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The Second Death

In the book of Revelation, the Bible talks about something called the second death. What exactly is the second death?

The second death is mentioned four times in Revelation:

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.

Revelation 2:11

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.

Revelation 20:6

Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire.

Revelation 20:14

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.

Revelation 21:8

There are various thoughts regarding what the second death means. One notable thought is that the second death is annihilation. That is, that the unbeliever dies and eventually ceases to exist as death is thrown into the lake of fire. The thought here is that when death is thrown into the lake of fire, all those who died outside of Christ… these are termed the dead… cease to exist since they are thrown into the ever consuming lake of fire. They’ve been annihilated.

A better way to think about the second death is by considering the following saying:

  • Born once, die twice. Born twice, die once.

What this means is that if a person is born once, they are physically born into the world. Then eventually they physically die, and due to their unbelief, they “die” again, this time a spiritual death, which means they will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord (2 Thessalonians 1:9).

On the other hand, if a person is born into the world then fully puts their trust in Jesus by being “born again,” they will only die physically… they will not experience a second or spiritual death. They will “live” for eternity with renewed physical bodies on a refurbished earth.

Revelation 2:11 says if you conquer you will not be affected by the second death. Conquering means being an overcomer… overcoming sin which leads to death by trusting in Christ Jesus.

Revelation 20:6 says if you’re holy you’ll participate in the first resurrection. The first resurrection is the counterpoint to the second death. It’s one or the other… the second death has no power over what Christ offers, and that is the first resurrection.

Revelation 20:14 is where death and Hades are thrown into the lake of fire. Death in this sequence is in a typological holding pattern, and the lake of fire, which is the second death according to the Scriptures, is the eternal result of the final judgment. Hades is the underworld realm of the dead, referenced from ancient Greek mythology. Remember, the dead here are unbelievers, since believers are alive after passing from this earth. Essentially death and Hades are different terms that lead to the same thing, eternal condemnation in the lake of fire.

Revelation 21:8 gives examples of what folks apart of Christ frequent, which leads to the second death… the lake of fire.

There is no reason to believe that the lake of fire annihilates unbelievers. Elsewhere in the Bible it’s clear that separation from God is permanent, including but not limited to fiery torment (Luke 16:24), weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 24:51), and the worm that never dies (Mark 9:48).

Consider this… why would God make people in his image, then eventually due to certain circumstances, permanently eliminate this special creation… annihilation… due to their choices? This isn’t coherent and falls outside of the precepts of what the Bible teaches. It waters down the gospel and provides an easy out for those not believing in the saving Creator. It is through God’s omnipotence that permanence and re-occurrence provide affect and foundation for either eternal bliss or everlasting punishment, respectively. People are fine with eternal bliss in a heavenly realm as a reward for a life well lived under Christ, but balk at the thought of its counterpoint… everlasting punishment for sin. Even one sin separates the created from the Creator. But these two counterpoints are very similar in thought to Revelation 20:6, where the first resurrection is contrasted with the second death.

The second death… the lake of fire… should obviously be avoided by trusting fully in Christ. The combination of the unfailing holiness and love of Jesus contrasted with the eternal destruction the second death offers should be more than enough to make for an easy decision to seek out, know and trust in God.