A STUDY OF THE LAKE OF FIRE
There are two papers on this web-site on subjects that are inexorably connected to a consideration of the lake of fire. One is a study of hell and the other is a study of what happens when we die. The first one, i.e. the study of hell, proves from Scripture that hell is the grave, and that contrary to what is taught in traditional Christianity today, there is silence, and that there is absolutely no Scriptural evidence for the teachings that unbelievers suffers eternal torment. The second of the papers which answers the question of what happens when we die, proves from Scripture that the death of man is no different than the death of the lower animal. In both cases the body goes back to dust and and the spirit, which is nothing more and nothing less, than the breath that gives life, goes back to God. Job puts this quite succinctly, i.e. when man dies “he is no more”.
But the lake of fire is not the same as the grave and is quite a bit more complicated and requires a consideration of end times prophecy.
THE BEAST, THE FALSE PROPHET AND THE DEVIL
We read in Rev. 19:20, “And the beast was taken and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone”.
And we read in Rev. 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”.
So the beast (i.e. the antichrist), the false prophet and Satan himself will be cast into the lake of fire where, we are told quite specifically, they will suffer for ever and ever.
THE SECOND DEATH
We read in Rev. 21:8, 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”. As we compare this phrase with Rev. 19:20, we will see that it is the lake of fire that is being referred to with the phrase “which burneth fire and brimstone. That verse reads, in part, “These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone. According to the note in the Companion Bible, the texts read, “the”, not “a” lake of fire. In other words there is only one lake of fire spoken of in Scripture.
Rev. 21:8 tells us that some that will be cast into the lake of fire will suffer the second death. Because the first death is the absence of life (please see the paper mentioned above on what happens when we die), obviously the second death will also be an absence of life. That is to say, the second death must be like the first death or it could not be called “the second death”.
Let us consider Rev. 20: 4-6, “….And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony for Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshipped the beast or his image and had not received his mark on their foreheads or their hands.” This passage tells us that John is speaking of those who went through the great tribulation, he is not speaking of every person that ever lived from the beginning of time. That is to say, only those who will live in the end times will be tempted to receive the mark of the beast, and that limits this passage to those who will live during the tribulation period. Let us go on with verse 4, “They (i.e. those who had not worshipped the beast during the great tribulation) came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years.”
Now let us go to verse 5, “(The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.)” To say that the “rest of the dead” in this verse applies to the dead of all ages is to take this phrase entirely out of context. The context is clearly contrasting those who did not receive the mark of the beast during the tribulation, with those who did. The former will reign with Christ in His millennial reign, the latter will be raised after the millennial reign to be judged at the great white throne. But in both cases, those who did and those who did not receive the mark of the beast, were those who lived during the tribulation.
But what is important in this particular study is that Rev. 20:15 tells us that those who had appeared before the great white throne whose names were not written in the book of life were “cast into the lake of fire”. What is not clear in the KJV is that being cast into the lake of fire is to suffer the second death. We read in the NRSV, “Then death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire”. And in the NASB we read, “And death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire: this is the second death, the lake of fire”. And in the NIV Greek Interlinear we read literally, “….This the death second is the lake of fire”.
My point is that those who will worship the beast and receive his mark will be cast into the lake of fire, but they will not suffer eternal punishment. That is to say, if the first death is an absence of life, so too, logic demands is the second death an absence of life. If one is not alive, one does not suffer.
But as the reader continues in this study, he/she will see that unlike the passages quoted above, some passages about the lake of fire tell us that some who will be cast into the lake of fire will suffer eternally. It is those about whom this study will concentrate.
We read in Matt. 25:31, “When the Son of man shall come in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then shall He sit upon the throne of His glory: And before Him shall be gathered all the nations….”. This tells us that the judgment of Matt. 25 will be at the second coming of Christ. It is also important to bear in mind that there is no resurrection mentioned in this passage. That is to say that those to be judged will be those who will be alive at the time of the second coming of Christ, they are not the dead who are resurrected for judgment. This fact tells us that those who will be judged had lived through the end times which include. of course, the three and one-half years of the tribulation.
Let us consider verses 31-46 which tell us that some will “inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matt. 25:34). It is about these that Christ said that the righteous shall enter into eternal life (verse 46). But some will “go away into everlasting punishment” (Matt. 25:46). Of these Christ said, “Depart from Me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels” (verse 41). In verse 46 we read that they “shall go away into everlasting punishment”.
I believe we may conclude that the “everlasting fire” is the lake of fire as that is the only everlasting fire spoken of in the Word of God. Not only is the fire of the lake of fire “everlasting”, but, more importatnly for the purpose of this study, is the fact that, unlike those who will receive the mark of the beast who will not suffer eternally but experience a second death, the punishment of these in Matt. 25 is everlasting. That would mean that those of Matt. 25 will live forever. That is to say, in order to experience everlasting punishment, they must live an everlasting life. But only believers will put on immortality and those of Matt. 25:46 were denied everlasting life. In short there seems to be a rather glaring contradiction here. There are, of course, no contradictions in the perfect Word of God. I suggest therefore, that we consider this seeming difficulty with minds and hearts that are truly open to God’s truth.
Going on with Matt. 25: please note that this “everlasting fire” was prepared for the devil and his angels. Indeed we do read of Satan being cast into the lake of fire in Rev. 20:10 which reads, “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”.
We have read specific scriptures that tell us who will be cast into the lake of fire. They are 1) those who worship the beast, 2) the beast and the false prophet, and 3) the devil. But we have not yet considered the fact that the lake of fire was “prepared” for the devils “angels” (everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels”, verse 41). And, I believe that as we consider that fact we will have an answer to the seeming contradiction that some cast into the lake of fire will suffer eternally.
Let us consider I Peter 3:18-20, which speaks of the days of Noe and tells us a bit more of those days as it relates to our study. That passage reads, “For Christ……being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit by which also He went and preached unto the spirits in prison, which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing…..”.
Who are those spirits in prison to whom Christ preached? II Peter 2:4-5 is another passage that connects spirits in prison with the days of Noah. “For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment; and spared not the old world, but saved Noah the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly”.
There are several interesting things to note about this passage. For example, the word translated “hell” in the phrase “cast them down to hell” is not the usual word “hades” or even “Gehenna”, translated “hell”. The Greek word used in II Peter is “Tartarus” and is used just this one time. Who were these “angels that sinned”? For the answer to that question we will look at Jude 6.
Jude 6 reads, “and the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation He hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day”. Note that like the angels of II Peter these are “reserved unto judgment”. Note also the Greek word translated “habitation” in the phrase, “left their own habitation” is “oiketerion”, it is used only here and II Cor. 5:2 where it is translated “house”, “For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven”. Just as in II Cor. 5:2 the Greek word is used of a certain kind of a body, so too in Jude 6 it is used of a certain kind of a body. So Jude tells us that these angels who are being reserved unto judgment had left “their own” bodies. I believe that it is significant that the Greek word “soma” (which means “body”) is not used for “body” in Jude 6, as angels did not really have a body. Because these angels are being reserved for judgment we may conclude that they acted against the will of God. We may refer to them therefore, as “fallen or rebellious angels”.
We have learned that in the days of Noah were angels who had sinned and were consequently cast into Tartarus and reserved unto judgment. We must ask: in what way did these angels sin in the days of Noah? For the answer to that question we must turn to Gen. 6.
We read in Gen. 6:4, “There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown”. Let us determine from Scripture who were the “sons of God” who “came in unto the daughters of men”.
To begin with, let us note the rather strange wording in this verse, “the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men”. Let us not draw any conclusions from the wording alone, but the phrase should peak one’s interest in who these sons of God might be.
The phrase in the Hebrew translated “sons of God” occurs also in Job 1:6 and 2:1 and 38:7.
Job 1:6, “Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan came also among them”.
Job 2:1, “Again there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan came also among them to present himself before the Lord”.
Job 38:4-7 reads, “Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare if thou hast understanding. Who hast laid the measures thereof if thou knowest? Or Who hath stretched the line upon it? Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened? Or Who laid the cornerstone thereof? When the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy?” This passage tells us that the sons of God were present when God created the heavens the earth. Man was not there, he was created the sixth day of the creation of the earth. The phrases “morning stars” and sons of God” are used of angels. In short, the Hebrew phrase translated “sons of God” refers to angels, not to man.
We learn in Ps. 104:4 (“Who maketh His angels spirits”) that angels were created as spirit beings. That is to say, they have no physical form of themselves unless they take on a physical form. I believe that the sons of God who came unto the daughters of men were rebellious angels, i.e. spirit beings who took on the physical form of man in order to come unto the daughters of man.
Let me try to pull this section together. We have learned that in the days of Noah fallen angels had married the “daughters of men”, and that these angels, i.e. spirits, are being held in chains until they are judged. Is there is a connection between the days of Noah and the days of the second coming of our Lord? I believe there is. I believe that Daniel two also implies fallen angels who mix with the seed of man in the end times. Let us consider that passage.
We have established the fact that the judgment of Matt. 25 concerns the judgment of those who will live in the end times. As we look at Nebuchadnezzar’s dream and its interpretation in Dan. 2, we will see that part of that dream is also about the end times.
The interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream is recorded in Dan. 2:36-45. Nebuchadnezzar dreamed of an image with a head of gold, a breast and arms of silver, a belly and thighs of brass, and legs of iron, and feet “part of iron and part of clay”. Nebuchadnezzar, as king of Babylon, was represented by the head of gold (vs. 37). The breast and arms of silver represented the kingdom that was to follow after Nebuchadnezzar. The belly and thighs of brass represented the kingdom after that. And the legs of iron and feet of iron and clay represent the kingdom after that. We read in verses 34-35, “Thou sawest till that a stone was cut out without hands, which smote the image upon his feet that were of iron and clay, and brake them to pieces. The iron, the clay, the brass, the silver, and the gold, were broken to pieces together and became like the chaff of the summer threshingfloors; and the wind carried them away, that no place was found for them: and the stone that smote the image became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth”.
We will now concentrate on the part of this dream that centers on the end times. We read in verse 44 that part of the interpretation that explains the kingdom that “filled the whole earth”, “And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed, and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdom and it shall stand for ever”.
It is clear that this is the kingdom of God that will be established at the second coming of Jesus Christ when He reigns over the earth for a thousand years. So the kingdom represented by the iron and clay will be the kingdom that immediately precedes the millennial reign of Christ. It is what we learn of that kingdom that will tell us a great deal about who it is that will suffer everlasting punishment.
Let us consider for example Dan. 2:43 which tells us of the feet and toes of the image, “And whereas thou sawest iron mixed with miry clay, they shall mingle themselves with the seed of men: but they shall not cleave one to another, even as iron is not mixed with clay”. The phrase, “they shall mingle themselves with the seed of men” is, in my opinion, reminiscent of the phrase we read in Gen. 6:2, “…the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair and they took them wives of all which they chose”. Let us consider this verse in Dan. 2 more carefully.
This verse also tells us that even though those represented by the iron and clay mingled “with the seed of men”, they did not “cleave one to another”. That in my opinion, implies that like the days of Noah, the fallen angels of Satan will occupy the kingdom of Satan and his antichrist before it is destroyed by the coming of Jesus Christ.
Therefore, I believe that the ones who will suffer everlasting punishment are not men, in the truest sense of the word, but progeny of fallen angels. It cannot be men who suffer everlasting punishment, because the unsaved man does not live eternally. Note also that the fire into which those judged to merit everlasting punishment will be cast into the fire “prepared for devil and his angels” (Matt. 25:41). But we never read of Satan’s angels being cast into that fire. If however, we accept the implication of Dan. 2 that some in the end times will not be men in the truest sense, but progeny of Satan’s angels, then that prophecy will be fulfilled.
We read in Rev. 14:9-11, “…..If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead or in his hand, the same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of His indignation; and he shall be torrnented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb: and the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day of night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name”.
Many, in my opinion misunderstand this passage to refer to punishment by being cast into the lake of fire. there are several reasons for my disagreement with that view.
1) We read of the great white throne judgment at which those who had received the mark of the beast will be cast into the lake of fire. But that judgment is after the millennium (see Rev. 20:7). But as we consider Rev. 14:8 we will see that this passage in chapter 14 refers to the day of the Lord, which is, of course, before the millennium. We read in Rev. 14:8, “And there followed another angel, saying, ‘Babylon is fallen is fallen that great city becuase she made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication”. That puts the passage in Rev. 14 in the day of the Lord in which the wrath of God will be poured out, especially on Babylon. That tells us that the judgment of Rev. 14 is not at the great white throne.
2) We read in Rev. 14:9 that those who had received the mark of the beast will “drink of the wine of the wrath of God”. When will the “wrath of God” be meted out? Rev. 6:12-14 of the cosmic signs that precede the day of the Lord. Then in verses 16-17 we read, “And said to the mountains and rocks, ‘Fall on us, and hide us from the face of Him That sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: For the great day of His wrath is come….”.
The Greek word transalted “indignation” in this verse is, “orgee” and is also used in Rev. 6:16 and 17 quoted above and translated there “wrath”. And we read in Rev. 16:19, “And the great city was divided into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell: and great Babylon came in remembrance before God to give unto her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of His wrath (Gr. “orgee”). Compare the phrase in 14:10 “the cup of His indignation” with the phrase in 16:19, “the cup of the wine of the fierceness of His wrath” (Gr. “orgee”).
3) Is. 34:8-10 tells of the same time, i.e. the day of the Lord’s vengenance. We read in Is. 34:8-10, “For it is the day of the Lord’s vengeance, and the year of recompences for the controversy of Zion. and the streams thereof shall be turned into pitch, and the dust thereof into brimstone, and the land thereof shall become burning pitch. It shall not be quenched night nor day: the smoke thereof shall go up for ever: from generation to generation it shall lie wast; none shall pass through it for ever and ever”. Here too we read of brimstone and burning pitch during the “day of the Lord’s vengeance”, which is before the millennium.
This paper was written by Joyce Pollard. If you would like to respond please e-mail me at: firstname.lastname@example.org