Is The Lake of Fire a Literal Fire?

Rev. 20:13–15: “And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.”

I can almost hear people say regarding my take on hell..."you stupid twit, it says right there, people are thrown in the lake of fire, are you trying to tell me the lake of fire is not "literal"? Hell man, you dumber than I thought, you done gone past dumb and dumber to being the dumbest!"

I find it ironic to say the least, how most believers...who are Bible Literalists...interpret Revelation. They say that the four horses of the apocalypse, the woman riding on the beast, the harlot sitting on many waters, the red dragon with seven heads, people standing on a sea of glass mixed with fire...etc. are obviously symbolic. But, when they read about the "lake of fire" that say that is obviously literal. 


The key to understanding the Book of Revelation is found at the front of the Book. Verse 1 says,The Revelation...signified (Greek, sema meaning a sign) by his angel unto his servant John."

Revelation is a book of signs, that is symbolic language. 
 
This is not strange for Jesus spoke in parables! (Matthew 13:34, 35) He was not talking about literal "wheat" or "tares." Neither did Jesus speak to John in vision about literal beasts or "locusts." Only once in awhile are the parables or the symbols of Revelation translated. 

"The waters...are people." (Rev. 17:15)
 
Here is an important  point that one should realize. If we believe that Revelation is literal, we will never understand the book of revelation no matter how much we study it because it is symbolic language.

One Bible literalist wrote these words to me limiting God's love by referring to a verse in Revelation.

Start Quote
"The world will find out soon whether he is just a God of love or not. Those listening to false prophets of grace will wish they had listened to one of his true prophets.

It bougles my mind to think that many would rather listen to these ear thicklers.


Especially when we have the Revelation that Christ gave to John about the kind of God Christ revealed

When He comes back there will be a sword coming out of His mouth to slay the wicked." End Qoute.

Can you picture Jesus with a sword coming out of His mouth going around killing people? Somehow, some Bible literalists believe this.

It is imperative to realize that regarding the book, John is being given a revelation that is sign-i-fied to him, why? Because John was on the island of Patmos, a penal colony, he was under arrest. If the document were found, if it were found in the possession of some of the people he was sending it to, it could have caused him great problems. So this revelation is sign-i-fied, and if someone got it, who was not meant to, to them it would have been coded...in my day my parents used what we called "piglatin" (coded language) so us kids would not understand what they said...and his captors would not be able to understand what it said. But in the right hands it would be very understandable, because they knew all the allusions he was alluding to. So this first verse is saying that, this revelation is being given by God to Jesus, sent by Christ, sign-i-fied by angels, and recorded by John.

Also at the beginning of the book, John clearly states that all of Revelation is a vision that is signified, in the recording of the it.


The fascinating concept about fire in Scripture, is that it is almost always figurative or symbolic with the purpose of purifying, refining, and for accomplishing general good for people. The Greek word for fire, “pur,” is the word from which we get all forms of our English word, pure and purify.


Note...the only mention of the "Lake of Fire" in the Bible is in this codified book of Revelation.


To get a proper perspective for interpreting and gaining an understanding of the symbolism of the lake of fire, it would be helpful to find out how the word fire is used throughout Scripture.

God is “a consuming fire” (Ex. 24:17; Deut. 4:24; Is. 30:27; Heb. 12:29).


Believers are baptized and anointed with fire (Matt. 3:11; Luke 3:16; Acts 2:3).


Jesus and His messengers appear in and are described as fire (2 Thess. 1:7; Heb. 1:7; Rev. 10:1).
 

God will judge “all flesh” with fire and sword...word from His mouth...(Is. 10:17; 66:16; Rev. 19:15).
 

Jesus’ eyes are described as fire (Rev. 1:14; 2:18; 19:12).

Fire acts as a testing, refining, and purifying agent, removing the chaff from our lives (chaff is on the wheat; it is not the wheat itself (Is. 48:10; Matt. 3:12; Luke 3:17; 1 Pet. 1:7; Rev. 3:18).


The Israelites were refined in a fiery furnace (Deut. 4:20; 1 Kings 8:51; Is. 31:9; 48:10; Jer. 11:4).


Fire is used to reveal the quality of our works (1 Cor. 3:13–15).


Everyone must have the experience: “Everyone will be salted with fire” (Mark 9:49).

A major move from the way I use to study the Scriptures is rather than from studying them from the point of trying to validate what I believed, I now study them from the point of viewing them through the lens of Jesus and alow them to formulate what I believe rather than validate what I already believe. The validation that I give to confirm if my understanding of the Scripture is correct is; if it doesn’t make sense rationally or fit the character of our loving Father God portrayed by Jesus, it probably isn't true. Like the idea of torturing people endlessly in the torture chamber of hell. Frequently throughout Scripture, God compares the purifying process in us to that of silver or gold being refined by fire, burning away the dross and impurities. With regard to people, fire typically is used for the ultimate good of the one being put through it:

“Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction.” (Isaiah 48:10:)

“For you tried us O God. You set us on fire as silver is set to the fire...we went through fire and water; but you led us unto respite” (Ps. 66:10–12: Septuagint).

“And I will bring the third part through the fire, refine them as silver is refined, and test them as gold is tested (note the word “tested” in association with fire and gold—just like the Revelation passage above).” Zech. 13:9:

I have come to realize Scripture teaches of fire being a purifying agent, not a punishing, utter destroying agent. In both of the following verses where the English word “pure” and “purified” occurs, the Greek (Septuagint) word is “puroo.” As you read these verses fro Danial keep in mind the Greek definition of puroo is “to burn with fire.”

Daniel 11:35: “Some of those who have insight will fall, in order to refine, purge and make them pure (‘burn with fire’) until the end time; because it is still to come at the appointed time.”

Daniel 12:10: “Many will be purged, purified (‘burned with fire’) and refined, but the wicked will act wickedly; and none of the wicked will understand, but those who have insight will understand.”
 

Did you pick up on the fact that the translators did not convey the modern literal translation of “burning with fire,” since these verses were pertaining to godly people. Instead they chose to convey purification. Had it been about unbelievers, I wonder if the would have extended the same benevolence, or would they have conveyed fiery damnation by barbecuing the sinning sinners in their own rendering fat?

In Zephaniah 3:8–9 it is recorded that the nations and all the earth devoured by fire. When read from the Sepruagint, does God tell us why people are devoured by fire? “Wait for me,” says the Lord, “for the day of my resurrection, for a testimony! For my judgment shall be for gathering of nations, to take kings, to pour out upon them all my passion—the passion of my desire. For all the earth shall be consumed by the fire of my zeal. For then I will transfer upon the peoples one tongue for her generation, for all to call upon the name of the Lord, to serve him under one yoke.” That sure does not represent burning and suffering forever in the torture chamber of hell fire.

If the lake of fire is literal, and endless torment is a reality, and aren’t just terrible mistranslations of original words, then would we not have to conclude from Revelation that our friends and loved ones...who have not said the "sinners prayer" will be tormented forever "in our presence": If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, he also will drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is mixed in full strength in the cup of His anger; and he will be testing (basanizo) with fire (pur) and brimstone (theion) in the presence of the holy messengers and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their testing ascends into the eon of the eons (Rev. 14:9–11)

Aren’t we also going to spend eternity in the presence of the Lamb in the coming ages, where these our friends, neighbors and family members are suffering the tortures of  hell fire? 


Would that really be eternity in a place of eternal bliss?

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