Tormented Day and Night Forever and Ever

The following texts are what I would consider the two strongest arguments for the ongoing torment view. They both come from the book of Revelation. Although this book doesn’t quote the Old Testament as often as the book of Hebrews, it has been named the closest New Testament book to the Old Testament because of its language. The language is identical to the prophets of old like Isaiah, Ezekiel, and Jeremiah. It employs hyperbolic language and strong imagery. That being said, let’s check out these last two passages.

REVELATION 14:9-11

The first one come from Revelation chapter 14, where John receives a vision of what will happen to the followers of the beast.

9 Then another angel, a third one, followed them, saying with a loud voice, “If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand,

10 he also will drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is mixed in full strength in the cup of His anger; and he will 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 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 14:9-11

Those who followed the beast are said to be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and Lamb. The smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever. And they won’t have rest day or night. Let’s take the first part of this.

“They are tormented with fire and brimstone.”

This doesn’t create a problem for my position since I would agree that having fire and brimstone raining down on you would involve a level of torment. I don’t want to be burned alive no matter how long it lasts. I don’t think that when Sodom and Gomorrah experienced the Eternal Fire [here], they disappeared the very instant it touched them. I’m sure they burned alive, some slower than others. A common misunderstanding is that those who hold to conferred immortality don’t believe in any torment at all, and that the wicked are just killed immediately. But this isn’t true. I’m sure some may believe that, but not me or those I know who hold the view. So the generalization isn’t fair.

Next, we see that

“The smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever”

Notice, it doesn’t say that they are tormented forever and ever, but only that their smoke ascends forever. The assertion made here by those who hold to ongoing torment is that since the smoke ascends forever, it must mean that the torment is occurring forever. But is this the case? This imagery is reminiscent of when Abraham saw Sodom and Gomorrah the morning after it was destroyed. The book of Genesis tells us:

“and behold, the smoke of the land ascended like the smoke of a furnace.”

But still, Genesis just says “smoke,” and nothing about “forever and ever.”

Notice what Isaiah says about the destruction of Edom:

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 quenched 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.
Isaiah 34:9-10

He uses identical language expressing that this destruction has been completed. It’s a sign that destruction had occured. It signifies a perpetual extinction.

Lastly, we are told they will have

“no rest day and night.”

The assumption here is that they will have no rest day or night for eternity. But this verse doesn’t say that. It only says that they will have no rest day or night. That is, there will be no rest for them in their torment, as there was no rest for Sodom and Gomorrah in their torment – But as we had observed earlier, the fire and brimstone, the ETERNAL FIRE, not able to be resisted, will bring them to an end.

REVELATION 20:10

Now, let’s take a look at this final verse (also found in the book of Revelation) that speaks of Satan. It can be found in 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 20:10

This verse seems to clearly teach that Satan will undergo torment for an eternity, along with the beast and false prophet. And I think it does clearly say that. Let’s note some things.

No matter what your eschatology is, chances are you don’t believe the beast and false prophet are literal people. One represents a government, and the other a religion that supports that government. Take the beast for example. It’s heads represent seven hills, and kings for instance. We know from what Revelation tells us that this beast represents Rome. Sometimes there appears to be an individual representing the beast, but not always. A common argument is that governments or cities are made up of people. The fact that the heads also represent Roman emperors does not mean that the beast includes people. It would be akin to John giving us the letter today and saying the beast has 50 heads. The imagery is pointing to government/authority of Rome. We are also told elsewhere that Death and Hades are thrown into the Lake of Fire (Rev 20:14). What’s my point? Point is that the beast, false prophet, death, and hades represent non personal entities who each share a place in the Lake of Fire.

I don’t suppose anyone would believe that something non personal could be tormented for an eternity? Will hades be tormented forever? Will death be tormented forever? Will the false prophet representative of a religion? Will the beast who represents a government? No. They will be destroyed forever. They will be no more.

But Satan and people aren’t impersonal. So what to make of them? Since they are personal doesn’t that change things? That question misses the point. The Lake of Fire is described to us in the book of Revelation as a place where both personal entities and impersonal corporate or abstract entities share a place in the end. The Lake of Fire is something they are both cast into, and its effects must be shared by both. Conscious eternal torment is not something that both an impersonal and personal entity can share. Destruction certainly is something that both can undergo. You can certainly destroy a corporate entity, but it can’t suffer ongoing pain. And, I just have to keep repeating this, because no matter how many times it is repeated, it seems to get lost: I’m not opposed to the idea that it may involve pain or even anger or sorrow, it just won’t be ongoing.

To further make the point, let’s take one more quick look at what happens to the beast. Revelation isn’t the only book that tells us about this beasts final punishment. Check out what Daniel says in Daniel 7:11:

“Then I kept looking because of the sound of the boastful words which the horn was speaking; I kept looking until the beast was slain, and its body was destroyed and given to the burning fire.
Daniel 7:11

This beast is slain, body destroyed, and given to burning fire. Yet the book of Revelation describes it as being tormented day and night forever and ever. Should we assume that this poses a contradiction? Of course not. We know that whatever Daniel or Revelation describe about the beast, it is actually speaking about what will happen to it in history. And what did happen to the beast? Remember in Daniel chapter 2, in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, the statue was smashed to bits. The beast here in Revelation represents the feet of this statue. Christ’s kingdom was established at the time of the Romans.

“In the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which will never be destroyed, and that kingdom will not be left for another people; it will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms, but it will itself endure forever.
Daniel 2:44

But Rome wasn’t physically wiped out when Christ’s kingdom came to earth. That’s because the beast doesn’t represent the people, but the authority of Rome. After all, as we observed earlier in Revelation 14, the people who took the mark of the beast are punished. So we see that the people and beast are separate. Yet, the beast is spoken of in Revelation 20:10 as being tormented day and night forever and ever. John’s primary point in the book of Revelation is that all who oppose God will be destroyed, and will come to an end and he is using hyperbolic language to speak of an intense and permanent end. Lastly, going back to Daniel 7, notice the insight given to Daniel about this beast:

‘But the court will sit for judgment, and his dominion will be taken away, annihilated and destroyed forever. 
Daniel 7:20 

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7 thoughts on “Tormented Day and Night Forever and Ever”

  1. Chris, I’m curious as to your thoughts. I’ll present my questions in response to some things you’ve said in this blog.

    1. “A common argument is that governments or cities are made up of people. The fact that the heads also represent Roman emperors does not mean that the beast includes people.”

    Scripturally speaking, can you give me an example of your supposition being true? That is to say, is there ever an instance in Scripture where God declares war on a “system” or views it as non-personal?

    2. “The imagery is pointing to government/authority of Rome.”

    Again, can you give me an example or proposition in Scripture where authority and government are viewed as abstract impersonal entities?

    3. “We are also told elsewhere that Death and Hades are thrown into the Lake of Fire (Rev 20:14). What’s my point? Point is that the beast, false prophet, death, and hades represent non personal entities who each share a place in the Lake of Fire.”

    Revelation 20:11-15 reads:

    “Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. 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.”

    This passage identifies the fate of the reprobate as being their being cast into the lake of fire. And this fate is, furthermore, identified as the judgment for their sins.

    I am assuming that you believe there is a literal judgment being described here. And if this is so, which it seems to be from the text, then what do you understand the judgment to be? Is the event that is described here a literal event where individuals are judged for their sins? Then where does the text switch from a literal judgment of real people to the destruction of abstractions?

    4. You say, “Destruction certainly is something that both can undergo. You can certainly destroy a corporate entity, but it can’t suffer ongoing pain.”

    A corporate entity is a body of people; therefore, a corporate entity necessarily undergoes pain if it is destroyed?

    5. “The beast here in Revelation represents the feet of this statue. Christ’s kingdom was established at the time of the Romans. But Rome wasn’t physically wiped out when Christ’s kingdom came to earth. That’s because the beast doesn’t represent the people, but the authority of Rome.”

    Here is what confuses me. On the one hand, you are interpreting the destruction of Rome figuratively – Rome is destroyed (i.e. politically emasculated and brought to ruins) but it still exists – and yet on the other hand you are interpreting the destruction of the reprobate as literal (they will made to be non-existent).

    What exegetical warrant does the text provide for this?

    If you were to read the text consistently, then should you not be a “traditionalist”?

    Consider:

    You believe that the destruction of Rome is the elimination of Rome’s authority and its power, etc. Rome still exists, but it isn’t quite what it used to be. If this is the case with the beast and the false prophet, then why is it not the case with the people that are judged?

    Would it not be interpretively consistent to see the beast and the false prophet as being divested of their terror, authority, etc but still existing, and the people being divested of all good and yet still existing?

    I am in the dark here as to how your interpretation does not make a complete mess (no offence) of God’s Word.

    The annihilationist position confuses categories left and right, switches in the same passage from a figurative reading to a literal reading, places the language of judgment from the Old Testament into the future, saying that it represents annihilation, and yet the New Testament says that these passages have been fulfilled in Christ (which completely makes it logically impossible for them to signify annihilation) – how do you tie together all of these inconsistencies?

    It seems to me to be that annihilationists, not you but others, are more concerned with justifying their error then they are with dealing with Scripture consistently and honestly.

    I don’t see any other way they can ignore these inconsistencies and contradictions and yet claim to have a “strong” case for their position.

    -h.

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    1. Wow. Sorry for not getting back to you sooner. I got all of my recording equipment back last Thursday, and have been soooooo busy producing music for a new band. I really don’t know how much I’ll be on here lately. Not having had the equipment for months, and not working on music, I feel like a little kid hahah

      1&2. Yah. I actually did this already. ‘But the court will sit for judgment, and his dominion will be taken away, annihilated and destroyed forever. Daniel 7:20 – His “dominion” is annihilated/destroyed. And again, looking at history, Rome wasn’t physically done away with. With the coming of Christ’s kingdom, all other dominions were destroyed. Christ said “all authority” was His, meaning no one else had any authority.

      3. I’m not really sure what your question means. It speaks of people being thrown into the Lake of Fire. And it speaks of Death and Hades being thrown in to the Lake of Fire. That would be a judgment of personal and impersonal.

      4. I should’ve maybe been more specific. Instead of “corporate entity,” I’ll just use Biblical terms like “Death” or Hades.” Death and Hades can’t experience ongoing torture.

      5. Because I let all of Scripture speak here: But the court will sit for judgment, and his dominion will be taken away, annihilated and destroyed forever. Daniel 7:20 – His “dominion” is annihilated/destroyed. And again, looking at history, Rome wasn’t physically done away with. Rather, with the coming of Christ’s kingdom, all other dominions were destroyed. Christ said “all authority” was His, meaning no one else had any authority.” There is no confusion here.

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  2. Don’t worry about the delayed response 🙂

    My point regarding abstract impersonal entities is that God knows nothing of them.
    In the first place, an abstraction is something that exists only in Aristotelian and Thomistic philosophy. In the second place, God judges persons not “abstractions.” In Adam God judged all of “humanity,” in Christ God judicially declares the elect righteous; Achan’s sin resulted in the destruction of his “family.” The book of Obadiah pretty loudly hammers the nail in the coffin of abstract impersonal entities.

    Regarding death and hades, the text doesn’t say that they undergo torment forever and ever. So your point kind of evades dealing with the obvious internal inconsistency of your interpretation of the text.

    I think your response regarding Rome is also an evasion. I’m not trying to be rude, but it presents a problem for your position. You interpret the destruction figuratively when it has to do with Rome, but you interpret destruction literalistically when it refers to the wicked. There is no interpretive consistency in that manner of reading Scripture. It makes the Scriptures unintelligible.

    I know you don’t agree, but please consider what I am saying and try understanding the Scriptures systematically given your interpretive method. Also, if you want a series of indepth critiques of annihilationism Joshua Whipps over at choosinghats.com has done an excellent job in showing the unbiblical nature of that doctrine.

    I hope your band does well, man.
    -h.

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    1. “My point regarding abstract impersonal entities is that God knows nothing of them.
      In the first place, an abstraction is something that exists only in Aristotelian and Thomistic philosophy. In the second place, God judges persons not “abstractions.” In Adam God judged all of “humanity,” in Christ God judicially declares the elect righteous; Achan’s sin resulted in the destruction of his “family.” The book of Obadiah pretty loudly hammers the nail in the coffin of abstract impersonal entities.”

      Ok. So what does that have to do with what I quoted from Daniel 7, where he says that his “dominion will be taken away, annihilated and destroyed forever”? I’m not arguing that people are not judged. I’m just saying that the dominion is said to be destroyed in Daniel, and tormented in Revelation.

      Death and Hades still go to the Lake of Fire. That’s it. My point was that they, like the dominion of Rome, are annihilated.

      “You interpret the destruction figuratively when it has to do with Rome, but you interpret destruction literalistically when it refers to the wicked.”

      No. I realize that the book of Revelation speaks of the beast (the dominion of Rome), and also speaks of those who took the mark of the beast. I made that clear, if I’m not mistaken, a while back on the other thread.

      I’ll check out Josh’s stuff. Thanks for the kind words, man. I was working on that cartoon I told you about. Had the characters finished, was working on the backgrounds. Then lost everything. It was all gone off of the machine. I might be able to find some images of the characters, but all of the action images are gone. I just decided to forget it, and focus on music. Too much stuff on the cartoon to try and recreate.

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    2. A few more thoughts, while I’m thinking of them. You said the following:

      1. “My point regarding abstract impersonal entities is that God knows nothing of them.”

      Doesn’t Paul tell us in 1 Corinthians 15, that Death itself will be judged? The “last enemy”? Do you think Death is a creature? (I’m seriously asking).

      2. “Regarding death and hades, the text doesn’t say that they undergo torment forever and ever.”

      The book of Revelation also doesn’t say that people are tormented forever and ever. We are only told that they are tormented with fire and the smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever. You only assume it.

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  3. I’m short on time, as I am at work right now. But here’s a quick response:

    1. Is death a creature? No. lol Is death an abstract impersonal entity being judged? No. Death is defined in Scripture as a state of separation: Covenantal separation from God, spiritual separation from God, and the separation of the body and the soul.

    And this is actually being personified in the passage as one of Christ’s enemies. Death is conquered, moreover, not when Christ punches him in the face and then torments him forever and ever, but when mortality puts on immortality and corruptibility puts on incorruptibility. There is no fiery torment here.

    Revelation 20 is very different. The beast, the false prophet, and the devil are tormented. They are being judged, just as the wicked are, but death and hades are not. They are together with the damned. Why? Because Christians and the kingdom of God will be free of all death and corruption, but hell will not be. Hell is the lake of fire, which is the second death.

    So, is “death” an abstraction? No. Is it impersonal? Yes. Is it an entity? No.
    Death is not representative of a people group or collection of people or succession of men wielding power on the earth. It is a covenantal/moral-spiritual/physical state that will be eradicated from the inheritance of Christians, and which will define in total the existence of the reprobate.

    2. Revelation 20:10 says: “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.”

    Likewise, Matthew 25:41: “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.”

    If their fate is the same, then their punishment, which is their fate, is also. I’m not reading anything into the text that isn’t there. The text tells us what awaits those who are thrown into hell: torment forever and ever, the everlasting trail of smoke testifying to this.

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    1. I agree with you about death being personified. But that just means that a state of separation is personified and judged. You said that “There is no fiery torment here.” Death is said to be thrown into the Lake of Fire in Revelation.

      “Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire.” (Rev. 20:14)

      This is also where, as you said, the devil, his angels, and the reprobate go. So, using your method of going to the “tormented forever and ever” passage and Matt 25 (sheep and goats) passage, we must assume that, yes, death will be tormented forever and ever.

      And about the “tormented day and night forever and ever” passage, you are taking a hyperbolic text at face value, when you wouldn’t do that elsewhere in the book. At least I don’t think you would – ie 4 horsemen, 1/3 of the population dying, beasts, etc.

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