The Purifying Flames of Hell
That “hellfire” is purifying is evident considering the following verses:
“And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out: it is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire: Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. For every one shall be salted with fire, and every sacrifice shall be salted with salt.” Mark 9:47-49
Here we see that “every one” shall be salted with unquenchable fire. To be “salted with fire” means, among other things, to be tested and tried and purified.
“Whose fan [is] in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and will gather the wheat into his garner; but the chaff he will burn with fire unquenchable.” Luke 3:17
Here we read that the unquenchable fire is the agent by which Christ purges His people. It is hellfire which Christ came to baptize us with. As with any refining process, this purging is accomplished via destruction of that in us which is impure, i.e. the chaff.
It is of interest to note that both the baptismal fire of Christ and His shed blood are said to purge us, evidence that the second death is none but the death of the second Adam:
“How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” Hebrews 9:14
That the lake of fire purifies sinners via destroying sin is evident when one takes into account the lexical range of the Greek words theion (sulfur/brimstone) and basanizos (torment) as well as considering the imagery of divine fire which, throughout the Bible, has purificatory connotations (see Psalms 12:6; Zechariah 13:9; Malachi 3:2; and Matthew 3:12).
“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…” Revelation 14:10
Thayer's Lexicon lists the following as the primary meaning of the verb, basanizos:"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"
As the primary meaning of noun, theion Thayer's gives this: "divine incense, because burning brimstone was regarded as having power to purify, and to ward off disease"
Friberg's Analytical Lexicon confirms this and states that theion was "anciently regarded as divine incense to purify and prevent contagion."
E.W. Bullinger defined theion as, "fire from heaven, (places touched by lightening were called "theia," as lightening leaves a sulphurous smell, and sulphur was used in heathen purification, it got the name of "theion.")
This definition is corraborated by the Liddell and Scott Greek-English Lexicon which defines the verb theioo thus:
"to hallow, to make divine, or to dedicate to a god"
This makes sense considering that theion is the neuter singular of the adjective theios, which means "divine." Theios is, of course, derived from theos, the word for 'God' or 'gods'.
Now, etymology alone is not sufficient in determining the way a word is used in any given context, but when one couples these lexical facts with the contextual imagery of divine fire, one is reminded of the common Biblical attestation that God is a purifying fire. It is evident, then, that to be “tormented with fire and brimstone” is to be tried and purified by divine fire. Indeed, this is a central theme in the Book of Revelation:
“I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and [that] the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see.” Revelation 3:18
“And the building of the wall of it was [of] jasper: and the city [was] pure gold, like unto clear glass. And the foundations of the wall of the city [were] garnished with all manner of precious stones.” Revelation 12:18,19
The New City of God has its analog in the Garden of Eden, for both refer to places of purity wherein God resides, and both are places that are fortified by divine fire which prevents sinful man from entering. The only way to return to Paradise is to be purified by fire. That is to say, one must die with Christ by being baptized by the Holy Spirit and fire; The old man must be slain by the flaming swords of the Cherubim in order for the new man to be raised and be restored.
Now, in order to raised into the newness of Christ’s life, one must first die to their sinful Adamic nature (Mark 10:21; Romans 6:4; 1 Corinthians 15:36). This death is a much different kind of death than Adamic death. The Cross is, in fact, the undoing of the sin and death that is wrought in is through Adam (Ephesians 2:16; 2 Timothy 1:10). Seeing that sin and death are destroyed in the lake of fire (Revelation 20:!4), it follows that to die the second death is to die the death of the second Adam.