Torment – definition
Traditional Legal Model – Torment will, in the end, be applied by God to the lost as punishment for unrepentant and unpaid-for sin. In some belief systems, that torment (in flames) is eternal.
Biblical Healing Model – Torment comes as a natural consequence of sin. Torment in the final judgment will be of the mental sort coming from the conscience. There is no eternal torment.
Webster’s 1828 dictionary
1. Extreme pain; anguish; the utmost degree of misery, either of body or mind.)
2. That which gives pain, vexation or misery.
Torment covers a great range from merely bothersome to extreme pain. Modern dictionaries are similar. Torment can be physical or mental/emotional.
Differences between the two models are not so much about the meaning of torment as it is about the source of it. Let’s examine scripture to determine the extent to which God might be involved in the torment people suffer.
Torment Can Refer to Physical Pain
“And she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered.” (Rev 12:2)
“Pained,” in that verse, is from the same Greek word usually translated as “tormented.” Of course, there is also symbolic significance to that verse.
Is Physical Torment Such as Blindness from God?
Torment is associated with a variety of conditions:
“And his fame went throughout all Syria: and they brought unto him all sick people that were taken with divers diseases and torments, and those which were possessed with devils, and those which were lunatick, and those that had the palsy; and he healed them.” (Matt 4:24)
Of the five categories, the nature of “torments” is possibly the least obvious.
Would it make sense that Jesus would heal or take away any of those conditions if they were purposely put there by God? Wouldn’t that be undoing His Father’s work? That has been suggested as in this verse:
“And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth. And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind? Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.” (John 9:1-3)
Does that sound like his blindness was planned for a purpose?
The word “that” is from the Greek “hina” (G2443). It often expresses purpose. If it meant that in this case, it could say:
“he was born blind so that the works of God could be manifest”
“he was born blind in order for the works of God to be manifest”
Then it could only have been God Who arranged for him to be born blind. But “hina” can also express result as in these examples:
“For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.” (Gal 5:17)
“But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief.” (1 Thess 5:4)
John 9:3 could be paraphrased like this:
“Jesus answered, neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but as a result of his suffering the works of God will be made manifest in him.” (John 9:3)
We need to ask: “is it the work of God to inflict suffering or to relieve it? God does not send disease or cause people to be possessed or lunatic or paralyzed. Torment is not quite so obvious. Let’s look at some verses about torment.
Torment Before the Time
“And, behold, they [the devils] cried out, saying, What have we to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God? art thou come hither to torment us before the time?” (Matt 8:29)
The suggestion is that Jesus would torment them. What is “the time” that is referred to? It must be a time when devils (evil angels) will be tormented.
“Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:” (Matt 25:41)
“And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever.” (Rev 20:10)
We will get into the detail of those verses in a bit but the question now is simply: why does it seem like the torment is originating from God when to torment is against His character? To answer that we need to determine the correct meaning of the word torment.
Meaning of “Torment”
Here is the definition for the Greek word most often translated as “torment.”
928 βασανίζω basanizo bas-an-id’-zo
from 931; v
AV-torment 8, pain 1, toss 1, vex 1, toil 1; 12
1) to test (metals) by the touchstone, which is a black siliceous stone used to test the purity of gold or silver by the colour of the streak produced on it by rubbing it with either metal
2) to question by applying torture
3) to torture
4) to vex with grievous pains (of body or mind), to torment
5) to be harassed, distressed
5a) of those who at sea are struggling with a head wind
So, applied to people, it is a testing to see what one is made of; an examination of quality or character. It is also used in the sense of to torment or to vex the mind:
“(For that righteous man [Lot] dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds;)” (2 Peter 2:8)
The people of Sodom were not tormenting Lot physically. It was the “… seeing and hearing …their unlawful deeds” that vexed him – it would have been a mental vexation.
Connected to the Conscience
I am going to suggest that, in most of its uses, the torment is torment of the conscience. The conscience reveals something about us – to ourselves.
This verse relates what Stephen said after pointing out the sins of those who were persecuting him:
“When they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth.” (Acts 7:54)
What were the “these things” that caused that reaction? It was theirs sins that Stephen listed in the previous verses especially:
“Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye. Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain them which shewed before of the coming of the Just One; of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers: Who have received the law by the disposition of angels, and have not kept it.” (Acts 7:51-53)
“Cut to the heart” sounds like affliction or torment of heart, mind or conscience. That would have stirred their consciences and made them aware of their condition. In reaction to Stephen tormenting their consciences, they were gnashing their teeth. There will be “gnashing of teeth” in the lake of fire as well.
“The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.” (Matt 13:41-42)
Rocks Fall on Us
Revelation 6 mentions the Second Coming and describes the reaction of people who are not happy to see Jesus coming:
“And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb:” (Rev 6:16)
They will be more afraid of seeing the face of the Lamb (Who is as harmless as a baby sheep!) than of being crushed by rocks. It shows they are experiencing something worse than physical pain. Still in the scenario of the Second Coming or just before:
“And they that dwell upon the earth shall rejoice over them, and make merry, and shall send gifts one to another; because these two prophets tormented (G928) them that dwelt on the earth.” (Rev 11:10)
Do you think that is speaking of God’s prophets physically tormenting people that live on earth? This is interesting:
“And to them it was given that they should not kill them, but that they should be tormented five months: and their torment (G929) was as the torment (G929) of a scorpion, when he striketh a man.” (Rev 9:5)
The sting of a scorpion seems similar to the sting of a hornet or being pricked to the heart. Both are related to the conscience.
The Lake of Fire
Here is a verse we saw earlier that sounds like something that could only be done by God:
“And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented (G928) day and night for ever and ever.” (Rev 20:10)
This is said of those who take the mark of the beast:
“The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and 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 ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name.” (Rev 14:10-11)
Here is the same passage from The Remedy New Testament:
“they will reap the full fury of unremedied sin when God no longer shields them from their destructive choice. They will experience immeasurable torment of mind and burning anguish of heart when they stand in God’s fiery presence and are bathed in unquenchable fire of truth and love–all in the very presence of Jesus and the holy angels. The memory of their suffering and the lesson of their self-destructive choice will never be forgotten throughout all eternity. There will be no peace of mind–day or night–for those who prefer the methods of the beast and model after him, or for any who choose to mark themselves as followers of the beast.” (Rev 14:10-11, The Remedy New Testament) (http://comeandreason.com/rem/)
A correct understanding of the meaning of “fire” and “brimstone” is important. (Get notice of definitions to be posted soon)
“For Ever and Ever”
Those cast into the Lake of Fire are said to be tormented “for ever and ever.” Another term for that is “eternal fire” as in:
“Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.” (Jude 7)
That fire was not literally eternal; those cities are not still burning today. So, what does “eternal” or “for ever and ever” mean? It describes a continuous process the duration of which is determined by the context. You can’t put out an unquenchable fire but it will eventually go out on its own. We all know that when the fuel is used up a fire goes out. The fire is not eternal but its effects are.
The “no rest” refers to “no peace of mind” as in the Remedy New Testament version above.
The “Lake of Fire” is a term for the experience of the final judgment at the end of the millennium, a judgment in which, as the expression goes, “all the evidence is on the table.” It is described in the booklet The Lake of Fire and the Second Death.
Torment is referred to in parables that can easily be misunderstood unless that word is correctly understood. The Rich Man and Lazarus (Luke 16) and the Unforgiving Servant (Matt 18) are two examples. (Get notice of when pages are posted)
How to Avoid Torment
It helps to understand that torment can come in two types.
“And saying, Lord, my servant lieth at home sick of the palsy, grievously tormented.” (Matt 8:6)
What was wrong with this servant? Notice the servant was both “sick of the palsy” (“palsy” in Greek is “paralutikos” or paralysis) and “tormented.” What did Jesus say to the paralytic who was let down through the roof?
When Jesus saw their faith, he said unto the sick of the palsy, Son, thy sins be forgiven thee.” (Mark 2:5)
Why did He say “thy sins be forgiven” rather than “your paralysis be healed”? Perhaps the torment he was suffering was primarily the torment of a guilty conscience. Torment is connected with fear and the Bible gives the antidote for that:
“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment (H2851). He that feareth is not made perfect in love. (1 John 4:18)
We know that fear does not come from God:
“For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” (1 Tim 1:7)
To avoid torment at least of the mental/spiritual kind maintain a clear conscience.
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