by James T. Bartsch
"He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes will not be hurt by the second death." Revelation 2:11
What is the Second Death?
Introduction. The Second Death appears to be eternal banishment from the presence of God and from all that is good by means of confinement in the Lake of Fire. There are but four references to the “Second Death” in all of Scripture – Rev. 2:11; 20:6, 14; 21:8. Let us examine each of these passages.
Revelation 2:11. In the first instance, in the letter to the Church of Smyrna, Jesus instructs the church that some of them will be cast by the Devil into prison, and they would have a period of testing. Jesus concludes, “Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Rev. 2:10). Then He admonishes, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes [literally, conquers] shall not be hurt by the second death (Rev. 2:11).
Revelation 20:6. The Second Coming of Christ is recorded in Rev. 19:11-21. His 1000-year reign is recorded in Rev. 20:1-6. John saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and the Word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or its image or received his mark. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years (Rev. 20:4). They took part in what John calls the “First Resurrection” (Rev. 20:6). Over them the Second Death has no power (Rev. 20:6). They will reign with Christ a thousand years.
Revelation 20:14. When the thousand years are completed, Satan will be released from the Abyss and will be free to return to earth, where he will deceive the nations at the extremities of the earth (Rev. 20:7-8). He will persuade them to revolt against King Jesus and His administration. They will be destroyed by fire from heaven (Rev. 20:9). The Devil who deceived them will be thrown into the Lake of Fire and Sulfur where the Beast and False Prophet had been confined. They will be tormented day and night forever and ever (Rev. 20:10).
John saw a Great White Throne and the Dissolution of the Universe (Rev. 20:11). The dead (evidently those who had not participated in the First Resurrection) were now resurrected to stand before the One seated on the Throne. Books were opened which evidently kept records of the deeds of all mankind that appear at this Judgment. Another book was opened – the Book of Life (Rev. 20:12). Death and Hades gave up the dead in them, and they were judged by their deeds (Rev. 20:13). Death and Hades were then thrown into the Lake of Fire. The Lake of Fire is defined as the Second Death (Rev. 20:14). If anyone’s name was not found written in the Book of Life, he was cast into the Lake of Fire, there to suffer eternal torment. (Rev. 20:15).
Revelation 21:8. Both the Lake of Fire and the Second Death are mentioned again in Rev. 21:7-8. There we are told that the one who conquers will inherit all the benefits of New Heaven and New Earth, and God will be his God and he will be God’s son (Rev. 21:7). Then we are told, “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 the burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death” (Rev. 21:8).
Conclusion. The Bible speaks of three kinds of deaths – Spiritual Death (which is the cause of the other two kinds), Physical Death, and Second Death. All are born Spiritually Dead, separated and alienated from God. That is why we sin and violate God’s standards. We are born separated from God. It is for that reason we die physically. If Spiritual Death is not remedied before Physical Death occurs, the inevitable result is Second Death. That is eternal banishment in the Lake that burns with Fire and Sulfur. There will evidently be degrees of punishment there, but no pleasure, and no relief from pain and alienation. To escape Second Death you must conquer evil (Rev. 2:11; 21:7). The only ones who conquer evil are those who are “Born Again” into the family of God and the Kingdom of Heaven (John 3:3, 5). One is “Born” into God’s family by receiving / trusting Jesus (John 1:12-13; 3:16-18), God’s Son. Those who trust in Jesus will find that their names had been recorded in the Book of Life (Rev. 20:12, 15).