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« Marriage in Polygamy Is Still One Man, One Woman | Main | Down Syndrome Births in Denmark May Disappear by 2030 »

August 24, 2011

Comments

Regarding 2 Peter 2, I don't dispute that the then clause is referring to the fate of men prior to the judgment. I'm actually confused; when did I mention verse nine?

As for verse six, Peter explicitly says that the fate of Sodom and Gomorrah is an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly. So it makes no difference if this is part of a broader argument that is about something else. That it is about final judgment is corroborated by the parallel passage in Jude (verse 7) which—like 2 Peter 2:6—is universally acknowledged as referring to the final judgment.

And are you saying that the ungodly will be reduced to ashes and condemned to extinction prior to final judgment? If that's so, then I guess Peter was wrong because billions of dead people were never reduced to ashes and condemned to extinction, and are now awaiting the judgment.

Chris, something gives me the impression that you want to moderate a debate.

:D

[The second death is not John's invention it predates Christ in Jewish writing and it almost always refers to being cast into the fires of Gehenna.]

I've heard many different claims about this. Actually, one commenter on Chris' blog recently said,

One thing I noticed when looking through Jewish literature was that the Dead Sea Scrolls use "eternal fire" to refer to the annihilation of the wicked, and that the Targums use "second death" to refer to the same thing.

The current consensus seems to be that intertestimental literature describes final punishment as both annihilation and eternal torment. If that's the case, then I wouldn't be surprised if expressions such as "second death" and gehenna were used in a variety of ways.

[And Nicodemus knew, more or less, what Jesus was talking about with "perish". without having to read Revelation.]

I completely agree; he knew that "perish" meant "perish." If you want to convince someone that Nicodemus actually thought "perish" meant something completely different, you'll have to present an argument to that effect. Otherwise you're just begging the question.

[The order of terms and punctuation in both the Lake of Fire passages is a translational choice. Nothing in the Greek requires that it go one way or the other. Rev 20:14, for example literally says "This the death the second is the Lake of Fire." It might be translated "This is the second death, the Lake of Fire" or "This, the second death, is the Lake of Fire"]

I said nothing about punctuation. I don't read Greek, so I'll have to look at this later. But if you're right, then every single English translation that I'm aware of, including Young's Literal, arbitrarily yet unanimously decided to translate the passage as [lake] is [second death]. Not once is it translated as "the second death is the lake of fire," so I highly doubt that word order in this case is merely up to the translator's discretion.

See: http://bible.cc/revelation/20-14.htm

[The final fate of the damned is not called the Lake of Fire because of some prior arbitrary convention. It is because the final fate of the damned is somehow like being cast into a Lake of Fire.]

I completely agree; things thrown into the a lake of fire will be consumed; a perfect picture of annihilation ;)

Please explain to me the difference between God 'raising' an unconnected person who is you and His creating a distinct new person who has all of your memories?

Easy; the first person is you, the second person is not.

Now, are you really asking for an account of how that would work? I can't give you one. Can you give me an account of how a non-physical soul can interact with a physical body?

If you want to say that such a thing is impossible, you'll need to present an argument to that effect. I've never seen one.

[What exactly is Jesus' point when He says of Gehenna that the worm dies not and the fire is not quenched? Isn't it that souls thrown into Gehenna are continually gnawed on by worms and burned by fire? If it's not that, what't the rub?]

First of all, the passage says nothing about "souls", and even proper traditionalism has fully embodied humans suffering torments after the resurrection, not mere "souls."

More to the point, Jesus here is directly quoting Isaiah 66:24, where this language is explicitly applied to corpses. If you think that it's somehow pointless or silly to use this language in reference to something other than everlasting torment, then you'll need to take it up with the person who is being quoted in Isaiah 66 (God).

And by the way, "unquenchable fire" is not the same thing as "fire that burns forever." Just do your own search of "quench" in the OT and see for yourself how it's used. The undying worm is used in parallel here and points to the same reality (viz, a judgment that can not be resisted). It is not referring to some supernatural, immortal maggot that lives in fire and forever eats perpetually regenerating corpses.

As for Revelation 14:11, to save myself some time I'll quote something that I wrote elsewhere:

First, there is no indication that this is a depiction of final punishment. There is no mention of the resurrection, final judgment, or the lake of fire. It is mentioned in the middle of a narrative section about the beasts and is directly followed by an earthly judgment.

Second, the image of smoke rising forever is also found in Revelation 19:3, where it refers to the smoke of the destruction of the great city Babylon. The language is borrowed from Isaiah 34:10, in a prophecy depicting the destruction of Edom:

Night and day it shall not be quenched;
its smoke shall go up forever.
From generation to generation it shall lie waste;
none shall pass through it forever and ever.

Nobody that I’m aware of contends that either Edom or Babylon will literally burn forever—they correctly discern that the language ought not be taken literally. Rather, they understand this to be the same kind of symbolic, hyperbolic, judgment language that is found throughout the Old Testament (e.g. the moon turning to blood and so forth).

For some reason though, when it comes to Revelation 14:11, traditionalists will forget everything they know about this genre of literature and insist that we must make solid inferences about reality based on the imagery.

Just curious, do you take the judgment imagery depicted immediately after (v14-20) literally?

I’ll admit this much:

1. If Revelation 14:11 was explicitly about final punishment and
2. I was unaware of how similar language is used elsewhere in Scripture and
3. I thought it was appropriate to interpret the symbolism found in this genre of literature literally,

then yes, this might be a good proof-text for the traditional view.

Chris-

Who besides yourself has spoken or written defending the notion that some of the people included in the nations gathered by Satan are resurrected people? (FTFY)

Flip answer: John.

Just do a little poking around and you'll see that the view is at least considered when people talk about it. As I said, I'm sure that I'm not the first person to notice what it takes five minutes of reading to notice.

Now, I'm an amillennialist, so I'm not at all wedded to the idea that there's a strict timeline to be followed here. I certainly don't need to find out that Luther or Calvin held this view or some such in order to think that it is a straightforward reading of the text. Nor do I need Luther or Calvin to somehow validate the view. So my reading of Rev 20:4-8 is of secondary importance.

As I said from the start (and no, the idea that the resurrected ungodly were among the deceived nations was not in my initial point on the subject, so I certainly have not shifted ground) the main show here is that the nations are devoured and then in the space of a few words, there they are to be cast into the lake of fire. The the flames that fall from Heaven to devour them are the flames of the Lake of Fire was never my point, so your point that they are raised again for judgment seems off-the-mark to me. I certainly did not, in any event, mean to suggest that the initial devouring as they surround the holy city counts as the beginning of the second death for the raised ungodly (if that's what you were thinking).

My point was simply that when the Bible speaks of devouring, that does not imply that the devoured individual is gone and unable to be devoured again. We see that happening in a very short space.

The Jewish idea of Gehenna was that it was many times hotter than any fire on earth. Clearly, either what was thrown into Gehenna, if it could survive for a year, was either made somehow proof against that intense heat, or some kind of devouring and reconstituting was going on. There is absolutely no reason to think that it could not go one forever. The Jews happened not to think that it did, but that that was because of God's goodness, not because "devoured" implied "gone".

But John says that it does go on forever, both for Satan (in Rev 20) and for the ungodly (in Rev 14). The second death as unquenchable fire is not a new idea. As I said, it pre-dates the birth of Christ and would have been among the background concepts both Christ and the Apostles would be working with.

As I also said, I'm sure that this is also some sort of image or metaphor. But it's not a metaphor for a period of torture followed by a nice eternal dirt nap.

The Book of Revelation also says that there will be a river of living water lined with the tree of life for the healing of the nations. There will be no need of the Sun for the Lamb will be our light, and we will reign with Him for ever and ever.

I (consistently) take that to mean that we will live forever in a blissful existence with our God who came to rescue us. I sure hope that it doesn't mean that we will all have a nice party and then settle in to a nice eternal dirt nap too.

As a fan of eschatology, and passionate about the resurrection, I have spent a little bit of time over the years in this passage, and not once have I ever seen it suggested that the nations gathered by Satan here are those who've already been resurrected. If you're comfortable being the first person in 2,000 years of Church history to read it that way, so be it.

I, on the other hand, recognize (as countless Christians have and do) that they are those still living when this event takes place, prior to the second resurrection which comes some time afterwards, which is a natural reading of the text. So the idea that those devoured by the flames from heaven are very shortly thereafter thrown into the lake of fire is not a problem for me. It also says those who are thrown into the lake of fire are those who've been resurrected--which would include those who were previously killed by the fire from heaven.

This was my point. I was not suggesting you are saying the fire from heaven is the same as the lake of fire; not at all. But that which is your point perishes (excuse the pun) once one recognizes that those who are devoured are shortly thereafter resurrected, and that is why they can be devoured again by the lake of fire. So your point holds no merit and does not work against annihilationism.

Now, as I've said before, I'll let you and Ronnie debate the other details, since I'm not a committed annihilationist. Hopefully you will consider doing the debate on my show.

There is such a thing as "We simply disagree".

And, in the blurry margins of what lies over the Horizon Pre-Creation, and what lies over that Horizon Post-This-Now Scripture gives us Hints, Echoes, and Patterns of what to expect, but I can make a strong case in many directions, as can Chris and WL and Ronnie.


Therein is the problem. God does not give us the Hard and the Concrete over either Horizon. And why would He? What business have we outside of This-Day? He gives us Parts, but no where near a Whole, and if Scripture tells us that we cannot even guess what lies over that Horizon for those He loves, (but He does Hint) why would God honor the Rebel with such a fully written text of THEIR next world? He doesn't.


God is saving our souls, not educating our minds, and where Love competes with Knowing-Mysteries, out Soul's Status must default towards obedience: love.

Scripture leaves enough answered to allow us to know enough to drive us towards Him, and it leaves enough unanswered to force us to have no other option other than Trust Him for what we cannot see. And this is exactly what we should expect from Scripture, from the God who is saving us. "Hast God really said?" will forever push us, here in This-Now, towards wrapping our hands around each other's throats, rather than following Love Himself. Satan laughs.

Typo:

out Soul's Status must default towards obedience: love.

Should read:

our Soul's Status must default towards obedience: love.


(knowing mysteries....love.... God will force us to choose here gentlemen, as He did in Eden. Knowlege. Obedience. Be careful....guard your hearts.... and don't forget Eden)

Ronnie-

Answering your earlier remarks in no particular order. Once again, please forgive abrupt changes in subject.

2 Peter 2

I just re-read my comment on 2 Peter. I didn't see where I said you had quoted verse nine. I think I said that you only quoted verse six (and called you to task for that). I certainly do not think that you did quote verse nine.

Verse six does say that Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed as an example to those who would ungodly lives thereafter. What this has to do with the duration of the torments of Hell is anyone's guess. (Well, actually, I know. The answer is "Nothing".)

If the passage is, as you say, universally acknowledged as referring to the final judgment, then the only thing I can say is that theologians have, in this case, been universally afflicted with an inability to read. Perhaps the theologians are being exhibited as an example in undergoing the curse of Babel.

Jude 1:5-7

We again have three examples of God's punishment prior to the final judgment: The punishment on the disobedient exiles of Egypt, the fallen angels and Sodom and Gomorrah. There is no paired reference to God's temporal rescue of the faithful.

In the case of Sodom and Gomorrah, we are told that they are "exhibited as an example in undergoing the punishment of eternal fire." So the case of Jude is a little different than 2 Peter 2 in that it does give a mention to something eternal. We, therefore, cannot rule out from the start (as we can with 2 Peter 2) that it has some bearing on punishment after judgment.

There are a couple things to note about the Greek. First, there is very little room for variation in the way the NASB renders the clause "undergoing the punishment of eternal fire". "Undergoing" could become "suffering" or "sustaining"; "punishment" could become "penalty", "sentence", or "vengeance". Shades of meaning.

That Sodom and Gomorrah are exhibited, or displayed, or presented is also pretty clear.

But the words "as an example in" are more fluid. The prepositions are not present in the text. There is just the single word "deigma" meaning "example", "pattern" or "model" and this is its only use in the New Testament. It comes from the word Deiknuo which means "show" or "teach". So the phrase could as easily be "as a pattern of". Stretching a bit, it could even be "as a parable of".

If the passage read that they were "displayed as a pattern of undergoing the punishment of eternal fire", then there would be no direct implications about the final judgment. All Jude would be saying is that Sodom and Gomorrah's fate is somehow analogous to the fate of the damned. And the obvious analogy is its fieriness and its brimstoniness.

But even as rendered in the NASB, the above interpretation still fits quite nicely. And what just won't fit into the text, what does violence to the text, is that the flames that consumed the structures of Sodom and Gomorrah and caused the physical death of their people are like the eternal flames of Hell, in being...temporary.

Revelation 14

The thing to remember is that Revelation consists of a lot of parallel accounts. So you may see the final judgment spoken of in more than one place in parallel. The fact that 14 occurs well before 20, does not immediately imply that 14 cannot be about final judgment.

Furthermore, it seems as though it has to be about final judgment, because it speaks of eternal fire and brimstone. I don't think that there's any reading of the text that will allow for an eternal punishment prior to the final judgment.

And who ever said anything about interpreting the passage literally? I've been over this ground. My problem is not with the fact that you want to interpret Revelation in a non-literal fashion. My problem is that it is so dreadfully obvious that you just want to interpret it to mean whatever you want it to mean.

A secondary problem I have is that you seem to think that it is always a bad hermeneutic principle to use vision scripture to interpret non-vision scripture. That simply relegates vision literature to a second-class status. The case of "perish" is an example.

"Perish" in John 3:16
It does not occur to you, does it, that you are begging the question far more profoundly than I in the case of Nicodemus?

You see, I have given an argument for why Nicodemus would have thought of perishing as eternal torment. I agree that the argument does not find its sources entirely in Scripture, it also depends on what a first century Pharisee would already believe about the afterlife.

But this is your 'argument': "he knew that "perish" meant "perish.""

The normal meaning of "perish" is physical death. Do you want to say that Nicodemus, after all, thought that Jesus had promised that his followers would escape the undertaker? That actually would be more plausible than the view that I think you have. Nicodemus did take a rather silly, over-literal, stance about being born again.

But, I think, your view is that Nicodemus thought that Jesus was promising that His followers would not have their souls annihilated. That is a position that has to be argued for every bit as much as the traditional view. But you've said nothing other than "perish" means "perish". But, since "perish" so manifestly does not mean "perish" (that is, "perish" does not mean "suffer physical death"), your claim that "perish" means "perish" just amounts to the claim that "perish" means whatever you want it to mean.

LHRM-

One of your better word tapestries.

Rest assured that I am feeling no ill-will toward Ronnie. I don't have the feeling of having my hands on his throat. I am simply presenting my case with as much force as I can muster.

I also don't have the feeling that he has his hands on my throat. I think he's just returning the high compliment of a forceful presentation of his case.

Ronnie-

Jesus use of Isaiah 66:24

I'm going to back away a bit from this line of argument. This is because I just realized that Jesus quotation of Isaiah in Mark 9 is not in the earliest manuscripts of the passage. It's possible, perhaps even likely, that Jesus just spoke of being cast into the unquenched fires of Gehenna without ever making the allusion to Isaiah 66.

Still, I think there are some interesting points to be made about the Isaiah passage in its own right.

Here is a fuller context of the verse:

For as the new heavens and the new earth that I make shall remain before me, says the LORD,

so shall your offspring and your name remain. From new moon to new moon, and from Sabbath to Sabbath, all flesh shall come to worship before me,declares the LORD.

And they shall go out and look on the dead bodies of the men who have rebelled against me.

For their worm shall not die, their fire shall not be quenched, and they shall be an abhorrence to all flesh.

I've imposed different paragraph breaks than the NASB. Of course, the Hebrew did not even have spaces between the words originally. Let alone paragraph breaks.

I did so to emphasize a structure in the text.

In the first section we have God talking about His new eternal kingdom.

Then we have Him comparing it to the enduring generations of the faithful in this world.

Then we have a description of the corpses of the ungodly viewed by these faithful. The Septuagint translates the Hebrew word "Peger" with the Greek word "Kolon" that really means "body part", it comes to mean corpse because rotting corpses fall to pieces. To use a technical theological term: Ick.

Finally we have the words Jesus may or may not have used to describe what happens to those thrown into Gehenna.

Now, the question is, are these words about undying worms and unquenched fires words about the corpses that the generations of the faithful in this world will look upon?

Or is it a comparison, comparing an eternal consumption by undying worms with the physcally dead corpses, just as the new kingdom is compared to the enduring line of the faithful?

Or are neither cases comparisons? Does eternal life of the godly in the new kingdom come down to nothing more than the enduring generations of the faithful in this world, just as the undying worms and unquenched fires of the final judgment recorded in the book of Isaiah come down to the simple, but still horrible, finality of a rotting corpse.

I certainly hope that my eternal life consists of something more than an unbroken line of descendants and well-wishers (not that that wouldn't be nice).

By the same token, I hope that the ungodly will come to fear more than the fact that their bodies will die and molder (though that's bad). That's all that they fear already.

With that said, as a 'nice' guy with limited understanding, I also hope that that's all that ultimately happens to the ungodly. I don't like the idea of them being eaten by worms forever and burned by fire forever, even bad guys like Gacy or Dahmer.

But as an interpretive matter, I think I'm forced to either take both real eternal life and real undying worms, or leave them both.

I'm going to take them both.

Chris-

"If you're comfortable being the first person in 2,000 years of Church history to read it that way, so be it."

But Chris, I'm not. Feel free to Google something like "Who does Satan deceive after the millennium". You'll find the view repeatedly expressed.

But these are all just doofuses (or is it doofi?) on the internet right?

Well, sure. That's all I am too, truth be told.

But the point is that even doofuses on the internet can read the text and make the connection. The point is a minor one, so I'm not willing to go looking for some Saint or Doctor of the church who can also read. On the other hand I'd be willing to bet that there is one or two.

"those who are devoured are shortly thereafter resurrected, and that is why they can be devoured again by the lake of fire. So your point holds no merit and does not work against annihilationism."

I'm with you on the first half and glad to see that we're both finally on the same page there. (Probably my fault it took so long. I was, no doubt, too verbose and unclear...I get that way.)

On the second half I think you've lost me. I certainly don't mean to use the passage as a general refutation of annihilationism. I merely want to point out that "devoured" doesn't imply "gone forever". That's all.

The passage absolutely does do that.

It is of no consequence that, in this case, the reason that those devoured were able to be devoured again is because they were resurrected for judgment.

There may well be other reasons that people are devoured and then restored to the point of being able to be devoured again.

Look at it this way.

Suppose that everyone agreed that the Bible categorically teaches that torment in Hell is everlasting. Suppose also that everyone agreed that the Bible categorically teaches that those in Hell are devoured by flames.

Are these points in conflict? Have we found ironclad proof, for example, against the doctrine of inerrancy?

No. Because those devoured may be devoured again. I hope you can clearly see that.

Insofar as I think the Bible does teach both points above, though neither in as unambiguous a way as I'd like. I think the point that those devoured may be devoured again is important to my position.

Thankfully, Scripture actually affirms this proposition.

WL,

"But Chris, I'm not. Feel free to Google something like "Who does Satan deceive after the millennium". You'll find the view repeatedly expressed."

Would you like to provide me with a link or two that you think best articulate the position?

In the meantime, I'm comfortable resting my case since I've demonstrated that at the very best this particular argument against annihilationism you've made is based on a highly questionable, novel and minority interpretation of the text, one which must, in fact, be read into the text rather than read out from it. After all, verse 7 tells us when Satan is released, but verse 5 only tells us that during the millennium the rest of the dead won't be raised, unless you think its ἕως ("until") in Matthew 16:28 means that everyone to whom Jesus spoke died the instant they saw His coming, or in Matthew 24:34 means that the generation to whom Jesus referred died (or will die, if one takes the Olivet Discourse to be a description of the future) the instant His prophesies were fulfilled, or in Luke 24:49 means that the disciples left Jerusalem the instant the Holy Spirit fell upon them (which, of course, was not the case).

You see, "until" in Scripture does not mean that what is said not to happen "until" a point in time will happen the instant that point of time arrives. Revelation 20:5 only tells us that the second resurrection doesn't happen during the millennium, and happens sometime after it completes. So this "connection" which you are making is not one that appears in the text, it's one assumed and read into the text. I recommend you do not use this argument against annihilationism in the future, because it does not work, and because countless Christians--annihilationists and traditionalists alike--will see how weak it is.

"I merely want to point out that "devoured" doesn't imply "gone forever". That's all. The passage absolutely does do that. It is of no consequence that, in this case, the reason that those devoured were able to be devoured again is because they were resurrected for judgment."

OK, so you're saying that, even if I'm right, and if these still-living unbelievers are consumed by flames from heaven, resurrected, and then consumed by the flames of the lake of fire, that still demonstrates that when something is consumed it isn't necessarily gone forever. As you said, I'm glad to see that we're on the same page. I agree. But that still doesn't work as an argument against annihilationism, because there's also nothing in the text to suggest that what is consumed by a fire is anything but gone, even if not forever. At best, you've identified the possibility that what is consumed by a fire can be supernaturally reconstituted by God--which is, indeed, what Ronnie has argued for as a physicalist. The question, however, is not what can God do, but what will God do? Will those consumed by the flames of the lake of fire be reconstituted again in the future? I think God could raise them again (a third resurrection) were He to choose to do so, but the Scripture gives no indication that He ever will, and, I think, makes clear He will not.

"those devoured may be devoured again. I hope you can clearly see that...that those devoured may be devoured again is important to my position."

I don't see how. The traditional view of hell is not one in which the lake of fire devours or consumes the one thrown into it, at which point such a one is supernaturally reconstituted by God, and then devoured again, ad infinitem. A traditionalist might instead say that the fire is forever consuming the one thrown into it, and on an ongoing basis God is supernaturally preserving one's life by healing burned flesh, so that one can continue to be perpetually consumed. But the annihilationist's point is that that's not how Scripture uses consuming or devouring fire. So the fact that something like the people deceived by Satan can be devoured by flames only to be devoured again later (after first being resurrected) is, in fact, of no consequence to the argument.

As a former traditionalist, and as one now on the fence, I am still open to the possibility that the traditional view is correct, but if it is, then I think devouring and consuming fire are very loose metaphors, and the traditionalist is not served well by trying to argue that hell does, in fact, devour and consume.

"Thankfully, Scripture actually affirms this proposition."

Care to defend that in a debate? :)

Chris,

I thought this exchange IS a debate.....? No?

Sorry, LHRM. I was hearkening back to my invitation to moderate a debate between WL and Ronnie on my show.

Chris-

"The traditional view of hell is not one in which the lake of fire devours or consumes the one thrown into it, at which point such a one is supernaturally reconstituted by God, and then devoured again, ad infinitem. A traditionalist might instead say that the fire is forever consuming the one thrown into it, and on an ongoing basis God is supernaturally preserving one's life by healing burned flesh, so that one can continue to be perpetually consumed."

I'm afraid I don't see a real difference between the two positions you've mapped out here. Total body replacement is simply the most radical form of healing. Continuous healing of burned flesh is just the piecemeal replacement of a devoured body. Both total and piecemeal consumption and reconstitution require the constant miraculous intervention of God. He's up to the task. That has always been part of any literal interpretation of Hellfire, so there's absolutely nothing ad hoc about anything I've said on this front.

With that said, remember that I'm not at all committed to a literal view of Hellfire. Remember that I'm comfortable with the idea that being cast into the lake of fire is, in reality, living forever with the consequences of unrestrained sin.

I think my point was that the symbolism of eternal torment in flames requires that whatever the torments of Hell are, they are comparable or analogous to eternal torment in flames. I think, if anything, living forever with the unrestrained consequences of sin is worse than any hellfire.

So what are we arguing about here?

We are arguing whether the representative of the symbol of consumption and devouring is compatible with the representative of the symbol of eternal torment in flames. I think that if the literal reality of consumption and devouring is compatible with the literal reality of Hellfire, then, by analogy, the representatives of those concepts, taken as symbols, are also compatible.

[then the only thing I can say is that theologians have, in this case, been universally afflicted with an inability to read.]

That's a charitable way of looking at it. So again, I suppose you genuinely believe that the ungodly will undergo a fate that is similar to being reduced to ashes some time before final judgment. It's difficult to take that seriously.

[All Jude would be saying is that Sodom and Gomorrah's fate is somehow analogous to the fate of the damned. And the obvious analogy is its fieriness and its brimstoniness.]

Yes, "obvious." That's strange, because the analogy that Peter sees between the fate of Sodom and that of wicked men in the future is one of complete destruction and "reduced-to-ashesness."

[And what just won't fit into the text, what does violence to the text, is that the flames that consumed the structures of Sodom and Gomorrah and caused the physical death of their people are like the eternal flames of Hell, in being...temporary.]

Eternal flames of Hell? Where did you get that from? The passage says that Sodom and Gomorrah themselves underwent the punishment of eternal fire. This is helpful because it corrects traditionalists who just assume that whenever Scripture uses the expression "eternal fire" it just automatically means "fire that torments people forever." According to Jude, at least, eternal fire is fire the issues from heaven and destroys completely.

[The fact that 14 occurs well before 20, does not immediately imply that 14 cannot be about final judgment.]

Where did I say that because it occurs before 20 that it can't be about final judgment? That would be a silly argument and I said no such thing. What I said is that there is no contextual indication that it is about final judgment.

[Furthermore, it seems as though it has to be about final judgment, because it speaks of eternal fire and brimstone. I don't think that there's any reading of the text that will allow for an eternal punishment prior to the final judgment.]

Terrible. So you basically ignored everything I wrote and then just asserted that this passage is about eternal punishment. I think what happens is traditionalists are so desperate to find support for eternal torment that they hastily grasp onto any passage that uses words like "forever" and "fire" in combination. Genre and context be damned!

And no it does not speak of eternal fire and brimstone, where did you get that from?

[And who ever said anything about interpreting the passage literally?]

Wait, so then this passage does not teach eternal torment? I'm confused. The only way you can argue that it does is to draw an inference based on the imagery. Something like: if the smoke of their torment goes up forever, then they must be tormented by fire forever. Therefore, this passage teaches eternal torment! Or are you saying that the smoke, fire and brimstone should not be taken literally, but the torment should be taken literally? What, exactly, are you trying to say?

[My problem is that it is so dreadfully obvious that you just want to interpret it to mean whatever you want it to mean.]

That's a strange thing to say considering that I never interpreted the passage. If you, on the other hand, want to believe that the image of smoke rising forever literally indicates a perpetually ongoing process, feel free.

[A secondary problem I have is that you seem to think that it is always a bad hermeneutic principle to use vision scripture to interpret non-vision scripture. That simply relegates vision literature to a second-class status.]

No, it means that we interpret the the unclear in light of the clear, and not the other way around. This is a nearly universally accepted principle of interpretation that you yourself normally adhere to (unless you're trying to win an argument as opposed to actually trying to understand the text).

[You see, I have given an argument for why Nicodemus would have thought of perishing as eternal torment.]

You in fact did not. All you said was, "And Nicodemus knew, more or less, what Jesus was talking about with "perish". without having to read Revelation." If you intended to connect this to what you said about John's use of "the second death", then I am thoroughly confused, because you then said, "Now the Jews, for the most part, agreed more with you than with me about the duration of the second death."

[Do you want to say that Nicodemus, after all, thought that Jesus had promised that his followers would escape the undertaker?]

I would not be surprised in the least if Nicodemus took Jesus' words that way. In fact, that appears to be precisely how the Pharisees in John 8:53 understood Jesus when he told them something very similar. What's your point again?

"Perish" does in fact mean "perish." I'm astounded that you think I need to present and argument to that effect. Jesus is referring to physical death, albeit not our first one. Again, I'm confused; do you believe that conditionalism posits a second death that isn't physical?

[just amounts to the claim that "perish" means whatever you want it to mean.]

"I heard on the news that John was killed"
"Oh, wow, you mean he was tortured for long periods of time and never actually died?"
"No, he was actually killed."
"Well you obviously are just making "kill" mean whatever you want it to mean."

[But as an interpretive matter, I think I'm forced to either take both real eternal life and real undying worms, or leave them both.

I'm going to take them both.]

Except the passage never mentions eternal life.

Well I'm done for now. In my experience, when a person insists on simply ignoring arguments and coming up with bizarre, contrived and ad hoc interpretations, truth-seeking has been abandoned for something else.

I can't help but see the humor in the fact that, early in the going, you accused conditionalists of being "contentious and disputatious innovaters."

Feel free to get the last word, "wisdom lover."

Ronnie:

So again, I suppose you genuinely believe that the ungodly will undergo a fate that is similar to being reduced to ashes some time before final judgment. It's difficult to take that seriously.
I'm sorry. What are you referring to here? The passage says that God reduced Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes as an example to those who live ungodly lives hereafter.

I don't think that that implies any specific thing that will happen to any particular ungodly person prior to the judgment. It does imply that God takes sin seriously and will visit punishment on sinners even in this life.

Suppose that I am a judge and I sentence a criminal to death by being burnt at the stake. I do so as an example to later wrongdoers.

That doesn't imply one thing about what is going to happen to later wrongdoers. For starters, the example might work and no one may rise to the level of wrongdoing that gave rise to the burning. For another, I might decide to execute in a different way, or to pursue some other line of punishment. And I might decide to be lenient, reasoning that the original example is still good enough. And I may make other examples in other ways.

Nothing about my having made that original example requires that I do anything in particular in those other cases. I suppose that the example shows that I'm tough on crime. So it is reasonable to expect that I will continue to be tough on crime.

Now, surely God has punished wrongdoers since Sodom and Gomorrah. He's even punished wrongdoers as an example for still later wrongdoers. Pharaoh comes to mind.

Are you saying that you think the passage, if not read as some sort of reference to final judgment, would require that every single sinner be consumed by fire and brimstone?

But that's not what it says and that's not how I interpreted it.

I think I've said enough on 2 Peter 2. I'll let any other readers decide whether they think the passage has anything to do with the fate of the godly or the ungodly after the final judgment. I certainly know what I think about it, and I think you are dug in enough about it that you're not going to change your view here.

I'm glad to give you the last word on the passage, and I promise to read what you have to say about it, but I'll probably stand pat at this juncture.

Let's move to Jude 1:7.

I gather that what you want to say here is that "the punishment of eternal fire" is not a reference to hellfire, but is a reference to the actual fire that consumed the cities (which was not eternal). And what this shows is that "eternal" doesn't always mean eternal.

I get it. I think.

If I am right, this a very slender reed on which to hang the meaning of so important a word as "eternal".

I'm tempted to say "Have a nice eternal life". Oh, wait...

Joking aside, the fragility of your argument is clear when we consider that the Greek allows readings that do not imply that the fires that burnt Sodom and Gomorrah be the referent of "eternal fire".

Indeed, the translation we have in the NASB doesn't really imply that. It is possible for a person or group to be exhibited as an example of undergoing some process without that individual actually undergoing that process. This possibility is the basis of learning from simulations and from similar circumstances.

What consumed Sodom and Gomorrah was not eternal fire. But it was similar enough to eternal fire that we can learn from their example.

This argument does not apply in the case of Revelation 14 when it says of the ungodly "and he will be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever; they have no rest day and night, those who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name."

John is not saying that the temporary punishment of the ungodly is being used as a teaching example of some other eternal fire or eternal punishment. He is saying that the ungodly themselves suffer eternal torment.

Ronnie-

Just read this:

In my experience, when a person insists on simply ignoring arguments and coming up with bizarre, contrived and ad hoc interpretations, truth-seeking has been abandoned for something else.

I can't help but see the humor in the fact that, early in the going, you accused conditionalists of being "contentious and disputatious innovaters."

I note that in your post (not quoted here) you are giving me the last word. It might seem that I've used it once, but I don't count my post right after your last comment...it was already in process when you posted, and I hadn't read your comment yet.

I've got a few words to say on this. The earlier words are more forceful, and the later ones gentler. Please bear with me on both.

I reject the idea that my interpretations are bizarre or ad hoc. What they are, principally, is at variance with your interpretations. As such, I may yet post a few more 'last words' to try to tie up the loose ends of the arguments.

You assume that because I don't answer an argument, I'm ignoring it.

Now as a general matter, it's possible that I am. One reason I might ignore an argument is that it might be dumb. In that case, I don't think it's worth the time to deal with. I write these comments for fun in moments of spare time. I might even ignore some arguments that aren't dumb because of the time issue. I will prioritize what I write about.

With that said, I don't think any of your arguments fall into the dumb argument category. Some of them may fall into the category of non-dumb, but ignored for the sake of time. Obviously, I don't agree with them, and I think that, in many cases, they make serious errors. But they're not dumb.

But it also might be that I didn't ignore the argument. It might just be that I didn't quite get the argument. It might have been too nuanced for me. Or maybe I was just tired when I read it. As an example, I actually did not get your whole point about Jude 1:7 until your last post on that subject. (I got some of it, but it just took some back and forth for your whole point to sink in). I can't say that, when all is said and done, I found your point convincing, and I explained why in my follow up, but I think at least I understand it now.

Chris and I went back and forth a bit on the whole devouring flames issue before we were even close to being on the same page about what I was saying. That was mostly a failure on my part to communicate what I was saying and my bringing up side points that ended up becoming objects of unnecessary debate.

These things happen. They're frustrating, but there's no need for either side to feel bad about it.

Now on the issue of innovation, there is no doubt that annihilationism is an innovation. It had no real currency in the church until well after the Reformation. (This is not to say that there weren't a few representatives here and there.) Of course, in 20,000 years, people will refer to our discussions today as discussions of the early church (and tell me that that isn't weird to contemplate), so what is and what is not an innovation is dependent on perspective.

I'll admit that the terms "disputatious" and "contentious" were ill-used. I went back and re-read what I said there. You were right to read it as my saying that you were contentious and disputatious (above and beyond the ordinary amount of those qualities one should expect to find in this kind of forum...we generally don't write comments here as a pale substitute for singing Kumbaya together). But I actually didn't mean it as harshly as it read, and it was not based on as full a picture of your contentions as I would really need to make such a charge even to the degree to which I meant it. So seriously, my bad.

What I said after LHRM's last comment better reflects my assessment of your arguments here (and is based on more and better information).

If you feel the need to jump back in, I won't hold it against you.

Ronnie,

I think when Atheist's call Christians "un-intelligent" or [unconcerned about truth] b/c they refuse the Atheist's well articulated arguement, they make the same error which you do in dealing with those who hold to eternal torment, or any other Inter-Christian doctrine.

I myself and completely un-able to commit on this issue of eternal consciousness or not...as per my earlier posts...I'm "stuck" here on this one, at least for now. I lean towards annihilation, but not much, and, whenever I think I got it pinned down either way, along comes another nuance which chips my armor.


I think the Atheists and Christians, or Theists and Non-Theists, are both reasonably intelligent, and both care about truth, and, both are, thankfully, ALSO moved by the existential/emotional "rub" of how a View "Tastes". We are stuck with the "taste test" as we are not Pure Minds, but also laden with God's (marred) nature of Love/Emotion/Etc. I think that is a good thing. It's marred, but a still comes from a good "tool".


But I disagree with the Atheist when he tells me that I am unconcerned with truth, or I am not intelligent b/c I stiff-arm his well spoken arguement, which even makes good sense in his own context. And, I try in my own self, when dealing with Non-Theists to avoid using that move on them, as, when I have done so in the past, I find that I have not only sinned against that person, but even against God's push in me to be more like Him.


WL and Ronnie obviously disagree, which is fine, and I see in both of their writings solid nuances. As I have said, the problem lies in that God will not or does not give us the Hard and the Concrete here on what lies over the next horizon for we who love Him or for those who don't. But, of course, that is an "arguement" on my part which both Ronnie and WL disagree with.......but, even there, I find both of you a help to me, as I find myself un-settled in my own soul on this issue.


But, as Christians, we need not be like the Atheists who rale and moan against the Christian's intelligence or concern for truth. WITHIN the Body this ought not happen.

WL,

This of yours is great: "above and beyond the ordinary amount of those qualities one should expect to find in this kind of forum...we generally don't write comments here as a pale substitute for singing Kumbaya together"


....great way to describe the VERY odd "process" of what it is that "goes on" in this sort of [Christian Blog]. Christians, of all people (God is love!) gathering together and fussing and pushing and waving our fingers in each other's faces all in our "Holy Book" search...it's almost Anti-Thetical and even comical sometimes. But, on the whole, I think it is as you say and has an "expected amount" of "pushing" which is healthy. It's a DELICATE balance though........

Chris-

One more time on the resurrected dead.

My heart isn't fully in this, because, as I've said repeatedly, it's a side issue.

Minor point: my text has "achri" for "until", not "heos" (I guess you are using Textus Receptus?)

I'm certainly no Greek expert, but I think both words have the same variability in Greek as the word "until" has in English. "Until" can mean that a thing won't even be possible until after a certain point in time at which point it might or might not happen, or it can mean that a certain condition will hold until a point in time and then change immediately thereafter.

You aren't allowed to drive until you are 16. You might not drive at 16. The hockey player is not allowed out of the penalty box until the 2-minute penalty time has elapsed. As soon as the two-minutes are up, he's out.

In any case, I don't need to read "until" in one particular way just because, for example, Matthew uses it in a that way. "Until" is a utility word that we should expect to see used all over the place in a multitude of ways. To force it into one meaning throughout Scripture would surely lead to all sorts of bad interpretations.

Now, I admit, that my case would be stronger if "Hotan" had been used for the raising of the ungodly and "achri" had been used for the release of Satan. (Satan literally is in a penalty box until the millennium is done.)

But even so, The dead do not raise themselves. That is a miraculous act performed by God all at once at a specific time. The text names a specific moment that they have to wait for for that miracle to be done. Does that absolutely imply that God will perform that miracle at that moment? No. However, it seems as though, had John wanted to say that they would be raised at the final judgment, and not the moment the millennium had ended, he could have mentioned that specific time instead.

I don't think you've proven that the reading is novel or read into the text. All you've shown is that you don't know what its sources are (other than, of course, John). And the simple reading, given the millennialist assumption that the text is providing a timeline, clearly goes my way. You have to read into the text not to read it that way.

But of course it is a minority reading. Anything that's not amillennialist is a minority reading. But if I were given to a dispensational pre-millenialist reading, this would be obvious. That ubiquitous source for all things dispensational, the Scofield Reference Bible, for example, says in the notes on 20:5 that Revelation tells us the time lapse between the resurrection of the just and the resurrection of the unjust. Scofield doesn't quite close the circle and ask what the unjust are doing while Satan is deceiving the nations. But when you ask that question, doesn't the answer present itself?

With that said, I'm going to close off my end of the debate on this subject.

I think I've already said what I wanted to on the other subjects we've been discussing Chris. Of course, if you'd like to add more, I promise to read, and possibly respond.

On the issue of the debate, I'm not sure that Ronnie is quite as game as he once was. That's partly my fault. Sorry man. Should he have a change of heart, I'm still on the fence. Part of the reason for my indecision is the time issue. There are two other issues that also hold me back.

First, I think that in a real time debate format, Ronnie would probably steamroll me. I've been steamrolled before, so that's not what worries me. I just don't think it'll make good listening. Ronnie seems to be able, for example, to free-style a massive reply of very good quality in about fifteen minutes whereas it takes me much longer to provide my poor offerings. No sooner do I put a post up, than Ronnie has posted a reply that, while re-hashing some, always has some new nugget that I have to process (or has presented an old nugget so that I finally see the point).

The second reason is that I'm not sure I have the credentials you'd want. I'll let you know something about myself that those who follow these comments already know. I'm not a professional theologian. I'm just an interested amateur. I've got a Ph.D. in Philosophy. Truth be told, I think my dissertation committee passed my thesis more out of fatigue than any real approbation of my work ;-) I'm no longer working in that field. I'd published an article and held a few teaching posts when I realized that Academia was just not my cup of tea...I'm waaay too conservative. I think my lovely, long-suffering wife who is far, far too good for me is still a little ticked that I took so long to figure that out. I'm a Software Engineer by profession, and I love that. As I said earlier, in the end, I'm just one of those doofuses on the internet.

More 'last words' to Ronnie

Jude 1:7 (again)

Ronnie:

Eternal flames of Hell? Where did you get that from? The passage says that Sodom and Gomorrah themselves underwent the punishment of eternal fire. This is helpful because it corrects traditionalists who just assume that whenever Scripture uses the expression "eternal fire" it just automatically means "fire that torments people forever."
If you take "from Hell" out of my argument, it works just the same. Are the flames that consumed the structures of Sodom and Gomorrah and caused the physical death of their people like eternal flames, in being...temporary?

It seems that that's the one way that they are not like eternal flames. So whatever comparison Jude is making to eternal flames, and whatever the source of those eternal flames are, however Jude is using Sodom and Gomorrah to teach in this passage, what Jude is not saying is that eternal flames are temporary.

Just to anticipate a possible objection (which, by the bye, I am not claiming you endorse or reject). You might say that the flames that consumed Sodom and Gomorrah are eternal in the sense that, though they went out, those places are burned to ash and gone forever.

But if that's it, then I cook steaks on my Weber kettle by burning charcoal with eternal fire. Though the flames go out, the briquettes are reduced to ash and gone forever.

More Ronnie:

The passage says that Sodom and Gomorrah themselves underwent the punishment of eternal fire...According to Jude, at least, eternal fire is fire the issues from heaven and destroys completely.
No.

Even in the worst case translation of this passage, Jude does not explicitly say that Sodom and Gomorrah suffered the punishment of eternal fire. He said that they are exhibited as an example in undergoing that punishment.

Using a steel compass and a steel straight edge and a pencil, I may give an example in bisecting a line segment by construction. Have I thereby bisected a line segment by construction? No. Such things cannot be done with physical tools.

More Ronnie, this time on John 3:16:

we interpret the the unclear in light of the clear, and not the other way around. This is a nearly universally accepted principle of interpretation that you yourself normally adhere to
Yes. I agree. So what I have is a passage where Jesus seems to be saying that I'm going to escape the undertaker. It wasn't just plainly obvious that this was an obscure saying when Jesus first said it to Nicodemus. But by the time John recorded their conversation, it was clearly obscure. Most of John's cohort, believers all, had already found their way to the grave. And even Nicodemus might have wondered about it if he came to it with our set of presuppositions.

The clear meaning of "not perish" is "escape the undertaker". Anything else is unclear. Jesus use in this passage is unclear.

Now, John does talk about other types of death in the book of Revelation. One type of death he talks about there is being thrown into a lake of fire. (Let's leave the time spent there to one side for now.)

That's still a little weird. But it would not have been weird to Nicodemus. He knew about the second death, and even if he did not believe that the tenure of those sent to the flames was eternal, using "not perish" to mean "escape the second death" or "escape Gehenna" would make sense of Jesus claim.

I am not arguing, nor have I ever argued, that Nicodemus would have gotten "escape eternal torment" out of "not perish". I have argued, and continue to argue, that he would have gotten "escape being cast into Gehenna" out of "not perish".

The question of how long people spend in Gehenna is a separate question that must be argued for separately. What my argument shows is not that annihilationism is false, or that John 3:16 is a proof text against annihilationism. I was never going for that. My aims regarding John 3:16 are more limited. I was simply trying to show that John 3:16 is not a proof text for annihilationism.

More Ronnie:

"I heard on the news that John was killed"
"Oh, wow, you mean he was tortured for long periods of time and never actually died?"
"No, he was actually killed."
"Well you obviously are just making "kill" mean whatever you want it to mean."

My reply:

Jesse: "JFK isn't dead"

Nick: "What? Wait, I thought they buried him in Arlington?"

Jesse: "Oh. Yeah. He's in Arlington, but he's not dead."

Nick: "Oh. How awful. Do you mean He's been scratching at the lid of his coffin all these years."

Jesse: "Oh no. His brain, heart and all his internal organs stopped functioning back in 1963. There was no scratching."

Nick: "So what are you saying?"

Jesse: "I'm saying he's not dead, don't you understand English?"

Nick: "What???"

Jesus claim that his believers won't perish should leave us saying "What???" until we have an explanation of what He means by "not perish".

Final 'last words'

Isaiah 66

WL:

Does eternal life of the godly in the new kingdom come down to nothing more than the enduring generations of the faithful in this world, just as the undying worms and unquenched fires of the final judgment recorded in the book of Isaiah come down to the simple, but still horrible, finality of a rotting corpse.
.
.
.
...as an interpretive matter, I think I'm forced to either take both real eternal life and real undying worms, or leave them both.

I'm going to take them both.

Ronnie:
Except the passage never mentions eternal life.

You may be right. At least it might never mention the eternal life of the followers of the almighty.

The passage does not need to mention the eternal life of God Himself. God is eternal. The passage does mention that the eternal God is making a new eternal kingdom when He makes this comparison:

“For just as the new heavens and the new earth Which I make will endure before Me,” declares the LORD, “So your offspring and your name will endure."
The new heavens and new earth will endure or, as many translations render it, remain before the Eternal God.

Will the godly be part of that? Will the godly always remain before Him in His new creation? Or is it just that they will always have descendants before Him?

If you think that the godly will be part of that new kingdom remaining before Him forever, then the passage does include a reference to the eternal life of the godly through its reference to the new heaven.

If I say that the Lakers get a $100K per player bonus this year, I have said that Kobe Bryant gets a $100K bonus this year. Even though I never uttered the phrase "Kobe Bryant gets a $100K bonus this year"

If you think the godly won't be a permanent part of the new kingdom. Then no, the passage makes no reference to the eternal life of the godly. Is that the way you want to go in interpreting this passage?

Revelation 14

Ronnie:

Where did I say that because it occurs before 20 that it can't be about final judgment? That would be a silly argument and I said no such thing. What I said is that there is no contextual indication that it is about final judgment.
The indication that it is about final judgment comes from the fact that it says of the worshiper of the Beast (which I take to mean any follower of false religion, i.e. any unbeliever) "he will be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever; they have no rest day and night". Now perhaps this is a different torment that goes on forever and ever with no rest day or night than the one that is mentioned and specifically applied to Satan and the false prophet in Revelation 20. I don't think it is, but that's neither here nor there. For these folks, at least, it seems that it can't be anything other than their final punishment. When would the next one come? After infinity?

When you said there's no contextual indication that this is the final judgment, I took that to mean that there was no nearby passage that says "this is the final judgment" or some such. The only passages in the book of Revelation that do say something like that are, I think, in chapter 20. Now, 14:7 does have the angel declaring that the hour of judgment is come. But it doesn't explicitly say "final".

The point about 14 coming before 20 was about parallelism. Chapter 14 is the end of one parallel sequence of events (the trumpets). Chapter 15 begins a new sequence (the bowls). Given this, it might not be so surprising to find a temporal judgment on Earth occurring right on the heels of an eternal (and therefore final) judgment. That also militates in favor of the judgment announced in verse 7 being the final judgment.

Ronnie:

And no it does not speak of eternal fire and brimstone, where did you get that from?
From this
he will be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever.
Now perhaps the fire goes out, but the smoke rises forever. Possible, I suppose, but it doesn't seem like a good way to read this.

And it's completely ruled out when you add this

they have no rest day and night
They have no rest from what? The torment. So the torment goes on and on without surcease. What is the torment? Fire and brimstone? So they are being tormented with fire and brimstone without letup. Everlasting torment by fire and brimstone.

Ronnie's counter (my summary): The passage is a parallel with Isaiah 34's prophecy regarding Edom that the smoke of its destruction will go up forever and ever. But no one thinks Edom is still burning, or even smoking. So there is no reason to read Revelation as talking about an eternal torment of flames. This is the hyperbolic language of prophetic and visionary literature.

My response: There is a difference between the two cases. In the one case, Isaiah is prophesying about what will happen on Earth. And there he says that a place on Earth will be buned up and the smoke will arise forever, etc. We have a wealth of experience about Earth. On Earth, fires burn out. In virtue of the context of all our experience about earthly fires the text is manifestly hyperbolic. In the case of the punishment of the Beast-worshipers, they are tormented before the Lamb and the angels of Heaven. The idea that their torment could go on forever is not impossible. We cannot apply our experience about the finitude of earthly fires to this unearthly realm. We cannot rule out the claim that it is an eternal torment as simple hyperbole. What reason do we have to think it is hyperbolic?

Yes, there is imagery here. I don't deny that, and have never denied it. Jesus might not look like a Lamb when He sees the Beast-worshipers tormented. The torment might not be flames. The evidence of the torment might not be an eternal cloud of smoke. And as I already indicated. The worshipers of the Beast might not actually be worshippers of a multi-headed leopardlike animal that came up out of the sea. They are probably believers of any false religion (even a religion like Atheism that don't involve explicit worship of anything).

But, again, that doesn't mean we can say anything we like here. Can we say the Lamb isn't Christ? Can we say that the passage is not describing punishment? Can we say that it is Christians who are being tormented? Can we say that the passage describes Christians being rewarded?

Ronnie: "I never interpreted the passage."

Then why did you get mad at me for ignoring the arguments you were making about this passage? Those arguments weren't interpretive in nature? Isn't the claim, for example, that the eternal plume of smoke is hyperbole an interpretive claim? I'm confused (as usual).

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