Those who “like” or “find delight” in the Book of Revelation remind me of those who watched The Titanic and thought it was romantic and cute but failed to miss that thousands died a brutal, terrifying and tragic death. Robin Parry’s (aka, Gregory Macdonald’s) book The Evangelical Universalist examines the Book of Revelation because, if truth be told, the guts of the Christian belief in hell and judgment emerge as much from this (violent) book as much as from anywhere else.
Can the Book of Revelation be read as universalistic? What do you think of Parry’s proposals?
I have the two major texts about hell after the jump. In this chp, which is too involved to do any more than just give some it here in summary form, Parry sketches (very well) two preliminary contexts: that judgment can be disciplinary and educative and lead to repentance and worship. Further, the texts John draws upon from the OT are texts that show the nations, after judgment, flocking to Zion to worship.
Parry’s argument is that both of these hell texts are followed (15:2-4 and then chps 21–22) by salvation texts and can be read as universal redemption. What is so noticeable about 15:4 is that “nations” refers to those who have previously rebelled. But they are now worshiping God properly. Parry: Those who are currently under God’s wrath for rebelling against God’s people will be judged but will also be the group that will come and worship God.
And the City of Jerusalem in chps 21–22 has open gates … and there are only two kinds of people: those in the City and those in the Lake of Fire. Those gates are open, therefore, for the nations to have a chance to enter.
Furthermore, Parry argues that the “forever and ever” of sulphur and fire are a “topos” drawn from Isaiah 34:8-10, the language used for the destruction of Babylon in the Old Testament. The language of “forever and ever” could be hyperbolic or perhaps does not refer to the judgment of humans but of the devil…
14:9 A third angel followed the first two, declaring in a loud voice: “If anyone worships the beast and his image, and takes the mark on his forehead or his hand, 14:10 that person will also drink of the wine of God’s anger that has been mixed undiluted in the cup of his wrath, and he will be tortured with fire and sulfur in front of the holy angels and in front of the Lamb. 14:11 And the smoke from their torture will go up forever and ever, and those who worship the beast and his image will have no rest day or night, along with anyone who receives the mark of his name.”
15:2 Then I saw something like a sea of glass mixed with fire, and those who had conquered the beast and his image and the number of his name. They were standing by the sea of glass, holding harps given to them by God. 15:3 They sang the song of Moses the servant of God and the song of the Lamb:
“Great and astounding are your deeds,
Lord God, the All-Powerful!
Just and true are your ways,
King over the nations!
15:4 Who will not fear you, O Lord,
and glorify your name, because you alone are holy?
All nations will come and worship before you
for your righteous acts have been revealed.”
20:7 Now when the thousand years are finished, Satan will be released from his prison 20:8 and will go out to deceive the nations at the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to bring them together for the battle. They are as numerous as the grains of sand in the sea. 20:9 They went up on the broad plain of the earth and encircled the camp of the saints and the beloved city, but fire came down from heaven and devoured them completely. 20:10 And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet are too, and they will be tormented there day and night forever and ever.
20:11 Then I saw a large white throne and the one who was seated on it; the earth and the heaven fled from his presence, and no place was found for them. 20:12 And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne. Then books were opened, and another book was opened – the book of life. So the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to their deeds. 20:13 The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and Death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each one was judged according to his deeds. 20:14 Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death – the lake of fire. 20:15 If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, that person was thrown into the lake of fire.
21:22 Now I saw no temple in the city, because the Lord God – the All-Powerful – and the Lamb are its temple. 21:23 The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, because the glory of God lights it up, and its lamp is the Lamb. 21:24 The nations will walk by its light and the kings of the earth will bring their grandeur into it. 21:25 Its gates will
never be closed during the day (and there will be no night there). 21:26 They will bring the grandeur and the wealth of the nations into it, 21:27 but nothing ritually unclean will ever enter into it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or practices falsehood, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.