What is the Lake of Fire?
The Bible book of Revelation defines the figurative phrase "lake of fire" as "second DEATH," not torture in a flame; and, death is an unconscious state. I will quote the two scriptures that define "the lake of fire;" and also, two that define what death means. After the scriptures, we will consider what the word "second" death means.
Revelation 20:14-15 (New American Standard Bible)
14 Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire THIS IS THE SECOND DEATH, the lake of fire.
15 And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.
Revelation 21:8 (New American Standard Bible)
8 But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, WHICH IS THE SECOND DEATH.
Psalm 146:3-4 (New American Standard Bible)
3 Do not trust in princes,
In mortal man, in whom there is no salvation.
4 His spirit departs, he returns to the earth;
In that very day HIS THOUGHTS PERISH.
Ecclesiastes 9:5-10 (New American Standard Bible)
5 For the living know they will die; but THE DEAD DO NOT KNOW ANYTHING, nor have they any longer a reward, for their memory is forgotten.
6 Indeed their love, their hate and their zeal have already perished, and they will no longer have a share in all that is done under the sun.
10 Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might; for there is no activity or planning or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol [grave] where you are going.
Those who die are unable to think or do anything. Their only hope for life after death is by resurrection, which is slated to take place during the second coming of Christ Jesus. 1 Corinthians 15:20-23 But, those resurrected from the sleep of death, are NOT people who receive the "second" death, because those in the second death receive this judgment at the conclusion of Jesus' 1,000 year kingship over earth. Also, "death" and "hell" [hades, means grave] are thrown into the "lake of fire," meaning second death. See Rev. 20:14-15 quoted above. We know that "death" and "hell" [grave] cannot literally burn, as they represent the condition of those who die, who are NOT able to feel or do anything. Also, a literal lake cannot literally burn, so we see some figurative language used here.
Rev. 19:20 tells us that the "beast" and "false prophet" will be thrown into the lake of fire. the word "beast" is symbolic of governments (kingdoms) and their kings as defined in Daniel 7:3,17,23-24. The false prophet would be those who mislead people by their false prophecies and teachings. But, even if the kings and false prophets were to be literally thrown into a lake of fire, how could a loving God torture his children in that way forever? I don't know any truly loving human father who could watch his child suffer in that way forever. I don't think God would do that according to Jeremiah 19:5 and 32:35, which tell how God did not like it when people sacrificed their children by fire to the false God Baal. He said something like this would never come into his mind.
Rev. 20:10 tells us that the devil will be thrown into the lake of fire. Can the devil be harmed by being thrown into a literal lake of fire? He wouldn't feel tormented by a literal fire would he? I don't think so, since an angel protected the 3 Hebrew young men who were thrown in the fiery furnace. Satan the devil used to be a good angel, and angels are spirits, not fleshly, so I doubt that he would be affected by any literal fire. Since the devil and death and the grave are unaffected by a literal flame, how are we to understand the meaning of "lake of fire" or "second death." 1 Corinthians 15:26 gives us a clue. It says death will be destroyed, so the lake of fire must mean complete destruction. The Bible also says the wicked will be destroyed in 2 Thess. 2:8; and, Heb. 2:4 says the devil will be destroyed, too.
For God to cause wicked people and demons to live forever in torment in a literal fiery lake, he would have to give them eternal life in it; yet, God says wicked people will die, not live forever. Deuteronomy 30:15-19 This was God's original judgment for disobedient evildoers. Gen. 2:17; 3:19 There was NEVER any torture or torment promised by our loving heavenly Father for evildoers - only death, which is the opposite of life - existence verses non-existence. The word "torment" can mean to restrain someone. If you will look at Matt. 8:29 and Luke 8:30-31 you will find a story about how Jesus confronted the demons and they cried out: "Art thou come hither to TORMENT us (restrain us in the abyss) before the time?" So, this helps us to understand that the demons felt tormented at the thought of being tormented (restrained or jailed) in the abyss in the future. Thus, those in the lake of fire will be eternally restrained in the second death; and, their knowledge of this judgment is what will torment them before they receive the second death.
Psalm 37:38 (New American Standard Bible)
38 But transgressors will be altogether DESTROYED;
The posterity of the wicked will be cut off.
NO TORTURE IN THIS PROMISE OF GOD!
Thus, we are able to understand that "gehenna" and "lake of fire" both similarly refer to everlasting death, which is the opposite of everlasting life. The second death , which is represented by gehenna or lake of fire, is "perpetual sleep," or "eternal destruction" as opposed to eternal life.
Jeremiah 51:57 (American Standard Version)
57 And I will make drunk her princes and her wise men, her governors and her deputies, and her mighty men; and they shall sleep a PERPETUAL SLEEP, and not wake, saith the King, whose name is Jehovah of hosts.
2 Thessalonians 1:8-9 (American Standard Version)
8 rendering vengeance to them that know not God, and to them that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus:
9 who shall suffer punishment, even ETERNAL DESTRUCTION from the face of the Lord and from the glory of his might,
by Linda Washburn