypse must determine whether this is a limited time or an unending period…”[11]
               
              This is why I would suggest that although the expression “to the ages of the ages” can implicitly carry the idea of “forever and ever” in reference to a certain number of concepts that demand such a meaning, that—contrary to the conclusion of traditional interpreters and that of the reference work cited above—this sense is not demanded in the case of Revelation 20:10, and is, in fact, qualified, deliberately overshadowed, and ultimately limited by the closely following expression regarding the creation of a new heaven and a new earth, and which explicitly indicates this will represent a point in time when both death and painwill no longer exist.[12] Thus, the larger, surrounding context of Revelation 20:10 determines “unto the ages of the ages” to denote a long and intense but limited duration, for the period of time itself is qualified by John’s vision of the future state when “all things” will be made “new” (Rev. 21:5), for the “former things”—including mourning, outcry and pain—will have “passed away.”
               
               
              This article may be read, printed and distributed for free from the Resources page of the Divine Truth Website: http://divinetruth. homestead. com/index. html   


              [1] Although traditionalists believe that all persons sent to hell will suffer some form of never-ending conscious torment, they do believe that the degree of severity and pain will be determined by the extent to which the person sinned against God in his or her earthly existence.
              [2] 2 Peter 3:13; Romans 6:23
              [3] “The ‘lake of fire’ in Rev. 20:10 is not literal since Satan (along with his angels) is a spiritual being. The ‘fire’ is a punishment that is not physical but spiritual in nature. ‘The beast and false prophet’ are not literal but figurative for unbelieving institutions composed of people. Even ‘day and night’ is not literal but figurative for the idea of the unceasing nature of the torment...” —The New International Greek Testament Commentary, The Book of Revelation, A Commentary on the Greek Text, by G. K. Beale (Grand Rapids, Eerdmans/Carlisle, Paternoster Press, 1999), pp. 1029, 1030.
               
              [4] Barnes’ Notes on the New Testament, Revelation (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1847; 2005), pp. 35, 36 (emphasis added).
              [5] It was even noted by respected Baptist minister George Eldon Ladd: “They will be tormented day and night forever and ever. It is impossible to visualize the actual terms of this verse. The devil and his angels are spirits, not physical beings; fire belongs to the material physical order. How a lake of literal fire can bring everlasting torture to nonphysical beings is impossible to imagine. It is obvious that this is picturesque language describing a real fact in the spiritual world: the final and everlasting destruction of the forces of evil which have plagued men since the garden of Eden. Verse 11. After the destruction of Satan, John witnesses the final judgment, the destruction of the old order, and the inauguration of the eternal state.” —A Commentary on The Revelation of John, by George Eldon Ladd, Professor of New Testament Theology and Exegesis, Fuller Theological Seminary (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1972), pp. 270-271.
              [6] Compare Daniel 12:2; John 11:11; Acts 7:60; 13:36; 1 Corinthians 15:20
              [7] According to one source: “Allowance should be made for use of hyperbole in Revelation 20:10. The traditional interpretation of 20:10 imposes a literal meaning of this verse, in a context (20:1-10) that abounds in symbolic elements. Apart from this text, there is no indication of eternal torment, and much evidence of final destruction.” —R. G. Bowles, ‘Does Rev. 14:11 Teach Eternal Torment? Examining a Proof-Text on Hell’, EQ, 23 (2001), 33 note 33 (op. cit., 30).
              [8] Even the noted Bible scholar Edward Fudge felt that, from his perspective as a ‘Conditionalist’ , there was “no easy solution” to the expression made in Revelation 20:10. —The Fire That Consumes, A Biblical and Historical Study of the Doctrine of Final Punishment ( Lincoln : Universe.com, 2001), p. 304.
              [9] It was noted by scholar of languages Solomon Landers: “The Coptic text of Revelation 20:10 translates eis tous aionas ton aionon by the Coptic Egyptian phrase sa eneh neneh. Like the Greek phrase, this could be translated ‘for ever and ever,’ but not necessarily so. Like aion, the Coptic word eneh can mean simply ‘age, period of time’ (Crum’s Coptic Dictionary, page 57). So the basic significance is, to put it another way, ‘for long periods of time.’ That could be ‘forever,’ but it need not be. The context would have to be consulted for clues” (Correspondence: May 6, 2007).
               
              [10] John Wesley Hanson, The Greek Word Aion—Aionios, Translated Everlasting- Eternal in the Holy Bible, Shown to Denote Limited Duration, 1875.
              [11] Beale, The New International Greek Testament Commentary, The Book of Revelation, A Commentary on the Greek Text, p. 1030.
              [12] One example which helps to illustrate how an intense expression like “to the ages of the ages” (‘forever and ever,’ NASB) can be qualified is found in Jude 1:6, where it is written, “And the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal [Gk. aidiois; ever-existing] chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day…” (Jude 1:6, ESV). Unlike the word aionion (normally translated ‘eternal,’ yet which means more literally ‘age-enduring’ or ‘pertaining to the age’), the term aidiois in Greek actually means, unequivocally, everlasting. Yet we should note that—in reference to the chains used by God to confine the rebellious angels—Jude seems to nevertheless limit the technically absolute sense of aiodios, a term that does actually denote “never-ending duration.” The context thus seems to rule out the notion that the confining chains spoken of in this case are literally everlasting in the absolute sense, for the angels are kept by these “eternal” chains “for (‘unto’ ASV or ‘until’ ESV) the judgment of the great day.” In the same way, in Revelation 20:10, where it is said of the devil, beast and false prophet (and not of the unsaved in general), that they “will be tormented day and night unto the age of the ages,” it is purposefully and shortly after stated—in an illuminatingly hopeful vision a future, righteous world—that God will eventually bring a new creation into existence, and the former things will have passed away.
               


            • Patrick Navas
              Dear Benjamin, Thank you for your note. You wrote: Is the righteous life really temporal life? That s where the debate always ends for me. So I see that
              Message 6 of 25 , May 16 7:25 PM
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                Dear Benjamin,
                 
                Thank you for your note.
                 
                You wrote:

                Is the righteous' life really temporal life? That's where the debate always ends for me. So I see that 'aionion' in the context is forever. I may be wrong. But that's the way I read it...
                 
                The life of the righteous' is not temporal life, it is "immortal" (deathless life; See 1 Cor. 15:28). The truth regarding the everlasting nature of life for the righteous does not depend up the term aionion. Technically speaking, aionion does not really mean (literally) everlasting or never-ending. It means "age-enduring" or "age-lasting" or "pertaining to the age [to come]."
                 
                Even if we accept aionion life to mean "never-ending life" (which is certainly the implication, given that the quality of the life in the age to come includes an immortal or imperishable nature) "life" itself is a reference to a state. It is not an action word like "redemption," "judgment," "destruction," "sin," "punishment," etc. That is to say, when the scripture uses a phrase like "eternal sin" or "eternal destruction," it does not mean to imply that the process of sin or destruction goes on forever, but that the result extends into the coming age. It carries with it permanent or everlasting consequences. Similarly, the "aionion punishment" Jesus speaks of does not demand the meaning "everlasting process of punishing that will never end." It would likewise likely mean, "a final punishment, one with permanent results that extend into the coming age." Additionally, If the viewpoint I am suggesting is correct, then "eternal punishment" is a very fitting allusion to (or description for) "complete, final and irrevocable destruction."
                 
                I believe you're wrong but I hope I'm wrong.
                 
                I appreciate you expressing yourself along these lines. One would think that even the most conservative and most tradtional of evangelicals would "hope" that the traditional doctrine of hell is wrong. It is surprising to me that more people do not rush to being open to the possibility that such a horrible concept is false. Who would want it otherwise?
                 
                Best wishes,
                 
                Patrick Navas


              • Patrick Navas
                Hi Paul, The debate itself will be less structured and formal than the average. So I hope you don t have to travel far for it. Are you in Southern CA? Here is
                Message 7 of 25 , May 16 7:28 PM
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                  Hi Paul,
                   
                  The debate itself will be less structured and formal than the average. So I hope you don't have to travel far for it. Are you in Southern CA? Here is the flyer:
                   
                  TinyPic image 
                   
                   
                   
                • Patrick Navas
                  Benjamin, I made a mistake in my letter regarding one reference. It is not 1 Cor 15:28, but all of 1 Cor 15. Patrick
                  Message 8 of 25 , May 16 7:30 PM
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                    Benjamin,
                     
                    I made a mistake in my letter regarding one reference. It is not 1 Cor 15:28, but all of 1 Cor 15.
                     
                    Patrick

                  • Paul Leonard
                    Hi Patrick, I am in Riverside County, so it will be easy to attend. Patrick Navas wrote: Hi Paul, The debate itself will be less
                    Message 9 of 25 , May 17 5:29 PM
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                      Hi Patrick,

                      I am in Riverside County, so it will be easy to attend.

                      Patrick Navas <patrick_navas@...> wrote:
                      Hi Paul,
                       
                      The debate itself will be less structured and formal than the average. So I hope you don't have to travel far for it. Are you in Southern CA? Here is the flyer:
                       
                      TinyPic image 
                       
                       
                       

                    • Patrick Navas
                      Hey Paul, That is fantastic that you are in the Southern CA area! We should get together one of these days. I have been meeting more and more like-minded
                      Message 10 of 25 , May 18 8:37 PM
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                        Hey Paul,
                         
                        That is fantastic that you are in the Southern CA area! We should get together one of these days. I have been meeting more and more like-minded believers in our area through the internet and various contacts. I was thinking about trying to organize some kind of monthly fellowship/conference of like-minded believers, especially those who agree with Paul and Jesus that the one God is "the Father" (1 Cor 8:6; John 17:3) and who are comfortable disregarding all post-biblical creeds and doctrinal developments that go beyond the specifically stated truths of Scripture.
                         
                        I hope to see you at this debate.
                         
                        Best wishes,
                         
                        Patrick Navas

                      • Paul Leonard
                        Hi Patrick, I definitely want to meet you. I live in Southern Riverside county and will try my best to be at the conference. Patrick Navas
                        Message 11 of 25 , May 19 4:55 AM
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                          Hi Patrick,

                          I definitely want to meet you. I live in Southern Riverside county and will try my best to be at the conference.

                          Patrick Navas <patrick_navas@...> wrote:
                          Hey Paul,
                           
                          That is fantastic that you are in the Southern CA area! We should get together one of these days. I have been meeting more and more like-minded believers in our area through the internet and various contacts. I was thinking about trying to organize some kind of monthly fellowship/conferen ce of like-minded believers, especially those who agree with Paul and Jesus that the one God is "the Father" (1 Cor 8:6; John 17:3) and who are comfortable disregarding all post-biblical creeds and doctrinal developments that go beyond the specifically stated truths of Scripture.
                           
                          I hope to see you at this debate.
                           
                          Best wishes,
                           
                          Patrick Navas


                        • Patrick Navas
                          By the way, Dave, I ve since revised my paper. Here it is...(just click on the image below)
                          Message 12 of 25 , May 19 8:24 AM
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                            By the way, Dave, I've since revised my paper. Here it is...(just click on the image below)
                             
                          • Paul Leonard
                            Hi Patrick, I am planning on being there. I can t remember , are you debating the 7 PM point??? That is what I seem to remember, but maybe I am wrong? Paul
                            Message 13 of 25 , May 25 8:13 PM
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                              Hi Patrick,

                              I am planning on being there. I can't remember , are you debating the 7 PM point??? That is what I seem to remember, but maybe I am wrong?

                              Paul

                              Patrick Navas <patrick_navas@...> wrote:
                              Hey Paul,
                               
                              That is fantastic that you are in the Southern CA area! We should get together one of these days. I have been meeting more and more like-minded believers in our area through the internet and various contacts. I was thinking about trying to organize some kind of monthly fellowship/conferen ce of like-minded believers, especially those who agree with Paul and Jesus that the one God is "the Father" (1 Cor 8:6; John 17:3) and who are comfortable disregarding all post-biblical creeds and doctrinal developments that go beyond the specifically stated truths of Scripture.
                               
                              I hope to see you at this debate.
                               
                              Best wishes,
                               
                              Patrick Navas


                            • Patrick Navas
                              Hey Paul, I will be participating in the 7pm debate. I ll look forward to seein you there. Sincerely, Patrick Navas P.S. See attachment
                              Message 14 of 25 , May 26 10:58 AM
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                                Hey Paul,
                                 
                                I will be participating in the 7pm debate. I'll look forward to seein you there.
                                 
                                Sincerely,
                                 
                                Patrick Navas
                                 
                                P.S. See attachment
                              • Patrick Navas
                                Hey Paul, I will be participating in the 7pm debate. I ll look forward to seeing you there. Sincerely, Patrick Navas P.S. See attachment
                                Message 15 of 25 , May 26 10:59 AM
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                                  Hey Paul,
                                   
                                  I will be participating in the 7pm debate. I'll look forward to seeing you there.
                                   
                                  Sincerely,
                                   
                                  Patrick Navas
                                   
                                  P.S. See attachment
                                • Paul Leonard
                                  Hi, I will see you there. Who is Dan and who is Steve??? Patrick Navas wrote: Hey Paul, I will be participating in the 7pm debate.
                                  Message 16 of 25 , May 26 7:20 PM
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                                    Hi,

                                    I will see you there.

                                    Who is Dan and who is Steve???

                                    Patrick Navas <patrick_navas@...> wrote:
                                    Hey Paul,
                                     
                                    I will be participating in the 7pm debate. I'll look forward to seeing you there.
                                     
                                    Sincerely,
                                     
                                    Patrick Navas
                                     
                                    P.S. See attachment

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