What happens in the Lake of Fire?

This post is based on Appendix 5 of the Revised English Version Bible.

The REV Bible corrects many problems with how certain important words are translated. E.g. In Genesis it uses soul for creatures when translating Nephesh.


Revelation 19:20  Then the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who worked signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image. These two were cast alive into the lake of fire burning with brimstone.

Revelation 20:10  The devil, who deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet are. And they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.

Revelation 20:14-15 Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.15  And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.

Annihilation takes place in the Lake of Fire.

The Lake of Fire is the only place that we should see as hell and not Sheol, Hades or Gehenna. The Lake of Fire is primarily for Satan, the Beast (Antichrist) and the false prophet. Anyone who is not saved will also enter the Lake of Fire but only after the 1,000 year Millennial reign of Jesus Christ.

For teaching on “What happens when we die”, please click here. This shows that we do not go to hell at all, but go into the state of death.

One of the most powerful truths about God in the Bible is “God is love,” but some Christians teach that God tortures the unsaved in the flames of hell for all eternity.

How could that be love?

Thankfully, God does not do that. The Bible says that the saved will live forever and the unsaved will be annihilated in the Lake of Fire. There is no “eternal (forever) torment” in the Bible.

There are a number of important reasons why many people have had difficulty believing that God would torture people eternally. One reason that we have just seen is that God is love and torturing people forever is not love. Another reason is that God is righteous, it is not logical that someone could commit sin in one short lifetime that would be justly recompensed by being tormented forever.

How could everlasting torture be just or righteous?

Also, the doctrine of eternal torture makes saved people seem very cold-hearted.

Could it really be that the saved are rejoicing forever while hearing the screams of people being tortured forever?

Even if the saved could not hear the cries of the damned, would that make such a big difference?

Just knowing that people were being tortured forever would seem to make everlasting life hard to enjoy. Civilized people will not even torture their worst enemies here on earth; does that change when the saved are perfected? Unsaved people are not tortured forever, and the teaching that they are contradicts many clear and simple scriptures.

1. The Old Testament says the wicked will be destroyed

When studying whether the wicked are annihilated or live forever in torment, the most natural place to start is in the Old Testament. When we read it, we see that it says over and over in many different ways that the wicked will be annihilated and be gone forever. They will:

“be no more” (Psalm 37:10; Proverbs 10:25)

“be forever destroyed” (Psalm 92:7; cp. Psalm 73:17-19; cp. Psalm 145:20; Proverbs 14:11)

“die” (Ezekiel 18:4, 20; 33:13-16)

“perish” (Psalm 1:6; 37:20; Isaiah 41:11)

“perish forever (Job 20:7)

“be as nothing” (Isaiah 41:12)

have “everlasting ruin” (Psalm 52:5)

The Old Testament also says that moths will eat them up like a garment, and worms devour them like they devour wool (Isaiah 51:8), which are both illustrations showing nothing will be left of them. It also says that wicked people will fly away like a dream and be found no more (Job 20:8). They will “be consumed like dry stubble” (Nahum 1:10; cp. Isaiah 1:28, 31; 29:20); and will “vanish like smoke” (Psalm 37:20) because “his [God’s] fire will consume them” (Psalm 21:9). Their names will be written in the dirt (Jeremiah 17:13), and just like names in dirt soon disappear, they will eventually disappear and be gone forever. No one will see them any more (Job 20:9). People with no understanding (unsaved people) are like animals that “perish,” they do not live forever anywhere (Psalm 49:20).

Still another way God portrays the destruction of the wicked is by saying they will be “cut off.” The phrase “cut off” is used in several different ways in the Old Testament. It is used of physical death (1 Samuel 24:21; 1 Kings 18:4; Isaiah 53:8; thus some versions have “killed”), and it is also used of people who will be “cut off” in the next life (Psalm 12:3; 37:9, 22; Nahum 1:15). Just as when a person was cut off in his first life and ceased to live, so when he is cut off after the Judgement he will cease to live, and then cannot “live” in torment. In contrast to these clear verses that say the wicked will be destroyed and be no more, there is not one clear and indisputable Old Testament verse that shows the wicked living forever in torment.

2. The New Testament says the wicked will be destroyed

Having now seen more than a dozen different ways the Old Testament says that wicked people will eventually be destroyed and cease to exist, we will see that the New Testament continues the same idea, saying that the wicked are totally consumed and become non-existent.

John the Baptist compared the wicked with chaff that is burned (Matthew 3:12). Jesus compared the unsaved to trees that do not produce fruit and so are cut down and burned (Matthew 7:19); to weeds that are gathered and burned (Matthew 13:40); and to vine branches that do not produce fruit and so are cut off and burned (John 15:6). None of these illustrations give the impression that the burning lasts forever. Instead, they all convey the simple truth that was well known in the biblical culture: chaff, weeds, or wood that is thrown into a fire burn for a short time and then are completely consumed.

If John or Jesus knew that people burned forever in the lake of fire, they should have used illustrations that made that point, or added some comments to make their illustration clear. However, it surely seems that John and Jesus both knew exactly what their illustrations conveyed—the total destruction of the wicked—and chose their illustrations on purpose to make that exact point and fit with the rest of Scripture. Just as the chaff, weeds, and wood burn for a time in the fire and then are consumed and gone forever, the wicked suffer some retribution in the lake of fire and then die and are burned up completely.

Another New Testament illustration that teaches the ungodly will be destroyed is the comparison of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah to the destruction of the wicked.

In 2 Peter:6 it says that God, “by turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes he condemned them to extinction, making them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly” .

Sodom and Gomorrah were not tormented forever, but burned to ashes and became “extinct,” and the Bible says that is exactly what will happen to wicked people.

3. The “immortal soul” is not biblical; the Bible never says the soul is immortal

Most orthodox theologians acknowledge that a sinner’s body is destroyed after he dies, but they assert that it is the “immortal soul” of a sinner that remains in torment forever. The concept of the “immortal soul” came mainly from Greek philosophy, and entered into Christian teaching mainly through two different pathways. The first way was from Jews who converted to Christianity. After Alexander the Great conquered Israel and Egypt in 332 BC, many of the Jews who lived there came to accept Greek beliefs as true, and when they converted to Christianity they brought those Greek beliefs (myths) with them. The second way the belief in the immortal soul entered Christianity was from the Greeks who converted to Christianity as the Christian Faith began to grow and spread.

It is widely believed that the “immortal soul” is a biblical concept, but it is never mentioned in the Bible. Much has been written showing the soul is not immortal, but it is too much information to expound in this commentary article. (See Graeser, Lynn, Schoenheit, Is There Death After Life, pp. 17-28; Edward Fudge, The Fire that Consumes, pp. 65-76; Leroy E. Froom, The Conditionalist Faith of Our Fathers, pp.529- 802; Anthony Buzzard, Our Fathers Who Aren’t in Heaven, pp. 208-225.)

The most common use of “soul” in the Bible is its being used to mean a person, an individual, such as when Acts 27:37 says there were 276 “souls” on board the ship (KJV). This is true both in the Old Testament, where “soul” is a translation of the Hebrew word nephesh, (pronounced ‘nĕ-fesh) and the New Testament, where it is the translation of the Greek word psuche (pronounced psoo-‘kay).

However, due to the common belief that the “soul” lives on after the body dies, it is important that we highlight some verses that show that the soul, as well as the body, is destroyed.

The clearest verse that shows the soul can be destroyed is Matthew 10:28. Jesus was teaching people not to be afraid of people, but to “be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell [Gehenna].” This clear teaching by Jesus should have settled the point that both the body and the soul are “destroyed” in the lake of fire.

The soul does not live on forever in torment. Ezekiel 18:20 says that soul that sins will die (KJV). Hebrews 10:39 mentions people who “believe to the saving of the soul” (KJV; the word “soul” is in the Greek text, but not translated as “soul” in many versions). It contrasts those saved souls with the people who draw back from God resulting in destruction (annihilation; The Greek is apōleia; #1).

Jesus also taught, “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it” (Matthew 16:25). In this verse, the word “life” is “soul” in the Greek text, and the word “lose” and “loses” is the Greek word apollumi (#2), which is covered below in the notes and refers to destruction. So although it is not clear in most English translations, when the Greek text is more literally translated the meaning of the verse becomes clear: “For whoever wants to save his soul will destroy it….” Thus this verse too shows that the “soul” can be destroyed. James 5:20 says the person who “converts the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death…” (KJV). Although “soul” in this verse seems to mean “person,” it includes the life of the person, the soul, which it says without salvation will die.

The verses above all show that the soul is not immortal, but can be destroyed, and more verses could be added from the Old Testament, such as those that say the “soul” of sinners will be “cut off” (Leviticus 7:20; 18:29; Numbers 15:30, 31). In concluding this point we need to restate that there is no such thing as the “’immortal soul” in the Bible, and many Scriptures, and especially the teaching of Jesus, show us the “soul” can be destroyed.

4. The figure of speech hyperbole

Saying that the Devil and some of the very wicked people will be tormented “forever and ever” is the figure of speech hyperbole, or exaggeration. Hyperbole was common in the biblical culture, just as it is common in our culture today. Common hyperboles in Western culture are when we are hungry but we say, “I’m starving,” or when we are cold but we say “I’m freezing.” The hyperbole communicates both the intensity of the feeling and the emotion of discomfort that goes with the physical feeling itself. In his book, Figures of Speech Used in the Bible, E.W. Bullinger has six pages of examples of hyperboles found in the Bible, and there are many he did not list.

There are other examples of hyperbole that are associated with the Devil, the last days, and the Judgment. For example, by hyperbole, the Devil is said to be accusing Christians before God “day and night.” Of course, this is not literal, because there are times when the Devil is on earth and leaves God’s presence (Job 1:12; 2:7; 1 Peter 5:8). Also, Jesus used hyperbole to good effect when he taught about avoiding Gehenna. He said, “If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away” (Matthew 5:29). Jesus did not expect anyone to literally obey him, but the hyperbole effectively communicates that, although we should not gouge out our eye, we should not be complacent about the sin in our lives but should take drastic action to cleanse ourselves of sin. The hyperbole in Revelation 20:10, “to the ages of the ages” accomplishes two things. First, it graphically makes the point that the torment will go on for a long time and second, it elicits emotions such as horror, or perhaps satisfaction, that accompany the retribution that has come upon the wicked.

How can we be sure that verses such as Revelation 20:10 are hyperbole? One of the best-known principles of biblical exegesis is that God’s Word is internally consistent, i.e., verses cannot contradict each other. If verses appear to contradict, any unclear verse must be interpreted in harmony with the clear verses on the subject. The Bible says in many different ways and in many places that the unsaved will be totally destroyed. In contrast, there are only a few verses that seem to say the unsaved will not be destroyed. So we can safely conclude that the unsaved will be destroyed. Furthermore, when we closely examine the few verses that seem to say the unsaved will burn forever, each of them can be explained from grammar or customs in a way that is consistent with the clear verses.

5. People will be punished in proportion to their sin

Scripture says people will receive punishment for what they have done, and that the punishment will be in proportion to the sin they have committed. Romans 2:5 says of stubborn people, “you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath.” Just as godly people by their good works store up treasure for the life to come, wicked people store up wrath for themselves. It would make no sense to say that a person “stored up wrath for themselves” if every person got the same “wrath,” that is, eternal torment.

Jesus taught that people would be tortured “until” they paid back what they owed for their sin (Matthew 18:32-35). Theologians who believe in eternal torment claim that no one can ever pay for their sin, but no Scripture says that, in fact, Scripture is clear that sin can be paid for, and that is exactly what Jesus taught in Matthew 18:34 and what verses such as Romans 2:5 indicate.

The clear message of Scripture is that unless people get forgiveness for their sins they will receive punishment for the evil they have done, but never does Scripture say the people deserve being punished forever (Psalm 62:12; Ecc. 11:9; Jeremiah 17:10; 32:19; Ezekiel 33:20; Matthew 16:27; Rom. 2:6; 2 Cor. 5:10; Revelations 2:23). Beings such as the Devil and his demons have stored up much wrath for themselves and will be punished for a very long time before they are destroyed. God metes out two different types of justice: corrective justice and retributive justice. Corrective justice is punishment that is meant to correct a behavior, while retributive justice is retribution, or repayment, for something that the person did.

Torment and then destruction in the lake of fire is not corrective, it is retributive; it is a righteous repayment for harm done. The demons knew this justice was coming, and so they said to Jesus, “Have you come to destroy us?” (Mark 1:24).

Some theologians have argued against annihilation because they say it would not make sense for God to resurrect someone from the dead only to kill them again. That misses the fact that God’s annihilation in the Lake of Fire is a judgment, a retribution, a fulfillment of a promise, and a lesson to those still living. We can assume many evil people, the Pharisees are a good example, have died in complete confidence that they will be saved, and as rich and powerful people, often died in the comfort of their own homes, well-fed and cared for. Not only do wicked people such as those Pharisees need to be judged and fulfill the promise that “every knee will bow,” but their annihilation is not immediate. The wicked are annihilated after a period of suffering, and that period of suffering fulfills the Word of God and the justice of God. It seems clear that not every sinner spends equal time suffering, but the more wicked a person is, the more severe the punishment, fulfilling the Scripture that they have stored up wrath for the Day of Wrath. It is God’s just retribution that those who have ignored God and caused pain and suffering on earth will suffer in proportion to the evil they have done.

Also, the suffering of the wicked before they are annihilated will show those who have everlasting life that God is truly just. God, through Jesus Christ, offered to pay for the sins of anyone who wished to accept that payment. Those people who rejected God’s offer, and thereby decided by default to pay for their own sins, had to make good their decision, and pay for their sins with suffering and death, just as Scripture said: “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23).


The verses above are very descriptive of the final end of the wicked, which is total annihilation. It is not good biblical exegesis to use the very few unclear verses that can seem to say that evil people will suffer forever to overturn the dozens of different verses and illustrations that tell us the wicked will be totally destroyed. The overwhelming biblical evidence in both the Old Testament and the New Testament is that wicked people are not tormented forever but are destroyed in the lake of fire, which is the second death.

Extra Notes

The best way to study this subject is by studying the individual Greek words themselves. For one thing, usually a Greek word will be translated as several different English words depending on the context. For another thing, different Greek words will sometimes be translated by the same English word. This makes trying to do biblical research by studying the English words confusing and can lead to false conclusions. For example, apollumi is translated “destroy,” “perish,” “lose,” etc., depending on the context, but there are also other Greek words (cp. apōleia and olethros) that are sometimes translated “destruction.” If we follow the Greek words and understand their meanings, we can arrive at truth no matter how the translators brought the Greek into English. Below is a list of Greek words God uses to portray the destruction of the wicked.

1. Apōleia (#684 ἀπώλεια). Apōleia means “the destruction that one experiences; annihilation” (A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, by Arndt and Gingrich; abbreviated as “BDAG”). Jesus said that the road is narrow and the gate small that leads to “life,” while the broad road and broad gate leads to “destruction” (Matt. 7:13, 14; apōleia). Philippians 3:19 and 2 Peter 3:7 say the end of ungodly men and the enemies of God is “destruction,” and Romans 9:22 speaks of vessels (i.e., people) prepared for “destruction.” Hebrews 10:39 (KJV) says that believing results in the “saving of the soul,” while unbelief results in “destruction,” i.e., annihilation. To contrast apōleia with other words that mean destruction or total destruction, perhaps “annihilation” would be a clear translation. So apōleia is just one word that shows us the end of the unsaved is annihilation, not eternal torment.

Something that will help us understand that most of the words in this study, like apōleia (destruction) refer to total annihilation is to remember that some words are inherently telic (they have an endpoint), while other words are inherently atelic (they do not have an endpoint). Words like “torture,” “pain,” and “suffering” are atelic; the words themselves do not have an endpoint. Torture and suffering may go on for a minute, a month, a year, or forever. The vocabulary word itself does not have an inherent boundary—it may go on forever. In contrast, words such as “destruction,” “annihilation,” and “extinction” are telic, they have an inherent endpoint. If nothing is ever finally destroyed, then what happened was not “destruction.” The same is true with “annihilation.” If in the end nothing is “annihilated,” then the process was not “annihilation.” Similarly “extinction” is not “extinction” if in the end, something is not “extinct.” It is important to understand the difference between telic and atelic words because the vocabulary God uses when it comes to the wicked is telic. They are destroyed, annihilated, and extinct. They no longer exist.

A closing comment on apōleia is appropriate: We should pay attention to the fact that Jesus contrasted “life” with “destruction” (Matt. 7:13, 14). That clearly implies that “life” is not “destruction,” that is, those who are alive are not destroyed, and those who are destroyed are not alive. Jesus did not say that there was “life” for both the good and wicked, and the only difference between them was the quality of their life (joy or torment). We contend that Jesus chose his words carefully and accurately, and taught the great truth that the wicked are annihilated in the lake of fire.

2. Apollumi (#622 ἀπόλλυμι). Apollumi means “to cause or experience destruction” (BDAG). The Gospel of Matthew says that we are to fear God, who is the one who can “destroy both soul and body” in Gehenna (Matt. 10:28), and John 3:16, using the same Greek word, says that the unsaved will “perish,” but those who believe will have everlasting life. Romans 2:12 also says the unsaved will “perish.” These verses give more evidence that the fate of the wicked is everlasting destruction, not everlasting torment.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s