Author: Ron Graham
The Second Death
—The lake of fire
Judgment of the Beasts (Revelation 12-20) >Seven Final Visions >6th vision >The Judgment >Excursus on the second death
When teaching on the book of Revelation, I am at pains to point out the nature of the visions. They are signs seen by John and recorded by him for us. The events John sees in visions are symbolic and representative of truths taught in the gospel. This is true of the vision of the second death and first resurrection.
1 The Second Death
Revelation 19:20, Revelation 20:10,15, Revelation 21:7-8,
These passages tell of how the Beast, the False prophet, the Dragon, and all who follow them, are thrown in turn into the lake of burning sulphur, "the second death".
The dead, great and small, will all be raised. Death and Hades (the temporary abode of the dead) will be destroyed. This should be cause for joy! But for many it will be bitter irony: they will be released from death's power, only to follow death into its own destruction.
Surely the whole purpose of being raised from the dead should be to die no more, not to die a second death unimaginably worse!
The vision of the second death is frightening and awful. It's impossible to imagine anything worse. Yet this lake of fire and brimstone is only a sign or symbol of the real Hell. The real hell will be even worse than that —very far worse.
2 The Judgment
Christ is seen on a great white throne. The dead are raised. Books are opened. Everyone is "judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books" (Revelation 20:13).
The judgment was based on the records in the books. Some books would show what works God had commanded people to do. Other books would show what people had actually done. If the record of a person’s works matched the record of what God had commanded, the Book of Life would record that person’s name.
If you look back on your life, you will most likely find that, on the above basis, you will not pass the judgment test. However you should remember that in the much earlier vision of the multitude of the saved, those judged righteous before the throne of God had "washed their robes white in the blood of the Lamb" (Revelation 7:14).
In other words, their sins had been "blotted out" (Acts 3:19). The record was adjusted by virtue of the sacrifice of Christ the Lamb whom they believed and followed.
This is where the “first resurrection” comes in.
3 The First Resurrection
The answer to "the second death" is "the first resurrection" (Revelation 20:6). This is the new birth which takes place in baptism.
Baptism symbolises the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. In baptism one enters into Christ’s death, crucifies and buries the old person, and is raised up a new person (Romans 6).
One must enter baptism with faith in Christ and repentance from sin. Faith must involve a loyalty and commitment to Christ so complete that one is ready, if need be, to sacrifice one's very life for him. That's what it takes "to live and reign with Christ".
Think about the remorse and regret you will feel, if you have failed to secure yourself the everlasting life, and instead you must suffer the terrible and everlasting second death. What awaits you when death is conquered? Eternal death and misery, or eternal life and joy?
Six Steps to Grace
The words of Paul in Romans (and his agreement with Jesus in the gospels) on what people should do to receive grace.
1. Hearing Christ’s word (Romans 10:8-17, Matthew 7:24).
2. Believing —having faith (Romans 1:16-17, John 3:16).
3. Repentance from sin (Romans 2:4-5, Romans 6:1-2, Luke 5:31-32).
4. Confessing Christ (Romans 10:8-10, Matthew 10:32).
5. Being baptized into Christ’s death (Romans 6:3-4, Mark 16:15-16).
6. Ongoing commitment (Romans 12:1-2, Romans 12:11-12, Luke 9:62).