Then another angel, a third, followed them, saying in a mighty voice,

“If anyone fawns and worships the dangerous creature and its image, and takes on a graven etching upon their forehead and/or upon their hand, then that one will drink out of the wine of the wrath of God that having been mingled undiluted in the cup of God’s fury, and will be tortured in fire and brimstone before the presence of holy angels and before the presence of the Lamb.

“And the smoke of their torment rises up into ages of ages, and they have no rest day and night, the ones fawning in worship of the beast and its image, also if anyone takes on the graven etching of its name.

“Here is the patient endurance of the holy ones, the ones keeping the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus.”

Revelation 14:9-12
The Third Angel and the Ban to Adore the Beast | By Unknown – illuminator – 6QFjXlOC63piDA at Google Cultural Institute maximum zoom level, Public Domain

The final sentence in this text intrigues me. How will God’s judgment on those who ally with the dangerous creature and its image require the patient endurance of the holy ones—ὁ ἅγιος | ho hagios, John’s appellation for believers? Will this cause great grief among Jesus’s followers? Will their hearts be wrenched?

Or rather, is John calling believers to remain faithful and stand obdurate against the beast’s attempts to subjugate them?


This ends up being a blanket condemnation of the Roman church, promising eternal damnation to all those who remain members of it. Having first drunk of Babylon’s cup—God’s passion mixed with Babylon’s passions—now they will drink undiluted wrath.

The fire and brimstone may be literal, or may be a sense of remorse that will last for all eternity.


Though this might be a depiction of hell, there are alternate views. Possibly, this represents the complete and final destruction of Babylon—whether that is Jerusalem, or Rome.

Is It Hell?

The wine might be in reference to giving an herbal anesthetic to crucified prisoners,

“And they offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not take it.”

Jesus on the cross, Mark 15:23 (NRSV)

The rising smoke may be a visual reference to the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, when Abraham

“… looked down toward Sodom and Gomorrah and toward all the land of the plain and saw the smoke of the land going up like the smoke of a furnace.”

Genesis 19:28 (NRSV)
Le sommeil des justes | By PMRMaeyaert – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

Isaiah used this same imagery in his oracle about God’s judgment on Edom—notice the similarity in phrases:

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.
From generation to generation it shall lie waste;
    no one shall pass through it forever and ever.

Isaiah 34:9-10 (NRSV, italics mine)

Jude also spoke of Sodom and Gomorrah’s eternal judgement.

“Likewise, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which, in the same manner as they, indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural lust, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.”

Jude 1:7 (NRSV, emphasis mine)

In each of these instances, the focus is not on people being tortured for all eternity in hell, but rather the permanent and literal destruction of a physical place and all that place meant. Once gone, it is entirely gone, and its corruption will no longer harm others.

Eternity for Eternity

No Rest Day and Night may be acting as a counterbalance. In God’s heavenly throne room, which is also the true tabernacle upon which the earthly tabernacle (and later temples) were fashioned after, the four living creatures continually praise and honor God.

“Furthermore, the four living-creatures each one of them having six wings, and each round about and within being full of eyes―and they have no rest day and night saying, “Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God, the Almighty-Omnipotent, the One [Who] was, and the One [Who] is, and the One coming.”

“And now, whenever the beasts will give glory and honor and thanksgiving to the One sitting upon the throne, the One living into the ages of the ages.”

Revelation 4:8-9

This is a scene of beautific beauty, where all those who love God are together in harmony, singing in worship.

Correspondingly, those who have thrown their lot in with the dragon and its creatures – so much so, they have permanently marked their body in a highly visible way to indicate their dark allegiance – will also remained linked to the beast forever. But this experience will be the complete opposite of the heavenly experience John observed previously.

In heaven there is ineffable joy, here there is unspeakable agony.

In heaven, the rainbow light of God radiates outward, illuminating all with an ethereal glow. Here, faces will be lit with fire and burning sulfur.

In heaven, the music of lyres and harps and the song of myriad rapturous voices fill the air. Here, if there is sound at all, it will be filled with grief and anguish.

In heaven, the fragrant billows of prayer rise up to God from the altar of incense before God’s throne. Here, it will be the noxious fumes of burning Babylon.


There are two destinies, and they rest upon who one worships.

Heavenly Destiny

The second angel, the evangelist, proclaimed the eternal Gospel “Reverence God and give glory to God, because the hour of God’s judgment arrived, and fall prostrate in homage of the One having created the heaven and the earth and sea and fountains of waters.”

For those who have kept themselves pure, who have pledged their faith in Christ, the slain Lamb Who is also the Lion, destiny will be standing triumphant with Jesus on Mount Zion.

Hellish Destiny

For those who have etched upon themselves the beast’s mark will have another destiny, one of horrific torment.

It is noted diluting wine was a common practice in antiquity, mixing several parts water with the wine. I remember as a child living in Rome, Italy, my parents always mixed a little wine with my water to kill the microbes. But the cup of God’s wrath would come full strength. Judgment will come untinctured by mercy.

Apokalipsis trekhtolkoviy (1909) 42 – O tretiem | By AnonymousPublic Domain


Scholars note the strange pairing of a wine “mingled undiluted.” The first word refers to mingling herbs or spices with wine to make it more potent.

  • One part seawater with two parts wine mixed salt with sweet and better preserved the wine.
  • Seawater added to the must during the fermentation process produced a smoother flavor, and increased acidity.
  • Honey improved the flavor of cheaper wines.
  • Myrrh acted as an anesthetic.
  • Lead was added as a sweetener and preservative, and also brought a brilliance to glassware.
  • Ash and incense improved the flavor of the wine.
  • Fresh resin and pitch from pine trees lined the insides of wineskins to make them watertight and naturally mixed with the wine. To this day, there is a Greek wine called “Retsina” which retains this distinctive flavor.
  • Mulsum wine included honey, crushed pepper, saffron, roasted date stones, and charcoal.

The second word, as stated, referred to diluting the strength of the wine with water.

Today, though God’s wrath is being revealed, God also gives grace to all.

“I say to you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven, for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.”

Jesus, Matthew 5:44-45 (NRSV)

But in that day, the cup of God’s passion and wrath would come undiluted.

Eternal Fire

Expositors agree this is one of the strongest supporting passages for the doctrine of hell. But is it a literal description? Perhaps. But also, as one commentator observed, whatever we might grasp in earthly terms must be far more intense in eternity. Whatever John saw and sought to convey, his impression is that it will last forever.

The four perspectives taken from Revelation: Four Views A Parallel Commentary, edited by Steve Gregg

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