Revelation 14: “tormented with fire and sulfur”

In Revelation

When we consider the verses about “fire” in Revelation, Satan and the demonic are usually left out of the picture. This misses the complete story that Revelation attempts to describe. For example, the 6th trumpet opens with the four angels released “to kill a third of the human race.” (8:15). The clarification however is that the source of the punishment is demonic mounted troops and that “from their mouths came out fire, smoke and sulfur…a third of the human race was killed by those three plagues: the fire, the smoke and sulfur coming out of the horses mouths” (8:19). Although the 3rd Angels Message describes torment in fire and sulfur for those who follow the Great Babylon the prostitute, Revelation 17 expands on this passage and explains “let me show you how the great prostitute will be punished” (17:1). The clarification is then given that “the ten horns that you saw, they and the beast will hate the whore; they will make her desolate and naked; they will devour her flesh and burn her up with fire” (17:16).

 

In addition, the description of “the wine press” where “blood flowed…as high as the bridles of the horses, for a distance of about two hundred miles” (14:20) has its context in the setting of war and self-destruction that comes from within not from God: “In those days…a stream shall flow with their blood. For a man shall not be able to withhold his hands from his sons nor from (his) sons’ sons in order to kill them. Nor is it possible for the sinner to withhold his hands from his honored brother. From dawn until the sun sets, they shall slay each other. The horse shall walk through the blood of sinners up to his chest; and the chariot shall sink down up to its top” (1 Enoch 100:3). I would suggest that this passage from 1 Enoch may be the clearest description of how humans and demonic alike are finally destroyed. See also Zephaniah 1:14-18, Zechariah 14:13-15, Ezekiel 38:18-23.

God’s wrath in the OT is associated with specific events like the Assyrian and Babylonian captivities where God, the healer and protector, was pushed away. Evil enemy forces were then unrestrained leading to the burning of Jerusalem and death. On the Cross we also see unrestrained demonic forces crushing out the life of Jesus. These forces in Revelation are the ones continually seeking to violence, to make war and to destroy – not God. “The dragon and his angels warred” (12:7); “Then the dragon…went off to make war…” (12:17); “And it was allowed to make war on the saints” (13:7); “the beast…will make war on them” (11:7); “these are demonic spirits, performing signs, who go abroad to the kings of the whole world, to assemble them for war…” (16:14); “Then I saw the beast and the kings of the earth with their armies gathered to make war against the rider…” (19:19) – – who, interestingly, fights with a sword out of his mouth.

In this Bible study, we will seek to put together the references to fire in the book of Revelation.

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