The Time of the End
A Study About the Book of Revelation
Arlen L. Chitwood
“The Second Death”
Can Christians be hurt by the Second Death?
Exactly what does it mean in Revelation 2:11 for individuals to “be hurt by” the second death?
He who overcomes shall not be hurt by the second death.
Revelation 2:11 is dealing with Christians, relative to overcoming or being overcome. And in the light of Revelation 20:4-6; 21:7, 8, which deals with the same subject, Revelation 2:11 can mean only one thing: non-overcoming Christians are going to be “hurt by the second death,” defined in Scripture as having “their part in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone” (Revelation 21:8b).
“Fire” in Scripture is associated with the judgment of the saved as well as the judgment of the unsaved. And though the Christians’ works will be tried “by [‘in’] fire” at the judgment seat (1 Corinthians 3:12-15), this is not synonymous with Christians having a part in “the lake that burns with fire and brimstone.”
Rather, at this judgment, Christians will be shown to have either overcome or to have been overcome, with the carrying out of decisions and determinations made at the judgment seat occurring at a time following these events. And it will be at this time, following judgment, that non-overcoming Christians will be “hurt by the second death,” which is associated with the lake of fire.
(Note in the judgment of the unsaved in Revelation 20:11-15 that the second death and the lake of fire enter into the matter only following judgment. The second death and the lake of fire come into view only following decisions and determinations surrounding the judgment of the unsaved.
And it will be the same for the saved preceding this time. They will first be judged. Only then, only following the decisions and determinations surrounding their judgment, do the second death and the lake of fire come into view.)
The Overcomer’s Promises
The word “overcome” is a translation of the Greek word nikao, which means “to conquer” or “to gain a victory over.” The thought inherent in the word nikao (or nike, the noun form of the word) always means to be victorious in a contest or conflict. The “overcomers” are the conquerors, the victors; they are the ones who will have successfully run the race of the faith; they are the ones who will have conquered the numerous encountered obstacles along the way.
There are seven different overcomer’s promises in Revelation chapters two and three; and each promise is millennial in its scope of fulfillment. That is, these promises will be realized during the 1,000-year reign of Christ after Christians have had their works tried “by [‘in’] fire” at the judgment seat.
(There can be no such thing as Christians being hurt of the second death beyond the millennium, for Revelation 21:4 plainly declares that there will be no more death during this time. Former things of this nature will have passed away.
Nor can the Son invite Christians to sit on “My throne” [the seventh and last overcomer’s promise; Revelation 3:21] beyond the millennium, for He will not be seated on this throne at that time. Instead He will be seated with His Father on “the throne of God and of the Lamb” [Revelation 22:1, 3].
During the millennium, regal power over the earth will emanate from the Son’s throne above the present earth. But during the ages beyond, regal power over the universe will emanate from the throne of God and of the Lamb on the new earth.)
Christians have been saved with a view to being overcomers and bringing forth fruit. This matter comprises the very heart of the message that is to be proclaimed to Christians throughout the dispensation. Israel has been set aside during this time, and God is calling another people — a separate and distinct people — “for His name,” taken mainly from among the Gentiles (Acts 15:14).
Those whom God is presently dealing with comprise an entirely new creation, which is neither Jew nor Gentile, forming one new man “in Christ.” And God is extending to individual members of this one new man, to Christians, the privilege of overcoming and bringing forth fruit, with a view to their occupying positions as joint-heirs with His Son in the heavenly sphere of the coming kingdom.
God has set aside an entire dispensation for this purpose, and judgment at the end of this dispensation will reveal man’s response to this privilege. Some Christians will be shown to have overcome, possessing works comparable to “gold, silver, precious stones”; but other Christians will be shown to have been overcome, possessing works comparable to “wood, hay, straw.”
The overcomers will, at that time, inherit the promised blessings of Revelation chapters two and three; but those shown to have been overcome will be denied these blessings. This is the subject matter dealt with in the opening three chapters of the book of Revelation.
Being Hurt of the Second Death
That which is in view concerning a non-overcoming Christian one day being hurt of the second death following decisions and determinations at the judgment seat, as previously seen, is explained later in this same book. The second death for the non-overcomer is having a “part in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone” (Revelation 21:8); and having a part in the lake of fire is explained through God’s dealings with the unsaved in the previous chapter as being “cast into the lake of fire” (20:15).
And seeing individuals cast into “a furnace of fire” in Matthew 13:42, 50 is simply another way of expressing the same thing.
(The parables in Matthew chapter thirteen deal with the Kingdom of the Heavens and fruit bearing, not with eternal salvation. Thus, the subject matter has to do with the saved, not with the unsaved.
Further, In Matthew 13:1, Christ going out of “the house” [a reference to Israel] and down by “the seaside” [a reference to the Gentiles], the one new man “in Christ” [about to be brought into existence at the time these parables were given] is seen throughout the first four parables. In this respect, those who are gathered out of Christ’s kingdom, who “offend” and “do iniquity” and are cast into a furnace of fire, can only be identified as Christians.
Also, the casting into a furnace of fire in Matthew 13:42, 50 occurs before the millennium. The unsaved cast into the lake of fire in Revelation 20:15 occurs following the millennium. They are not the same.)
But is the second death, being cast into the lake of fire, something that will be carried out in a literal sense? Or, is Scripture dealing with metaphors at this point? And, if the latter, what about the unsaved being cast into the lake of fire at the end of the millennium, in Revelation 20:11-15?
If one is literal, would not the other have to be literal as well? Or, if one is metaphorical, would not the other have to be metaphorical as well?
Allowing Scripture to Interpret Scripture
In John 15:6 and Hebrews 6:8, saved individuals are spoken of in a metaphorical sense, where a burning with fire is referenced. And the context of both places has to do with either bearing fruit or not bearing fruit, which is exactly the same thing seen in the Matthew thirteen parables. Or, as the matter is expressed in Revelation chapters two and three, either overcoming or being overcome.
And the negative side of the matter is expressed at least two other ways in Scripture — being cast into Gehenna (a reference to the place of refuse outside the city walls of Jerusalem at this time; Matthew 5:22, 29, 30; 23:15, 33) or being cast into outer darkness (Matthew 8:12; 22:13; 25:30).
Overcoming or not overcoming and being unhurt or being hurt by the second death in Revelation 2:11 is expressed a slightly different way in Romans 8:13:
For if you [a reference to “brethren” in v. 12] live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.
Whether Gehenna or outer darkness in Matthew, a burning with fire in John and Hebrews, being cast into a furnace or lake of fire in Matthew and Revelation, or suffering death or being hurt by the second death in Romans and Revelation, different facets of exactly the same thing are in view. All of these are used in contexts showing that they have to do with saved people in relation to fruit bearing and the kingdom.
Through comparing Scripture with Scripture, it is plain that these are simply different ways of expressing the same thing. And since a literal casting into outer darkness, Gehenna, or a furnace or lake of fire could not possibly be in view (for these different places could not possibly be looked upon as referring to the same place in a literal sense), it is evident that metaphors are being used throughout.
But relative to the unsaved and the lake of fire, this is simply not expressed other ways in Scripture as it is with the saved, leaving no room for any thought other than understanding the matter as literal, not metaphorical.
Aside from the preceding, it is clear that all Christians, faithful and unfaithful alike, will be in the kingdom. This is seen in type in Genesis chapters eighteen and nineteen. Both Abraham and Lot, in the final analysis, are seen on the mount (a “mountain” in Scripture signifies a kingdom). But note the stark difference in the place which each occupied. Abraham stood before the Lord, where he had always stood (18:22; 19:27). Lot though found himself in a place separate from the Lord, in a place where he also had always stood (19:1, 30).