“The Augustinian Revolution in Theology” Part I

Posted January 16, 2017 by Glenn
Categories: Augustine of Hippo

Last week I introduced my small readership to Thomas Allin’s book “The Augustinian Revolution in Theology” (please see An Introduction to “The Augustinian Revolution in Theology”). In that post I selected a quote where Pastor Allin discussed how Augustine’s theology had changed over time, moving from an orthodox Latin theology in his early writings to what we now recognize as distinctly Augustinian. That distinctive Augustinian theology is what I will spend the rest of this series laying out. Most modern theologians and pastors are so taken with Augustine’s intellect that they will gloss over the harshness of his theology (if they are even aware of it). Pastor Allin does us all a favor by laying bare that harshness in Augustine’s own words.

Take it away Pastor Allin!

We now return to Augustine. What did he teach? What are the special characteristics of Augustinianism? A satisfactory answer is rarely given to these questions. Many writers betake themselves to second hand sources. Some quote from textbooks; others give us disquisitions on the metaphysic or psychology (or what-not) of Augustine. I shall confine myself to the far safer and more accurate – if more humble – course of stating in order, and virtually in his own words, the various points of his system.

We begin with a truly amazing fact – Augustine’s theory of original sin starts from a false rendering. The Greek phrase eph’ hō (a) was by Latin versions rendered as in quo, and St. Paul was thus made to say in quo (b) omnes peccaverunt (in whom all sinned), instead of “because (in that) all sinned.” This false rendering of the Apostle’s words is followed by a false rendering of the Apostle’s thought which runs through every line of Augustinianism. St. Paul dwells on Ruin in order to heighten the idea of Redemption, its grandeur and its universality. Thus, Adam’s sin, of which virtually nothing whatever is said by any Old Testament writer, by any Evangelist, or by Christ, becomes to Augustine all in all. It is invested with quasi-miraculous powers for evil – it is inexhaustible. Per rationem seminis [By the nature of the seed] all the human family sinned in Adam, (c) all sinning de facto [in fact], all damned everlastingly de jure [in right], and the overwhelming majority damned in good earnest. In a passage from Augustine (d) are two words full of significance – carnali generatione [carnal generation]. Here opens a miserable chapter of Augustine in which he drags sin and the sexual relation into the closest relation. Here we may safely find the fountain head of that pruriency which has disgraced so much of the practical theology of the past, and which still defiles the Confessional. Sexual desire transmits the virus of original sin which flows on through libido, thus transmitting the poison from parent to child, through the membra genitalia [genital members] on whose inobedienta [disobedience] Augustine dilates so often.

This theory is primary in his doctrine of original sin, is practically the hinge of which it turns. Sex and sin are thus two watchwords of Augustinianism, two pillars of its temple. I append a few references out of many that might be given. How Augustine revels in such sexual themes may be seen in many passages. (e)

The Augustinian Revolution in Theology
By Thomas Allin

Pp. 139-141

For a list of all posts in this series please see: Posts Quoting From Thomas Allin’s “Augustinian Revolution in Theology”

(a) Romans 5:12
(b) Adam.
(c) “Op. Imp. Contr. Jul.,” [“Against Julian of Eclanum” (?)] iv. 104.
(d) “De peccatorum meritis et remissione,” iii. 8.
(e) “De nuptiis et concupiscentiâ,” i. 5, 8, 24; “De Bono Conj.,” 3, 6; “De Gratiâ Christi et de peccato originali,” 34, 35; “C. d. Pel.,” i. 7, 16, etc.


An Introduction to “The Augustinian Revolution in Theology”

Posted January 8, 2017 by Glenn
Categories: Augustine of Hippo

For quite a while I have been interested in learning about Augustine of Hippo and his theology. As I realized just how much impact Augustine has had on the Western church for fifteen centuries my desire continued to increase. Many of the doctrines I have taken exception to or had qualms about were established in church dogma because of Augustine. My opinions may right or wrong (just like everyone else) but I have been looking for deeper insight.

Of course it is easy to find glowing accounts of Augustine and his genius (I have no doubt that he was a brilliant intellect) but I have tried many times to find critiques of Augustine’s doctrines and methods with very little to show for it. The man is so revered that even those who disagree with him (I know they must be out there somewhere) seem to keep their opinions to themselves. So it was a very pleasant surprise when a few months ago I stumbled upon “The Augustinian Revolution in Theology” by Thomas Allin and edited by J. J. Lias. A large selection of older books (I think this one was published just before World War I) are now being published again by Forgotten Books based in England. For this I am truly grateful. Pastor Allin provides just the type of insight and critique that I have been looking for.

I will be publishing excerpts from Pastor Allin’s book over the next few weeks or months. Just as a warning you should know that Pastor Allin was a Universalist. While I am not a Universalist I still think that Pastor Allin’s contribution on this topic is an important one and is worth getting some exposure for.

In today’s quote, and future quotes, I will make some minor edits for clarity. For example some of the writings that Pastor Allin quotes are in Latin so I will provide English translations, when helpful, to the best of my ability. I will also renumber footnotes to help avoid confusion. Now let’s hear from Pastor Allin:

The clearest evidence we can desire of the character of Augustine’s teaching is furnished by a source beyond all suspicion – his own works. They contain TWO DISTINCT THEOLOGIES – an earlier and a later. Plainly these are due – the one to the Catholic traditions, which Augustine at first accepted with little question; the other to the mature workings of his own mind. Unfortunately, whenever these later tendencies of Augustine’s teaching are pointed out in our own days, there are to be found writers of a certain class who point us to the earlier and better teachings of his Catholic period, altogether forgetting the fact that in his later days he had given them up completely. One would hardly attempt to defend the later absolutism of Pio Nono by quoting his early liberalism. Nor would one strive to prove Dr. Pusey to be a lover of German theology in his later years by pointing to an early book of his in praise of German thought. Sometimes the earlier teaching of Augustine is adroitly mixed up be his apologists with his later heresies (the term is used in its proper signification of the deliberate choice of opinions which are not explicitly taught by the Catholic Church). The effect of this is to perplex the reader and to obscure the difference between Augustine’s earlier and later teaching. But it must be admitted that in his later writings his Catholic and his individual tendencies are often found in strange and even inconsistent combination.

The explanation of the genesis of these two theologies is easy. Shaken to the very depths of his being by the long agony which preceded his conversion, Augustine longed for rest, and yielded at first an apparently complete assent to the current teachings of that Church which had sheltered his troubled soul. After his long and weary quest after truth and certainty, a few years of repose were a necessity. To this period belong those books “De Libero Arbitrio,” “De Vera Religione,” and “De Diversis Quæstionibus,” etc., which speak well of human nature, defend free will, recognize human merit, lay comparatively little stress on the Fall, and assert the innocence of infants. Thus it is that one may quote Augustine against Augustinianism and find in the earlier writings an armoury of weapons against the later. A few specimens I give from his early works seem almost at his later doctrine of original sin. “You must,” he tells us, in very emphatic words, “either deny the existence of sin or admit that its commission is willful.” (a) Or, again, “Sin is so completely voluntary that in no way can there be sin except it be voluntary.” (b) Punishment would be unjust unless sin were willful. (c) Sin exists no where except in the will. No can sin be imputed to any one except to a willing agent. An inevitable sin is no sin. (d) Neither good nor bad can be fairly imputed to any one who has not acted of his proper will. (e) Infants are without sin. (f) More might be easily quoted to the same effect.

I pass on to another point. It is not God’s grace irriesistably working that saves, it is God’s warning and persuasion addressed to man who is free. (g) It is not Pelagius, it is the early Augustine who assures us that man is able to live rightly when he so pleases. (h) Also that by our free will we can merit God. (i) Once more, to believe is ours (i.e., faith is in our own power). If we obey the call we merit the Holy Spirit, both to believe and to will is ours. (j) There is in sinners something preceding (grace) by which they are made worthy of justification. (k) God’s predestination is not absolute, but contingent on the foreknowledge of character. (l)

As to the Fall, in these earlier writings its effect is regarded as chiefly negative. We lose the sign-manual of God. We remain merely creatures. We forfeit paradise, but of the later theories of Augustine we find hardly a trace. The approximation of such teachings to the tenets of Pelagius is striking; it is true they are not Pelagian, but they are certainly far nearer to it than to Augustine’s later views. How many centuries of conflict and disquiet has it already cost the West to regain the earlier position of Augustine, and how many more conflicts and anxieties still await her before completely regaining it?

The Augustinian Revolution in Theology
By Thomas Allin

Pp. 107-112

For a list of all posts in this series please see: Posts Quoting From Thomas Allin’s “Augustinian Revolution in Theology”

(a) “De Vera Religione,” 14, “Ut nullo modo sit peccatum si non sit voluntarium.”
(b) Ib.
(c) “De Libero Arbitrio,” i. I.
(d) Ib., iii. I, 17, 8.
(e) “De Diversis Quaestionibus Octoginta Tribus,” 24.
(f) “De Libero Arbitrio,” iii. 23, “Parvuli, quorum per ætatem nulla peccata sunt. [The children, who through the age there are no sins.]”
(g) “De Vera Religione,” 31.
(h) “De Libero Arbitrio,” ii. I, “Recte vivere, cum vult, potest [To live right, when he so wills, he can]”
(i) “Epistulae ad Romanos Expositio Inchoata.”
(j) Ib.

Labor Day 2016 Update

Posted September 3, 2016 by Glenn
Categories: General Interest

It has been over a year since I posted any articles on my blog and I figure it is about time to remedy that. I hope that you few subscribers to my blog find this post of interest.

Even before my final series of posts last year I was feeling a deep sense of burnout, I couldn’t think of anything I felt was worth writing about. Then when I did the series of posts on eternal conscious torment (ECT) versus conditional immortality most of the reaction I received was negative. Someone who had been a subscriber for quite a while, and who I had exchanged friendly emails with, was very unhappy with me and unsubscribed. I never started this blog to become popular but when friends get angry with me it is never fun.

I suppose that is neither here nor there and not of interest to anyone but myself. When I stopped blogging I was listening to recorded bible studies every day while commuting to work. This was in addition to being a member of a brick and mortar congregation in the town where I reside. I am still a member of the local congregation but I am not listening to any recorded sermons at the moment and there is a reason for that which I would like to share.

I am dispensational in theology but it is difficult to find solid dispensational sermons to listen to. I have spent a lot of time searching for sermons that are doctrinally solid and thought I had finally found what I was searching for. In the past five years I found two pastors who I have listed to regularly. Both are dispensational and involved with Chafer Theological Seminary (CTS) which is solid even if some of its leadership leans toward four point Calvinism.

In the past two years both of these pastors have begun to password protect their audio lessons. I contacted one of the staff of the pastor I listened to most regularly and got the password. I wondered what was going on but didn’t question it too deeply until my parents called me one day. They were listening to a different series preached by the same pastor and he made some comments that explained a lot.

Did you know that if you listen to doctrinal studies from home that you are a “lone ranger” Christian? Somehow it appears that your spiritual gifts just won’t function if you are not sitting in a church pew. Comments made seemed to imply that if you aren’t physically present when the pastor teaches then you somehow have cut yourself off from the body of Christ. I do not believe that it is an accident that both these pastors locked up their teaching within a short period of each other, someone with influence at CTS is convincing these men that they should cut people like me off from their teaching (apparently they do think of it as “their” teaching).

Looking back on it I realized that the church staff member who provided me with the bible study password had probably violated church policy. After reflecting on it for a while I decided that I didn’t want to ask someone to violate their church’s policy or to force a pastor to teach me against his will so I stopped listening!

In time I realized that this policy probably flows from what I believe to be a flawed rendering of Hebrews 13:17:

17 Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you.

I have heard more than one pastor say you have to do everything they tell you (submit) and use this verse as support. When you think about can you really “submit” to a pastor who is five hundred miles away? I really believe that in their minds we violate this verse when are not physically present so we can be monitored.

Let’s look at the words translated “obey” and “submit” while we’re at it. The word translated “obey” is the Koine Greek word “peithesthe” which is almost always translated to be convinced or persuaded. I have no doubt that the Church of Rome translated it as submit in this passage and the reformers saw no reason to change it. Who just gives away authority like this?

The word translated “submit” is a “hypeikete” which is a hapax legomenon (this is the only time it is used in scripture) so the translation is much more uncertain. According to Strong’s Concordance:

ὑπείκω; from Homer down; to resist no longer, but to give way, yield (properly, of combatants); metaphorically, to yield to authority and admonition, to submit.

Bases on this information I don’t see why this isn’t every bit as good of a translation:

17 [Be persuaded by] your leaders and [yield to their admonition], for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you.

Remember that the Hebrew members of the church in Jerusalem were under great pressure to return to Judaism even though they were believers. The author of Hebrews was telling them to listen to their pastors and stay in the church. This wasn’t a blanket command to do everything they were told!

So how am I studying the Word now that I have no source of verbal teaching? We live in a wonderful time because there is a lot of written material with great depth to it. I have begun reading for the second time the 2nd edition of Joseph Dillow’s Final Destiny: The Future Reign of the Servant Kings. If you are interested in learning how to rightly divide the word of truth when it comes to those difficult passages that Calvinists and Arminians fight over this book is for you. It runs around 1200 pages and is, in my opinion, a doctrinal tour de force.

I have also begun reading books regarding how believers handled persecution during the English Reformation. For 130 years believers were persecuted for their faith but there was always a minority, a remnant, which stayed the course even under great pressure. An excellent book on the topic is Loyal Dissenters: Reading Scripture and Talking Freedom with 17-century English Baptists by Lee Canipe. I personally believe that toleration for the “wrong kind” of Christian is quickly eroding in the United States. If you believe this also and would like to know how other Christians handled the situation, and how they justified their position scripturally, then I highly recommend this book!

Thank you all!

Final Thoughts on A. J. Pollock’s “HADES and Eternal Punishment”

Posted July 5, 2015 by Glenn
Categories: Annihilationism

I finally feel compelled to finish my series of posts on A. J. Pollock’s “HADES and Eternal Punishment.” Frankly I haven’t been sure what to say about this whole exercise so I have allowed myself to procrastinate. Some of what I am going to write is my own opinion and I expect no one to treat it as divinely inspired; in other words I am under no delusions as to my infallibility. However, if we are honest with ourselves, all Christians hold personal beliefs about God and the way “things” work that we know are matters of personal belief and opinion. As long as we don’t contradict clear teachings of scripture it should not be held against us.

  1. What Was the Original Question?

I want to remind anyone who has been following these posts what the original question was that I was looking at: How exegetically solid is the case for eternal suffering of the unbeliever in the Lake of Fire? My question has never been: “does the unbeliever suffer in the Lake of Fire?” I do believe that the Lake of Fire exists and there will be suffering there. I also do not believe that there is any hope of reconciliation between the unbeliever and God after death. Rather the question for me is one of duration: will unbelievers suffer forever in the Lake of Fire or will the eventually be annihilated?

  1. Have I Come to a Definitive Conclusion?

In a word: No! I am not prepared to dogmatically state I believe either eternal conscious torment (ECT) or annihilationism to be the correct doctrine. I will say that when I started researching this I did expect the traditional ECT argument to have the stronger support but I no longer believe that. What I have concluded is that there is tradition involved and creeds of different denominations to be defended. These forces are very powerful and we all (including myself) tend to defend what we have been taught without always thinking it through.

I do believe that scripture is a complex network or interleaving of principles revealing who God is and showing us the way we should live our lives. It is rare that one principle can be changed without it affecting other principles. What I plan on doing is to continue studying God’s word, I am confident that as time goes by I will find other doctrines affected by the ECT/annihilationism debate and I will pay particular attention to these doctrines. I don’t see why this shouldn’t shed much light on this.

  1. Don’t Heretics Hold to Annihilationism?

One of the common charges I have seen made in this debate is that what are considered heretical groups hold to annihilationism. Specifically this includes the Seventh Day Adventists and the Jehovah’s Witnesses. I don’t want to dwell on this too much since it isn’t the point of these articles however I think I need to make my position clear.

I believe Seventh Day Adventists to be Christians while I do not believe that Jehovah’s Witnesses to be Christians. The reason that I do not believe that Jehovah’s Witnesses to be Christian is because of their teachings about the person of Jesus Christ.

Should that in and of itself make belief in annihilationism impossible for me? I have decided that the answer to that is “no.” I will bet you money (figuratively speaking) that if I carefully go through the teachings of the Jehovah’s Witnesses that I can find some points in agreement with whatever creed you hold. Does that mean you should immediately abandon those teachings? I think most people would say “no” to that and I would agree with them.

However if you still think that Jehovah’s Witness teaching taints annihilationism so much that it should be abandoned then I would like to point something out to you. If you are not a member of the Roman Catholic Church then you should consider abandoning the doctrine of eternal conscious torment (ECT). The teaching of ECT was cemented in church history by Augustine of Hippo who is a doctor of the RC Church. The teaching that Jesus paid an infinite price for our sins on the cross and that requires and infinite and eternal suffering of the unbeliever in the Lake of Fire comes from Anselm of Canterbury who was also a RC priest. If you are a protestant you should be very hesitant to accept Roman Catholic doctrine.

  1. What Am I Willing to Say Dogmatically?

Here is the one thing that I will state without doubt: my Lord and savior Jesus Christ is God and creator. He possesses infinite wisdom, justice, and righteousness and whatever He chooses to be the eternal destiny of the unbeliever is truly good and just. He has not chosen to provide me the details of many things but I am still confident in His character and will always strive to uphold his good name before the world.

Amen! Come, Lord Jesus!

If anyone would like to start at the beginning of this series of posts please follow this link to my first post: Is There a Case for Annihilationism? I have tried to daisy chain the posts so that by clicking on the link at the bottom of each post you can go to the next one in the series.

Pollock’s Concluding Remarks

Posted June 17, 2015 by Glenn
Categories: Annihilationism

We have now reached the end of A. J. Pollock’s “HADES and Eternal Punishment” where he presents us with his concluding remarks and observations. There aren’t any new arguments presented here so I am going to provide a long quote with some comments interspersed. I am not going to quote the last two pages of Pollock’s treatise which are footnotes. Any interested reader is encouraged to read them for his or herself.

I have two general comments to make before I begin the extended quote. First, as I have said again and again, many of Pollock’s arguments work only if annihilation is not punishment. I will certainly agree that eternal conscious torment (ECT) is punishment but that does not mean that annihilation is not punishment. Christians often say that human life is sacred and I completely agree with that. However, when the debate turns to annihilationism all of the sudden life isn’t so sacred. The concept of the permanent extinction of human existence is considered a non-punishment. This really does confuse me. Annihilation may or may not be true but it is not a non-punishment.

The other comment I have is that the issue of the translation of the Greek aionios (Strong’s G166) is pivotal in this debate. If you follow the link and read Strong’s definition of aionios you will see that it is defined as eternal or unending. Of course the definition chosen often depends on which side of the ECT/annihilation debate one takes. I know that Strong was a Calvinist so he would definitely come down on the side of aionios having a connotation of eternality. I have dealt with the aionios issue in several previous posts:

Edward William Fudge (an annihilationist) spends an entire chapter on aionios in his book “The Fire That Consumes: A Biblical and Historical Study of the Doctrine of Final Punishment”. On a lark I did an internet search for word studies on aionios and I quickly found three that reject the idea that aionios has a meaning of eternal or everlasting:

Okay, so who’s right? I am leaning toward the idea that the correct translation of aionios is context dependent (text without context is pretext). If that is the case then Pollock cannot claim that the use of aionios in the New Testament automatically proves the doctrine of ECT.

Here is Pastor Pollock: Read the rest of this post »

Pollock: Does Fire Consume?

Posted May 27, 2015 by Glenn
Categories: Annihilationism

We are now nearing the end of A. J. Pollock’s defense of the doctrine of eternal conscious torment (ECT). At this point Pastor Pollock has made most of the arguments he is going to make and is now tying up loose ends. Because of this I am going to begin moving faster with an eye to finishing my review of Pollock’s booklet in the very near future.

In this post I am quoting from pages 32 through 34 of Pollock’s HADES and Eternal Punishment. I am going to intersperse my comments with Pastor Pollock’s text.

First off Pastor Pollock deals with objections that a person must burn up in the Lake of Fire. I agree with Pollock that a person does not necessarily burn up in the Lake of Fire, God can preserve unbelievers in the Lake of Fire if He so chooses.

Here is Pastor Pollock:

There are, however, two striking incidents given in Scripture, which may well silence any objector.

When Moses was keeping the flock of Jethro, his father-in-law at Horeb, he saw a wonderful sight.

“And the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush: and he looked, and, behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed” (Ex. 3:2).

The caviller may say, ‘How could the bush be on fire and yet not be consumed?’ Yet here we have the plain statement that it was so.

Again, you remember how the three Hebrew children were flung into a burning fiery furnace, heated seven times so that the fierce flame slew the mightiest men of Nebuchadnezzar’s army who threw them in, and yet the three Hebrew children were not burned, nor their hair singed, nor the smell of fire on their clothes, only their bonds were consumed. Can you explain this?

Rather let us bow to God’s Word without question, and believe just what it states.

We must ever bear in mind that we cannot apply the conditions that obtain in this life in connection with mortal bodies to the bodies of unbelievers which will be raised for judgment. To do so is to betray our ignorance.

There is one very expressive passage affording much room for thought. It comes in at the end of the Scripture, in which the Son of God gives solemn warning as to gehenna. Read the rest of this post »

Pollock on Revelation 19:20

Posted May 17, 2015 by Glenn
Categories: Annihilationism

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
p. 32

Here is Robert Allen Taylor:

Revelation 20:10

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.


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?]

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