Vol. 15 New Series April, 1953 No. 2
"DIVINE" FIRE?

REVELATION 20:10
Can it be true that the Mischief-maker or Devil is to finish up by being cast into a " Lake of divine fire"? Some have made a great deal of mischief here through lack of a little knowledge of the Greek language.. Extraordinary theories' have been built up the like of which have never been heard of before. Extravagant and fanciful ideas have been elaborated by some who have little real reverence for the sacred text. But we must ever be on our guard against that dangerous excrescence of human selfishness—wishful thinking. The wish becomes father to the thought; the thought develops into a theory; the theory snatches at isolated terms found in the Scriptures or violates the Greek language.

The above verse states plainly that the Mischief-maker who is deceiving them (the Nations) was" cast into the lake of the fire and sulphur, just where (hopou) the wild-beast and i:he false~prophet are also. And they will be tormented for i:he eons of the eons."

Sulphur in Greek is theion. There is also another and distinct Greek word theion, which is the neuter form of the adjective meaning "divine," from Theos, God. Of course it was very easy to assume that the two words had a common origin. Yet we shall produce evidence from the Greek, and from the Greek Scriptures, that the word for sulphur is related to the Greek verb thuO, meaning SACRIFICE. . It was a great misfortune that the Concordance of the Concordant Version shewed both words as having a common derivation (page 259).

The word sulphur (or brimstone, "burn-stone"), found seven times in the N.T., is always a noun, never an adjective. And it is always found joined to another noun, either "fire" or "smoke." How would it sound did we read at Luke 17:29, "fire and divine rains from heaven"? Here the fire and the sulphur were undoubtedly literal. Nor could we render at Rev. 9:17, "out of their mouths are issuing fire and smoke and divine." To-day, out of the mouths of about nine-tenths of the adults in Britain, there issues frequently smoke, but very little that is divine. How could these horses kill the third part of mankind by anything "divine"? Is it not clear that the fire and smoke and sulphur must be real? The worshipper of the wild-beast, who gets an emblem on his forehead, or on to his hand, will be tormented in fire and sulphur (Rev. 14:9, 10). The torment will be real torment; that is what the word means, not entertainment or purification. It is only right that they should undergo some torment. To-day it is the believers who feel things most deeply, and therefore suffer the most torment. Worldlings do not undergo the same spiritual trials and testings. It would be utterly wrong were the devotees of the wild-beast to encounter merely a beneficent "divine fire."

The clue to the problem is to be found in Rev. 9:17. The breastplates or cuirasses are of brimstone or sulphurous. The Greek word is theiOdeis. But it must be observed that the ancient Sinaitic M.S. has a different spelling, thuOdeis. This indicates that the root of the word is to be found along with words like thuO, sacrifice. Sometimes the same M.S. spells theion as thion. Such itacisms were very common in the old M.S.S. In Modern Greek it is said that the vowels U, I, UI, OI, EI and E (eta) are all pronounced the same, as ee. The tendency towards this assimilation seems to have existed in the first century, when the N.T. was penned.

For Dr. Pridgeon to claim that "to any Greek, or to any trained in the Greek language, a 'lake of fire and brimstone' would mean a (lake of divine purification'" ("Is Hell Eternal?") is most misleading. Surely this would be to reduce august and solemn divine utterances to mere trivialities.

In his very valuable and careful little book, "Etyma Graeca" (1882) Wharton relates theion (sulphur) to thuO (sacrifice) through a supposed intermediate form theVesion. Theion is also found spelt theeion. Now where a double vowel is found in Greek thus, it means a letter had been elided. In Greek the digamma letter (V or W or perhaps GW) was universally lost very long ago, if it did not soften into U. Moreover, the Greek mouth did not favour the letter S between two vowels. Every language, including Hebrew, has lost some of its primitive sounds and letters.

At Gen. 19:24 the Greek O.T. reads "And the Lord rains on to Sodom and Gomorrah sulphur and fire" (theion kai pur). Call it divine sulphur and fire if you like, but only destruction was wrought.

A.T. Last updated 22.12.2005