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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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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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:
To this, he answers:
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:
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):
Your question involves two main points:
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:
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:
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).
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:
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).
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.
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:
Basanizo means to test the purity of metals. God does not torture or torment anybody. The Scriptures say:
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":
The second word is theion, which is very closely related to the word "theos"- divine/God. Thayer's concordance says:
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.
In Luke 19:10, Jesus says,
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
Those that are not "with" Jesus are against Him (Luke 11:23),
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)
God desires that no man perish, but all come to Eternal Life,(2 Pet. 3:9)
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.