The end of sin and sinners: punishment and eternal death
Mainstream Christianity does not provide for a complete end of sin and sinners - the doctrine of the immortal soul teaches that after death unrepentant sinners live on for ever in a burning hell, thereby perpetuating sin.
Likewise, it is believed that Satan, who IS sin itself, lives for ever, along with the angels that rebelled with him (who are demons, the powers of evil).
Scripture, however, is very clear: the time is coming when the whole of God’s creation will be rendered entirely sinless. The process of the elimination of sin begins at the second coming of Christ, and ends with the total destruction of everything that constitutes sin.
Note, the term 'wicked' in this study refers to all those from amongst mankind who will have finally rejected the saving Grace of Christ.
This study traces the events that occur after the second coming of Christ. We must begin with the millennium, which starts immediately upon Christ's second advent.
2. The start of the millennium
2.1 At the second coming of Christ
The redeemed: they will be either resurrected or translated to eternal life (see study ‘The second advent of Christ’, 8). They will then begin a thousand year reign with Christ:
Re 20:6 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.
(The second death is addressed in section 4)
The wicked: the wicked dead will remain in the grave, and the living wicked will be slain by the brightness of His coming:
2Th 2:8 And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming:
2.2 Satan in chains
Re 20:1,2 And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand.
2 And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years,
During the millennium, Satan’s powers will be curtailed and he will be ‘bound’, i.e. confined, to the bottomless pit for the duration of the millennium:
Identifying the bottomless pit
The Old Testament translation into Greek, the Septuagint (translated by 70 scholars from the Hebrew text in the 3rd-1st centuries BC - it had the blessing of the Sanhedrin, and thus inevitably contained elements of Jewish tradition) uses the same Greek word for ‘without form and void’ in Ge 1:2 as we find in the KJV for 'bottomless pit' in Re 20:1 above (i.e. Strong’s G12, abussos: ‘depthless’, ‘abyss’).
Thus the bottomless pit is the Earth returned by Christ’s coming to its pre-creation state, i.e. chaos.
Note, the Masoretic text (the Hebrew Bible, prepared 6-10th centuries AD by Jewish scholars to re-create the Hebrew Bible as closely as possible) has been shown to be closer to the Dead Sea Scrolls than the Septuagint. The KJV Old Testament was translated from the Masoretic text. However, the Septuagint is useful for making the point here.
Satan bound to the Earth
During the millennium, Satan is bound to the Earth, when all the wicked are dead and the redeemed are with Christ - he has no-one to tempt and to lead into sin. The fact that Satan is bound to the Earth tells us that previously he was able to go to other (unfallen) worlds and attempt to lure them into rebellion.
Thus during the millennium the unfallen worlds are freed from Satan’s evil attentions.
2.3 The redeemed will judge the lost and angels
During the millennium, the redeemed will exercise judgment:
Re 20:4 And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them ...
Foretold by Paul:
1Co 6:2,3 Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? and if the world shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters?
3 Know ye not that we shall judge angels? how much more things that pertain to this life?
This judgment is not one of making a decision for life or death - that judgement takes place prior to Christ’s second advent in the form of the investigative judgement (see study: ’The cleansing of the Heavenly Sanctuary’,3).
The judgment here is to allow the redeemed (who, apart from Enoch, Elijah, Moses and the 24 elders, were not present during the investigative judgment) to examine the reasons for God's condemnation both of the lost from mankind, and of the fallen angels.
If any of the redeemed are perplexed over the loss of friends and/or relatives, God will reveal all sin, thus explaining and vindicating His dealing with mankind.
The redeemed will see that the wicked are condemned by their own hand (see study: ‘The cleansing of the Heavenly Sanctuary’,4.1,3) - they will then understand that the punishment and destruction of the wicked is just.
3. The end of the millennium
We now turn to the events occurring after the close of the millennium.
Satan will be set free
Re 20:3,7 And cast him into the bottomless pit…till the thousand years should be fulfilled: and after that he must be loosed a little season.
7 And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison,
The wicked dead will be resurrected
Re 20:5 But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished…
As we have seen (section 2), the righteous dead are raised at the second coming of Christ. Thus the ‘rest of the dead’ must be the wicked who in their lives refused to repent. There are but two classes of the dead: the righteous and the wicked (Jn 5:29).
Thus the Papal doctrine of purgatory, in which the dead who have not committed mortal sin ‘work off’ their sins and eventually enter Heaven, is entirely unscriptural. The doctrine of purgatory is particularly pernicious because it propels into eternity many who have unrepented sin remaining on their life's record.
The Holy City, New Jerusalem, will descend from Heaven
Re 21:10 And he carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain, and shewed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God,
Satan will lead the wicked into a final rebellion
Re 20:7-9 And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison,
8 And shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea.
9 And they went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city….
Once the wicked (Satan’s subjects) are available to him again, Satan will resume his rebellion, and attempt to overthrow God by conquering the Holy City, the New Jerusalem.
However, the wicked will recognize their case is hopeless, and then we will see Php 2:10,11 fulfilled: at the name of Jesus, every knee shall bow and all will acknowledge Christ as Lord.
Even the wicked will acknowledge the righteous justice of God in excluding them from the Heavenly Kingdom.
At this point, God’s final judgment upon the wicked will be executed.
4. Judgment executed: punishment and the second, eternal death
Note. In the context of the Cross, punishment and eternal death are addressed in study: 'The Cross',2.1.
4.1 Fire will come down from God and devour Satan, his angels, and the wicked
Re 20:9 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 [Strong’s G2719, eat down] them.
Note. ‘Devoured’ is in the Greek ‘Aorist’ tense, which denotes the simple occurrence of an action without reference to its completeness, duration, or repetition. Thus we cannot associate the devouring of the wicked with an ever burning fire.
The devouring of the wicked in the fire that comes from God accomplishes two things:
First: each of the wicked must pay in their body according to their deeds
Job 34:11 For the work of a man shall he render unto him, and cause every man to find according to his ways.
Ro 2:6 Who will render to every man according to his deeds:
2Co 5:10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.
Every sin receives its just punishment: either in the body of Christ upon the Cross, or in the unrepentant sinner’s own body.
All the wicked will be devoured (burned up) by the fire. The time taken to be devoured constitutes the individual’s punishment - each has an individual record of sins.
Second: the wicked suffer the second death - eternal separation from God
Once an individual has been devoured by the fire, they are no more. This is the natural consequence of choosing to remain unrepentant, and is called in scripture, the ‘second death’.
Re 2:11 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.
Re 20:6 Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power…
The first death is the temporal death that all, both just and unjust, experience. The second death is the destruction of the wicked at the time when the just are already living with Christ.
Re 21:8 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.
Note. Those who at one time committed those very sins (Re 21:8), but who sought forgiveness, will be amongst the redeemed. The second death is reserved for those who are finally impenitent, having rejected God’s free gift of saving grace.
4.2 Eternal death, the consequence of sin
Ro 6:23 For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Here, the sure result of sin (death) is the opposite of eternal life - it must therefore be eternal death.
Ja 1:15 Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished [Strong’s G658, ‘complete entirely’], bringeth forth death.
Death in this verse occurs after sin has ‘completed entirely’ - it must therefore be the second death, the eternal consequence of sin.
4.3 Satan and the wicked will be destroyed
Eze 28:18 Thou hast defiled thy sanctuaries by the multitude of thine iniquities, by the iniquity of thy traffick; therefore will I bring forth a fire from the midst of thee, it shall devour thee, and I will bring thee to ashes upon the earth in the sight of all them that behold thee.
He 2:14 Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil;
Re 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.
Satan, the originator of sin will be destroyed - he will no longer exist. Consequently there cannot be an ever-burning hell, which according to mainstream belief, is Satan’s abode for eternity - no Satan, no Hell.
Ps 37:10 For yet a little while, and the wicked shall not be: yea, thou shalt diligently consider his place, and it shall not be.
Psa 92:7 When the wicked spring as the grass, and when all the workers of iniquity do flourish; it is that they shall be destroyed for ever:
Mal 4:3 And ye shall tread down the wicked; for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet in the day that I shall do this, saith the LORD of hosts.
The wicked will be destroyed - they will cease to exist.
Satan and the wicked will be destroyed for ever (He 2:14; Ps 92:7); thus eternal torment is eternal destruction. This point is addressed further in study: ’Hell: the true meaning’,7.
The wicked are destroyed by fire - they do not burn for eternity - if they did burn for ever, the wicked would receive eternal life, albeit in suffering. Eternal life is the reward of the redeemed only.
5. God’s strange act
Is 28:21 For the LORD shall rise up as in mount Perazim, he shall be wroth as in the valley of Gibeon, that he may do his work, his strange work; and bring to pass his act, his strange act.
Eze 33:11 Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?
God is a God of infinite love. He takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked - He wants all mankind to be saved (1Ti 2:4; 2Pe 3:9).
Nevertheless, though with immense sadness, He will not shrink from doing what the wicked have brought upon themselves (Nah 1:3). Thus the destruction of sinners is foreign to God's nature, it is His strange act.
6. Escaping destruction
The evil angels, by rebelling against God, condemned themselves to destruction even before mankind was created. However, such a terrible end is entirely unnecessary for mankind.
As we see in section 5 God wants all mankind to be saved, and in Christ God has made salvation certain:
Jn 3:16-18 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.
18 He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
The situation is simple: believe and live, believe not and perish. The Lord urges all to choose life:
De 30:19,20 I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live:
20 That thou mayest love the LORD thy God, and that thou mayest obey his voice, and that thou mayest cleave unto him: for he is thy life, and the length of thy days: that thou mayest dwell in the land which the LORD sware unto thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.
This plea applies as much now as it did in ancient times - though today we may understand ‘land’ to mean the Heavenly Kingdom.
Sin and sinners will come to an end - it is a Scriptural certainty.
Satan himself will be destroyed. Thus there can be no eternal torment in an ever-burning hell because Satan, his evil angels and the wicked, will cease to exist.
Those who accept the free Grace of God in Christ will reign with Him in sinless glory for ever. Those who refuse the free Grace of God will be destroyed for ever, along with Satan and his angels - sin itself will be destroyed.
The Lord, however, is not willing that any should perish - in fact, He urges you, through Moses, to choose life (De 30:19).
The choice is yours - choose life eternal in Christ.