Thursday, May 19, 2011

Back in the Fire

Revelation 20:10 and the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.

10 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.

We saw yesterday that the beast and the false prophet were thrown into the lake of fire in Revelation 19. Here it appears that Satan joins them and this is a continuation of what was described in Revelation 19. However, the language in this verse is a bit ambiguous. The English translations have to add "were" to this phrase:  ὅπου καὶ τὸ θηρίον καὶ ὁ ψευδοπροφήτης because it lacks a verb. It is very literally "where also the beast and the false prophet." This means that the tense of the verb is an interpretive decision. It could just as easily be "are" or "will be." 

Beale gives the following explanation:

The devil is again highlighted as the one who deceived the nations to attack the saints. His deceiving activities are mentioned again to show that he will undergo judgment because of such deception. He will be “cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where also the beast and false prophet [supply “are” or “will be cast”]” (see on 14:10 for the OT background of “fire and brimstone”). The devil is cast into the fire together with or immediately after his two fiendish allies. The probability that 20:7–10 is a recapitulation of 19:17–21 makes unlikely the supposition that he is cast into the fire ages after his Satanic cohorts have gone into the fire at the end of ch. 19. Some think that for 20:10 to recapitulate the events associated with the demise of the beast and false prophet we would need more explicit language, something like “After the battle of Gog and Magog, Satan was thrown into the lake of fire along with the beast and false prophet.” But this is not a necessary expectation, especially since the style of recapitulations in the OT prophetic literature is not characterized by such explicitness, nor are the recapitulations elsewhere in Revelation so characterized.

G. K. Beale, The Book of Revelation : A Commentary on the Greek Text (Grand Rapids, Mich.; Carlisle, Cumbria: W.B. Eerdmans; Paternoster Press, 1999), 1028.

Of course, here he makes an assumption as well. He is assuming that this is a recapitulation of what was described in chapter 19. But I think that his last sentence is compelling. We've already seen how Revelation keeps recapitulating itself. Or, as I have heard it said, the book of Revelation is like getting different camera angles on a close play while watching a football game on television. The point is that it is perfectly plausible to see this as a recapitulation rather than as a continuation of the same vision described in Revelation 19. 

What this means is that if you see this as a recapitulation you are likely to end up amillenial like Calvin, Luther, and most of the historic church. If you see this as a continuation from chapter 19 you are likely to be premillenial like Piper, MacArthur, and much of the modern church. Salvation does not hinge on how you interpret this, but it is something to consider.

No comments: