Hell, the Lake of Fire and Universalism Part 8
Copyright 1994 - 2018 Bill's Bible Basics

Authored By  :
Bill Kochman

Published On :
September 22, 1997

Last Updated :
February 11, 2012

Fate Of Unrepentant Unsaved Spirits, No Unregenerate Spirits Will Be Allowed In God's Presence, God Is Light In Whom Is No Darkness At All, Parable Of Lazarus The Beggar, Rich Man's Spirit Tormented In Lake Of Fire, God's Plan For Unregenerate People And Spirits, God Will Ultimately Be All In All, God's Light Will Fill All, Organized Religion And Fear Of Hellfire, Theological Controversy: Greek Aionios And Aion, Will Torment In The Lake Of Fire Truly Be Forever And Everlasting Or For An Age And Of Limited Duration?, Will Satan The Fallen Angels Beast And False Prophet Finally Be Regenerated And Forgiven?, Are People Actually Destroyed In The Lake Of Fire?, Types Of People Who Are Cast Into The Lake Of Fire, Not Everyone Lives In New Jerusalem, Will Some Unrepentant People Live Outside Of Heavenly City?, Everlasting Life Or Shame And Everlasting Contempt, Is Torment Of Lake Of Fire Symbolic Of Emotional or Mental Suffering?, God's Character: Love And Mercy, Prodigal Son, Universalism And Universal Reconciliation, Conclusion

As I asked at the conclusion of part seven of this series, while the physical bodies of the people who face the Second Death appear to be destroyed when they are cast into the Lake of Fire, what will happen to their actual spirits? Will they just return to God in their unregenerate state, or will something else happen to them? Considering God's Holiness and Purity, it doesn't seem likely that such a spirit would be welcome in His presence; that is, unless it has somehow been reformed; and this is where Universalism, or Universal Reconciliation, enters the picture. I am reminded of verses such as the following:

"Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?"
2 Corinthians 6:14, KJV

"And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them."
Ephesians 5:11, KJV

"Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness."
1 Thessalonians 5:5, KJV

So again, because God is Light, and is in fact the Father of Lights in whom is found no darkness at all, as both John and James inform us in their Epistles, it seems very likely that He will not allow darkness -- such as an unsaved spirit -- to enter into His presence. Consider the following verses:

"This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all."
1 John 1:5, KJV

"Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning."
James 1:17, KJV

To understand what may happen to these unsaved, unregenerate spirits, all we have to do is look back to the Parable of Lazarus the Beggar. As I explained in part seven, it seems clear to me that Jesus was describing the Lake of Fire, and not the common grave. If that rich man was in a conscious state, and was looking up at Abraham who was in Heaven, and was begging Abraham to allow Lazarus to cool his tongue with water, then in my mind, that is even more proof that Jesus was talking about the Lake of Fire. Why? Because as we also saw in part seven, the dead are unconscious in the grave. In contrast, the rich man was very much alive, and very much conscious as well. Therefore, we can only conclude that it was his spirit which was being tormented in the Lake of Fire, which is why he asked Abraham to send Lazarus with water.

In my view, there are only two possible ways that we can look at this situation concerning the spirits of those people who have experienced the Second Death. Either our Heavenly Father is not a God of Love, but rather a sadist who enjoys watching people's spirits suffer for eternity, or else in His Divine Wisdom, He has a plan for these unregenerate people which is not fully understood by everyone yet. I believe that I have already revealed His ultimate plan to you in part seven. As I explained there, God does not willingly afflict His children. He truly desires that men come to a state of repentance and belief. His earnest desire is not to destroy, but rather to heal; and I propose that this is what the fiery purge in the Lake of Fire may be all about.

Within the Universalist camp, it is this driving belief of God ultimately being all in all, which supports the idea that torment in the Lake of Fire is not truly eternal, or forever and ever, as has been supposed and translated for hundreds of years, but rather that it is only a temporary situation which in God's chosen time, will come to an end. This may in fact be the reconciliation that the Apostle Paul was talking about in his Epistles. Please consider this verse. I have added a few phrases in brackets for the sake of clarification:

"And when all things shall be subdued unto him [unto Jesus], then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him [unto God] that put all things under him, that God may be all in all."
1 Corinthians 15:28, KJV

In other words, it would seem that as long as there is any degree of darkness, evil, sin and rebellion left anywhere in the Universe, then God's plan of Forgiveness, Redemption, Salvation and Universal Reconciliation cannot be considered to be complete, and God cannot be "all in all". Let me remind you again that God is Light, and that in Him is no darkness at all. What is darkness, if not the absence of light? So in order for God to truly be "all in all", all darkness must by necessity be destroyed, and that can only happen through the continual presence of God's Divine Light.

No doubt, a lot of Christians who have been taught -- perhaps erroneously so -- to embrace the eternal torment in hellfire scenario will question my point of view, because in the New Testament we do find phrases such as the following:

1. everlasting fire
2. tormented day and night for ever and ever
3. the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever
4. eternal fire

However, what if we have all been purposely misled by certain religious authorities, because their true goal has only been to maintain tight control over the masses through fear and intimidation? Wouldn't the threat of eternal hellfire serve such a purpose, and keep a lot of people under the thumb of organized religion? While many of you may not be aware of it, for several hundred years now, there has existed an ongoing debate within theological circles regarding whether or not these translations are really accurate, and what the original writers intended. In the case of the words "everlasting" and "eternal", the original Greek word that is used in the New Testament is "aionios". Thayer's Greek English Lexicon defines this word as follows:

----- Begin Quote -----

1) without beginning and end, that which always has been and always will be
2) without beginning
3) without end, never to cease, everlasting

----- End Quote -----

This is the Greek word that is used in the phrases "eternal fire", "everlasting fire", "eternal life" and "everlasting life". In contrast, the phrase "for ever and ever" is used a total of twenty-one times in the New Testament, and finds its origin in the Greek phrase "eis aion aion". The Greek word "aion" is actually used twice. However, unlike the former word "aionios" -- which does seem to signify everlasting and eternal in the truest sense of the word -- as you can see by the definitions below, Thayer's Greek English Lexicon offers a clear possibility that "aion" could signify a limited time frame or age, and not necessarily eternity in ever case:

----- Begin Quote -----

1) for ever, an unbroken age, perpetuity of time, eternity
2) the worlds, universe
3) period of time, age

----- End Quote -----

Now, where this theological debate becomes very interesting is in the fact that -- as you can see by my previous list of phrases above -- the phrase "for ever and ever" is used in direct association with both of the phrases where torment is mentioned. In other words, this is one of the reasons why Universalists hold to the view that torment in the Lake of Fire may be for a limited duration -- that is, for a period of time, or for an age, as opposed to for eternity -- and that said torment will cease when the desired result -- that is, repentance, regeneration and reconciliation with God -- has been achieved. Only in this way, will God truly be "all in all" according to Universalist doctrine.

Now, obviously, this is a very explosive issue, because it begs the question "Does this likewise mean that someday even Satan and the Fallen Angels, as well as the Beast and the False Prophet and their followers, will be regenerated, and will be released from the Lake of Fire, and welcomed back into full fellowship with God?" Personally, I don't even dare to try to answer such a profound question, because I honestly do not know. It would certainly seem to be in agreement with the Universalist point of view. I can say no more than that.

Earlier, I mentioned that it appears that the bodies of the people whose names are not found written in the Lamb's Book of Life will be destroyed in the Lake of Fire. I used the word "appears" for a very specific reason. That reason is that I am not absolutely certain that this is what is going to happen to them. Allow me to call your attention to the chronological order of the two events that are mentioned in the following verses:

"And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire."
Revelation 20:14-15, KJV

As you can plainly see, we are told that death and hell are cast into -- and we assume destroyed in -- the Lake of Fire in verse fourteen, and then the people whose names are not found in the Lamb's Book of Life are cast into the Lake of Fire in verse fifteen. Now if we choose to be rather literal and technical about this and accept the verses for what they say, then we would have to conclude that death is destroyed first in verse fourteen, and then these people are cast into the Lake of Fire in verse fifteen. Is this possible proof that these people do not die a second time -- meaning that their physical bodies and their spirits are not separated again -- being as death and hell have already been destroyed in verse fourteen? Don't be too quick to offer an answer.

To understand the importance of this question, and why it needs to be asked, please consider what we are told in the following verses that are found in chapters twenty-one and twenty-two of the Book of Revelation:

"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 . . . And the nations of them which are saved shall walk in the light of it: and the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honour into it. And the gates of it shall not be shut at all by day: for there shall be no night there. And they shall bring the glory and honour of the nations into it. And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb's book of life."
Revelation 21:8, 24-27, KJV

"Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city. For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie."
Revelation 22:14-15, KJV

The first thing that we can determine from the previous sets of verses is who some of the people are who are not found in the Lamb's Book of Life, and who are thus cast into the Lake of Fire. Among others, these people include liars, murderers, idolators and whoremongers.

A second thing we can learn from the previous verses is that despite its huge size, it seems that not everyone actually lives inside of the Heavenly City, New Jerusalem. We are clearly told that there are nations of saved people living outside of the City who are allowed to freely enter into the Heavenly City.

The third thing that we learn from these verses is who will not be allowed to enter into the City. Now, stop and think about this. If all of the wicked people who were not found in the Lamb's Book of Life were already destroyed in the Lake of Fire at the end of chapter twenty, then why would there even be any need for John to tell us who won't be allowed to enter into the City in chapter twenty-one? It is obvious then that these people -- at least some of them -- must still exist.

If you doubt that this is so, then notice the confirmation that we are given in the verses that are found in chapter twenty-two beginning with the phrase "For without". As you can see, the very same kinds of wicked people are mentioned, who we were told a chapter earlier were cast into the Lake of Fire. If these wicked people are outside of the Heavenly City, as the verses in chapter twenty-two state, and if they are in the Lake of the Fire, then this also tells us that the Lake of Fire must be located somewhere outside of New Jerusalem. Exactly where, I honestly do not know. My point is, all of these verses inform us that the people whose names are not found in the Lamb's Book of Life:

1. will be cast into the Lake of Fire
2. apparently are not actually destroyed
3. are somewhere outside of the Heavenly City

Now, why would God do this, unless He still has some plan, and perhaps some hope, for them? Could it in fact be then that He is patiently waiting for the Lake of Fire to purge them of their iniquity, and to bring them to a state of real repentance? Are we possibly seeing Universalism in action in these verses? I honestly don't know. What do you think? The possibility that there may actually be two classes of people living outside of the Heavenly City may also be hinted at in a verse that is found in the Old Testament. In the Book of Daniel we find the following verse:

"And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt."
Daniel 12:2, KJV

The previous verse from Daniel is apparently describing the Second Resurrection which occurs sometime prior to the Great White Throne Judgment. As we have already discussed, it will involve everyone who has ever lived, and who was not raised during the First Resurrection. But let me ask you a question. If the wicked and unbelieving people are cast into the Lake of Fire, and are thereby destroyed, how could they possibly experience "shame and everlasting contempt". Granted, they could experience temporary shame after judgment is passed on them at the Great White Throne Judgment, but they certainly cannot experience "everlasting contempt" if they are dead, as a result of the Second Death. After all, as we saw in part seven, following death there is no memory or even a conscious state.

On the other hand, we could argue that the verse means that such wicked people who have already been destroyed in the Lake of Fire, will be remembered, and viewed with shame and contempt, by those people who have been blessed with the gift of Everlasting Life, as the verse states. Perhaps it is these people who will "have right to the tree of life", as we saw in Revelation chapter twenty-two. This latter interpretation does seem to make more sense when we consider that the word "shame" is translated from the Hebrew word "cherpah", which means reproach or scorn. Furthermore, the verse from the Book of Daniel does seem to suggest that the first group will gain Everlasting Life, while the latter will not. In other words, the phrase "some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt" seems to be suggesting a contrast which we could possibly interpret as "some to everlasting life, [as opposed to] some to shame and everlasting contempt."

However, the problem here is that the previous verses from the last chapter of the Book of Revelation do clearly state "For without"; meaning that the aforementioned wicked people will be alive somewhere outside of the Heavenly City, and presumably in the Lake of Fire. For this reason, I have even wondered if perhaps the fire and torment that is experienced in the Lake of Fire, and maybe even the Lake of Fire itself, are symbolic of emotional or mental torment. Think about it. If there are people all around you who are allowed to enter into the Heavenly City whenever they please, but you are not permitted to do the same because of your unbelief and other other sins, wouldn't you experience shame and contempt, and some level of emotional and mental torment as well?

Of course, this issue brings us right back to the question concerning God's character. If He is a God of Love and Mercy as we believe, why would He choose to allow people to live in such a state of horrible mental and emotional torment for all of eternity? If His ultimate goal is repentance, healing, forgiveness and Salvation for all, so that He can truly be "all in all", wouldn't He want to bring their suffering to an end once they have learned the lessons that He is trying to teach them? Similar to a human parent, once a rebellious son has come to his senses, and learned the lessons that needed to be learned, wouldn't the Father want to open up His arms of love and fellowship to him again, just like the story of the Prodigal Son? So once again it seems that maybe we need to consider the possibility of Universalism, or Salvation for all.

As you probably realize by now, personally, I would very much like for Universalism -- or Universal Reconciliation -- to be a true doctrine. The idea of a merciful God who is capable of eventually reconciling everyone and everything to Himself, is so much more appealing to me than a God of Wrath and Revenge who would allow people to suffer torment and pain for all of eternity in a literal Lake of Fire because of their sins. In the end, it all comes down to the correct translation of the Greek words "aionios" and "aion". Because I am by no means an expert regarding the Koine Greek language, I honestly do not know with any degree of certainty who is correct concerning this issue. Is it the people who believe in eternal suffering and torment in a literal Lake of Fire, or is it actually the Universalists who believe that the age of suffering will be of limited duration, and will eventually come to an end, and everyone will finally be reconciled to God?

While I have not provided a lot of definitive answers here, and in fact have offered a substantial amount of personal conjecture, nevertheless, I hope that this series has been a blessing in your life, and that it has motivated you to stop to examine your own personal beliefs regarding hell and the Lake of Fire, and related issues. Are your beliefs actually in line with God's Word, or like so many people, have you allowed your perspective and understanding regarding these issues to be colored by misguided religious doctrine? With these words I will bring this series to a close.

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