A gracEmail subscriber asks for an explanation of Revelation 20:10, in which John sees the devil, the Beast and the False Prophet thrown into a lake of fire where they are “tormented day and night forever.” A few verses later, “anyone not found written in the Book of Life” is cast into the same lake of fire (20:15).
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It is significant that every time John mentions human beings in the Lake of Fire, he is careful to add the explanatory phrase, “which is the second death” (Rev. 20:15; 21:8). He seems to go out of his way to ensure that we do not make a mistake on that point. This symbol of a fiery lake most likely comes from Daniel 7:10-11, where it clearly stands for total destruction. For the wicked who finally go there, it represents “the second death.” This second death is all-encompassing, irreversible and everlasting. From it there will be no escape, no resurrection, no recovery forever.
Revelation’s “second death” in the Lake of Fire sums up many earlier biblical symbols concerning the end of the wicked. Isaiah spoke of corpses of executed evildoers, thrown into a garbage dump where maggots would race against smouldering fire to consume them (Isa. 66:16, 24). Malachi portrayed the judgment fire of God that would leave the wicked “neither root nor branch,” so that they become “ashes under the soles of the feet” of the saved (Mal. 4:1, 3). John the Baptist predicted that Jesus would “burn up the chaff” with fire that cannot be put out (Matt. 3:12).
Jesus himself warned concerning “eternal punishment” that lies beyond present frontiers of time and space (Matt. 25:46). When that punishment occurs, God will “destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matt. 10:28). Paul reaffirms that the lost will “suffer the punishment of eternal destruction” (2 Thess. 1:9). Indeed, “the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23). The divine judgment that awaits those who reject God’s grace stands in contrast to God’s overwhelming gift of love to those who put their trust in him. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16). In the end, those are the alternatives — life or death, forever.