"... and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb: 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 14:10, 11
At the coming of Christ the wicked are blotted from the face of the whole earth—consumed with the spirit of His mouth and destroyed by the brightness of His glory. "And the slain of the Lord shall be at that day from one end of the earth even unto the other end of the earth: they shall not be lamented, neither gathered, nor buried" (Jeremiah 25:33). Christ takes His people to the City of God, and the earth is emptied of its inhabitants.
The revelator foretells the banishment of Satan and the condition of chaos and desolation to which the earth is to be reduced, and he declares that this condition will exist for a thousand years. After presenting the scenes of the Lord’s second coming and the destruction of the wicked, the prophecy continues: "I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years (Revelation 20:1,2).
Here is to be the home of Satan with his evil angels for a thousand years. He is now deprived of his power and left to contemplate the part which he has acted since first he rebelled against the government of heaven, and to look forward with trembling and terror to the dreadful future when he must suffer for all the evil that he has done and be punished for the sins that he has caused to be committed (see Isaiah 14:12-17).
During the thousand years between the first and the second resurrection the judgment of the wicked takes place. Daniel declares that when the Ancient of Days came, "judgment was given to the saints of the Most High" (Daniel 7:22). They shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years" (Revelation 20:4, 6). It is at this time that, as foretold by Paul, "the saints shall judge the world" (1 Corinthians 6:2). In union with Christ they judge the wicked, comparing their acts with the statute book, the Bible, and deciding every case according to the deeds done in the body.
At the close of the thousand years, Christ again returns to the earth. He is accompanied by the host of the redeemed and attended by a retinue of angels. As He descends in terrific majesty He bids the wicked dead arise to receive their doom. They come forth, a mighty host, numberless as the sands of the sea. What a contrast to those who were raised at the first resurrection! The righteous were clothed with immortal youth and beauty. The wicked bear the traces of disease and death.
Says the prophet of God: "I saw a great white throne, and Him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened ... and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works" (Revelation 20:11, 12).
As soon as the books of record are opened, and the eye of Jesus looks upon the wicked, they are conscious of every sin which they have ever committed. The whole wicked world stand arraigned at the bar of God on the charge of high treason against the government of heaven. They are without excuse; and the sentence of eternal death is pronounced against them.
It is now evident to all that the wages of sin is not noble independence and eternal life, but slavery, ruin, and death. All see that their exclusion from heaven is just.
Fire comes down from God out of heaven. Devouring flames burst from every yawning chasm. The very rocks are on fire. The day has come that shall burn as an oven. The elements melt with fervent heat, the earth also, and the works that are therein are burned up (see Malachi 4:1; 2 Peter 3:10). The earth’s surface seems one molten mass — a vast, seething lake of fire.
In the cleansing flames the wicked are at last destroyed, root and branch. The full penalty of the law has been visited; the demands of justice have been met; and heaven and earth, beholding, declare the righteousness of Jehovah.
Satan’s work of ruin is forever ended. Now God’s creatures are forever delivered from his presence and temptations. The whole earth is at rest, and is quiet. And a shout of praise and triumph ascends from the whole loyal universe.
The fire that consumes the wicked purifies the earth. Every trace of the curse is swept away. No eternally burning hell will keep before the ransomed the fearful consequences of sin.
Are the Wicked Indestructible?
Everlasting Fire, Eternal Fire. "Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire" (Matthew 25:41).
The meaning of "everlasting fire" is graphically illustrated and explained by the following Bible passages: "Even as Sodom and Gomorrah, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire" (Jude 7). Sodom "was overthrown as in a moment, and no hands stayed on her" [i.e., no man could stop the city’s destruction] (Lamentations 4:6). "And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes condemned them with an overthrow, making them an ensample unto those that afterward should live ungodly" (2 Peter 2:6). "As God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah, saith the Lord; so shall no man abide there, neither shall any son of man dwell therein" (Jeremiah 50:40, cf. 49:18). God burned Sodom and Gomorrah with eternal fire, as an example of the fate of all who would live wickedly. The result of the fire was that (a) Sodom and Gomorrah were quickly turned into ashes; (b) they ceased to burn; and (c) were never again inhabited. This shows that the "eternal fire" which destroys the wicked is everlasting in its result, and not in its duration.*
Forever. "The smoke of their torment ascends up for ever and ever" (Revelation 14:1).
This text does not say the shrieks of their torment ascend up forever and ever. Smoke and ashes are the end products of fire. Pointing to the Lord’s vengeance by fire on the wicked, Isaiah says, "It shall not be quenched night nor day; the smoke thereof shall go up forever: from generation to generation it shall lie waste; none shall pass through it forever and ever. But the cormorant and the bittern shall possess it" (Isaiah 34:10, 11; see also 34:1, 2). David declared that the wicked will consume away into smoke; and Malachi says they will be reduced to ashes (see Psalm 37:20; Malachi 4:3). Further, there are relative degrees of punishment for the lost; some will suffer longer than others, according to their deeds, but all the wicked shall ultimately cease to exist (see Revelation 22:12; Psalms 37:10; 21:8-10). While the fire burns there will be no relief from its torment (see Revelation 20:10). Notice also from Matthew 25:41 that the fire is prepared for the devil and his angels, who will perish in it, and never return to life (see Ezekiel 28:18, 19). Only those who stubbornly identify with Satan’s rebellion will join him in this fiery extinction. Thus we see that the words "forever," and "everlasting" can express an unbroken period of time.
Instances of the use of the Hebrew word "forever" (olam) which simply indicate an uninterrupted finite period:
• Jonah 1:17; 2:6. Here, forever means three days.
• Exodus 21:6; 1 Samuel 1:22, 11, 28. Here it means the lifetime of a man.
• Psalm 37:20; Revelation 20:9, 10. Here it means until the wicked are devoured or consumed.
"Eternal" truly means forever; throughout eternity, when referring to God and His perfect order (see Psalms 90:2; 119: 142; Isaiah 9:6; 51:11; Daniel 7:27; 9:24; Matthew 19:29; Revelation 22:5).
Everlasting punishment. "And these shall go away into everlasting punishment" (Matthew 25:46). God’s final, everlasting punishment of the wicked is their complete and irrevocable destruction. Death and the grave are destroyed in the lake of fire (see Revelation 20:14). The results of the fire are eternal, not the process. The fire of divine punishment devours the wicked, it does not immortalize them in misery (see Revelation 20:9). They shall "be as though they had not been" (Obadiah 16). Christ taught (Matthew 10:28) that soul and body are destroyed (eradicated) in the fires of gehenna (burning hell, lake of fire).
Unquenchable Fire. "He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire" (Matthew 3:12). The Greek words for "unquenchable fire" primarily mean "unextinguished," that is, not caused to cease by external means. But the idea of unending fire is not implied by the words themselves or the teachings of Scripture. God’s fire of judgment burns without abatement or interruption until it consumes all that He has appointed for destruction. Then it ceases to burn (see Ezekiel 20:45-48, cf. Jeremiah 21:14; Isaiah 1:31).
God decreed that if Jerusalem refused to obey His laws, especially the Sabbath, He would kindle an unquenchable fire in their gates (see Jeremiah 17:27, cf. 7:16-20). Jerusalem was burned in A.D. 70, when Rome invaded it, leaving it a charred ruin. Ancient and modern Jerusalem are in the same location. No fire is burning there now. When the fire of God’s wrath completes its work, there is not so much as "a coal to warm at, nor fire to sit before it" (Isaiah 47:14), so absolute is the eradication of evil (see Matthew 3:11, 12; Malachi 4:1-3).
*Note: the word everlasting in Matt. 25:4 1, and eternal in Jude 7 are the same Greek word—aionios.