What Did Jesus Mean by the ‘Eternal Fire Prepared for the Devil and His Angels’?

What Did Jesus Mean by the ‘Eternal Fire Prepared for the Devil and His Angels’?

Last time we talked about the parable of the sheep and the goats. The parable is not about judgment or the end-times as many people think. Jesus told the parable of the sheep and the goats from the perspective of the end of time to illustrate the importance of how we treat people—particularly those in need. But there was an aspect of the parable we did not address before.

Jesus rewarded the sheep because of the way they treated the needy, but to the goats who did not treat them well Jesus said in Matthew 25:

Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.

Where did Jesus get this imagery?

Where Did Jesus Get the Imagery of ‘Eternal Fire Prepared for the Devil and His Angels’?

hell1

Where did Jesus get the imagery of eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels? Nothing like this is described anywhere in the Old Testament. There is a reference in the apocalyptic section of Daniel that says (chapter 7):

I kept looking until the beast was slain and its body destroyed and thrown into the blazing fire.

But this only vaguely similar to what Jesus said, and it says nothing about the fire being prepared for ‘the devil and his angels’.

Isaiah 30 says:

Topheth has long been prepared; it has been made ready for the king [of Assyria]. Its fire pit has been made deep and wide, with an abundance of fire and wood; the breath of the Lord, like a stream of burning sulfur, sets it ablaze.

But this is a LONG stretch. There is simply nothing in the Old Testament anywhere that provides the imagery Jesus uses in the parable of The Sheep and the Goats. However, we do find this imagery elsewhere in the New Testament.

The Imagery of ‘Eternal Fire Prepared for the Devil and His Angels’ in the New Testament

For comparison, let’s look again at Jesus’ comment from the parable in Matthew 25:

Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.

There is a passage in 2 Peter 2 that seems to refer to a similar thought as he discusses false teachers among believers:

For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell [Tartarus], putting them in chains of darkness to be held for judgment…then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials and to hold the unrighteous for punishment on the day of judgment.

The very short Book of Jude, also talking about false teachers, mentions this:

[T]he angels who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their proper dwelling—these he has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day.

While Jesus simply uses this imagery to illustrate his parable, it seems that both 2 Peter and Jude take the imagery seriously. It is important to be aware that 2 Peter and Jude are among the most disputed books in the New Testament regarding their authenticity, but they do use imagery of a place prepared for rebellious angels.

Lets look at one more passage from the New Testament—Revelation 12:

Then war broke out in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.

Now, I contend the writer of Revelation did not intend his book as a vision of the end-times but an apocalyptic commentary on the Roman persecution of Christians in his own day. Apocalyptic is known for using mythic elements to paint the picture.

Let’s jump ahead to Revelation 20:

The devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever…

The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what they had done. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire.

There is a lot going on here, but I think we can see that the writer of Revelation draws on much of the same imagery as Jesus, 2 Peter, and Jude.

5 Concepts that Do Not Appear in the Old Testament Before the Exile

This imagery that Jesus and others drew from contains several elements not found in the Old Testament before the Jewish exile. But I don’t think Jesus or the other writers made them up; I think they were drawing on familiar stories already circulating in the Jewish culture of the day.

Consider these themes that previously did not exist among the Jews:

* A personalized adversary to God—Satan
* A hierarchy of angels that followed either God or Satan
* A time of judgment after death
* A place of punishment after death

So where did these new ideas come from? I think I know and will share it with you next time—you might be really shocked! (Think Persia)

In this series: Zorastrianism, the Book of Enoch, and Eternal Fire:

Sheep, Goats, and the Bosom of Abraham
What Did Jesus Mean by the ‘Eternal Fire Prepared for the Devil and His Angels’?
The Influence of Zoroastrianism on Jewish Thought in Jesus’ Time
The Origin of Satan and His Demons in the Book of Enoch
Judgment and Punishment in the Book of Enoch

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32 Responses to What Did Jesus Mean by the ‘Eternal Fire Prepared for the Devil and His Angels’?

  1. newtonfinn says:

    Fascinating topic, Tim. I remember back in seminary, so many years ago, that we studied a slim volume called “Between the Testaments.” It was about all of the ideas and imagery that came into Jewish thought while the Jews were subject to Oriental or Hellenistic powers for several hundred years. This was, I remember learning, a time period between those covered in the OT and the NT, a time period which is largely omitted from the “history” recorded in scripture and helps to explain the very different worldviews found in the two parts of the Christian Bible. When you read the OT and then move into the NT, this “disconnect” hits you right away, and I will be looking forward to what I suspect will be your fleshing out of some of this hidden foreign influence in your next post…if that is indeed where you’re headed. Meanwhile, it will be interesting to shoot around this concept of a lake of fire into which Satan and his angels–and human sinners as well–are visualized as being thrown after the final judgment. Might this be the basis of the Catholic belief in purgatory? If so, it seems to have been modified into something more positive, a place where sin is “burned away” so that the sinner may enter into the presence of a Holy God in heaven. A part of me has always been attracted to the idea of purgatory, absent in the Protestant tradition in which I was raised, which indicated that your final destination was either heaven or hell, with no middle ground option whatsoever. Do other Protestants, like me, think that the Catholics may be on to something important here, at least in a symbolic or metaphorical way, concerning the possibilities of our ultimate destinies?

    Liked by 4 people

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Newton, you are right of course. A LOT happened between the two testaments. I like the way you put it: “When you read the OT and then move into the NT, this “disconnect” hits you right away.”

      Liked by 1 person

    • Alan C says:

      Hmmm . . . Maybe there’s Purgatory but no Hell!

      I’m finally reading significant amounts of the Apocrypha and learning a lot about how much background writings like II Maccabees provide for texts in the New Testament. Sounds like newtonfinn had a similar experience.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. rwarnell says:

    I’m glad to see that you are going to address this issue in terms of the exile. I am convinced that a whole lot in the Bible, both “old” and “new” testaments, can only be understood in light of the exile and the destruction of the temple.

    Liked by 2 people

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Rwarnell, You said, “I am convinced that a whole lot in the Bible, both “old” and “new” testaments, can only be understood in light of the exile and the destruction of the temple.” I totally agree!

      Like

  3. David Hluchy says:

    So is this saying there is it is not Hellfire?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Paz says:

    Thank you for an interesting article,Tim. I also “…do not believe there is any hell fire”.
    I think that the resurrection of Jesus provides us with a vision and a message of what God intends for our destiny which includes, to help and share with others Christ’s love, kindness and compassion and that we are meant to be ultimately transformed into the character (or image) of Christ.
    I am also looking forward to your next post! 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  5. newtonfinn says:

    Let me pick up a thread in a prior comment and speculate a bit about the idea of purgatory. What appeals to me about it is that it fits with a core religious principle of mine, which I believe is implicit in the concept of the Christian God: nothing good is ever lost. The corollary would be that nothing evil survives. Purgatory would then be that place where the evil in us is purged, metaphorically burned away, so that only the good in us remains and can then enter into eternal life. This would mean that the goodness in us constitutes our soul, which is all that can be saved. The more goodness we are able to embody in this world, the more we will be able to share in the life to come. The upshot of this speculation, extremely tentative as it is, is that there would be precious little of Hitler, for example, in heaven and quite a lot of St. Francis. Perhaps Kierkegaard was alluding to something like this when he referred to the dead as “the transfigured ones.”

    Liked by 2 people

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Newton, in this view of purgatory, is purgatory a punishment? Does it involve the wrath of God?

      Like

      • newtonfinn says:

        No, Tim, not a punishment nor anything involving wrath on God’s part. Rather a place where the temporal is necessarily transformed (transfigured) for eternity. Sort of like the line I remember from “The Messiah” (which I so loved singing every year in my old church choir): “For He is like a refiner’s fire.” Again, all of this is pure speculation and put out there merely to elicit further discussion.

        Liked by 2 people

        • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

          CS Lewis believed in some sort of purgatorial correction–also not punishment. I really have no opinion; can you believe that!

          Liked by 2 people

          • newtonfinn says:

            I LOVE it, Tim, in this age when everyone has an instant opinion on everything, that you have the humility and integrity to say that you have no opinion about something. The Buddhists rightfully talk about “the bramble of opinions, the thicket of opinions” as a snare to be avoided on the path to enlightenment.

            Liked by 2 people

          • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

            Thanks Newton. There are many things on which I have no opinion. But that’s why I don’t talk about them.

            Liked by 2 people

    • Paz says:

      Newton, in response to your idea of purgatory… Just a thought, and not an opinion 🙂
      Perhaps a redemptive opportunity to be transformed through “purgatorial correction” (not punishment) – as Tim mentioned in regard to C S Lewis. Maybe a temporal place, where we are given a time and free will to let go of all “sin” and accept God’s grace and mercy… “so that only the good in us remains and can enter into eternal life.” (?)

      Liked by 3 people

  6. ancadudar says:

    Tim,
    “There is a passage in 2 Peter 2 that seems to refer to a similar thought as he discusses false teachers among believers:

    For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell [Tartarus], putting them in chains of darkness to be held for judgment…then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials and to hold the unrighteous for punishment on the day of judgment.”

    I’m reading a book now that shows that 2 Peter was rejected by the early church Fathers as not only non-authentic but unorthodox. It was Jerome in the 500’s that convinced the Pope to include them in the forming canon despite mass protest from the laity and other clergies. 2 Peter and Jude are based off of Enochian theology. The Book of Enoch was written some time 150 BCE and was rejected by most Jews. It was found along with the dead sea scrolls. Up until that point, apologist would claim that the book of Enoch plagiarised and copied from 2 Peter and Jude, but after it was found among the dead sea scrolls, it proved that it was the other way around as it predated the two and that 2 Peter and Jude copied the pseudo book of Enoch. The problem is that Jude quotes it as if it was really Enoh the seventh generation from Adam who gave the prophecy.

    Jerome also changed the Old Testament that Jesus and the Apostles used from the Greek Septuagint into the Masoretic version that he based his Latin Vulgate on. There was a huge uproar over it and it took him a few years of fighting with the Christians before he was authorized to replace the original. What was the problem he had with the Septuigent? The fact that it did not teach eternal damnation and hell of those who do not know Christ. There is proof that the Church Father’s of both the East and West, along with the early Christians believed in a form of universalism. The Septuagint says that even Sodom and Gomorrah will be restored and resurrected on the new earth with a new heart as if they never sinned, to begin with. Jerome introduced the teaching of eternal hell and mistranslated the word to mean eternal in the Latin. From there we translated our other versions. After the dead sea scrolls were found, the contents of cave four showed that the early Christians, Church Fathers, Jesus, and the Apostles, along with the four Gospels all quoted from the Septuagint and that the Septuagint was a copy of the earliest Hebrew and Aramaic OT. Theologians and Christians today don’t want to replace our OT with the Septuigent version that Jesus quoted from because of dogma. If you line up the NT quotes of the OT, in more than 65 places, its words are more exact than our version of the OT that our Bible’s contain. We have quotes of Jesus from the OT that we can not even find in the OT version contained in our Bible. I’m going through the process now of verifying everything the author of the book I’m reading say’s, it’s astonishing, the Early Church Father’s and theological schools of both East and West did indeed believe and teach a form of universalism prior to Jerome’s changes.

    Liked by 3 people

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Anca, it seems you have encountered some scholarship! I agree on the points you mention where I am familiar with the issue, but you add some additional detail. I was not aware that Jerome advocated for the inclusion of 2 peter and Jude into the NT. Can you share what book you are reading?

      I also agree that 2 Peter and Jude are responding to the book of Enoch (which was not in the Septuagint, by the way). We will be talking about Enoch’s influence in a couple of weeks, so you are ahead of the game!

      Liked by 1 person

      • ancadudar says:

        Tim,
        The book is called “The Jerome Conspiracy” by Michael Wood. Some info before you consider buying the book, while the Auther does a really good job at exposing everything along with the sources to verify what he says is true, one thing I do not like is that he put it in story formate narrating the journey of a family and how they came to find out that Jerome introduced 2 Peter and Jude to our canon along with changing our Old Testament and introducing the doctrine of eternal hell as official Catholic Church doctrine which carried through into the Protestant Reformation. The Author shows that Jerome also used the incorrect word for “eternal” on purpose in the Latin Vulgate he translated and got some fightback from the Christians and Clergy. He was also reprimanded by some of the other Church Father’s for distorting and editing Origen’s writings along with other Church Father’s who were universalists on account of them being so. I believe it would have been better if the Author had just written out the facts with sources without the fictitious family story. However, everything he lays out in terms of fact and history about Jerome’s changes has so far been verifiable and very insightful!

        This author has also done an AMAZING job at “solving” and remedying one of Pauls mysteries on the Law in Romans 1-3 that theologians have been trying to figure out for the past 1800 years. It’s one of the best positions I have heard yet, despite all of the other works on the Issue, this one makes the most sense. He was featured on The Christian Post a few years back and they immediately removed and censored the post within 24hrs because what it revealed something about Romans 1-3 statement on homosexuality that the fundamentalists and evangelical community did not want to accept. His work has been picked up by some scholars since then. This guy deserves way more credit for his scholarly work and should have an audience, it’s the homosexuality stance he holds that did him in among fundagelicals, but one can still understand what he reveals Paul was saying without coming to the same exact conclusion on homosexuality that he does, that is a side issue. This is found in his book ” Pauline Paradoxes Decoded.”

        His website is: http://michaelwoodcrypto.com/

        Some Biography on Him from his website:

        Michael Wood demonstrated an innate talent for cryptography when, at the young age of 19, he designed REDOC-II – one of the of only unbreakable codes in existence today. The claim of impenetrability caught the attention of Eli Biham and Adi Shamir, the two Israelis who broke the standard US code designed by the National Security Agency. Biham and Shamir published a paper confirming Michael Wood’s code was completely impervious to their method of attack.

        The physical infrastructure of the internet was expanding at a chaotic rate during this time. Michael Wood turned his cryptanalytic attention to finding a way to solving this real world problem. He wrote software which instructed a computer how to decode the information flowing through its network wires. The computer then used artificial intelligence to assemble the deciphered information into a real-time map of the worldwide physical infrastructure. This real-time representation of the network allowed for a manageable data communication environment.

        The commercial success of this endeavor provided Michael Wood the benefit of early retirement. He used this time to apply cryptanalysis to personal areas of interest. For instance, he had been intrigued with the electrical ebb and flow of the human nervous system. The parasympathetic nerves (which shut off the stress response when activated) cause subtle changes in the human heart rate. Michael Wood developed a method to decipher the impact of the parasympathetic nerves in real-time and thereby measure the absolute level of their activity. His cryptanalytic solution was imbedded within a stress reducing biofeedback device. The device has shown remarkable results in multiple clinical trials.

        The cryptanalytic successes of designing an unbreakable code, decoding network bits and bytes, and deciphering real-time parasympathetic nerve activity assisted Michael Wood in cultivating experience in applying cryptanalytic thinking to extremely disparate fields.

        As the teenage son of an evangelical pastor, he earned awards for memorizing entire books of the Bible word-for-word. His cryptanalytic and religious worlds collided when he began to study the Dead Sea Scrolls. He quickly realized the experience he gained in cryptanalytic thinking afforded him a unique opportunity to empirically solve some of the still outstanding ancient mysteries.

        His initial success in making groundbreaking discoveries through cryptanalysis of the Dead Sea Scrolls further inflamed his passion for fusing the historical record, the Bible, and cryptography. Today, Cryptographer Michael Wood’s full time devotion is deciphering the Koine Greek papyri, the Hebrew Dead Sea Scrolls, and the Aramaic documents found in Wadi Murabbat to unravel more ancient Biblical revelations. His previous discoveries are documented in The Jerome Conspiracy, The Hidden Bible, The Jesus Secret, and Breaking the Romans Code

        Liked by 1 person

        • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

          Anca, thanks for the title and author of the book as well as all the further information about it.

          Like

    • newtonfinn says:

      To further support the substance of your thoughtful comment, let me again call attention to the fact that that the latest translation of the NT–undertaken by the erudite (sometimes too erudite) Christian scholar, David Bentley Hart–demonstrates that universal salvation overshadows eternal punishment in the early teaching of the church, and that righteousness by works is also bedrock doctrine not only for Jesus but for Paul as well. Hart makes this clear in his introductory and concluding remarks that frame his fascinating NT translation into English, a translation which seeks to reproduce the very rough and imperfect Greek of most of the original documents into a similarly rough and imperfect English. Essentially, Hart’s position, after all of his painstaking work, is that as beautiful as the KJ translation is, it put the lipstick of Shakespearean language on a pig and thus inadvertently distorted our understanding of the very ordinary and poorly educated people who comprised the vast majority of the early church.

      Liked by 3 people

      • ancadudar says:

        newtonfinn,

        “To further support the substance of your thoughtful comment, let me again call attention to the fact that that the latest translation of the NT–undertaken by the erudite (sometimes too erudite) Christian scholar, David Bentley Hart–demonstrates that universal salvation overshadows eternal punishment in the early teaching of the church,”
        Yes! This is also why Luther removed some of the books from the OT protestant canon that the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox have in theirs. He did not like that they hint at some form of temporary purgatory with the chance of getting out of punishment and entering heaven.

        ” and that righteousness by works is also bedrock doctrine not only for Jesus but for Paul as well.”
        Yep, and Luther tried to have James removed out of the Bible for that very reason! He called it “a book of straws.” By faith alone, blah blah… It makes me laugh when protestants freak out when one mentions the importance of works of kindness done out of love for one’s neighbor, for the orphans and widows, etc.

        This Author I mentioned in my earlier posts speaks of what he believes he discovered according to what the Jews believed and what Jesus and Paul meant when they speak of “works of righteousness”. He likens the word “righteousness” meaning something like loving kindness that follows with kind treatment of others and works done out of love and generosity towards others, and that it is by this very quality that Gentiles who do not know Jesus are saved by as mentioned in Romans 2. Something like what is posted below.

        Biblical Salvation

        The original New Testament taught a simple message: salvation by obedience to benevolence. This was the seamless, unified message of the original Greek text.

        Salvation by obedience to benevolence is a simple concept. However, evangelicals rewrote obedience as belief, and traditionalists rewrote benevolence as religiousness. Translations now contain three competing teachings: Brotherly love fulfills the entire law; yet salvation is by faith apart from law; yet converts must fulfill the entire Old Testament moral code.

        The original Greek text communicated one seamless message: Brotherly love fulfills the entire law therefore salvation is by faith apart from the Torah’s Jobs (precepts unrelated to brotherly love) therefore fulfill the Torah’s Justices (the precepts related to brotherly love).

        He has an expert on two of his books dealing with the subject with a lot of pages to read for free, it’s enough to give one the gest of it. I will link them below.

        http://michaelwoodcrypto.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/Intro.pdf
        http://michaelwoodcrypto.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/breaking-the-romans-code-excerpt.pdf

        Liked by 3 people

  7. Chris Chapman says:

    Are the references in Jude and Peter from the book of Enoch that was popular at the time?
    I read somewhere that at the time one could still see the burning sulphur rising from Lake Asphalties.. which was the site of Sodom..

    Liked by 1 person

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Chris, the references in 2 Peter and Jude ARE to the Book of Enoch, and we will talk about that in the next article. I am not familiar with Lake Asphalties; is the idea that the burning sulfur there influenced the imagery of hell?

      Like

    • ancadudar says:

      I read somewhere that at the time one could still see the burning sulfur rising from Lake Asphaltites.. which was the site of Sodom…

      Even now, one can hold up a piece of sulfur rock from there and light it on fire, it smells and burns just like sulfur. The sulfur from the site is approximately 97% pure, elsewhere on earth it is rare to find it pure at 40%.

      Tim is correct that Jude and 2 Peter quote almost word for word from verses in 150 BCE Book of Enoch, and directly reference it as if it is a holy and authentic book.
      We don’t know how popular the book of Enoch was at the time, but Wikipedia says this:

      Judaism
      Although evidently widely known during the development of the Hebrew Bible canon, 1 Enoch was excluded from both the formal canon of the Tanakh and the typical canon of the Septuagint and therefore, also from the writings known today as the Deuterocanon.[6][7] One possible reason for Jewish rejection of the book might be the textual nature of several early sections of the book that make use of material from the Torah; for example, 1 En 1 is a midrash of Deuteronomy 33.[8][9] The content, particularly detailed descriptions of fallen angels, would also be a reason for rejection from the Hebrew canon at this period – as illustrated by the comments of Trypho the Jew when debating with Justin Martyr on this subject: “The utterances of God are holy, but your expositions are mere contrivances, as is plain from what has been explained by you; nay, even blasphemies, for you assert that angels sinned and revolted from God.” (Dialogue 79)[10]

      Christianity
      By the 4th century, the Book of Enoch was mostly excluded from Christian canons, and it is now regarded as scripture by only the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church and the Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Church.

      References in the New Testament
      “Enoch, the seventh from Adam” is quoted, in Jude 1:14–15:

      Liked by 1 person

      • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

        Anca, thanks for the very interesting information on Lake Asphaltites. And also on the background of the Book of Enoch; we will be discussing the Book of Enoch next time.

        Like

  8. Pingback: Judgment and Punishment in the Book of Enoch | Jesus Without Baggage

  9. Jesus being God, doesn’t need to borrow imagery from anyone. He knows what hell is. Whether Literal or figurative fire, it’s still a place of torment.

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  10. Pingback: The Origin of Satan and His Demons in the Book of Enoch | Jesus Without Baggage

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