WHAT IS THE SECOND DEATH?

"He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death." Revelation 2:11

"Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power." Revelation 20:6 In his efforts to misrepresent the character of God to the human race, Satan has succeeded to a startling extent. Introduced into the minds of men and women by the "father of lies", many of the misconceptions about God have become encased in human philosophy and passed on from generation to generation. They have penetrated all levels of human life, and have often been fostered even by the "Christian Church". Two of these false theories have had an especially strong hold on the human imagination. One is the idea that God is a god of anger and wrath, a cruel tyrant who has no reservations about subjecting His creatures to an eternally burning hell for failure to give perfect obedience to His arbitrary commands. But this is not the character of God.

"As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasurein the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from you evil ways; for why will ye die?" Ezekiel 33:11

The other idea pictures God as a kindly grandfather, who is too good to kill anyone. This theory generally holds that all will be saved, regardless of their character in this life. But this casts God as a god who has neither the power nor the backbone to deal with the problem of evil. But will God have to make a place for those who willingly destroy the peace and harmony of the universe for all eternity? Will He, along with those who love peace, be at the mercy of selfish and unscrupulous creatures for time without end? "The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgement to be punished." 2 Peter 2:9.

It may be pleasing to the carnal minds of men and women to imagine that they can live as sinfully as they like in this life and still be saved in the life to come, but the Bible simply does not support this idea. Jesus said:

"Enter ye in at the straight gate: for wide is the fate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat." Matthew 7:13

There will be a day of judgement for those who continue in rebellion against the principles of God's government. And thet will be a punishment as a result of that judgement. The Bible calls that punishment the "Second Death."

"And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire." Revelation 20:14,15.

What is this lake of fire and the second death that is said to be its result? Will the fire burn forever? Will those who are thrown there live in conscious torment for all eternity? For the answer, we must again allow the Bible to speak for itself. The scriptures use a great variety of expressions and images to describe the experience of second death. Read the following list carefully, paying special attention to the undelined phrases. In these are contained the secret of the "Second Death."

"For evildoers shall be cut off: but those that wait upon the Lord, they shall inherit the earth." Psalm 37:9.
"For a little while, and the wicked shall not be: yea, thou shalt diligently consider his place, and it shall not be." Psalm 37:10.
"But the wicked shall perish, and the enemies of the the Lord shall be as the fat of lambs: they shall consume; into smoke shall they consume away." Psalm 37:20.
"I have seen the wicked in great power, and spreading himself like a green bay tree. Yet he passed away, and, lo, he was not: yea, I sought him, but he could not be found." Psalm 37:35,36.
"Let the sinners be consumed out of the earth, and let the wicked be no more." Psalm 104:35.
"Consume them in wrath, consume them, that they may not be." Psalm 59:13.
"The Lord preserveth all them that love him: but all the wicked will he destroy." Psalm 145:20.
"Thine hand shall find out all thine enemies: thy right hand shall find out those that hate thee. Thou shalt make them as a fiery oven in the time of thine anger: the Lord shall swallow them up in his wrath, and the fire shall devour them." Psalm 21:8,9.
"When the wicked spring as the grass, and when the workers of iniquity do flourish; it is that they shall be destroyed forever." Psalm 92:7.
"For the day of the Lord is near upon all the heathen: as thou hast done, it shall be done unto thee: thy reward shall return upon thine own head. For as ye have drunk upon my holy mountain, so shall all the heathen drink continually, yea, they shall drink, and they shall swallow down, and they shall be as though they had not been." Obadiah 16
"And the destruction of the transgressors and of the sinners shall be together, and they that forsake the Lord shall be consumed." Isaiah 1:28.
"Behold, all they that were incensed against thee shall be consumed and confounded: they shall be as nothing; and they that strive with thee shall perish. Thou shalt seek them, and shalt not find them, even them that contended with thee: they that way against thee shall be as nothing, and as a thing of nought." Isaiah 41:11,12.
"For, behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven; and all the rpoud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be as stubble; and the day cometh that shall burn them up, saith the Lord of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch." Malachi 4:1.
"The wicked are overthrown, and are not: but the house of the righeous shall stand." Proverbs 12:7.
"Do you not know this from of old, since man was placed upon the earth, that the exulting of the wicked is short, and the joy of the godless but for a moment? Though his height mount up to the heavens, and his head reach to the clouds, he will perish forever like his own dung; those who have seen him will say, 'Where is he?' He will fly away like a dream, and not be found; he will be chased away like a vision of the night. The eye which saw him will see him no more, nor will his place any more behold him." Job 20:4-9 R.S.V.

Phrases such as "destroyed forever", "perish", and "consume away", are often used to describe the final state of the lost. These terms are more significant when we are clear as to what they mean. Notice the following definitions from "The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language":

destroy - 1. To ruin completely; spoil so that restoration is impossible; consume 2. To tear down or break up; raze; demolish. 3. To do away with; get rid of; put an end to. 4. To kill . . .

perish - 1. To die, especially in a violent or untimely manner. 2. To pass from existence; disappear gradually.

consume - 1. To destroy, as by fire. 2. To use up or waste (time, energy, money, etc.). 3. To drink or eat up; devour. v.i. to waste away; perish.

Notice that all of these have the concept of something put out of existence.

While it may seem that the above list of texts is rather long, actually it is only a sample of the many phrases, descriptions, and images that are used in both Testaments of the Bible to describe the experience of the "second death." When we put all of these passages together, three conclusions stand out clearly in regard to the second death:

1.

The final punishment (second death) consists of death by fire, or burning.
"And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire." Revelation 20:15.

". . . and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them." Revelation 20:9.

"The earth and all the inhabitants thereof are dissolved." Psalm 75:3.

"But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works therin shall be burned up. Seeing that all these things shall be dissolved . . . Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness." 2 Peter 3:10,11,13

. "The Lord will swallow them up in his wrath; and fire will consume them." Psalm 21:9.

2.

The end result of this punishment will be "death", i.e. nonexistence.
"The soul that sinneth, it shall die." Ezekiel 18:4.

"For the wages of sin is death." Romans 6:23.

"They shall be as though they had not been." Obadiah 16.

3.

The permanent effect of this punishment will be eternal nonexistence.
"they shall be destroyed forever." Psalm 92:7.

"When the tempest passes, the wicked is no more, but the righteous is established for ever." Proverbs 10:25.

WHAT ABOUT EVERLASTING FIRE?

Some believe that the wicked are doomed to burn consciously foever because the Bible speaks of "everlasting fire." Notice the following verse that contains the expression "eternal fire."

"Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire." Jude 7.

Are Sodom and Gomorrha still burning today? Listen to the words of the apostle Peter:

". . . by turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrha to ashes he condemned them to extinction and made them an example to those who were to be ungodly." 2 Peter 2:6 R.S.V.
Sodom and Gomorrha are not burning today. Their destruction by fire was intended to be an example for all mankind of what will ultimately happen to all the wicked of all ages; not eternal torture, but eternal extinction. The fire is said to be everlasting because it is the ultimate expression of God's hatred of sin. God will always hate sin and its effect on His creation. If He were to ever change His atttude toward sin in the future, then He would be unjust for applying stiff penalties for it now. But His attitude will never change. "For I am the Lord, I change not;" Malachi 3:6. The fire of God's wrath will always burn against sin. Right will always be right, and wrong will always be wrong. Love and mercy will always find approval in the sight of God, and selfishness will always be condemned.

IS GOD ALWAYS RIGHT?

God's wrath will always be directed against sin. Does that mean that God is always angry? Anyone who has ever gotten between a mother bear and her cub knows what it is like when a bear gets angry. Hidden cameras have revealed that bears are not angry all the time. They are normally docile and doting parents. It is the presence of an intruder that arouses their anger. Sin is an intruder, a constant threat to God's loyal children. And anyone or anything that lifts a finger against God's children is threatening "the apple of His eye." Zechariah 2:8 When sin is put out of existence, God will not continue in a state of anger. his anger would return only if sin were to return to provoke it. And that will never happen again. The prophet Nahum promises, "He will make an utter end: affliction shall not rise up the second time." Nahum 1:9. In order for sin to re-enter the universe, it would have to enter through the mind of one of God's creatures by an act of free will. After the demonstration that we are witnessing and experiencing at the present time, none will ever again make that choice.

WHO'S BURNING NOW?

Revelation 20:4-9 gives us the order of events to take place in the universe from the second coming of Christ till the destruction of the wicked. These two events are separated by the millennium; 1,000 years of peace, during which the righteous are in heaven with Christ. Only after this period is over will the wicked be subjected to the "lake of fire." None are burning today. The apostle Peter states that "the heavens and the earth are now kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgement and perdition of ungodly men." 2 Peter 3:7.

There is a day of final reckoning. The second death will be a reality. But beyond that we can share the hope of Peter: "Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness." 2 Peter 3:13. How does God view the second death? He is "not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance." 2 Peter 3:9.


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