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Struggling to grasp this verse a bit and its consequences. Can you help? I have often felt that the descriptions of hell throughout the Bible do not paint a clear picture on the debate: is hell perpetual torment or not? In the past I have learned to hedge my bets a little and talk of separation from God (what Jesus suffered on the cross). This form of judgement seems perfectly in line with what some describe awaits those unrepentant sinners in hell. Yet the lamb is right there, presumably watching (this reminds me also of the mass drownings in Noah).

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This question is far too broad. Is it a question about how to exegete Revelation 14.10 specifically (the title), or is it a question about the theology of hell in general (the full paragraph)? – Mark Edward Jun 30 at 4:36

The plain and normal reading of the Scriptures indicate that eternal damnation is experiential and actual. There is no dispute that Jesus spoke more about eternal damnation in the gospels than he spoke about righteousness and eternal life. If eternal damnation is real, then how or why would the Lamb of God allow perpetual torment for sinners? The Apostle Paul provides the patience of the Lord as the lens through which we are to understand this most difficult of concepts in the Bible.

Romans 9:22-23 (NASB)
22 What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? 23 And He did so to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory

There are sinners who are condemned, but before their eternal banishment, they had experienced the patience of God. The Apostle Peter mentions this same patience.

2 Peter 3:14-15 (NASB)
14 Therefore, beloved, since you look for these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless, 15 and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation; just as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you

Both Peter and Paul recognized that salvation is the result of the patience of the Lord toward sinners. Before the flood hit the earth in the days of Noah, the patience of the Lord continued for 120 years (Gen 6:3) as Peter indicates that the time ran out.

1 Peter 3:18-20 (NASB)
18 For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit; 19 in which also He went and made proclamation to the spirits now in prison, 20 who once were disobedient, when the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah, during the construction of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through the water.

So while he is patient with all sinners, the Lord calls sinners to himself. The Apostle Paul indicated that his salvation resulted from this patience, as he had regarded himself the worst of sinners imaginable.

1 Timothy 1:13-16 (NASB)
13 even though I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor. Yet I was shown mercy because I acted ignorantly in unbelief; 14 and the grace of our Lord was more than abundant, with the faith and love which are found in Christ Jesus. 15 It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all. 16 Yet for this reason I found mercy, so that in me as the foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life.

The Apostle Paul was not only a blasphemer, but as the zealous Pharisee his self-appointed mission was to force Christians to renounce Jesus Christ, and therefore to cause them to blaspheme (Acts 26:11). He was therefore the worst sinner in the world from the perspective of heaven, since his sins were related to blasphemy.

But the patience of God was why he was saved.

In other words, the Lord is in the business of saving sinners, and in the process his patience continues to endure. The following syllogism will help to understand the concept.

  The saved are sinners (for whom the Lord was patient),
  but not all sinners (for whom the Lord was patient) are saved.

The statement is not intended to be tautological, but to provide the nuance that the Lord is patient with all sinners wishing for them all to be saved.

2 Peter 3:9 (NASB)
9 The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.

In conclusion, the patience of the Lord applies to all sinners. It is the explicit desire of the Lord that all be saved, because Christ died for all sinners (1 Jn 2:2). Those who are not saved will suffer eternal torment, but not because the Lord was not patient with them at one time.

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(-1) because you did not answer the question and instead provided a theodicy. – WoundedEgo Jun 28 at 12:57
    
@Joseph I believe you DID answer the question: the Mercy of God is available for all, therefore no one has an 'excuse' on the Day of Judgment. However, those who have been redeemed by the Lamb, have 'passed through' judgment and are in the Lamb's Book of Life. – Tau Jun 29 at 23:43

Your question seems similar to me to one answered by the Romanian (Orthodox) monk, Elder Cleopa, in his book The Truth of Our Faith. Namely:

There is a very old view that God is All-Good, that His love is unlimited toward man and because of this it is practically impossible for Him to chastise men with eternal suffering. He is the Father of all and what kind of Father would chastise His disobedient children with eternal torture? Isn't a father supposed to forgive his children? Wouldn't our heavenly Father be so much more disposed to mercy and forbearance towards us?

To this, he answers:

Truly, God is forgiving and long-suffering towards those who fall into sin in this life, for the time of our correction is now, in this life, and the acquisition of His forgiveness depends on our own repentance. In the life on the other side of the grave, however, we no longer are able to repent, to change our minds, given that there God does not judge us according to His omnipotence and goodness, but in accord with His impartiality and righteousness [viz. John 9:4], rewarding each according to his deeds [Matthew 10:41;25:35]. If God were to forgive all the sins of men without justice or fairness, what would be the point of continually alarming us with the terror of eternal torments if, in fact, they didn't exist? How is it possible for God to tell us lies instead of truth?

He continues,

God offers eternal joy to the righteous, who struggled for a time to carry out good works here on earth, but as a just and righteous God, He also chastises eternally the ungodly that transgressed in this temporal life. Why is it so? Because the wounds incurred from sin that are not healed in this life through the appropriate repentance will remain infected eternally in the presence of God. If we mock and scorn the Person of God by committing sins with our free will, we must remember nevertheless that His glory, power and righteousness and all His divine characteristics have no end. In the same way, on account of the sins we have not repented for, the torments of hell will also be unending.

Your calling attention to the Scripture in Revelation also brought to mind something an American Orthodox monk, Seraphim Rose, wrote that could help explain the role the presence of the Lamb:

For most men today "life" is a small thing, a fleeting thing of small affirmation and small denial, veiled in comforting illusions and the hopeful prospect of ultimate nothingness; such men will know nothing of Hell until they live in it. But God loves even such men too much to allow them to simply "forget" Him and "pass away" into nothingness, out of His Presence which alone is life to men; He offers, even to those in Hell, His Love which is torment to those who have not prepared themselves in this life to receive it (Nihilism, p. 99)

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Hello. I'm sorry for interrupting but I'm confused. Is Seraphim saying that God loves men too much to simply let them cease to exist (where they wouldn't even care if they don't exist because they have no consciousness to care about anything), so he shows his love by tormenting and burning them in fire forever? – anonymouswho Jun 29 at 5:14
    
No, that's not what he is trying to convey. Fr. Seraphim's thesis is that God's presence and love is not something that one can escape. It will be a source of joy for those who have sought communion with Him and lived a life of repentance, but a source of torment for those who turned away for Him or didn't even bother to seek Him. In this sense, we make our own hell. Another Orthodox writer, Kallistos Ware pointed out that the same is true in our relations with other people ... – The NonTheologian Jun 29 at 5:30
    
"Egocentricity is the death of true personhood. Each becomes a real person only through entering into relation with other persons, through living for them and in them. There can be no man, so it has been rightly said, until there are at least two men in communication ..." – The NonTheologian Jun 29 at 5:31
    
"The same is true, secondly, of love. Love cannot exist in isolation, but presupposes the other. Self-love is the negation of love. As Charles Williams shows to such devastating effect in his novel Descent into Hell, self-love is hell; for, carried to its ultimate conclusion, self-love signifies the end of all joy and all meaning. Hell is not other people; hell is myself, cut off from others in self-centeredness." Ware, Kallistos. The Orthodox Way (Kindle Locations 409-414). St Vladimir's Seminary Press. Kindle Edition. – The NonTheologian Jun 29 at 5:32
    
Okay I think I understand. Are you saying there is no fire or torture, but men will be mentally tormented because they do not desire God's love- but he will give it to them anyways? – anonymouswho Jun 29 at 5:51

Examining Revelation

Your question is regarding Rev 14:10, but also by implication involves v.11 as well, and needs v.9 for context also, so Rev 14:9-11 (quoting here NKJV):

9 Then a third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, “If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives his mark on his forehead or on his hand, 10 he himself shall also drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out full strength into the cup of His indignation. He shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. 11 And the smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever; and they have no rest day or night, who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name.”

Your question involves two main points:

  1. Is the torment forever?
  2. If so, does that torment involve a separation from God?

Both of those questions are answered in v.10-11, though the former is more implied than directly stated in this passage.

First, it is "the smoke of their torment" that is noted to have an eternal quality of ascending forever. But for smoke to ascend forever, there must be something that is forever burning (hence the implication). It is explicitly stated that the smoke arises from "their torment" (v.11), which relates to v.10, where the torment is of the person, who "shall be tormented with fire and brimstone." So the torment of burning lasts forever, as it is forever sending up smoke from that burning.

Second, "in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb" explicitly notes the lack of physical separation to the Lamb. The Lamb is mentioned 29 times in the Book of Revelation and is a reference to Jesus Christ. This reference is most explicit in the Apostle John's gospel, rather than in the Book of Revelation (which he also authored), for in his gospel he notes John the Baptist's declaration that Jesus was the "Lamb of God" (Jn 1:29, 36; cf. 1 Pet 1:19). The association of Jesus to this picture is essentially assumed in Revelation.

So if one holds a trinitarian view of God (as I do), then the answer of an eternal separation from God is already found, since Jesus is God—there is no such separation found in eternity, at least with respect to the experience of the smoke from the burning. But recall that this burning is also associated to "the wrath of God" (v.10), and wrath is a very personal expression, not something done in disassociation with the object of wrath. So God himself has a "presence" involved in this torment.

Now should one not want to take the trinitarian view for granted, that the God and the Lamb become inseparable is found in Revelation itself:

  • Rev 21:22 makes it clear that there is a unity between "the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb," who combined "are its [holy Jerusalem's, v.10] temple." That is, they function in unity as the singular temple.
  • Rev 22:1 makes it clear that there is a singular "throne of God and of the Lamb" from which a singular "pure river of water of life" proceeds.

So where the Lamb is, God is, and vice versa. If the torment occurs forever in the presence of the Lamb, then it occurs in the presence of God also; if the wrath of God is being expressed eternally, then the Lamb is involved in that expression.

Third, who is here being tormented? Specifically those who worshiped "the beast and his image" and who received the beast's "mark on his forehead or on his hand" (v.9). Is this any different of a place or experience from others noted as being tormented eternally? No. The language used makes it clear that this burning occurs in the same place as those who lead in this rebellious work, that is, Rev 19:20:

Then the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who worked signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image. These two were cast alive into the lake of fire burning with brimstone.

The burning from fire and brimstone occurs in "the lake" that has such effect. This same lake is the destiny of the devil also (Rev 20:10), as well as all those who partake of "the second death" (Rev 20:14), not having escaped its power "in the first resurrection" (Rev 20:6), which are all those "not found written in the Book of Life" (Rev 20:15), which are all those who have died in their sins (cf. Jn 8:21, 24; 1 Cor 15:17), not having been cleansed from them (cf. 1 John 1:7, 9), and so are known and judged by their unrighteous works (Rev 20:12), which is their sins (Rev 21:8).

Conclusion

So Revelation is fairly clear itself in answering the two parts to the question, and becomes more clear when joined to John's other writings (his gospel and epistles). There is an eternal torment and that torment, as well as its by-product of smoke, is in the presence of God and the Lamb.1

Optional Theological Expansion

The answer above is primary to the BH.SE site, as interpretation of the Book of Revelation, especially coupled to John's other writings, gives the answer to the question (which can be further bolstered by incorporating even more non-Johaninne writings). If you are one who does not like theology being discussed, then there is no need to read further than what was said above.

But for those interested, I will digress on a short theological expansion, as theologically, people have issue with this eternal torment, especially in God's presence, for a number of reasons, and the questioner is obviously wrestling with some of those as well. Some of the chief views that impede ones understanding of God's eternal torment of the unbelieving involve one or more of these false (in my mind) theological viewpoints:

  • The unbelieving are eternally separated from God.
  • God is love, and loves all, so He would not torment.
  • There is no real resurrection, it is just symbolic.

I will briefly give my answer to these points.

Those tormented, rather than being separated from God, are in fact experiencing their burning as part of their experiencing the direct presence of God while still in an unrighteous state. Part of the nature of God is not only that He is love (1 Jn 4:8, 16), but that He is a consuming fire (Heb 12:29), and it is "from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power," when His presence is no longer held back from the unrighteous, that this eternal burning comes (2 Thes 1:9; i.e., the "from" there is not in separation, but in source).

But why does God let such torment go on?2 Because in a single sacrifice of His Son, He purchased redemption of all people from the penalty of sin, physical death, and hence all people experience resurrection out of that death on the basis of His paying the penalty. This was God's expression of love to all—to do as He promised, to free all people from the penalty of sin. This freedom is from the first death, and the sacrifice was an act that has a corporate and eternal consequence (that is, it is for all humanity, a universal atonement). It is also an act that can be disbelieved, rejected, and opposed—but not without consequence.

God freeing all humanity in this greatest of all acts of love for them was motivated so that He could save "all the ones believing on Him" so that they "should not perish but have everlasting life" (John 3:16). It was done for all, but only to give life to a subset, the believing.

The rest, the unbelieving, experience "the second death" of Revelation 20. But this second death is distinct from the first death, because now the unbelievers also exist in a resurrected body. There are those resurrected to life and those to condemnation (John 5:29), as both the just and unjust are resurrected (Act 24:15). But Christ conquered the first death, and in that victory that becomes fully expressed at the resurrection, mortality is no more—people cannot die physically in their resurrected bodies (1 Cor 15:53-56).

Jesus's conquest over death affects both the just and unjust, but they each go on to experience two different eternities, a continued life or condemnation to a second death. The latter is the casting into the lake of fire, the place where piecing the above Scriptures together, God has gathered the unbelievers to experience the immersion into His presence, which immersion pairs His nature as a consuming fire against their unrighteousness with their new natures of immortal, resurrected bodies, the result being both the eternal burning of a body never consumed (hence the smoke rising from it forever) and the eternal eating of that body by worms that also never die (Mark 9:42-47; cf. Mat 18:6-9).

So eternal torment of unbelievers is a planned by-product of eternal salvation of believers, for to save the latter, God chose to save all humanity in the resurrection, as saving them from their deserved penalty of sin is a loving act. Christ died for the unjust (1 Pet 3:18), which is all people standing in their own righteousness, for He died for them while they were all "still sinners" (Rom 5:8). But rejecting that act of love makes this act God's only saving work toward the unbeliever. He is the "living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially [the Savior] of those who believe" (1 Tim 4:10). All are saved from physical death in the resurrection, but believers are especially saved, being saved from final condemnation through their faith, for with faith, they are no longer seen as unjust, but just, having the righteousness of God accounted to them for their faith (which is the primary argument of Romans chapter 4).


NOTES

1 For those interested, there is another BH.SE answer discussing eternality and torment in the context of Mat 10:28.

2 The argument that follows after this footnote can be found in more detail in my dissertation, primarily with respect to a universal atonement that brings resurrection, but discussion of the eternal implications of that fro the unbeliever is also touched upon in that work.

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"The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented (βασανισθήσεται G928) with fire and brimstone (θείῳ G2303) in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb" Revelation 14:10

There is one word in this verse that is mistranslated, and the other is very misunderstood. The first is basanizo. According to Thayer's concordance, the first definition of this word is:

"to test (metals) by the touchstone, which is a black siliceous stone used to test the purity of gold or silver by the colour of the streak produced on it by rubbing it with either metal"

Basanizo means to test the purity of metals. God does not torture or torment anybody. The Scriptures say:

"Behold, I have refined thee, but not with silver; I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction." Isaiah 48:10

And again:

"And I will bring the third part through the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried: they shall call on my name, and I will hear them: I will say, It is my people: and they shall say, The LORD is my God." Zachariah 13:9

And again:

"But who may abide the day of his coming? and who shall stand when he appeareth? for he is like a refiner's fire, and like fullers' soap: And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the LORD an offering in righteousness." Malachi 3:2

It is believed that basanizo means torture or torment. This is impossible, because our loving Father does not torture anyone. The third definition Thayer gives is "distressed, to be harassed". Since there are only a few occurrences of basanizo, I will go ahead and quote them all and replace the word "tormented":

"And saying, Lord, my servant lieth at home sick of the palsy, grievously tormented (distressed/harassed)." Matthew 8:6

"And, behold, they cried out, saying, What have we to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God? art thou come hither to torment (harass/distress) us before the time?" Matthew 8:29

"But the ship was now in the midst of the sea, tossed (distressed) with waves: for the wind was contrary." Matthew 14:24

"And cried with a loud voice, and said, What have I to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of the most high God? I adjure thee by God, that thou torment (harass/distress) me not." Mark 5:7

"And he saw them toiling (distressed/harassed) in rowing; for the wind was contrary unto them: and about the fourth watch of the night he cometh unto them, walking upon the sea, and would have passed by them." Mark 6:48

"When he saw Jesus, he cried out, and fell down before him, and with a loud voice said, What have I to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God most high? I beseech thee, torment (harass/distress) me not." Luke 8:28

"(For that righteous man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed (distressed/harassed) his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds;)" 2 Peter 2:8

"And to them it was given that they should not kill them, but that they should be tormented (distressed/harassed) five months: and their torment (distress/harassment) was as the torment (distress/harassment) of a scorpion, when he striketh a man." Revelation 9:5

"And they that dwell upon the earth shall rejoice over them, and make merry, and shall send gifts one to another; because these two prophets tormented (distressed/harassed) them that dwelt on the earth." Revelation 11:10

"And she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained (distressed/harassed) to be delivered." Revelation 12:2

"The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented (distressed/harassed/tested) with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb" Revelation 14:10

"And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented (distressed/harassed/tested) day and night for ever and ever (towards the ages of the ages)." Revelation 20:10

The second word is theion, which is very closely related to the word "theos"- divine/God. Thayer's concordance says:

"Brimstone; divine incense, because burning brimstone was regarded as having power to purify, and to ward off disease"

So there are three words in this verse that have to do with purification and refinement- basanizo, theion, and fire.

Obviously this testing and purification cannot last forever and ever (because one ever is never enough!), because the Lamb has better things to do than stand in "hell" for "eternity" and watch people get tested and refined for no purpose whatsoever; but that's outside the scope of this question.

Thank you.

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You omit the remainder of Thayer/Wilke’s entry on βασανίζω, in particular: “4. univ. to vex with grievous pains (of body or mind), to torment.” Then within that same section Thayer/Wilke specifically states, “with ἐν and the dat. of the material in which one is tormented, Rev. 14:10.” Would you care to explain your omission of the rest of Thayer/Wilke’s entry on the verb βασανίζω? – Simply a Christian Jun 28 at 17:53
    
Hello @SimplyaChristian. I went ahead and addressed this as well. Thank you. – anonymouswho Jun 29 at 1:23
    
"It is believed that basanizo means torture or torment. This is impossible, because our loving Father does not torture anyone." - That? – Simply a Christian Jun 29 at 1:27
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I changed the translation (with a Thayer approved definition) every time the translation presents an irrational, unreasonable, and incomprehensible theological bias. Actually, torment isn't the worst translation since it means "severe physical OR mental suffering". There are a few translations, such as the ISV, that translate it as "torture". That is the idea theologians have attached to basanizo, but the loving Father we serve desires mercy, not sacrifice. And if there is such a word as "forever" in the Scriptures, Isaiah 57:16 explicitly contradicts this "eternal torture" idea. – anonymouswho Jun 29 at 3:36
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Thank you Andrew. I agree this is about Israel, so does that mean no Israelites are going to hell? There is no (not 'never') peace for the wicked because their thoughts are "tormented" by their actions. However, when every knee bows and every tongue confesses to YHVH, there will be peace. God's mercy endures forever (Psalm 136), and mercy triumphs over judgment (James 2:13). – anonymouswho Jun 29 at 5:06

In Luke 19:10, Jesus says,

"For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost."

Then Jesus proceeds to tell the Parable of the Ten Talents, in which he distributes 'talents' to His servants and asks them to make a return on their investment. It then goes on to say how each one doubled their return-except for the one who returned nothing.

But in vs 27, it says

"But those mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me."

Those that are not "with" Jesus are against Him (Luke 11:23),

"He that is not with me is against me: and he that gathereth not with me scattereth."

Therefore, there is no 'neutral ground', you are either a Friend or a Foe.

Hell was created for the devil and his angels; (Matt. 25:41)

"Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:"

God desires that no man perish, but all come to Eternal Life,(2 Pet. 3:9)

The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.

but those who choose against the Grace of God, do so at their peril; they have wittingly(or unwittingly) have chosen to be with Satan, and as such suffer the same consequences as he does. The suffering is Real and the torment is Real; yet the choice was theirs. God gave man immortality, because He created man in His image and likeness. He gave man the freedom to choose Life or Death(Deut. 30:19), to choose life is to live with God for eternity; to choose death is to live apart from God(in Hell) for all eternity.

God fully understands the consequences of this descision, therefore He has made every way available in His Mercy through Jesus to avoid it.

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