In Revelation 20, John mentions a place called the Lake of Fire. Although this burning lake is only mentioned in the last book of the Bible, it is a significant place that Christians need to know about since it reminds us of the consequences of sinfulness, Jesus’ sacrifice to save us from everlasting punishment, and the need to tell the gospel. Let’s look at five biblical truths about this fiery place.
1. Those Who Reject Christ Will Spend Eternity in the Lake of Fire
After unbelievers are resurrected, they will stand before God at the Great White Throne Judgment (Revelation 20:11-13).
According to the Book of Revelation, those whose names are not written in the Lamb’s Book of Life will be thrown into the Lake of Fire, a place of everlasting punishment (Revelation 20:15).
In their resurrected bodies, unbelievers will live forever in this burning lake, which is “the second death” (Revelation 20:14).
While there are people who teach that the Lake of Fire is not a permanent place of punishment or that it is merely a place of annihilation or correction, those views do not have the support of Scripture.
The Bible teaches that those in the Lake of Fire, along with the Antichrist, False Prophet, and Satan, will be tormented forever (Revelation 20:10; Matthew 3:12; Revelation 14:10-11).
Jesus also affirms this in the parable of the sheep and goats, stating that unbelievers will “go away to eternal punishment” (Matthew 25:46).
Many Christians may feel as if spending eternity in the Lake of Fire is an unjust punishment for unbelievers, but we need to remember that where we spend eternity depends on whether we trust in Jesus for salvation or reject His free offer of grace (John 3:18; 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9).
Because of our sins, we all deserve everlasting punishment in the burning lake (Romans 3:23; 6:23). Only because Jesus lovingly came to die in our place can anyone receive eternal life (John 3:16). Everyone has the choice to trust in Christ or turn away from Him.
Believers do not have to worry about being thrown into the burning lake because their eternal salvation is secure in Jesus (John 10:28). However, knowledge of the Lake of Fire should compel us to share the gospel with others.
God does not delight in lost people dying, and neither should we (Ezekiel 18:23; 1 Timothy 2:4; 2 Peter 3:9). Since we possess eternal life, we should give all we have to take the good news to others, including those who have little to no access to the gospel.
2. The Lake of Fire Is Different from Hell
Since the Lake of Fire is only mentioned in Revelation, which people approach differently based on various eschatological viewpoints, many Christians see it as a symbol of hell.
Some commentators and preachers who follow specific eschatological systems equate hell and the Lake of Fire. However, there are indications in Scripture that the Lake of Fire is different from hell.
First, no one is currently in the Lake of Fire. Unbelievers will not enter the burning lake until after the resurrection and Great White Throne Judgment (Revelation 20:11-15).
Today, when an unbeliever dies, their soul goes to hell, not the Lake of Fire. Thus, we are wise to consider: how can the Lake of Fire be the same place as hell if the unbelieving dead are currently in hell but not in the Lake of Fire?
Furthermore, Sheol in Hebrew and Hades in Greek refers to the general place of the dead (Matthew 11:23; Luke 10:15; 16:23).
This includes hell, where unbelievers currently go after death. Hades (Sheol) is only a temporary, intermediate state since Scripture teaches that death and Hades (including hell) will be thrown into the Lake of Fire (Revelation 20:14). Thus, the Lake of Fire is the eternal destination of unbelievers, not hell.
Finally, we know that heaven, where believers go after death, is an intermediate dwelling as well. The Bible teaches that the old heaven will pass away, and believers will live forever with the Lord on the New Heaven and New Earth (Revelation 21:1-3).
We should not be surprised at the difference between hell and the Lake of Fire since there is also a difference between heaven and the New Heaven and New Earth.
Although various interpretations exist about the Lake of Fire and its connection to hell, we should consider the differences that are found in the Bible.
Eschatological systems are helpful in providing teachings about the End Times, but we need to step back and consider the plain reading of Scripture instead of assuming that Revelation is merely a book of symbols.
3. The Antichrist and False Prophet Are First
The Lake of Fire was created for “the devil and his angels,” but the Antichrist and False Prophet are the first occupants of the burning lake (Matthew 25:41; Revelation 19:20).
After they attempt to wage war against Jesus’ coming, the Antichrist and False prophet will be overthrown by the breath of Christ’s mouth (2 Thessalonians 2:8; Revelation 19:19-20).
The Antichrist and the False Prophet may think they are powerful, but they cannot stand against the King of kings and Lord of lords (Revelation 19:16).
After their defeat, they will be tossed alive into the Lake of Fire (Revelation 19:20). While some proponents of annihilation have used this verse to argue that the Antichrist and False Prophet are burned alive and destroyed, the rest of Scripture clarifies the situation.
Later, when the devil is thrown into the Lake of Fire, the Bible says, “The devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night forever and ever” (Revelation 20:10, emphasis added). Their punishment is eternal.
4. Varying Levels of Punishment in the Lake of Fire
During the Great White Throne Judgment, unbelievers will receive various degrees of punishment based on their deeds (Revelation 20:12-13). This judgment is not about salvation, as only those who deny Jesus are judged at the Great White Throne (Revelation 20:12).
The lack of the participants’ names in the Lamb’s Book of Life further supports the view that they have already rejected Jesus’ offer of eternal life (Revelation 20:15).
Just as believers will receive different rewards based on their deeds at the Judgment (Bema) Seat of Christ, unbelievers will receive different punishments based on what they have done (Matthew 11:24; John 19:11; 1 Corinthians 3:8; 4:5; 2 Corinthians 5:10).
How this will look in the Lake of Fire, we do not know for certain. However, even though some unbelievers will have a lesser punishment than others, they will still live forever in the burning lake with Satan and his demons.
5. Satan’s Final Destination Is the Lake of Fire
A final important thing Christians need to know about the Lake of Fire is that it is the eternal destiny of Satan. Despite popular depictions in media or literary works showing Satan ruling hell, he is not in hell, the Lake of Fire, or any other place of confinement currently.
Instead, the Bible tells us that the devil roams the earth seeking to “devour” people and blind them from the truth of the gospel (Job 1:7; 2 Corinthians 4:4; 1 Peter 5:8). He is active in the world, opposing God’s plan and trying to make believers unfruitful.
Jesus will bring the last crushing blow to Satan after the Millennial Kingdom. The devil will urge a final rebellion against the Lord, but Christ will quickly stop the attack and cast Satan into the fiery lake (Revelation 20:7-10).
Then, Satan and his demons will be in the place that was originally created for them (Matthew 25:41).
The fact that the devil’s end is assured in Scripture should cause believers to rejoice. Satan is our enemy and tries to make us stumble and ruin our witness through temptation (2 Corinthians 2:11; 1 Peter 5:8).
However, we know that our Lord Jesus has defeated Satan, and on that day when the devil is thrown into the Lake of Fire, our enemy will no longer be able to tempt us or cause problems.
Let us continue to guard ourselves by putting on the armor of God since Satan knows that his time is short (Ephesians 6:11; Revelation 12:12).
Why Does This Matter?
Many Christians feel uncomfortable with the idea of unbelievers experiencing everlasting torment in the Lake of Fire. We want all people to know Christ, but the Bible is clear that some people will refuse His offer of salvation.
Instead of rejecting biblical truth because of feelings, we should trust what God’s Word says and allow the knowledge to urge us into action to share the good news of Jesus with others.