Lake of Fire and Torment? Yes, But No (Part 2)
The Second Death
We return to our topic, the Lake of Fire, as found in the Book of the Revelation. We noted the four passages which contain the phrase (which is only found in the Revelation), but let us pull out the verse referencing the "second death."
Then Death and Hades (Hell) were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second [final] death. -Revelation 20:14
On its face, the verse is clearly metaphorical. It is only complicated by tradition. Men have forced the mythological "fiery hell" on every text where Hades, Gehenna, and anything referencing fire appear. When we step back and let scripture speak for itself and let scripture interpret scripture (as we did in the previous post) the meaning is much clearer.
In this case, if the Lake of Fire is the fiery "hell" of tradition, how is hell cast into hell? We have covered "Hades" elsewhere, but I will quickly note here how tradition has muddied this word.
One of the most quoted verses in Christendom today (across the theological spectrum) is from Matthew 16:18:
And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell [Hades] shall not prevail against it. (KJV)
We are told that "hell" is some headquarters for Satan and his demons and he's busy attacking "the church." But they also teach that Satan is roaming the earth and that he will some day be cast into "hell." So "hell" becomes a metaphor of Satan, etc. Ironically, in that passage, Peter is called "Satan" moments later.
But if we simply let scripture interpret scripture, we realize the Lord is quoting King Hezekiah from the Book of Isaiah (38:10) as the king is facing his possible death.
I said in the cutting off of my days, I shall go to the gates of the grave [Sheol]: I am deprived of the residue of my years.(KJV)
For comparison, we look at David's use in Psalm 139:8 and how Sheol is translated:
If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell [Sheol], behold, thou art there. (KJV)Two quick thoughts, if one is being tortured by fire, the presence of the Lord (who runs "hell" anyway) is hardly a comfort. We also have the odd doctrine of a "two-compartment hell" which has a fiery side and a blissful side. Well, that being the case, why would we need comfort? Why would Hezekiah dread such a fate?
When we understand that Sheol, Hades refer to the state of the dead, the confusion clears up.
Life and Death, the Story of Scripture
We also note that Paul uses "Hades" only once in his Acts ministry and epistles. It is in regard to believers and our resurrection (1 Cor 15). Now, this is post-cross and resurrection of the Lord, so why are we still in the "good" side of "hell?"
So what the Lord is saying in Matthew 16 is that those who profess, as Peter did, that he is the Christ, the Son of the Living God, for these the grave will not hold them. They will be resurrected and the promise of 1 Cor 15:54-55 will come to pass. The grave and death will not win.
So what is the "second death?" First, we can agree (even the atheist) that all men die. We all experience a "first death." In Revelation 20:14 we see the final destruction of "Death" (called "the last enemy") and "Hades" (the abode of the dead). This is the final destruction. There is no more death (Rev 21:4) and no more need for an abode of the dead for believers have been resurrected to enter into the new creation and eternity future.
We asked earlier how hell is cast into hell. Now we ask how is death cast into hell? Clearly we see that death is destroyed. Just as death is destroyed ("there shall be no more death"), the same can said of the "unbelieving" (those who "believe not the Son").
This destruction is the "second death" and those who "believe not the Son" (John 3:36) "shall not see life." This is the second death, the eradication of these and their memory. Death is no more abd unbelievers will be no more. Revelation 21 now becomes clear.
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.
The Lake of Fire is the second death. We cannot read, the second death is the Lake of Fire. The figurative gives way to the reality.
We again see "brimstone." As we saw in our last study, as with Sodom, this speaks of absolute destruction, never to rise again.
To sum: Death is the enemy. It is what came upon all men in Adam. It is the curse. We are dust and we shall return to dust. The cross of Christ was about suffering death for us and the a reversal of the curse by (a) not decaying in the grave (Hades) and (b) conquering the grave in resurrection! Death and Life are before us. If you have Christ you have Life, if you have not Christ you will not see Life. You will experience the "second death." Choose Life!
He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him. -John 3:36 (KJV)
For a more thorough handling of this topic, I recommend the following:
Hell: Torment or Annihilation?
Hell: What the Bible Really Teaches