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The Second Death

What is "the second death" spoken of in the Book of Revelation? Is it only for those who are born twice?

In this part 2 of this series on Birth, Death and Resurrection (part 1) we will look at the question of the second death and how it fits into the cycle of life, death and resurrection.

We are trying to understand the relationship between the different births, deaths and resurrections spoken of in the Bible as illustrated by this diagram.
You must be born again

The First Death

First let's understand the first death - it is separate from the second and final death. The following verse is a reference to believers not dying the second death as they obviously do die the first death.

"And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?" (John 11:26)

Jesus spoke of the first death as a sleep, recognizing that there would be a resurrection for all that "sleep."

"These things said he: and after that he saith unto them, Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep. Then said his disciples, Lord, if he sleep, he shall do well. Howbeit Jesus spake of his death: but they thought that he had spoken of taking of rest in sleep. Then said Jesus unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead." (John 11:11-14)

The Wages of Sin

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

That definition "the wages of sin is death" is not referring to the first death as even those who will be saved die that death. Also, note that "death" is the opposite of "eternal life."

The Wages of Death are Earned
The Gift of Eternal Life is Free

The lost will not have eternal life in some place of punishment or anywhere else. When they die the second death they will stay dead forever. Their existence will end with no return.

Any doctrine of eternal life in any form for the lost is unbiblical. It contradicts the verse above and what God said in Eden:

"But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die." (Gen 2:17)

Any doctrine saying that the lost will have eternal life in any form supports the lie of Satan:

"And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die:" (Gen 3:4)

The Second Death

The second death is not, by definition, a death from which there is no resurrection. While the lost will not be resurrected from the second death, God could resurrect them if it was His plan to do so. Jesus died the second death and was resurrected.

"But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man." (Heb 2:9)

Jesus tasted death for every man - He paid the penalty for all so that no one has to die. However, that payment is only for those who accept it. The death referred to in this verse could not be the first death because even the righteous experience that for themselves.

The Second Death Defined

The second death is the experience of total separation from God. Jesus died the second death before the first death, while still conscious. He experienced that total separation which is why He said:
"... My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" (Matt 27:46)

His statement "why hast thou forsaken me?" shows that He experienced that total separation. Jesus came through the experience of the second death while still physically alive.

"When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost." (John 19:30)

His words "it is finished" indicated that the experience was over, the sacrifice for sin was complete. It is interesting that Jesus, while He was on the cross, quoted both the first and the last verses of Psalm 22.

"... My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring?" (Psa 22:1)
"They shall come, and shall declare his righteousness unto a people that shall be born, that he hath done this." (Psa 22:31)

The phrase "he hath done this" (or that God has accomplished all that is stated in the psalm) is equivalent to "it is finished." Apparently, quoting the first and last verse of a psalm was considered equivalent to reciting the whole psalm. Those who knew this psalm from memory, may well (after hearing Jesus say verse 1) have started to rehearse it in their minds as they watched the scene of the crucifixion. Just imagine the effect on their minds as they came to the following verses:

"He trusted on the LORD that he would deliver him: let him deliver him, seeing he delighted in him." (Psa 22:8)
"For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have inclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet." (Psa 22:16)
"They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture." (Psa 22:18)

It's possible people would have thought of these verses and been convicted be the fact that the events of Psalm 22 were happening before their eyes. There are a other verses of scripture that relate to Jesus' experience on the cross. With His last words, Jesus quoted from the Psalms:

"Into thine hand I commit my spirit: thou hast redeemed me, O LORD God of truth." (Psa 31:5)

Note that with the "Into thine hand I commit my spirit" another thought is associated: "thou hast redeemed me."

The Lake of Fire

The Lake of Fire is an experience, not a place. We are told what the lake of fire is:

"But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part <3313> in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death." (Rev 21:8)

That it is an experience is supported by the following verses which help to define the meaning of the word "part":

"And shall cut him asunder, and appoint him his portion <3313> with the hypocrites: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth." (Matt 24:51)
"Peter saith unto him, Thou shalt never wash my feet. Jesus answered him, If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me." (John 13:8)

"Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect <3313> of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days:" (Col 2:16) (See Colossians 2 for how this word affects the meaning of that passage.)

"Blessed and holy is he that hath part <3313> 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 word "part" in the verse above indicates taking part in or experiencing something rather than being in a place. Here is the definition of the word:

3313 merov meros mer'-os
from an obsolete but more primary form of meiromai (to get as a section or allotment); TDNT-4:594,585; n n
AV-part 24, portion 3, coast 3, behalf 2, respect 2, misc 9; 43
1) a part
1a) a part due or assigned to one
1b) lot, destiny
2) one of the constituent parts of a whole
2a) in part, partly, in a measure, to some degree, as respects a part, severally, individually
2b) any particular, in regard to this, in this respect
See the Lake of Fire series of pages for more on this.

Again, Rev 21:8 defines the lake of fire as the second death. It is an experience, not a place. Jesus died the second death while on the cross; He was not in a physical, literal "lake of fire."

Part three of this series will look at Resurrection After Death  


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The Greek has multiple words for forgiveness? God forgives (charizomai) whether we ask or not. Receiving forgiveness (apheimi) is by our choice.
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