12

For those who don't know, the doctrine of Apokatastasis is an ancient form of Universalism which states that everything God has ever created will be saved and glorified, including the Devil and his demons. The existence of Hell is affirmed, but the punishment is held to be correctional and purgative rather than retributive, and it doesn't last forever, instead only lasting for as long as a soul refuses to repent. This makes the Universalist idea of Hell more like a "Universal Purgatory".

I find this doctrine very interesting and appealing. It seems to make the most sense of the biblical data and the Loving+Just character of God in my mind. Nevertheless there are some problematic passages in scripture which seem to contradict it at first glance.

The main one that troubles me is Revelation 20:10:

10 and the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night for ever and ever.

This passage seems to completely rule out Apokatastasis and come down strongly in favour of the more traditional "everlasting punishment of sinners and the Devil" view.

How would a proponent of Apokatastasis interpret this passage?

  • Tangentially related – Dan Jan 27 '17 at 21:22
  • 2
    In addition to these two opposing views, there is also a third, Annihilation. Some believe that sinners are punished according to their works and then destroyed. Based on other Bible texts, for ever applies to as long as they are alive. – Beestocks Jan 28 '17 at 2:04
8
+100

Those who believe in Apokatastasis believe Revelation 20:10 is grossly misunderstood. The Greek says:

καὶ ὁ διάβολος ὁ πλανῶν αὐτοὺς ἐβλήθη εἰς τὴν λίμνην τοῦ πυρὸς καὶ θείου, ὅπου καὶ τὸ θηρίον καὶ ὁ ψευδοπροφήτης, καὶ βασανισθήσονται ἡμέρας καὶ νυκτὸς εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας τῶν αἰώνων.

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- KJV

The Lake of Fire

The first thing that's significant is the Lake of Fire. A lake is a body of water. Water extinguishes fire, so this doesn't make sense. Therefore, we would interpret this metaphorically. Water cleanses and fire purifies. Yeshua says:

"For every one shall be salted with fire, and every sacrifice shall be salted with salt." Mark 9:49

Other examples include:

"That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ" 1 Peter 1:7

"Behold, I have refined thee, but not with silver; I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction." Isaiah 48:10

"But who may abide the day of his coming? and who shall stand when he appeareth? for he is like a refiner's fire, and like fullers' soap: And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto YHVH an offering in righteousness." Malachi 3:2

"And the sight of the glory of YHVH was like devouring fire on the top of the mount in the eyes of the children of Israel." Exodus 24:17

"For our God is a consuming fire." Hebrews 12:49

θείου

θείου means "brimstone". According to Thayer's Greek Lexicon:

θεῖον, θείου, τό (apparently the neuter of the adjective θεῖος equivalent to divine incense, because burning brimstone was regarded as having power to purify, and to ward off contagion (but Curtius, § 320 allies it with θύω; cf. Latinfumus, English dust)), brimstone: Luke 17:29; Revelation 9:17; Revelation 14:10; Revelation 19:20; (); . (Genesis 19:24; Psalm 10:6 (); Ezekiel 38:22; Homer, Iliad 16, 228; Odyssey 22, 481, 493; (Plato) Tim. Locr., p. 99 c.; Aelian v. h. 13, 15 (16); Herodian, 8, 4, 26 (9 edition, Bekker).)

So brimstone was believed to have the power to purify.

βασανίζω

The next word is βασανίζω. Thayer's Greek Lexicon says the very first definition is:

  1. properly, to test (metals) by the touchstone.

βασανίζω means to test, examine, or to cause distress. The only sort of "torment" associated with this word in the NT is mental torment, and it definitely does not mean "torture". Here are some more examples of this word, and hopefully this will paint a clearer picture of what it means:

But the ship was now in the midst of the sea, tossed (βασανιζόμενον) with waves: for the wind was contrary. Matthew 14:24

How is it that a ship was "tortured"? However, if the waves were testing the strength and endurance of the ship, causing it distress, it is understandable why Matthew would use βασανιζόμενον here. Robert Young (Young's Literal Transaltion) understood this, and translates:

and the boat was now in the midst of the sea, distressed by the waves, for the wind was contrary.

Mark uses this same word to describe this same event, but uses it a bit differently:

"And he saw them toiling (βασανιζομένους) in rowing; for the wind was contrary unto them: and about the fourth watch of the night he cometh unto them, walking upon the sea, and would have passed by them." Mark 6:48

Instead of the boat, it is the disciples who are having βασανίζω acted upon then. The American Standard Version says:

And seeing them distressed in rowing, for the wind was contrary unto them, about the fourth watch of the night he cometh unto them, walking on the sea; and he would have passed by them

αἰών

The last word is αἰών and it is probably the most debated word in the bible. This word means "age". It always means age, and there is no reason to translate it any other way. For example:

"And the cares of this world (αἰών), and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful." Mark 4:19

The KJV chose the word "world", which is a bit deceitful because Greek already has a word for world...κόσμος. If we say "the cares of this forever choke the word", that doesn't make a lot of sense. Here is every instance of αἰών in the NT. Replace each word with "age" and it makes perfect sense everytime. Actually, the interlinear does it for you, because it's a literal translation and they know αἰών means age.

Conclusion

Those who believe in Apokatastasis would interpret Revelation 20:10 to be:

"and the devil, the [one] deceiving them, was cast into the lake of the fire and of brimstone (to be purified), where also the beast and the false prophet [are], and they will be examined/tested night and day for the ages of the ages"- very literal translation

  • 2
    Great answer but it still leaves me wondering: what does "the ages of ages" mean if not "forever and ever"? And being purified by fire forver and ever is presumably just as painful and torturous as being straight up punished with fire forever and ever. How do you resolve this? Is there any reason to think that the purification will come to an end based on this passage? – TheIronKnuckle Jan 27 '17 at 19:37
  • 2
    @TheIronKnuckle I don't know how long it will last. There are many ages, such as the millennial age when Messiah rules the earth, which is said to last a thousand years. I'm not really concerned with how long it lasts. Maybe 10 billion years, maybe 10 billion seconds. It will end when it is time to end, because there is a time for everything. Based on this passage alone, there's not a lot we can gather. But I've suffered at the hand of God for days before, and it was excruciating. However, it served it's purpose. An eternal hell has no purpose. – anonymouswho Jan 27 '17 at 20:50
  • 2
    See also Sometimes Eternal Isn’t Forever – Dan Jun 3 '17 at 19:31
  • 1
    @Andrew that it is. I didn't want to post another answer, though, just for one minor comment. The rest of the post is pretty much fine (and has my upvote). The big issue is that the OP is using a concordance as if it were a lexicon and ignoring morphology and syntax (makes me question if they've studied Greek or are just using an interlinear and Strong's concordance - which is no substitute and leads to misunderstanding the language - the English translations are fine in this case). – Dan Jun 4 '17 at 0:32
  • 2
    @anonymouswho please read this as I address Thayer's as well. I highly recommend a more modern (post-Deissman) lexicon. But not a bad answer. I upvoted it. If this was BH.SE, it would be a different story. – Dan Jun 4 '17 at 13:36
-1

C.S. Lewis and many others believe that a person who is lost, is lost because he doesn't want to spend eternity with God in a heaven like the heaven in the Bible. To believe that eventually all will be saved, is to believe a loving God will eventually condemn the unwilling to an eternity in a heaven they would find tormenting. Dante, the Inferno. No one wants to leave.

  • 1
    Saying that everyone will be saved is the same as saying that in the end no one will be unwilling. God doesn't force anyone into salvation, he merely coerces with his grace. This is completely compatible with saying that all will be saved – TheIronKnuckle Jan 31 '17 at 20:06
  • Welcome to Christianity.SE. Please take a look at how we are different from other sites. Also, please take the tour and visit the help to understand the Q&A format at SE sites. – KorvinStarmast Jan 31 '17 at 21:56
  • 1
    Coerced into going to heaven? Possible of course. I have spent a great deal of time in social work and I am always amazed at the lengths people will go through to be miserable. I hope what you say is true. There are a number of church fathers who not only consigned sinners to hell, but also preached that part of the joy of heaven was watching the sinners suffer in hell. Sad. – Ted DeRose Feb 1 '17 at 22:12

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.