Question:

One of the seeming "contradictions" I want to give an answer to is found in these two Scriptures:

  • "Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power" (II Thessalonians 1:9).
  • "Then a third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, “If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives his mark on his forehead or on his hand, he himself shall also drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out full strength into the cup of His indignation. He shall 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 ascends forever and ever; and they have no rest day or night, who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name” (Revelation 14:9-11).

So Thessalonians says that those will be punished away from the presence of the Lord, but Revelation says it will be in the presence of the Lamb.

I plan on explaining the fact that Revelation uses symbolic and figurative language (I believe Revelation 1:1 puts this plainly by using the word "signified"), and that this Scripture is not to be taken as literally meaning Jesus will be present to watch eternal torment. I think also that the passage in chapter 14 is a contrast from Revelation 13 where it shows that those who would not worship the beast and receive the mark would be persecuted or killed (Revelation 13:15-17). Therefore, the purpose of this passage is just to show that to be punished by God is a much greater punishment, and saying it will be in the presence of the Lamb is to emphasize the humiliation that would take place.

However, I've noticed you do very well explaining passages like this, and I was wondering if you could give me some input on how to best explain these two passages. It really would be greatly appreciated.

Take care, and thanks again.


Answer:

What is missing is the time frame.

Revelation 14 emphasizes that those punished will know who conquered them. It is the same concept presented in the parable of the minas, "But bring here those enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, and slay them before me" (Luke 19:27). Those sent to hell will appear before Jesus will know that the one they rejected has now rejected them. "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad" (II Corinthians 5:10).

II Thessalonians emphasizes the finality of the judgment. The wicked will be sent away from the Lord, having only memories of his power and glory. There will be no appeal. There will be no one to listen to their prayers. The punishment is eternal because there is no way out. Again, this is similar to Jesus' warning to those who seek to substitute their own ways and call them the Lord's, "And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!" (Matthew 7:23; See also: Matthew 22:13; 25:41; Luke 13:27).

Both statements can be true. Jesus punishes the wicked in his presence and then they are cast away from his presence for eternity.