Chapter 9 - The Fate of Unbelievers (a summary)

Chapter 9

The Fate of Unbelievers Outline

A summary of the destiny of the unredeemed

Following the death of the unredeemed sinner, his soul goes to hell. The conditions that he encounters in hell depends upon how he lived his life. Each departed soul will bear the weight of his own sins in hell.

Hell is therefore a repository for the unredeemed souls until they will be resurrected for judgment where they will face God. The final judgment is death, not eternal torment. When the judgment is executed, the souls will be cast into the lake of fire where they will die in the second death.

Here are the scriptures:

There is a Body and there is a Soul

There is a body and there is a soul. They both belong to God and they are not the same thing:

Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine1

There are Two Deaths

There is a first death. Everyone must die this death:

And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment2

All men are appointed "once to die" but not all me are appointed to die twice because the second death includes the death of the soul. Only those who have rejected Christ will die the second death because all of those who have trusted in Christ will never die (in the second death).3 The Greek word that is used to refer to the first death is also used to refer to the second death. And there is no scripture teaching that death in the Bible is not actual death. The word for death means exactly that. It means death; it does not "separation from God." Hence, the second death is just as much a death as the first death except there is no resurrection following the second death.

Unredeemed Souls that Have Sinned Go to Hell

Immediately following the first death (the death of the body), the soul of the deceased goes to one of two places, either heaven or hell:

There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day: And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores, And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man's table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.4

While in hell, the souls of the departed shall bear the weight of their own sins but not the sins of others, so the experience of hell will be different for each person.5

There is a Resurrection for Judgment

There is a resurrection for the purpose of judgment at the end of time. The dead in hell will be reunited with their bodies for the purpose of being judged by God:

Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs shall hear His voice, and shall come forth; those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment.6

This judgment is called the Great White Throne Judgment. It occurs after all men have died the first death. In this judgment, God judges each life individually:

Then I saw a great white throne and the One who sat on it. The earth and the heavens fled from His presence, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne. And there were open books, and one of them was the book of life. And the dead were judged according to their deeds, as recorded in the books.7

This judgment occurs outside of the time continuum of human life. Because all are judged justly, the Great White Throne Judgment must encompass all humanity and all consequences flowing to the unredeemed in hell. So the Great White Throne Judgment occurs after the millennium.

The Unredeemed Die in the Second Death

Following the Great White Throne Judgment, the sentence of death that had been promised throughout scripture8 will be carried out by casting all of those who have been judged into the lake of fire. Their part of the lake of fire is the second death.

But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which [part] is the second death.9

The reason why this scripture specifies that "their part" in the lake of fire is the second death is to distinguish their part from Satan's part. Both Satan and the unredeemed will be cast into the lake of fire, but their parts are different. Satan's part will be to be tormented eternally10 whereas the part of the unredeemed is the "second death."11

Satan, the antichrist and the false prophet are cast into the lake of fire summarily, without judgment and without death, to be tormented forever.12 There is neither a first death nor a second death for Satan.

A man can escape the effect of his evil deeds only by sincerely turning to Jesus Christ. He can kill his own body, but he cannot kill his soul.13 Only God can kill his soul and God will kill his soul in the end.14 He will be judged.15 But the judgment is righteous16 and according to each particular life,17 so the conditions encountered in hell following death are based upon each individual life and will be different. But ultimately, "the soul that sins will die."18

Souls that Did Not Sin Will Not Die

Those who die in the second death are those who have sinned and are "unbelieving."

the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars19

Only souls that sin or are unbelieving will die in the second death because it is sin that causes them to die.20 Sin is a willful act and belief is a willful act.21 Infants, young children and the mentally ill who cannot willfully commit sin or will not to believe do not go to hell. Their souls do not die in the second death because they cannot sin.

Death and Hell are Thrown into the Lake of Fire

After the Great White Throne Judgment, both death and hell will be thrown into the lake of fire.

And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.22

Both hell and (presumedly) its occupants are cast into the lake of fire together.23 Scripture defines this occurrence as the "second death" for a reason. The reason is that it is exactly that: death, not eternal life in eternal torment. We know that unredeemed sinners die in the second death because 1) unredeemed sinners are the only occupants of hell and scripture defines the act of hell being thrown into the Lake of Fire as the second death, 2) unredeemed sinners are the only group that scripture repeatedly warns of death,24 and specifically the death of the soul,25 and 3) Revelation 21:8 states categorically that the part that unredeemed sinners will have in the Lake of Fire is "death" (the second death).

The scriptural warnings of death being the result of sin cannot refer to the first death because everyone dies the first beath, including the redeemed in Christ.

When hell and its occupants are thrown into the Lake of Fire, they die. They are not annihilated. They die. The result is a hell filled with corpses. This is the literal fulfillment of the final prophecy of Isaiah:

All mankind will come to bow down before Me, says the Lord. Then they shall go forth and look on the corpses of the men who have transgressed against Me. For their worm shall not die, and the fire shall not be quenched; and they shall be an abhorrence to all mankind.26

Note the precision of scripture here. First, Isaiah states that they will be "corpses." They are corpses because they are cast into the lake of fire after they have been resurrected to judgement; their souls had been united with their bodies. Second, Revelation 21:4, when addressing the New Heavens and the New Earth, does not say that there will be no death. It says that "There shall be no more death" (KJV). Scripture makes this distinction because when Isaiah 66:24 is fulfilled there will be innumerable corpses-plenty of death on display-but no more of it.

New Heavens and New Earth

The Creator is memorializing, in the most graphic of terms, the reiterated warnings that fill scripture like beacons shining from its pages: sin kills. Except for the Isaiah's tragic memorial, God will make a clean sweep of it all and create a new heavens and a new earth, a world where there is no more death, no more sorrow, no more crying and no more pain. And, like the Israelites who returned from Babylon and never worshiped idols again, we will enter this new world and leave sin behind.

And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed awayand there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain27

The fact that God will eventually have a Kingdom where there is no more death and no pain is an indication as to why He has placed us in a world that is in moral free-fall, filled with agony and ecstasy, pain and triumph, life and death. He created that world and placed us in it for a reason.28 He has created us free moral agents who, with every moral choice we make, yield righteousness like grapes on a vine.29 We are His vineyard. He has granted to us everything that pertains to life and Godliness so that we may yield this fruit-but only through truly knowing Christ,30 and knowing Him is derived only through obedience (righteousness).31 We are the branches holding the precious grapes of righteousness and He is the vine and without Him we can do nothing of eternal significance.

I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.32

We bear the eternal fruit and He supplies us with the spiritual life to do so.33

Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me.34

Perhaps the most compelling revelation in these passages is the fact that vines do not bear grapes. Only branches bear grapes. And we are the branches. We are fragile jars of clay holding the most precious of contents.35 We carry the light of Christ into the night of this world. We are His fruit bearers and our fruit shall remain.36

How Shall We Then Live?

How shall we then live and what shall we do with these precious hours? Shall we bear the fruit of righteousness37 or shall we dribble them away chasing the world and its baubles like a mouse in a golden running wheel?

Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.38

Death comes. Make no mistake about it. It will come to each of us. The door will close, our branch will die and our grapes, such as they are, will be harvested. And all the money and all the status, all the pleasure and the pride and the battles lost and won will come to nothing. Only the grapes will remain, the precious grapes. The grapes are everything.

There is a Savior and His Name is Jesus Christ

For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.39

All men are deserving of hell and the death of their soul because "the soul that sinneth, it shall die."40

But on the cross, Jesus Christ paid for the sins of the world:

He Himself is the propitiation [the sacrifice] for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.41

And we can receive the benefit of the death of Christ by believing (trusting) in Him:

I am the resurrection and the life: he that believeth in me though he were dead yet shall he live. And whosoever liveth and believeth in Me shall never die. Believest thou this?42

He who lives and believes in [trusts in] Jesus Christ will live though he dies. This does not mean that he never dies. It means that he will live even though he dies because only the body dies in the first death and one who has trusted in Christ will die the first death, but not the second. All must die the first death, because "it is appointed for [all] men to die once."43 But only those whose sins remain unforgiven will die the second death.44

[H]ear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes will not be hurt by the second death.45

Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power46

All others will die the second death when they are cast into the lake of fire (whether it be individually or as the occupants of hell). It is this death, the second death, that is the eternal punishment that Christ spoke of in Matthew 25:46.47 But, as He said, it is an eternal punishment, not an eternal punishing.48 And, as Paul states in First Thessalonians 1:9, this death is an "eternal destruction."49 But, as with the words of Christ, it is an eternal destruction, not an eternal destroying.50

In each case, scripture clarifies that the punishment and the destruction are eternal, ie. permanent. The Holy Spirit makes this clarification in both places in order to differentiate the second death/destruction from the previous deaths or destructions.51 All previous deaths or destructions were followed by a resurrection, albeit a resurrection to judgment. The second death is not. The second death is permanent. It is eternal.

There is no scripture that says the unredeemed will be tormented eternally. Every scripture in the Bible that refers to the eternal fate of the unredeemed refers to death in one form or another (eg. destruction), not eternal torment. There is only one scripture that even mentions eternal torment and that scripture refers to the punishment of Satan, the antichrist and the false prophet.52


1. Ezekiel 18:4

2. Hebrews 9:27

3. John 11:25 "Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live." See also Revelation 20:6 "Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power…" Cf. Revelation 2:11

4. Luke 16:19-23

5. Revelation 20:13 "and they were judged every man according to their works."

6. John 5:28,29

7. Revelation 20:11,12

8. See Fifteen Centuries of Scriptural Warnings page 191; also see Appendix 1 listing 50 scriptures that teach death as the consequence of sin.

9. Revelation 21:8 NASV

10. Revelation 20:10 "And the devilwas cast into the lake of fireand shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever."

11. Revelation 21:8 "But the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murders and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death." See also

12. Revelation 20:10 "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." Note that there is no reference to "the part" of Satan in the lake of fire as with the unredeemed (Revelation 21:8), and there is no reference of a second death for Satan.

13. Matthew 10:28 " And fear ye not them that kill the body, and are not able to kill the soul"

14. Matthew 10:28 "Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell."

15. Revelation 20:12 " and the dead were judged"

16. Proverbs 24:12 "... shall He not render to every man according to his works?

17. Revelation 20:12 "the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works."

18. Ezekiel 18:4

19. Revelation 21:8

20. Ezekiel 18:4 "The soul that sins shall die."

21. Revelation 22:17 "And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost."

22. Revelation 20:14

23. There is no scripture that says God will cast the unredeemed into the lake of fire one at a time. But Revelation 20:14 clearly states that hell itself will be cast into the lake of fire and that this is the second death. This would apparently include the occupants of hell as well.

24. See Appendix 1

25. Ezekiel 18:4 "the soul that sins shall die."

26. Isaiah 66:23

27. Revelation 21:1,4 When death is cast into the lake of fire, it is destroyed and no longer exists ("there shall be no more death"). The same is true for hell. It shall no longer exist. The word for death in this passage is the same as that used to refer to the second death (θανατος), yet this passage states that there shall be no more death. If death shall cease to exist, then death cannot be an eternally existing state of semi-death as contemplated by the doctrine of eternal torment. Death in the Bible is exactly what the word means: ordinary death, which is the cessation of all sensation and consciousness.

28. See the author's A Reason for Adversity

29. John 15:1,5 "I am the true vine, and My Father is the vine dresses. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, he takes away and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it, that it may bear more fruit."

30. Second Peter 1:3 "Seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness through the true knowledge of Him Who called us by His own glory and excellence."

31. John 14:21 "He who has My commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves Me; and he who loves Me shall be loved by My Father, and I will love him, and will disclose Myself to him."

32. John 15:5

33. John 14:6 "I amthe life."

34. John 15:2

35. Second Corinthians 4:7 “Let light shine out of darknessthe light of the knowledge of the glory of GodNow we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this surpassingly great power is from God and not from us."

36. John 15:16 "You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain"

37. Galatians 5:22

38. First John 2:15

39. Romans 3:23

40. Ezekiel 18:4 Only souls that sin will be judged (Ezekiel 18:4). Souls that have not sinned will not be judged, so infants and children will not be judged.

41. First John 2:2

42. John 11:26 Note the care with which Jesus reveals this truth. He tells us that whoever lives and believes in Him shall never die. Thus no demon can come to the cross, nor can any human soul come to Christ after the first death. His reference to "though he were dead" refers to those who are spiritually dead, which is all of mankind before coming to Christ (Ephesians 2:5).

43. Hebrews 9:27 NASV

44. Those who die redeemed in Christ will also be resurrected and receive a resurrection body. Jesus called this the resurrection of life (John 5:29)

45. Revelation 21:11

46. Revelation 20:6

47. Matthew 25:46 “and these will go away into everlasting punishment and the righteous into everlasting life.”

48. See Comment of Chapter 4 for a discussion of the Greek as it relaes to the different meanings, as in English, of punishment and punishing.

49. First Thessalonians 1:9 "who shall be punished with an everlasting destruction."

50. See Comment on Chapter 4 for a discussion of the Greek syntax.

51. Note the accuracy of scripture. The "eternal" designation is made by Christ in approximately 32 AD and made by Paul relating to a different word 20 years later and before the Gospel of Matthew was written.

52. Revelation 20:10