Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Wicked Immortal or Incorruptible: The Debated Concept

“The more deeply one digs into the Scriptures for understanding regarding final punishment, the clearer it becomes why many godly pastors and teachers are taking out their Bibles and restudying matters that they formerly took for granted. For example, Scripture makes it clear that God will resurrect (or transform) the redeemed unto immortality and incorruption, but Scripture never hints that the wicked will be raised either immortal or incorruptible. Instead, the Bible indicates that the wicked will be banished from God’s presence and expelled into the lake of fire, to experience the second death” (Edward Fudge, The Fire That Consumes: A Biblical and Historical Study of the Doctrine of Final Punishment, Third Edition. Eugene: Cascade Books, 2011, page 6).

Before I get started, let me just say that I read Edward Fudge’s book on Kindle some time ago...so if the page numbers of this series do not add up with the page numbers in the book, please understand that I am quoting from the Kindle Edition of the book and not the actual paperback or hardback. I just wanted to make that clear, since some of my readers may own this book (or will own it in the future).

Today’s post involves the concept of the wicked being granted some sort of immortality or incorruption. Fudge states that this concept has been merely assumed in years past...but has never been found in Scripture.

However, such a statement by Fudge is problematic when one reads his book. Throughout the work, Fudge constantly references a verse that works against his view, Revelation 20:10---

“And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever” (Rev. 20:10, NASB).

Did you see the last phrase of Revelation 20:10? It says that Satan, the beast, and the false prophet will be “tormented day and night forever and ever.” Does this phrase not imply conscious torment? I don’t see how one could really escape this thought process and deny the phrase. Edward Fudge, however, will deny that the phrase means what it says. He will insist that the rules of the philosophy of language dictate that when one sees the word “perish” or “destroyed,” one must think annihilation, not eternal burning in the lake of fire. What makes Revelation 20:10 so bad is that they will burn at all times of the day (“day and night”) and at all times of eternity (“forever and ever”). How does “forever and ever” not mean what it does? If it means “for all eternity,” then does this not contradict Fudge’s view of annihilation (where destruction comes to an end)?

Last but not least, I think there is another clue at the end of Revelation 20 which sheds further light on conscious torment---that is, “the death of death”:

“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. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:13-15).

Here we see the dead being delivered up from death and Hades (the grave, known as “sheol” in the Old Testament). At this point, the dead are raised to be judged, both godly and ungodly. Notice next, though, that death and Hades are “thrown into the lake of fire.” Death and Hades are destroyed before the unbelievers are thrown into the lake of fire. I think this has significance for the discussion at hand.

If death and Hades are destroyed before unbelievers are cast into the lake of fire, then this means death is taken out before the torment of unbelievers begins. If this is so, then the unbelievers tossed into the lake of fire are consciously aware of their torment in the fire. This would then correspond well with Revelation 20:10, which seems to indicate that at least three characters (beast, devil, false prophet) face conscious torment in the lake of fire.

There is one more little piece of evidence from Revelation that attests to conscious torment: it is the swarm of locusts appointed to torment unbelievers.

“Then out of the smoke came locusts upon the earth, and power was given them, as the scorpions of the earth have power. They were told not to hurt the grass of the earth, nor any green thing, nor any tree, but only the men who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads. And they were not permitted to kill anyone, but to torment for five months; and their torment was like the torment of a scorpion when it stings a man. And in those days men will seek death and will not find it; they will long to die, and death flees from them” (Revelation 9:3-6).

I think these four verses of Revelation attest to conscious torment. Notice here that the locusts are allowed to torment, not to kill. From the description itself, I can imagine that a person would like to die rather than be stung by locusts for five months straight. Still, it is conscious torment, but temporary...and yet, by this time, the events of the end times as recorded in Revelation are getting progressively worse. So, if Revelation 9 records temporary conscious torment, why is it that the end cannot have eternal conscious torment? In my estimation, the “sting” of the locusts is only a foreshadowing of future events. The worst, at this point, is still very much yet to come!

Back to the original quote. Fudge believes that there is no evidence in the Bible for the immortality of the wicked...but from what I’ve shown here, there is quite compelling evidence that attests to the immortality of the wicked (in addition to the immortality of the godly). Death is taken out in Revelation 9, and is finally destroyed in Revelation 20. The torment experienced from the “stings” of the locusts is so physical, so real, that one cannot even choose to die should he want to do so. This is nothing but pure, unadulterated conscious torment. If the evidence presented here makes sense, then Fudge has made a fundamental mistake from the outset that will govern all of his work. God bless.

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