What the Bible says about Beast and False Prophet Cast into Lake of Fire
(From Forerunner Commentary)
"Those who dwell on the earth" is a formulaic expression in the book of Revelation, and it simply means those who want nothing to do with God, the worldly. Maybe the easiest way to define it would be simply "the carnal," "the fleshly." Colossians 3:1-2 shows the opposite of this:
If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.
There is a definite distinction between those who are godly, who seek heavenly or godly things, and "those who dwell on the earth," who seek earthly things. The latter are those who have no higher spiritual desire in life. They are perfectly happy here with their lives on the earth. Anyone who wants to tell them about the truth of God just gets the cold shoulder. They have their minds set on things of the earth.
Revelation 11:10 contains a set of three verbs—"rejoice," "make merry," and "send" gifts. The sense is that these carnal people will be joyful and celebrate and make a holiday out of the news of the witnesses' deaths by sending gifts to each other. All of this action that they take grows out of a sense of relief that their problems have been solved now that the witnesses lay dead. "Happy days are here again," in other words.
They will be so happy that these witnesses, who have been thorns in their sides, have been defeated—been killed—that they will put on a wild celebration, maybe for the whole three days. They will be ecstatic that these men who tormented them (as they think of it) are finally removed from the scene and out of their hair. Now, their supposed "heaven on earth" can continue. But it is a false "heaven on earth"—it is actually the abyss on earth, but they do not realize it because they have been thoroughly deceived.
The word "tormented" is the same one found in Revelation 20:10:
The devil, who deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet were. And they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.
Satan and his demons will indeed be tormented. What the Two Witnesses do to the people of the earth at that time will not be torment, but that is how it will feel to these carnal people. The strongest meaning of this word in Greek means "torture." On the other end of the word's spectrum of definitions, it can mean "vex," a kind of irritation. It can also mean "harass," "distress," or "question," as in the sense of "interrogate under duress."
Perhaps the most interesting of the definitions of this word is "test." The two prophets will test these carnal people, and they will fail miserably. They will think the tests are torture and stubbornly refuse to change. We can easily see this in their actions: They will rejoice at the witnesses' deaths.
Notice that the Two Witnesses are called "two prophets." They are not called apostles or ministers. They are called prophets specifically because that is the essence of their work. They do a prophetic type of work rather than an apostolic type of work. The two overlap at points, but God emphasizes the prophetic one here.
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The Two Witnesses (Part Seven)
This verse ostensibly describes the Lake of Fire as a place where God torments people forever. This assumption raises three questions:
2. If they are mortals, how can they “be tormented day and night forever and ever” in an inferno that would soon consume them?
3. What kind of God would devise such a “cruel and unusual” punishment?
Before answering these questions, we must briefly consider whether human beings have an immortal soul. For several biblical reasons, our understanding of the Scriptures compels us to maintain that they do not:
1. Job recognizes that man has a spirit (Job 32:8), which the apostle Paul shows in I Corinthians 2:11 endows humanity with intellect. This spirit in man comes from God (Zechariah 12:1) and returns to Him upon death (Ecclesiastes 12:7; Acts 7:59). It records an individual's life, character, and personality, which God stores until the resurrection of the dead. However, the Bible never describes this spirit as immortal or eternal; in fact, I Corinthians 2:6-16 explains that man needs yet another Spirit, God's, to be complete and to discern godly things. According to Ecclesiastes 3:21, animals also have a spirit, “which goes down to the earth,” suggesting that it ceases to exist at the animal's death.
2. The Bible flatly asserts that all people die: “[I]t is appointed for men to die once” (Hebrews 9:27). Ezekiel says distinctly that souls die: “The soul who sins shall die” (Ezekiel 18:4, 20; see Romans 6:23). Jesus warns in Matthew 10:28 that God can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna, a type of the Lake of Fire.
3. In death, life and consciousness are gone. “The dead know nothing,” says Solomon in Ecclesiastes 9:5, and he later adds, “[T]here is no work or device or knowledge or wisdom in the grave where you are going” (verse 10). In Psalm 146:4, the psalmist writes about men's death, “His spirit departs, he returns to his earth; in that very day his plans perish” (see Genesis 3:19).
4. Scripture also confutes the idea that people go to heaven or hell after death. Peter says to the crowd on the day of Pentecost, “Men and brethren, let me speak freely to you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. . . . For David did not ascend into the heavens” (Acts 2:29, 34). Our Savior confirms this in John 3:13: “No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven.” The biblical usage of Sheol and Hades simply means “the pit” or “the grave.”
5. Men cannot have immortality unless God gives it to them. Paul writes, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23; emphasis ours throughout). In I Corinthians 15:53 he tells the saints, “This corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality”; that is, immortality is not inherent in us. At the first resurrection, God will give “eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality” (Romans 2:7). If we already had immortality, why should we seek it?
6. Only God has immortality. He is, Paul writes to Timothy, “the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality” (I Timothy 6:15-16). John says of the Word, “In Him was life” (John 1:4), meaning as Creator of all things (verse 3), He had life inherent. Jesus affirms this in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” In other words, humans must go through Him to receive eternal life.
With such overwhelming proof, the doctrine of the immortality of the soul, believed by so many, proves false. Man is not immortal, nor does he possess any “spark of God” unless God has given it to him through the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:11). A Christian's hope of life after death rests in the resurrection of the dead (I Corinthians 15:12-23). Conversely, the wicked only await eternal death as recompense for their evil lives.
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Eternal Torment?Related Topics: | Beast and False Prophet Cast into Lake of Fire | Death | Destroying Spirit | Doctrine of 'Immortality' of the Soul | Eternal Death | Eternal Torment | Gehenna | God is Immortal | Hope of the Resurrection | Immortality as the Gift of God | Lake of Fire | Resurrection from the Dead | Spirit in Man | Torment
To understand Revelation 20:10 correctly, we must put it into its proper chronological context. Once we know when it occurs, much of the confusion about this verse clears up.
Though only twelve verses separate Revelation 19:20 from 20:10, one thousand years elapse between their respective events. The Beast and the False Prophet are cast into the Lake of Fire when Christ returns (Revelation 19:11-21). Soon afterward, a strong angel imprisons Satan in the bottomless pit for the thousand years of the Millennium (Revelation 20:1-3). When the thousand years are about to pass, Satan is released, and he gathers Gog and Magog to fight against the saints (verses 7-9). After God defeats this futile attempt, He casts the Devil, a spirit being, into the Lake of Fire to “be tormented forever and ever” (verse 10).
Obviously, the flames of the Lake of Fire will utterly consume mortal men like the Beast and False Prophet. The apostle Peter describes the end-time fire as an all-devouring holocaust: “[T]he elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up” (II Peter 3:10). In no way could the Beast and False Prophet survive a thousand years of such high-temperature burning! The laws of nature simply will not allow it.
The translators of the King James and New King James versions render the final clause of the first sentence of Revelation 20:10 as “where the beast and the false prophet are.” The present-tense verb “are” is not in the Greek text; it is an understood verb. In English grammar, such silent verbs take the same tense as the verb in the main clause of the sentence. The translators ignored this rule, however. The primary verb of the sentence, “was cast” (an aorist verb usually translated as simple past tense), demands that the understood verb should be “were [cast]” (past tense) to agree with the plural subject “the beast and the false prophet.”
Deceived by the unbiblical doctrine of the immortal soul, the translators had to deny nature and break the rules to make this verse fit their understanding! On the other hand, we can confidently assert that our teaching agrees with Scripture, nature, and grammar.
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Before the explosion of modern translations, the final sentence of Revelation 20:10 roused no one's skepticism. However, the newer versions bring out the fact that the verb here (basanisthēsontai) is plural and is correctly rendered “they will be tormented.” Who are “they”? Does this include the Beast and False Prophet? Does God torment wicked human beings eternally? There are two ways to explain these questions:
1) The Bible denies any idea of men having innate immortality (I Corinthians 15:53; Romans 2:7; I Timothy 6:15-16). These wicked leaders of men in the last days will die and burn to ashes soon after being thrust into the Lake of Fire, their souls and bodies destroyed by Him who can do this in Gehenna fire (Matthew 10:28). This fact would preclude any human from being described as “tormented day and night forever and ever.”
The only group left is the fallen angels—Satan and his demons. But, one may counter, “the devil” in Revelation 20:10 is singular, and “they will be tormented” is plural. How can we reconcile this plural pronoun referring to a singular antecedent?
In this case, “the devil” is used in a figure of speech called metonymy. Technically, it is “the use of the name of one thing for that of another of which it is an attribute or with which it is associated.” More simply, one part of a thing represents the whole. Thus, “the devil” represents in himself all of the group we call demons, devils, fallen angels, or angels who sinned.
A parallel verse, Matthew 25:41, says that sinners will be cast into “the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” Jesus intimates that the Lake of Fire's primary purpose is for the punishment of demons, but it will also be used as the means of execution for the wicked among humans, those people who unrepentantly live as demons do.
2) If we understand “they will be tormented” to include the Beast and the False Prophet, we must explain the phrase “forever and ever” (eis tous aiônas tôn aiônôn). Literally, this means “to the ages of the ages” and would seem to imply perpetuity. However, we must be careful with the word aiôn and its various forms. Its range of meaning runs from “a space or period of time” to “a lifetime” to “an age” to “eternity.” As in all such cases, the context must give the sense.
Having rejected the immortality of the soul, we have no recourse but to understand aiôn here in the sense of “as long as conditions exist” or “as long as they live.” Vine's Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words concurs:
AION . . . signifies a period of indefinite duration, or time viewed in relation to what takes place in the period. . . . The phrases containing this word should not be rendered literally, but consistently with its sense of indefinite duration. (p. 43)
Moreover, aiôn can also be rendered as “unto the ages of ages,” “until the eternal age,” or even “up to the vanishing point”! As should be plain, a precise definition of this Greek word proves extremely difficult. Dogmatism on it is not advisable.
Thus, the Beast and False Prophet will be tormented “day and night”—unceasingly—for an indeterminate period until they die, probably within a few minutes or a few hours, which is about as long as a human being can live in a fire. As long as they remain breathing, they will suffer excruciating pain as their just reward, and in an indefinite time, they will pay for their sins with death.
Richard T. Ritenbaugh