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Lake of Fire

What is the Lake of Fire and what is its purpose? Perhaps few subjects have provoked so much speculation as the lake of fire. Is it literal? Is it only a figure of speech? What is it? The answer of Scripture is plain and clear, and all that is necessary is a consideration of God’s explanation. The teaching concerning the lake of fire does not appear anywhere in Scripture except in the book of Revelation This in itself raises the question, why only in the one book and at the end of the book? Is it the same as Gehenna or Hades or other references believed to be hell fire? No, it is entirely different.

It is mentioned in Revelation and in just in 5 verses toward the end of the book:

Rev_19:20 (KJV) 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.

Rev_20:10 (KJV) 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.

Rev_20:14 (KJV) And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.

Rev_20:15 (KJV) And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.

Also to be included in this would be:

Rev 21:8 (KJV) 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.

The book of Revelation is either to be understood as literal or symbolic or both. The meaning of the Lake of Fire in this prophetic book becomes clearer when we examine some of the statements in this book to figure out what is literal and what is spiritual or symbolic..

Many were taught and believe that the book of Revelation is a literal prophecy about events that will happen at the close of the age.

lake of firre

A close examination will show that most of what is said in this marvelous book called Revelation (Unveiling) is not literal, but symbolic. To believe that it is to be taken literally raises all sorts of problems.

Being told how end time events unfold is very appealing to many Christians. This topic is a big drawing card for preachers and evangelists. Their colorful and eloquent way of explaining how events mentioned in Revelation would transpire is a very popular topic. They claim they have an understanding of the sequence of events to take place on the world stage. In most cases they do not know what they are really talking about. Their appeal lies in linking historical and current events to the words in Revelation. Topics such as “the secret rapture”, “who is the beast”, “mark of the beast”, “the place of safety”, etc. Much of what they say, although of interest to many, is mostly guess work or balderdash.

Now for a most important aspect to understanding this book. Just how was this revelation to John to be recorded and preserved? Right from the outset notice it:

Rev 1:1 (KJV) The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John.

What does it mean to “signify?” Certainly this prophecy of the revelation or unveiling of Christ was written by John, but there is spiritual meaning behind the words. To “signify” has to do with signs and symbols.

From the Merriam-Webster Dictionary


Definition : to be a sign of (something) : to mean (something)

So it means a sign or symbol that represents an idea or thought.

The synonym for sign is: symbol.

The first eleven verses of Chapter one in Revelation are an introduction regarding where, how, and what John is going to record for us. Much of this introduction can be taken literally, however, not all. Beginning with verse twelve, we are confronted with one symbol after another for the remainder of the entire twenty-two-chapter-book. Everything written in Revelation is true, but much can not be taken literally.

There is no mistaking this simple truth. The book of Revelation is written in symbols. So what is written in the verses, in symbols, has a spiritual meaning and application.

There are very many examples of this symbolic language. Here are just a few showing this fact.

Rev 2:17 (KJV) He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it.

Will Christ reward the faithful with a literal little white stone? The stone and the name written in it represents something else? Something of much greater value? This is not literal.

Another example:

Rev 6:13 (KJV) And the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind.

Do the literal stars of heaven fall on the earth? The smallest known stars are generally much larger than the earth.

Yet another of many verses:

Rev 19:13 (KJV) And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God.

Will the King of the universe really wear clothing dripping with literal “blood?” Is God’s wrath a literal “winepress?”

If one does not understand that the “signs,” that is, symbols need to be interpreted, one will never understand this book. The definition of many of the symbols are contained in the Old Testament. Stars in a hand are not physical stars; frogs out of a prophet’s mouth are not physical frogs, candlesticks are not really candlesticks. Do you really think there is a dead lamb laying on a throne in heaven? If one understands these things are “signs,” then understand that the Book of Revelation is full of hundreds of “symbols.” No, none of these things are literal.

Nevertheless many Christians will argue that the “Lake of Fire” is literal. From what has been written so far in this article, it is only reasonable to consider this Lake of Fire as symbolic. If this is so then it has a spiritual meaning. What is the spiritual meaning?

There are three main views within Christianity as to what this “Lake of Fire” is.

1....Mainstream Christian Belief

Fundamentalist Christians are the largest group who believe that the lake of fire is a literal fire. They also believe this lake of fire is just another term for HELL If you read the previous articles in this web site under the topic of HELL, you can see that an ever burning fire to torture evil people, referred to as Hell, is a pagan doctrine. The Greek word Hades which means grave should not have been translated as “hell”.

But their explanation contradicts the idea that the lake of fire is literal. They teach that the lake of fire is literal fire that burns like real fire, but they then contradict the literalness of this fire by teaching that it doesn’t actually burn up anything: It just causes unbearable pain. But really, can a fire that doesn’t actually burn up physical, material things, be called a literal fire? They also deny the truth about the second death because they don’t believe those in the Lake of Fire ever die and lose consciousness. More about the second death a little later in this article.

It is a physiological impossibility for a literal fire to cause pain on the nervous system of a person and yet never actually kill them and burn them up if the fire is applied eternally. Furthermore, real fire does not cause symbolic or figurative death–real fire causes real death.

2....Belief of many Sabbath Keeping Churches of God and Jehovah Witnesses

Another group of Christians, primarily Jehovah Witnesses and many Sabbath keeping Churches of God, consider that the Lake of Fire is the place that God annihilates people who refuse to accept Christ as Savoir. They use the parable of “Lazarus and the Rich Man” as proof of this doctrine. More about this parable in a later article.

They teach that both the lake of fire and the second death are symbolic and not literal. They believe that this phrase does not represent a place or condition of literal torment in literal fire forever. However, they believe that it does picture or represent the total annihilation of all those who are judged and are not granted salvation.

This belief is certainly much more merciful than the Christian fundamentalist one, however, it too is not in harmony with other scriptures. Think about the fact that God tells us that there is a spirit in man, every human being, and that spirit returns to God when a person dies (Eccl. 12:7). What happens to the spirit (spirit can not be destroyed) if a person is “annihilated”? Not to mention the fact that it would prove our heavenly Father either unable or unwilling to save most of His own children. What kind of an eternal example would that be for those who are saved? God tells us to “love our enemies” while He Himself “hates our loved ones” by destroying most of them for all eternity? This teaching is also wrong.

3....Another Christian Belief

A small group of Christians believe that the Lake of Fire is symbolic of the fact that our God is a consuming fire and His fire is good and not vindictive or used to torture or totally destroy evil people. His consuming fire will ultimately destroy death, hell (the grave) and sin. The last enemy to be destroyed is death (I Cor. 15:26). There is only a small group who are of this latter persuasion. But it is the only way that these Scriptures on the lake of fire and the second death will harmonize and not contradict the rest of God’s Word.

Words of God are spiritual

Jesus said the words He spoke are spirit and life (John_6:63). The spirit of His word tells us what is the real and intended meaning, not just the apparent and surface meaning, or the “letter.” It is a common mistake among Christians to suppose that the Bible is written in very plain and simple language, and that the correct meaning is that which lies upon the surface – the most obvious and apparent sense. It may sound strange and erroneous to some to hear any one say that the Bible has a deeper spiritual meaning than the literal words. Much of what Christ said was in figurative language with spiritual meaning. Read the article on Gehenna in this web site and you will see this. Just trying to understand through the letter, you will find the Scriptures often seem contradictory and frustrating. Therefore to all scripture there is a spirit as well as a letter.

Mat_13:13(KJV) Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand.

For all too many, the marvelous Scriptures have no meaning beyond the literal meaning of the literal words. And so, for most, the Word of God remains a giant enigma.

There should be no question as to the certainty of this lake of fire; neither should there be any doubt as to the consequence of having to be cast into it. The few Scriptures in Revelation with their seemingly dreadful foreboding should be a concern to all of the potential consequences of sin.

Excluded from experiencing this Lake of Fire and the second death are those in the first resurrection, those who are the called and chosen, the saints of God.

Rev_2:11 (KJV) He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death.

Rev_20:6 (KJV) Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.

We need to see the purpose of the Lake of Fire and how it is related to the second death. A most profound statement is in Rev. 20:14.

And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.

Before we take a close look at this particular scripture, notice this verse:

Rev_19:20 (KJV) 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.

This is the first time that “lake of fire” is mentioned in scripture. It is where the beast and false prophet are cast at the return of Jesus Christ to the earth. It is also where Satan (Adversary) is cast after deceiving the nations at the end of the millennium.

Rev 20:10 (KJV) 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 (eons of the eons).

If the beast and false prophet are mortal, then a real lake of fire would burn them up making it impossible for them to be tormented for the two coming eons. “For ever and ever” is a wrong translation. See the articles under “Plan of God” for an explanation. If the beast and false prophet are supernatural, or spirit, then physical fire would not harm them. So, if the fire is literal, it can serve no useful purpose. Satan is a spirit, and therefore cannot be tortured with real fire. Real, physical fire has no effect on spirit. But these beings can be tormented, which is quite different than being tortured.

Torment does not mean torture as some would infer. A loving God does not torture, but He can cause torment. Torment is an agitated or agonizing state, either in nature or in the mind. This word tormented or torment is from the Greek word (βασανίζω) (Strong’s G928) transliterated as basanizo.

One example of the use of the Greek word basanizo is in Matthew 14:24

Mat 14:24 (KJV) But the ship was now in the midst of the sea, tossed (Greek word basanizo meaning tormented) with waves: for the wind was contrary.

This tells us that the sea was “tormented”, not tortured. The sea was violent with swelling forceful waves. The Greek word would not be translated as tortured.

Another example of this torment pertaining to people was the mental anguish experienced by the centurions servant where we read:

Mat 8:6 (KJV) And saying, Lord, my servant lieth at home sick of the palsy, grievously tormented . (Greek word basanizo).

Note that torment in the lake of fire is only mentioned in connection with the evil spirit beings. We saw that the phrase the lake of fire occurs five times in the book of Revelation, and in only two of these occurrences is there said to be consciousness and torment. The three individuals–Satan, the Wild Beast, and False Prophet are the only ones said to be tormented for a set length of time in the lake of fire. They are seized and cast into the fiery lake alive, and exist in its torment for the ages of the ages (eons of the eons) and not forever. They are there until the consummation, when death is finally abolished.

In Rev. 20:14 we read that death and hell were cast into the lake of fire.

Rev_20:14 (KJV) And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.

From these verses we can conclude the following concerning the lake of fire:

The adversary (Satan) and his cronies were cast into it

Death and hell (the grave) were cast into it.

Those not written in the book of life were cast into it.

God says in Heb. 12:29 that He is a consuming fire.

John the Baptist said he baptized with water for repentance but says when Jesus comes He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire (Matt.3:11).

Jesus said He came to set fire on the earth (Luke 12:49).

Paul said that our works would be revealed by fire and will try (test) those works (1 Cor. 3:13).

Peter said that our faith will be tried (tested) with fire (1 Pet. 1:7).

God has shown Himself to be not only a God of love, but also of fire, a consuming fire in the Scriptures. It is amazing how often God speaks of fire in bringing judgement on all. Judgement by God is good, it serves a righteous purpose. The last time that fire is mentioned in the scriptures is in reference to the lake of fire.

The lake of fire is a place of torment for Satan and his cohorts. Since they are spirit, they do not die in this place. Never the less, the lake of fire does end, it is not eternal as many believe.

In the second resurrection, the dead, small and great, will stand before the white throne to be judged and experience the lake of fire. This experience is not for the purpose of torture or torment. The lake of fire is the second death (Rev. 20:14).

For the vast majority of humanity who are resurrected at the white throne it is a place of judgement and condemnation. They will behold the Jesus Christ, the righteous judge and Savior, seated on His white throne, not a black throne.

It is here that all the irreverence and injustice of men will receive just adjudication and all wrongs will be made right. After justice has been fully meted out to each one, being outside of the present age of grace and faith, the second death will have jurisdiction over them for a while.

The lake of fire is not presented as a place of suffering, but a place of death, in connection with the great white throne judgment. There is no value for the thought that the lake will destroy or burn out the second death. It is the second death.

DEATH is the designation which God Himself has placed upon the lake of fire to describe its effect upon those who are chastised at the great white throne. Our thoughts about the burning lake are usually the very opposite of this. We imagine it a place of torture, of pain prolonged and excruciating, of terror and despair, of hopeless and helpless horror. Few of our false notions are as difficult to displace as this.

The main point of all this is to accept God’s declaration that, for those who are judged before the great white throne, the lake of fire is the second death. If we take God at His word, exactly and accurately, and add nothing to it and take nothing from it

It is simply a fact, then, that in the second death, life is non-existent, no matter how much the conclusions of some proponents of eternal torment hold to the proposition that the second death is a second lifetime in the fiery flames of never ending hell. From a clear grasp of Revelation 20:14 alone, it becomes evident that any such a position is dreadfully wrong. The lake of fire is the second death.

Literal death entails the absence of life; and, in the case of the second death, death is literal. The second death, however, will only continue until the consummation. Death will finally be gone forever, the last enemy to be destroyed.

1 Cor 15:26 (KJV) The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.

In that glorious day, death will be abolished and all will be immortalized (vivified), that God may be All in all.

This is related to what happens in the fifth and final age (eon). This is discussed in an article under the heading of “The Plan of God”.

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