Worshiping a God of Judgment
The treading of the winepress further depicts the terror of God’s judgment in the day of his wrath. In biblical times, a winepress would be built of rock or brick. Grapes were placed in an upper trough where they were trampled on by feet, so that the juice flowed down a channel into a lower trough that collected the fluid. It is hard to imagine a more vivid picture of God’s terrible violence in judging his enemies.
Some scholars urge us not to take this imagery literally. Revelation speaks in symbols, after all, so “fire and sulfur” should be taken symbolically. That is surely true, but we still must ask what is being symbolized. Revelation uses the symbols of the dragon and his beasts, the reality of which is actually more deadly: Satan and his antichrist. If the fire and sulfur of hell is a symbol, the reality can only be much worse in hell’s punishment of bodily and spiritual torment.
Moreover, the angel describes the torment of hell as eternal and never-ending: “And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever, and they have no rest, day or night, these worshipers of the beast and its image, and whoever receives the mark of its name” (Rev. 14:11). Some Christians have tried to interpret this and similar statements as describing annihilation, so that the condemned do not suffer eternally but are everlastingly destroyed. The problem is that this view conflicts directly with too many Bible passages. Revelation 20:10 tells of the casting of Satan, together with the beast and the false prophet, into the lake of fire and sulfur, where “they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.” Verse 15 then adds that “if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire,” which teaches that the servants of the beast suffer the same fate as their satanic masters (see also Rev. 21:8).