This chapter deals with life after death. Some people will attain
Heaven; others are sent to Hell, which is here
described as the lake which burns with fire and brimstone (sulfur). In his
commentary on this verse, Matthew
Henry refers to the horrors of Hell as involving the: "...far greater terrors and agonies of eternal death..."
Its victims will: "...die
and [continue] to be always dying." 1
Verse 8 describes various
groups who will automatically be relegated to Hell. In a typical biblical
display of religious intolerance, the verse
defines one group of victims as consisting of "unbelievers" --
apparently those who follow a non-Christian religion, or no religion at all.
This would involved more than two thirds of the human race.
How the verse is translated:
There is no consistency in the translations of this verse, as they appear in various English versions
of the Bible. The sixth group which is destined for Hell has been identified as:
21st century King James Version: "sorcerers"
American Standard Version: "sorcerers"
An American Translation: those who "practice witchcraft"
The Answer (New Century Version): those "who do evil magic"
Amplified Bible: "practicers of magic arts"
Authentic New Testament: "sorcerers"
Darby Translation: "sorcerers"
Good News Version: "those who practice magic"
James Moffatt Translation: "sorcerers"
Jerusalem Bible: "fortune tellers"
King James Version: "sorcerers"
Living Bible: "those conversing with demons"
Modern Language Bible: "those practicing magic arts"
New American Bible: "sorcerers"
New American Standard Bible: "sorcerers"
New English Bible "sorcerers"
New International Version: "those who practice magical arts"
New Living Translation: "those who practice witchcraft"
New Revised Standard Version: "sorcerers"
New Testament & Psalms: An Inclusive Version: "sorcerers"
New World Translation: "those practicing spiritism"
Phillips Modern English "those trafficking...in sorcery"
The Promise: (Contemporary English Version): "uses witchcraft"
Rheims New Testament: ""sorcerers"
Revised Standard Version: "sorcerers"
Revised English Bible: "sorcerers"
Today's English Version "those who practice magic"
Today's New International Version: "those who practice magic arts"
Tyndale's New Testament: "sorcerers"
World English Bible: "sorcerers" The translation has a footnote:
"The word for 'sorcerers' here also includes users of potions and drugs."
Young's Literal Translation: "sorcerers"
In the 31 translations studied, the original Greek has been translated as:
Sorcerers, or those practicing evil magic: 19 times. These are people who
engage in black magic to harm or murder others.
Those who practicing magic: 6 times. This would presumably include people
who either try to hurt or heal others through spells, incantations, etc. It is
unclear whether this would cover Christian clergy who conduct healing
Witches: 3 times. This presumably includes people performing at
least one of the
18 different practices that have been referred to as "witchcraft."
It is not clear to which of the 18 practices the passage refers.
Fortune tellers: once. Presumably this would include tea-leaf
readers, palm readers, preparers of horoscopes, people who predict the weather
based on the actions of a groundhog, or the diameter of caterpillars, etc.
The latter two categories may include channeling by New Age practitioners.
It would seem that this verse has traditionally been translated incompetently. It
appears that the translators simply selected their favorite evil, and
inserted it into the text. This is seen throughout many translations of the
Bible, particularly with passages that refer either to homosexuality,
poisoning, or evil sorcery.
Some commentaries on Revelations 21:8:
Clarke's Commentary: defines "sorcerers" as "Persons who,
by drugs, philtres, fumigations, &c., pretend to produce supernatural
effects, chiefly by spiritual agency." This would appear to refer to
persons performing magic. 2
John Gill's Exposition of the Bible defines sorcerers very
broadly. He includes: "conjurers, dealers with familiar spirits,
necromancers, and such as use the magic art...and poisoners of kings and
princes; whoredoms and witchcrafts..." (Bigoted statements against
Roman Catholics deleted). 3 It is unclear how he can
derive so many varied activities from a single Greek word.
Wesley Notes comments "...whoremongers, and sorcerers, and
idolaters - These three sins generally went together; their part is in
the lake" of fire. 4
What does the original Greek text imply?
The critical word here is "pharmakeus"
pronounced <far-mak-yoos'>. It is derived from "pharmakon,"
which means a drug.
It is commonly believed to have two meanings:
A person who uses magical potions for to poison others.
A person who engaged in black magick to harm others -- a sorcerer.
A few commentators suggest a third meaning:
A person who goes around spreading dissention - poisoning people's minds.
Of all of the translations, the word "sorcerer" is probably the best.
Unfortunately, while this term usually refers to a person who casts
evil spells to harm others, it is occasionally used to refer to any spell caster, whether
the intent is to harm or to heal. So the optimum translation would probably be "evil
Since the Wiccan Rede specifically prohibits Wiccans from harming,
dominating, manipulating or controlling others, Wiccans could in no way be
covered by Revelation 21:8.