kamchatka02I received the following question:

Is the lake of fire, in revelations, literal or symbolical? I am of the opinion that it is not literal, since hell and death are cast in it, but maybe I am wrong. What do you say? Thanks in advance for your clear thinking.

I would say both. We tend to make symbolism an either/or type of thing, but many things in the Scriptures are symbolical precisely because they are first of all literal. If the literal thing did not exist, the symbol would not exist either. One example is the Israelites’ forty years’ wandering in the wilderness. This was definitely a symbolical period, yet it was so only because it literally was forty years. It would not have been symbolical if they had wandered eighty years, or twenty years, and certainly not if they had not wandered at all. The symbolism only works because the thing literally took place.

The lake of fire, I believe, will be a literal thing that will exist from the time of the kingdom of God on through the little season of Revelation. Bodies of those who are deemed worthy, after they have been executed, will be thrown there. Yet this will be a highly symbolical act. It will not be being thrown into this lake of fire that will signal the destruction of a person. Indeed, if anyone could be thrown there by someone other than God without His command, that person would not die the second death, though he might have burned in the lake of fire. The reason being cast into the lake of fire will mean the second death will be because God declares it so. When one is cast there by His command, that is a symbol for the fact that that person will never be raised, and will never again exist. That person will have perished. So the symbolism of the act will reveal the deeper truth that God is trying to convey, but only because the act will literally take place.

Hell and death certainly are literal things. They are just not physical things, such as you could pick up and throw somewhere, like into a lake. Since the lake of fire symbolizes perishing and destruction, the idea would seem to be that these things will be destroyed, so that they will never again contain a human being. Literally, this would be accomplished when those who are deemed to deserve death permanently are removed from the temporary hold of death and the state of death, and are destroyed once and for all. Their bodies, however many of them there are, being thrown into the lake of fire, will be what “death and hell” being thrown into the lake of fire will literally look like.