Will “Hell” Be Destroyed Eventually?
“What does the Bible mean when it states that ‘death’ will be destroyed? One man has reasoned in this way. Death is to be destroyed. But the ‘second death’ is the equivalent of ‘hell’(Rev. 20:14). Thus, hell itself will be destroyed eventually. Supposedly, this logic demonstrates that there will be no eternal punishment for the wicked.”
Sadly we must point out that the gentleman’s “logic” in particular, and his “teaching” in general is fallacious. This argument will not stand up under serious scrutiny in the light of Scripture. The following points expose the flaws of the gentleman’s case.
- The argument collapses under its own weight. If the “second death” is embodied in Paul’s prophecy regarding the abolition of “death,” then the punishment of hell will end at the time of Christ’s coming. This is precisely the chronology set forth by the apostle in 1 Corinthians 15:23-24.
But each in his own order [will be raised]: Christ the firstfruits; then they that are Christ’s, at his coming. Then comes the end, when he shall deliver up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have abolished all rule and all authority and power. For he must reign, till he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be abolished is death.
The Lord’s “coming” concludes the events listed in the Corinthian passage. The resurrection will occur, the kingdom is delivered to the Father, all earthly rule will have been vanquished, Christ’s present reign will end, and all his enemies (including death) will be abolished.
If, therefore, the “second death” (hell) of Revelation 20 is embraced in this promise of the abolition of “death,” then “hell” will cease to exist at the time of the Lord’s return. Actually, however, this is the very opposite of what is taught elsewhere in the Scriptures. Jesus himself clearly indicated that the punishment of “hell” (Gehenna), which involves both the body and soul of the wicked (Mt. 10:28), begins following the great separation that takes place after the return of Christ (Mt. 25:31-46). An event cannot “end” before it “begins.”
- The Scriptures plainly teach that the “second death,” or the ordeal of entering the “lake of fire” (Rev. 20:14), involves a punishment that is “unquenchable” (Mt. 3:12), eternal (Mt. 25:46), or “for ever and ever” (Rev. 14:11). In view of these modifiers, it is ludicrous to speak of the punishment of hell as coming to an end.
- The fallacy of the gentleman’s argument is this. It takes a special use of the term “death” (1 Cor. 15:25) —a reference to physical death, and attempts to make the reference apply to a different sense of “death” (Rev. 20:14), namely the everlasting separation of the wicked from God (Mt. 25:41; 2 Thes. 1:9).
Physical death will be abolished at the time of the Lord’s return, but the “second death” will last eternally.