The Second Death, a Permanent Place in Hell?

I am in the midst of writing a post about Christian Universalism (Ultimate Reconciliation). I started to study Revelation 21-22 and hit on some interesting things that I would like to write about here. The term Second Death occurs four times in the scriptures, all of which come from Revelation. The Second Death is described as a Lake of Fire in Revelation. This is different from death and Hades. Here are the relevant verses from Revelation.

‘He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes shall not be hurt by the second death.’ – Revelation 2:11

‘And the beast was seized, and with him the false prophet who performed the signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image; these two were thrown alive into the lake of fire which burns with brimstone.’ – Revelation 19:20

‘Blessed and holy is the one who has a part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with Him for a thousand years.’ – Revelation 20:6

‘And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.’ – Revelation 20:10

‘And death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.’ – Revelation 20:14-15

‘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 that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.’ – Revelation 21:8

There are so many rabbit trails we can take when studying Revelation. We know from these verses that these are the people who take part in the second death (Lake of Fire):

  • The Beast
  • The False Prophet
  • The Devil
  • The First Death
  • Hades (or Sheol)
  • Anyone who was not found in the Lamb’s Book of Life

In Revelation 21-22, we read about the New Heaven, the New Earth, and the New Jerusalem. The New Heaven and New Earth are created to replace the Old Heaven and the Old Earth (I would probably translate Heaven as sky or universe or something like that, not as God’s dwelling). The New Jerusalem is described as a beautiful city made of pure gold and rare gems. An interesting thing about the new city is that it has 12 gates and the gates are never shut (Revelation 21:27). Gates are designed for two purposes — to keep unwanted things out and to keep desired things in. In the New Jerusalem, we can come and go as we please. However, there is something interesting about the description of the New Earth and these open gates.

‘and nothing unclean and no one who practices abomination and lying, shall ever come into it, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.’ – Revelation 21:27

Only those whose names are written in the Book of Life are allowed into the city. Others will not be able to. But doesn’t this logically mean that there are unclean people outside of the city? These are the same people who are described as being in the Lake of Fire.

Here are the questions I am wrestling with. What if the Lake of Fire was a refining fire? What if we have the opportunity to repent and follow Jesus while in the Lake of Fire? I think these questions hinge on whether or not the Lamb’s Book of Life is permanent or can be changed. Here are the relevant verses in the scriptures about the Lamb’s Book of Life.

‘May they be blotted out of the book of life, And may they not be recorded with the righteous.’ – Psalm 69:28

‘Indeed, true comrade, I ask you also to help these women who have shared my struggle in the cause of the gospel, together with Clement also, and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.’ – Philippians 4:3

‘He who overcomes shall thus be clothed in white garments; and I will not erase his name from the book of life, and I will confess his name before My Father, and before His angels.’ – Revelation 3:5

‘And all who dwell on the earth will worship him, everyone whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain.’ – Revelation 13:8

‘The beast that you saw was and is not, and is about to come up out of the abyss and to go to destruction. And those who dwell on the earth will wonder, whose name has not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, when they see the beast, that he was and is not and will come.’ – Revelation 17:8

‘And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds.’- Revelation 20:12

‘And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.’ – Revelation 20:15

‘and nothing unclean and no one who practices abomination and lying, shall ever come into it, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.’ – Revelation 21:27

If you look at the Revelation 13:8 verse on its own. It could be interpreted two ways. First, from a Calvinist perspective, you might believe that the Lamb’s Book of Life was written at the foundation of the world and only those people found in the book were ever going to be saved (it was predestined). However, given Psalm 69:28 and Revelation 3:5, which seem to indicate that a name can be removed from the Lamb’s Book of Life, I prefer a different interpretation. The interpretation that I think makes more sense, is “everyone whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world through now in the book of life of the Lamb”. In other words, the book started blank (or nearly blank) and as time progressed names were added, and perhaps some where removed/blotted out.

Here is a bit of a logical proof:

  • If Psalm 69:28 and Revelation 3:5 are true, then that the Lamb’s Book of Life is not permanent.
  • If the book is not permanent, then the book can be added to.
  • If there is a chance of salvation after the first death, then those in the Lake of Fire could be added to the book postmortemously.
  • If the New Jerusalem’s gates will never be shut and those not in the Lamb’s Book of Life are not allowed in the city, then those who are not found in the Lamb’s Book of Life are outside of the city (in a Lake of Fire).
  • If one in the Lake of Fire is added to the Lamb’s Book of Life, then they are allowed into the New Jerusalem.

Is this possible? I think so, I am hopeful. In fact, I am what is called a “Hopeful Universalist”. I believe there is significant evidence found in scripture to support Christian Universalism. However, all views have their own proof texts, so I know I could be completely wrong. I just thought it was really interesting that the scriptures indicate that there are non-Believers living outside of the New Jerusalem. What do you think?