Return to BibleToday Homepage
FAQ - ETERNAL TORMENT
Does Christ's statement as to the "Rich
Man" and "Lazarus" teach that the wicked go to eternal torment at death?
<ANSWER>--There is not a single word in this much discussed parable about the Rich Man being a wicked man or the Poor Man being a good man. Therefore, in answer to the question, it could be positively stated that there is nothing said about the wicked going to eternal torment at death. To interpret the story literally just as it reads, as so many are prone to do who believe in the theory of eternal torment for nearly every one but themselves, involves one in a number of absurdities. It would signify that all who are clad in purple and fine linen and who fare sumptuously every day, are at death to be placed in a furnace of fire and tormented. It would also mean that unless we were poverty stricken beggars, the companion of dogs, full of sores, and fed on crumbs at some rich man's back gate, we would never be able to wing our flight to Abraham's bosom when we departed this life. Poor Abraham would experience considerable difficulty in clasping all of the poor to his expansive bosom! The parable, rightly understood, does not in the remotest degree teach the monstrous doctrine of eternal torment.
Conceding that "Dives and Lazarus" is a parable, representing the Jews' and the Gentiles' positions of favor and disfavor during this Christian Age, the question arises concerning the figure itself: (a) Is it not a well- known fact that or Lord used everyday occurrences and things to make up the various figures and "dark sayings" (sheep, goats, seed, sower, harvest, reaper, stewards, etc.)? (b) Then why did Lazarus die to be carried to Abraham's bosom? Why must the "Rich Man" be alive in torment when he is DEAD? If "hell" is a place of "forgetfulness," why did the "Rich Man" remember his "five brothers?" Lastly, if the Lord knew of such a place, why did He picture Dives in the hell of Dante's Inferno--even for the sake of a figure? (T.E.) <ANSWER>--The Scriptures were written and arranged in such a way by the Lord, through the inspired writers that they could not be understood excepting by those who would come into harmony with Him by faith and obedience. The Lord is pleased to enlighten His children by the operation of the holy spirit through His Divine purposes. It is related of our Lord Jesus, that in all of His teachings He addressed the multitudes in parables and dark sayings and then afterwards explained them to His disciples. (`Mark 4:11,33,34`) The parable of "The Rich Man and the Poor Man" is a remarkable prophecy of conditions relating to the Jews and the Gentiles and, we believe, could have been stated in no other way without disclosing the realities which was evidently intended by the Lord should remain disguised or concealed from the world in general and whose real significance would be known only by His devoted followers. The entire book of Revelation is composed of prophecies thus concealed in signs, symbols and figures.
Please explain `Rev. 20:10`, particularly the last clause of the verse which
reads: "and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever." (E.W.D.)
<ANSWER>--All Bible students recognize that the expressions of this chapter and verse are highly figurative. Where it is stated that a "beast and false prophet" are to be cast into the "lake of fire and brimstone," no reasoning mind would say that literal beast, or a literal false prophet were meant; but that these were symbols, and represent false and beastly systems. And if not an actual beast is meant, so also with the "lake of fire and brimstone." This lake would fittingly symbolize absolute destruction, for whatever is cast into fire and brimstone, the two most destructive agencies known to mankind, is immediately destroyed and not preserved in any sense. As stated in the 14th verse, it is the "second death"--annihilation. To our understanding, the "devil" here mentioned is not Satan himself, but is an evil system--a devilish power. These evil systems--false civil and ecclesiastical powers--in the end of the Age are to be "tormented day and night," as long as they last, with financial, social, and religious difficulties and pains. "Forever and ever" is from the Greek aionion which signifies lasting. The "torment" will last until these Satanic systems are consumed.
Please explain "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 forever." "And the smoke of their torment ascended up forever and ever,
and they have no rest day and night which worship the beast and his image."
<ANSWER.>--These passages are taken from Revelation, and the book of Revelation is a symbolical book; that is exactly what it purports to be. We read that Jesus sent his angel and signified or made signs of certain things, and those signs, or symbols, have been with us and have been examined for 2000 years. Now we will not undertake at this time to investigate the entire book of Revelation, but content ourselves briefly by saying, first, that all teachers will admit that no doctrine should be based wholly on a text of Scripture found in Revelation, if it does not have some foundation in other parts of the Word of God; no one may build a doctrine merely upon a passage of Scripture which has only Revelation for its basis, because that being a symbolical book, nearly all the statements in it are symbolical. Now in this case you will notice the reference to the beast and false prophet--one beast and one false prophet. Who is that beast? Have you seen that beast? Do you know anything about that beast? Do you know anything about that false prophet? Now, you see, unless I would take time to go into the matter and discuss what the beast symbolizes, and what the false prophet symbolizes, it would not be proper to discuss what is meant by this, and what happened to them. The beast is a symbol of a great system, but time will not permit us to go into a discussion of the subject. I believe it represents a great system of religion that is now in the world. And the false prophet I understand represents another system of religion--not a man, not men, but a system; and that system. is to be destroyed; and that system is to have torment, and it is to collapse--not the people.