“Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment” (Hebrews 10:27)…“The rich man also died and was buried. In hell, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire” (Luke 16:23-24).
Heaven or Hell?
According to the Bible when we die we will go to one of two places. We will either go to heaven or to hell. Hell itself is a place of conscious and endless torment where all those who have rejected the redemption offered in Jesus Christ will go to when they die. When the unsaved are resurrected at the end of the Millennium hell will give them up to be judged by Jesus and they will go onto the lake of fire for eternity. The lake of fire is the second death. There, along with Satan, the beast and the false prophet they will be tormented day and night forever. The Bible is very clear about this.
“But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars-their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death” (Revelation 21:8). “But the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who had performed the miraculous signs on his behalf. With these signs he had deluded those who had received the mark of the beast and worshipped his image. The two of them were thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulfur” (Revelation 19:20).
1. Is the Future Lake of Fire a Literal Fire?
The answer is yes! In the Bible the word fire is repeatedly used to describe the future penalty for sin. (Matthew 7:19) (John 15:6) “Thrown into the fire” (Matthew 13:42) “The fiery furnace” (Isaiah 66:24) “Their worm will not die, nor will their fire be quenched.” (Hebrews 6:8) “In the end it will be burned.” (Hebrews 10:27) “A raging fire” (Revelation 14:10) “He will be tormented with burning sulfur” (Revelation 19:20 21:8) “The fiery lake of burning sulfur” (Revelation 20:15) “The lake of fire”
2. Is the Lake of Fire a place of Continuous and Conscious Torment or is it a place of annihilation of ones being or a place of non-conscious existence?
The Bible describes the punishment of the wicked as “death” and “destruction.” Both words are used to mean endless torment and not non-existence after death.
3. The word “death” can be applied to people who are still living.
Death is not used in the Bible to mean non-existence. “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions-it is by grace you have been saved.” (Ephesians 2:4). “But the widow who lives for pleasure is dead even while she lives” (1 Timothy 5:6).
The Second Death
When the book of Revelation speaks about “the second death” it is not speaking about non-existence. The lake of fire is a place of conscious torment because the devil, the beast and the false prophet are thrown into it and tormented there forever. (Revelation 19:20 20:10) This lake of fire is described as the second death. (Revelation 21:8) Unbelievers do not cease to exist after they die because Jesus made this very clear when He spoke about the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16.19-31. After the rich man had died he was in hell and in that place he was very much alive and conscious of where he was. He was in agony in the fire. (Vs 24) It was a place of no return. (Vs 26) It was a place of conscious torment. (Vs 28) This concept of eternal torment is also implied in Isaiah 66:24. The idea conveyed very clearly is that “their worm will not die, nor will their fire be quenched” implies endless, conscious torment.
Conscious and eternal torment
There is also a very clear reference to a conscious torment in the next life in Isaiah where the Bible in describing the judgment of the king of Babylon is also describing the judgment on the devil and the Antichrist. “Sheol from beneath is excited over you to meet you (The King of Babylon) when you come; It arouses for you the spirits of the dead, all the leaders of the earth; It raises all the kings of the nations from their thrones. “They will all respond and say to you, ‘Even you have been made weak as we, you have become like us. ‘Your pomp and the music of your harps have been brought down to Sheol; Maggots are spread out as your bed beneath you and worms are your covering.’ “How you have fallen from heaven, O star of the morning, son of the dawn! (Lucifer now called Satan)You have been cut down to the earth, you who have weakened the nations! “But you said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God, and I will sit on the mount of assembly in the recesses of the north. ‘I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.’ “Nevertheless you will be thrust down to Sheol, to the recesses of the pit. “Those who see you will gaze at you; they will ponder over you, saying, and ‘Is this the man (The Antichrist) who made the earth tremble, who shook kingdoms”? (Isaiah 14:9-16). How can anyone read a passage of scripture like this and say the Bible teaches that the wicked are annihilated?
4. The word “destruction” used in the bible does not always mean physical destruction, neither does it imply annihilation or a state of ‘non-existence’ after death!
The general use of the word is found in Matthew 9:17. “Neither do men pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst, the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined.” The word used here for “ruined” means “to perish.” The word is a verb from which the noun commonly translated “destruction” or “perdition” is derived. The word “perish” does not mean that it ceases to exist but that it is so ruined that it can no longer be used for the purpose it was intended to be used for!
The word “destruction” is the same word used for “perdition” when applied to the destiny of the beast in the book of Revelation. “The beast which you saw, once was, now is not, and will come up out of the Abyss and go to his destruction¡. The beast who once was, and now is not, is an eighth king. He belongs to the seven and is going to his destruction” (Revelation 17:8, 11). the Beast along with the False Prophet are not annihilated but are thrown alive into the lake of fire to be tormented day and night forever. It is the same place where Satan himself is thrown. (Revelation 19:20 20:10) Again, this clearly tells us that the lake of fire is a place of conscious and continuous torment forever. The same word translated as “destruction” is used elsewhere to describe the final state of unbelievers. (Philippians 3:19) (2 Peter 3:7, 16) (2 Thessalonians 1:8-9) The word “destruction” does not mean annihilation. This is also clear from what Jesus said, “For the Son of Man is come to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10). The “lost” are those who are physically alive but spiritually dead. They are “dead” while they live!
Those who receive the mark of the beast
All those who receive the mark of the beast will experience conscious torment without rest forever and ever. “If anyone worships the beast and his image and receives his mark on the forehead or on the hand, he, too will drink of the wine of God’s fury, which has been poured full strength into the cup of His wrath. He will be tormented with burning sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and the lamb. And the smoke of their torment rises forever and ever. There is no rest day or night for those who worship the beast and his image or for anyone who receives the mark of his name.” (Revelation 14:9-11).
Neglecting to care for Israel
The Lord Jesus himself spoke about the final destiny of those whom He will reject because of their neglect to take care of his Jewish brothers. “Then He will say to those on his left, ‘depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels’ ” (Matthew 25:41). Even though hell and the lake of fire were created for the devil and his angels and not for man all those who reject Christ will join the devil and his angels in that place. This leads us to the next question regarding hell and the lake of fire.
A. Who will be going into the Lake of Fire?
1. All those who do not believe that Jesus is the Son of God will be going into the lake of fire.
“I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins” (John 8:24).
When we look at this in the context of (Vs 21) of the same chapter it is clear that those who die in their sins cannot go to heaven. The ones Jesus spoke of here were the religious leaders. He said they belonged to the devil. (Vss 42-47) If we are to go to heaven we must accept God’s testimony about his Son and respond to Him personally.
“Anyone who believes in the Son of God has this testimony in his heart. Anyone who does not believe God has made Him out to be a liar, because he has not believed the testimony God has given about His Son. And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of (1 John 5:10-12) “Yet to all who received Him, to those who believed in His name. He gave the right to become children of God.” This faith also requires obedience to the Lord Jesus Christ. (John 3:36) “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him” (John 1:12).
2. All those who have done evil will be going into the lake of fire.
“For a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out-those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned” (John 5:28).
To do good works does not mean that doing them can save us. The “good done” mentioned here is the good works done as a result of believing in Jesus and not by virtue of the works themselves. To do evil is to reject the salvation offered to us in Jesus Christ. This is the plain meaning of the text and the teaching of the New Testament. All the sins that men and women commit are the results of the sinfulness of the human heart. Good works can never save us because we are saved by faith alone. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). However, if we have been saved then we will have works that correspond to the faith we profess. “In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead” (James 2:17).
3. All those who are stubborn, unrepentant, and self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil will go into the lake of fire.
“But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when His righteous judgment will be revealed¡. But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile” (Romans 2:5-6, 8-9).
4. All those who do not know God and who do not obey the gospel will be going into the lake of fire.
“He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of His power” (2 Thessalonians 1:8-9).
5. All those whose names are not written in the Book of Life will be going into the lake of fire.
“If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:15).
6. All those who neglect to care for Jesus’ brothers and sisters the Jewish people will be going into the lake of fire.
“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave Me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite Me in. I needed clothes and you did not clothe Me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after Me.’ They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for Me.’ Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life” (Matthew 25:41-46).
7. All those who are cowardly, unbelieving, vile, murderers, sexually immoral or who are into witchcraft, idolatry or are liars will be going into the lake of fire.
“But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars-their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death” (Revelation 21:8).
8. All those who worship the Antichrist and receive his mark will be going into the lake of fire.
“If anyone worships the beast and his image and receives his mark on the forehead or on the hand, he too will drink of the wine of God’s fury, which has been poured full strength into the cup of his wrath. He will be tormented with burning sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment rises forever and ever. There is no rest day or night for those who worship the beast and his image, or for anyone who receives the mark of his name” (Revelation 14:9-11).
9. Satan, the Antichrist and the False Prophet, all of them will be going into the lake of fire.
“But the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who had performed the miraculous signs on his behalf. With these signs he had deluded those who had received the mark of the beast and worshipped his image. The two of them were thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulfur” (Revelation19:20). “And the devil who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever” (Revelation 20:10).
B. Are all issues settled in Eternity?
The answer is yes! In eternity every person will have to stand before the Lord Jesus Christ and be held accountable for what they did when they lived on earth. This is an appointment none of us can avoid. Only those who have their trust in the blood and merits of Jesus Christ for their acceptance with God will be spared. What happens then to unbelievers the moment they physically die and pass into eternity?
1. Those that die in their sins cannot go where Jesus is.
“Once more Jesus said to them, ‘I am going away, and you will look for Me, and you will die in your sin. Where I go, you cannot come’ ” (John 8:21).
If God let sinners into heaven then heaven itself would become just like this world with its sin, death, destruction and evil practices. We cannot go to heaven with our sins. All and every sin must be forgiven and cleansed by Jesus’ blood or we won’t be admitted to heaven when we die.
2. Everyone is destined to die and after that to face judgment.
“Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment” (Hebrews 9:27).
It seems that many evil people seem to escape the penalty for their actions in this life; however, they will not escape in eternity after they leave this world. “Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. The sea gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done” (Revelation 20:12-13).
The rich man and the poor man
In the gospel the Lord Jesus spoke about a rich man who had lived a lavish and rich lifestyle while neglecting to take care of a beggar at his gate. In this life that rich man had everything and the poor man had nothing. Well they both died and the rolls were reversed. The rich man went straight to hell while the poor man went to paradise. The rich man had put his faith in money and self-gratification and loved the things of this world. The poor man had nothing in this world but he did have his faith in God. In this life the rich man seemed to get away with things but in eternity he had to give an account of his life to God. He had ignored Salvation and had lived only for himself and after he died he awoke in hell and there he was in continuous and conscious torment. (Luke 16:19-31)
Why do the wicked prosper?
King David faced this dilemma when he saw the wicked prospering and seemingly not coming into judgment for their actions in this life but when he went into the Temple of God to worship the Lord David saw the final end of the wicked. They would not escape the judgment of God! (Psalm 73:1-10)
The Devil’s best kept secret
Don’t let anyone tell you that hell is not a real place. This is the devil’s beast kept secret. Jesus Himself spoke about hell many times in the gospels especially in Matthew’s gospel. Jesus always described it as a place of continuous and conscious torment. In the original Greek texts of the New Testament hell is always described as a place of eternal and conscious torment. Unfortunately today many preachers neglect to warn people about this place. When we look at the evangelistic preaching of men like, The prophets, John the Baptist, the Lord Jesus and the apostles they all warned people very clearly about hell and the judgment to come. It was said of William Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army, that he actually said that he wished he could dangle all of his officers by a rope over hell for a week to make them more fervent evangelists!
3. All those who are in their graves who have done evil will be physically resurrected to face judgment.
“For a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear His voice and come out-those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned” (John 5:28-29).
C. What happens to those who die who have never heard about Jesus?
1. All those who have never heard of Jesus will be judged on the light they have concerning God and how they have responded to it.
“The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities-His eternal power and divine nature-have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified Him as God nor gave thanks to Him, but their thinking became futile and there foolish hearts were darkened” (Romans 1:18-21).
The due penalty for their perversions
In the rest of Romans chapter one and two Paul goes on to describe the downward plunge of man into all kinds of sin and debauchery that ultimately leads to judgment. Even those who have never heard of Jesus will be judged because in their minds they have rejected the light that they have received. God’s laws have been written in their minds and conscience since creation but they have rejected God’s laws and have received in themselves the due penalty for their perversions. Also it would seem that there are different levels in hell of varying torment. How far down an unsaved person will go only the Lord knows! The Lord Jesus said that it would be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah in the Day of Judgment than for those who actually saw and heard the Lord Jesus but rejected His salvation. (Matthew 10:15) Those who have received more light about their need of salvation and rejected it will be judged more severely. In the Old Testament people did not have the light we have today. Much more could be said about this aspect of hell and the lake of fire.
Creation itself is a witness in itself
Creation itself is a witness to the existence of God to men and women but even in this, because of man’s fallen sinful nature, they reject their creator. All men and women regardless of race or creed are great sinners and rebels in God’s sight. They have violated His commandments and will be judged according to how they have responded to the knowledge they have about God. However, the Bible is very clear that without faith in Jesus Christ a person cannot be saved. (John 14:6) (Acts 4:12) This is why it is vitally important to preach the gospel. In fact Paul himself said, “For I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!” (1 Corinthians 9:16).
Terrifying beyond ones imagination
The future state of those who reject the redemption offered to them in Jesus Christ is plainly declared in the Bible to be a conscious, unutterable, endless torment and anguish. This conception is terrifying and beyond one’s imagination to contemplate. It is, however, the scriptural conception and also a reasonable one when we come to see the horrible nature of sin, especially the horrible nature of the sin of trampling underfoot God’s mercy towards sinners, and rejecting God’s glorious Son, whom His love has provided as our Savior from sin.
A literal hell!
If Christians really believed in a literal hell and could see the consequences of sin and rebellion against God in the lake of fire for eternity they would spend their time, their talents and especially their money in reaching the lost for Jesus. However, multitudes of believers are just like Jonah who was asleep in the bottom of the boat when the storm was raging and those around him were in danger of death. Multitudes of professing Christians would rather attend conferences and seminars on evangelism rather than go out themselves into the streets to win the lost for Christ! Heaven at its worst is better than anything we can ever imagine. However, hell and the lake of fire are worse than anything we can ever imagine.
A. Torrey said, “Do not believe this doctrine in a cold, intellectual, merely argumentative way. If you do, and try to teach it, you will repel men from it. But meditate upon it in its practical, personal bearings, until your heart is burdened by the awful peril of the wicked and you rush out to spend the last dollar, if need be, and the last ounce of strength you have, in saving those imperiled men from the certain, awful hell of conscious agony and shame to which they are fast hurrying.”