J. David Woodington: Fire as an Eschatological Motif of Judgment

J. David Woodington, “Crafting the Eschaton: The Second Death and the Lake of Fire in Revelation,” Journal for the Study of the New Testament, vol 41 no 4 (2019), 508.

The need to clarify what type of punishment the second death entails explains why John might have decided to identify this concept with a place of fiery torture, but it does not account for his unparalleled choice of a ‘lake’ (λίμνη) of fire specifically. This issue has continually puzzled scholars. To be sure, John’s lake of fire contains many classical elements. Fire is common in eschatological scenes of judgment and punishment in both Jewish literature (e.g., 1 En. 10.6; 48.9; 90.24-27; Sib. Or. 3.53-56) and the NT (e.g., Mt. 13.50; 25.41; Mk 9.43). Furthermore, sulfur often appears alongside the fire just as it does in the lake of Revelation (e.g., Ps. 11.6; Isa. 30.33; Ezek. 38.22; 1 En. 67.6-7; Lk. 17.29-30), likely due to the influence of the story of Sodom and Gomorrah’s destruction by ‘sulfur and fire from the Lord out of heaven’ (Gen. 19.24; cf. Luke 17.29; 3 Macc. 2.5).

1 thought on “J. David Woodington: Fire as an Eschatological Motif of Judgment

  1. Isaiah 34 has this imagery, speaking of the destruction of Edom:

    “And the streams of Edom shall be turned into pitch,
    and her soil into sulfur;
    her land shall become burning pitch.
    Night and day it shall not be quenched;
    its smoke shall go up forever.”

    It’s not a lake, but it does mention the bodies of water being turned into flames.

    Liked by 1 person

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