How God Punishes People in the Lake of Fire
(Reaping the evil that you sow)
Every person in the Lake of Fire is a living soul in solitary confinement imprisoned within his own dead body. And since his dead body cannot feel the pain of the flames in the Lake of Fire, then God can punish each soul directly, and He can customize his punishment to correspond exactly to the sins each soul committed while alive in the flesh.
To accomplish this, God most likely provides for each soul a type of existence that the soul finds completely indistinguishable from life in the flesh, even though the person remains just a living soul in a dead body. I call this a “physical-dream-state”. In this way, God punishes these souls in the Lake of Fire by having them re-experience every bad thing they ever did to anyone else during their lifetime—only this time these souls are re-experiencing all their evil acts from their victim’s point of view! In other words, souls in the Lake of Fire will indeed “reap what they sow”—not more, not less, but exactly what they sow. For example, if the soul was a serial rapist and killer, in this “physical-dream-state” in the Lake of Fire the soul will experience being “born” as female victim #1, and he will live out her entire life and finally experience receiving every detail of her ultimate torture, rape and murder by a man with his face—exactly as he inflicted it upon her when he was alive. Thus, he will not only “reap what he sows”, but also he will literally reap what he sows FROM HIS OWN HAND—from his own sinful nature! (Galatians 6:6-8 NIV)
Through this method, murderers will be literally murdered by their own hand, wife beaters will be beaten, abortionists will be aborted, rapists will be raped, terrorists will be terrorized, thieves will be robbed, adulterers who break their wives hearts will be “born” as the wife and have their hearts broken, drunkards who injure people in car accidents will in turn be injured in identical car accidents by drunkards with their own faces, Hitler will be murdered over and over while wearing a Jewish star and also be burnt in his own ovens over and over, false witnesses will be lied about in court, etc.
Furthermore, when a person commits acts of violence such as rape, torture or murder, he doesn’t just sow to the murdered victim, he also sows to the victim’s entire family. So now his soul in the Lake of Fire has to be “born” as the grieving son, daughter or spouse, etc., and live out each grieving family member’s emotional agony detail by detail, year after year, all while remaining just a living soul in a dead body in the Lake of Fire.
In some sense, God seems to be balancing the scales of justice in the Lake of Fire. For instance, suppose a serial killer is executed just once on earth for killing 3 people. But God knows that there are 5 additional people killed by this same man that the courts did not know about, as well as 3 rapes, 5 fractures, 2 concussions, 3 stab wounds, and 2 people that he blinded as well. As this evil soul becomes each of his own victims in the Lake of Fire and lives out their entire lives, God balances the scales of justice and makes sure the violent criminal receives all the other missing eye injuries, concussions, stab wounds, fractures, rapes, and murders coming to him. This is perfect justice. Yet this “eye-for-an-eye-justice” is still is a lot more merciful than “burning in hell” forever.
Mercy in the Lake of Fire
1 Peter 4:8 (NIV) reveals that “love covers over a multitude of sins”. The context of this verse implies that God may show further mercy in the afterlife. This would have dramatic implications for those headed for the Lake of Fire.
For example, imagine that thousands of years ago there was a tiny town where there was no one yet in charge to enforce law or justice, and so a local bully would repeatedly come into town and steal, rape and kill its citizens. Further imagine an atheist who was also a wonderful husband and father and whose love, kindness and generosity was well known to the townspeople, but who one day ambushed, attacked and killed this bully and became the town hero. In the Lake of Fire, God may allow the record of this man’s great love for others to “cover over a multitude of his sins” and not have this man “reap exactly what he sowed”.
Life in the Lake of Fire After You Paid For Your Sins
(Reaping the good that you sow)
Picture a female atheist who is also the kindest, most loving, generous and wonderful person you can possibly imagine. Further visualize that she devotes her entire life to volunteer to love and to serve the poor in some impoverished country and that she organizes a system to provide food for the hungry, clothing for the naked, and shelter for the homeless. Imagine that her selfless dedication never allowed her the time to fall in love or to get married. She never smoked. She never did drugs. She never got drunk, and she died a virgin.
That being said, if we imagine that this wonderful woman went to Hell after she died because she was an atheist, it would probably take only a relatively short time in the Lake of Fire to “reap what she sowed” and pay for her sins. But what will her life be like in the Lake of Fire after all her sins are paid for? Well, perhaps now she will “reap the good that she sowed”. So since she loved and served others over and over when she was alive, then when she is “born again” into her next “physical-dream-state” in the Lake of Fire, perhaps she’ll be born as a queen over and over while others love her and continually serve her throughout all eternity, all while remaining just a living soul in a dead body in the Lake of Fire. We’ll call this person an “atheistic-missionary-type soul”.
Now before you start reading the rest of the essay, remember this: Since God doesn’t punish people in the Lake of Fire with flames (because the body is dead and cannot feel the flames) then God surely doesn’t punish people in Hell with flames either, otherwise God would be punishing people worse in Hell before their trial than he would be punishing them in the Lake of Fire after their trial.
The Old Testament Picture of Hell
(God’s “Pre-trial Jail”)
Despite the multitude of verses about Hell in both the Old and the New Testament, the best actual descriptions of Hell are not in the short verse “sound bites” so to speak, but are from two detailed scenes of residents in Hell describing what they seeing, thinking and doing as recorded in Isaiah 14:9-20 and Luke 16:19-31. So I have chosen these two passages to represent the OT and the NT pictures of Hell respectively. Interestingly, in both of these passages Hell appears to be only the abode of the wicked.
In Revelation 20:1-3 we learn that someday Satan will be cast into Hell for a thousand years. But in Isaiah 14:9-20, we read the Old Testament prophetic story about Lucifer’s actual arrival in Hell for the first time and the reaction that Hell’s other residents have when the famous and powerful Satan suddenly appears among them in Hell and is surprisingly just as weak and as helpless as they are. The residents of Hell seem to be discussing Lucifer’s sins and seem to be amazed that such a powerful being would end up there with them. Now if the Bible’s multiple “burn in Hell” verses were to be taken literally then surely there would be a dramatic record of these flames torturing the residents of Hell and also torturing Satan himself. But no flames are mentioned at all in these verses, and so it is logical to conclude that no flames exist in Hell. Besides, if people were already burning in Hell prior to their trial by God, then their punishment in Hell before their trial would be worse than their punishment in the Lake of Fire after their trial, because in the Lake of Fire, the body is dead and cannot feel the flames of the Lake.
The New Testament Picture of Hell
(God’s Pre-trial Jail”)
In Luke 16:19-31, Jesus tells a parable about a rich man being cast into Hell. The rich man sees Abraham and Lazarus across a chasm and complains to Abraham about the physical and mental anguish he is experiencing in Hell. Verse 24 reads:
“And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy
on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his
finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in
this flame.” (Luke 16:24 KJV)
At first glance, this verse seems to prove that the unsaved residents of hades do indeed “burn in Hell”. However, there are two problems in this verse that prove just the opposite.
First of all, if you were the rich man “burning in Hell”, wouldn’t you call for buckets of water to cool your feet, your legs and your whole body? But the rich man didn’t ask for buckets of water, just a fingertip of water, and just to cool his tongue.
I am a physician and in our emergency room I once saw a man who had doused himself with gasoline and set himself on fire. He was charred all over, had no hair left on his body, and his skin was burned so badly that it had tightened around his body like plastic shrink-wrap. He had stopped breathing and was nearly dead. When we opened his mouth to insert a tube to help him breathe I saw that his tongue was perfectly normal. So since the tongue is relatively unaffected by external flames, why would the rich man who is supposedly burning all over from the flames of Hell just ask for a fingertip of water to cool only his tongue? Obviously, his tongue was his major source of torment!
This is how I think the tongue becomes the major source of torment in hell before the trial by God, long before the condemned person is cast into the Lake of Fire after his trial. Since God requires two eyewitnesses to condemn people of anything (Deuteronomy 19:15), and since every sin we commit in life is written down in the books that shall be opened at the Great White Throne Judgment (Relation 20:12), then chances are good that our own two “guardian angels” (Luke 16:22, Mt. 18:10) are the ones writing down every sin that we have done throughout our entire lives. So for those of us who are not saved and whose names are not written in the Lamb’s Book of Life (Rev. 20:12,15; 21:27), it will probably turn out that our own guardian angels will be the two eyewitnesses against us for all the sins we have done. If this is the case, then for the unsaved, the actual list of charges against you as written by your own guardian angels literally becomes your own prescribed punishment in the Lake of Fire. So with each misbehavior while still alive in the flesh, people are “writing a longer and longer prescription for their own punishments” in the Lake of Fire that will be inflicted upon them by their own hand.
To put this in more familiar terms, it is highly likely that when a condemned person dies, that he is immediately “arrested” by his own guardian angels and then “served” a copy of the charges against him. In other words, before your guardian angels have even delivered you to hell (God’s “pre-trial jail”), they will most likely give you a complete copy of all the sinful charges against you that they have recorded throughout your entire lifetime, and that they will be reading aloud at your trial when they testify against you. It is also likely that they will tell you that all these charges will become your actual prescribed punishments in the Lake of Fire, unless you can get a few of the lesser charges dropped by Christ at your trial. They will also probably tell you that nothing you can say at your trial will get you into heaven, and nothing you can say will get out out of going into the Lake of Fire. The most you can hope for is getting a few of the lesser charges dropped. Thus a large part of your time in hell before your trial by God will be spent reviewing your own charges and preparing your “plea-for-acquittal” speech.
Jesus warned us about this speech and said that some of the words you say to Christ on the Day of Judgment may actually get you acquitted from a small percentage of your sins.
“But I tell you that men will have to give account on the
Day of Judgment for every careless word they have
spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by
your words you will be condemned.” (Mt. 12:36-37 NIV)
Imagine that all your tongue’s careless words while alive are now causing you extreme distress in hell. James tells us about this incredible stress, saying,
“The tongue is also a fire…and is itself
set on fire by Hell”. (James 3:6 NIV)
Now does this mean that the tongue is literally on fire while in hell? Probably not. The “fire of the tongue” mentioned by James is the same metaphor as the “flame” of the tongue mentioned by the rich man in Hell. This “flame of the tongue” is probably (1) Christ’s metaphor for all the terrible things the rich man’s tongue has said in the past that are now coming back to haunt him, or (2) the “flame” could be Christ’s metaphor for all the things the rich man’s tongue must say in the future when he begs Christ to acquit him for some of his lesser sins. Alternatively, (3) the rich man’s tongue might actually have some terrible discomfort and even some pain from the tongue’s extreme dryness caused by his punishing anxiety from rehearsing the most important speech of his entire life—his “plea-for-acquittal-speech”—that he will declare before Christ at his upcoming trial on Judgment Day. So it is understandable why Jesus would portray the torment as coming from the rich man’s tongue and why the rich man would have requested some relief. And since there are no flames mentioned otherwise in this passage, then it is logical to conclude that the rich man’s only source of torment was his tongue and that there are no literal flames anywhere else in hell.
On the other hand, if I am correct and the word “flame” in Luke 16:24 (KJV) is only a metaphor for the tongue’s discomfort, then why didn’t the rich man say, “Cool my tongue, for I am tormented because of this flame, by this flame, or with this flame”, instead of saying, “Cool my tongue, for I am tormented in this flame.”
That’s a good question, because the Greek word “en” in Luke 16:24 (KJV)—“Cool my tongue, for I am tormented [en] this flame”—is indeed the ordinary Greek word that is translated as “in” in the English language. Hence the translation: “tormented in this flame”—meaning, “tormented in the flames of Hell”.
But according to Greek scholars, the Greek word “εν”, (henceforth referred to as “en”) can also be translated as “because of”, “by”, or “with”. (References # 2 and # 3) Here are three examples:
The Greek word “en” is translated as “because of”, as in “insulted because of the name of Christ” in 1 Peter 4:14 (NIV). (Reference # 3 & 4)
The Greek word “en” is translated as “by” as in “justified by his blood” in Romans 5:9 (NIV). (Reference # 5)
The Greek word “en” is translated as “with”, as in “with a whip” in 1 Corinthians 4:21 (NIV). (Reference # 6)
In other words, the rich man did say, “Cool my tongue, for
I am tormented because of this flame”, exactly as the context demands. But because of their unshakable bias that people “burn in Hell” the translators missed the true context of this word, and so they mistakenly concluded the rich man must be “tormented in this flame”. By doing so, the translators misled us into thinking there are real flames mentioned in this scene when in reality, no real flames exist and the only “flame” mentioned is just being used as a metaphor referring to the discomfort of the rich man’s tongue. Besides, it would make no sense for the rich man to say, “Cool my tongue, even though I am tormented by something else entirely.” That’s like saying, “Cool my left hand, because my right hand is burning.”
Further, if the rich man is tormented by flames in Hell before his trial by God, but will not be tormented by flames after his trial by God (because the body is dead and cannot feel the flames), then his punishment before his trial is worse than his punishment after his trial! Obviously it would make no sense for God to punish a man more severely before his trial and conviction than after his trial and conviction.
Therefore, the context requires that the rich man’s source of torment was just his tongue alone and so the translation should read, “Cool my tongue for I am tormented because of this flame”. And since the only flame mentioned is merely a metaphor for the torment of the rich man’s tongue, then there are no literal flames mentioned in this passage because there are no literal flames in Hell. Further, since Christ used the word “flame” merely as a metaphor for the punishing discomfort of the tongue in Luke 16, then most likely all the other verses referring to fire and brimstone are also merely metaphors for the degree of punishment but not the type of punishment.
This “new doctrine of Hell” I am introducing is based upon the following premises:
In the Lake of Fire, the body is DEAD (yet indestructible) and so the body cannot feel the flames any more than a dead person can feel the flames while being cremated.
By default, the other “burn in Hell verses” (Jude 1:7, Rev. 14:10-11; 20:9-10; 21:5-8, etc.) must be only symbolic of the severity of torment but do not represent either the type or the nature of the torment.
Revelation 14:9-11 is the only verse in the Bible where it suggests that those in the Lake of Fire will be directly tormented with the flames of the Lake of Fire itself. But this interpretation of the verse violates 5 other areas of scripture.
First, it violates the idea that the bodies in the Lake of Fire are dead and therefore cannot feel the flames of the Lake. (The Lake of Fire is described as the Second Death—the death of the second body—twice (in Revelation 20:14 and in Revelation 21:18) and Isaiah 66:24 also describes the body in the Lake of Fire is dead.)
Second, it violates God’s Eye-For-An-Eye Law in Exodus 21:22-24 by prescribing a burn punishment for everything, rather than a prescribing a burn only for a burn. If God does not allow judges here on earth to sentence criminals to be burned with fire for every single crime imaginable (no matter how insignificant their crime), then God certainly would not punish everyone in the Lake of Fire by burning regardless of their sins either.
Third, it also violates God’s Eye-For-An-Eye Law in Leviticus 24:19-22 by prescribing an eternal punishment for limited crimes. God’s law says, “Anyone who injures their neighbor is to be injured in the same manner: fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth. The one who has inflicted the injury must suffer the same injury.” It does NOT say, “Anyone who injures their neighbor is to be injured A THOUSAND TIMES WORSE THAN HE INJURED HIS NEIGHBOR: a thousand fractures for a fracture. The one who has inflicted the injury must suffer the same injury A THOUSAND-FOLD.” God’s law does not say that. So, if God does not allow judges here on earth to sentence criminals to be punished a thousand times worse than the injury they gave others, then God certainly would not punish everyone in the Lake of Fire by punishing them an infinite amount worse than the sins we committed on earth. (The eternal part of the punishment is that the body remains dead forever, not that the torment remains forever.)
Fourth, it violates God’s Reap-What-You-Sow Law in Galatians 6:7-8, “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.” In light of God’s “Eye-For-An-Eye Law”, this verse means a man does not reap more than he sows or differently from what he sows, but a man reaps exactly what he sows. So, God’s plan to have the damned “reap exactly what they sowed on earth” precludes the idea that a person will feel the burning of flames at all, much less forever.
Fifth, it violates God’s Greater Accountability Law in Luke 12:47,48 (“The servant who knows the master’s will and does not get ready or does not do what the master wants will be beaten with many blows. But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.”) In other words, in the Lake of Fire, God’s punishments are customized to match the sins of the person being punished. He does not give everyone the same punishment, which means the burning part of the torment cannot possibly apply to everybody.
Because the literal interpretation of this verse violates the teaching of scripture in the above 5 ways, then this verse can only be interpreted symbolically, where the pain from the Lake of Fire can only represent the pain of reaping back onto themselves the exact evil they had formerly inflicted onto others on earth, and the eternal nature of the punishment is just that their afterlife body remains eternally dead.
Also by default, the “eternal destruction” verses (Mt 10:28; 2 Thess 1:9) must be only symbolic of the “eternally dead body” that is eternally dead to the flames of the Lake of Fire.
Since God commanded Moses to punish different sins in different ways, God probably punishes different sins in different ways in the afterlife too, especially when it comes to sins of violence.
Each person in the Lake of Fire is just a living soul in solitary confinement imprisoned inside his own dead body. Since the body in the Lake of Fire is DEAD, but the unsaved must “reap what they sow”, then God punishes each soul directly and customizes each soul’s punishment to correspond exactly to the sins each soul committed while alive in the flesh.
God most likely accomplishes this punishment in four parts, using a “physical-dream-state” that the soul finds completely indistinguishable from normal life.
The first part involves literally becoming each of the victims of your own sins (especially sins of violence), living out your victim’s lives and personally experiencing everything from their victim’s point of view. For example, if the soul was a serial rapist and killer, in this “physical-dream-state” in the Lake of Fire he will be “born” as female victim #1, and he will live out her entire life and finally experience receiving every detail of her ultimate torture, rape and murder by a man with his face—exactly as he inflicted it upon her when he was alive. Thus, he will “reap exactly what he sowed”—not more, not less, but exactly what he sowed. And he will reap what he sows literally FROM HIS OWN HAND! In this way, God doesn’t punish anyone in the Lake of Fire. God merely arranges the scenario where each person literally punishes himself.
The second part involves becoming each of the victim’s loved ones and personally experiencing all their grieving, day after day, year after year. This is because serious sins like murder are sown not just to the victim but also to the victim’s family. Therefore God may require further punishment of the soul by forcing the soul to live out the lives of each of his victim’s grieving family members as well. For example, presuming he remains unsaved, in the Lake of Fire, the “lone wolf terrorist” that killed 69 people at a summer camp in Norway on 7-22-11 will be born as every single one of his victims’ loved ones and experience all their agony and grief, day after day and year after year (in addition to being born as each of the 69 victims and being terrorized and murdered 69 different times). This is perfect justice. Yet this “eye-for-an-eye-justice” is still is a lot more merciful than “burning in hell” forever.
The third part involves being punished for your “victimless sins” (i.e. sexual immorality) and also being punished for your sins against God alone (i.e. idolatry, blasphemy). Now there is no simple way to “reap-what-you-sow” and become the victim of all these particular sins. However, since God appears to be using his own Mosaic Law as a prescription for afterlife punishment (i.e. an eye-for-an-eye”) then God may just continue to enforce his own Mosaic Law and have each soul in the Lake of Fire experience receiving the same Mosaic punishment that he should have received here on earth for that particular sin. (Reference # 7) (By the way, none of these first three parts has to be done by God in any particular order. In fact, there may be no order at all to them.)
The final part: After each soul has “reaped all the evil he has sown” and he has paid for all his sins, most likely each soul will now “reap all the good he has sown” for all the rest of eternity. The love, kindness and generosity each soul showed to others (or failed to show to others) will determine how God fashions all their future “lives in the Lake of Fire” so that once again, each soul will continue to “reap what he sowed” while alive—only now, instead of reaping the evil you sowed, you are now reaping the remaining good you sowed. If the unsaved soul was cold and unfriendly to everyone he met and even to his own family, then for all his future of “lifetimes in the Lake of Fire” his own family and everyone he will ever meet will be just as cold and unfriendly to him. On the other hand, if the unsaved soul sowed a lot of love, kindness and generosity while she was alive, she will reap it back over and over for each lifetime in the Lake of Fire, just like the female atheistic-missionary-type soul mentioned above. But since life in the Lake of fire is indistinguishable to the condemned soul from life in the flesh on earth, the best that any soul in the Lake of Fire could ever hope for would still include occasional stress and anxiety, as well as disease, aging, progressive disability and death, over and over and over.
Therefore, the “least in the Kingdom of Heaven” will still be a thousand times better off than the “best in the Lake of Fire”.
Since “love covers over a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8 NIV), God may also grant further mercy in the Lake of Fire based upon how loving the person might have been otherwise when he was not actively sinning against other people.
God surely does not punish people in Hell before their trial in a worse way than he would punish them in the Lake of Fire after their trial. Therefore, since God does not punish people by burning in the Lake of Fire after their trial (because the body is dead and so cannot feel the flames), then God will surely not burn people in Hell before their trial.
In the OT description of Hell (where Lucifer is cast into Hell) there are no flames mentioned at all. (Isaiah 14:9-20)
In the NT description of Hell (where the rich man is cast into Hell) the rich man implies the “flame of his tongue” is his only source of torment. No other flames are mentioned because no other literal flames exist. (Luke 16:19-31, specifically verse 24)
Since Christ used the word “flame” merely as a metaphor for the punishing discomfort of the tongue in Luke 16, then most likely all the other verses referring to fire and brimstone are also merely metaphors for the degree of punishment but not the type of punishment.
Advantages Of This New Doctrine
Here is a list of the many advantages this new doctrine of Hell has over the “One-Size-Fits-All-Burn-In-Hell Eternal Punishment Doctrine:
Everyone gets the same punishment in that they all end up in the Lake of Fire, yet everyone’s punishment is uniquely customized just for them.
For sins of violence against others, people in the Lake of Fire reap exactly what they sow. They do not reap more than they sow and they do not reap differently from what they sow. They also reap what they sow to the victim’s families.
God doesn’t punish people in the Lake of Fire—God merely arranges the scenario where each person’s soul literally becomes each of his own victims so violent people literally punish themselves by their own hand.
The actual list of charges against you as written by your own guardian angel eyewitnesses literally becomes your own prescribed punishment in the Lake of Fire in the “physical-dream-state”. In this way, the sinner’s behavior while alive writes the prescription for his own afterlife punishment.
God may show mercy in Hell because it is written, “love covers over a multitude of sins”. In this way God can be just and merciful at the same time.
For grieving family members who want to kill the man who raped and murdered their daughter and yet know that death will still not make the criminal realize what he has done to the victim or to the grieving family, they can be a little more consoled by knowing that if the rapist never gets saved, that in the Lake of Fire, the murderer will be “born as their daughter” and eventually be brutally raped and murdered by the criminal’s own hand, so to speak. This gives new meaning to the verse, “Never take your own revenge…but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, "Vengeance is mine. I will repay," says the Lord.” (Ro. 12:19 NAS)
This new teaching on Hell deters wickedness better that the standard One-Size-Fits-All-Burn-In-Hell Eternal Punishment Doctrine, because according to the standard doctrine, the punishment for 20 murders is the same as for one murder—burning in hell. So if a murderer knows he’s going to Hell anyway and he has mistakenly concluded that a few more murders more won’t change his punishment in Hell at all, he may keep killing more and more people. But with this new doctrine, each additional murder you commit gets you murdered by your own hand one more time in the Lake of Fire plus becoming each one of the victim’s grieving family members for their entire lives as well. If murderers considered this new doctrine, there is at least a small chance that the knowledge of this doctrine may on rare occasion prevent a few murders.
I think that if most people had the chance to be in God’s place that they would punish the unsaved in the afterlife in this same exact way, by having them play the victims to their own sins and to completely experience for themselves all the unpleasantness or evil that they put others through while they were alive, rather than punish them by burning them in flames of fire throughout all eternity. I personally believe that if this new doctrine had been had be written about by the early church fathers as an ancient doctrine, that this would be the standard teaching about Hell and the Lake of Fire today.
Harris, Archer and Waltke, Ed., Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (Moody Press: Chicago, IL, 1980) p. 715.
Geoffrey W. Bromiley, Ed., The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament—Single Edition (Grand Rapids, MI: Erdmans Publishing, 1985) p. 233. (single volume ed.) The Greek word “εν”, (referred to as “en”) ordinarily translated as “in”, could also be translated as “by” or “with”.
Goodricke and Kolenberger, The NIV Exhaustive Concordance, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Pub. 1990) p. 1715. The Greek word “en” (word # 1877) is translated as “because of” 6 different times in the NIV. Page 117 confirms that one of these verses is 1 Peter 4:14, translated as “insulted because of the name of Christ”, and confirmed by the NIV Bible itself.
Jay P. Green, Ed., The Interlinear Bible (Peabody, Mass: Hendrickson Publishers, 1986) p. 942. This second source confirms again the use of the Greek word “en” in this verse (1 Peter 4:21) as translated “because of”.
Ibid., p. 875. The Greek word “en” is translated as “by” in Romans 5:9 as in “justified now by his blood”. This is recorded in the center column of the Interlinear Bible in Romans 5:9 from what the Interlinear Bible refers to as “A Literal Translation of the Bible”. The NIV Bible also translates this same Greek word “en” as “by” as in “justified by his blood” in Romans 5:9 (NIV).
Ibid., p. 86. The Greek word “en” is translated as “with” in 1 Corinthians 4:21 as in “with the rod”, this time recorded in the outer left column on the page, again from what the Interlinear bible refers to as “A Literal Translation of the Bible”. This Greek word “en” is similarly translated as “with” in the same verse 1 Corinthians 4:21 as “with a whip” in the New International Version (NIV) as well.
(Idolatry carried an death sentence with the caveat to “show no pity”, whereas blasphemy, adultery and homosexuality carried a death sentence without the caveat to “show not pity”. Therefore, a whipping (Dt. 25:1-3) could probably be given as a merciful alternative to execution. The punishment for fornication was to marry the girl (Ex.22: 16-17) but further fornication with anyone else would be considered as adultery.)
The emphasis is mine on all quotes with italics, bolding or underlining.