Fire and Brimstone

I learned something new the other day. Ever since discovering that many of the words translated as “Hell, Hades, etc” are actually not correct (see my other post on He Descended into Hell), I have been trying to dig deeper into the other words associated with the idea of “Hell.” How many of you have heard a “Fire and Brimstone” sermon? I have. I even had to read “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” while in middle school. But what is Fire and Brimstone?

One well known verse is in Revelation, though there are many others in the Gospels.

But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death. Revelation 21:8

Lets look at the words Fire and Brimstone in the original text:

Fire. That one is pretty simple. Burning. Consuming. Destruction. But what if we look at fire as changing something. For example, fire changes wood into ash and chemicals that go into the air. The wood no longer exists, in the original sense. Thayer’s Greek Lexicon also describes fire as meaning “to purify.”  I really like this definition of fire from HELPS – Word Studies:

“4442 pýrfire. In Scripture, fire is often used figuratively – like with the “fire of God” which transforms all it touches into light and likeness with itself

God’s Spirit, like a holy fire, enlightens and purifies so that believers can share more and more in His likeness. Indeed the fire of God brings the uninterrupted privilege of being transformed which happens by experiencing faith from Him. Our lives can become true offerings to Him as we obey this imparted faith from God by His power.

[This is illustrated by God’s fire burning continuously at the entrance of the Tabernacle where the priests made sweet-savor offerings. Compare Lev 6:12,13 with 1 Pet 2:5,9.]”

Brimstone. What in the world is Brimstone? Just sounds awful and terrifying. Come to find out, brimstone is actually sulfur. According to Strong’s definition, θεῖον theîon, thi’-on is divine incense, because burning brimstone was regarded as having power to purify, and to ward off disease. Even more interesting, the word Theion, is the neuter of the word for deities in Greek, or GOD.

Apparently sulfur was used in ancient times for its purifying and cleansing ability. Britannica description of sulfur:

The beginnings of practical and industrial uses of sulfur are credited to the Egyptians, who usedsulfur dioxide for bleaching cotton as early as 1600 bce. Greek mythology includes sulfur chemistry: Homer tells of Odysseus’ use of sulfur dioxide to fumigate a chamber in which he had slain his wife’s suitors.

Even in Roman civilizations, burned brimstone was used as medicine, fumigation, incense, and bleaching.

So from these two words we have the idea of “transforming and purifying.” It brings to mind the verse from Malachi:

 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 the Lord an offering in righteousness. Malachi 3:2-3

God is a refining fire. God is pure. Those with sin cannot live with God, let alone stand in His presence. As humans, we are sinners. Born with the sin nature. Servants of sin and the devil. In the words of Paul:

 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.19 For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.20 Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. Romans 7:18-20

I found another passage in Revelation that discusses the lake of fire with regards to those who remain in sin and worship the devil:

And the third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand,10 The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb:11 And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name. Revelation 14:9-11

In this set of verses, the man who worships the beast and his image will be tormented with fire and brimstone. Well tormented sounds pretty bad. So I looked it up.

βάσανος básanos, bas’-an-os; a touchstone, which is a black siliceous stone used to test the purity of gold or silver by the colour of the streak produced on it by rubbing it with either metal. 2 torture, torment.

Ok, the first definition is a touchstone. God tests man against His purity and holiness. And natural man is lacking, of course. And the torture comes from the fact that natural man doesn’t want to face the light of God. The light reveals the darkness in him. And mankind would rather stay in sin than have to face the guilt, shame, and nakedness of his nature exposed before a righteous, holy God.

20 For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. John 3:20

The last set of words that I struggled with are “forever and ever.” I was always taught that Hell, fire and brimstone is an eternal punishment. Never ending, forever and ever. Let’s look at the Greek word: αἰών aiṓn, ahee-ohn’; from the same as G104; properly, an age. Not an age as in how old are you? More like a period of time, like the Messianic Age. I hope to do a post going into more detail about this definition. Till then, check out this post that digs deeper into this Greek word.

Let’s review the words we have looked at so far.

  • Fire- Refining
  • Brimstone (Sulfur) – Purifying, cleansing
  • Torment – Testing, revealing of the sin nature
  • Forever – Age, period of time

What if instead of endless torture, “Hell” is actually corrective punishment? God, in His justice, refines mankind by removing the sin nature and unbelief. And once the old nature is removed, Yeshua can fill him with His Spirit. No longer blinded by sin, man can finally see, admit, and yes, believe that Yeshua is His Savior and God. Then truely:

That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth;11 And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Philippians 2:10-11 

There are so many words that I want to look at their original text and context. There are still many teachings, preconceived ideas that I want to sort through. Many of which are a contradiction of what I discovered here. But I truly believe that God’s word never contradicts itself, but man’s interpretations of it do. We see through a glass darkly, blinded by the sin nature we still wrestle against. My prayer is that God reveals what is truth by the standard of His Word. I am excited to dig even more into the Scriptures. Or as I like to say, Peel another Layer back.




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