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The Second Death[1]



He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.  He who overcomes shall not be hurt by the second death. (Revelation 2:11)


The words of the Spirit of God to the church in Smyrna carry a special message to Christians who who find themselves passing through times of various trials and testing during their pilgrim walk.  The Christians in Smyrna had been called upon to suffer, but not without cause or recompense.  “Suffering” is God’s refining fire, and those passing through the fire in Smyrna were extended a promise: “Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Revelation 2:9, 10). 


The overcomers’ promise then comes into view, stating simply and explicitly that overcoming Christians in Smyrna would “not be hurt by the second death” (v. 11).


The sufferings which Christians in Smyrna were called upon to endure are summed up in the words, “. . . the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days” (v. 10).


Over the years there have been numerous interpretations concerning the ten days of suffering in Revelation 2:10.  Some expositors have called attention to ten periods of Roman persecution during the first three centuries of the Church’s existence and have sought to establish a correlation between the ten days in this verse and these ten periods in Church history, making each day represent a period of time.  Other expositors have sought to apply the ten days to a ten-year persecution during one of these periods, making each day represent one year.  Still other expositors have taken the number “ten” as symbolic, representing a limited but undefined period, usually within the larger period covered by the ten persecutions. 


Regardless of how one looks upon the ten days of tribulation within a possible historical framework, the significance of the number “ten” must be taken into account.  “Ten” is the number of ordinal completion, pointing to all the days of tribulation.  And if these ten days are to be thought of in connection with the ten periods of Roman persecution, they would have to be thought of as showing completion in relation to persecution by the Roman Empire.


But, regardless of how one views the matter relative to persecution by the Roman Empire, the thought encompassed in the number “ten” must, of necessity, go beyond these persecutions.  The seven Churches of Revelation chapters two and three are indivisibly related, revealing messages and promises to Christians throughout the dispensation; and the “ten days,” in their numerical sense, must cover the complete period — the entire dispensation.  These days must applicably refer to all trials and testing coming upon all Christians throughout the dispensation.


Trials and testing are the norm for the Christian life, not the exception.  The epistles of James and 1 Peter have been written to encourage Christians passing through times of trials and testing by holding out before them prizes, rewards, compensations, which are intimately associated with the salvation to be revealed — the salvation of the soul (James 1:21; 1 Peter 1:9).


This is the identical thought expressed in the overcomer’s promise to the church in Smyrna.  A “crown of life” is in view, and the recipient of this crown is given the assurance that he will “not be hurt of the second death.”


The epistle of James begins its message with the statement, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials.”  Why?  Trials and testing of this nature “produces patience [‘patient endurance’].”  And allowing this patient endurance to have “its perfect work [end-time work],” Christians will become “perfect [mature] and complete, lacking nothing” (James 1:2-4).  Christians are to look upon such trials in the same manner as the apostles looked upon trials that confronted them.  The apostles, in circumstances of this or a similar nature, rejoiced that “they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His [Christ’s] name” (Acts 5:41).


The Christian patiently enduring temptations after the fashion seen in James 1:2-4 is promised in verse twelve that “when he has been approved [at the judgment seat], he shall receive the crown of life,” a parallel statement to Revelation 2:10.  In both instances it is patiently enduring temptations, trials, and testing during the present time, with a crown of life in view; and this crown of life will be awarded following ones approval at the judgment seat.


Crowns must be won through patiently enduring temptations, trials, and testing during the present “race of the faith” (1 Corinthians 9:24-27; 1 Timothy 6:11, 12; 2 Timothy 4:7, 8).  And forfeiture of the proffered crown — resulting in non-approval at the judgment seat — is a very real possibility.  Note the warning in this respect:


Behold, I am coming quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown. (Revelation 3:11)


Apart from the thought that a Christian can forfeit his crown, this verse would hold little meaning whatsoever.  Christians, receiving or not receiving crowns await decisions and determinations at the judgment seat.  Overcoming Christians will wear the crowns that they have won in the present race of the faith while occupying positions of power and authority with Christ during the coming age; but for non-overcoming Christians, the matter will be entirely different.  No uncrowned person will rule as co-heir with Christ in the kingdom.


Manner of Usage in Revelation


The expression “the second death” is peculiar to the book of Revelation, and it appears four times in this book (2:11; 20:6, 14; 21:8).  The expression is used twice in texts where the word “overcomes” is used (2:11; 21:7, 8), once in connection with those who are martyred during the Tribulation (“beheaded for their witness to Jesus, and for the Word of God . . . .” [20:4-6], with the thought of overcoming again seen), and once in connection with the unsaved dead from throughout Man’s Day (20:11-15).  The expression “the second death” is defined in Revelation 20:14; 21:8 as being “cast into the lake of fire” and as having a “part in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone.”


It is evident in Revelation 20:14 that “the second death” is used referring to the unsaved, and it is equally evident that this expression is used in the other three passages in the book of Revelation (2:11; 20:6; 21:8) referring to the saved in connection with overcoming (not subsequently being hurt of the second death) or being overcome (and subsequently being hurt of the second death).


1)  Overcomers will not be hurt by . . . .


The “cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars” in Revelation 21:8 are usually looked upon by students of Scripture as a reference to unredeemed individuals, synonymous with the ones previously seen in Revelation 20:11-15.  However, contextually, this cannot be the case at all.  The subject in verse seven, leading into verse eight, is overcoming and realizing an inheritance in the kingdom as a son


(Reference is made to these overcoming martyrs ruling and reigning with Christ for 1,000 years [Revelation 20:4-6].  Only sons can rule in God’s kingdom [cf. Job 1:6; 2:1; Luke 3:38; Romans 8:18, 19], and ruling in the kingdom is spoken of at times as realizing an inheritance in the kingdom [Ephesians 1:14, 18; 5:5; Colossians. 3:24; 1 Peter 1:4].)


Verse eight simply describes the “unbelieving [‘unfaithful’]” ones (cf. Luke 12:46) — the non-overcomers — and reveals that which will be their lot following their appearance before the Lord in judgment.


A similar description of individuals to that of Revelation 21:8 appears in 1 Corinthians 6:8-10, where an inheritance in the kingdom is also in view:


No, you yourselves do wrong and cheat, and you do these things to your brethren!


Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God?  Do not be deceived Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals [the word, contextually, refers to male prostitutes], nor sodomites [homosexuals, the last of four references to different types of sexually immoral individuals],


nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God.


In this section of Scripture, the text clearly reveals that Christians alone are in view.  The

words “you yourselves do wrong” in verse eight [referring to the manner of living of the “brethren” in the Corinthian church]), leading into verses nine and ten, are a translation of the Greek verb adikeo.  The noun form of this word (adikos) then appears in verse nine (translated “unrighteous”), establishing a connection with verse eight that provides the proper identification of the individuals Paul is addressing in verses nine and ten.


In verse eight, Paul calls attention to the fact that certain Christians in the Corinthian church were conducting their affairs in an unrighteous manner. 


(Those referenced in these verses, of necessity, would have to be saved individuals, for they were part of the church in Corinth.  Scripture recognizes “the Church” as comprised of the saved alone, never a mixture of saved and unsaved individuals.


The thought of both saved and unsaved individuals comprising a church is solely man’s ideology, and it is an ideology that is completely foreign to any use of the word “church [Greek: ekklesia]” in Scripture.  Ekklesia means “called out,” and that which is referred to through the use this word during the present dispensation would be a group of individuals called out of the world — something that could never include the unsaved.)


Continuing this same line of thought from verse eight into verse nine, Paul asks the question, “Do you not know that the unrighteous [a reference to Christians from v. 8] will not inherit the kingdom of God?”  The remainder of verse nine, along with verse ten, then lists a number of unrighteous acts in which it is possible for Christians to become involved, concluding with the statement in verse ten that those engaged in unrighteous living of this nature “will not inherit the kingdom of God.”


The subject at hand, inheritance in the kingdom, rather than eternal life, should be carefully noted.  Only Christians are presently in line to either receive or be denied this inheritance: “If children, then heirs . . . .” (Romans 8:17).  A person must be a child of God, a child of the Owner, a Christian (or he must have been an Israelite in the past dispensation), before inheritance in the kingdom can even come into view.


These sections of Scripture in 1 Corinthians 6:8-10 and the book of Revelation 21:7, 8 are actually companion passages.  In both passages, those being addressed (Christians) and the matter being discussed (inheriting or being disinherited, with the kingdom in view) are the same.  There is no message to the unsaved in these verses, for the issues of eternal life or eternal damnation are not present; and this fact must be recognized, else teachings surrounding inheritance in the kingdom, conveyed by the passages, will be missed entirely.


Revelation 21:8 cannot be equated with Revelation 20:14, even though both verses refer to “the lake of fire” and “the second death.”  These two verses are not dealing with the same thing, the same individuals, or even the same time period.  Revelation 21:8 deals with the judgment of the saved preceding the Millennium, with millennial verities in view; and Revelation 20:14 deals with the judgment of the unsaved following the Millennium, with eternal verities in view.  Nothing is the same in the two passages, save the existence of the same lake of fire, with an associated second death.


The seven overcomer’s promises in Revelation chapters two and three reveal different facets of that which God has promised to those who overcome the three great enemies confronting every Christian — the world, the flesh, and the devil (ref. chapter 4 of this book).  The promise to the overcomer in the church in Smyrna that he would not be “hurt by the second death” is only one facet of the larger scope covered by all of the overcomer’s promises to the seven churches.  The entirety of the matter appears to be summed up by the words, “inherit all things,” in Revelation 21:7.  The overcomer will be a co-heir with Christ in the kingdom and realize all the promises to the overcomers in chapters two and three (cf. Hebrews 1:2).


2)  To Have No Power over Martyrs


The martyrs of Revelation 20:4-6 are themselves revealed as overcomers.  These are the individuals who will gain “the victory over the beast, and over his image, and over his mark, and over the number of his name” during the Tribulation (Revelation 15:2).  A segment of this group was seen when the fifth seal was opened (6:9-11; cf. 13:7-15); and they were told at this time to “rest a little while longer, until both the number of their fellow servants and their brethren, who would be killed as they were, was completed.”


But when events depicted in Revelation 20:4-6 come to pass, the Tribulation will be over, the beast and false prophet will have been cast into the lake of fire, the armies of the earth will have been overthrown, Satan will have been bound in the abyss, and the martyred saints of the Tribulation will have been resurrected to be judged (19:11ff).  These individuals, overcoming during the Tribulation, will, as Christians overcoming today, occupy positions with Christ in the kingdom.


(These positions though will be separate from those forming the bride of Christ.  The bride will be comprised solely of saved individuals from the present dispensation.

The Tribulation martyrs will come out of a period covering seven unfulfilled years of the previous dispensation, out of time covered by Daniel’s unfulfilled Seventieth Week.)


The second death will have “no power” over the Tribulation martyrs in view (v. 6).  They, as will have been the case with numerous Christians prior to this time, will be revealed as overcomers and will not “be hurt by the second death” (v. 4).  As in Revelation 2:11; 21:7, 8, there is no allusion in this passage to the unsaved dead being cast into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:14). 


An inheritance in the kingdom is in view; and saved individuals, even though disinherited, with only that referred to as “the second death” awaiting them, will never be cast into the lake of fire to suffer the same consequences which the unsaved will one day suffer in this place.


To Be Hurt By . . . .


Exactly what does it mean “to be hurt by” the second death in Revelation 2:11?  In light of Revelation 20:4-6; 21:7, 8, which deals with overcoming and being overcome, this can mean only one thing:  Non-overcoming Christians are going to “have their part in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone: which is the second death” (Revelation 21:8b).


“Fire” in Scripture is associated with the judgment of the saved as well as the judgment of the unsaved; and, following judgment, non-overcoming Christians will be “hurt by the second death,” which is associated with the lake of fire.


Thus, the time when this will occur is following events at the judgment seat.  And though the Christians’ works will be tried in fire at the judgment seat, this is not synonymous with Christians having a part in “the lake that burns with fire and brimstones.”  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.


(Note in the judgment of the unsaved in Revelation 20:11-15 that the lake of fire and the second death enter into the matter only following judgment.  The lake of fire and the second death come into view only following decisions and determinations surrounding their judgment.


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 lake of fire and the second death come into view.)


Each of the overcomer’s promises is millennial in its scope of fulfillment.  That which is in view by and through overcoming, or not overcoming — as the case may be — will be realized during the 1,000-year Messianic Era alone.


The fact that these are millennial in their scope of fulfillment can be illustrated quite easily.  Note the promises to two of the seven churches in Revelation 2:26, 27; 3:21.  No such scene as presented in these verses will exist beyond the Millennium.


Christ and His co-heirs, beyond the Millennium, will no longer rule over the nations, as this rule is pictured in Revelation 2:26, 27.  Rather, the Gentiles comprising these nations will be brought into positions of rulership themselves with Christ and His co-heirs, as this rule extends beyond the earth, out into the universe (Revelation 22:2, 5).  And the Son, beyond the Millennium, will no longer sit on His own throne, as seen in Revelation 3:21.  Rather, He will sit on “the throne of God and of the Lamb,” from whence universal rule will emanate (Revelation 22:1, 3, 5).


And the same is true relative to the overcomer’s promise to the church in Smyrna, having to do with the second death.  This promise can only be millennial within its scope of fulfillment, which clearly reveals that the conditions alluded to for the non-overcomer in this promise will exist for the duration of the Messianic Era alone, not throughout the eternal ages beyond.


Scripture deals with millennial rewards and/or loss, never with eternal rewards and/or loss.  This should be easy enough for anyone to understand, for if rewards are eternal, so is loss of rewards.  And loss of rewards involves an association with death (Romans 8:13), something which Scripture clearly reveals will no longer exist in the eternal ages beyond the Millennium (1 Corinthians 15:26; Revelation 21:1-4).


In the overcomer’s promise to the church in Smyrna, there is a clear implication that those who do not overcome will be hurt by the second death.  And any attempt to take this promise and make it mean something other than what it clearly states serves only to destroy the promise, something that the Lord sounded a solemn warning against (Revelation 22:18, 19).  The promise that those who do overcome will notbe hurt by the second death” would be meaningless unless this promise is taken at face value and allowed to mean exactly what it says, clearly implying that those who do not overcome willbe hurt by the second death.”


The “second death” in the book of Revelation is associated with the lake of fire (Revelation 21:8).  And those who do not overcome (v. 7) are going to have their part in this lake of fire (v. 8).  That is, they will be hurt by the second death by having a part in the lake of fire.


But exactly what is meant by a saved person being hurt by the second death and having a part in the lake of fire in Revelation 21:8?


Revelation chapter twenty-one moves beyond the Millennium into the eternal ages, and the first six verses provide the complete story concerning conditions as these ages begin.  Note the words, “It is done,” in the first part of verse six.  This is the translation of a verb in the perfect tense in the Greek text, indicating that the matter has been brought to completion and presently exists in that finished state.


Then, beginning with the latter part of verse six and continuing through verse eight, overcoming and/or being overcome are again, for the last time, dealt with in this book.  And this takes a person back to the same place seen in chapters two and three.


Then, the remainder of the book is simply a commentary for the eight verses that open and begin this section.  First, a commentary is provided for the first part of this opening section.  Revelation 21:9-22:5 forms a commentary for this part of the section (21:1-6a), which has to do with conditions beyond the Millennium.  Note how this commentary in chapter twenty-two closes:  “. . . and they shall reign forever and ever [throughout the endless ages]” (v. 5).


Then, the remainder of chapter twenty-two (vv. 6ff) forms a commentary for the second part of this opening section, which has to do with conditions before and during the Millennium (21:6b-8).


And this will explain why, outside the gates of Jerusalem during the Messianic Era, one will be able to find “dogs and sorcerers and sexually immoral and murders and idolaters, and whosoever loves and practices a lie” (22:15).  This information is given to shed light on and provide additional detail for verses in the preceding chapter (21:6b-8), and the information in these verses in the preceding chapter was given to shed light on the previous overcomer’s promises, particularly the one to the church in Smyrna dealing with “the second death” (2:11).


To distinguish between millennial and eternal conditions in this respect, note that those outside the gates during the eternal ages will be the Gentile nations, as the New Jerusalem rests on the new earth (21:24-27); but those outside the gates during the preceding Messianic Era, with the New Jerusalem in the heavens above the earth, will be the non-overcomers (22:14, 15).  And the place that they will occupy is described at least four other ways in Scripture — by the use of Gehenna, the outer darkness, the furnace of fire, and the lake of fire.


The picture surrounding an association between Gehenna and the lake of fire appears unmistakable.  As Gehenna was the place of refuse for the earthly city of Jerusalem, the lake of fire is seen as the place of refuse for the heavenly city of Jerusalem.  And as Gehenna was on the opposite side of the city from that side where God dwelled (south, as opposed to north [cf. Leviticus 1:11; Isaiah 14:13]), thus will it be with the counterpart to Gehenna in the heavenly Jerusalem.  The lake of fire is used with respect to a place completely apart from Christ and His rule.  And those “hurt by the second death” are seen occupying this place during the 1,000-year Messianic Era.


(Why does Scripture associate non-overcoming Christians with the lake of fire in relation to Christ’s millennial reign, in this manner?  The answer would be the same as the reason why Scripture associates the unsaved with the lake of fire throughout the endless ages of eternity, following the Millennium.


The lake of fire was not prepared for man.  Rather, it was prepared “for the devil and his angels” [Matthew 25:41].  It was prepared for those who had rejected God’s supreme power and authority, as Satan sought to acquire power and authority above that which had been delegated [Isaiah 14:13, 14].  Thus, in this respect, the lake of fire is connected with regality.


And man, created to replace Satan and his angels, finds his connection with the lake of fire on exactly the same basis.  Saved man, ignoring the very reason for his salvation [which is regal], will find himself associated with the lake of fire during the Millennium [an association connected with all that the lake of fire implies].  And unsaved man, ignoring salvation and the reason for man’s creation [which, again, is regal], will find himself associated with the lake of fire throughout the endless ages following the Millennium [an association connected with all that the lake of fire implies].)


But, relative to Christians and the coming kingdom of Christ, is Scripture dealing with something literal?  Or, is Scripture dealing with metaphors?


Note how Scripture uses metaphors to deal with this same thing elsewhere.


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 both places has to do with either bearing fruit or not bearing fruit, which is exactly the same thing which is 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 shall 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.


By 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 that each occupied.  Abraham stood before the Lord, where he had always stood (18:22; 19:27).  Lot though found himself in a place separated from the Lord, in a place where he also had always stood (19:1, 30).



Saving a Soul from Death


Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back,


let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins. (James 5:19, 20)


According to 1 Corinthians 3:11-15, Christians whose works are burned at the judgment seat will “suffer loss.”  This cannot refer to the loss of rewards, for rewards enter into this judgment only after a person is approved.  The disapproved will have no rewards to lose.  The only thing in their possession possible for them to lose will be their souls (lives).  Matthew 16:25-27 refers to the saved coming under judgment and the possibility of a person losing his soul.  The word “lose” in these verses and the word “loss” in 1 Corinthians 3:15 are translations of the same word in the Greek text.  The loss experienced by the person in Matthew 16:25-27 is that of his soul; and it must be the same in 1 Corinthians 3:11-15, for the judgments referred to are the same.


The epistle of James, referring to the salvation of the soul at the outset (1:21), concludes by referring to the possibility of a Christian experiencing “death” in relation to his soul (5:19, 20).  This thought is set forth in an opposite sense to that of realizing the “salvation” of his soul (1:21).  Failing in the present race of the faith (1 Corinthians 9:24-27; cf. 2 Timothy 4:7, 8), a Christian will be disapproved at the judgment seat.  He will have failed to overcome, be victorious; and, failing in this manner, he will lose his soul.


Thus, experiencing “death” in James 5:20 can, contextually, only be synonymous with the loss of the soul (life); that is to say, a person entering into this experience will be “hurt by the second death.”  “Losing one’s soul [life]” and “being hurt by the second death” are two ways of saying the same thing.


In order for a “second death” to exist, there must previously have been a “first death.”  Such a death, of course, is introduced in the fall of Adam:


Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned. (Romans 5:12)


Every man comes into this world via the birth from below and becomes a partaker of the first death by and through his association with Adam.  And the second death will befall unredeemed man, with eternal verities in view, because of his continued association with Adam.


But for redeemed man, the second death is a different matter altogether.  Through a bringing forth from above, he is no longer associated with Adam and death in the same sense as unredeemed man; and the possibility of his being hurt by the second death concerns events that occur in an entirely different sphere of activity.


Adam fell from the position in which he had been created; and more is involved in Adam’s fall than eternal verities, affecting only the unredeemed.  Adam had been called into existence to assume rulership over the earth; and the entrance of sin (along with bringing about eternal separation from God, apart from redemption) resulted in his disqualification to rule in Satan’s stead.  Adam, through the fall, found himself disqualified to occupy the very position for which he had been created.  Redemption itself did not place Adam back in this position (Genesis 3:21-24); nor does redemption today place man back in this position.


Redeemed man today, as Adam following his fall and redemption, remains barred from the tree of life, awaiting the salvation of his soul.  Following the fall in Genesis chapter three, the tree of life does not enter the affairs of man again until the salvation of the soul is brought to pass; and this will occur only following the issues and determinations surrounding the judgment seat, following Man’s Day.


Man ultimately occupying the position that Adam was created to assume requires his identification with a new Federal Headthe last Adam.  The last Adam appeared and met Satan in a face-to-face confrontation to show that He was fully qualified to function in the realm (a regal realm) that the first Adam forfeited in the fall.  He then provided redemption for man by and through the sacrifice of Himself and presently awaits the day when He will take the kingdom.


Those “in Christ” have been redeemed, with a view to their being co-heirs with Christ after He wrests control of the kingdom from Satan and his angels.  Those ruling with the last Adam will constitute His bride and reign as consort queen with Him, as Eve would have reigned as consort queen with the first Adam had both remained obedient and occupied the position for which man had been created.


The second death, as it will affect Christians, can be properly understood only in the light of a parallel between that which Adam failed to realize in the past and that which unfaithful Christians will fail to realize in the future — the very purpose for their existence.  And as the first death entered into man’s former failure, the second death will enter into man’s latter failure — for the saved on the one hand, and for the unsaved on the other.


Experiencing “the second death” for the redeemed, by failure to realize one’s calling, can in no way pertain to eternal verities.  Such cannot be in view at all.  Christians are present possessors of an eternal salvation based entirely upon the finished work of Christ at Calvary; and there can be no such thing as “the second death” affecting any Christian on the basis of this salvation, else the finished work of Christ itself would be called into question and come into disrepute.


The Christian’s association with “the second death” can only pertain to millennial verities and the loss of ones soul, the exact association provided by each reference in the book of Revelation.  Unfaithful Christians will experience “the second death” during the millennial reign of Christ.  That is to say, they will lose their souls (lives) and be denied positions with Christ in the kingdom.  Again, “the second death” for them is millennial only, not eternal.


Non-overcoming Christians, through experiencing “the second death,” will be:


. . . punished with everlasting [Greek: aionios, age-lasting] destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of His power;


when He comes in that Day to be glorified in His saints and to be admired among all those who believe . . . . (2 Thessalonians 1:9b, 10a)


For the unredeemed though, “the second death” can only pertain to eternal verities.  As a result of Adam’s sin and their non-acceptance of Christ’s sacrifice on Calvary, the unredeemed reside in a condition described in Scripture as “dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1; Colossians 2:13).  They, in this condition, can have nothing to do with matters pertaining to rulership over the earth.  Eternal verities alone are in view; and the second death, as it will affect the unredeemed, must be understood in this sense.


Unredeemed man will experience “the second death” following the millennium, with only the endless ages in view.  The unredeemed will remain in their spiritually dead condition and, in the lake of fire, be eternally separated from God:


Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire.  This is the second death.


And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.

(Revelation 20:14, 15)




[1] Taken from Judgment Seat of Christ, Chapter 6, by Arlen L. Chitwood