Both the fiery lake and the second death are figurative expressions. The final judgment is mainly for all people; they are judged according to their deeds. In the Book of Life, which is also a figurative expression, the names of those who are saved, are written.
If there is no name in the book, he will be thrown into the lake of fire forever. This is what the churches have taught, in accordance with the traditional interpretation that the churches have preached for the last two millennia.
I have taken as a starting point the will of God, when I wanted to find out whether the description is a correct interpretation of the Bible. Interpretation is exactly what this is all about. Many argue that no interpretation is needed; all Bible teaching is so clear and literal. But it is not. The Bible and the Revelation, in particular, are full of symbolism and figurative narration.
In my opinion, the following facts are literally true and valid as a starting point for the review:
– God’s will is that everyone will be saved
– God has confirmed through his prophet Isaiah that he will do all his pleasure
– God has planned everything before the world was
– God has produced both good and evil; Satan is his creation in evil and God’s own son, Jesus, whom God has raised to Christ and Lord, is the counterpart of Satan in good
The following points require interpretation:
– Does eternal (aionios, owlam) really mean what we now understand with forever; that is, one that has always been and will always be, without beginning and without end
– Is the lake of fire described in the Bible a concrete lake where fire burns forever
– If in the last judgment someone has been convicted to damnation in a fiery lake, will the judgment be forever?
– Are there Biblical grounds for annihilation or universalism?
So how do I believe today? I must say, after years of contemplating, I had to review my approach especially to the salvation of all.
The will of God is absolute, not conditional. God does not say that “I will save everyone if…” If people repent … or if they do as the Bible teaches, etc., God also assures that he will do his will.
I also think that the words of Greek and Hebrew translated as eternity have been misunderstood. They are tied to time and time period. It is not possible for anyone to explain how long a time it is question of.
I also believe that the fiery lake is a figurative expression, and the sufferings of those who are in it are real, even though it is spiritual, not physical suffering. Spiritual suffering can be as severe as physical suffering. Christians also have to endure the purification of God’s fire; they will be saved ‘as if’ through the fire.
I’m not saying anything definite about annihilation. If someone has been such a bad sinner that has caused tens of millions of deaths, would he not deserve to be completely destroyed, from the presence of God? What did Christ do to such a Christian persecutor? He converted Paul by force and gave an example of what could happen to other unbelieving sinners as a punishment for the last judgment.
What about my attitude to universalism? When I wrote about it a few years ago, I just said briefly that I didn’t believe in universalism. Now I have learned to believe in the will of God, especially when it is expressed indisputably. Should it be written in the Bible in red letters, that other readers of the Bible could believe it and would not go along with the old interpretations of the Church, whose motives have often been the interest and position of the Church instead of God’s truth.
In these writings I have brought out my thoughts of God’s will, to save – if possible – all people.
The starting point should be kept in mind: When Jesus Christ and his saints have dominated the kingdom of God on earth for a thousand years. Then mankind has lived free from the plots of Satan and his demons. People have all heard the teaching of God’s word. They have lived longer lives than older generations, and thus they have had the full freedom to decide whether they believe in Jesus Christ as God’s son and King of the whole world. Now, we could say, that people are finally free to choose.
What happens when the reign of a thousand years of happiness, joy of peace and health ends? Satan and his angels will be released. Satan succeeds in agitating a huge number of soldiers from among mankind. They do not succeed, and Satan is imprisoned, his troops destroyed. Satan is thrown into the fiery lake. According to Scripture, the lake of fire was primarily devoted to Satan, but many others are thrown there according to the Bible.
I have tried to ponder the possibility that God really would execute his will and would also allow the major sinners, who have ‘earned’ the punishment in the fiery lake, to be saved. For the sake of clarity, I say: this is understandable for those who have got the worst starting points for their lives. This is what I was thinking in the writing “Why Has God Given People a Different Amount of Faith?” One might think that God takes note of the weaker starting points of these people and would also allow these to be cleansed by fire.
But what about these people, who have lived under the thousand-year reign? Nobody has misled them for sin. Their decisions regarding faith have been entirely theirs, without the harassment of Satan. If, in the end, they join the forces of Satan to fight against Christ and his saints, they make their own decision, according to their own free choice. If God were to show mercy to those who have not previously joined the Church of Christ because they have not had free choice because of Satan, how can God forgive those who voluntarily join the forces of Satan?
I understand, if God punishes such people with a hard hand, perhaps he will prune them at once and for good. However, I cannot believe that even the worst of all sinners would be tortured forever and ever.