Jim Carey and the Lake of Fire
Jim Carey is very funny. The Lake of Fire mentioned in the Book of Revelation is not very funny. However, humor can be a great learning tool to expose wrong and nonsensical thinking. Jim Carey starred in a movie called THE MASK, a comedy classic which carries a kernel of a great truth. This truth will help open up and improve our understanding about what exactly the biblical Lake of Fire is, and more importantly, what exactly is “cast into” the Lake of Fire for ALL ETERNITY.
First, let’s look at who or what is cast into the Lake of Fire at the final judgment described in detail in Revelation 20-21. First, 20:10 says the “devil,” along with “the beast and the false prophet,” are the first ones cast into the Lake of Fire, “and shall be tormented day and night forever and ever.” But it doesn’t stop there. “Death” and “Hell” (which was emptied of all its previous inhabitants in verse 13) are both cast into the Lake of Fire in verse 14. Next, in verse 15, those who names are not written in the book of life are cast into the Lake of Fire. Revelation 21:8 further describes these un-named souls as “the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murders, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, SHALL HAVE THEIR PART IN THE LAKE WHICH BURNETH WITH FIRE AND BRIMSTONE: WHICH IS THE SECOND DEATH.”
It seems obvious that who/what gets cast into the Lake of Fire burns forever and never escapes. This is a frightening prospect, particularly considering that those who struggle with fear, unbelief and/or lying “ALL” appear doomed to be cast into the forever flames of the second death. Why frightening? Because who among us doesn’t repeatedly slip on occasion into one or more of these sin-identities of liar, doubter or fearer? The Bible says if you break one commandment, you are guilty of breaking all the Laws of God (James 2:10). The early Church father Tertullian believed that new converts should not receive believer’s baptism until they greatly mature. The reason? Tertullian believed Christians could only be forgiven of one serious sin committed after Baptism before losing their salvation and ending up cast into the Lake of Fire.
But, must we read these Scriptures this way? Does the Holy Spirit bear witness with a hyper-literal interpretation of this passage? Is what is cast into the Lake of Fire the ENTIRE person (body, soul and spirit), or is it possible that only a “PART” (Revelation 21:8) of the sinner’s “BEING” is cast into the flames? Is it possible that God, in the future ages to come, will ultimately be able to “cut off” and “burn away” our sin-identities we have wrongly created for ourselves, our SIN-MASKS in other words?
This is where the Jim Carey movie, THE MASK, comes into play. The movie opens by introducing us to a mild-mannered milquetoast of a man named Stanley Ipkiss (played by Carey). Ipkiss is ashamed and depressed at his own lack of assertiveness and passion. He is sick of failure and disgusted at being such a pushover. He soon stumbles across a green wooden mask washed up on the lakeshore. The mask, unknown to Ipkiss, is inhabited by a demonic entity. When he dons the mask, it vacuum-grafts itself onto Ipkiss’ soul. Both the mask and Ipkiss’ face have now blended. The mask now resembles Carey’s facial features in a cartoonish and exaggerated way. Carey’s face is now green and a caricature of his former self. But, more than this, Ipkiss’ personality has now merged with the demonic entity in the mask, who is called Loki the god of mischief. Ipkiss has now become a supernaturally empowered prankster; an ultra-assertive, ultra-aggressive, ultra-sarcastic, ultra-vengeful, ultra-successful, ultra-violent and ultra-destructive jerk.
Ipkiss ultimately discovers that the mask is a false identity, a pseudo-self, a perjured persona, a fabricated role. What sets him free from the mask’s demonic influence is the realization that he is loved by his girlfriend for who he really is, his “unmasked” self. The movie ends with Ipkiss forcefully casting the mask back into the lake where he found it. Afterward, as a result of his newfound resolve to live “mask-free,” Ipkiss has, in fact, become the man he wanted to be, his best and truest self.
This movie serves as a powerful metaphor. Are WE not all Ipkisses who stumble onto false masks along our respective paths, demonically artificial identities we assume by grafting our hearts and minds to them? Do we not all assume these “masked” roles which are NOT consistent with our core selves? Isn’t this what Paul discusses in Romans 7? There he describes an existence where we end up becoming what we aren’t and we end up doing what we don’t want? “For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now, if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.” Romans 7:19-20.
Actually, the Greek word “hypokrites” is the word translated in the English Bible as “hypocrite.” The word can refer to stage-acting, to role-playing, to fakery, to mask-wearing, to assuming a false identity, to deceit of any kind. Stage actors in ancient Greece literally wore masks on the stage. Jesus warned us against this mask-wearing called “hypocrisy,” calling it “the leaven of the Pharisees” in Luke 12:1. James 3:15-17 suggests that the wisdom from above has NO hypocrisy, while the wisdom from below is HEAVILY hypocritical, in addition to being natural, earthly and demonic.
So, we should now acknowledge that we have all been mask-wearers at various times and places in our lives, and that our masks are not the “real” us but rather are false sin-identities forged (as in criminal forgery) through our interaction with Satanic power. The Devil lays the mask out in front of us to entice us. We, because of our subconscious desire to avoid God, willingly don the masks and become grafted with them to various degrees of intensity. These masks create stronghold states of deception within us toward God which work to keep us oblivious to His powerful presence and loving purposes.
Like the fig leaves Adam and Eve wore to hide their nakedness from God, men wear sin-masks to keep their “real” naked selves covered and hidden from God. The ugly truth is that there is something rotten in our soul at a subconscious level that wants to ignore and avoid God. Satan helps us here by providing demonically empowered masks to blind and deform our hearts and minds. Like the disturbed teenager who self-mutilates by knife cuts into the flesh, we self-mutilate our soul created in the image of God by disfiguring it. We do this by donning demonic masks lined on the inside with razorblades of fear, doubt and lust. God wants these sin-masks removed once and for all.
So, what becomes of our sin-masks, either in this life or the next? How are these masks dealt with, both in the short term and long term? Is there a way that in this lifetime we can rip all our masks off? Sure, this is what the Scriptures call sanctification. Through the renewing of our minds by the Holy Spirit, we are able to progressively shed all our false selves, prideful pretenses and forged identities. Those who persist in achieving this authenticity in the Lord receive rewards in this life and the next.
But, what about those masks we never successfully cast away during this lifetime? What happens to our blindspots, the masks we never recognize and remove? What about the areas of hypocrisy that we never allow to be fully evicted? What happens in the hereafter to our masks? Are we, along with our masks, cast into the Lake of Fire to die the second death? Or is there another solution? Can God in future ages somehow perform critical and extensive spiritual surgery on our souls? Can He burn off, cut out and cast away all our sin-masks which, all too often, have rendered us lying letches, fearful followers, and doubting disciples?
When we are judged after we die, is it all or nothing? If in any area of our lives, we have never dealt with a particular mask, does that doom our entire spirit, soul and body to eternal fire? What if we sanctified our souls to be “mask-less” at home, but still wore masks at work, or church, or with certain friends, or on certain occasions? Is this the way an all-powerful God deals with His children? Or is there a better way? A more divine way? A more loving way?
Do any Scriptures point to these sin-masks being removed by God’s judgment WITHOUT the necessity of casting the entire person into the eternal flames as well? Oh yes! 1 Corinthians 3:10-15 is quite clear: “According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon. For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; EVERY MAN’S WORK shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be REVEALED BY FIRE; and THE FIRE SHALL TRY EVERY MAN’S WORK, of what sort it is. If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. IF ANY MAN’S WORK SHALL BE BURNED, HE SHALL SUFFER LOSS, BUT HE HIMSELF SHALL BE SAVED; YET SO AS BY FIRE.”
This passage above refers to the judgment of “Every man’s work” (verse 13). The Revelation passage about the Lake of Fire in chapters 20-21 ALSO refers to the judgment of every man’s works: “the dead were judged… according to their works” (Revelation 20:12). So, Paul and John were both describing the same event, the judgment of every man’s works, but from their slightly different perspectives. Now, note what Paul says ultimately happens on the other side of every man’s work being judged: “If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. IF ANY MAN’S WORK SHALL BE BURNED, HE SHALL SUFFER LOSS: BUT HE HIMSELF SHALL BE SAVED; YET SO AS BY FIRE.”
Do you see? The man himself shall be saved, yet he shall SUFFER LOSS, YET SO AS BY FIRE. But, WHAT EXACTLY is it that is “BURNED” off and in the process causes the man to “SUFFER” and experience “LOSS?” The answer is clear: THE MASKS ARE BURNED OFF AND AWAY FROM US! In this context, the “wood, hay and stubble” of 1 Corinthians 3:12-15 represents the various types of false masks we have co-created with Satan and worn as the primary motivating forces behind our actions and works. Instead of performing “righteous works” that will endure, works of “gold, silver, and precious stones” (v. 12), works done under the Holy Spirit’s leading and anointing (Romans 8:14), we have masked the real motives for our works with that which is from below and not above— motives which are false, demonic, and self-centered.
Each and every wood-mask, hay-mask and stubble-mask a man has wrongly allowed to be grafted onto his soul will have to be burned. The result is that he will experience the “wrenching and painful loss” of having huge parts of who he “thought” he really was over the course of his entire life completely burned away with white-hot fire. Like the most intense form of chemotherapy we know in the physical, yet multiplied a thousand times in painful intensity in the spiritual, every mask will be irradiated and destroyed with the fire of God. The man suffers a searing “identity crisis” which, though in the long term will bring great positive transformation, is in the short term painful beyond words. The length of time for the burning process may vary. “Wood” takes longer to burn than “hay” or “stubble,” so wood-masks are the most dangerous.
These false identities caused the man during his time on earth to operate outside his authentic self, and instead assume the sin-identity of a lust-mask, or a pride-mask, or a legalism-mask. The man may have grafted on a “religious” mask and thereafter thought he was serving God, and that all his good works were in the service of the Lord, when in truth he was only serving his own self-righteousness (Matthew 7:22-23). Or, the man may have been serving his own fleshly desires while wearing a mask of “carnality.” Finally, the man could just be wearing “the pride of life” mask which prevented him from humbly submitting to the Lordship of the Spirit by operating in self-will.
Regardless, these masks “warp” the core motive of every man and cause them to be someone they are not, someone they were never created or called to be by God. To the extent these masks corrupt the purity of our identities in Christ, they MUST go. So, how are they removed? In this lifetime, by sanctification, repentance and the self-judgment that comes through prayer and communion. Paul said that if we judge ourselves NOW by removing every inner sin-mask, we will not be judged later. But, IF these sin-masks are still grafted onto our souls at the time of death, which means we never dealt with them fully during our lifetime, then the Lord deals with them at the judgment of every man’s works as by fire.
The Lord uses, what the church Father Origen called, WISE FIRE to burn off and away all the false masks we have lived out of, the Satanic strongholds which have blinded, twisted and deformed us. The masks are the result of the MISUSE of our freedom combined with the Devil’s temptations and lies. Seen from this angle, judgment is a good thing, not a fearful thing. The Greek word for “judge” means “to separate or put asunder.” God “separates” our true self from all our false selves. He “tears asunder” the masks from our true identity. And then what becomes of all our masked identities? THEY ARE CAST INTO THE LAKE OF FIRE, NEVER AGAIN TO BE PUT ON BY US OR ANYBODY ELSE!
This is a good thing, not a bad thing. I long for the day all my false selves (Richard the fearful, Richard the doubter, Richard the oppressed, Richard the lustful, Richard the liar) are FOREVER FAR removed from my true self, my best self, my authentic self, my Christ self, my new man created in righteousness and true holiness. God has a name for each one of us that only HE knows. This name is who we are called to be, who we WILL be for all eternity. These false selves CAN be burned off in THIS lifetime IF I submit myself fully to the Lord’s sanctifying Spirit. But if my heart falls short, God is greater than my heart. He WILL see me delivered in the ages to come.
The great sculptor Michelangelo famously said, “The statue lies within the stone.” He believed that all the sculptor does is chip away the exterior stone to reveal the interior truth. Or, put another way, the artist removes the masked false in order to reveal the naked real. For us, we have the chance to use this life to chip away all our false masks with our Spirit-led chisel of faith. But to the extent we fail in this lifetime, God will use the righteous chisel Himself in the ages to come to perfect and reconcile all things to Himself. As the greatest artist of all, He will chip away the masked false to reveal the naked real.
It seems that God is all about name changes, or what I like to call mask-removal through name-renewal. On the positive side, the ugly mask known as Saul was burned off to reveal a mask-less Paul created in righteousness and true holiness. Likewise, in Genesis 17:5, Abram was de-masked to reveal Abraham, the father of many nations. As said earlier, Revelation 2:17 tells us that God has given to each man who overcomes all worldly and demonic masks a white stone with a name on it only the Lord knows. This name is our mask-less self which ONLY the Lord can reveal to us. On the flip-side, the angel Lucifer became the masked Satan. Satan as a “mask,” certainly the deadliest and densest mask of all, will definitely be cast forever into the Lake of Fire. But, whether God will, at the end of all the ages, restore Lucifer back to his original God-created identity by wrenching away his devil mask is an open and intriguing question. Toward Satan, I have nothing but righteous hate and violent opposition on every level. But, towards the angel Lucifer who fell so far, I must confess a stirring of pity.
Being a father of seven, I have often thought that if I were an all-powerful Father, I don’t think I would ever give my children enough freedom to destroy themselves, not forever and ever and eeeeevvvvvvveeeeerrrrrr. I would certainly give them enough freedom to learn real gain and loss, the nature of love and cost of evil, and the nature of faith and doubt. But, I would never give them the keys to a car which could destroy them eternally. I would give them a lot of elbow room to learn and grow, but I would not create an environment where they could destroy themselves for all time. And I don’t think God does either. He might allow these masks of rebellion to deform us for a season, but it is hard to conceive He would allow the masks to stay attached to us for an eternity in the Lake of Fire. On the contrary, I see Him using the Lake of Fire as the place where He separates from us all the enemies of our soul, and then destroys forever all the things that have harmed and deformed us.
Under this view, the Lake of Fire is not a torture chamber where anybody’s essential self, spirit or body are cast into flames for eternity. Rather, the Lake of Fire is God’s final deliverance of those souls who neglected their so great a salvation by not taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. These souls allowed “enemy grafting” to occur in their heartland. And now they are in crisis. But God will not pull them by up their roots and destroy them totally. GOD WILL INSTEAD PRUNE BACK WHATEVER BRANCHES ARE NOT OF HIM. He will then hurl these branches into the Lake of Fire. What will be left is a transformed man, a born-again man, a man with no mask.
Like Stanley Ipkiss, we will see our every mask cast into a lake, never to be seen or heard from again. Like Stanley Ipkiss, when we see there is one who deeply and passionately loves us without limit, and we realize that our masks are the only things keeping us from fully experiencing that love, THEN we will JOYFULLY cast our masks away and into the Lord’s wise fire, the fire that purges rather than punishes, prunes rather than destroys, and heals rather than tortures. Love never fails.