THE RESURRECTION TO DEATH

A  major  misconception concerning the fate of wicked  humans  is that  they  will live on into eternity and suffer  some  kind  of eternal torture by God.  The future punishment of the wicked is a Biblical fact; however, ongoing eternal punishment is fiction, which cannot be substantiated by scripture.

Throughout  the Bible, it is shown that God has great mercy toward those  who repent  and reserves a final punishment for those  who  will  not. The prophet Ezekiel was instructed to record how God feels about having to punish wicked individuals:

"Say to them, As I live, says the Lord God, I have no  pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and  live: turn you, turn you from your evil ways; for  why will you die, O house of Israel?" (Ezk.33:11 KJV). See also 2.Pet.2:1-22; 1.Cor.6:9-10; Jms.5:19-20.

The First Lie

The  first lie recorded in the Bible was told by Satan when  he told  Eve that she would not die if she ate the forbidden  fruit. Since  then,  Satan has deceived most of humanity  into  thinking they  have an immortal soul. However,  humans  do not  have  an immortal soul and will not escape the death penalty  for disobedience  to God. All sinful humans will  be put to death, and this death is final and eternal.

A Resurrection to Judgment

"Do not marvel at this, for the hour is coming in which all  that are in the tombs will hear his voice. And they will come out, the ones  having  done good, into the resurrection of life;  and the ones having  practiced  evil into a  resurrection  of  judgment" (Jn.5:28-29 Para.). See also Dan.12:2; Heb.9:27;  2.Pet.2:9; 2.Thes.1:5-9.

This scripture mentions two separate resurrections: one is to life and the other is to  judgment. The resurrection to judgment is for the purpose of punishing wicked  individuals who have practiced evil and  have  been judged unworthy of life; therefore, they will be put to death.

The Wages of Sin Is Death

"For  the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God  is  eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Rom.6:23 KJV).

"Behold,  all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so  also the  soul of the son is mine: the soul that sins, it  shall  die" (Ezk.18:4;20 KJV).

What is Sin?

In past centuries, there has been much debate and confusion as  to what sin is and what the penalty for committing it is.  The answer to both questions can easily be found in the Bible.

"Whosoever commits sin transgresses also the law:  for sin is the transgression of the law" (1.Jn.3:4 KJV).

"All unrighteousness is sin:. . ." (1.Jn.5:17 KJV).

"Therefore to him that knows to do good, and does it not, to  him it is sin" (Jms.4:17 KJV).

"For whatsoever is not of faith is sin" (Rom.14:23 KJV).

Sin is defined as the violation of the physical and spiritual law of God—sin is lawlessness. The scriptures are very clear that the penalty for the violation of God's law is death.

The Baptism of Fire

John the Baptist spoke of a final event at the end of God's present plan for humanity:

"But  the  people were expecting, and reasoning in  their  hearts about  John, lest perhaps he is the Christ. John answered,   saying, I indeed baptize you with water; but he who is stronger than I comes, of whom I am not fit to loosen the latchet of his  sandals.  He  will baptize you in the holy spirit  and  fire;  whose sifting  fan is in his hand; and he will fully purge his threshing-floor, and will gather the wheat into his barn—but he will burn the chaff with fire that cannot be put out" (Lk.3:15-17 Para.).

The following are important things to understand about what John was inspired to say:

A Warning to the Elect

The apostle Peter exhorts the elect of God to continue in  righteousness  so  that they can escape this final death and  enter into the new  heaven  and  new earth:

2.Peter 3:3-14 KJV

"Knowing  this  first,  that there shall come in  the  last  days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, And saying, Where is the promise  of  his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep,  all things continue as they were from the beginning of the  creation. For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of  God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the  water and  in the water: Whereby the world that then was,  being  overflowed with water, perished:" (vs.3-6).

Here Peter reminds the elect of the first worldwide  destruction of  the earth and its unrighteous inhabitants by the great  flood of  Noah's time. Peter also foretells the future  destruction  of the earth by fire, which will destroy all evil humans:

"But  the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same  word are kept in store, reserved to fire against the day of judgment and  perdition of ungodly men. But, beloved, be not ignorant  of this  one  thing,  that one day is with the Lord  as  a  thousand years, and a thousand years as one day" (vs.7-8).

God  is very merciful and does not want anyone to  perish;  however, there  is  a point in time when the next phase of his  plan  will begin.  At this time, the physical creation that housed  humanity will vanish in flames:

"The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men  count slackness; but is long-suffering to us-ward, not willing that any should  perish, but that all should come to repentance.  But  the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; In which  the heavens and the earth shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements  shall  melt with fervent heat, the earth also  and  the works that are therein shall be burned up" (vs.9-10).

Again, Peter warns of this future destruction and the  importance of being found righteous when this day arrives:

"Seeing  then  that  all these things shall  be  dissolved,  what manner  of persons ought you to be in all holy  conversation  and godliness, Looking for and hasting to the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be  dissolved,  and the elements shall melt with fervent heat?" (vs.11-12).

Righteousness is a condition for existence in the new order  of things. Nothing evil will exist in the new heavens  and earth;  all  that is evil will be purged away  with  fire:

"Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new  heavens and  a  new earth, wherein dwells righteousness.  Wherefore,  beloved, seeing that you look for such things, be diligent that you may be  found  of him in peace,  without  spot,  and  blameless" (vs.13-14). See also Matt.3:10-12; 7:19; Rev.21:27.

The Rebellious Elect

In  order to more clearly understand what is said about the  punishment of the wicked, it is important to examine a few scriptures and  parables that give stern warnings to the elect who decide to  rebel against God and depart from the faith. Notice that their fate  is the same as the incorrigible wicked:

"For  it is impossible for those who were once  enlightened,  and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of  the holy spirit, And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of  the  world to come, If they shall fall away,  to  renew  them again to repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the  Son of  God afresh, and put him to an open shame. . ..But  that  which bears thorns and briers is rejected and is nigh to cursing; whose end  is  to  be burned" (Heb.6:4-6;8 KJV).  See  also  Heb.2:1-3, 2.Pet.2:20-21; Ezk.18:24,26.

"For if we are willfully sinful  after receiving the full knowledge  of  the truth, there remains no more sacrifice  concerning sins,  but a certain fearful expectation of judgment and  zealous fire being about to consume the adversaries. Anyone not regarding the  law of Moses dies without pity on the word of two  or  three witnesses:  How  much worse punishment do you think  he  will  be thought worthy to receive having trampled on the Son of God,  and having counted the blood of the covenant in which he was sanctified  common, and having insulted the spirit of  grace?" (Heb.10:26-29 Para.).

Once  a person fully understands what God requires of them but refuses to accept his will in their life, there is no more hope of life:

"It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God" (Heb.10:31 KJV).

The Sheep and the Goats

Matthew 25:31-46 LBP.

"But  when  I, the Messiah, shall come in my glory, and  all  the angels with me, then I shall sit upon my throne of glory. And all the nations shall be gathered before me. And I will separate the people as  a shepherd separates the sheep from  the  goats,  and place  the  sheep  at my right hand, and the goats  at  my  left" (vs.31-33 Para.).

It  is  important to note that there are  three  distinct  events mentioned here:

"Then I, the King, shall say to those at my right, 'Come, blessed Of my Father, into the Kingdom prepared for you from the founding of the world. For I was hungry and you fed me; I was thirsty and you gave me water; I was a stranger and you invited me into  your homes; naked  and you clothed me; sick and in  prison,  and  you visited me," (vs.34-36).

This scripture shows the Father's righteous children being welcomed into his kingdom,  which was prepared for them. This great event will happen at the time of the first resurrection and the establishment  of the Kingdom of God on the earth.

Those who will be punished with the same  punishment  that has been prepared for the devil and the demons are mentioned in verse 41.  These people will be punished with death by fire at the end of the age of  human existence:

"Then  I will turn to those on my left and say, 'Away  with  you, you cursed ones, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his demons" (v41).

Verse  42 and 43, shows that the wicked will be  punished  because they  refused to love God and his people:

"For  I  was hungry and you wouldn't feed me;  thirsty,  and  you wouldn't  give me anything to drink; a stranger, and you  refused me  hospitality;  naked and you didn't clothe me;  sick, and  in prison, and you wouldn't visit me" (vs.42-43).

"Then they will reply, 'Lord, when did we ever see you hungry  or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and not help you? And I will answer, 'When you refused to help the least of  these my  brothers, you were refusing to help me.'  And they  shall  go away into eternal punishment; but the righteous into  everlasting life" (vs.44-46).

The primary reason for the punishment of these people is that  they refused to help Christ's brothers; therefore, they were  refusing to  help him. The criteria for being a sheep in  the  shepherd's flock is having love toward Christ's brothers. God  will only put to eternal death those people who  refuse to repent of evil; therefore, the goats are those who understood his truth and refused to live their lives accordingly.

The  Bible  is  very clear in stating that the  wicked  will  not inherit the Kingdom of God:

"Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom  of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor  idolaters  nor adulters nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor  thieves  nor the greedy nor drunkards  nor  slanderers,  nor swindlers  will inherit the Kingdom of God"  (1.Cor.6:9-10  NIV). See also Pro.10:30; Gal.5:21.

It is very clear that the wicked will not be tortured with fire forever;  the wages of sin is death (Rom.6:23), not eternal  life in  torment.   God is a God of love, understanding,  and  mercy, and those who willfully disobey and reject him will receive an  eternal  punishment, not eternal punishing. The wicked will be  cast into   a  fire  that  will  terminate  their  existence   forever  (Rev.20:15):

"Again  the  kingdom of heaven is compared to a drag  net  thrown into the sea, and gathering together of every kind; which when it was  filled,  drawing it up on the shore and sitting  down,  they gathered the good into containers, and they threw out the rotten. So  it will be in the end of the age: The angels go out and  will separate  the  wicked from the midst of the righteous;  and  will throw them into the furnace of fire; there will be  weeping  and gnashing of teeth" (Matt.13:49-50 Para.).

Those Not Found in the Book of Life

While beseeching God to spare the Israelites who had rebelled  at Mount Sinai, Moses said, "Yet now, if you will forgive their sin; and if not, blot me, I pray you, out of your book which you have written. And the Lord said to Moses, Whosoever has sinned against me,  him will I blot out of my book" (Ex.32:32-33 KJV). See  also Psa.69:28; Rev.3:5; 22:19.

"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" (Rev.20:14-15 KJV).

Under the terms and conditions of both the Old and New Covenants, those who live  righteously in obedience to God's laws are granted  eternal life  in his kingdom  (Matt.25:31-34).  Moreover,  the disobedient  and the unrighteous who cannot be written  into  the Book  of Life,  must be destroyed because  of  their  wickedness and unwillingness to obey his law (Matt.25:41-46).

Those  who qualify will be given immortality and will  rule  with Christ  here  on the earth.  Those who refuse to  obey  God  will simply have their existence terminated in the Lake of Fire. There will be no eternal pain and torment, just eternal  non-existence. See Psa.72.7; 37:9,11,22,29,34; Ezk.18:4; 20:25.

Only those who are found to be righteous become sons of God.  All others will have their life terminated as prophesied by  Malachi. See Mal.4:1-3.

The Second Death

In the Book of Revelation, there are the following four references to the second death.  By carefully reviewing these references we can understand what the second death is.

1. "He that has an ear, let him hear what the spirit  says  to the churches; he that overcomes shall not be hurt of the  second death:" (Rev.2:11 KJV)

2. "Blessed and holy is he that has part in the first  resurrection:  on 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" (Rev.20:6 KJV).

Those who participate in the first resurrection will be immune to the  second death because they will have become immortal beings  in the Family of God—only immortal beings cannot be  destroyed. See our study paper about eternal life and immortality.

3. "He that overcomes shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son. 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 burns with fire and brimstone: which is  the  second death" (Rev. 21:7-8 KJV).  

An  alternate translation of verse 8 is: "But the  cowardly,  the unbelieving,  the vile, the murders, 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." (Rev.21:8 NIV)

Those who are mentioned as being punished by the second death are those  who are disobedient to God's law; therefore, they deserve the death penalty.

4. "And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This  is the second death" (Rev.20:14 KJV).

The  English word 'death' that is used in all four of the  above  scriptures is translated from the Greek word 'thanatos', which means 'death'. The  concept  of a total cessation of existence is difficult for most  to believe because of Satan's deception concerning life after death; however, this is exactly what all four of these scriptures  document as the final punishment of wicked people.

After the resurrection to the second death, both death and hell  (the grave)  will be destroyed and cease to exist. A condition  of deathlessness will exist for the following reasons:

Termination of Existence

The Bible shows beyond a shadow of doubt that God the Father  and Jesus Christ have absolute control over life and death, and  that they will completely terminate the existence of all wicked humans from their presence:

"See  now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god with me:   I kill, and I make alive; I wound, and I heal: neither is there any that  can deliver out of my hand.  For I lift up my hand to  the heaven, and say, I live for ever"  (Deut.32:39-40 KJV).

Samuel said, "The Lord kills, and makes alive: he brings down  to the grave, and brings up" (1.Sam.2:6 KJV).

Jesus said, "And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to  kill the  soul: but rather fear him (God the Father) which is able  to destroy both soul and body in hell" (Matt.10:28 Para.).

The English word  'body' has been translated from the Greek word 'soma', which means 'a  physical human/animal  body'  or 'corpse'.  The Greek word  for  'soul'  is 'psuche',  which  means 'breath', 'life', or 'mind'. Here, we  see  two distinct elements of physical and non-physical human life that can be completely destroyed by God. There is nothing in either of these two words that would indicate anything immortal.  

The  Greek  word for 'destroy' is 'apollumi', which means to 'destroy fully', 'kill', 'to perish', 'to completely do away with', 'to die.'  'Appolumi' is used many times to describe the utter  destruction of individuals and places (Matt.12:14; 21:41; Lk.17:29). In every  scriptural  context  where appolumi is found  in  the  New Testament,  it means to completely destroy and is used to  convey utter and complete destruction.

There is no doubt as to the meaning of the words used in  Matthew 10:28; it is clear that God has the power to  completely  destroy all aspects of human life.

"And  I say to you my friends, Be not afraid of them that  kill the  body, and after that have no more that they can do.   But  I will forewarn you whom you shall fear:  Fear him, which after  he has  killed  has power to cast into hell;  yes, I say  to  you, Fear him"  (Lk.12:4-5 Para.).

It  is the second death that Jesus speaks of in  Matthew  28 and Luke 12. God does indeed have the power to destroy  humanity,  which he has created. Humans beings should fear God who  has the power to completely terminate and eliminate the totality  of their  existence  in the second death. The second  death  is  the death from which there is no return. God and his prophets,  apostles,  and servants continually gave very strong  warnings  about the finality of this punishment.

Chronology of Events

As  noted  above, there will come a time in God's plan  when  all evil  will be eliminated. Moreover, nothing evil will be  allowed to  coexist with God's righteous kingdom. The Book of  Revelation gives us a partial chronology of the events that will take place after Christ returns and the government of God rules the earth.

Revelation 20:11-15 Paraphrased

"And I saw a great white throne, and the One sitting on it,  from whose  face  the earth and the heaven fled; and a place  was  not found  for  them. And I saw the dead, the small  and the great, standing before God. And books were opened. And another book  was opened,  which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged  out of  the  things written in the books, according to  their works" (vs.11-12).

Verse  twelve speaks of the resurrection of the dead of all  ages who  have not had an opportunity for salvation.  And verses 13 through 15 speak of the time at the end of this  phase of God's plan for physical humanity. This is the time that all of those not found in the Book of Life will die for their disobedience to God, and all things pertaining to physical life will no  longer be relevant to the spirit dimension of  existence;  death and the grave will cease to have a function and will vanish.

"And the sea gave up the dead in  it. And death and hades gave up the  dead in them. And they were each judged according  to  their works. And death and hades (the grave) were thrown into the  Lake of  Fire. This is the second death. And if anyone was  not  found having been written in the book of Life, he was thrown into  the Lake of Fire" (vs.13-15).

Death by Fire

"The  lamp  of the wicked is snuffed out; the flame of  his  fire stops  burning.  The  light in his tent becomes  dark;  the  lamp beside  him goes out. . .. He is torn from the security of his tent and marched off to the king of terrors. Fire resides in his tent; burning  sulfur is scattered over his dwelling. his roots dry  up below  and his branches wither above. The memory of him perishes from the earth; he has no name in the land. he is  driven  from light  into darkness and is banished from the world" (Job  18:5-6;14-18 NIV). See also Job 15:20-30; Psa.106:16-18.

The NIV translators  have powerfully  captured the essence and meaning of what is  written. They clearly show that the destructive force of fire will be used to terminate the sinner's existence.

There are dozens of scriptures that describe in great detail  the future punishment and destruction of evil humans and evil spirits by fire. Fire is the most destructive force known to man, because it can reduce physical things to their lowest form of  existence, which is pure energy.

The Day That Burns as an Oven

"For, behold, the day comes, that shall burn as an oven; and  all the  proud, yes, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble:  and the  day that comes shall burn them up, says the Lord  of hosts, that it  shall leave them neither root nor branch . . .. And  you shall  tread down the wicked; for they shall be ashes  under  the soles of your feet in the day that I shall do this, says the Lord of  hosts" (Mal.4:1-3 KJV). See also Ps.37:20;  97:3-5;  112:10; 119:119; 145:20; Pro.2:22; Isa. 47:14; Nah.1:2-6;  2.Thes.1:6-10; Matt.3:10-12; 13:36-46; 49-50.

The  prophet  Malachi was inspired to show that the fate  of  the wicked will be complete and utter destruction, without a continuance  of life. Malachi does not say whether or not  these  wicked are humans or spirit-beings. He merely states that the wicked will be destroyed by fire and cease to exist.

SUMMARY

God  the  Father  has provided a way for each  individual  to  be forgiven  for their sins through the sacrifice of his  son,  Jesus the Christ. However, in order to reap the rewards of obedience, a person must avail themselves of this sacrifice by  repenting  of their  evil  and beginning to live according to the Law of  God. If there is no repentance and sustained effort to live according  to God's  ways, God will not grant eternal life; instead,  he  will destroy  the  wicked person with fire: "For the wages of  sin  is death" (Rom.6:23 KJV).

"Come now, and let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins  be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though  they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. If you be willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land:" (Isa.1:18-19 KJV).

The Father's call to salvation is very clear. He will reward  obedience and  forgive sin. He is patient and merciful. He will  not cause  the irrevocable termination of a human life unless  there is no hope of redemption. God  the  Father will not allow the incorrigibly wicked  to  have eternal life and become a disruptive force to happiness and  joy in the Family of God.

God is righteous and will not cohabit with evil, which is  repulsive to him.  In order for there to be harmony, unity, and  eternal  happiness in the Kingdom of God, only righteousness  can  be allowed to  exist. The choices for each  individual  are  clear; either one conforms to that which produces happiness and joy,  or one will cease to exist.

God  the Father and Jesus Christ want only peace and  harmony to exist in their family, and the only way to accomplish this  is to  eliminate  all evil. This is the reason that the second  death  is necessary.

The  scriptures prove  that,  when  wicked  humans are punished with the second death, they will cease to exist in all dimensions of God's creation. Death is the absence of  life; it is not existence in another form. When God  administers  the  second  death to the unrepentant, they  will  die  for eternity and simply cease to exist.

The  teaching of eternal punishing of evil humans cannot be  substantiated  by God's word. Nowhere in the entire Bible  is  there any  proof showing that the final fate of wicked humans is to  be tortured by  fire  for all eternity. The Bible  shows  just  the opposite—the second death is total death, it is an irreversible and total destruction from which there is no return. God will not torment wicked humans forever; he will simply terminate their existence.

By B.L Cocherell, file b7w5