Are the Wicked Tormented Day and Night for Ever and Ever?
Notice that some parts of Revelation say that the wicked will suffer torment for ever and ever while other portions of Revelation say that the wicked experience the second death.
11 And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name. Revelation 14:11
9 They went up on the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city. And fire came down from God out of heaven and devoured them.
10 And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever. Revelation 20:9-10
6 Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years. Revelation 20:6
14 And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. Revelation 20:14
8 But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death. Revelation 21:8
Something must be wrong. How can the wicked both die the second death and yet live for ever and ever in agony because they will burn forever?
Revelation 20 is especially interesting. The wicked are said to be tormented day and night for ever and ever, yet twice in the same chapter, the wicked are said to experience the second death. John could not have been so inconsistent as to mix this issue up in the very same chapter!
There is no returning from the second death. Jesus Himself says we should fear God who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell, when the wicked are destroyed!
If the wicked are destroyed, both soul and body, in the lake of fire as Jesus says, they cannot be tormented for ever and ever.
In addition, if you click on the following link: Hell Fire, does it last forever? You will see, over and over again, that all the rest of the Bible says: The wicked will be completely destroyed. They will perish. They will be burned up until they will be ashes under the soles of your feet. They will be no more. They will cease to exist, etc.
So, why does Revelation say the wicked will be tormented for ever and ever when all the rest of the Bible says the wicked will be completely destroyed and cease to exist? Does Scripture disagree with itself?
No it does not have to disagree with itself. The answer lies in our understanding of the word "forever". Let's study it together.
What Does "For Ever and Ever" Mean?
In general, the Greek word aion is translated: forever. However its real meaning is "Age". There are actually two meanings for the word "Age"
Basically, if the subject is God or Jesus, since they exist in eternity, the meaning of "Age" would be an unbroken age, or an eternity. On the other hand, if the subject is referring to finite human beings, then the meaning of "Age" would be limited to the life-span of a human lifetime.
In the Greek New Testament, "Age" almost always refers to the subject of Jesus or God. Since He lives forever, the time that is meant is forever or for an eternity. However in the Old Testament, we have many examples where forever only means the life-time of an individual. The Hebrew language can have the same two meanings. Here is an example, in Old Testament Hebrew, where forever only means how long a person will live.
Obviously, the person can only be a servant for as long as he or she lives. He or she does not live for eternity. So forever means only his or her life-time.
The idea that forever in the Old Testament Bible can be just a limited lifetime of an individual is common. Lets look in the New Testament.
In the New Testament, the word "age" is not used by itself, but rather; It is included in an idiomatic expression or a phrase. These phrases are thought to describe an undefined period of time.
There are a number of similar phrases found in the New Testament. All of these phrases are usually translated as: "forever". Here are two typical phrases:
In Hebrews 5:6 & 6:20 The phrase: eis ton aiona literally means: "unto the age"
and in Hebrews 13:8 the pleural phrase: eis tous aionas literally means: "unto the ages"
These two phrases, "unto the age" and "unto the ages", are both translated as "forever". Yet, they can either mean "forever", or they can mean, "for as long as the person lives". So, these phrases do not have to express the idea that the time is forever, or an eternity. They can also be understood to mean the life-span of an individual as well. It depends on the context of the word. This is exactly what we found to be the case in the Hebrew example above.
Compound Idiomatic Phrases
Now, lets look at Revelation 14:11 and 20:10. Both of the following phrases are usually translated as: "for ever and ever"
In Rev. 14:11 the phrase: eis aionas aionon literally means: "unto ages of ages"
In Rev. 20:10 the phrase: eis tous aionas ton anionon literally means: "unto the ages of the ages"
"Unto ages of ages" and "unto the ages of the ages" are really compound expressions. The expression itself means multiplied ages. Some feel that these compound phrases could more emphatically declare the idea of eternity, so the suffering of the wicked would last forever and ever. However, this view would pit Revelation 14:11 and 20:10 against all the other texts of the Bible that speak of the wicked being destroyed. Even within Revelation 20 itself, this punishment of the wicked is called the second death (Revelation 20:6, 14). The death in which there is no return. So, this idea, that the wicked will suffer for ever and ever, does not make sense.
A second possible view is that the wicked will burn for a prescribed period of time as determined by the Judgment of God and the righteous saints. So the compound expression would express the idea that punishment would be metered out. It would be measured according to a judgment process.
In the New Testament, we see that the righteous will actually judge the wicked when they are with God.
Now why would the righteous need to judge the wicked, since God has already judged the wicked? We know that God has already judged the wicked because He already has them being brought to life in the resurrection of the wicked, which is the resurrection at the end of the thousand years.
This is the point: If the wicked are just going to burn for ever and ever, what need is there for the righteous to judge the wicked? God has already determined that they rise in the resurrection of the wicked which many people believe results in eternal burning. So, it would not matter if they were just a little bad or they were really wicked. There is nothing to judge since they all receive the same judgement!
Since the wicked are judged according to their works, it only makes sense that the righteous will either confirm God's judgement call on each one of the wicked, or they will involve themselves with how long the wicked will actually burn, a prescribed period of time where punishment would be metered out on the wicked.
So, those who have been extremely wicked, they will burn a longer time according to their punishment. Others will not burn as long. Still others, their punishment might be very short. But Satan will suffer the longest since he has caused it all to happen. So there will be different levels of punishment.
Let's not forget that in both 1 Corinthians 6:2-3 and Revelation 20:4 (seen above on this page) says that the saints judge the wicked. They are not just confirming what God decided, they are judging because God has given judgement into their hands.
Jesus will give power, over the nations, to him that overcomes. The overcomers are the righteous. So Jesus actually gives the judgement to the righteous and they will judge the wicked. They will rule them with a rod of iron, meaning that the wicked will be destroyed.
So, for a thousand years, the righteous people who are with God, will judge both the wicked angels and the wicked people who did not choose to follow God. When the righteous finish their judgement, then Judgment Day occurs; Where the wicked will be facing eternal destruction. They will be burned with fire. This is the day when the wicked face the wrath of God and of His indignation.
Thus, the eternal (forever) meaning of these compound phrases: "unto ages of ages" and "unto the ages of the ages" should be understood by the context of the associated text. This means that it should agree and fit in with the other texts of Scripture.
The wicked are to face judgment, and they will be tormented for worshipping the beast, for following Satan. We know that the wicked will experience the second death at this time. So they will not burn forever and ever; But they will be experiencing permanent death and they will cease to exist.
We should not automatically assume that the wicked will be tormented for eternity. After all, it is only the righteous who have received immortality.
But there is nothing in the Bible that suggests that the wicked also receive immortality! Instead, the wicked will only be tormented for a certain period of time, as long as they are alive, as prescribed by the judgement. This should make sense, that the meaning is not forever, since the wicked themselves are not immortal. They have a limited life-span. Click to see: I always believed that the soul was immortal.
If either "unto the age" or "unto the ages" were used in the description of the torment, it would be clear that man would not last very long in the fire, since the natural process of burning would cause a very short period of suffering. However, since the compound phrases: "unto ages of ages" and "unto the ages of the ages" were used in the description of the punishment, because of the multiplied ages definition; It might be that the time will be metered out, for longer periods of time, so that the wicked will get their just reward.
It might be that the righteous will help determine how long each of the wicked are to suffer before they die.
However, it should be clear, from all the rest of Scripture, that the final fate of the wicked is to be completely destroyed.
So eternal suffering is not an option for consideration, for the understanding of these two texts in Revelation.
The Smoke of Their Torment
Here is another interesting note: "The smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever", from Revelation 14:11 obviously comes from Isaiah 34:10. It is the description of the destruction and desolation of Edom. Most of the book of Revelation actually is connected with the Old Testament.
It is clear that Isaiah was not saying that the smoke would be ascending forever since he also says that the land would then become a waste for generations. He says that it would be a place that only wild animals would inhabit. The animals would take over the land.
The description of the smoke, is only a temporary action. Once the smoke is gone, then the animals take over. So, this text really speaks of complete destruction, not that the smoke would be forever rising, but that it would become a wasteland. The fire would do its job and then nothing would be left. If the area would be forever burning and smokey, the wild animals would never inhabit the area. Animals run away from smoke and fire.
The destruction of Edom matches the destruction of the wicked at the end. They will also vanish away once the fire does its job of destroying the wicked.
So in this case the word "forever", only means for as long as Edom burned. And in Revelation, "forever" only means for as long as the wicked burn. The fire will not be quenched until everything is burned up.
Because all of the Bible teaches that the wicked will one day cease to exist and they will be as though they had never been; We know that the wicked will not suffer forever and ever. But rather, they will suffer until they die in the flames. So they will be tormented and they will have no rest day nor night until they die. The smoke of their torment will ascend up until their bodies are consumed. This is the death of judgement, the second death from which there is no return, when they are cast into the lake of fire and brimstone.
Since the meaning of the word "age" can either be "forever" or it can be "for just a lifetime", Revelation 14:11 and 20:10 can now agree with the rest of the Bible in our understanding. The fire will not be put out nor will it be quenched until the wicked will be totally consumed.
Since the compound phrases: "unto ages of ages" and "unto the ages of the ages" were used in the description of the punishment, because of the multiplied ages definition; It probably means that the time will be metered out, for longer periods of time, so that the wicked will get their just reward as dictated by the judgement. Some might burn longer, while others might burn a shorter period of time.
So, once they are consumed by the flames like an oven, they will be stubble because they were burned up. And they will be ashes under the soles of your feet. This will be the end of the wicked! After they are burned up, there will not be a fire to sit before, nor even a coal to warm yourself. This is the complete end of the wicked.
And the wicked will be no more. It will be as if they never existed!
There is no hell that burns forever! They will be burned up!
I do not see any evidence that judgement is a spiritual judgement. It will be very physical.
You are right in saying that God's final judgement is NOT a punishment that will change the wicked. There is nothing for the wicked to learn. However, the Bible speaks of the final judgement as being a righteous act of eternal destruction that comes on the wicked. God will repay the wicked with tribulation.
When Jesus was here on earth, He said that if anyone led a little child to sin, it would be better for them if they were drowned in the sea.
This also suggests to me that there is something fearful to face that is worst than death for the wicked.
Length of Time
The Bible does not say thousands of years or even a single year. The Bible actually does not indicate how long it will take. I don't think it will take that long.
I was listening to a man in a meeting describing how a cat was playing with its food. A rat was in its grasp. In a desperate attempt to get away, the rat jumped and landed in the camp fire. As he mentioned the rat jumping into the fire, the audience made stray noises indicating their horror of hearing about a rat suffering.
I agree with you. I cannot imagine God's wrath lasting for years and years. For God and for all the righteous, I believe they will be relieved and happy when it is all over. The suffering will be at an end. What ever is to be done to the wicked, all will think it just. But to say it will take years, that is going too far.
No one, neither God nor the wicked will have pleasure in the destruction and suffering of the wicked. Except that everyone will know that it is necessary.
When God says: "Why should you die?" it is clear to me that He is speaking of eternal death and destruction. Not the sleep the righteous will experience.
I have no way of knowing how long it really will be. I know that God is a God of love and He will cleanse the Universe of all sin and evil. He will do what is needed to ensure that sin will never raise its ugly head again.
But we are so use to hearing of the wicked people suffering for an eternity that we can make the assumption that it would continue for years and years or some long period of time. But we need to put all the text of the Bible together to try to understand what will happen.
Here is something else to consider as to the reason for their suffering.
In Jude 14-16, it actually says that the Lord is returning with His saints to execute judgment on the wicked!
In the 15th verse; When it says the ungodly will be convicted; Are the wicked going to be convicted of their own sins at this time? I believe it is a possibility. The wicked could be convinced of their own wickedness at this time?
This is interesting. Why would the wicked need to be convicted of all their ungodly deeds if they will just be destroyed? Is there any reason for it?
Maybe the righteous will need to experience the process of the conviction where they see that the wicked themselves are actually acknowledging their own sins. But the promise has been given that: "Every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."
Maybe the righteous will need to see that the wicked themselves actually acknowledge their own sins so that sin will never raise its ugly head again.
To add to this idea we have this verse that says: "Every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."
It says those under the earth, that must be the wicked; It says the wicked will bow down to Jesus and they will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
OK, lets look at Matthew 25:
The punishment of the wicked is indeed eternal. God will completely destroy them and they will never live again! Death in of itself is a punishment and everlasting death is an everlasting punishment in of itself. They will never come back from this punishment and live. So, this is their eternal punishment and they will never escape from it.
The reward for the righteous is also eternal. They will have eternal life and thus they will live forever.
You seem to be saying that the only way for the punishment to be eternal is for the wicked to actually burn forever. But you must acknowledge that to never come back from being completely destroyed is also eternal! Their punishment is eternal because they will never live again! It is a permanent and eternal death.
Using Thayer's Greek-English Lexicon, let's explore the Greek words for eternal/everlasting and punishment.
The Greek word (166 aiwniov aionios ahee-o'-nee-os) is translated as: everlasting in the NKJV and eternal in the KJV.
There are three meanings of this word:
1) without beginning and end, that which always has been and always will be+
2) without beginning
3) without end, never to cease, everlasting
So, the wicked will receive a punishment that is without end, never to cease.
The Greek word (2851 kolasiv kolasis kol'-as-is) is translated as: punishment in both KJV and NKJV.
The meaning of this word is:
1) correction, punishment, penalty
So, the wicked will receive a punishment or a penalty. Putting the two words together, the wicked will receive a punishment or penalty that will last forever. It will be everlasting. That means that eternal punishment can also be translated as: eternal penalty.
Being destroyed, never to live again, is easily within the range of this Greek word. It will affect the wicked in a way that is everlasting. It will never end.
So, the righteous will indeed experience eternal life that will never end. The wicked will also experience eternal punishment or an everlasting penalty in that God will fully destroy them so that it will be as if they never existed.
All throughout the Bible, this very same idea is taught, that the wicked will be completely destroyed. They will have eternal death!
From the Bible we see that the special gift of everlasting and eternal life is for the righteous. The wicked are destroyed and they perish. Their end is death, an eternal death, not eternal life. So they can not even suffer for eternity because their end is nothingness and non-existence because the Bible says that it will be as if they never existed:
So, how can you even pretend that your interpretation is correct, or even Biblical, saying that the wicked will suffer forever and ever, when the Bible says over and over again that: the wicked will be no more, that they will cease to exist, that they will perish, that they will vanish away? It even says that the wicked will be destroyed together in one place at one time! The Bible says that the wicked will perish like smoke in the presence of God and like wax in the fire.
The Bible goes on by saying that the wicked will be stubble and they will be ashes under the soles of the feet of the righteous. When it is all done, the Bible says that there will not be a fire to sit next to, nor even a warm coal! All the wicked will be destroyed. They will not survive. In Revelation, this is called the "second death!" and in Obadiah, it says that the wicked will be as though they had never been.
It is not just a few times that the wicked are described as perishing but over and over and over again, it says that they will be destroyed. All throughout the Bible!
Even in other places of Matthew itself we have the idea that they will die:
Jesus said that we should fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. Hell is a place of destruction not eternal suffering. It is clear that destruction is slated for both the body and soul of the wicked!
Let's look at Matthew 25:46 again.
The punishment of the wicked is indeed permanent just like the righteous. The righteous are given eternal life but the wicked receive the eternal penalty of death. A death in which there is no end. It is permanent and eternal.
In Revelation, the fires of Hell are connected with the second death of the wicked! So there is a second death that the wicked will experience.
The righteous will not experience the second death because they will never die again!
It is the wicked that are cast into the lake of fire to be destroyed. That is why it is called the second death.
I am a firm believer in studying all of the Bible to know what the Bible says on a particular topic. We must look at all of Scripture in order to find the truth of what is to happen.
We must not use a few texts of Scripture in a way that makes it go against other very prominent verses of the Bible! We must work to understand what Scripture says until we find that it is true; All Scripture does indeed agree with each other.
You say I am massaging an issue; But it is you who is the one who is massaging the issue and through your interpretation, you are making these verses go against all the rest of the Bible in understanding.
Now, the eternal suffering of the wicked actually comes from Pagan sources, not from the Bible. As you say, Ancient Greek is very well documented and it is found in all sorts of literature. Yes, that is true! However, it was an extremely pagan culture. Very much different from the light found in the Bible.
Unfortunately pagan culture has crept into the church and people actually follow ancient pagan culture rather than what the Bible actually says.
I agree with you that God does not desire that anyone face the punishment that the wicked will face, that of the second death, permanent death from which there is no return.
Yes they will experience terrible suffering while they die, but they will die and Biblically we can say it will be as if they never existed.
Your comments suggesting that I believe that those who reject God will eventually be forgiven is false. All who are wicked and not forgiven by God will suffer in the lake of fire and then they face death and total destruction. They will never be forgiven nor will they ever live again. It is only in this life that we can come to God.
If we do not respond to the Holy Spirit, in this life while He may be found, then eternal destruction is what we face.
I have never seen anything in the Bible that says that the evil angels, including Satan; That they cannot die nor be destroyed. Let's look at the text you suggested:
In verse 36, it says there are two reasons why the righteous cannot die any more. First, they are equal with the angels and second, they are sons of God since they are sons of the resurrection.
Anyone who is not a son of God is not going to live forever. We know this to be true because the Bible tells us that the wicked will all be destroyed in the judgement day. They are sons of Satan just as Jesus said:
Obviously, in the case of people it does indeed make a difference who we follow, if we follow God we will live forever but if we follow Satan, we will be destroyed. But what about angels? Can they also be destroyed?
In heaven, the angels will indeed live forever. However, Satan and all his followers have rebelled against God. They are now enemies of God! Look at the next group of Bible texts which show that God will destroy Satan and his wicked angels:
God says He is going to destroy Satan, the covering cherub.
We are not limited to the above Scripture. When Jesus was on earth, the demons often cried out. Look at what they said: (NOTE: the same scene is also found in Mark 1:23-25)
These demons are scared of Jesus and they asked: Did you come to destroy us? They definitely knew that they could be destroyed.
In Hebrews we find that through the death of Jesus, He will be able to destroy the devil:
Satan will be destroyed. In addition, Jesus will destroy the works of the devil as well:
We saw that the evil angels were scared of being destroyed. Now we find that Satan and his works will be destroyed.
Below, in two different verses, we find that the angels which have sinned will be held in chains until the day of judgment. This is further evidence that all the wicked angels will be destroyed:
Now we see that the saints will judge not only the wicked people but the wicked angels that are being held until judgment:
In that judgment, both the wicked people and the evil angels will be destroyed in the same fire:
The fire is everlasting because they will never come back to life ever again.
We can see that both Satan and his evil angels will be destroyed. So, let's look at Luke 20 again:
Luke says that they will never die and that they are sons of the resurrection. But which resurrection? There are two resurrections.
It should be obvious that Luke is assuming that we understand what he means, that those who will live forever are sons of the resurrection of life not the resurrection of condemnation!
Also, in the same way, it should be obvious that when Luke says the righteous will be equal to the angels, that he is NOT talking about the evil angels. He is assuming that you know this. The evil angels will be destroyed. We have seen good evidence that they are destroyed.
So, the righteous people will not be equal to the wicked angels who will be destroyed; But, they will be equal to the righteous angels who will live in heaven forever!
The subject that might suggest that Satan and his evil angels will never die is the very subject of this page. "Forever and ever" can easily mean "until they die". In spite of the Scripture that says God will destroy Satan as we saw above; Many believe that verse 10 below actually substantiates the idea that Satan and his angels can never die.
There is a difference between humans and angels. Below, in verse Revelation 20:14, we see that the wicked people will experience the second death. At this point, all these people have already died. Then they were raised up in the resurrection of condemnation to receive their punishment in judgement. However, Satan and the wicked angels have never died. They are being held until that day when they will be destroyed. See Revelation 20:10 above:
In Revelation 14 below, we have people who are also described as receiving torment for ever and ever.
So, Revelation 14 really breaks the idea that only the evil angels will experience torment that lasts "for ever and ever". Of course, "for ever and ever" is until they die, both wicked angels and people.
Let's look at a translation problem. In Revelation 20:10 below, we see that the devil is cast into the same place where the beast and the false prophet are. Does that mean the beast and the false prophet are still existing and suffering after 1000 years?
Are the beast and false prophet still being tormented after 1000 years? Remember, the beast and false prophet were thrown in the fire when Jesus comes (Revelation 19:20). That is before the 1000 years. Now Satan is placed where they were placed, after the 1000 years, but are they still there suffering in the fires of Hell after all that time?
The word "are" is not found in the text at all. It is added according to the opinion of the translators. I have found 9 different version that translate it differently. NIV and New International Reader's Version use "had been thrown"; and Tyndale New Testament, International Standard Version, Weymouth New Testament, Orthodox Jewish Bible, Amplified, and English Standard Version use "were".
This is not an issue that exists because of the differences between the majority text of the early church and the variant Alexandrian texts that are the source of most of the changes in today's modern translations. Because Tyndale was translating from the majority text just like the KJV. I believe that it was a logical assumption by the translators to place "are" because they believe that the soul cannot die. But of course, the soul can die:
If "are" is used, it suggests that the beast and false prophet is still suffering after 1000 years which would agree with the idea that the wicked suffer for ever and ever and ever, forever. However, if "had been thrown" or "were" is used, it suggests that the suffering is of a shorter period. That the wicked will be destroyed by the fire. Thus forever and ever means until they die just as this web page suggests.
There is nothing in the text, in the original language, that says that the beast and false prophet are still burning and suffering. All that can be said is that Satan is put in the same place that the others had been placed.
So, there is nothing to suggest that evil angels nor people cannot die or be destroyed.
So, was man created to live for ever? Yes, he was made to live forever. However, God made a stipulation that Adam and Eve must obey Him. God setup a test for them:
Adam and Eve were told that they would die if they ate of that tree but Satan tempted Eve not to believe God:
For the first time Eve, then Adam also, had to think about death. Before they fell, there was no death and Both Adam and Eve were made to live forever. But now, after sin has entered the world, there is death and destruction everywhere in the world.
It is because we have sinned that we must die since the wages of sin is death. If it wasn't for God's gift to us, of eternal life, we would all be doomed.
In 1 Corinthians 15:22 we see that we all die because of Adam's sin.
In today's world no one has immortality because we all die.
But, some people try to say, because of verse 22, that all people will live forever because of Christ!
However, if we continue to read into verse 23 we find the truth of what Paul was saying. When we read Verse 23 we see that it actually tells us who it is that will be made alive (It tells us who will live forever). All will be made alive, first Jesus, who is the firstfruits, then those who are Christ's at His coming. It is only those who belong to Jesus, they alone will be raised to life and be made immortal.
So, all sons of Adam will die, but all those who are Christ's will be made alive at His coming!
In this sinful earth, all people are mortal. We will not live forever and we will all die unless Jesus comes in our lifetime.
Man is mortal. That is why we all seek for immortality. We want to live forever:
The righteous looking for immortality because they presently do not have it. Soon, they will receive immortality as a gift from our Lord at His Second Coming. In 1 Corinthians we read that "this mortal must put on immortality!" Those who are raised to life when Jesus comes will be given immortality. They will put on immortality:
Jesus will raise up His people when He comes! When that happens the dead will be raised incorruptible and changed. They will not have sinful bodies with disease and pain. Also, the righteous dead in Christ will be raised up and they will receive immortality. God's people become immortal! In sin, they were mortal but now that they are raised up to life. They are changed in that they now have incorruptible and immortal bodies. They will live forever!
If the wicked are mortal and they do not receive immortality; How can they even suffer in eternity forever in hellfire? The wicked are never given the gift of eternal life so that means they will die in the fires of Hell.
Jesus even warns us to fear Him who is able to destroy both our soul and body in the fires of Hell:
So, God will destroy both soul and body in the fire! Nowhere does the Bible say that the wicked receive immortality so that they can suffer forever. The wicked are still mortal and they will die as the Bible so clearly states:
The wicked are NOT immortal, so they will burn up and die and there will be nothing left of them. They will be ashes under the soles of your feet, they shall be stubble, there will not be even a coal to warm anything up. There will only be stubble!
So, the opposite of eternal life is eternal death. The punishment is forever since it lasts forever. They will be dead forever. The choice then is really between eternal life and eternal death.
Hell Fire, does it last forever? What does the Bible say what will happen to the wicked? For additional information on the wicked dead click on the link to the right.
Another question is this: Often Satan is pictured as being in control of Hell where he tends the fires of the agonizing wicked. Thus Satan is pictured as tormenting the wicked. Is that truly what is going to happen? Is that happening now? Click to see: Is Satan in charge of Hell or is he and his angels destroyed in the fire? (A new window will appear)
We must take into context the subject that will experience the lake of fire. In revelation chapter 20, it clearly says that the lake of fire experience is the second death! What is death? It is not living. It also says that the fire will devour them:
So, in Revelation 20, we see that the wicked will be tormented day and night for ever and ever in the lake of fire and brimstone. Yet twice, in that very same chapter, we find that this action results in the second death of the wicked! In addition we see, in the ninth verse, that the fire devours the wicked! This must mean more than just having the wicked being enveloped by the flames. It means the wicked will be utterly consumed by the fire. They will be burned up!
The Greek word (2719 katesyiw katesthio kat-es-thee'-o or katafagw kataphago kat-aph-ag'-o) is translated as: devour 10, eat up 3, devour up 2, in the KJV. When used as a metaphoric sense, as in a fire, it means: to devour i.e. to utterly consume, destroy
Is John disagreeing with himself in the very same chapter? NO, it does not make sense. John could not have been so inconsistent as to mix this issue up in the very same chapter!
Our understanding of what he is saying must be wrong. Because "for ever and ever" can mean either "as long as one lives" or it can mean an "eternal forever"; We can see that John is clearly using the understand of having the wicked burn until they are destroyed.
John is not trying to confuse us. He is trying to tell us that the wicked will suffer until they die, when they are completely consumed. It is at that time that they experience the second death from which they can never return to life again.
This simple understanding allows John to agree with all the old testament texts that say the wicked will be ashes under the righteous' feet, they will be stubble, there will not be a coal to be warmed by, nor a fire to sit before. etc.
This also allows the Bible to speak plainly! All these things speak of an actual end for the wicked. The wicked will last however long they survive in the flames before they die. It is then that they experience the second death never to rise again.
So, in this way, we can use the Bible to explain itself. Because we know that the wicked will be completely destroyed, experiencing the second death; We can then also realize that the wicked will suffer in the flames until they are completely destroyed.
Now, let's look at the other side of the argument: There is no indication anywhere in the Bible, anywhere at all, that God will ever die! So when referring to God, forever and ever means an eternal forever!
We have also seen that the righteous, who will live with God, are also given immortality. They receive immortality as a gift from Jesus at His Second Coming:
The righteous will put on incorruption and they who have been mortal will put on immortality! So when it says that the righteous will live for eternity, it means just that; Because, they have been given immortality. They have been changed.
The wicked, on the other hand, never do receive immortality. Since they will always be mortal, they will be destroyed. They cannot suffer an eternity since they cannot live for an eternity!
The Bible teaches that man is mortal and so he cannot suffer forever and ever for eternity. He will die the second death in the flames. But the righteous is given eternal life and his body becomes immortal. Thus He will live through the ceaseless ages of eternity with God who has saved him.
So, we can see that the two meanings of "forever" do not clash at all. We do not have to use special rules for one group over the other; But both meanings of "forever and ever" are understood in relation to the rest of Scripture. The Bible is literally used to interpret itself.