Everyone knows that the lake of fire burning with brimstone is the reward of the incorrigibly wicked. But do we really know what it is?
Revelation is a book of symbols. Practically nothing in there is going to happen exactly like the symbol puts it – does Jesus have a literal sword in his mouth (Revelation 19:21)? Is it a literal prostitute who gets judged in chapter 17? Or a literal flying scorpion in chapter 9? Of course not. So why does everyone assume that it is a literal lake of fire?
The Bible must explain its own symbols. We can’t make them up as we go. But let’s look at what happens if we assume that this IS a literal lake of fire…
We know that God will resurrect those unsaved in this life to a second resurrection (Revelation 20:5-6, Ezekiel 37, etc – if you are unfamiliar with this idea read “Is This The Only Day Of Salvation?“). And we know that those in the second resurrection will have their first real chance at salvation later, in a few thousand years from now. They’ll live out a normal life in a world without Satan and his legions of deceptions to tempt them, where it is easier to build righteous character in themselves. Then they’ll die – some as punishment for their sins, and some just because they grow old.
Isa 65:18-19 But be ye glad and rejoice for ever in that which I create: for, behold, I create Jerusalem a rejoicing, and her people a joy. And I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and joy in my people: and the voice of weeping shall be no more heard in her, nor the voice of crying.
Now clearly, there is crying in Jerusalem tonight; it has not been created “a-rejoicing”. And there will be weeping in Jerusalem every night until Christ comes back as it describes in Revelation 19. And then there will be 1,000 years of peaceful reign (Revelation 20:4-7) and then Satan will be released briefly, and then finally the rest of the dead live again after the thousand years are over. (Revelation 20:5). And in that time frame, continuing on in Isaiah 65 when God has created Jerusalem “a-rejoicing”, PEOPLE WILL STILL BE DYING!
Verse 20 There shall be no more thence an infant of days, nor an old man that hath not filled his days: for the child shall die an hundred years old; but the sinner being an hundred years old shall be accursed
These people are not immortal, for “the child shall die an hundred years old”!. This is discussed at length in the article I referred to above, so I won’t go into it again here. Suffice it to say that this is the second resurrection timeframe. Then AFTER the second resurrection, we see the lake of fire reenter the picture, and all who have lived in the second resurrection (and died!) are then hurled into the lake of fire if they are not found in the book of life.
What this means is that these people died three (count ’em, three!) times. Once in this life. Once in the second life. And then they were resurrected for the sole purpose of telling them they failed, just so they can die again! Besides the obviously unnecessary cruelty of waking up a dead person to tell him he’s got to die, the big problem with this is that “…it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). That means once to die now, and once to die in the judgment (the judgment period of the second resurrection).
But the REALLY big problem is that God says this, which would, for them, be the third death, is called the SECOND death!
Revelation 20:14 And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. THIS IS THE SECOND DEATH.
IF we believe this is a literal lake of fire, that people are literally resurrected a second time and then literally cast into, then it is their THIRD DEATH! So clearly, something is wrong somewhere – and since it is firmly established that there IS a second resurrection – right there in chapter 20 even – then there must be something wrong with one of our other assumptions. Specifically, this being a literal lake of fire. Now I must digress and travel along a completely fresh line to explain what that symbol REALLY means…
Genesis 2:7 And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul <nephesh>.
When God formed man and gave him the breath of life, man became a living soul. He hadn’t been one before – that was the very creation of his soul. “Soul” there, and most places in the Old Testament, is from the Hebrew word nephesh. But it might shock you to learn that God gave the exact same “soul” to all the animals!
Genesis 1:30 (Rotherham) and to every living thing of the land-and to every bird of the heavens, and to every thing that moveth on the land, wherein is a living soul <nephesh> every green herb for food. And it was so.
As you can see, the exact same word for “soul” used for men, is also used to refer to animals. And it is interchangeable throughout the old testament. The word for spirit used in the Old Testamet is ruwach, which also applies equally to both men and beasts:
Ecclesiastes 3:19 For that which befalleth the sons of men befalleth beasts; even one thing befalleth them: as the one dieth, so dieth the other; yea, they have all ONE breath <ruwach>; so that a man hath no preeminence above a beast: for all is vanity.
Compare this verse with Genesis 7:22 where ruwach is used for animals (translated as “breath”) and Genesis 45:27 where Jacob’s ruwach (translated “spirit”) revived. These verses all say that men have the same spirit, and the same soul, as a beast. Shocking though it is, you can see it right there in your own Bible.
But there IS one major difference. God has plans for your spirit – He has no plans for your cat’s spirit, or the duck-billed platypus’. So when Solomon continues in Ecclesiastes 3, he notes the distinctions between them:
Ecclesiastes 3:20-21 All go unto one place; all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again. Who knoweth the spirit <ruwach> of man that goeth upward, and the spirit <ruwach> of the beast that goeth downward to the earth?
All of us, aardvark and anteater and Anthony Quinn are made out of the dust – that is, their physical bodies are – but their spirits – their ruwachs go to different places! The animal’s spirit goes to the earth. It goes downward. The only place that is downward from all over the Earth is the Earth’s molten core.
John 19:30 When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost <pnuema>.
Now it stands to reason that, since we have the exact same ruwach and nephesh, that our spirit would go the same place theirs does – but it doesn’t! Because God has a use for our spirit. So when we die, we literally “give up the spirit”. In the Greek, the word is pnuema, and means the same as the Hebrew ruwach. So God intercepts our spirit on the way to the Earth where it would naturally go, being affected by whatever forces affect the beast’s spirit, and takes it up to sleep in some heavenly spirit-library. (See 1 Thessalonians 4:14)
Ecclesiastes 12:7 Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.
Now clearly the spirit is released by death. Where it goes after that depends on God’s plans for it. But why is it held to the body in the first place? And since the spirit clearly can leave the body intact, what keeps the spirit anchored to it? What keeps my spirit from drifting off and mixing (or swapping!) with yours?
We know that the universe is basically electrical. All the best thinkers agree on that, and the Bible doesn’t disagree. And electricity functions on a basis of fields. One field attracts one particle or type of matter and ignores or even repels another. Electromagnetism, for instance, which is behind just about all of our technology in some form or other. Now we know that the body, while it is alive, attracts and holds a given spirit. But as soon as it dies, that spirit is no longer attracted and drifts off into the ether someplace.
Of course, it’s not conscious, for “the dead know not any thing” (Ecclesiastes 9:5). It would be like a computer when you remove the hard drive – it has all the knowledge, the operating systems, how to power up the motherboard and the floppy drives on it, and you can remove it and carry it anywhere, but until you put it in another body, it’s useless. It can’t exist without the computer, any more than the computer can exist without the operating system.
So when the body dies, something happens to stop attracting this spirit. The main thing that all types of death have in common is that the blood stops flowing. Without blood flow, we simply cease to exist. Various parts can be completely missing, the brain can be completely non-functional (brain dead), and still we can live on life support. But without blood flow, we die. Period. So let us assume for the sake of this hypothesis that blood flow is what attracts the spirit. Why? What does the blood flow do?
Any student of basic electricity knows that electricity flowing through a wire forms a magnetic field. Likewise, moving a magnet through a coil of wire creates electricity. We are basically electrical in nature, as everyone knows. And one of the best common conductors out there is salt. And the human bloodstream is highly saline. And it is in motion. And it has electrical activity. And it creates a relatively weak, but nonetheless quite real magnetic field.
It isn’t strong enough to pick up metal filings and have them stick to us, or to wipe out data on hard drives, but each of us has our own unique electromagnetic field. It is stronger and weaker in different people, probably corresponding to the strength, speed, and purity of our bloodflow. Healthier people have thinner, cleaner blood which would make a more efficient conductor and therefore a better magnetic field.
And as I said, this field is unique to each of us; mine is different from yours. Each vibrates at a specific wavelength. And when we die, it stops vibrating. And it starts flowing well before we are born. So how is this for a theory; when our blood begins to flow as a yet-unborn fetus, we begin emitting our own electronic wavelength. God notices this wavelength and fashions a ruwach and nephesh specifically tuned for that body! A spirit that won’t be drifting off to anyone else’s body, because only this particular wavelength attracts it (this process that goes on before birth is described in detail in Psalms 139:13-18).
Of course, when that wavelength stops being emitted because the blood stops flowing, it will die and the spirit will be released to go… where? Where would a spirit which is attracted to electromagnetic fields go?
What is the nearest large electromagnetic field to all of us? Every schoolboy knows that the molten nickel-iron core of the Earth is rotating at a different speed from the outside, generating a massive electromagnetic field which shrouds the Earth! So after our own uniquely tuned wavelength, the spirit would naturally go for the next largest electromagnetic field, thereby “going downward to the Earth!”
But not so with man! For God has plans for us, so at the moment of death He snatches up our spirit, and moves our hard drive with all of our memories, emotions, likes and dislikes to a giant repository in the sky, to be stored there until He is ready to resurrect us to our reward – be that the second resurrection or the first.
If He decides on putting us in the first resurrection, we know that He is specifically creating a body for us – that is, for our spirit – even now (1 Corinthians 15, John 14:2-3, etc). And when He resurrects us in the second resurrection, Ezekiel 37:6 talks about Him specifically creating bodies for men as well, starting with bones, then flesh, and finally putting His spirit in them.
But in that second resurrection period, people will still die. And when they die, what will happen to them? Does God have any further use for them? If they get it right in that life, then yes, He will resurrect them into His family… but if they don’t, will He have a use for them?
Will He go to the unnecessary pain and trouble of resurrecting incorrigibly wicked people, just so He can say “I told you so, now walk the fiery plank!” – is that really the sort of “God is Love” God that you believe in? God doesn’t need to kill the wicked for kicks, and He doesn’t need to do it to feel justified; He does it only if it is absolutely necessary. And He certainly doesn’t enjoy it, for He says…
Ezekiel 18:32 For I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord GOD: wherefore turn yourselves, and live ye.
So what do I offer as an alternative? How would I explain that symbol of a lake of fire, burning with brimstone? What can God do with the incorrigibly wicked? Based on what I’ve said here, it seems that all God would have to do is NOT intervene and let nature take its course.
The spirit of the beast automatically goes to the Earth, the nearest electromagnetic field of any size. Right? The spirit of the man WOULD automatically go to Earth, barring God’s intervention. So let me ask you. What is at the center of the Earth?
Rock – molten rock. Metals – molten metals. A 7,000 mile thick spherical pool of lava, magma, and very literally fire and brimstone, of a sort that could not possibly be created on the surface of the Earth without destroying it. Not to mention the heat that is possible only because of the pressure.
I find it ironic that every pagan culture on Earth has known that the fire and brimstone “lake of fire” has been “down”. The same direction that the spirit of the beast goes when it dies! To the heart of the Earth. Where the devil and his angels belong, in symbol.
Matthew 25:41 Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:
So what does all this mean? Literally? It means that when your cat dies, his body returns to the dust it of which God formed it, and his spirit… well, his spirit goes to the lake of fire, burning with brimstone, at the core of the Earth – presumably to be broken down into whatever it is that corresponds to quarks and muons and such in the spirit world, and to push up spiritual daisies.
When you die in this life, your body will turn back to dust and your spirit will return to God’s spirit-bank somewhere in the sky, where you will sleep, knowing nothing, until God forms you a new body – a spirit body if you’ve been good, a physical body if you’ve been… not so good. But once you die that second time, God will only intercede to stop your spirit from the natural fiery doom that awaits all disembodied spirits… if He likes you.
Psalms 146:4 His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish.
Genesis 3:19 In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.
Otherwise, He’ll just step aside and let you go straight to the 7,000 mile wide, 7,200 degree lake of fire to join every cockroach and manatee who ever lived and died, to convert whatever energy your spirit has into some more useful form. So even if you are too rotten to get to live forever, your spirit’s energy will be broken back down into the basic building blocks of the omniverse. So there’s a bright side! God recycles!