The Bible’s answer
The lake of fire is a symbol of eternal destruction. It is the same as Gehenna, but it is different from hell, which is the common grave of mankind.
Not a literal lake
“The wild beast” and “the false prophet.” (Revelation 19:20) Since these are symbols, doesn’t it seem reasonable to conclude that the lake they are thrown into is also a symbol?
—Revelation 13:11, 12; 16:13.
A symbol of eternal destruction
The Bible says that the lake of fire “means the second death.” (Revelation 20:14; 21:8) The first kind of death mentioned in the Bible resulted from Adam’s sin. This death can be reversed by resurrection and will eventually be eliminated by God.
There is no release from the symbolic lake of fire
The lake of fire represents a different, or second, kind of death. Although it too represents a state of total inactivity, it is different in that the Bible says nothing about a resurrection from the second death. For example, the Bible says that Jesus has “the keys of hell and of death,” showing that he has the authority to release people from the death brought by Adam’s sin. (Revelation 1:
Identical to Gehenna, the Valley of Hinnom
Gehenna (Greek geʹen·na) is mentioned 12 times in the Bible. Like the lake of fire, it is a symbol of eternal destruction. Although some translations render this word as “hell,” Gehenna is different from hell (Hebrew sheʼohlʹ, Greek haiʹdes).
The word “Gehenna” literally means “Valley of Hinnom,” referring to a valley just outside Jerusalem. In Bible times, the city residents used this valley as a garbage dump. They kept a fire constantly burning there to destroy refuse; maggots consumed anything that the fire did not reach.
Jesus used Gehenna as a symbol of everlasting destruction. (Matthew 23:33) He said that in Gehenna “the maggot does not die and the fire is not put out.” (Mark 9:
How “tormented day and night forever and ever”?
If the lake of fire is a symbol of destruction, why does the Bible say that in it the Devil, the wild beast, and the false prophet “will be tormented day and night forever and ever”? (Revelation 20:10) Consider four reasons why this torment does not refer to literal torture:
For the Devil to be tortured eternally, he would have to be kept alive forever. However, the Bible says that he will be brought to nothing, or put out of existence.
—Hebrews 2: 14.
Everlasting life is a gift from God, not a punishment.
—Romans 6: 23.
The wild beast and the false prophet are symbols and cannot experience literal torture.
The context of the Bible indicates that the torment of the Devil is everlasting restraint or destruction.
The word used for “torment” in the Bible can also mean “a condition of restraint.” For example, the Greek word for “tormentors” used at Matthew 18:34 is rendered as “jailers” in many translations, showing the connection between the words “torment” and “restraint.” Likewise, the parallel accounts at Matthew 8:
WHAT DOES THE BIBLE REALLY TEACH?
Learn what the Bible says about where the dead are and why humans die.
BIBLE QUESTIONS ANSWERED
The wild beast has authority, power, and a throne. What else does Bible prophecy reveal?
Compare these myths with what the Bible really teaches.