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Revelation 14:11:

And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever

I was told that "for ever and ever" in Greek like in the verse above or elsewhere in the N.T. may not at all mean an eternal (i.e. not ending) period of time, but can merely mean "very very long". Is that true?

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  • There can be no eternal 'torment' for those still flesh and blood. Any not willing to claim the salvation offered in Jesus will not be given eternal life, so they are still physical. Once you're dead, you're dead!
    – steveowen
    Feb 11 at 4:38
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    All will be resurrected; even the dead. Are the dead, who are dead (as you say) resurrected only to be made dead again? Resurrected flesh and blood is not the same as what we currently possess. As in Jesus appearing in a locked room, etc. Feb 12 at 1:33
  • The context was regarding eternal torment - this is not possible if one is still physical. The second Res. is to a physical life for their first opportunity to be saved - the 'little village in Africa' etc. etc. No one will get eternal life in which they may sin again - thus incurring this ridiculous 'eternal torment' nonsense.
    – steveowen
    Feb 12 at 3:19
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    @user48152 It is noticeable you are not referring to scripture in your commented opinions. Will we see a proper answer, with substantial references, that we may vote upon your findings ?
    – Nigel J
    Feb 12 at 5:22
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    @NigelJ I'm inclined to not waste time on such unimportant matters, but we'll see...
    – steveowen
    Feb 12 at 5:39
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Technically it reads "for the ages of ages", but this is just an idiom for "forever", and "forever" is certainly the best translation. You can, of course, torture this verse until it confesses something else but even critical commentaries advise against doing so.

Here is the NICNT commentary:

The punishment of the damned is not a temporary measure. The smoke of their torment rises forever and ever (cf. 20:10). Without hope of acquittal, they pay the eternal price of having chosen evil over righteousness. A number of modern writers point out that the doctrine of hell is offensive to modern people.24 Yet the teaching of the NT on the eternal consequences of willfully rejecting the love of God as manifested in the death of Christ for our sins does not allow us to put the doctrine aside as sub-Christian or reinterpret it in such a way as to remove the abrasive truth of eternal punishment. It was Jesus more than anyone else who spoke of the fires of hell. Better to enter life maimed, he said, than having two hands “to go to hell, where the fire never goes out” (Mark 9:44). The story of the rich man tormented in the fires of hell who begged to have Lazarus dip his finger in water to cool his tongue (Luke 16:9–31) was narrated by none other than the gentle Jesus. After due allowance is made for the place of symbolism in apocalyptic, what remains in these verses is still the terrifying reality of divine wrath poured out upon those who persist in following Antichrist. What the angel has proclaimed so vividly must not be undermined by well-intentioned euphemisms.

Mounce, R. H. (1997). The Book of Revelation (pp. 274–275). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

Attempts to make this verse more palatable to moderns involves the following:

  • For the ages of the ages doesn't mean forever, it just means for a long time.

  • The "smoke" goes up forever, but smoke rises after the object burned is burned up. Thus this may refer to the judgement being remembered forever while they themselves are burned up.

Here is Beale's excellent commentary:

But two considerations support the view that eternal, ongoing punishment is spoken of here. First, the parallel in 20:10 refers to the devil, beast, and false prophet undergoing the judgment in “the lake of fire and brimstone,” where “they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.” This does not say that their existence will be abolished forever but that they will suffer torment forever (see on 20:10). The ungodly suffer the same fate as their three Satanic leaders, who represent them. This identification of the fate of the wicked and their Satanic representatives is also supported by the concept of corporate representation in the OT and NT (see on 1:20). There is no justification in not identifying the fate of those in 14:10–11 with that of their Satanic representatives in 19:20 and 20:10. That the ungodly are thrown into the same “lake of fire” as their Satanic leaders further confirms this (so 20:15; on the “second death” see on 20:6, 14; 21:8). Furthermore, 22:14–15 implies that the existence of the wicked is coterminous with the eternal blessedness of the righteous.

Second, the word βασανισμός (“torment”) in Rev. 14:10–11 is used nowhere in Revelation or biblical literature in the sense of annihilation of personal existence. Without exception, Revelation uses it of conscious suffering on the part of people (9:5; 11:10; 12:2; 18:7, 10, 15; 20:10). In ch. 18 the word alludes to the conscious torment that Babylon underwent as she was undergoing earthly destruction. Her earthly torment ended when she was finally destroyed as a historical institution. Elsewhere in the NT and LXX the use of βασανισμός and related words for human experiences also refers to conscious suffering, not annihilation (so Matt. 4:24; 8:6, 29; 18:34; Mark 5:7; 6:48; Luke 8:28; 16:23, 28; 2 Pet. 2:8). Words from this group occur about one hundred times in the LXX, always referring to conscious suffering;452 one exception could be Ezek. 32:24, 30, which could refer to death, yet there the dead are portrayed as existing after death in their tormented condition (cf. 32:20, 31). Only once in biblical literature is the word used of something other than human experience (Matt. 14:24), but even this may be a parallel with the use in Mark 6:48.

Beale, G. K. (1999). The book of Revelation: a commentary on the Greek text (pp. 762–763). Grand Rapids, MI; Carlisle, Cumbria: W.B. Eerdmans; Paternoster Press.

It doesn't take a lot of imagination to come up with more counterarguments to Beale, but I think the proper reading is straightforward.

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    Excellent references. Up-voted +1. Can you link to any online editions or do I have have to buy the hard copies ?
    – Nigel J
    Feb 12 at 5:20
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    @NIgel-J Thanks! I use the logos electronic edition, I'm not aware of any ebook vesions and the text is still under copyright.
    – Robert
    Feb 12 at 19:08
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Objectors to the idea of eternal torment for those who have Satan as their ‘father’ strangely have no objection to eternal blessedness for themselves. Eternal bliss appeals to them. Eternal torment for others is, somehow, offensive. Why? Deep down, do they think God’s judgement is unrighteous? Is his judgement of them righteous, but his condemnation of the unrepentantly wicked to eternal punishment, ‘unfair’? Therefore, do they seek to ‘resolve’ this uncomfortable dichotomy (to their way of thinking) by rationalising away all biblical statements about eternal punishment?

Belief or disbelief in the human soul being immortal is intrinsically bound up with peoples’ views on this matter. Those who believe God’s gift of life is never taken away by him, but that each person lives eternally (though in a different form after physical death) seem to accept Revelation (and myriad other biblical verses) speaking of eternal torment. Those who believe in soul annihilation always seem to reject the idea of eternal torment for unbelievers (whilst inconsistently accepting the idea of eternal life for believers).

Given how Jesus identified some pious religious leaders of his day as having made themselves children of the devil, how could such spiritual children avoid the consequences due their evil father? (John 8:39-45) If he is to be tormented day and night forever in that eternally burning lake of sulphuric fire, why should not the rest of his family end up there too, Revelation 20:10 agreeing with 14:11?

Further, is it not obvious that when resurrected bodies are given to all the dead (not just some of them – all, from least to greatest – Revelation 20:12-15), those are bodies specially designed for the eternal state? They are not bodies as we know them. Just as Jesus could eat food as well as suddenly appear in a room that had a locked door, so with resurrection bodies for all the dead. Just as Christ’s resurrection body could conform to the law of gravity while walking along the road to Emmaus, so it could defy the law of gravity and ascend upwards, visibly, into clouds in the sky.

The resurrected dead will be fitted for the eternal state that follows physical death. That is why the strongest words possible are chosen by Christ to describe the torments of hell as in Luke 16:19-31. Clearly, mention of one drop of water bringing relief to a tormented tongue cannot be taken the way we experience such relief. Yet the words the Lord chose were the most powerful possible for us mortals to waken up to awful torment that cannot be relieved.

Then there is the matter of time, for “eternal” speaks of never-ending. The Bible speaks of eternity; life never-ending for those appointed to glory, and life never-ending for those appointed to damnation. Once time shall be no more (as we know it), eternity shall be in perpetuity.

The Bible is consistent. Humans who inwardly object to God’s righteous judgments but who do not wish to be seen as implying that, come out with all sorts of convolutions to scripture to wriggle out of the dilemma they have got themselves into. Soul annihilation is one such escape route, so they vainly imagine. There are others. While we live in physical bodies that corrupt and die, we cannot imagine a different realm where there is no constraint of time or of decay. Heaven and hell are outside of our experience and we can only know of them through the combined words of scripture. Of course biblical descriptions are going to sound strange and be beyond our ken, but for those not prepared to take Jesus’ many warnings of eternal torment seriously, they will only discover, too late, that he meant every word. And it was Jesus who enabled the visions of Revelation to be ‘seen’ by John, for our instruction and warning. In chapter 20 all those in hell are turfed out, to have their invisible soul (or spirit) covered with a resurrection body so that they can stand for judgement. Those whose names are not found written in the Lamb’s book of life are then cast into the sulphuric lake of fire, where their father, the devil, and all the demons already are, with the final addition being the now emptied hell, and the now powerless death. There can be no more dying. “The last enemy, death, is swallowed up forever” (1 Corinthians 15:26). Eternity obtains.

If we start with the righteousness of God, comparing that with our own unrighteousness, we will not dare try to judge God, the righteous judge of all the earth (Genesis 18:25) by our own standards of what we think to be ‘fair’ or ‘reasonable’. On that day of resurrection and judgement, everything hidden will be revealed, from the start of human existence to that very day. All sinners who have not repented and been justified by God and pardoned will be judged as being unrepentant sinners whose names are not in the book of [eternal] life, and they will join the demonic forces in that eternally burning lake of sulphuric fire.

Those who will not repent and then worship God acceptably will end up worshipping the beast and receiving that ‘mark’ of identification. But, prior to that day of resurrection and judgement, those who belong to Christ by faith have been identified and sealed with a different mark – Revelation 7:1-4.

Let Jesus have the last word here: “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life; and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God ABIDETH on him.” (John 3:36) Everlasting life is contrasted with abiding wrath. Those who wish to believe in the former must equally believe in the latter – without trying to dilute the impact of those words: “Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41).

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    Let Jesus have the last word here, indeed! +1 Feb 12 at 13:26
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    Sadly this is a traditional interpretation that somehow gives unrepentant sinners eternal life which is unbiblical. -1
    – steveowen
    Feb 13 at 2:13
  • @user48152 - Where, exactly, does this answer "somehow give unrepentant sinners eternal life"? Revelation12:15-20 is referenced where the dead are resurrected then judged. Anyone whose name was not found written in the book oflife is thrown into the lake of fire. Sinners do not go unpunished by a holy and righteous God. Jesus said the unrepentant, those who reject Him, end up in the eternal fire (Matthew 25:41). Don't you believe Jesus?
    – Lesley
    Feb 13 at 11:48
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    "awful torment that cannot be relieved" You clearly think there IS eternal torment for the unrepentant. If they are eternally tormented they cannot be physical - they have gotten eternal life somehow or perhaps an immortal soul which is also unbiblical. I hope I've read your post correctly.
    – steveowen
    Feb 13 at 12:13
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    @user48152 - I stand by my comment (I did not post this answer) and the words of Christ Jesus. Remember that the Revelation is of Jesus Christ, "the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth" (Revelation 1:1-5). It is a solemn warning of judgment, first to his church, and then to unbelievers.
    – Lesley
    Feb 13 at 13:01
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I am in process of doing an in depth study on the Biblical expression of Hell. There is so much non sense wrapped around this biblical doctrine. Great question!

One has to understand that when we look up the original greek first you have to check the word, what it means the majority of the times it is translated, which basically is the general translation of the word. Then you have to look at all the nuances of the term and build a case based on that. This term 'aion' the majority of the times it is translated by the best Greek scholars the NAS / lockman foundation could find is translated forever. The webster dictionary translates the term forever as - for a limitless time, continually. this is not to say eternally because it has a beginning. Eternity is from forever past to forever future, which is not fully correct either because eternity is outside of time all together. To have past and future in the same sentence as eternity is problematic at the least, but for our limited minds and for discussions sake let it be said this way. Second, relative to this answer, the nuance meaning of the term 'aion' is translated as age, ages. Out of 81 times the word is used in correlation to what we are looking at only 27 times the word is translated age/ages.

GOING A LITTLE DEEPER:

When I look at this passage what jumps out at me is the combination of the greek word 'aion' repeated 2x in a row. The text literally says "...torment ascendeth up forever and ever (aion aion)". I know that when a biblical writer wants to make an emphatic point or extend the meaning of a term he would write it 2x's. In other words even if this word was translated ages it would be translated something like tho, "And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ages upon ages with no end". In order to make a case that this torment was only for ages and not for forever, the writer would need to remove one of the "aion" in order to try and make that pint. And even at that the case would be about 25% possible fact because the majority of the times this word is used it is translated forever.

Secondly, to put the final nail in this coffin, we have to look at the other NT passages that utilize the term 'aion' in repetition to see more precisely what it consistently is referring to see exactly what it means here in this particular passage.

All the passages that have the greek term 'Aion Aion' forever and ever back to back:

Ephesians 3:21 to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.

Philippians 4:20 Now to our God and Father be the glory forever and ever. Amen. 1 Timothy 1:17 Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.

2 Timothy 4:18 The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed, and will bring me safely to His heavenly kingdom; to Him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.

Hebrews 13:21 equip you in every good thing to do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.

1 Peter 4:11 Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God; whoever serves is to do so as one who is serving by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

1 Peter 5:11 To Him be dominion forever and ever. Amen.

Revelation 1:6 and He has made us to be a kingdom, priests to His God and Father—to Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.

Revelation 4:9 And when the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, to Him who lives forever and ever,

Revelation 4:10 the twenty-four elders will fall down before Him who sits on the throne, and will worship Him who lives forever and ever, and will cast their crowns before the throne, saying,

Revelation 5:13 And every created thing which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all things in them, I heard saying, “To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever.”

Revelation 7:12 saying, “Amen, blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might, be to our God forever and ever. Amen.” Revelation 10:6 and swore by Him who lives forever and ever, who created heaven and the things in it, and the earth and the things in it, and the sea and the things in it, that there will be delay no longer,

Revelation 11:15 Then the seventh angel sounded; and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ; and He will reign forever and ever.”

Revelation 14:11 And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever; they have no rest day and night, those who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name.”

Revelation 15:7 Then one of the four living creatures gave to the seven angels seven golden bowls full of the wrath of God, who lives forever and ever.


Revelation 19:3 And a second time they said, “Hallelujah! Her smoke rises up forever and ever.”

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

Revelation 22:5 And there will no longer be any night; and they will not have need of the light of a lamp nor the light of the sun, because the Lord God will illumine them; and they will reign forever and ever.


Do I need to say anything more?
I am absolutely 100% sure that there torment is from that time begins in Rev 14:11 to all eternity future - FOREVER!

SOME FINAL REMARKS: This is a fearful subject, and one that needs to be dealt with sensitively, but also should be thoroughly discussed. I would like to speak openly regarding this subject but can't for fear that my post will be deleted. If the posting person "Brilliant" needs me to clarify anything please don't hesitate to ask. Again, great question!

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  • Thank you for this answer. "If the posting person "Brilliant" needs me to clarify anything please don't hesitate to ask" - okay, I have a first one, have you read Welch's HELL, or “Pure from the blood of all men”? I would want to know your perspective on his points there. I don't mean to say that I am fully supportive of those points, in fact, many of them I didn't get and I still need to study them more closely, and you may have a better understanding.
    – brilliant
    Jan 30 '14 at 6:52
  • No I am not familiar with those works but will check into them.
    – JLB
    Jan 30 '14 at 12:59
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A brief response to the answer by JBL. You were doing fine until you added, "with no end." You imposed an eisegetical tag on the end of your translation, which is not supported by the text. You wrote, " In other words even if this word was translated ages it would be translated something like tho, "And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ages upon ages with no end".

You would have been far more accurate by ending at "ages upon ages." If you look carefully, ages in the Bible end. There's the former age, the present age and the age to come. The expression "ages upon ages" is simply a figure of speech to describe a long time. In order for a time period to be eternal, it would need to have no end and no beginning.

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Revelation 14's reference to "unmixed wine" gives us a clue that John's sign of the water turned to wine (in John 6) gives some background.

While not a much-read text by most today, the Maccabees scrolls were widely read and revered in the first century by learned Jewish men. The scrolls end with this pithy closing:

2 Maccabees 15 RSV: 38 If it is well told and to the point, that is what I myself desired; if it is poorly done and mediocre, that was the best I could do. 39 For just as it is harmful to drink wine alone, or, again, to drink water alone, while wine mixed with water is sweet and delicious and enhances one’s enjoyment, so also the style of the story delights the ears of those who read the work. And here will be the end.

It appears to be a truism to the author that the ideal or at least healthiest beverage is neither pure water nor pure wine but a mixture of both. Paul seems to be alluding to this truism when addressing Timothy’s ill health from tee-totaling:

[1Ti 5:23 NLT] (23) Don't drink only water. You ought to drink a little wine for the sake of your stomach because you are sick so often.

The wine obviously was fermented or it would not provide the sterilization referenced. In an age before chlorinated filtered water, this was an important technique.

In addition, they would add spices for flavor and sometimes for their stupefying effect, such as in the case of myrrh.

“Mixed wine” is the term used to describe it:

"properly a mixture of wine and water with spices that increase its stimulating properties." - M. G. Easton (1897b)

But the wine Jesus made was a hit with the host and the guests and possibly boosted Church attendance! :) The reason it was so impressive is that it was unmixed wine. It was pure wine with no water added. Why do I surmise this? Because the water turned to wine is actually an allusion to the soon arriving judgment of Jerusalem in the form of the war with Rome, c. 70 AD/CE:

[Jer 13:12-14 NLT] (12) "So tell them, 'This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: May all your jars be filled with wine.' And they will reply, 'Of course! Jars are made to be filled with wine!' (13) "Then tell them, 'No, this is what the LORD means: I will fill everyone in this land with drunkenness--from the king sitting on David's throne to the priests and the prophets, right down to the common people of Jerusalem. (14) I will smash them against each other, even parents against children, says the LORD. I will not let my pity or mercy or compassion keep me from destroying them.'"

By filling their jars with water and turning it into wine, Jesus was alluding to Jeremiah’s prophecy that Jerusalem would be mercilessly destroyed!

[Rev 14:8-12 NLT] (8) Then another angel followed him through the sky, shouting, "Babylon is fallen--that great city is fallen--because she made all the nations of the world drink the wine of her passionate immorality." (9) Then a third angel followed them, shouting, "Anyone who worships the beast and his statue or who accepts his mark on the forehead or on the hand (10) must drink the wine of God's anger. It has been poured full strength into God's cup of wrath. And they will be tormented with fire and burning sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and the Lamb. (11) The smoke of their torment will rise forever and ever, and they will have no relief day or night, for they have worshiped the beast and his statue and have accepted the mark of his name." (12) This means that God's holy people must endure persecution patiently, obeying his commands and maintaining their faith in Jesus.

And John alludes to this to says that Jerusalem (“Secret Babylon”) will be the ultimate fulfillment of Jeremiah’s grim prophecy:

[Rev 16:19 NLT] (19) The great city of Babylon split into three sections, and the cities of many nations fell into heaps of rubble. So God remembered all of Babylon's sins, and he made her drink the cup that was filled with the wine of his fierce wrath.

The great tribulation lasted for three and a half years and when the dust had settled, the Sinai covenant age had disappeared:

[Heb 8:13 NET] (13) When he speaks of a new covenant, he makes the first obsolete. Now what is growing obsolete and aging is about to disappear.

So John may have been referring to the years of anguish of those who failed to listen to Jesus' warning to flee Jerusalem when Titus' army appeared and began his siege of Jerusalem:

[Luk 21:20-24 NET] (20) "But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near. (21) Then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains. Those who are inside the city must depart. Those who are out in the country must not enter it, (22) because these are days of vengeance, to fulfill all that is written. (23) Woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing their babies in those days! For there will be great distress on the earth [IE: "the land" of Israel] and wrath against this people [IE: the Jews]. (24) They [IE: the Jews] will fall by the edge of the sword and be led away as captives among all nations. Jerusalem will be trampled down by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.

Or, it may have been a more Hellenized view based on the Enochian visions of Tartarus and the prison of angels he describes:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tartarus

Peter explicitly refers to Tartarus:

[2Pe 2:4-5 KJV] (4) For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast [them] down to hell [Gk: "cast them into Tartarus"], and delivered [them] into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment; (5) And spared not the old world, but saved Noah the eighth [person], a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly;

In fact there are many examples of references to Enoch in the NT:

[Enoch Chapter 13] 1 And Enoch went and said: 'Azazel, thou shalt have no peace: a severe sentence has gone forth 2 against thee to put thee in bonds: And thou shalt not have toleration nor request granted to thee, because of the unrighteousness which thou hast taught, and because of all the works of godlessness 3 and unrighteousness and sin which thou hast shown to men.' Then I went and spoke to them all 4 together, and they were all afraid, and fear and trembling seized them. And they besought me to draw up a petition for them that they might find forgiveness, and to read their petition in the presence 5 of the Lord of heaven. For from thenceforward they could not speak (with Him) nor lift up their 6 eyes to heaven for shame of their sins for which they had been condemned. Then I wrote out their petition, and the prayer in regard to their spirits and their deeds individually and in regard to their 7 requests that they should have forgiveness and length. And I went off and sat down at the waters of Dan, in the land of Dan, to the south of the west of Hermon: I read their petition till I fell 8 asleep. And behold a dream came to me, and visions fell down upon me, and I saw visions of chastisement, and a voice came bidding (me) I to tell it to the sons of heaven, and reprimand them. 9 And when I awaked, I came unto them, and they were all sitting gathered together, weeping in 10 'Abelsjail, which is between Lebanon and Seneser, with their faces covered. And I recounted before them all the visions which I had seen in sleep, and I began to speak the words of righteousness, and to reprimand the heavenly Watchers.

And here Jesus does the same:

[1Pe 3:19-20 NLT] (19) So he went and preached to the spirits in prison-- (20) those who disobeyed God long ago when God waited patiently while Noah was building his boat. Only eight people were saved from drowning in that terrible flood.

And there are many other references to Enoch in the NT. I would argue that the scrolls of Enoch are foundational to the NT teachings and description of daemonic activity and events in the NT. IE:

[Mat 25:41 NKJV] (41) "Then He will also say to those on the left hand, 'Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels:

[Jas 2:19 NKJV] (19) You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe--and tremble!

[Luk 16:27-28 NKJV] (27) "Then he said, 'I beg you therefore, father, that you would send him to my father's house, (28) 'for I have five brothers, that he may testify to them, lest they also come to this place of torment.'

[Jde 1:14-15 KJV] (14) And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints, (15) To execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard [speeches] which ungodly sinners have spoken against him.

John also seems to allude to the destruction of Edom:

[Isa 34:8-12 NLT] (8) For it is the day of the LORD's revenge, the year when Edom will be paid back for all it did to Israel. (9) The streams of Edom will be filled with burning pitch, and the ground will be covered with fire. (10) This judgment on Edom will never end; the smoke of its burning will rise forever. The land will lie deserted from generation to generation. No one will live there anymore. (11) It will be haunted by the desert owl and the screech owl, the great owl and the raven. For God will measure that land carefully; he will measure it for chaos and destruction. (12) It will be called the Land of Nothing, and all its nobles will soon be gone.

Edom was destroyed a long time ago and the burning has stopped, leading to the conclusion that the prophets, including Isaiah, were given to a great deal of hyperbole.

I find that if the passage in Revelation 14 is taken without context, it speaks of endless torment. Given the context of the Edom passage, Jewish tradition, etc. it is simply prophetic hyperbole, but if taken in the context of the Greco-Roman Enochian tradition, it might well be taken to refer to endless torment in Tartarus. The scriptures defy tidy categorization as they are written in spaghetti code.

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    I would think it a waste of time to appply 'hermeneutics' to a text which I sincerely believed was "as usual, the scriptures provide confusing, apparently contradictory information at every turn.
    – Nigel J
    Feb 12 at 13:14
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    I was tracking with you fine until you went off to Tartarus and left Rev. 14:11 all alone. Feb 12 at 13:16
  • @MikeBorden I'm always careful to offend everyone at least a little bit. :o)
    – Ruminator
    Feb 12 at 13:28
  • I fear you lost me after the first sentence, but then I got the message in your last sentence. So that's all right, then. Forgive me if I don't up-vote your answer although I won't down-vote it either (no offence intended).
    – Lesley
    Feb 12 at 14:51
  • An interesting read, but seems to lack a fitting conclusion. If you wrote/compiled all that, you must had something more substantial in mind... pls finish.
    – steveowen
    Feb 12 at 21:07
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Does Revelation 14:11 describe eternal torment for the unbelievers?

Revelation 14:9-11 King James Version (KJV)

9 And the third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand,10 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 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 ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name.

Does this describe day-after-day conscious eternal torment for the beast worshippers?

The answer is "NO". The passage simply states that the wicked are being tormented, it does not say that they tormented forever.

The text (Vs11) simply states that it is the smoke that continues to ascend forever and ever. The evidence that the fire has done its works of eradication. The smoke, associated with their destruction, ascends forever because the destruction will be eternal and will never be forgotten.

SIMILARLY, we read the prophecy (Isaiah 34:5,9-10) of prophet Isaiah regarding their downfall of Edom. According to the prophecy, the land of Edom will be devasted, and that its smoke will keep ascending forever. Literally, this is not possible, instead, it represents the complete and lasting destruction of the land of Edom.

Isaiah 34:5, 9-10 (NASB)

5 For My sword has drunk its fill in heaven; Behold it shall descend for judgment upon Edom, And upon the people whom I have designated for destruction.[a] 9 Its streams will be turned into pitch And its loose earth into brimstone And its land will become burning pitch. 10 It will not be extinguished night or day; Its smoke will go up forever. From generation to generation it will be desolate; None will pass through it forever and ever.

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Let us assume that Rev 14:11 describes eternal torment for the wicked. IF this is true, then we must deal with the following matters:

  1. Amongst the 3rd angel's message, we have a long series of metaphorical, ie, no-literal, highly symbolic images such as: the beast, it image, wine, the cup, the Lamb, etc. Why teat one phrase as literal among a series of non-literal terms - on basic hermeneutic can this arbitrary choice be made?
  2. If this verse describes eternal (literal) torment for the wicked, then it is the only place in the entire Bible where such is described. Other places that are claimed to describe this, nothing like this as actually mentioned such as:
  • Rev 20:10 describes Satan being thrown into eternal fire and tormented forever along with the (mythical) beast and the (mythical) false prophet. There is no mention of real people here. further, this is just before death and hades are destroyed in the same lake of fire (V14)
  • Mark 9:48 which reads "hell, where ‘their worm never dies, and the fire is never quenched.’ (quoting Isa 66:24) which does not describe eternal torment. It also suggests that worms do the destruction
  1. In Rev 14:11 it is the smoke (a concrete noun) of their torment (an abstract noun) - so what generates the smoke - it is clearly not the burning bodies as they are NOT destroyed - it is presumably the fuel for the fire that generates the smoke. The burning material is sulphur which does not make smoke but only sulphurous gases which quickly choke a person and kills them - but we are presumably to understand that this is a miracle of God to keep these poor people alive despite being choked with toxins, which means thay have nothing to worry about because they cannot die!
  2. The idea of someone being miraculously kept alive in hell actually contradicts numerous other verse that say the opposite such as:
  • Matt 10:28 - ... Instead, fear the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.
  • 2 Thess 1:9 - They [the wicked] will suffer the penalty of eternal destruction
  • Rev 20:9 - ... But fire came down from heaven and consumed them [the wicked]
  • 1 John 5:12 - Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. [By definition, those in hell do "have the Son" and so cannot live to get eternal life in hell.]
  • Eze 18:4, 20, 24 - the soul who sins is the one who will die.
  • Heb 10:39 - But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls.
  • 2 Peter 2:6 - if He condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to destruction, reducing them to ashes as an example of what is coming on the ungodly;
  • 2 Peter 3:7 - And by that same word, the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.
  • Jude 7 - just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire. [These cities are not still burning but were destroyed.]

In fact, the idiom of "burning with fire" is common Hebrew idiom for complete destruction - see appendix below.

This same conclusion is now the official position of the Church of England (or "Anglican" Church or "Episcopalian" Church, etc.) - see The Church of England Commission (1995) position of “total non-being”, at https://apnews.com/article/611c8aa8904dde105806f6c05485f995

Therefore the best way to understand Rev 14:11, consistent with the rest of the scrptures quoted above is as per that quoted by Robert, "The "smoke" goes up forever, but smoke rises after the object burned is burned up. Thus this may refer to the judgement being remembered forever while they themselves are burned up."

APPENDIX - "Burn with Fire"

"Burn with Fire" is a Hebrew idiom meaning to completely destroy something. Here are the many examples of such from the OT:

  • Ex 12:10 - And you shall not leave any of it over until morning, but whatever is left of it until morning, you shall burn with fire [= completely destroy it]
  • Ex 29:14 - But the flesh of the bull and its hide and its refuse, you shall burn with fire [= completely destroy it] outside the camp; it is a sin offering
  • Lev 8:32 - The remainder of the flesh and of the bread you shall burn in the fire [= completely destroy it].
  • Lev 13:57 - and if it appears again in the garment, whether in the warp or in the woof, or in any article of leather, it is an outbreak; the article with the mark shall be burned in the fire [= completely destroyed].
  • Lev 16:27 - But the bull of the sin offering and the goat of the sin offering, whose blood was brought in to make atonement in the holy place, shall be taken outside the camp, and they shall burn their hides, their flesh, and their refuse in the fire. [= completely destroy it]
  • Deut 7:25 - The graven images of their gods you are to burn with fire [= completely destroy it]; you shall not covet the silver or the gold that is on them, nor take it for yourselves, or you will be snared by it, for it is an abomination to the LORD your God.
  • Josh 11:6 - Then the LORD said to Joshua, "Do not be afraid because of them, for tomorrow at this time I will deliver all of them slain before Israel; you shall hamstring their horses and burn their chariots with fire [= completely destroy them].
  • Ps 46:9 - Then the LORD said to Joshua, "Do not be afraid because of them, for tomorrow at this time I will deliver all of them slain before Israel; you shall hamstring their horses and burn their chariots with fire [completely destroy them].
  • Jer 43:13 - He will also shatter the obelisks of Heliopolis, which is in the land of Egypt; and the temples of the gods of Egypt he will burn with fire [= completely destroy].
  • Eze 23:47 - The company will stone them with stones and cut them down with their swords; they will slay their sons and their daughters and burn their houses with fire [= completely destroy them].
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  • 4
    Far be it from me to get into a theological debate over any passage in Revelation, but I disagree with the notion that because this was a vision that therefore it cannot refer to punishment that is real or eternal. The original question was not about whether there was an oxidizing lake of fire, but whether the images in Revelation were describing eternal torment or not. I wont press this further here.
    – Robert
    Feb 12 at 1:34
  • @Robert - I think you have misunderstood my answer - It simply said that a lake of fire is to destroy things, not torment them as the above references suggest. The "smoke of torment" should not be understood literally because none of the other language in these verses is literal either.
    – Dottard
    Feb 12 at 4:45
  • 3
    You assume apollumi in Matt 10:28 indicates annihilation but in 9:17 the wineskins remain even after their given purpose has been ruined.... They are destroyed and yet remain. Feb 12 at 13:51
  • 1
    @MikeBorden Agreed. The wineskins become incapable of retaining that which alludes to the New Testament, but they still exist, without a purpose, as useless refuse.
    – Nigel J
    Feb 12 at 14:04
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My understanding of eternal torment comes from the experience of the consequences of my own sins. This is how David came to understand his own sins, and their consequences and how they were dealt with by God. Through his experiences :

4 For day and night thy hand was heavy upon me: my moisture is turned into the drought of summer. Selah.

5 I acknowledged my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the LORD; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin. Selah.

Psalm 32: 4,5 KJV]

These sins have separated me from God almighty, Isaiah 59:2. These sins have enraged the Creator who made me for a purpose and I have, utterly, failed of that purpose. Not only so, I have insulted him, rather than glorified him. Provoked him to anger, rather than worshipped him. Induced in him, by my wicked works, a fury, and indignation. Rather then meekly be grateful for an existence, I have misused that existence. Rather than serve him, love him, seek his will, follow his requirements, I have gone my own way and failed to be aligned to his own purposes in creation.

All of this, and more, is expressed in Romans 3:10-18.

And I am created an immortal soul. Such a gift, such a humanity. Once made, it cannot be unmade. A soul is for ever.

The spirit (that immaterial essence, which resides in the soul) returns to him who made it Ecclesiastes 12:7.

And a soul must reside within a humanity. So, Christ has brought life and immortality to light, 2 Timothy 1:10. And all is resolved in him. And we all shall appear at the judgment seat of Christ, in the body, at the resurrection.

Every soul of man, shall be judged in the body, 2 Corinthians 5:10. He rose, so shall rise all humanity, Revelation 20:12,13. He has made this certain by his sufferings and his death and his resurrection, John 5:28.

And were I to rise from the dead, still laden with sins, then I should never, ever, be able to suffer sufficiently to appease God almighty. No suffering, however much prolonged, could possibly be enough to repay what I have done. And the time to repay would be over, for a new creation would be begun. Another realm, to which I would not belong.

Too late, for the old creation would become a conflagration, the stars fallen to earth, Revelation 6:13, the whole collapsed into a fire that can never be quenched, Mark 9:44-48. Possibly, what we now understand to be a plasma, the fourth state of matter.

Then, no amount of suffering could ever appease for the sins I had committed during time, during the old creation and during the lifetime given that I should seek, and find, the living God.

Where should my immortal soul go ? Where can it be accommodated ? In a flame. In a conflagration. In a plasma that shall ever exist.

In a humanity risen from the dead, made to accommodate an immortal soul which, now, has nowhere to go.

So it stays, stuck to the old creation, which, now, is a flaming fire, unquenchable.

"And their worm dieth not". . .

"and the fire is not quenched" . . .

. . . saith Jesus.

Mark 9:44-48.


Therefore, have I trusted in Jesus Christ, who 'his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree'.

For by no other means, can my sins be taken away. By no other means can God be satisfied. By no other means can he be at peace with regard to the things I have done, contrarily. By no other means can God be satisfied and no longer furious with this man and his outrageous sins.

By no other means than that the eternal Son, whose Deity is sufficient, within humanity, to suffer for sins, in the body : that I committed, not he.

Only in this Divine Person, and within his humanity, can sins be eradicated to the satisfaction of the Almighty God.

Thanks be to God for his unspeakable gift. Amen.

The sinners in Zion are afraid; fearfulness hath surprised the hypocrites. Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings? [Isaiah 33:14 KJV]

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  • I think you have misquoted eccl 12:7 which actually says - " ", NOT "The soul returns to him who made it. Are you suggesting that the soul and the spirit are the same thing?
    – Dottard
    Feb 12 at 9:49
  • "Once made, it cannot be unmade. A soul is for ever." Any references for this assertion? How to reconcile this idea with places like Matt 10:28, Eze 18:4 and Rev 20:9 that discuss the destruction of the whole person?
    – Dottard
    Feb 12 at 9:51
  • In Mark 9:48, what is the difference between the worm and the fire since neither destroy?
    – Dottard
    Feb 12 at 9:52
  • 2
    @Dottard You assume apollumi in Matt 10:28 indicates annihilation but in 9:17 the wineskins remain even after their given purpose has been ruined. Feb 12 at 13:44
  • 1
    @MikeBorden I edited regarding Ecc 12:7. Since the immaterial spirit resides in the immaterial soul, there are occasions when one may be taken as the other, but with a shift in emphasis. I have edited to be more accurate, literally, but it makes no difference within the framework of the present discussion.
    – Nigel J
    Feb 12 at 13:51

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