Month 4:6, Week 1:5 (Chamashee/Teruah), Year:Day 5936:095 AM|
7 Sabbaths + Omer Count Day #28
Gregorian Calendar: Monday 25 June 2012
Revealing Yahweh's True Touchstone
The way this passage of Scripture reads in practically every English translation I know we are being painted a picture of millions of people who are being tortured in front of Yah'shua (Jesus) and the malakim (angels) worlds without end. Beloved of 'hellfire and damnation' preachers, and used by the Catholic Church and others as a justification to torture 'heretics' over the centuries, this is one of those mutilated passages of scriptures that turn otherwise believing souls into atheists. The way this passage is worded, it is more worthy of the Borgias or the Inquisition than of our Heavenly Father.
"...he himself shall also drink of the wine of the wrath of Elohim (God), which is poured out full strength into the cup of His indignation. He shall be tormented (Gk. basanizo) with fire and brimstone in the presence of the qodesh malakim (holy angels) and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment (Gk. basanizo) ascends forever and ever (lit. 'for the eons of eons'); and they have no rest day or night, who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name" (Rev.14:10–11, NKJV).
Don't misunderstand me. I absolutely believe in the Justice of Yahweh. I absolutely believe that Yahweh is rightly angered by our rebellion and I absolutely believe that He is entitled to punish the wicked. But I do not believe that our Father is a mediaeval torturer and sadist, nor do I believe this passage is translated correctly, and I will tell you why.
The words translated "tormented" and "torment" come from the Greek word basanizo meaning "to test by rubbing on the touchstone", a well known metalurgist's device for ascertaining the purity of gold and silver. This was a black siliceous stone (basanos) that produduced a coloured streak when rubbed by either of these two precious metals. By comparing this streak with known grades of gold and silver, the purity of the sample could be accurately ascertained .
One of the reasons we have been so deceived as to the actual meaning of some of the more controversial passages of Scripture such as this one is because too many of us have regarded authorities such as Strong's Concordance as infallible scripture. Go to a modern Strong's and you'll find Greek #928 basanizo translated as 'torture', 'pain', 'toil', 'torment', 'toss', 'vex' . Other similarly fundamentalist Protestant-influenced versions of Strong's say much the same thing: 'torture', 'tormented', 'pain', 'straining', 'torment', 'tormented' . So why the confusion?
The answer is, pure and simple, doctrinal bias and tradition. Yes, basanizo can mean what the 'hellfire and brimstone' preachers claim it means but to claim that this is all it can mean - or even that this is it's primary meaning, or that it has always meant this - is plain dishonesty or rotten scholarship. Looking at today's versions of Strong's you'd never know that basanizo was a gold- and silversmith's and merchant's touchstone. And given how Yahweh uses these precious metals and their refinement throughout scripture as a symbol of spiritual purification, we dare not misinterpret this word wrongly.
There are some good scholarly works  that conclusively prove that the original word orginally denoted the calling of the 'Inspector of Coins' and is related to the Hebrew root word meaning "to test". Only later historically did the word come to denote 'torture' or 'torment' much as the word 'gay' has latterly come to refer to a homosexual and not just to a state of light happiness. Words evolve in meaning so it is important to know when these usage changes took place. But even so the original meaning of basanizo as a Touchstone never changed no more than the original meaning of the word 'gay' has changed today. There is no evidence anywhere that this word was used to mean 'torment' or 'torture' BEFORE THE THIRD CENTURY AD, long after the Book of Revelation was written and the Bible canon finally established.
What, then, are Yah'shua (Jesus) and the malakim doing to these people who took the mark of the beast upon themselves? Were they torturing them? No. They are testing them.
So how did this change of meaning come about? Dennis Caldwell explains:
So let's be clear - when the Apostle John penned the Book of Revelation and the Johannine epistles (the last written books of the New Testament) the word basanizo only meant a "touchstone" but never "torment". Why, then, have the publishers of Strong's perpetuated this lie?
"The change in meaning is best explained if we begin with the object of treatment. If we put men instead of metal or a coin, the stone of testing become[s] torture or the rack. The metal which has survived the testing stone is subjected to harsher treatment. Man is in the same position when severely tested by torture. In the testing of metal an essential role was played by the thought of testing and proving genuineness. The rack is a means of showing the true state of affairs. In its proper sense it is a means of testing and proving, though also of punishment. Finally, even this special meaning was weakened and only the general element of torment remained" .
Because some kinds of religion are a profitable industry. And there is nothing quite like fear to make converts. Scaring people into Heaven has been the modus operandi of Catholics, Protestants and others for a very long time but it is not Yahweh's way. Yes, there is much to fear in rejecting Yahweh. Yes, there is a fearful judgment for those who rebel. But Yahweh is not a sadist - He does not torture - and all His just punishment is ultimately remedial or corrective.
What is the "fire" and "brimstone" about, then? What exactly are these and how does Yahweh use them to test or prove a man's genuineness or falsehood?
I would like to invite you to first of all see my three-part sermon series, The Fire of Yahweh, that comprensively explains what this fire is for and how it was represented symbolically in the Mishkan or Tabernacle. One thing I cal tell you is that this esh or fire does not represent endless, mindless, heartless 'torture' or 'torment' but purification. Can it be painful? Absolutely! But it is purposeful and redemptive.
One of my valued possessions is The Hebrew-Greek Key Study Bible (King James Version) compiled and edited by Dr.Spiros Zodhiates containing extensive lexical aids to both Old and New Testaments as well as an invauable Hebrew and Chaldee Dictionary and Greek Dictionary of the New Testament. He writes, of biblical "fire":
In other words, everybody will be purified, painful though it will be, in accordance with Yahweh's ultimate design to save everyone - not equally (as many Universalists falsely teach) but to different degrees of glory - please see my extensive series of devotionals on this subject entitled, Universal Graded Salvation.
"FIRE G4442(C) Of evils, calamities, trials which purify the faith in hearts of Christians, as fire tries and purifies the precious metals (cf. Mark 9:49; 1 Pet. 1:7; Rev.3:18; Sept.: Is.10:17). In 1 Cor.3:10–15, the works of men are represented as a building of which only the inflammable parts ("gold, silver, precious stones") can withstand fire; the worker (builder) "himself shall be saved; yet so as by fireE," means that he will escape from the fire which destroys those of his works which are "wood, hay, [and] stubble." Fire is used in a proverbial expression, "out of the fire," implying "with difficulty," "scarcely" (Jude 1:23)" .
If Yahweh's fire is not for torturing the damned, what then of "brimstone"?
"BRIMSTONE G2303 – Revelation 14:10 - Brimstone. Commonly taken as the neuter of divine; that is, divine incense, since burning brimstone was regarded as having power to purify and avert contagion" .
Are we surprised to find everything neatly fitting together and harmonising? Once again, we are given to clearly understand that the "fire and brimstone" symbolise the purifying energy or life of Yahweh's ahavah (love) which, though doubtless excruciatingly painful to the unsaved sinner are nonetheless punative only within the context of redemption. Everyone is saved in the end, but not everyone receives the same reward.
None of this is to deny the existence of a real hell (as many Messianics, all Jehovah's Witnesses, all Christadelphians and all Seventh-Day Adventists do because they have been sold the soul-sleeping lie), a place of intense suffering where no one in their right mind would want to be, but it is to deny the false characterisation of Elohim (God) as some kind of sado-masochist viewing the unsaved in some ghastly spectacle for all eternity.
The truth is, everyone is saved in the end, but not everyone is saved to the same glory. Otherwise what did Paul mean when he told Timothy:
This is a most peculiar statement if everyone us not to be saved but it makes sense if everyone is saved especially to those with emunah (faith). Why? Because there is considerable advantage to them. First, they won't have to go through that painful purifying fire for goodness knows how long, and second, because they can look forward to a glory and rewards which those who refused Messiah will never receive. So they are 'special' which is why salvation is "especially [for] those who believe".
"We trust in the living Elohim (God), who is the Saviour (Deliverer) of all men, especially of those who believe (trust)" (1 Tim 4:10, NKJV).
Which brings us to the last contentious translation of the Greek words we traditionally and erroneously render into English as "forever" and "everlasting". But does the text actually say this? The answer is no. It actually says that this purification is aeon- or age-long, that is, for a fixed period of time, even if this may seem like eternity to those who are thus undergoing this painful purification. For a full examination of this important subject, please see my sermon, The Fire of Yahweh: Part 2: Olam, Aeons and Eternity. Also see Universal Graded Salvation: Important Questions Answered
The issue at stake here is the character of Elohim (God) - the kind of Person that He is. For years I simply 'accepted' the claim that He tormented sinners for eternity 'because the Scriptures said so'. My lev (heart) rebelled at the thought but I was committed to being true and faithful to the Davar (Word) even though I did not understand it properly for so many years. I had met the living Messiah Yah'shua (Jesus) so there was no question of ever denying Him - I had tasted of His ahavah (love) and I knew there was nothing greater.
Today my lev (heart) and mind are echad (one) - I walked by emunah (faith) until I obtained the knowledge needed to straighten out a terrible error that has scared people away from the Kingdom because of the injustice of the false teaching about eternal torment and supposedly brought people into the Kingdom by fear when the only door is ahavah (love). The witness of Sctripture is that we are drawn by His ahavah (love) - we are not driven by the devil's pitchfork.
The original readers of both the Hebraic and Greek texts would have clearly understood today's passage to mean that those who rejected Messiah in mortality would be subjected to a fixed period of aonian or age-lasting testing (not eternal torment) for their purification so that everything not of Yahweh would be burned out. They would have understood that this period of time in hell was not an attractive alternative to accepting Yah'shua (Jesus) but a very painful and terrifying one. The evil in the lev (heart) of all men will be burned out by this most excruciatingly painful but ultimately redemptive piece of spiritual surgery so that all men everywhere are ultimately without evil but not with the same degree of light (1 Cor.3:10-15). Indeed for the unsaved the kingdom that they inherit is as dim as the distant stars unlike that of the blazing glory of the sun for the saved obedient or the glory of the moon for the saved lawless believers. They will not be the same people they were when they died after they have been through this purification. And we can be sure that in the end Yah'shua (Jesus) will not have lost a single soul (Lk.15:1-32) - all with come to Him and be gathered into one of the grades of His Kingdom.
What a blow to Satan - he doesn't win a thing, his defeat is total. Yah'shua's (Jesus's) ahavah (love) conquers all in complete fairness and justice! .
 Ephesians Four Group, Greek Dictionary; also W.Vine, & F.Bruce, Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, (Revell, Old Tappan NJ: 1981), Vol.2 p.325
 J.Strong, The New Strong’s Dictionary of Hebrew and Greek Words (Thomas Nelson, Nashville: 1997)
 R.L.Thomas, New American Standard Hebrew-Aramaic and Greek Dictionaries (Foundation Publications, Inc., Anaheim: 1988), updated edition
 Such as G. Kittel, G. W. Bromiley & G. Friedrich, eds., Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Vol. 1 of 10: (Grand Rapids, MI: 1964), pp.561–562
 Dennis Caldwell, A Short Word Study on 'Torment'
 In the Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament (AMG Publishers, Chattanooga, TN: 2000)
 M.R.Vincent, Word Studies in the New Testament, Revelation 14:10 (Logos Research Systems, Bellingham, WA: 2002)
 1 Cor.15:22,28; Eph.1:10,23; 2:10-11; 4:10; Col.1:20; 1 Tim.2:6
Comments from Readers
 "Excellent analysis - very interesting" (DH, USA, 24 January 2013)
Vision of the Hellfire & Damnation Preachers
Tuesday 22 January 2013
Early in the morning of the 10th day of the 11th month of the year 5936 I saw a vision of a man and a woman (a husband-and-wife team) who had come to my door seeking admission to my home. The moment I opened my door I knew instantly, without a word being said by them, that they were about to start preaching about hell and that they were hellfire-and-damnation ministers who believed in eternal torment.
As I looked closely at the man I saw that his ears were entirely disfigured, and puffed up like a seasoned boxer's ears, that suggest he enjoyed controversy and dispute. They were so swollen, in fact, as to be unrecognisable as ears. There was a slit in this mass of swollen tissue, not very wide, and within the part of the inner ear that I could see, there was a red glow. The ears seemed to be 'designed' so as to only be able to receive a very limited and specific input, being 'deaf' to all else. I could see at once that the man enjoyed being provocative and controversial and that any discussion with him would be futile, so I rejected their approach and would not let them into my home. Then the vision closed.
Though I had always theoretically known that there was a 'spirit' behind certain kinds of hellfire-and-damnation preaching - specifically the kind that believes sinners will be forever tortured - I did not appreciate the effect of this pernicious doctrine on the spiritual hearing of those enraptured by it and who made a great issue of frightening people into the Kingdom of Heaven by its threatening nature, until I saw this graphic representation. For the demonic presence was not so much in the mind as in the hearing, there rendering the listener incapable of hearing the emet (truth) on this subject of hell without direct spiritual intervention removing the demonic obstruction.