The Lake of Fire -
What is the Lake of Fire and what is its purpose? We have already seen that
fire in the final judgment
and elsewhere in scripture, is commonly used in a symbolic way.
A Place or an Experience?
This is part six of a seven-part study on the true meaning of The Lake of Fire and Brimstone. Go back to part five:
Not a Place But an Experience
A very important distinction to make is that the lake burning with fire is not a place but an experience:
"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)
Those who are cast into the Lake of Fire are put in the position where they will experience the second death. Obviously, they are somewhere when this happens but the Lake of Fire is not a term designating where they are but what they experience. The second death (or the first death) is not a place but an experience. It is the experience of their final and complete separation from God after which they will never exist again. Satan himself will have this experience and it is described in scripture:
"All they that know thee among the people shall be astonished at thee: thou shalt be a terror, and never shalt thou be any more." (Eze 28:19)
Satan finally comes to a complete end; He will cease to exist. One thing about the lake of fire is that anything that goes into it doesn't come out. In a sense, it signifies the complete and utter end of someone or something. Here is a related verse:
"And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death." (Rev 20:14)
Death and hell (the grave/place of the dead) will also come to a complete and utter end never to exist or happen again. The second death is an experience that is equated with the lake of fire. Similarly, death will, at last, happen for the last time.
"And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away." (Rev 21:4)
Notice, in this verse that there is also no more pain - there is no such thing as a never-ending place of torment in fire. That theory came from the great deceiver himself trying to make God look bad. It has been perpetuated by many who believed what they were told and did not search for the truth for themselves.
"And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them [Satan and his followers that are mentioned in verses 9 and 10]." (Rev 20:11)
Every Shred of Evidence on the Table
"And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire." (Rev. 20:15)
The Lake of Fire is the turn of the lost to be, in a sense, "purified." Purified of what? Purified of their misconceptions of the character of God.
At one time or another, everyone will be tested by fire. For the lost, it will also happen and in somewhat the same way.
The faithful Christian who allows God's consuming presence to "burn" the sin out of his live now will not be put in that position - referred to as the lake of fire - where every sin he have ever committed will be - well, here is the verse again:
"Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire ..." (1 Cor 3:13)
Is that talking about every man's work being made manifest to God? - no, He already knows everything about us. Is it talking about every man's work being made manifest to the saints? - no, the saints have already had every man's work manifest to them during the millennium when they had opportunity to judge for themselves to verify that God, in all His judgments has been just. Who then is it being made manifest to? It must be that every man's work (among the lost) is, at this point, revealed to themselves.
Caught in the Act
Imagine the situation - and we have all experienced it - where you are caught red-handed in an embarrassing situation. You have done something wrong and are caught in the act. What is your typical reaction? You flush, you even feel some heat. If you are "caught" by peers who you know have done the same thing and are just as guilty as you, then you don't feel nearly as guilty or condemned but it can still be an uncomfortable situation.
If you were caught by someone in authority, someone you greatly respect and who you know would be greatly disappointed or displeased with your actions, you would feel that much more embarrassed. In fact, the greater your respect for the person you have been exposed to, the greater their authority, the more you will "feel the heat."
So think of the sinner in the lake of fire. Remember, the lake of fire is the second death. It is not a place but an experience and a process. The lost have their lives come up before them, they feel the guilt and the shame. But not the guilt and shame of one sin at a time as committed over the years of their lives. No, it will be worse than that. It will be the guilt and shame of all their sins at the same time. Have you ever heard any one tell you that when a person is facing certain death their whole life flashes before them? Apparently, it does happen.
Even worse than that, they will be experiencing all their guilt and shame in the presence of the Lamb - the Lamb who died for them.
"... he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb:" (Rev 14:10)
They will experience a tremendous amount of "heat," in a sense, coming from within. This relates to a verse in Romans which describes the effect of being afflicted by a guilty conscience:
"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." (Rom. 12:20)
It also corresponds to the Bible's description of the end of Satan himself:
"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." (Eze 28:18)
There is another verse that seems to suggest this same sort of reaction:
"And they shall be afraid: pangs and sorrows shall take hold of them; they shall be in pain as a woman that travaileth: they shall be amazed one at another; their faces shall be as flames." (Isa 13:8)
Two Final "Fires"
The Bible makes a distinction: between the (spiritual) fire that comes forth from within the lost - as it is described for Satan - and devours or kills them and that (literal, physical) cleansing fire that comes down from heaven to burn the dead bodies:
"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 (really their dead bodies)." (Rev 20:9)
This final, literal fire, is for the purpose of cleansing the earth in preparation for the recreation 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)
It is very interesting that the word for shame ("asham" in Hebrew) is closely related to the word fire. Read the
Hebrew word study.
The Love of God Revealed as Never Before
Adding to the shame, I believe, is the fact that the lost will be given all the evidence including a portrayal (recording?) of what God has done for them, especially in the life of Jesus who died for them.
This verse is interesting:
"And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places." (Rev 6:14)
What do you do with a scroll? Normally, you write on it or, in our modern age, this could be something like a screen that you project onto. Many have the idea, that, in the judgment, the history (His-story) of the world and the plan of salvation will be portrayed for all to see. God wants everyone to have the evidence - some have never even heard the story of the Saviour.
I think of the lyrics of the song The Love of God which has a verse:
Could we with ink the ocean fill,
And were the skies of parchment made,
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
And every man a scribe by trade;
To write the love of God above
Would drain the ocean dry;
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky.
Of course, the point of the judgment, in large part, is to vindicate the character (which is love) of God
"God forbid: yea, let God be true, but every man a liar; as it is written, That thou mightest be justified in thy sayings, and mightest overcome when thou art judged." (Rom 3:4)
I believe that God is going to allow the struggle between good and evil to go on long enough to make a very convincing case for God's side. The evidence will accumulate to the point that, in the final judgment, this verse will be fulfilled:
"I have sworn by myself, the word is gone out of my mouth in righteousness, and shall not return, That unto me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear." (Isa 45:23)
All will finally acknowledge the justice and the decisions of God. In part seven of this study:
we will consider the deeper significance of God being referred to as "a consuming fire."