Salvation 2.0: Part 3.4: The Second Death

grace5The Revelation speaks of the damned suffering a “second death.”

(Rev 2:11 ESV) 11 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who conquers will not be hurt by the second death.

(Rev 20:6 ESV)  6 Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years.

(Rev 20:14-15 ESV)  14 Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire.  15 And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. 

(Rev 21:7-8 ESV)  7 “The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son.  8 But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”

The “second death” is death suffered by the damned in the afterlife. They are burned in the lake of fire and sulfur, but nothing says they’ll live forever in torment. Rather, they die a horrible, painful death.

I mean, how does “death” (thanatos) come to mean “not die”? No, the damned die in eternity, but they suffer in their dying in proportion to their sinfulness — with God’s perfect justice.

The image is taken from the OT —

(Isa 66:22-24 ESV)  22 “For as the new heavens and the new earth that I make shall remain before me, says the LORD, so shall your offspring and your name remain.  23 From new moon to new moon, and from Sabbath to Sabbath, all flesh shall come to worship before me, declares the LORD.  

24 “And they shall go out and look on the dead bodies of the men who have rebelled against me. For their worm shall not die, their fire shall not be quenched, and they shall be an abhorrence to all flesh.”

This is the end of Isaiah. It speaks of a fire that “shall not be quenched” — will not be put out — in which the damned are found as “dead bodies” or “corpses” (NIV). The damned die. The fire is not quenchable — meaning it will not fail in its purpose to destroy the damned utterly, so that there is no hope of resurrection, immortality, or eternal life for the damned. None. But they die. Isaiah couldn’t be more clear.

Daniel tells us —

(Dan 12:2-3 ESV)  2 And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.  3 And those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.

The saved receive “everlasting life.” The damned receive “shame and everlasting contempt.” But they don’t live forever. Rather, in an honor/shame culture, they receive the worst possible fate — unending shame. But just as Isaiah 66:24 teaches, their shame lasts for all time — surviving their deaths.

(Job 8:20-22 ESV)  20 “Behold, God will not reject a blameless man, nor take the hand of evildoers.  21 He will yet fill your mouth with laughter, and your lips with shouting.  22 Those who hate you will be clothed with shame, and the tent of the wicked will be no more.”

Again, we see in Job that the evildoer suffers shame but “the tent of the wicked will be no more.” He will cease to exist.

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About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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4 Responses to Salvation 2.0: Part 3.4: The Second Death

  1. Larry Cheek says:

    Jay,
    (Rev 19:20 ESV) And the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet who in its presence had done the signs by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped its image. These two were thrown alive into the lake of fire that burns with sulfur.

    Here we have the beast, the false prophet and all those who had been deceived and followed them. Was only the beast and the false prophet thrown into the lake of fire?

    (Rev 20:10 ESV) and the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.

    Then the devil was thrown in, and all those in this lake are tormented forever.

    (Rev 20:14 ESV) Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire.

    Who was left in Death and Hades? Earlier all who were not cleansed by the blood of Christ were there.

    (Rev 21:8 ESV) But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”

    (Rev 20:15 ESV) And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

    If your name is not found in the book of life, you are cast into the lake. I understood that if your name was not in the book of life you would have to suffer the second death. This second death is identified as being thrown into the fire.
    Will the devil and his human false prophets suffer forever and the humans who are not false prophets and thrown into the same fire just be burned up, disintegrate?

    We must also remember that the messages in the OT were a shadow of the things to come. You know not the real thing. There is much of the references in Isa that will not match the description in heaven.
    (Isa 66:23-24 ESV) 23 From new moon to new moon, and from Sabbath to Sabbath, all flesh shall come to worship before me, declares the LORD.
    24 “And they shall go out and look on the dead bodies of the men who have rebelled against me. For their worm shall not die, their fire shall not be quenched, and they shall be an abhorrence to all flesh.”

    References to light and time and flesh. I would also suggest since time is mentioned and all flesh, would that consume the time from one Sabbath to another normally those spoken to would see that as seven days, and new moon to new moon usually a month. Time does not exist in God’s realm.

  2. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Larry wrote,

    I readily agree that others besides the false prophet, the beast and the devil were thrown in the lake of fire. The passages are quite clear on that point. But Rev 20:10 does NOT say that all thrown in will be tortured forever.

    (Rev. 20:9-10 ESV) 9 And they marched up over the broad plain of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city, but fire came down from heaven and consumed them,
    10 and the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.

    First, v. 9 says that those who marched with the devil, beast, and false prophet were consumed by fire from heaven. In every other OT and NT passage, “consume” with fire refers to death.

    “They” in v. 10 refers to its most recent antecedent, be the devil, beast, and false prophet.

    These verses are immediately followed by —

    (Rev. 20:13-14 ESV) 13 And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done.
    14 Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire.

    Hades is the realm of the dead. For death and Hades to be thrown in the fire is for Jesus to conquer death — as Paul prophesies in 1 Cor 15. But the humans are said to rise from their earthly and watery graves, they are removed from Death and Hades, and then judged. But under your theory, they’re already in the Lake of Fire forever. But if the damned die in battle and are then raised to face judgment, their fate is the “second death” (v. 14), which is plainly death. They are in the Lake of Fire (God’s wrath/consuming fire), but they are there to suffer a “second death” which is death from which they will not be raised.

    Larry asks,

    Will the devil and his human false prophets suffer forever and the humans who are not false prophets and thrown into the same fire just be burned up, disintegrate?

    First, you assume that the “false prophet” consists of human false prophets. I’m not sure that’s right. “Prophet” is singular. And the other victims of the Lake of Fire who are to be tortured forever are not human — even abstractions. Death is not a person but a feature of the fallen world that Jesus will defeat. Hades is the realm of the dead. It’s to be destroyed? Why? Because there will be only living people left. The damned will die. The saved will live forever.

    John sees three evil spirits coming out of the mouths of the dragon, the beast, and the false prophet. The dragon is without doubt the seven-headed dragon of chapter 12 (specifically identified as Satan in 12:9), and the beast is the beast out of the sea as described in the first ten verses of chapter 13. The false prophet (appearing by that name for the first time) is surely the beast out of the earth of 13:11–17. The evil spirits come out of the mouths of the unholy triumvirate, suggesting the persuasive and deceptive propaganda that in the last days will lead people to an unconditional commitment to the cause of evil. These historically conditioned symbols reveal eschatological truth that far transcends the limitations of their origins. In time the Roman Empire would crumble, but beyond all temporary manifestations of secular power the entire structure of human opposition to the kingdom of God will come crashing down in defeat. In the mind of the apocalyptist this will happen not by the gradual turning of people to the truth but by the dramatic and sudden return of the warrior Christ. People duped by the subtle propaganda of secularism have cut themselves off from the source of truth and must bear the inevitable consequences.

    Robert H. Mounce, The Book of Revelation, The New International Commentary on the New Testament, (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1997), 299.

    So what is the beast of the earth of 13:11-17, later called the ‘false prophet’?

    Wilcock is representative of those interpreters who take the figures in this section of Revelation in a general and timeless sense. He writes that the second beast is “in modern parlance, the ideology—whether religious, philosophical, or political—which ‘gives breath to’ any human social structure organized independently of God.” In the final days of Antichrist the false prophet stands for the role of false religion in effecting the capitulation of society to the worship of secular power. It is the universal victory of humanism. Peterson, in his self-styled and highly readable “pastoral midrash,” writes that “dragon, sea beast, and land beast are a satanic trinity that infiltrates the political world in order to deflect our worship from the God whom we cannot see to the authorities that we can see, and to deceive us into buying into a religion or belief-system that has visible results in self-gratification.”

    Robert H. Mounce, The Book of Revelation, The New International Commentary on the New Testament, (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1997), 256.

    I would encourage you to also read John Howard Yoder’s The Politics of Jesus where he addresses the meaning of Paul’s “powers and principalities.”

    If we take John and Paul to be speaking of the same thing, then the beast and the false prophet are any ideology, belief system, world view that draws people away from Jesus – with the “false prophet” being the human system that supports such a false teaching. It may be a false church, humanism, any human system that stands in the way of the truth/gospel.

    To me, and I’m no expert but this seems clear, the beast, false prophet, and devil are the spiritual and other powers that stand against Jesus. In Rome, it was emperor worship and pagan god and the religious structures that permeated society enforcing this belief system. But (except for the devil) they are abstractions — like Hades (Sheol/the grave) and death.

    Hence, John distinguishes between the spiritual forces that oppose Jesus and their human victims. But to Paul and John these are not mere abstractions. The spiritual realm has in it demons and other spiritual beings who work in active opposition to God — headed by the devil. But they appear on earth indirectly — as Nazism, the doctrines the led Mao and Stalin to kill millions, whatever forces drove the genocide in Rwanda among Christians! That is, unlike we Westerners, they don’t see it as being all about humans.

    If you approach the text trying to read with a First Century Jewish worldview, esp. in light of Paul’s writings on the powers and principalities, then you realize that John in Rev is distinguishing human victims from spiritual powers. These old posts cover the topic —

    Atonement: Christus Victor
    Atonement: The Powers in the Old Testament
    Atonement: The Powers in the New Testament, an Introduction
    Atonement: Further on Christus Victor and Paul’s Epistles
    Atonement: Reflecting on the Powers, Part 1
    Atonement: Reflecting on the Powers, Part 2
    Atonement: Reflecting on the Powers, Part 3 (Repaired)

  3. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Larry wrote,

    We must also remember that the messages in the OT were a shadow of the things to come. You know not the real thing. There is much of the references in Isa that will not match the description in heaven.

    One of the beauties of Conditionalism and idea of a new heaven and new earth is that OT and NT are reconciled. Both speak about the same things in similar terms. I’ve always been uncomfortable with the fact that OT says nothing of hell and a disembodied afterlife in heaven. It speaks of a general resurrection and a renewed heaven and earth.

    You are referring to —

    (Col. 2:15-17 ESV) 15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.
    16 Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath.
    17 These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.

    “Rulers and authorities” is generally taken as including spiritual opponents of Jesus.

    The message proclaimed by Paul to the Colossians remains the one message of hope to men and women in frustration and despair. Christ crucified and risen is Lord of all: all the forces of the universe are subject to him, not only the benign ones but the hostile ones as well. They are all subject to the one through whom they were created; the hostile forces are also subject to the one by whom they were conquered. Therefore, to be united to him is to be liberated from their thraldom, to enjoy perfect freedom, to overcome the powers of evil through participation in his victory. The redemption that is in Christ Jesus is a cosmic redemption; its healing virtue streams out to the farthest bounds of creation. But it is a personal and particular redemption too: the conqueror who is enthroned at God’s right hand, supreme above the universe and filling it with his presence, is at the same time enthroned as king in each believer’s heart. Though “we do not yet see everything in subjection to him” (Heb. 2:8), we are nevertheless assured that, because of his redemptive act, all creation will ultimately “be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the glorious liberty of the children of God” (Rom. 8:21). And here and now those who have already entered into that liberty may share Paul’s persuasion “that neither death nor life, … nor principalities, … nor powers, … nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:38–39).

    F. F. Bruce, The Epistles to the Colossians, to Philemon, and to the Ephesians, The New International Commentary on the New Testament, (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1984), 112–113.

    “Rule and authority” (NASB) probably refers to the angelic powers thought to rule the nations of the world (see 1:16; see comment on Eph 1:19-23), a doctrine that is somehow central to the erring persons wishing to influence the Colossian Christians (see comment on 1:16; 2:18).

    Craig S. Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament (Accordance electronic ed. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1993), n.p.

    The last two, rulers and authorities (archai and exousiai) are better know from the Pauline letters. They occur together in six verses as references to spiritual powers (1 Cor. 15:24; Eph. 1:21; 3:10; 6:12; Col. 2:10, 15; cf. also archē in Rom. 8:38; in Titus 3:1 [and Luke 12:11], they refer to earthly authorities).158 Also disputed is whether the four titles refer to all spiritual beings (e.g., angels, both good and bad)159 or to evil spiritual beings only.160 It is certainly the case that 1:20 and 2:15 imply hostility toward God and/or humans on the part of the powers; but the inclusive language of this verse suggests that Paul is setting up that specific point by asserting Christ’s supremacy over the entire angelic realm. The existence of spiritual beings of various sorts and their critical impact on the affairs of human beings were fundamental components of the ancient worldview.

    Douglas J. Moo, The letters to the Colossians and to Philemon (PNTC; Accordance electronic ed. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2008), n.p.

    Now, these premier NT scholars base much of what they teach on the OT because Paul’s worldview is based on the OT.

    In v. 17, Paul declares Mosaic festivals and such like “shadows” of things to come. He doesn’t say this of the OT itself. Rather, these practices were designed to separate Jew from Gentile, and they are now obsolesced because God has invited Gentile believers into the Kingdom.

    When Paul does address the OT as a whole, he says things like,

    (Rom. 15:4 ESV) 4 For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.

    (2 Tim. 3:16-17 NAS) 16 All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;
    17 that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.

    So we should be cautious of overriding OT teachings with the NT unless we have very good reason. It’s not to be assumed. Rather, they should fit together. Of course, we know from Acts 15 that Gentiles don’t have to adopt Jewish practices to be saved. And we considered here at some length how that works. And what is NOT the case is that the NT repeals the OT. Rather, the new covenant fulfills the old covenants. But they must be read together. Why else do the NT writers and Jesus so often quote the OT as authority for what they say?

  4. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Larry,

    I apologize for being so long winded. Here’s perhaps a simpler explanation.

    First, you have to understand this about the scriptural understanding of the apostles —

    PRINCIPALITIES AND POWERS. A common translation of the NT terms archai and dynameis, which are used primarily by Paul to designate angelic beings, both good and evil, but most commonly in reference to the realm of Satan. Several other terms are used in conjunction with these to denote supernatural beings: exousiai (“authorities”), archōntes (“rulers”), thronoi (“thrones”), kyriotētes (“lordships”), kosmokratores (“world rulers”), and stoicheia (“elemental spirits”).
    This collection of terms was not coined by the early Christians, but was probably taken from the reservoir of terminology in 1st-century-C.E. Jewish and pagan belief in reference to the angelic realm. The terms appear in the OT pseudepigrapha, particularly the apocalyptic writings (e.g., 2 En. 20:1; 1 En. 41:9; 61:10; cf. also Testament of Levi 3:8; Testament of Solomon 8:2; 18:2; 20:15). Many of the terms are also used in the syncretistic Greek Magical Papyri (PGM) to denote various supernatural beings (e.g., PGM I. 215; III. 35; IV. 1193, 1275, 1599, 2198–99; XXIIb. 2, 4, 7 [= the Prayer of Jacob]).
    In Ephesians, where there are more references to the principalities and powers than any other epistle, they are regarded as evil and under the authority of the devil (Eph 6:12; 2:2). Consequently, believers are called to resist their influence by appropriating the power of God. The compelling influence of these evil powers has been broken by the Christ event. Christ has been exalted to the right hand of God, a position of authority far above every conceivable evil angelic being (Eph 1:20; cf. also 1 Pet 3:22). By virtue of their union with him, believers share in the authority of Christ over the powers (cf. Eph 2:6) and may thereby break the power of their control and influence (see Arnold 1989: chap. 3).
    The powers are seen by Paul as a fundamental factor in the heretical teaching threatening the health of the Colossian church. Paul therefore stresses a cosmic christology (Col 1:15–20) affirming the superior position of Christ in relation to the powers. Christ is also asserted as the ruling “head” over the principalities and powers (Col 2:10). The cross is seen as the point of decisive defeat: “on that cross he discarded [or, disarmed] the cosmic powers and authorities like a garment; he made a public spectacle of them and led them as captives in his triumphal procession” (Col 2:15; NEB). The Colossian believers should therefore not submit themselves to the tenets of the heretical teaching, which were ultimately inspired by the “elemental spirits” (Col 2:8). In their solidarity with Christ’s death, they should consider themselves immune to the influences of these evil spirits (Col 2:20).
    Deeply aware of the influence of “the god of this age” (1 Cor 4:4), Paul sees demonic rulers (archontes) as ultimately responsible for the death of Christ (1 Cor 2:8; see Eph 2:2 for a similar use of archon as an evil spirit being). These powers did not understand the wisdom of God, who would use Christ’s death for the actual defeat of the realm of evil and thereby procure salvation for his people. Divine deliverance was necessary since humanity was in bondage to the realm of Satan and his minions (Eph 2:2; Gal 4:3, 8). The resultant emergence of the Church, the body of Christ, testifies to the evil powers of the vast wisdom of God (1 Cor 2:6–7; Eph 3:10). Although defeated by the cross-resurrection event, the powers are still active (Eph 6:12; Gal 4:9). They are in the process of being abolished (1 Cor 2:6) and will finally be destroyed at the consummation (1 Cor 15:24). Because of the work of Christ and his superior power, Paul can comfort the Church by assuring its members that no evil angelic power can separate them from the love of God in Christ Jesus the Lord (Rom 8:38).

    Clinton E. Arnold, The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary, 1992, 5, 467.

    That is, the apostles, like most First Century Jews, saw spiritual forces driven by demonic enemies of God driving much of history. We Westerners scoff, blaming it all on humans. I think Paul was likely right is saying it’s bigger than that.

    Here is an excellent post by Richard Beck summarizing the teaching of Yoder on this point:

    http://experimentaltheology.blogspot.com/2009/12/notes-on-demons-powers-part-6-yoder-on.html

    Now, when I read “false prophet” in the Rev, I think of Paul’s principalities and powers as interpreted by Yoder.

    Most literally, the first beast is likely the Roman Empire and the second beast/false prophet is the pagan religion that supported the Empire. But John would have intended these to apply more broadly — not just to the Roman Empire but to Empire in general — any nation or earthly power that seeks loyalty in competition with God.

    The Nazis and Communists did this in very obvious fashion, but we increasingly see how the US government asserts its power in competition with God. The Supreme Court obviously cares nothing of God. And many in Congress and the White House wish to require Christians to violate their consciences regarding abortion and other moral issues.

    Yoder would say that ALL governments necessarily take on characteristics of the first Beast.

    The pagan religion that supported the Roman Empire is the second beast/false prophet. In Soviet Russia, it was communist ideology, the communist party, a state-sponsored worldview that was anti-God. In many nations, the head of state is treated as a near god.

    In the US, things are more subtle. But when we’re taught “God and Country” then we are being asked to make the United States government co-equal with God — which we cannot do. When the government works to weaken Christianity and impose intolerable rules on Christian institutions, we’re being taught that the liberal agenda is higher than Christianity and Christianity must bow to tolerance, abortion, etc. It’s not hard to identity the modern version of the false prophet in those who claim to be wiser than God, who have been granted power over others through government, media, and the arts. They are the priesthood of the false prophet.

    But the false prophet isn’t particular people or a person. It’s many systems or structures that empower the beast to oppose God. Like Death and Hades, it’s an abstraction — a very real but abstract concept.

    When Jesus defeats the principalities and powers, the need for government will end. So will the need for all the other elements of society that conspire with government to challenge the power of God. They’ll be destroyed, cast into the Lake of Fire, and God’s children will be liberated from their power.

    Finally, the beast and its false prophet are, in the First Century mind, products of demonic powers that oppose God. Jesus’ death on the cross defeated them but their defeat has not yet been fulfilled. And I agree.

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