|Volume 23 Number 1 January 2021
Louis Rushmore, Editor
Someone is curious about and desires an explanation of the two deaths about which one can read in Scripture. The first death – physical death – is something doubtlessly with which everyone is reluctantly familiar as family members and friends die. It, too, is an appointment that each person now living must keep, though at an undisclosed time and for which no one can be late.
“The phrase ‘first death’ is nowhere found in the Bible. However, the ‘first death’ is implied by the ‘second death’ that figures prominently in the Revelation…” (Stockton 471). The first part of Hebrews 9:27 provides a biblical validation of what we might call the first death, whereas the latter part of the verse announces a disposition to be made of each person following his or her physical demise and subsequent judgment. For “many” (Matthew 7:13-14), this is when they will experience the “second death.” “And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27 NKJV).
The phrase “second death” appears only four times in Scripture. “‘The second death’ is unique to the Apocalypse. What matter about the first, which sooner or later must come, if we escape the second death” (Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown). “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes shall not be hurt by the second death” (Revelation 2:11 NKJV). “Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years” (Revelation 20:6). “Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death” (Revelation 20:14). “But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death” (Revelation 21:8).
However, references to the second death, but employing other wording, appear throughout the Bible. Genesis 2:17 refers to a spiritual death or separation from God, the result of which ultimately without any mitigation would result in the second death. Expulsion from the Garden of Eden and lack of access to the Tree of Life (Genesis 3:22-24) also resulted finally in physical death (Genesis 3:19; 5:5).
Both spiritual and physical death are ever present, since that first sin in the garden of Eden. Of the two deaths, spiritual death is to be more feared and avoided. The following examples of spiritual death are found in the New Testament. “And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1 NKJV). “But she who lives in pleasure is dead while she lives” (1 Timothy 5:6). About the prodigal son it was said, “for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found…” (Luke 15:24). To Christians James wrote: “Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins” (James 5:19-20). (Hill 3)
To turn a man back is to cause him to change course. By causing him to change course, we can save his soul from death. This would not be physical death, as all men are appointed to die once (Hebrews 9:27), but the second death described by John in Revelation 20:13-15. By causing him to seek forgiveness, his brethren are assured by James [that] God will hide his sins so they will be seen, or remembered, no more. (James 5:19-20.) (Hampton, “Some Actions” 11)
John 5:28-29 is a prime example of allusions to what the Book of Revelation records as the second death. “Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth — those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation.” “Condemnation” stands for hell or the second death.
Furthermore, “when Paul said: ‘For the wages of sin is death,’ he meant more than physical death; for he also says: ‘The gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.’ Paul must have had in mind the second death, which is a lake that burneth with fire and brimstone (Rev. 21:8)” (Porter 3). “Again, Paul instructed the Romans saying. ‘For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord’ (Rom. 6:23). Notice the contrast between the ‘eternal life’ on the one hand and the ‘death’ on the other. This death must refer to (or at least include) the eternal separation from God. The book of Revelation refers to being cast into the fires of hell as the ‘second death’ (Rev. 20:14-15)” (Rader 5).
Definition of Second Death
The fundamental idea of death in the scriptures is separation, not annihilation, extinction, or cessation of existence. When we speak of physical death, it involves the separation of the spirit from the body (James 2:26). When we speak of spiritual death, it refers to the separation of man from God (Isa. 59:2; Eph. 2:1). When we speak of the second death, it means eternal separation from God (Rev. 20:14; II Thess. 1:9). (Highers 2)
“The spiritual death of Rev 2:11; 20:14; 21:8 in contrast to the first or physical death” (Robertson’s). “The second death is that of the soul, the absolute exclusion from God who is the source of life” (Coffman). “The eternal, conscious suffering of the souls of the wicked is called the second death, of which there will be no end, and from which there will be no rescue” (Jenkins 42). The unrighteous before the Judgment Bar of God will be sentenced to hell or to the second death for eternity – without parole! “…there is no resurrection from the second death…” (Tomlinson 355).
“Each person cutting himself off from the Lord’s merciful hand will fall into the second death” (Broking 4). “This is the baptism in fire yet to be bestowed upon all the unrepentant hearers of John the baptizers message and upon all the impenitent, unbelieving, ungodly people of all nations and all generations of earth” (Winter 2). Despite misapplication of Scripture (Matthew 3:11; Acts 1:3) by charismatic and Pentecostal religionists, the baptism of fire is punitive in nature and to be administered by Jesus Christ. The baptism of fire, hell and the second death are interchangeable biblical terms.
“The Bible speaks of two deaths: physical and spiritual. Physical death is the separation of spirit and body. Spiritual death is a separation of the soul from God (Isa. 59:1-2; II Th. 1:7-9; Rev. 20:6; 21:8; 22:14-15)” (Webster 5). “Both ‘deaths’ have recognizable qualities that distinguish one from the other. However, they both share one thing in common: a separation. Whereas physical death involves the separation of the spirit from the physical body, spiritual death will involve the disobedient spirit being separated from the presence of God and punished for all eternity (Mat. 25:41-46; Rev. 21:8; 22:27)” (Stockton 466).
“The term ‘hell,’ however, does not occur in the Book of Revelation. Rather, the writer speaks of the lake of fire and of the second death” (Lewis 13). The second death refers to hell. “…second death. (Revelation 21:8.) Jesus calls this realm of punishment hell and says that it is a place where the fire is not put out and where men will find no relief. (Mark 9:43-44.) There will be no end of hell nor will there be any escape for the man who goes there. Hell is Bad News!” (Joyce 1). “Men stand under condemnation of death because of sin. ‘For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.’ (Romans 3:23.) ‘The wages of sin is death.’ (Romans 6:23.) This death is Hell, the eternal fire, which is called in the scriptures ‘the second death.’ (Revelation 21:8; Matthew 25:41, 46.)” (Rutherford 1).
Students of the Bible uniformly identify the second death with hell. “The second death or hell is described as the lake that burns with fire and brimstone (Rev. 19:20; 20:10-15; 21-8)” (Sanders 41). “…Death which comes to all who serve Satan is the second death in the lake of fire and brimstone” (Lanier 17). “…the wicked dead will be raised at the return of Christ, but theirs is a resurrection of condemnation (John 5:28-29). They will continue to exist as they join the devil and his angels and are ‘tormented day and night for ever and ever’ (Revelation 20:10). But this existence is not called ‘life;’ rather it is ‘the second death’ (Revelation 20:14-15)” (May, Mar-Apr 3). “The penalty proscribed for the wicked is called the ‘second death’ (Rev. 2:11; 20:14; 21:8); as eternal life is assured the faithful” (Merideth 48).
“When men abandon God, if there is no repentance; if there is no change of course, then the second death will result (Rev. 21:8)” (Burk 6). “Why is hell called ‘the second death’? The death of the body is in the spirit’s separation from it. The ‘second death’ is eternal and irrevocable separation from God (Rev. 20:6, 14f.). This means eternal exclusion from all that is good. Heaven is where God is: hell is where God is not!” (Pharr 12).
Hell is an unpopular subject, but it is a real place, about which we can read in Scripture. Hence, hell must be the topic of sermons, classes and literature. Hell is a place of memory and remorse where conscious souls suffer by contemplating what transpired and what could have been, along with indescribable and relentless torment. The certainty of hell cannot be diminished by denial. Hell, though, can be avoided and paradise can be had instead.
“In God’s word hell is pictured as a real place. These descriptions identify it: ‘a pit without bottom’ … ‘a place of outer darkness’ … ‘a lake of fire and brimstone where their worm dieth not and the fire is not quenched’ … ‘this is the second death.’ Those who obey not the gospel and those who are unfaithful in Christian duties are destined to the place. Heaven, too, is a real place” (Marlin 18-19).
Hell is a prepared place — prepared for the devil and his angels (Matthew 25:41). The Bible speaks of hell as the “second death” (Revelation 20:6, 14; 21:8). Because sinners are now separated from God (Isaiah 59:1-2), hell is a place where one is separated from God (cf. Luke 16:23; 2 Thessalonians 1:7-10). It is a prepared place of darkness (Matthew 25:30) because God is light (1 John 1:5). It is a prepared place of death (Revelation 21:8) because God is the source of life (John 5:26). It is a prepared place of misery (Revelation 20:10) because God is a God of comfort (2 Corinthians 1:3). The fact is that God never intended to create this place for us, and does not desire to send anyone there (2 Peter 3:9; Hebrews 2:9). Rather, he is preparing a place of eternal life for all his faithful (John 14:1-3; Matthew 25:34). Hell is a prepared place for those who are unprepared. (Wilcut 13)
“Hell is unpleasant to contemplate, disagreeable to write about, but so important to avoid” (May, Apr-Jun 3). “Not only will you be separated from God but you will be separated from all good, moral, pure people. Hell is the habitation of the defiled” (Hester 15).
There is nothing good about Hell. Most don’t even like to use the word except when they want to tell someone off. Preachers use the term infrequently, I fear. It is the abode of Satan and his angels. (Mt. 25:41) Death and hell will be there. (Rev. 20:14) All whose names do not appear in the book of life will be there. (Rev. 20:15) It will be a place of outer darkness, of weeping and gnashing of teeth. Eternally one will be punished. There will be no breaks for refreshments, not even a drop of water. Do you know of anything good that can be said about Hell? All will be separated from God (1 Thess. 1:9), from their loved ones, and all who have been righteous. What a sad day it will be for the LOST! The worst of all consequences. SECOND DEATH! (Cooper 53)
Hell is a place of vile companionships. John says “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.” How unpleasant it is to associate with such characters for a short while. How horrible the thought of having to spend eternity with them! (Willis 1)
Ten Reasons for Going to Hell
“The righteous are born twice, but die once, the ungodly and sinner have one birth (physical) and two deaths. — Rev. 20:6” (Winder 7). “Two Deaths to Die: A person can die either in his sins or in the Lord. He has a choice to make! Jesus said if we do not believe, we will die ‘in our sins.’ (John 8:24.) If we believe and obey, we can die in the Lord. ‘Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord…’ (Rev. 14:13.) Each has to make his own decision as to how he wants to die — in his sins or in Christ!” (Edwards 144). However, even the child of God can apostatize and be lost.
Christian he or she enters into this new covenant with God and Jesus Christ. (Hebrews 8:6-10; 12:24; Matthew 26:28.) We trust that the promises contained in the covenant will be ours, for example, the forgiveness of sins (Colossians 1:14), and eternal life in heaven. (1 John 2:25.) But we should also realize the curses of the new covenant are equally ours if we break the covenant. That punishment is not something to which a person should look forward. (2 Peter 2:20-22.) It is the second death in the lake of fire. (Revelation 21:8.) (Vice 15)
“The simple truth is that as all have sinned all stand ready to die — the second death that is (Rev. 21:8). Without Jesus none will be saved (Acts 4:12). Apart from the ‘obedience’ to ‘the faith’ (Rom. 16:26), which is the ‘power of God unto salvation’ (Rom. 1:16), no one will make it to heaven” (Smith 4). “If man wants to avoid the lake of fire and brimstone, which is the second death (Revelation 20:14), he will have to be changed, or converted” (Hampton, “The Work of the Holy Spirit in Conversion” 11). “…without the shed blood of Christ working to purify us, we will experience the terrible second death, or hell” (Hampton, “Behold the Lamb” 10).
Whenever we die or maybe are alive upon the return of our Lord, eternity will not greet us with an array of eternal habitations from which to choose. There will only be two destinations, and the time for making choices will have passed. “The Bible makes it clear that none of us will have a second chance after death. Our eternal fate is sealed in this life. We can choose now to confess Jesus as Lord and receive the gift of eternal life in His blessed presence. Or, we can choose to confess His Lordship after death and receive as our just reward the judgment of the ‘second death.’” (Reagan 115).
There will be neither limbo nor purgatory, and extinction or annihilation will not be an option either. Heaven or Hell will only populate with the souls of this world – everyone who has ever lived across all of the centuries. “There is no way of artificially producing life, no substitute here for the new birth, no side door by which to escape; there are only two exits, one into life and the other into the lake of fire, which is the second death” (Linscott 64).
“The children of Israel were not compelled to look upon the brazen serpent, neither are people compelled to obey the gospel today. However, if Israel refused to look they died, and if people refuse to obey the gospel, they are cast out into hell, the second death” (Roy 1). Now is the time to make choices, hopefully choosing life eternal. “And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15). “…Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2). Not tomorrow but today; not after we expire but now!
We have to agree with brother Key, and who would be so blinded or dishonest not to concur with him. “Our world is on a collision course with the second death. The saints of God must shine as beacons of light in a darkened world, pointing lost humanity to the lifegiving Savior” (Key 66). Are we as the children of God willing to accept the challenge?
Do you personally believe there is going to be a second death? Do you really believe this? Do you believe it so strongly that you must act upon your belief and warn people of this second death that awaits them because of their sinful lives and their failure to accept the gift of God’s love? Jesus Christ, into their lives? Saying we believe in hell is one thing, and living in a practical manner that demonstrates we believe there is a hell is another matter. (Elam 39)
“The farewell to loved ones, to friends and to the natural beauties of this life is solemn, but the pathetic solemnity is the second death. We have no lease on life. Preparation cannot begin too soon” (Shofner 8). “Every sinner who obeys the gospel is saved by grace and is raised from spiritual death to spiritual life. Of these it is said they are blessed, holy, the second death has no power over them, they are priests of God and live and reign with Christ” (Cole 3). “For those who overcome the almost overwhelming temptation to abandon faith to save one’s skin, Jesus promises ‘the crown of life’ (V. 10) and freedom from ‘the second death’ (V. 11)” (Gardner 5). God’s longsuffering waits, for now, for lost souls to make preparation to meet God (Amos 4:12). “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).
Perhaps the popularity of theories of there being no God, God died, God doesn’t care – walked away – or of one’s annihilation or ceasing to exist at death rests on people’s realization that they are not prepared to meet God in Judgment. Hence, they may be trying to persuade themselves of some such theory. One might well pacify himself, when pondering his own mortality, that simply going out of existence at death would be preferrable to Judgment. “If physical death ended it all, death would not be so terrible. There is the second death — eternal separation from life with God — in a region of eternal misery and woe. How shallow and insignificant are the baubles of wealth, power, fame and pleasure when measured in terms of eternity” (Curtis 1).
“Both the righteous and the unrighteous die the physical death, but the wicked also have this second death awaiting them” (Ellis 2). Therefore, Christians need to examine themselves (2 Corinthians 13:5) – keeping the saved saved. In addition, Christians need to proclaim the Gospel to anyone and everyone everywhere (Mark 16:15-16).
Satan has been in a losing battle with the Omnipotent Christ since Calvary, His resurrection, and Acts 2 when the church was begun. Those allied with the devil will not only die outside the Christ but will experience the second death subsequent to final judgment. They are losers now and will be ultimate losers in eternity. Satan and sin are not worth the allegiance the masses give in sinful service and slavish submission. …Human allies of Satan were first separated from God by personal sins and will face the second death eternally if they reject heaven’s offer of mercy and die outside the sphere of the saved. (Taylor 842-843)
“Surely if we can live forever, if we can have a crown of life, if we can escape the second death, that is enough to make us want to do our very best to serve God and overcome the world” (Lambert 2). In view of the reward as well as aware of the tragic and eternal alternative, every wise and prudent soul ought to work out his own salvation (Philippians 2:12). After that, every child of God ought to share the faith near and far (1 Thessalonians 1:8). Avoid the second death and help others likewise to avoid an awful and horrendous forever.
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