What is the Second Death?

The Second Death
Correctly understanding these terms leads to a better
understanding of the character of God and the Gospel.

The Second Death is just that – a death. Many mistake it to be an ongoing (even eternal) existence, in something other than our present bodily form.

Traditional Legal Model – God’s final physical punishment (death) by fire of the lost from which there is no resurrection. In some understandings, the fire goes on forever.

Biblical Healing Model – The death from which there is no resurrection where the lost are fully separated from God, the only Source of life. They do this because their misconceptions of Him do not allow them to believe that He is, in fact, ever-merciful.

There is a lot of misunderstanding about the Second Death. An example:

“… the second death is a reference to the lake of fire where those who are separated from God by their sin will dwell for eternity. This judgment was recorded in Scripture as a warning to unbelievers to seek the salvation that Jesus Christ provides.” (https://www.gotquestions.org/second-death.html)

Does that sound like seek salvation or else? How can you dwell anywhere when you are dead? Punishing in fire for eternity for the decisions of a short lifetime? Those are serious problems with that understanding especially as they reflect on the character of a loving and ever-merciful God. People are not very attracted to a God Who would threaten to punish them with fire if they don’t love Him.

The Second Death is mentioned just four times in scripture, all in Revelation.

“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 2:11)

“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.” (Rev20:6)

The first two uses tell us that the Second Death has no power over the righteous.

“Power” in the Greek has the meaning of authority (not force) as in this verse showing that Jesus received that authority from His Father:

“No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father.” (John 10:18)

Here is the third reference to the Lake of Fire:

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

According to that verse, the Second Death is an event or an experience. The Lake of Fire is a place. Can the Second Death (an event) be the lake of fire (a place)? A place and an event are not the same thing.

“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.” (Rev 21:8)

That verse, another reference to the Lake of Fire, also equates the Lake of Fire and the Second Death. We need to look for a sense in which they can be equated. “Part” is from the Greek word “meros”:

3313 μέρος meros mer’-os
1) a part
1a) a part due or assigned to one

To “have their part” means to take part in something; “the lost shall have their part (“meros” G3313) in the lake” NOT shall have their place in the lake. “Meros” is used in that sense in other verses:

“Peter saith unto him, Thou shalt never wash my feet. Jesus answered him, If I wash thee not, thou hast no part (G3313) with me.” (John 13:8)

“Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect (G3313) of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days:” (Col 2:16)

“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.” (Rev 20:6)

“The Lake which Burneth with Fire and Brimstone

Can the terms “lake,” “fire,” and “brimstone” have non-literal meanings?


Second Death
This is not Revelation’s Lake of Fire

“And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.” (Rev 19:6)

“And he saith unto me, The waters which thou sawest, where the whore sitteth, are peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues.” (Rev 17:15)

“Woe to the multitude of many people, which make a noise like the noise of the seas; and to the rushing of nations, that make a rushing like the rushing of mighty waters! (Isa 17:12)

Those verses use references to water to describe people.


 Fire is often not literal in scripture. See the glossary definition for “fire” (when added) for more examples. Here is a verse comparing fire to love:

 “Set me as a seal upon thine heart, as a seal upon thine arm: for love is strong as death; jealousy is cruel as the grave: the coals thereof are coals of fire, which hath a most vehement flame.” (S. Sol 8:6)

“Place me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm; for love is as strong as death, its jealousy unyielding as the grave. It burns like blazing fire, like a mighty flame.” (S. Sol 8:6, New International Version)

“Set me as a seal on your heart, as a seal on your arm. For love is as strong as death; ardent love is as unrelenting as Sheol. Love’s flames are fiery flames — the fiercest of all. (S. Sol 8:6, Holman Christian Standard Bible)

“I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire:” (Matt 3:11)

Those are not references to literal fire.

Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is.” (1 Cor 3:13)

“Every man’s work shall be made manifest” to who? To others or to God (Who already knows) or to self?

 What will make the spirit of that work especially evident will be the love of God activating men’s consciences as in this verse:

“Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head.” (Romans 12:20)


“Brimstone” as in “… the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone …” (Rev 21:8) is a reference to the presence of God. Brimstone is from the Greek word “theion” (Strong’s G2303) from the Greek word “theios” (Strong’s G2304) which has the meaning of “divine” or “Godhead.”

The Lake of Fire is an Experience

 The Lake of Fire can also be understood as an event or experience. Remember:

Part = to take part in or experience
Lake = people
Fire = love
Brimstone = presence of God

Those meanings could be compared to the verse like this:

fire and brimestone


That will heap coals of (figurative) fire on their heads much more than feeding or giving drink to an enemy.

The final result of that experience will be the eternal death of the wicked. Some verses related to that experience are:

“The fear of the wicked, it shall come upon him: but the desire of the righteous shall be granted. As the whirlwind passeth, so is the wicked no more: but the righteous is an everlasting foundation.” (Pro 10:24-25)

“But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries.” (Heb 10:27)

“For whoso findeth me findeth life, and shall obtain favour of the LORD. But he that sinneth against me wrongeth his own soul: all they that hate me love death.” (Pro 8:35-36)

Those who do not find God perhaps because they have neglected to seek Him and finally actually reject Him are contrasted with those who find Him and thus find (eternal) life. The wicked “wrongeth his own soul” – they do it to themselves.

The lost shall be very grieved as described here:

“The wicked shall see it, and be grieved; he shall gnash with his teeth, and melt away: the desire of the wicked shall perish.” (Psa 112:10)

“The desire of the righteous is only good: but the expectation of the wicked is wrath.” (Pro 11:23)

The wicked expect wrath (as they understand it) because that is their view of God.

See additional material on this including the meaning of to “melt away” in the e-book The Lake of Fire and the Second Death.

God Does not Cause the Second (or any) Death

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

Does it make any sense that God would use death to destroy death? Death is an enemy of both God and man. What really causes death?

“Evil shall slay the wicked: and they that hate the righteous shall be desolate.” (Psa 34:21)

“For sin pays its wage–death; but God’s free gift is eternal life in union with Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom 6:23, Good News Translation)

“For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.” (Gal 6:8)

“Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.” (James 1:15)

Eternal death is the natural result of a full and final rejection of God, the Source of life Who, being the God of love and freedom, always honors free-will choices.

Eternal Life is to Know God so Eternal Death is to Not Know God

“And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” (John 17:3)

The not knowing God will result from a refusal to know Him; a rejection, often based on misinformation about Him.

Eternal life = knowing God
Eternal death = not knowing God

What is the “Fire” that Devours the Wicked?

“And they went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them.” (Rev 20:9)

The fire of Revelation 20:9 is said to “devour” the lost, which sounds like physical destruction. But one of the definitions (Online Bible) for the original word (“katesthio” Strong’s H2719) is:

“of the consumption of the strength of body and mind by strong emotions

Here are some other uses of the same word:

“And his disciples remembered that it was written, The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up.” (John 2:17)

We need to recognize that Revelation is not in strictly chronological order. Verses 9 and 10 state the final fate of both the lost and of Satan; then verse 10 starts a more-detailed description of events. It doesn’t make sense that fire would devour them in verse 9 and then they are cast into a fire in verse 15 – if it was meant to be a chronological account.

The Lake of Fire (including Revelation 20:9) is not talking about physical fire. However, there are indications that there will be a cleansing of the earth and a physical fire will be involved:

“Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat?” (2 Pet 3:12)

That will be preparatory to the restoration of the earth:

“And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea.” (Rev 21:1)

What About Jesus’ Death?

A question that often comes up is “did Jesus die the Second Death?” Read a study on Jesus and the Second Death.

See a video of a group study on the meaning of the second death.

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