In this excerpt A. J. Pollock brings in one of the key passages in the entire debate pitting eternal conscious torment against conditional immortality: Revelation 19:20. To try and clarify the issues at hand I am going to quote Pastor Pollock and then Robert Allen Taylor. The extended quote I provide from Pastor Taylor is for Revelation 20:10; I understand this isn’t the same verse that Pastor Pollock is dealing with but there is a lot of overlap here. It is clear that both men are writing on the same topic.
Both Pollock and Taylor present their views in a thorough manner so there is really nothing more I can add at this point.
Here is Pastor Pollock:
There is one very clear Scripture which makes abundantly plain that to be cast into the lake of fire does not mean annihilation.
In Revelation 19:20, we read:-
“These [the beast and false prophet] both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone.”
Then in chapter 20 we learn that the devil is found in the bottomless pit for one thousand years, during the course of the millennium, and at the end of that time is let loose, and after a brief rebellion we read:-
“And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever” (Rev. 20:10).
Here we learn two things. For over one thousand years two individuals, the beast and the false prophet, will have been in the lake of fire, when they will be joined by Satan himself, and their portion is to “be tormented day and night for ever and ever [literally to the ages of the ages ].”
In the face of this, shall it be said that punishment is not eternal? I know there is an attempt to whittle away the solemn truth of this passage, because of the expression “day and night,” but this is idle opposition to the truth, and worse. Moreover, if this is urged, there is still the expression to face, “To the ages of the ages.” The fact is, the expression “day and night” only emphasizes the continuous unremitting character of the punishment.
But, says an objector, ‘How can an individual be in a lake of fire and not be instantly consumed?’ We believe untold harm has been done by preachers enlarging in a lurid and graphic and unscriptural way as to the language of Scripture concerning “gehenna,” “the lake of fire and brimstone,” “their worm,” and “the outer darkness.” We believe the very language of Scripture should be used by the preacher and if he does not use it he is lacking in faithfulness to his hearers. Let him warn his hearers of the danger of hell fire and of eternal punishment, but let it be strictly in the language the Holy Ghost teacheth.
One thing is perfectly plain. If it is urged that these terms are symbolic it in no way lessens the awful truths we are considering. Let us never forget that.
The Lord Jesus, in infinite wisdom and in boundless compassion for the lost, has seen fit to use plain, warning language and we do well to adhere to it, not taking from it nor adding to it. The late Sir Robert Anderson wrote, “So awful is the teaching of the Lord Jesus respecting the doom of the impenitent, that every statement on the subject ought to adhere strictly to the very words of Scripture.” With this we are in hearty accord, but let us use the very language of Scripture. We shall find it to be the sword of the Spirit.
HADES and Eternal Punishment
A J Pollock
Here is Robert Allen Taylor:
The final strong-hold of the traditionalist view is built on the foundation of Revelation 20:10. From this verse the traditionalist reasons that Adam’s race will be tormented eternally. The subject of the verse, however, is not mankind; it is Satan.
The devil, who deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet are. And they will be tormented day and night forever and ever. (Rev. 20:10)
This passage should be appreciated for its actual contribution to end times theology. Satan is a major figure and his casting into the Lake of Fire is an important event. The NIV makes the satanic focus of Revelation 20:10 even more clear by correctly translating the elided Greek verb. “And the devil …was thrown into the lake …where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown.”
Revelation 20:10 teaches that Satan will be tormented in the Lake of Fire. It also informs us that the beast and false prophet will share the devil’s punishment. The entire scope of traditionalism’s bedrock verse is limited to the “unholy trinity” –Satan, the beast, and the false prophet!
Inasmuch as Satan, the beast, and the false prophet rule together over Adam’s race prior to the Second Coming of Christ, it is appropriate that the satanic trinity suffer together in the Lake of Fire.
THE IDENTITY OF THE BEAST AND FALSE PROPHET
Some traditionalists hold that the beast and false prophet are human beings and prefigure the fate of the unsaved. In John’s presentation, however, the solidarity of Satan, the beast, and the false prophet are striking.
And I saw a beast rising up out of the sea …the dragon gave him his power, his throne, and great authority (Rev. 13:1b-2).
Then I saw another beast [AKA the false prophet] coming up out of the earth, and he had two horns like a lamb and spoke like a dragon. And he exercises all the authority of the first beast in his presence, and causes the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed. (Rev. 13:11-12)
And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs coming out of the mouth of the dragon, out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet. For they are spirits of demons, performing signs, which go out to the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty. (Rev. 16:13-14)
“Spirits of demons” come out of the mouths of Satan, the beast, and the false prophet. What is the identity of the beast and false prophet, then? In Revelation, we learn that the beast both suffers a mortal wound (Rev. 13:1-3, 12, 14) and ascends out of the bottomless pit (Rev. 11:7; 17:8). These events call the continued humanity of the beast into question.
Satan wants to be worshipped as God and seeks to deceive the world into thinking he has divine powers, which would include the ability to raise the dead. Believers know that Satan is a false imitator of God. I don’t question that the beast was originally a man. But if the beast suffers a mortal wound, is it not more likely that a fallen angel will subsequently assume the identity of the beast than that Satan will duplicate the resurrection of Christ? Even more problematic is the pit from which the beast ascends.
What is the bottomless pit? It is where Satan is bound during the millennial reign of Christ (Rev. 20:1-3). It is also home to the demonic horde that, for five months, torments those without the seal of God. Scriptural commentary on this pit profoundly affects our understanding the beast’s identity.
Then the fifth angel sounded: And I saw a star fallen from heaven to the earth. To him was given the key to the bottomless pit. And he opened the bottomless pit, and smoke arose out of the pit like the smoke of a great furnace. So the sun and the air were darkened because of the smoke of the pit. Then out of the smoke locusts came upon the earth. And to them was given power, as the scorpions of the earth have power. They were commanded not to harm the grass of the earth, or any green thing, or any tree, but only those men who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads. And they were not given authority to kill them, but to torment them for five months. Their torment was like the torment of a scorpion when it strikes a man. In those days men will seek death and will not find it; they will desire to die, and death will flee from them. The shape of the locusts was like horses prepared for battle. On their heads were crowns of something like gold, and their faces were like the faces of men. They had hair like women’s hair, and their teeth were like lions’ teeth. And they had breastplates like breastplates of iron, and the sound of their wings was like the sound of chariots with many horses running into battle. They had tails like scorpions, and there were stings in their tails. Their power was to hurt men five months. And they had as king over them the angel of the bottomless pit, whose name in Hebrew is Abaddon, but in Greek he has the name Apollyon. One woe is past. Behold, still two more woes are coming after these things. (Rev. 9:1-12)
Who or what came out of the bottomless pit? Commenting on Revelation 17:8, Thomas writes,
The designation of the beast as the one who “was and is not, and is about to ascend out of the abyss” …ties him to the beast, with the death-wound who was healed in 13:3, 12, 14. Both there and here the earth-dwellers express amazement (Johnson). The words “is not” refer to the beast’s death, and his ascent from the abyss means he will come to life again (cf. 13:14)…
The discussion at 13:1 identified the beast’s future ascension from the abyss …with his coming up from the sea. After his death he will come to life again. When he does, he will come back in a demonic rather than a purely human form [emphasis mine] to establish his world domination (Beckwith). This explains why the abyss, the abode of demons (Luke 8:31; Rev 9:1, 2, 11) is his origin.
While the exact composition of the beast is unknown, the reality of the bottomless pit as described in revelation 9:1-12 persuasively indicates that the beast is demonic rather than human in nature.
Scripture indicates that the second beast is similar in nature to the first beast. “Then I saw another [Gr. allo “one like in kind”] beast coming up out of the earth, and he had two horns like a lamb and spoke like a dragon” (Rev. 13:11). Moreover, “spirits of demons” come out of the mouth of the false prophet, even as out of the mouth of Satan and the beast. As Satan is, so are his counterparts, the beast and the false prophet–demonic beings.
In Revelation 20:10, it appears that demonic beings experience torment in the Lake of Fire. It might also be noted that the text simply states that the Lake of Fire is where the satanic trinity is housed and tormented. The methodology of the torment is not disclosed to us.
Revelation 20:10 Summary
We are seeking to define the penalty God has established for sinners like you and me. If we want to know what happens to unsaved human beings in the Lake of Fire, we should turn to Scripture where that fate is unequivocally addressed. Revelation 20:10 does not present the fate of unbelievers. We discover neither the goats of Matthew 25 nor everyday sinners who reject God’s grace there. Revelation 20:10 addresses a very specific situation–the satanic trinity.
The differences between fallen angelic beings and mankind; the unique union of the beast and false prophet with Satan; the nature of the bottomless pit out of which the beast ascends; the fact that only the satanic trinity is described experiencing torment in the Lake of Fire; the multiple scriptures which teach death/perishing/being burnt up as the penalty unsaved sinners must pay–all of these truths should be kept in mind when interpreting Revelation 20:10.
Taylor, Robert Allen (2012-3-28). Rescue From Death: John 3:16 Salvation (pp. 155-160). Outskirts Press.
[Click on this link to see the next installment in this series: Pollock: Does Fire Consume?]