The Smoke of Their Torment

Our Sunday school class has been working its way through the book of Revelation with the aim of receiving a blessing. 1:3 states that “Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of the prophecy, and heed the things which are written in it; for the time is near.”

This week’s text is chapter 14. It is here that one reads about the most triumphant group of men the world will ever know. They are the 144,000 that emerge from the worst holocaust in history—the Great Tribulation. These ambassadors of Christ are protected and preserved by God, surviving the Antichrist’s wrath. Nothing will be able to harm them—as they will live like 144,000 Daniels!

The remainder of the chapter is devoted to pronouncements of divine judgment upon an evil world, as God gives mankind a final opportunity to repent. I was struck by the words found in the first half of verse 11:

And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever; they have no rest day and night.

It is important to note: the same chapter that promises grace to those who repent of sin and trust in Christ  (see verses 6-7), is just as unequivocal in its assurance of hell awaiting those who reject Him.

Dr. Walvoord explains in his commentary1:

Some want to deny the reality of hell and the idea of eternal punishment for those who reject Christ. 51+kCOxCuJL._AC_UL320_SR214,320_Yet Jesus referred to hell (gehenna, the lake of fire) in eleven out of its twelve occurrences in the New Testament, and He made twelve out of nineteen references to hell fire. Our Savior used such expressions more than any other person in the New Testament.

The righteousness of God is as inexorable [unstoppable] as the love of God is infinite. The love of God is not free to express itself to those who have spurned Jesus Christ. Their torment is not a momentary one, for it is described in verse 11 as continuing forever, the strongest expression of eternity of which the Greek is capable.

To emphasize the idea of continued suffering, they are declared to have no rest day or night… How dangerous it is for people to trifle with false religions, which dishonor the incarnate Word and contradict the written Word of God.

Did you know that there are some who believe the Bible does not teach a literal and eternal hell? The notion that unbelievers will not experience an eternity of suffering in judgment from God is known as “annihilationism.” Generally speaking, it is the idea that God’s love (e.g., His mercy) will win over His judgment against sin.

Moreover, it may come as a surprise to learn that men such as C.S. Lewis  (The Great Divorce) and John R. W. Stott (Evangelical Essentials) supported this view; as does Mart DeHaan (Radio Bible Class and Our Daily Bread; read his own words here).

Yet, this description of hell as the place where “the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever; they have no rest day and night” is consistent with all of Scripture. It is a very real and terrifying outcome for all who reject the glorious gospel; and to deny it is a nuclear waste of time.

Annihilationism is unequivocally unbiblical. You’ll find the subject of an eternal hell mentioned frequently throughout Scripture. A quick survey of the words of Christ is enough for me:

If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; it is better for you to enter life crippled or lame, than to have two hands or two feet and be cast into the eternal fire. (Matt 18:8)

Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels.’ (Matt 25:41)

These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life. (Matt 25:46)

If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life crippled, than, having your two hands, to go into hell, into the unquenchable fire. (Mark 9:43)

…where ‘their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.’ (Mark 9:48)

Why is it that when the Bible teaches on eternal punishment—some have a problem with what it says, but when it teaches on eternal heaven—there are no objections? Hmmmm… much, much more could be said here on the doctrine of hell. But please don’t miss the implications of this truth from Rev 14.

Walvoord concludes his commentary on this chapter with these all-important words:

Today is a day of grace; but what is true of the tribulation is also true today, that God will ultimately judge all people. Today, however, the invitation is still open to those who will receive the grace of God by trusting in Christ and being saved from entering this awful period that may be impending for this present generation.

1 Walvoord, John F. The John Walvoord Prophecy Commentaries: Revelation (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2011). 225-230.