Today: [Revelation 20:] Do You Believe in Hell? In Revelation 20 John witnesses the bottomless pit and the lake of fire. This brings up the question do you believe in a place of eternal punishment? Surprisingly a large percentage of Christians (according to Pew Research) have no belief in hell whatsoever.
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[Rev 20:1-15 KJV] 1 And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. 2 And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years, 3 And cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled: and after that he must be loosed a little season. 4 And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and [I saw] the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received [his] mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. 5 But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This [is] the first resurrection. 6 Blessed and holy [is] he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years. 7 And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison, 8 And shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle: the number of whom [is] as the sand of the sea. 9 And they went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them. 10 And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet [are], and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever. 11 And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. 12 And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is [the book] of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. 13 And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. 14 And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. 15 And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.
After witnessing the climactic battle between the anti-Christ forces and the saints of God led by Jesus Himself John now sees an angel appearing with the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. This angel proceeds to lay hold on the dragon that persecuted the sun-clothed woman in Rev. 12 and consequently to bind him and cast him into the pit with a seal put upon him for 1000 years.
What is the bottomless pit? Hebrew sources from ancient times believed that it was the chasm of unformed creation that Gen. 1:2 describes as being without form and void. Still, others believe that the bottomless pit was the vast gulf between Lazarus and the Rich Man in the parable by that name told by Jesus. A 17th-century theologian popularized the theory that the earth was hollow wherein could be found the abyss or bottomless pit referred to in this chapter. You might think that would be considered preposterous by the scientific community, but when Admiral Byrd traversed the Arctic in 1926, he claimed to have flown into a great chasm wherein he witnessed the hollowed out depths of the earth with an entire tropical ecology.
In speaking of the imprisonment of the dragon John is given to know that after 1000 years the serpent will be loosed briefly, but at this point, no explanation is given as to why. John then sees thrones (v. 4) wherein sit saints and particularly those who were beheaded for the witness of Jesus that had refused to worship the beast or receive his mark. This is mention of the first resurrection after which v. 5 tells us a second resurrection will take place after 1000 years is fulfilled.
What is the first resurrection? It is the raising to life of those who will rule and reign with Jesus for a thousand years. After the thousand years is expired Satan will once again be loosed and go forth to deceive the nations. He will chiefly influence those living in the land mass that was once Gog and Magog currently the former Soviet Bloc countries. There will be an army of significant number that will go forth and surround the camp of the saints presumptively the city of Jerusalem. In defense of His children God Himself will rain down fire upon them destroying millions after which the devil with finality will be cast not into the bottomless pit but into the lake of fire where the beast and the false prophet await to join with the devil in torment forever. We see from this that the popular idea of Satan as the warden of hell overseeing the miseries of the damned is not reflective of Biblical truth. Satan does not rule in hell. He is simply one of those judged along with billions of souls for rejecting Jesus and setting himself in opposition against God.
What is the lake of fire? The concept of a place of fiery punishment is also found in ancient Egypt and in Greek mythology under the name Tartarus. Not all denominations and groups connected with Christianity believe in a place of eternal punishments. The Jehovah Witnesses believe these references deal with a total annihilation into nothingness that occurs at the death of non-believers. The Seventh Day Adventists believe something similar to this as well. Hippolytus, a second-century theologian, wrote of a place of unquenchable suffering where the unrighteous dead are consigned for eternity. Christian universalism relegates the idea of a lake of fire as a symbolism of purifying suffering where souls are perfected by torment into a higher state of moral perfection. Whatever the case may be and however men may interpret the same the scripture describes this lake of suffering as a place where torment is perpetual day and night forever and ever for those consigned there for living lives in opposition against God.
In v. 11 John sees a great white throne and the second resurrection of all who were not part of the first resurrection. Books are opened, and the names of each individual is searched for therein. A second set of books were then opened connected with the first containing the judgments of God on the record of the actions and deeds of those standing to be adjudicated before the throne. To make this judgment all-encompassing the sea gives up all her dead, and hell itself gives up those who were condemned there through history until this moment of accounting were to take place. All are judged at which billions of souls whose names are not recorded in the book of life are swept into the lake of fire to join the devil, the beast, the false prophet in the unending torment of the second death forever.
Is all this true? How would a loving God bring Himself to consign even the most rank offender to such an unspeakable eternity? The idea of hell and eternal punishment offends the anemic, insipid sensibilities of most people. By current statistics, the Pew Research Center on Religious studies reports that among young people from age 18-29 only 20 percent believe that hell exists. Among Christian adherents on the whole 40 percent believe that hell does not exist. Even among those who claim to have a born-again experience a full 20 percent who claim Jesus as Lord and Savior at the same time have no belief in hell whatsoever. Forty percent of Catholics do not believe in hell. Eighty percent of practicing Jews do not believe in hell. Over 70 percent of unaffiliated Christians likewise have no belief in an eternal hell. What are we to conclude from this? These statistics not only reflect the sentiment that there can be no eternal punishment, but they also exhibit a deeper systemic belief that since there is no hell (as they allege), there is, therefore, no accountability higher than to one’s own personal preferences and judgments. For ourselves who believe we are washed and forgiven there is still in the belief in an eternal hell a sense of the fear of God and our own accountability, for if God will consign others to this place for eternity what makes us think that He winks at our own transgressions.
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