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Answering The “Hell” Verses


Verse #4 - Revelations 21:8



But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and fornicators, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.

AKJV (American King James Version)


But for the fearful, and unbelieving, and abominable, and murderers, and fornicators, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, their part shall be in the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone; which is the second death.

ASV (American Standard Version)


But, as for the timid, and disbelieving, and abominable, and murderers, and fornicators, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all the false, their part, is in the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone,—which is the second death.

Rotherham Bible


and to fearful, and unstedfast, and abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all the liars, their part is in the lake that is burning with fire and brimstone, which is a second death.’

YLT (Young's Literal Translation)


""Yet for the timid folks (in the cowards having shrinking palpitations) and for faithless ones (in unbelieving or disloyal people; [TR, & Peshita add: and failures/sinners]) and for or by abominable, disgusting folks, and for or in murderers, and for or with prostitutes and for or by sorcerers (users of, or enchanters by, drugs) and for or by idolaters and for, in or by all the liars (the false ones): their portion [is] within the lake (or: their [allotted] part [is] union with the basin; the share from them [is] in the artificial pool; the region pertaining to them [is] centered in the marshy area) continuously burning with Fire and Deity, which is the Second Death."

JMNT (Jonathan Mitchell New Testament)





Confusion reigns among Christians because of the failure to rightly divide the Word. We need to determine which parts are metaphor, symbolism, rhetoric, allegory, poetry, parables, declarations, historical accounts, warnings, promises, principles, and theological discourse. Just as importantly, who the intended audience is, and who is the author of the passage. 






Points to consider and thoughts regarding Revelation 21:8



  1. The book of Revelation is undoubtedly the most controversial book of the Bible. For this reason, it should perhaps be viewed with caution and good judgment as a source of theological precept.

  2. The introduction, the very first verse of this book, tells us that these things will occur soon. The second verse lets us know that its addressed to those who saw Jesus, and the third verse emphasizes again that the “time is near.”  

  3. No one knows when (or by whom) this book was written. There is good reason to believe that it was composed prior to the catastrophic events of 70 AD in Jerusalem and the surrounding area. We know it is the record of a follower of Jesus named John who was detained on the desolate island of Patmos.

  4. This passage can easily be taken as a prophecy about the events surrounding the destruction of Jerusalem while simultaneously acting as imagery regarding a much deeper and profound spiritual event.

  5. As the first portion of chapter 21 provides some insight into the later consummation of God's wonderful plan for humanity, where tears, pain, and death will cease to exist, verse 8 informs us about how these soon coming events fit within the scope of His long term intentions. From God's perspective, the consummation is done. The use of the past tense in verbs describing His promises to us in 2 Timothy 1:10 and Ephesians 2:5-6 prove that God speaks of things that are not, as though they are.

  6. These verses could be considered a figure of speech known as Prolepsis. God declaring what He will do in the future to be true now. As Abraham was called a “father of many nations” while he was impotent. 

  7. This book is replete with allegory, symbolism, metaphors and even rhetoric. Determining which parts convey literal ideas and which parts are symbolic is risky, particularly when symbolic images are transformed into literal concepts that are in opposition to other biblical texts. (SEE APPENDIX “G”)    

  8. Employing the principle of “the broader context of scripture” can be helpful in determining the meaning of Revelation 21:8. 

  9. This book contains an account of visions in symbolic and allegorical language. Some are adopted from the Old Testament. Symbolic descriptions are not to be taken as literal descriptions. One would find it difficult and repulsive to visualize a lamb with seven horns and seven eyes. 

  10. If we are to assume the lake of fire is literal and a description of endless conscious torment, then the second death would have to be symbolic. Otherwise, those in the lake of fire would be dead and unable to experience “conscious” torment. 

  11. Likewise, the beast and false prophet are supposed to be tormented day and night, forever and ever according to literalists. However, the scripture is emphatic that the lake of fire is the second death. How can this be? 

  12. The Dead Sea has been known as “the lake of fire” for many centuries. Maps prior to the 18th century show fire and smoke coming from the Dead Sea. Archeologists place the cities surrounding Sodom to the West of this sea which is ten times saltier than the oceans. There are significant deposits of gas, sulfur and pitch under and around the Dead Sea. The Greeks called it Lake Asphaltites  ἡ Θάλαττα ἀσφαλτῖτης, hē Thálatta asphaltĩtēs, "the Asphaltite Sea. It goes without saying, this is where we get our word “asphalt.”

  13. The delta of the Jordan River was formerly a jungle of papyrus and palm trees. The Jewish historian Flavius Josephus described Jericho as "the most fertile spot in Judea". In Roman and Byzantine times, sugarcane, henna, and sycamore fig all made the lower Jordan valley wealthy. One of the most valuable products produced by Jericho was the sap of the balsam tree, which could be made into perfume

  14. The Dead Sea, or “lake of fire”, happens to be the lowest land area on Earth. This region was, according to Flavius Josephus, a jungle or papyrus and palm trees. The tar or bitumen was used to coat roofs and boat hulls. It was a valley of wealth. Gen. 13:10

  15. While asphalt pits (tar or bitumen) do not typically spontaneously combust, they will ignite and burn for long periods. They are difficult to extinguish and will produce tremendous amounts of black smoke.

  16. The Dead Sea most likely gained it’s nickname, “the lake of fire” from it’s spontaneous tar or muck fires and its proximity to the fire and brimstone destruction of the cities of Sodom. The pitch, gas and sulphur often became enflamed on the water as well as on the land. (Similar “muck fires” occur today in Florida on a regular basis, due to underground decomposing vegetation.)

  17. Genesis 14:10 tells us, Now the Valley of Siddim was full of asphalt pits; and the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fled; some fell there, and the remainder fled to the mountains. 

  18. The word “theion” translated “brimstone” is exactly the same word which means “divine.” Sulfur was sacred to the deity among the ancient Greeks; and was used to fumigate, to purify, and to cleanse. For this purpose they burned it in their incense. In Homer's Iliad (16:228) one is spoken of as purifying a goblet with fire and brimstone.

  19. There were still active fires in the days of Jesus’ ministry. According to Strabo, the first century geographer, who called it “a land of fires” - there was fire and smoke around the dead sea. (XVI, 764).

  20. Diodorus Siculus, who also lived in the 1st century BC, made this statement regarding this region: “The fire which burns beneath the ground and the stench render the inhabitants of the neighboring country sickly and very short lived” (Book II, 48)

  21. From A few years later, in the time of Christ’s childhood, the Jewish writer Philo gave witness to the burnings and smoke that was still ascending. “The fire is most difficult to extinguish, and creeps on pervading everything and smoldering. And a most evident proof of this is to be found in what is seen to this day: for the smoke which is still emitted, and the brimstone that men dig up there” (On Abraham XXVII). [References from Associates of Scriptural Knowledge]

  22. Strong’s G2304 [LSJ Gloss: θεῖον brimstone or the divinity.] [Thayer: burning brimstone was regarded as having power to purify, and to ward off disease.]

  23. To anyone trained in the Greek language, a “lake of fire and brimstone” would mean a “lake of divine purification.” Divine purification and divine consecration are the plain meaning in ancient Greek. 

  24. Brad Jersak tells us in Her Gates Will Never Be Shut: “The Lake of Fire is a metaphor for the place of the judgment and burning of Jerusalem in AD 70. It is the place like Sodom at the Dead Sea which burned with fire and brimstone and sulfur and salt. It was a symbol meaning just like Sodom, Jerusalem was going to be destroyed in a cauldron of inescapable fire. Which we know is exactly what happened in history as they wept and gnashed their teeth as the fires ravaged the city and hundreds of thousands died.”

  25. According to Matthew 11:24, Jesus stated: "Nevertheless I say to you that it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for you.” The historical details surrounding the destruction of Jerusalem in 67-70 AD confirm Jesus’ warnings were very accurate.     

  26. There is some evidence that the bones and ash in Gehenna may have been washed from a flood from Jerusalem to the Dead Sea, or “lake of fire” sometime after 70 AD. “The culmination of the range or watershed runs west of the city, and the surface on which the city is built slopes to the east and south, and on the south and southeast sinks abruptly into deep valleys. The watershed northwest and north of the city rises to a height of 2,675 feet above the Mediterranean; the lowest place in modern Jerusalem is 2,360 feet in elevation; while the whole city is situated at a lower elevation than the country round about…. The preceding description shows that the drainage of the region is from north to south or from northwest to southeast. While the watershed is at an elevation of 2,675 feet, the union of the Kidron and Hinnom valleys is only 2,065 feet above the Mediterranean and the Dead Sea is the lowest place on Earth.” [From “Torah on the web”]

  27. Daniel 9:26 - And after the sixty-two weeks, an anointed one shall be cut off and shall have nothing. And the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. Its end shall come with a flood, and to the end there shall be war. Desolations are decreed.

  28. Actually the word “second”, is not necessarily “second in order”, it could simply mean “other”, “the other death”. If one interprets Revelation from a Spiritualist perspective, it’s easy to see that the lake of the fire and the burning with brimstone would be equivalent to dying to one’s self, where all that is worthless and unholy is burnt up by the fervent or passionate judgment of God.

  29. 1 Corinthians 7:9 - Yet if they are not controlling themselves, let them marry, for it is better to marry than to be on fire.  It’s quite simple for us to see that “fire” in this passage is understood to mean “passion.” Strongs G4448 πυρόω tells us that its usage here is congruent “to burn with fire” or “purified by fire.”

  30. Christ words recorded in Mark 13:14 - But when you shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing where it ought not, let him that reads understand, then let them that be in Judea flee to the mountains. From 67-70 AD, this is exactly what many Jews and Christians attempted to do, yet they were trapped by the Roman soldiers in Jerusalem as 1.1 million were slaughtered for three years and their bodies thrown into the smoldering landfill, known as Gehenna, just to the southwest of Jerusalem.

  31. We might miss out on a magnificent aspect of John’s Apocalypse if we assume these last seven visions as only prophetic to the 67-70 AD destruction. We should behold these “visions of triumph” as an ideal picture of what the Messiah is and what He does as creator and sustainer of all. 

  32. From a Futurist perspective it very well could be metaphorical of death-to-self (the “other death”) also. Encountering the righteous holy presence of God we will certainly die-to-self.  

  33. Israel and Judea had been accused of three of the items of our list here in verse 8.  Jeremiah 3:9-10 declares,“And yet her prostitution came to nothing, and she committed adultery with the tree and the stone [= idolatry].  Then in all these things faithless (treacherous; not-staying-with-the-covenant) Judea did not return to Me from out of her whole heart, but only in lying (by falseness and with pretense)” (LXX, Jonathan Mitchell).

  34. We would be advised to consider the corporate application (the Jewish leadership in Jesus’ day, along with possibly the Zealots who incited the Jewish wars, and the synagogue resistance in the Diaspora), keeping in mind that all the vices listed here in verse 8 are SYMBOLS, as well.

  35. It is a fallacy to think that anything we do - whether it be good works or our the elimination of bad stuff we might do - can bring us to a place of righteousness before God. Our justification is the result of Christ’s faithfulness, not ours. 100% the finished work of Jesus. 0% us.  

  36. Some manifestation of post mortem “fire and brimstone” is likely a place of attitude reconstruction and change of heart. Paul’s conversion is a prime example. What he saw and experienced on that road to Damascus changed him. To say that it “burned the hell out of him” might be an understatement. It’s certainly a profound manifestation of our Grand Designers process of bringing us to Himself. 

  37. Jonathan Mitchell states: This is what the baptism of Fire is all about!  It is not “punishment,” but cleansing, purification and pruning with the goal of the Spirit’s fruit as its aim.  Remember Mal. 3:2b-3,“He [is] like a refiner’s Fire, and like fullers’ soap.  And so He shall sit [as] a refiner and purifier of silver; and He shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge (or: purify) them as gold and silver, so that they may offer unto Yahweh an offering in righteousness.”

  38. John the Baptist reveals in Matthew 3:11 that Jesus will baptize with fire.  

  39. I Corinthians 15:54 - When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come to pass: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” 

  40. To see this verse, and others in the book of Revelation, as warnings with the purpose of “transformation by fear”, we may be off track. This is a revelation of God’s sovereign plan to bring us all to Himself, in His own perfect timing, for each and every individual.   

  41. The role of this fire might be for the purpose of removing sin or sinfulness, but its greater purpose may be to display God’s relentless love and unconditional mercy. Micah 7:18 tells us that He delights to show His mercy. While we tend to look at behavior modification, perhaps our Creators single purpose with the fire of His love is to win our hearts?

  42. Those who see this verse as an endorsement of the concept of hell or “eternal fire and conscious torment” should remember that the eternal fire (Jude 7) that destroyed Sodom is not burning.  

  43. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 3:15 - If anyone's work shall be burned up, he will forfeit it, yet he shall be saved, yet thus, as through fire.

  44. Knowing that Paul declared to the Pharisees in Acts 24:15 that the resurrection is for all, we must consider the powerful affect this will have on us all, whether humble or arrogant in this lifetime. Paul himself had the “hell” burned out of him on the road to Damascus. Perhaps Pauls conversion was a representation of what everyone will experience at resurrection. Post resurrection amazement!

  45. As we try to assimilate this concept of God’s wrath [See APPENDIX “H”] and His unconditional mercy along with this idea of “fire and brimstone” - we ought to remember that Paul considered himself to be the greatest of sinners and a persecutor of Christians. His transformation was almost instantaneous. None of us could expect that Paul, the chief of sinners, would be cast into a lake of fire and brimstone.

  46. If God is fire and streams of fire flow from His throne - We might be seeing many of these "hell" passages entirely wrong. 

  47. Richard Rohr stated, "Authentic God experience always 'burns' you, yet it does not destroy you (Exodus 3:2-3), just as the burning bush revealed to Moses. But most of us are not prepared for such burning, nor even told to expect it."

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