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The gospel of John teaches that those who do not believe in Jesus as God's only begotten son will perish, I understand the meaning of the phrase to perish is to vanish as a result of being burned gradually in the lake of fire, which means they vanish and are no more which is the second death.

John 3:16

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

And then also there is a destruction of the body in hell

Mathew 10:28

And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

The verses above confirm that there is an end to the suffering in hell through destruction or perishing.

The Book of Revelation has a different view where there is a false prophet who I assume is human is tormented in the lake of fire forever.

Revelation 20:10

and the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.

How do we reconcile the view in the gospels of an ending suffering in the lake of fire through the destruction of the soul and the body and the view in Revelation of an eternal torment?

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  • Note that the annihilationist view described in the question, for humans, is not at all settled. There are detractors on the sides of both more judgment (eternal conscious torment) or less (universal reconciliation).
    – ojchase
    Commented Apr 26 at 17:57

4 Answers 4

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This answer seeks to give verses for eternal conscious torment.

Regarding John 3:16 "perish/apoletai" Thayer's Lexicon:

"to be delivered up to eternal misery."

And Matthew 25:28 "destroy/apolesai" Thayer:

"to devote or give up to eternal misery."

Matthew 25:46 ESV

"And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."

Punishment and life are both eternal/aionion.

John 17:3

"And this is eternal life , that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent."

For souls to be told "I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness." [Matt 7:23] would be the opposite of eternal life, i.e., eternal death. "Death" here as in Eph 2:1 "dead in trespasses and sins."

Daniel 12:2 NIV

"Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt."

NKJV Study Bible comment on Dan 12:2-

"Those of faith will rise to eternal life, the rest of the unsaved to eternal torment.

Luke 16:24

"for I am in torment in this flame."

God can make a "flame" which torments but does not consume. e.g., The bush in Exodus 3:2-5 "and the bush was not consumed."

From Isaiah 66:24 NKJB

"For their worm does not die, And their fire is not quenched, They shall be an abhorrence to all flesh."

Jesus quotes this in Mark 9:44, 46 and 48.

My comment: As long as evil remains evil [depart from me, I never knew you], there is food for the "worm". The "worm" having the nature of something that torments.

Revelation 14:11

"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."

The "they" who have no rest are from "all nations." [Rev 14:8].

Revelation 20:15

"And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire."

"anyone"- all unsaved people. All people will be judged, "the dead, small and great." The unsaved will go to "eternal punishment" Matt 25:46.

John agrees with Revelation because in John 3:16 "perish" is not the perishing of the person but the perishing of all their desires for peace, happiness and the "joy of the Lord"- i.e., being known and loved by God.

God is love but the unsaved do not receive that love. Only those "whom you have given me [John 17:24] may be with me."

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  • The perfect example is the burning bush which burned but consumed not tells us that the torment is forever and ever. Upvotes and accepted
    – Dong Li
    Commented Apr 30 at 17:04
  • @C.Stroud - I am curious to know what is your take on Malachi 4:1,3: "For, behold, the day is coming, burning like a fire pot; and all the proud and every doer of wickedness shall be chaff (burnt out). And the coming day will set them ablaze, says Jehovah of Hosts, which will not leave root or branches to them" (no longer existing). "And you shall tread under the wicked, for they shall be ashes (fully destroyed) under the soles of your feet in the day which I am preparing, says Jehovah of Hosts". Commented Apr 30 at 17:52
  • @Nephesh Roi A pot with fire in it dstroys what goes in it. Perhaps it means that the unsaved way of life, e.g., tormenting the righteous , will be completely stopped. "Chaff", instead of being proud and looking important the wicked will be left over chaff. The wicked looked down on belivers but their way of life is burnt up from top to bottom, root and branch. Believers will enjoy the blessing of God and be "above"
    – C. Stroud
    Commented Apr 30 at 19:18
  • @Nephesh Roi "above" the wicked. The wicked under their feet. The whole way of life of the wicked destroyed, but their ability to be aware of their situation not destroyed.
    – C. Stroud
    Commented Apr 30 at 19:29
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Strong's Concordance

basanizó: to torture

Original Word: βασανίζω

Part of Speech: Verb

Transliteration: basanizó

Phonetic Spelling: (bas-an-id'-zo)

Definition: to torture

Usage: I examine, as by torture; I torment; I buffet, as of waves.

HELPS Word-studies

928 basanízō (from 931 /básanos, "a tormenting trial") – properly, to examine (literally by using torture).

Thayer's Greek Lexicon STRONGS NT 928: βασανίζω

βασανίζω: (imperfect ἐβασάνιζον); 1 aorist ἐβασανισα; passive (present βασανίζομαι); 1 aorist ἐβασανίσθην; 1 future βασανισθήσομαι; (βάσανος);

  1. properly, to test (metals) by the touchstone.

  2. to question by applying torture.

  3. to torture (2 Macc. 7:13); hence,

  4. universally, to vex with grievous pains (of body or mind), to torment: τινα, Matthew 8:29; Mark 5:7; Luke 8:28; 2 Peter 2:8; Revelation 11:10; passively, Matthew 8:6; Revelation 9:5; Revelation 20:10; of the pains of childbirth, Revelation 12:2 (cf. Anthol. 2, p. 205, Jacobs edition); with ἐν and the dative of the material in which one is tormented, Revelation 14:10.

  5. Passive to be harassed, distressed; of those who at sea are struggling with a head wind, Mark 6:48; of a ship tossed by the waves, Matthew 14:24. (In Greek writings from Herodotus down. Often in O. T. Apocrypha.)

Source: https://biblehub.com/greek/928.htm

Conclusion

This is a translation choice of the word torment. It could be interpreted that Satan, the Beast and False Prophet will be examined or scrutinized forever in the biblical, literary and historical accounts.

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Answer

Both the beast and the false prophet are destroyed bodily in the lake of fire a thousand years before the Devil is thrown. Since the Devil is a spirit being, he cannot be destroyed the same way the former two are destroyed.

Explanation

“And the beast was seized, and with this one the false prophet doing signs before it, by which he led astray those having received the mark of the beast, and those worshiping its image. The two were thrown alive into the Lake of Fire burning with brimstone. And the rest were killed with the sword of the One sitting on the horse” (Rev 19:20-21).

Notice, these two are thrown "alive" into fire and killed. The "rest were killed" with the sword. That is, the two are killed by fire and the rest are killed with the sword.

This happens at the Second Coming of Christ and before the Millennium. The Devil is bound for a 1000 years (that is, during the Millennium) – (Rev 20:2).

After a thousand years, the Devil is set free for a short time and he does what he knows best; leading astray the nations Gog and Magog.

Then comes verse 10:

“And the Devil leading them astray was thrown into the Lake of Fire and Brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet were (thrown a 1000 years before and destroyed). And they were tormented day and night to the ages of the ages”.

Then comes the 2nd resurrection and the Great white Throne Judgment.

Who “they” are

The problem here is the word “they” in verse 10. Who are “they”? Are they the beast, false prophet and the Devil?

The answer is NO!

Jesus Christ gives the answer and clarifies who “they” are:

“Then He will also say to those on His left, Go away from Me, cursed ones, into the everlasting fire having been prepared for the DEVIL and his ANGELS” (Mat 25:41).

Conclusion

So, the “they” who are going to be tormented are the Devil and his evil angels; and not the beast and the false prophet who have already been destroyed in the lake of fire.

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  • 1
    You wrote, "The answer is NO!" This assertion is not well-supported in my opinion: the "they" seems to be inclusive in the text. Then, Matthew 25:41 is a judgment against "those on His left," who are humans as indicated in verse 32: "Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats." No offense intended, but I'd suggest re-examining why you're motivated to separate the fates of the different enemies of God. There's no question that this is a difficult topic.
    – Dieter
    Commented Apr 26 at 21:09
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    So, the lake of fire destroys some things but not others. Are you also suggesting that God, who created Satan cannot destroy him but must keep him alive? Are you also suggesting that the non-physical being can even feel fire?
    – Dottard
    Commented Apr 26 at 22:14
  • @Dottard – The physical lake of fire that begins at Gehenna (the valley of Hinnom on the south west of Jerusalem where the city rubbish and wastes were always burnt in ancient times) will destroy all physical things thrown into them. But the physical fire cannot destroy the spirit beings who cannot “feel” fire. I do believe God can destroy Satan if He wants to. But I got hints from the Scripture that God has given the fate of Satan and “them” into the hands of the glorious saints (2 Peter 2:4; 1 Cor 6:3). Commented Apr 27 at 4:09
  • @Dieter – It indeed is a difficult topic. The beast is a political kingdom. It also is a king, a human being. For example, the head of gold of the great Image is the Babylonian Empire. But, Daniel tells Nebuchadnezzar, “You are the head of gold” (Dan 2:38). Rev 17:12-13, 17, 19 and 20 all suggest that the beast is a human, a Great Dictator: “the beast, the kings of the earth, and their armies” are humans. The false prophet is a great universal false religion. Yet he is also a human leader of that religion. Since they are humans, they will be destroyed in the lake of fire. Commented Apr 27 at 4:10
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    Revelation 20:10 ESV reads, "and the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever." Revelation 20:14, 15 reads "Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire." There's a lot to consider here logically.
    – Dieter
    Commented Apr 27 at 4:54
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The key to understanding the conundrum the OP has posed is the assumption that the "false prophet" is human. There is no evidence for this in the book of Revelation. The false prophet is part of the infamous "beast trinity" of the book of Revelation explained below.

Beast from the abyss: (Rev 11:7, 12:1-17, 17:8) This beast is the seven-headed dragon, namely the devil or Satan (12:9 & 20:2), of 12:3, who comes from and is thrown back into the abyss (20:3). The fact that this beast is mentioned in 11:7 without further explanation, suggests that it has already been introduced (in 9:1, 11 and 8:12) - a consistent pattern elsewhere in Revelation. A comparison of 12:9, 13 with 8:10, 13, 9:1 - fallen from heaven to earth - lends weight to this view. Isa 14:12 and Eze 28:8, 13-17 records in allegorical form the origin of Satan in heaven, his decent to earth and his ambition to be worshipped like the Most High.

Beast from the Sea: (Rev 13:1-10) This is Revelation’s most notorious and blasphemous beast whose distinguishing mark is administered by the land beast on the forehead or hand (13:17, 20:4) of the wicked. This beast is the one usually intended when The Beast is mentioned without further explanation (eg, 16:13, 19:20, 20:10 etc). The close parallels between Dan 7 and Rev 13:1-8 strongly suggest the same power. See also “Abomination of Desolation”.

Beast from the Land (or Earth): (Rev 13:11-17) This third beast completes the unholy trinity and is called from the land to help the dragon fight the woman by assisting the sea beast, 12:17, 13:1, 11. In Rev 16:13, 19:20, 20:10, this land beast is also called the false prophet as can be seen by comparing 19:20 with 13:13. As the false prophet, the land beast acts as a counterpoint to the (true) two prophets of 11:10. The land beast is mentioned by name just once - otherwise only by pronoun. The land beast creates a sea beast like organization called the image to the beast that is used to help enforce (under death threat) worship of the sea beast and its image. Note the following series of counterpoints between the true Trinity and the apostate Beast Trinity.

TRUE (DIVINE) TRINITY APOSTATE TRINITY of BEASTS
God the Father (the Most High) (Heb 7:1, Acts 7:48, 16:17, etc) Satan = Beast from the abyss (11:7, 20:1) “like the Most High” (Isa 14:12-14)
is, was, & yet will come (Rev 1:4, 8, 4:8, 11:17) was, now is not, yet will come (Rev 17:8, 11)
Creator (Ps 33:6, 9, Rev 4:11) Destroyer (Rev 9:2, 11, 11:7, 8)
Has power and authority (Rev 12:10) Has power and authority (Rev 13:2)
River of life comes from God (Rev 22:1) River to kill woman from dragon (Rev 12:15)
God the Son, Jesus Beast from the Sea (13:1-8)
Begins ministry in water (Luke 3:21) Comes out of water (Rev 13:1)
Has seven horns (Rev 5:6) Has 10 horns (Rev 13:1)
Jesus like the Father (John 10:30, 14:9) 7 heads & 10 horns like dragon
Slaughtered Lamb (Rev 5:6) Slaughtered (Rev 13:3)
Miraculously lives (John 11:25, Rom 1:4) Miraculously lives (Rev 13:3)
Receives throne from Father (Rev 5:7, Matt 28:18) Receives throne from dragon (Rev 13:2)
Wears a crown (Rev 19:12) Wears crowns (Rev 13:1)
Jesus’ ministry lasts 3½ years Beast reigns 42 months (Rev 13:5)
God the Holy Spirit Beast from the Land (13:11-17)
Spirit like blazing lamps (Rev 4:5, Acts 2, 2 Kings 1:10-12) Calls fire from heaven (Rev 13:13)
Brings glory to Jesus (John 16:14,15) Gives glory to sea beast (Rev 13:14)
Gives seal of God (Eph 4:30) Gives mark of beast (Rev 13:16)
Inspires prophets (2 Pet 1:19-21) Is the false prophet (Rev 19:20 etc)

Following the battle of Armageddon the Beast Trinity, or Babylon, breaks up into its three parts (Rev 16:19).

Lastly, note that Jesus sends out the three angels of heaven (Rev 14:6-11) to gather people for the great harvest; and the Beast Trinity also sends out three evil spirits to gather people for the great battle of Armageddon

Thus, the only "persons" tortured in the lake of fire are the dragon, beast and false prophet which are all symbols of false/apostate powers, not people.

Therefore, The book of Revelation does not contradict the rest of the Bible. The wicked will be ultimately completely destroyed and will perish, Ps 37:20, 92:7, Isa 41:11, 12, Eze 18:20, Mal 4:1-3, Matt 10:28, Phil 3:19, 2 Thess 1:9, Heb 10:39, James 4:12, 2 Peter 2:6, 3:7.

Indeed, the fate of the wicked in the book of Revelation the agrees. The hordes of the wicked are symbolized by "Gog and Magog" about which we read:

Rev 20:7-9 - When the thousand years are complete, Satan will be released from his prison, and will go out to deceive the nations in the four corners of the earth—Gog and Magog—to assemble them for battle. Their number is like the sand of the seashore. And they marched across the broad expanse of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city. But fire came down from heaven and consumed them.

In the Greek this is a direct verbatim quote from an OT story about the prophet Elijah where we read that twice we read that "fire came down from heaven and consumed the captain and his fifty men". This was literal destruction.

Lastly, I note from Rev 20:14 -

Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death—the lake of fire.

Thus, are we to believe that death and hades are going to be tortured in the lake of fire forever? I think not!! Note that only five objects are said to be thrown into the lake of fire - Satan, the beast, the false prophet, death and hades - all are non-physical entities and signify their total destruction.

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  • Any prophet is human whether true or false. He is the one performing signs and wonders to lead people astray
    – Dong Li
    Commented Apr 26 at 11:54
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    @Dottard, Great comparisons! Some points to consider: After the little horn in Daniel uproots 3, it leaves 7+1 = 8. The lake of fire was prepared for the devil and his angels. According to Revelation, death and hell are also thrown into the lake of fire. Jesus describes a rich man tormented in hell. Gog and Magog in Ezekiel 38-39 ends with an earthquake, pandemic, infighting, an airburst and Jesus coming (Zech 12). After 1,000 years there's another invasion to attack the camp of the saints. The "image of the beast" parallels Adam created in the image of God.
    – Dieter
    Commented Apr 26 at 14:23
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    Also, note the relativity of Time with respect to gravity. Astrophysicists believe that something that falls into a black hole turns into a strand of "spaghetti" and is destroyed in seconds from the perspective of the object, however to an external observer, the process is extremely slow and irreversible/eternal. If that's already how it works in our universe, it's not impossible for God. Several passages in scripture indicate greater or lesser punishments such as in Matthew 10:15. I can show mathematically that the area under an infinite curve can be finite (it's true for the "normal curve").
    – Dieter
    Commented Apr 26 at 14:44
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    @DongLi - I believe all evil will be destroyed, else the universe will not be cleansed of sin and Jesus' sacrifice would be incomplete. The eternal "torment' is a figure of speech meaning it will never be forgotten.
    – Dottard
    Commented Apr 27 at 10:39
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    How are death and hell tormented forever? "Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire." - Revelation 20:14 ESV Incidentally, Death seems personified in several places in Revelation. So, the people left in Hades are either annihilated, tormented eternally, or, as in the case of a black hole, both concurrently.
    – Dieter
    Commented Apr 30 at 16:46

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