Pollock on Revelation 21:8

In my last post I made it almost all the way through A.J. Pollock’s section on Gehenna. I mentioned in that post that there are two paragraphs as the end of that section that require their own post. The first of these is his short discussion of Revelation 21:8 which reads:

A few verses later on we read:-

“But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone” (Rev. 21:8).

Here again this passage is strikingly found following so closely Revelation 20:11-15, continuing the thought that this outlook is not now in time but in ETERNITY and for ETERNITY. Shall souls dare to trifle with the solemn declaration of Scripture? Shall the possibility of such a doom of unutterable woe not alarm the sinner?

HADES and Eternal Punishment
A J Pollock

pp. 17

This passage is a real favorite of those who like to preach hellfire and brimstone. If you have never heard a preacher tell you if you have committed one of those sins listed above you are going to hell then you have missed a real treat (that was sarcasm by the way). Before I disagree with Pastor Pollock on this point I would like to provide a more modern translation:

But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.” (Rev 21:8 NKJV)

Have you ever been afraid? Then you aren’t going to Heaven. Have you told a lie? Then there doesn’t seem to be much hope for you!

Of course the concept that certain sins are so offensive to God that they cannot be forgiven thereby costing you eternity in Heaven is a very old one. The problem is that this appears to contradict other passages that say that once we are saved we cannot be lost. Many Pastors solve this by teaching that if you are saved then you will not (as in cannot) commit such sins. I believe scripture also contradicts that teaching. The solution is that Revelation 21:8 is not speaking about persons being thrown into the Lake of Fire. Rather it is eternal rewards that are being thrown into the incinerator for permanent, eternal destruction.

I first learned of this teaching through the Ministry of Robert Dean. Before I quote him below I want to make it clear that as far as I know Dr. Dean holds to the doctrine of eternal conscious torment in the Lake of Fire for all unbelievers. I am rather confident that he would strongly disagree with many of the things I have said in this series of posts.

Beginning in 2004 Robert Dean began teaching through the book of Revelation and did not complete the study until 2010. In lesson 235 he provides a detailed discussion of Revelation 21:8 (see the transcript here and the audio and video recordings here). The select quotes below provide a flavor of his teaching on this topic. I highly recommend that you read or watch the entire lesson.  Here is Dr. Dean:

But then there are these other passages in the Scripture that seem to indicate that if we are engaged in certain sins then we are not going to get to heaven—at least that is how it appears to read. We come now to two of those verses and we have to read them in context, which is very important. Revelation 21:6 NASB “Then He said to me, ‘It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost.’” The emphasis here is that it is free; you don’t do anything to earn it. Then verse 7, “He who overcomes will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son.” Verse 8, “But for the cowardly and unbelieving [unfaithful] and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part {will be} in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.” At first glance it seems that what that means is that if you are one or more of these things you are going to end up in the lake of fire.

In order to understand this we have to realize that there are key phrases that must be understood in the context not only of Revelation but in the context of the New Testament and the teaching of the whole Bible. What this verse is teaching is not a salvation by works; that would contradict so many things in both the Old and New Testaments. It is talking not about salvation but inheritance. Inheritance has to do with what a child in a family inherits from parents, the disposition of property from one generation to another within a family. In order to be in the family you have to be saved. Inheritance can never have as its focus salvation, which is getting into the family. So we understand that this is talking about inheritance here, not salvation. Verse 7 establishes that clearly: “the one who overcomes shall inherit all things.” Verse 8 cannot be taken out of that context; it is talking about inheritance in relationship to overcoming.

What does it mean to overcome? Then we have to understand the phrase “shall inherit all things.” Third, we have to understand the word “part,” which is a poor translation because we think of “part” as having a role in something; that is not what it means at all. The word has to do with receiving a share: meros [meroj] was a technical word used in legal documents at the time to indicate the share or portion that was designated to an heir in terms of his inheritance. It is not talking about the person; it is talking about his share. In this case the share is not going to go to the believer, it is going to the lake of fire. [emphasis added]

[…]

What God freely gives is one thing; inheritance is something else. We earn a reward but we are given a gift. Inheritance is related to obedience. Another place where this word is used is in John 13:8 NASB “Peter said to Him, ‘Never shall You wash my feet!’ Jesus answered him, ‘If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.’” This is at the Passover meal the night before Jesus goes to the cross. Jesus points out that this is a teaching moment, He is going to do something physical in order to illustrate a spiritual truth. Here we see the word “part” again that we have seen in Revelation 21:8—meros. Jesus isn’t saying, If you don’t let me wash your feet I’m not going to let somebody with dirty feet be part of my team. What He is saying is something much more profound, He is talking about an inheritance. Paraphrase: If you don’t let me cleanse you in an ongoing way you are not going to have an inheritance with me.

Inheriting the kingdom. Revelation 21:7-8
By Dr. Robert Dean

[Click on this link to see the next installment in this series: Does Sin Against An Infinite God Require Infinite Punishment?]

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