The Doctrine of Hell

Revelation 14:6-12

Alan Lewis
Elon, North Carolina
June 2012

Revelation 14 describes both the triumph of the righteous. It also describes the doom of the wicked. Last week we looked at the positive side. We looked at the 144,000 standing with the Lord Jesus on Mount Zion. We saw what happens to those who die in the Lord. A special blessing is placed on believers who die.

They get to rest from their labors. That is always true but it will be even truer in the Tribulation Period. Today, we turn to a rather unpleasant topic. We will look at the terrible fate that awaits all who are not saved in the Tribulation Period.

Six angels are mentioned in these seven verses. The passage begins with three angelic proclamations. Three angels fly through the sky and announce a message. Each one of the messages is different. What does the first angel proclaim? He proclaims the gospel (14:6-7).

What Gospel Does This Angel Proclaim?

Is this the same message that Paul preached? Will this angel proclaim the death, burial and resurrection of Christ? That is what the word “gospel” means. This has to refer to the message of salvation. Why? There are several hints in the text.

1) This angel proclaims the ETERNAL gospel.

He does not just proclaim good news in general. That is what the word “gospel” means. This angel is proclaiming “the ETERNAL gospel”.

2) This message is preached to EVERYONE.

It will go out to everyone under heaven. It is a universal message that will go out to every tribe, nation, language and people. This angel must speak many different languages. It will be the last call to the worshippers of the beast before the final judgment falls and it is too late.

3) If this is not the same gospel message that Paul preached, then there is a CURSE placed on this angel (Galatians 1:8).

So this has to refer to the message of salvation. It is rather strange. There is no mention here of any invitation. It is preached by an angel. It is the only time in the whole Bible where we see an angel preaching the gospel. Will this angel use the four spiritual laws?

We don’t know but we do know that during the Tribulation Period that the gospel will not only be preached by an angel, it will be preached to everyone in the world. This may be a fulfillment of Jesus prophesy in Matthew 24:14.

As you read the text, it may sound more like bad news than good news. It sounds like a message of judgment but the Greek word ευαγγελιον can only mean “good news”. I think the answer is that Revelation 14:7 does not necessarily describe the content of the gospel. Instead, it describes what people need to do in response to the message of the gospel. Keep in mind that this is just a summary. It is not everything that the angel will say to people.

The second angel announces the destruction of Babylon (14:8).

This is the first time that Babylon is mentioned in the Book of Revelation. What is Babylon? John uses a term that he has not really explained. He did that earlier in the book when he mentioned the beast in 11:7. We will learn more about Babylon in Revelation 17 & 18. Babylon represents the capitol of the beast.

It is the city of the followers of the beast. Here the city is pictured as a bartender who makes all nations drink her wine and gets them drunk. Babylon represents all that is ungodly, immoral, humanistic and anti-Christian.

The third angel announces the doom of the worshipers of the beast. What will happen to them? They will be punished in hell forever. Believers during this time will face all kinds of problems. Many will go hungry. They will not be able to buy or sell. They will have economic problems.

Many will be slaughtered. It will be a bad time to be a believer in this world but the followers of the beast will have bigger problems. They will be tormented day and night forever and ever with no rest. People will either face the wrath of the beast or the wrath of the lamb.

The topic that I would like to study from our passage is the doctrine of hell. It is a rather unpleasant topic. It is a disturbing topic. Some of the things that we will be discussing may bother some people. It is also a controversial topic. There are several extremes when it comes to the doctrine of hell.

It seems to be the favorite topic of some preachers. There are some hell, fire and brimstone preachers. That is what some only preach on. Other preachers never seem to even mention the topic. There are very few sermons on hell in some churches. Some pastors are much more concerned about not offending people that they are about speaking truth to people.

Some prominent evangelicals (John Stott, Clark Pinnock) have even abandoned the doctrine. They do not rarely preach on it, they no longer believe in the concept. Two pastors of mega churches have come out and said publically that they do not believe in the concept of eternal conscious torment of the wicked.

One example is Greg Boyd. Boyd is the Senior Pastor of Woodland Hills Church in St. Paul, Minnesota. Thousands of people go to that church. A more recent example is Rob Bell. Not everyone here may know who Rob Bell is. Bell is the founding pastor of a mega church called Mars Hill Bible Church in Grandville, Michigan. He was the pastor of that church until he resigned. Why did he resign?

He wrote a book in 2011 which denied the existence of an eternal hell. The book was called Love Wins and it became so controversial that he had to resign. Some of you may have heard of Francis Chan’s book Erasing Hell. That book was a response to Rob Bell’s book. He wrote Bell a letter and talked to him on the phone but he also wrote a response to Bell’s book.

The real question is not, What does Chan say about hell? It is not, What does Rob Bell say about hell? The real issue is, What does the Bible say about hell? What did Jesus say about hell? This chapter of Revelation gives us one of the strongest passages on hell in the entire Bible. It tells what will happen to those who worship the beast and those who take his mark in their hand or in their forehead.

Revelation mentions hell four times in the book. It is mentioned in four different chapters. Hell may not be a popular topic. It may not be a peasant topic. It may make us a little uncomfortable but it is a biblical topic.

What does Revelation say about Hell?

They will be tormented with burning sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment will rise for ever and ever. There will be no rest day or night for those who worship the beast and its image, or for anyone who receives the mark of its name.” (14:10-11)

Then the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who worked signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image. These two were cast alive into the lake of fire burning with brimstone. (19:20)

And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night forever and ever. Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire. (20:10, 15)

But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars —they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death. (21:8)

Biblical Teaching on Hell

1) Hell will be populated by wicked men and angels

People who worship the beast will be there. The Antichrist and False Prophet will be there. The devil will be there and so will his angels. There are many myths about hell. The devil will not be in charge of hell. He will be thrown into it. Jesus said that hell was created for the devil and his angels (Matthew 25:41). The devil did not create hell. God did. God never intended a single person to end up there. It was not originally designed for people.

It was designed for the devil and for demons. It was created for fallen angels but when man fell it became a place of punishment for people as well. Who goes there? All sinners go there. Wicked people will there, as will all of the fallen angels.

Revelation 21:8 mentions bad people going there (vile, wicked, immoral, serial killers, liars, idolaters) but it also mentions unbelievers. There will be people there from every race and religion. There will even be some professing Christians, people who are religious and go to church but never became true believers.

2) Hell will be a place of TORMENT

The wicked will be tortured in hell. Our passage says, “They will be TORMENTED with fire and brimstone” (14:10) and says “the smoke of their TORMENT goes up forever and ever” (14:11).  Jesus told the story about a wicked rich man and a poor beggar named Lazarus in Luke 16.  The poor man was sick (had sores on his body) and could not even find a scrap to eat.  When they both died, there was a reversal of fortunes.  One was comforted and the other was in torment.

The rich man said, “Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire” (Luke 16:24).  He is in agony, not because of his sin, but because of his torment.  He shows no sign of repentance or a changed heart.  He just complains about his punishment, his torment.

C. K. Beale notes, the Greek word for “tormented” (βασανισμος) only means conscious suffering in Revelation (9:5; 11:10; 12:2; 18:7, 10, 15; 20:10). That is how it is used in the rest of the NT (Matthew 4:24; 8:6, 29; 28:34; Mark 5:7; 6:48; Luke 8:28; 16:23, 28; II Peter 2:8). It never means annihilation. Of course, you have to be conscious to be tormented. A punishment that is not felt is not punishment. Their suffering will be real.

Because it is a place of torment, no one goes there voluntarily. I have hear some preachers say that God never sends anyone to hell, they choose to go there.  Even the great apologist William Lane Craig says this.  He says, “God doesn’t send anyone to hell.  We send ourselves…  Our eternal destiny lies in our own hands, It is our free choice where we spend eternity.”

Now there is some truth to that but the fact remains that no one chooses to go to hell. No one wants to go to hell. In fact, the only way people end up in hell is that God THROWS them into hell (20:10, 15). No man would jump into hell on his own voluntarily.

3) The Torment will involve FIRE

Fire will be the instrument of punishment. Hell is described as a place of fire. This raises an interesting question. Will the fire of hell be a literal fire or is the fire just symbolic? We do not know for sure.

If it is symbolic, that does not make it any less real. Hell will be a real place, just as heaven will be a real place. Hell will be a place of eternal torment but some believe that the Bible uses symbol language to describe it.

Sometimes truth can be conveyed more effectively through vivid images and graphic language than through simple words. That is why people say that a picture is worth a thousand words. it is symbolic of a terrible place of torment. It represents something very painful. Fire is the symbol of excruciating suffering. Their suffering will be painful. Is there any evidence in the text that this is symbolic?

Evidence of a Symbolic Fire

1) Revelation is an apocalyptic book. It is symbolic. Symbols are used to describe heaven and may be used to describe hell.

2) The devil will be thrown into the lake of fire (20:10). Ordinary fire works on physical beings with physical nerve endings. This fire can burn angels. How would literal fire be torture to a non-physical immaterial spirit?

3) The Bible often describes hell as both a place of fire and darkness. They are mutually exclusive. If you take that literally, there would be no way to have both. Jude speak of hell as an eternal fire (Jude 7) and of ‘the blackness of darkness forever’ (Jude 13). Matthew speaks of hell as a fire (3:10, 12; 25:41) but it also speaks of hell three times as ‘outer darkness’ (8:12; 22:13; 25:30).

Evidence of a Literal Fire

Jesus and four NT writers (Paul, Jude, Matthew, John) describe hell as fire. It is not just found in highly symbolic apocalyptic literature. Revelation speaks of “a lake of fire” (20:10, 14, 15) and a “lake which burns with fire and brimstone” (19:21; 21:8). Jesus speaks of “hell fire” (Matthew 5:22; 18:9), “everlasting fire” (Matthew 25:46), “a furnace of fire” (Matt 13:42, 50) and an “unquenchable fire” (Matthew 3:12; Mark 9:43). Jude describes hell as “eternal fire” (Jude 7). Paul describes hell as “blazing fire” (II Thessalonians 1:7).

4) This will take place in the presence of the Lamb and holy angels

The idea of 14:10 is that people in hell will be able to see the joy and happiness of people in heaven.   If you remember, Lazarus could see the beggar in paradise (Luke 16:23). Apparently the wicked in hell will see what they are missing. Their suffering will be mental, as well as physical. Suffering in hell will also be emotional. Jesus said that there would be weeping in hell (Matthew 8:12; 13:50; 25:30).

Weeping speaks of emotional pain. Gnashing of teeth, which is mentioned seven times in the NT (Matthew 8:11-12; 13:41-42, 49-50; 22:12-13; 24:50-51; 25:29-30; Luke 13:27-28) refers to fury, anger and rage (cf. Acts 7:54).  People in hell will not be happy.  Jesus described Hell as the place where both soul and body are punished (Matthew 10:28).

Grant R. Osborne documents that in the first century, many Jews believed that those in hell could see those in heaven.[1]


[1] Osborne (Revelation [Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament] 541).

“Then the pit of torment shall appear, and opposite it shall be the place of rest; and the furnace of hell shall be disclosed, and opposite it the paradise of delight. Then the Most High will say to the nations that have been raised from the dead, `Look now, and understand whom you have denied, whom you have not served, whose commandments you have despised! Look on this side and on that; here are delight and rest, and there are fire and torments!’ Thus he will speak to them on the day of judgment” (II Esdras 7:36-38).

And they shall see those who were, born in darkness led into darkness, while the righteous shall be resplendent. And the sinners shall cry aloud and see them resplendent, and they indeed will go where days and seasons are prescribed for them”.  (I Enoch 108:14-15)

But the souls of the wicked, when they behold all these things, shall then waste away the more.  For they shall know that their torment has come and their perdition has arrived” (II Baruch 30:4-5)

We are not told if the saints in heaven will see those suffering in hell. Some of the church fathers (e.g., Tertullian) spoke as if one of the delights of heaven will be watching the torments of the damned in hell.  Scripture does not actually teach this. Heaven will not be filled with a bunch of sadists.

Will We See People Suffering in Hell?

Thomas Aquinas, the Medieval Roman Catholic theologian, believed based on Isaiah 66:24 that saints in heaven will see the wicked in hell (Summa Theologica, Supplement to Third Part, Q.94, Art 1) but that passage has no bearing on the question for two reasons.

One, Isaiah is dealing with dead bodies on the ground, not souls.  Isaiah says, that they shall go forth and look upon “the DEAD BODIES” (so ESV, NIV, RSV, NLT, NCV) of the men who have transgressed against God (66:24). Two, they view destruction, not conscious misery.  No one sees them suffering in hell in Isaiah.  Isaiah 66:24 says “they shall be an abhorrence to all flesh” (cf. 65:13; 66:5). It is a picture of shame, not pain.

Isaiah 65:17 says, “For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind” but then goes on to describe changes on earth in the Millennium, not the eternal state (65:18-25).  It clearly describes the Millennium.  The word “create” does not necessarily refer to creating something brand new (cf. II Corinthians 5:17).  It can refer to renewing of the earth for the kingdom.

Six Reasons Isaiah 65 Is Not the Eternal State

1. Isaiah says that death will still exist during this time when it mentions old people dying, young people dying and people dying before the age of one hundred (65:20).  Death will not exist in the new heaven and the new earth (Revelation 22:4).

2. The curse will exist in Isaiah (since death is still present).  There will be no curse in the new heaven and earth (Revelation 22:3).

3. Isaiah mentions new moons (66:23).  There will be no need of the moon in the eternal state (Revelation 21:23).

4. Isaiah mentions children will be born during this period (65:23) but there will be no children born in eternity (Matthew 22:30).

5. Isaiah refers to a temple (66:6, 20).  There will be no temple in the new heaven and earth (Revelation 21:22).

6. The wicked will not even enter the new heaven and new earth (Revelation 21:27) but there will be dead bodies on earth after the Battle of Armageddon (Isaiah 66:24; Revelation 19:17-18).

Isaiah describes the return of Christ in judgment on the wicked (66:15-18).  The wicked are judged with the sword.  That leads to a great slaughter affecting all nations.  That is a clear reference to the Battle of Armageddon (cf. Joel 3:2, 12-21; Zechariah 12:1-13; 14:1-5, 9, 12-21; Revelation 16:13-14, 16; 17:14; 19:19).  The result is that people will see the dead bodies of the rebels lying on the ground after the battle is over (66:24).  The passage does not say whether believers in heaven will see or not see people suffering in hell.

5) Hell will last FOREVER

Their suffering will be continuous. We are told that the smoke of their torment rises FOREVER. The smoke of an ordinary fire does not burn forever. It goes out. When the Twin Towers fell on 911, the fires burned for one hundred days at Ground Zero but eventually went out. The smoke in hell rises forever because the fire keeps burning.

Jesus calls hell as “an unquenchable fire” (Matthew 3:12; Mark 9:43). It is a fire that cannot be put out. It cannot be extinguished. It just keeps burning. Jesus also calls hell “eternal fire” (Matthew 25:41).  Revelation 14:11 says, “And the smoke of their torment will rise forever and ever”.

Does Forever and Ever Always Mean Forever?

Some have said that the words “forever and ever” in Greek (είς τούς αίωνας των αίωνω)  do not always mean forever. The Greek literally means “unto the ages of the ages”. It can mean forever or it can mean for a very long time. Is this argument valid?  Even if they are correct, Revelation 14:10 has to refer to eternal torment for three reasons.

First, Revelation 20:10 adds the words “day and night” so there is no doubt about how long it lasts (“They will be tormented day and night forever and ever”).

Second, these words mean forever in the rest of the book.

1) The Father is said to live “forever and ever” (4:9, 10; 10:6; 15:7). Does He live  forever or only for a long time? It means forever. God is eternal.

2) God is to receive praise and glory “forever and ever” (5:13; 7:12). Does that mean forever or just a long time? It obviously means forever.

3) Jesus is alive “forever and ever” (1:18). Does that mean forever or just a long time? It means forever.

4) Revelation 22:5 says that the saints will rule in eternity as kings “forever and ever”.  Does that mean forever or just a long time? There’s no evidence that it means just a long time.

Third, The same Greek word that is used to describe heaven is used to describe hell. Both are said to be “eternal” or “everlasting” (Matthew 25:46). So if hell is not eternal, then heaven is not eternal. If life for the righteous goes on forever in heaven, then punishment in hell must also go on forever and never end.

6) There will be NO REST for those in hell

Not only is hell everlasting, there is no rest. It is not something that goes on for a while but then stops. It is also something that has no vacations. The people in hell get “no rest day or night”. Their suffering will be uninterrupted.  It is a big contrast to believers who are promised eternal rest after they die. Revelation 14:13 give a special promise of blessing to believers and John is told to write it down.  It is one of the seven blessings in Revelation.  We know many of the beatitudes in the Bible: “Blessed are the poor in spirit” and “blessed are those who mourn”.

This is a strange one.  It says “blessed are the dead.  It says, “Blessed (and blessed means “happy”) are those who die in the Lord” (14:13).  It is not a blessing to everyone who dies but just to those who die IN THE LORD.   That makes a great text for funeral sermons for Christians who have lived a life of faithfulness to Christ.

It is not limited to martyrs who die but to all believers who die.  They are promised rest.  They rest from their hard work and they are promised a reward.  It is a great picture of heaven.  Heaven is a picture of rest.  It is a contrast with the unsaved who find no rest when they die (14:11).  The rest of the saints is contrasted with the torment of the wicked.  The saints will rest from their labors when they die.  The wicked will have no rest day or night.  Will you rest from your works when you die?

Personal Applications

1) Make Sure You Are Saved

The all-important question is, Will you be thrown into the lake of fire? You don’t want to wait to you get to the Great White Throne Judgment to find out if you get in. That is a very bad plan because then it is too late. If you have never personally accepted Christ and received him as your Savior and you die in your sins, the Bible says that one day you will be cast into the Lake of Fire. It is a terrifying thought. Don’t let this happen to you. No one has to go to hell. Jesus died to save us from hell. If you’re not saved, get saved. The Bible says that “today is the day of salvation”. You never know when today will be your last day. Hebrews 9:27 says, And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment

2) Tell Others about Jesus

If we are saved, we need to tell others the message of salvation. Others around us are lost. Many are dying and going to hell every day. Many have never heard the salvation message. We need to reach out to them in love and share with them the gospel of Christ. Since that has been emphasized in church recently, week after week, I will not elaborate on this point.

4 Responses to The Doctrine of Hell

  1. Frank Carpi says:

    I hate it when the bible has statements that are so seemingly contradictory. I know I don’t have to be personally concerned with the fate of non-believers, but I have doubts about some family members; both dead and still living.

  2. Frank Carpi says:

    I’m still not convinced that those who are risen on the last day for judgment will be tormented in flames throughout eternity. See Daniel 12
    Complete Jewish Bible (CJB)

    12 “When that time comes, Mikha’el, the great prince who champions your people, will stand up; and there will be a time of distress unparalleled between the time they became a nation and that moment. At that time, your people will be delivered, everyone whose name is found written in the book. 2 Many of those sleeping in the dust of the earth will awaken, some to everlasting life and some to everlasting shame and abhorrence. 3 But those who can discern will shine like the brightness of heaven’s dome, and those who turn many to righteousness like the stars forever and ever.

    Do you see in the end of verse 2 where it says “everlasting shame and abhorrence”? That still seems like they went away to
    Shame, but then all that’s left of them is an abhorrent memory. Please show me more reasons to think that God would be merciless and see the lake of fire burn forever and ever with the souls of evil men screaming in agony and torment of eternal punishment.

    • admin says:

      Now brother Frank, there is no point in me giving you more reasons why Hell is eternal when you have not answered or refuted the ones I already gave you in the post. Daniel 12:2 describes Hell as a place of SHAME but does not deny that it is also a place of PAIN.

      The rest of Scripture gives more revelation on the nature of Hell (place of torment, lake of fire). Actually, Daniel 12:2 actually refutes your position. According to Daniel 12:2 Hell is eternal. It calls it a place of “EVERLASTING shame and abhorrence” (even with the CJB rendering). We will have to agree to disagree on this one.

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