It is commonly believed among Christians that those who are not “saved” before they die will go directly to hell where they are tortured forever. In this article series, we have considered the scriptures about hell in order to determine if this idea is true.
In (Part 1) Hell Lost in Translation, we discussed that the scriptures show us three distinct places of hell. We learned this by considering the various words that were collectively translated as “hell” and comparing these to Old Testament ideas about hell (Sheol). In the New Testament these are hades (the grave or place of the dead), taraturas (the pit), and gehenna (the lake of fire).
We determined that those who are currently dead are in their graves awaiting either the first resurrection of life or the second resurrection of judgment. All the dead are currently in Hades (The Grave). Devils and Satan, though active in this world, can also be cast into The Pit. We speculated that this is the same as “outer darkness” and “the deep.” Gehenna (The Lake of Fire) is the place in which those who are judged are destroyed. This is a future event.
In (Part 2) Does God Subject People to Never-Ending Torture?, we looked at various scriptures to learn about “unquenchable fire,” “everlasting punishment,” and similar ideas. We considered the New Testament scriptures in light of historical contexts given in the Old Testament. With a broader view of the scriptures, we determined that the Lake of Fire is not a place of never-ending torture, but rather, it is a place of total annihilation.
In this section, we will further explore the Lake of Fire by considering the scriptures that provide more insight into what this place might be.
The Lake of Fire is the Second Death
The Lake of Fire, which we determined is also Gehenna, is a place in which the wicked are destroyed. This is also called “the second death.” Unlike the first death (The Grave), no one will return from the second death. This death is “everlasting destruction” and “everlasting punishment.” This is also a place that lasts only for a season, which we discovered the word “eternal” indicates.This is the set judgment of God that is “unquenchable” until fully completed. Those cast into the Lake of Fire are completely destroyed.
Let’s take a look at scripture about the Lake of Fire and the Second Death.
|Revelation 2:11||He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death.|
|Revelation 20: 1-3||And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years, And cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled: and after that he must be loosed a little season. *Cited for context*|
|Revelation 20:10||And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever.|
|Revelation 20: 12-15||And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.|
|Revelation 21:7-8||He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son. But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, 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.|
What Can we Say About the Lake of Fire / Second Death?
- Those who overcome (in Christ) are not hurt by the second death.
- After Satan’s 1,000 year captivity (during the 1,000 year reign of Jesus on this earth), he is loosed and will again deceive the nations. Afterward, he is cast into the lake of fire where the beast and false prophet are.
- We are told that the devil, beast, and false prophet will be tormented forever.
- We are told that death and hell (hades) are cast into the Lake of Fire along with all who are not written in the book of life. This is the second death.
It is made clear that the lake of fire is a place of second death. How are the devil, beast, and false prophet then tormented forever? Could this be a hyperbolic statement as with the Old Testament Valley of Hinnom (Gehenna) and Sodom and Gomorrah? The scriptures describe these places as always burning and the smoke rising forever. Obviously these fires went out long ago. However, we still remember these instances.
Perhaps, this is indicating the fact that as with the destruction of those in Sodom, the destruction of the wicked including the devil will always be remembered. We have to consider all the evidence and weigh things with the proper measure. We do this by learning what is stated as a matter of doctrine and what is symbolic or hyperbolic. We learn how to decipher this by studying the scriptures and seeking the Holy Spirit of Truth to help us understand.
How is hell and death cast into the Lake of Fire if they are all one? The translation of “hell” in this passage translates from hades, which we discussed is more aligned with The Grave.
Before God establishes the New Heavens and New Earth—in which there is no more death—He must first totally annihilate death. This includes hell as translated from hades, meaning, “the grave,” he who is death (the devil), and all who bring death (those who are not written in the book of life).
For the descriptions of the New Heavens and New Earth to be true, there cannot be a place in which people remain alive and tortured forever. All things that bring death receive their just reward. Death.
And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.
And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful. And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely. He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son. But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, 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.
Death is the Punishment for Sin
Sin is death, point blank. Those who live sinfully live destructive lives. Those who continue living sinfully are killing the creation—especially God’s most precious creation —mankind. Those who continue following he who is death and are not made free by he who is The Life will not be written in the book of life. They are destroyed, and a new creation is made—one in which there is no more death!
When we sin, we are not loving as God loves. If we are not loving others, then we are destroying them emotionally, spiritually, and physically. We are killing them. They who kill are killed. That should be simple to understand, and it would be if our traditions and unfortunate translations did not get in the way.
Here are some scriptures to consider (please study in context):
|Romans 5:12||Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned|
|Romans 5:21||That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.|
|Romans 7:5||For when we were in the flesh, the motions of sins, which were by the law, did work in our members to bring forth fruit unto death.|
|Romans 6:23||For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.|
|2 Thessalonians 2:12||That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.|
|Hebrews 2:14||Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil;|
Death and he who is death (the devil) have reigned on this earth from Adam until Christ. Those who believe in Jesus are made free from death. Although the “prince of this world” still reigns, those who follow Jesus have a new and better kingdom. We have the Kingdom of Heaven.
As we follow Jesus, our faith prepares our hearts to receive the grace-given Kingdom of God. With the knowledge of the Lord written in our hearts—a knowledge that is killed by Law because man cannot perform true righteousness by their own ability—we are freed from sin.
As we are freed from living sinfully, we become more like Jesus. As we conform to his image (inwardly), we are partakers of the Kingdom even while we live in this world of death.
A one-time “declaration of faith” that does not go on and “bear fruit” — even real fruit instead of legalistic “wild fruit” is NOT salvation. Those who teach such are making “children of hell.”
If we are not “saved” from death now though true faith in Jesus—fruitful faith that brings life and real freedom—then we will not inherit everlasting life in the Kingdom of God to come (pending the mercy and judgment of God).
The lake of fire is a place of judgment. The judgment of God will not be “quenched” because His word is true, and His word states that the punishment for sin is death. It is as simple as that. When we consider the scriptures more fully, we see that the word of God is true. We do not need to add to it and read more into the nature of hell than what is given in truth.
Jesus is the Remedy for Sin and Death
All of mankind has sinned, and the death was established as an outcome of sin from the beginning. Why then do we insist on changing this into a fable that more resembles ancient mythology?
This truth is self-evident in this present world. Sin leads to destruction within our lives in countless ways. The gospel of Jesus Christ is the gospel of the kingdom—a “good news” that provides us with forgiveness of our sins and cleansing from them.
Jesus paid the price for our sins—the price of death—when he gave himself up to the cross. Those who are given faith in Jesus are granted forgiveness from sin so that we can go on and pursue the righteous ways of the kingdom of God.
After the death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus, the Holy Spirit was sent to the world so that people of all nations could know Jesus—not just intellectually, but inwardly as the Spirit changes our natures from sin and death towards righteousness and life.
Faith that is not dead will naturally result in a progressive freedom from living sinfully, thereby freeing one from the kingdom of this world as one walks within the “kingdom of God at hand.” Those who are faithful to walk after the kingdom of God in this present world are rewarded with eternal life in the kingdom of God to come.
Those who do not bring forth fruit are among those cast into the lake of fire—many of which will say, “Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?” Jesus will respond, “I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” (Matthew 7:22-23)
Does this mean Christians never sin. No, and to ever claim to be without sin makes us prideful liars. However, we should continue pushing forward with a mindset that states “today is the day of salvation.” We should not settle for any sin and have faith in the power of Jesus to help us overcome all sin.
It is a matter of good conscience towards God, true faith, and submitting ourselves to the will of the Father. We cannot love our sin and truly love God and appreciate the sacrifice of the Son at the same time.
Jesus came so that you can have life more abundantly—not so you can sin abundantly without consequence.
The gospel of the kingdom of God is the message of the New Testament. This is not merely a teaching that says if your declare faith in Jesus once they when you die you will go to heaven instead of hell. This is the good news of freedom from sin in this present world. This is the ability by the Spirit to walk spiritually after the kingdom even now. If faithful in the kingdom of God now, then we are either raised from the dead or transfigured at the first resurrection.
If we are faithful during the thousand-year reign of Jesus on this earth, a time in which all can approach the kingdom even more directly than this present time, only then are we given everlasting life. We might have “eternal life” that lasts for 1,000 years, but we might not live forever if we fall during the final rebellion of Satan.
Of course, it warrants stating that the Antichrist will come first and attempt to usurp the kingdom of God. He will not be successful.
I believe that’s a lot of the purpose behind the millennial reign of Jesus. There are those who rule and those who are subjects. Those who rule are those who were faithful to his word and keep his commandments during this age. I believe that faithful subjects of the kingdom have yet a second chance to inherit everlasting life.
You see, the Lord is patient and merciful. We are given so much opportunity to know him and walk after his laws instead of the laws of this world. Let’s not despise the patience of Jesus and the righteousness of the kingdom of God.
I understand that many do not fully get what the kingdom of God is about and the Lord knows our frame. He is merciful towards much misunderstanding. However, ministers should at least refrain from teaching Christians that we are bound to living a sinful life.
Many are cherry-picking scriptures and taking them out of context, thereby making “children of hell” very often instead of “children of the promise.” Read the New Testament for yourself if you can. Pray the Holy Spirit of Truth to help you understand. The truth is evident when we put aside the ways we are conditioned to interpret the bible.
This article is Part 3 of a 4 part series on hell entitled, “The Nature of Hell.” In Part 4, we will consider everything we learned thus far while revisiting what Jesus taught about hell.