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Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Jerusalem & the Temple; the Lake of Fire

This is not a comfortable subject in most circles! If the destruction of Jerusalem & the Jewish Temple in particular in AD70 was the Lake of Fire, or what is commonly known as Final Judgment, then what happens to the doctrine of hell? Basically, it destroys it! When John saw the Beast & False Prophet, as well as Death itself thrown into the Lake of Fire in the Revelation, we understand that while this Lake of Fire was/is not an actual literal place ( a lake full of fire, rather than water ), John witnessed the Final ( Second ) Death of Death & the End of that first covenant economy with its bestial influence & false prophets! Not all, however, understand John's vision this way, but rather project this Final Judgment into our future ( 2,000+ years later ) instead of John's own generation, as the text leads us to believe!

Just as Jesus' words to His disciples in the Olivet Discourse & places like Matthew 10:23 & Matthew 16:28, His final words to them in John's vision ( the Revelation ) clearly state that the things that John witnessed to were about to take place! Jesus stated that what He revealed to His servant John were 'things which must shortly take place' & 'the time is near'. Many Christians today feel the need, for this & various reasons, to place a gap within the Revelation, as well as other places in Scripture, a gap that allows for a yet future fulfillment of certain prophecies. Although there may seem to be good reason to place these gaps in various places ( Daniel's 69th week, for instance ) the very fact that this is a vision reveals that what John saw was not the actual event, or events that were to take place, but simply signified, metaphorically, what was about to happen!

The destruction of the Jewish Temple in the Fall of AD70, as so vividly portrayed in Josephus' account of 'The Wars of the Jews', could easily be seen as a very literal Lake of Fire! The conflagration that he describes sounds very close to the hellish nightmare that most Christians envision when they read John's account. Though John does not necessarily mention it by name, the garbage dump in the valley situated nearby also lends credence to this literal Lake of Fire notion!

As we have seen, many or most Christians have been blinded to the fact that all Scripture has been fulfilled! The reasons for this are manifold, but the distinctions are fairly clear; if one purports Fulfillment & takes these beliefs to their logical conclusion, that one often will find vilification & even ostracization! Much of this comes in spite of a common belief in the salvific character of  Jesus the Christ & this is unfortunate because this common belief is what holds us together as a Body! As splintered as it is, what is often called the Visible Church does bear this one Mark in common; the belief in Jesus as the Messiah of Israel & Savior of the World, of all who will accept Him as such, is held in the highest regard, indeed as a necessity!

Near the close of John's account ( Revelation ), Jesus stated again, in very similar words as in the beginning of John's vision, 'Surely I am coming quickly'! This short statement has been interpreted in various different ways, most popularly in keeping with a yet future ( to us ) fulfillment of these words. Many Christians, those willing to study the book at all, envision  Jesus as stating that when He comes, He will come quickly! There can be no doubt, though, with an honest reading of the text, and especially the context, that Jesus, as Judge, did quickly visit His Judgement, for good & evil, upon His covenant children, separating the good from the bad, the sheep from the goats!

The Conflagration that spelled disaster for the Jewish Temple, according to the account of Josephus was actually started by the Jews themselves! Although the Romans in general were more than favorable to this certain destruction, certain of the Jews, for whatever reason, decided to take its imminent destruction upon themselves rather than give that satisfaction wholly over to the Roman armies! In further fulfillment of prophecy ( Deuteronomy 32:22 ), a fire was set in their midst, not just an actual literal fire but one that metaphorically burnt the city & kingdom to the ground!

John reported, toward the end of his vision, that 'Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire'! 'Hades', in Greek mythology, is where we get our modern 'hell'. If 'hell' itself, or 'Hades' was destroyed in the conflagration of Jerusalem & the Temple, then that would mean that 'hell', if it ever existed as anything more than 'the grave', or 'exile', has ceased to exist as anything but a memory!

One final note; doubtless one reason for the perpetuation of the doctrine of hell is the fact that, if 'hell' indeed no longer is a threat to the unbeliever, then what incentive is there for the unbeliever to turn & repent? If the unbeliever, upon the demise of their biology, merely ceases to exist, why would that one choose to turn over a new leaf & start living for Jesus?

Charles Haddon Shank

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