The Second Death

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With slow and painful step, you reach the end again and peer with longing gaze out over the gulf, deep and black, to the streams and rolling hills on the other side. [1] So few were there,* and so very many here* … where you are … still … amid the flames. It hurts to see what they had … to face what you have … and to think of what they must now have … and it hurts to turn away.

This just hurts! Everything hurts! It hurts … in the deep places of your soul … to think of life and how it used to be. At times you remember what it was like back up on the surface, then there are times you simply can’t. It makes no difference … there is no relief from the pain. It is truly torment.

Hell even hurts your mind … clearly there was a way to escape this … some did at least. Some of the others say they used to watch them laugh and dance amid the grass and flowers on the other side … so far away … and yet so very, very close. They could even hear their voices, and speak with them … converse … the living dead with the twice dead. Abraham, Moses, Daniel, Job … those you would expect to see, yes, and many, many others rested there. Until one day … they say … long ago … [2]

Yes … Hell hurts your body, if you can call it that … this untouchable thing you’ve grown accustomed to. Your corpse has long since returned to dust, but you still have a sense of frame, of eyes, a tongue, feet and hands … but they are vapor, mist, visible but intangible. Even so, the dismal flames find nerves and such, somehow, tickling and dancing upon you like some morbid child’s plaything.

It is relentlessly consistent, the torment, as real as real can be, and desperately painful … but you can at least think, and move. It is so very painful, so dreadfully difficult to keep from insane panic, from fretful thrashing about … Dashing yourself against the rocks has never helped. How to kill one so painfully dead … a second death* perhaps? What could possibly be worse than this?

Annihilation is still sought in desperation by some, but no one has been successful … yet. Even Adam … [3] the venerable genius himself … is still trying after nearly six millennia of this torture. You’re certainly stuck, you know you are, along with nearly all others, in something far more dreadful than the worst inventions of men to mar and crush the flesh. If only death were empty … and not so full of eternal reality.

You turn, back up the well-worn path, as you have countless times before… to pass the time … such a long, long time … back into the misty fires of … home. Those rocks again … so tempting … So many others do … longing for somewhat more of what they hoped in death, nothingness … to escape the torment … What ugly company … even those you used to love are so very ugly now. You have been here so long, you have forgotten the years, the centuries … several of them … perhaps even a millennium now* … who knows? What does it matter? You keep mostly to yourself … dreading, choking, quivering in anguish. Pacing is all that makes sense … probably from your earthly days, not that anything should make sense now.

Suddenly, in the midst of one more weary trembling step, all is receding! Falling away … the mists and fire relent! To your great surprise, the torment ceases! Ah!! You gasp in relief as the flames of Hell recede quickly from view, vanishing in the distance. As suddenly, and as inexplicably as you had fallen into it at death, you are just as suddenly, and without explanation, being snatched away and raced through lonely, windless space – to where? Perhaps now you’ll have relief, and some promise of an answer to your misery. You wonder tensely as your escort hurries on.

You see in the distance a brilliant light, a single star looming in the blackness before you. As you approach, its brilliance pains you, and you turn from staring at it. You notice a clear, glassy pavement* approaching and your escort brings you up over the edge, sets you on it roughly, releases you, and retires into the darkness behind you.

The brilliant radiance is overwhelming at first, your eyes being used to the gloomy, flickering flames of Hell. You squint nervously and begin to look about, like a sickly rat drug from foul dark wastes into the full brightness of the day. The light source seems to be directly in front of you, as though you were looking squarely into a huge spotlight. You look first to the one side, and then to the other, as you adjust to the light … and see millions of faces. You perceive that you are in a tremendous amphitheater; nothing behind you, millions* before you … in silence … perfect silence.*

You feel strangely solid now, like you used to feel when you were upon the earth. It is a strange and distant feeling, like the weight of flesh and bone again. For so long you had the feeling of a body in some ways, but not the reality of it. Could it possibly be? Dare you move and discover yourself again? You think to clasp your hands … and find them!! Your face!! It is with you again! You have been resurrected!* And you are stark naked!*

You see now the outline of a throne, large and white,* and a figure of large a Man, upon it. He is powerfully brilliant and very difficult to observe. As you adjust to the radiance you notice his feet … there is a large open wound in each ankle!! In confusion you drop your head for a moment and then take another look. “No!” you whisper to yourself in unbelief, “… in His wrists!!…” two more ugly, bloodless puncture wounds. You puzzle briefly, then it occurs to you: you are in the presence of the God of Heaven, the Almighty JEHOVAH God, the Lord Jesus Christ!!!* * *

His face is as the sun; His eyes are as a flame of fire; His hair shines white like wool; and His feet are like molten brass heated in a furnace.* He wears a spotlessly white garment that covers the rest of His body,* and doubtless – were it not for that – you would be unable to bear the potent brilliancy for long at all. Instinctively, you dare not look into His eyes; this is not the cute little “baby Jesus” you remember, lying in a manger … or cuddling helplessly in His mother’s arms. No, this is the LION of the tribe of Judah, the KING of kings and LORD of Lords! Your head is bowed, your entire frame wet with dread … and beginning to tremble.* It is uncomfortably silent as you stand alone and twitch nervously before your God.

A man seated at a table to the right of the throne begins to read loudly from a large book opened before him, one evidently chosen from a series of many like books arrayed in order behind him.* The sound of his voice breaks the majestic silence like the virgin crack of a thunderstorm in the cool of evening. He reads to the hosts of heaven the story of a babe, whose name goes unmentioned. You listen closely in fearful silence, moved by the stern looks on the faces before you. You discern quickly, as your mother’s name is heard, then your father’s, that the man is reading from the book the story of your life. Your heart throbs in pain and sweat breaks out on your brow.  This is … The Judgment – you are afraid… as the speaker reads on.

The decades pass. The man reads on and on and on. Such an account! So detailed! Every thought, every desire, every word, every act of your sinful life is uncovered before the heavenly multitudes.* * * * You cannot argue with what is read,* for each word is honest; and your mind is painfully clear and true, as all was recorded there as well, and witnesses against you. Your desire to protest has now long been quenched, yet fear and anger grips more and more of your heart as the long account of each day is read. Yours was not a bad life, compared to others, but you are not being compared with others as you had always thought you would be. Perhaps you might withstand that test. It was beyond your wildest dreams that you would ever be measured by the perfect laws of God – and judged by them!!*

Such a searching judgment!!! Every second of your life exposed and examined by the Word of God!! Yea, no good is being found in you at all* and God’s anger grows as each page is read.* Every deed you thought would please Him, you find stained with selfishness, pride, and lust. You did not live for God, but for yourself. Your job, your home, your family, your health, your wealth and happiness were your daily concerns.* * You lived for the day, not for eternity. It is very apparent, yea more and more so with each passing moment, that you are weighed in the balances, and found wanting.*

It seems ages have passed; the last page is being read, and you remember the last few moments of life: the fear and dread of death renewing itself again upon your mind. Your life was a miserable, ungodly, rebellious failure, and your helplessness is very apparent. Cold, painful daggers of fear and loss whelm uncomfortably in your breast.* * God’s anger and contempt toward you has grown fierce.* *

At last, the man finishes reading the full length of your life’s record. The silence returns. He turns calmly and quickly to a lonely book in a place by itself to his left. The silence heightens your fears, as he thumbs the pages looking for your name. 

He finds the place where your name should be and looks into the text intently. Evidently disappointed, he stands in front of the open book, turns firmly and slowly toward God, and speaks again. “LORD, the wounds in your hands, side, and feet bear witness of your love for this wicked person. You went to earth and died under Your Own law to provide a perfect atonement for the wickedness and rebellion of this wretch, who ought to seek You, believe in You, and trust You for that perfect righteousness which is so freely offered to all who will believe. Instead, this ungrateful rebel is rejecting You,* deliberately choosing to exalt himself, and clings to the wicked and sinful life recorded here. This one does not believe in You, but is calling You a liar!* His name is not found written in the Book of Life.”* The man turns again, returns the book to its place, and is seated.

In this quiet moment … far beyond the reach of earthly times, yet quite fully drenched in their memories, you realize that all those behind the throne, people just like yourself, once just as sinful and undeserving, are only there because they have trusted Jesus Christ with the salvation of their souls;* they sought Him,* they found Him* and then He transformed them into His likeness.* You did not. You would not! And it is abundantly clear at this dreadful moment … that you still will not!*

After so many hundreds of years in Hell, as you stand looking into the eyes of your Creator, there is this strange and awful sense that you and He were meant to be lovers … that your whole purpose in life was to enjoy Him. As you gaze upon His beauty, you can tell that He still loves you, even now. He hates what you have become, loathes what you have done with yourself, what you now are.* But you can tell that if you would just lay down your hatred and resentment and anger … that He would still, even now, receive you with open arms.* * The awareness makes you sick with disgust and hatred. You are shaking, but it is hard to tell exactly why. Is it anger … or is it terror?

You feel strangely alone in the dreadful silence and fear to look into the eyes of your Creator. He has not spoken a single word in all the years you have cowered before Him. His dignified, magnificent frame has remained motionless. A calm, stern, thoughtful look has slowly turned to fierce anger and disgust. It is awesome … unbearable. You find that even though you are turning away from Him it feels as if His face is everywhere, you cannot avoid Him any longer. This, you find, is so much worse than Hell … you would much rather be back there suffering in the dingy darkness than here, close to Him, face to face with holiness. You are in His immediate presence and you find that you hate Him fiercely, with your entire being: you are literally driven to a wild terror in it,* and long to be hid … but there is nowhere to hide.*

For the first time God moves, rising slowly from the throne to His full height, nearly crushing you with His indignant stare.* He speaks … with a force like that of a raging, tempestuous sea:* “Come now, let us reason together! Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.”* The entire body of the heavenly hosts beholds in wonder, as God reaches out His hand toward you and continues. “Why are you rebellious, hateful, immoral and filthy?”* * He pauses for your response but you remain speechless, staring back in stubborn, hateful defiance.* “Wash yourself, make yourself clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil;* learn to do well; seek judgment, repent of your oppression, repent of your hatred, repent of your injustices, repent of your selfishness.* If you be willing and obedient, I will receive you: but if you refuse and rebel, I will surely punish you with an everlasting destruction.”* *

Words cannot describe the conflict that arises in your poor soul at this point.  God is asking you to step aside, to submit to Him, to take your rightful place as a servant, as a worshiper. He is omnipotent, just … and fierce; it is pure insanity to defy Him. Yet from the very beginning your only objective in life has been to dethrone Him and place yourself at the center of all things. Your heart is fixed and unbending,* you are completely filled with yourself and your own way.* No matter what God does to you, you will never surrender to Him, ever.* You stand to your feet and raise your fist in angry triumph. The look on your face says it all … to God, and to all the host of Heaven, and then you turn your back to Him, to them all.* As God offers you mercy rather than torment, if you will just submit to Him, you’re going to exalt yourself and your way no matter what happens, for as long as you can get away with it: you’re wickedness is complete, to utter insanity and stupidity.*

“Depart from Me, you cursed one, into everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels!”* His words ring out like thunder, filled with an intensely joyful, angry laughter,*  dropping you back to your knees with the force. He silently motions to your long forgotten escort, who eagerly steps forward and presents himself. “Cast him away!”* is the simple command.

Your body tingles in fear … and your soul writhes in your bosom … as you feel the cold fingers of death upon your neck once more and your escort yanks you from before the throne out into the thick blackness of eternity — where light is swallowed up in eternal night.* You are struck numb with terror* by the rich darkness, as the pavement seems to dash away, and you squirm about the hand that carries you looking for the brilliance of heaven once again. It’s gone. The blackness draws your soul to insane despair as it oozes into the depths of your heart and fills your very being. You feel intensely evil* and cold, damned and helpless. The darkness rifles past, as anticipation of the nature and fierceness of God’s wrath and fury works in your mind. What awaits you? The seconds pass and your heart pounds violently.

Sounds approach your ear in a dull roar, quickly breaking the silence and growing rapidly in nearness and strength. It is still dark. You can now feel heat on your face, chest, and shoulders, as though you were diving into a great furnace. All sense of direction has been lost, the steel hand that grips your body provides your only point of reference. The heat now intense, though bearable, is now accompanied by the smell of sulfur,* burning flesh, and rotting corpses – which numbs your mind and strikes another dagger of panic through your soul. The heat is easily beyond anything tolerable now and you squirm and writhe about the steel grip of your escort in an effort to face away from the awful terror. The heat becomes so great that you begin to scream aloud and you are loosed quickly by your escort as he hears your cry, allowing you to tumble freely through the blast of heat and stench and noise.

The fall is but a second or two, yet it seems an eternity as you are consciously and increasingly amazed with each passing millisecond. The pain is shockingly unbearable; the stench is nauseating and causes you go grip your bowels to ease the force of your vain attempt to vomit. Your hair begins to burn, your skin begins to blister and boil. The heat seems to go right through you, as if nothing shields it. Closing your eyes … it is as if they were wide open. The roar of flame and blast – pierced by the screams and shrieks of damned living corpses reeling in agony – is ear splitting. You’ve not even arrived …

Suddenly you plunge into a mass of molten, burning slime, which scalds and blisters your naked flesh.* You scream with all your might for several seconds beneath the surface of this boiling cauldron, as the burning flames from thick, rotten pitch penetrate the tenderness of your ears. Your scream has left you winded, and as you gasp for breath you draw the fiery brimstone into your lungs and stomach. You are ablaze within* and without … as your soul itself seems to break out into flame, springing from the filth and blasphemy of your heart.

You writhe and lash about in the molten, boiling inferno cursing God,* amazed and shocked at the intensity and consistency of the torture. The liquid fire works its way though your respiratory and digestive channels … completely filling and scorching you.* Weeping, you grit your teeth,* and gnaw your tongue in pain,* blinking your eyes in unbelief while liquid death sears your eyes and works its way up behind your eyelids. Your tongue feels like a white-hot iron against the roof of your mouth and it swells from the gnawing of your teeth. The pain is completely debilitating … maddening … you’ve lost your ability to reason, to use your will; for the first time in your life, you cannot sin. Yet every sense is acutely refined, livid, shrieking … taste, touch, pain, sound, smell, hearing, dizziness, suffocation, choking … Somehow in the weightlessness and chaos you have continued to fall. It is dark. Oh for something solid! Oh for light to see!

Your mind is spinning and your soul longs for a breath of air as you sink farther beneath the fiery surface.* You are consciously and continually drowning. Your skin is blistering and splitting from the heat; your blood is boiling; your muscles are tense and nervous; your pain is real. Your mind is weary – swooning, but you cannot faint. Your forehead pounds with fever and ache; your heart beats rapidly, pumping boiling blood through weary vessels. You are dying. There is no sense at all in which you could possibly be alive in this condition, and yet you are not at all dead — but you have to be close.

“How long have I been here?? How long shall I stay???” your mind screams. You are isolated, alone, yet God’s angry presence has continually pressed your mind and soul beyond their limits. You are falling, it is dark – black. You begin to weep and scream in terror, lashing and striking and kicking about in helpless frenzy. Your mind hastens back to then you freely walked the earth in carelessness and neglect. You rejected the knowledge and love of God then, and you’re still rejecting it: you’ve trained your heart to rebel and you’ve increased in it more and more over time.* You’ve become so depraved that you cannot repent … and now you would rather face His wrath and the fury of His contempt and indignation than yield to Him. You see every cool glass of water you drank, every great river, every little stream you waded. Oh! … the pain! … the anguish!! You cry out for help, for relief, to everything but God. Your pleas rise, your screams, your cries … but the day of His wrath is come. God exalts Himself in crushing you again and again beneath the awful weight of His omnipotent fierceness.

The temperature … where you are at right now … is more extreme than the surface of the sun that used to light your way. It is vast — unthinkable. There was no known place in the universe that bore a flame so hot it gave no light … yet here you are! Your constitution is fully maintained by the fury of God … His power is the only thing keeping you from exploding into vapor! None of the elements known to Man condense here, yet the substance of this lake is real, almost divine in its rage against you. It is almost as if the substance of this lake were an expression … a manifestation … of the God of Wrath Himself!*

How could words have EVER described such fantastic suffering?? … though some poor souls tried! God’s full energy and strength, with no mercy* or concern for your dreadful end at all, is focused purely on vengeance.* Revenge is His and He will have it. As you … a mere mortal … a creature … have caused Him, your Lord and Creator, endless pain* through your wickedness, defiance and rebellion, so now it is with you. You purposely molested and personally marred the Holy One … and you have been doing this continuously, and you would have done so for eternity if He had been willing to permit such a villainous thing! And you thought nothing of it!!! It is a wonder that He ever permitted it at all … an incredible wonder that such an One as He ever suffered your hateful and malicious ways to corrupt the environs of His throne for even a moment. For all of His gracious calls to you to repent* and seek Him,* you would only despise* and trample Him more.* So now it is with you … how the tables have turned! Now He tramples you underfoot with His full and undiluted power!* What fierce indignation!* * What terror!!*

You have been in this violent chaos and agony for a little over two minutes now, as eternal truth enters your mind and creates a maddening, immense despair. You realize and sense the eternal scope of your suffering. The seconds pass. You are suffering the infinite fury of God, and you look in vain for an end. You will suffer this as long as you rebel against God, and that looks to be for all eternity.* There will be no end to this excruciating, horrible misery. When you look forward you see a long forever, a boundless duration before you. It swallows up your thoughts and amazes your soul; you absolutely despair of ever having any deliverance, any end, any rest at all … forever! You know certainly … that you must wear out long ages – millions and millions of ages – in wrestling with this almighty, merciless vengeance. And when you will have so done, when so many ages have been spent by you in this manner, you will know that it is all but a point to what remains. Your punishment will indeed be infinite. Who can express it? You can feel it!!

How sick, how wretched you are! You are not yet used to the excruciating pain; the agony is so great that you will never get used to it. Your soul is continually amazed as your mind flits back and forth from the present to eternity. You weep. The thunderous roar, and the smell of burning hair and flesh in the pitch blackness of eternal Hell, will occupy your senses for ever.

And what of the many billions of Christ-rejecting rebels and hellish demons and devils* who curse and rage around you, angrily thrashing and tossing about in the infernal darkness?? You will meet them all … in time.

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