The Sleep of Death in Sheol, the Two Resurrections, and the Lake of Fire Judgment

This study is available in Spanish here.

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To be dead is like to be asleep, hence why the dead are said to be sleeping,

He said, “Leave; for the girl has not died, but is asleep.” And they began laughing at Him. (Matthew 9:24 [NIV])

After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. (1 Corinthians 15:6 [NIV])

Consider and answer me, O LORD my God; light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death, (Psalm 13:3 [ESV])

And just as the passing of time is quick from the moment of sleep to the moment of waking up, so in likewise manner it is from the moment of death to the moment of resurrection. This is why Sheol is said to be a place of no thought, no knowledge, no work,

Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might, for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol, to which you are going. (Ecclesiastes 9:10 [ESV])

It is not the dead who praise the LORD, those who go down to the place of silence; (Psalm 115:17 [NIV])

Because the dead do not have thoughts, since the dead are not conscious. As such, it is the soul of a man that goes to Sheol at death,

For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption. (Psalm 16:10 [ESV])

For great is your steadfast love toward me; you have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol. (Psalm 86:13 [ESV])

Where Sheol is located in the depths and heart of the earth,

You who have made me see many troubles and calamities will revive me again; from the depths of the earth you will bring me up again. (Psalm 71:20 [ESV])

For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. (Matthew 12:40 [ESV])

Whereas the spirit of a man returns to God who gave it,

and the dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it. (Ecclesiastes 12:7 [NIV])

Because the spirit belongs to God,

And the LORD said, My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years. (Genesis 6:3 [KJV])

And this spirit of a man is his breath, which is why the Greek and Hebrew word for spirit is the same word translated as “breath” or “wind”, in which case, even animals, have this same spirit that man has,

And they went in unto Noah into the ark, two by two of all flesh in which is the spirit of life. (Genesis 7:15 [JB2000])

And so, this spirit is the breath that gives life to the body and soul,

And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul. (Genesis 2:7 [KJV])

And just as the soul becomes living when the breath of life is given, so does the soul become dead when the breath of life goes back to God who gave it. And although the body decays and returns to the dust when the breath of life is taken away,

By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.” (Genesis 3:19 [NIV])

The soul sleeps and is kept hidden in Sheol, so that it may one day be awakened at the resurrection of the dead, hence why the dead are prophesied to come out of Sheol, otherwise called Hades in the Greek, which is where the souls of the dead are,

The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what they had done. (Revelation 20:13 [NIV])

Which happens at the final great white throne judgment, at the end of the thousand year rulership of Jesus Christ,

Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. The earth and the heavens fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. (Revelation 20:11-12 [NIV])

And whoever is not found written in the book of life, will be cast into the lake of fire,

Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire. (Revelation 20:15 [NIV])

And this fire not only destroys the body, but also the soul,

And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. (Matthew 10:28 [ESV])

Which is why this judgment of fire is also called the second death,

Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. (Revelation 20:14 [NIV])

Because it will be a second death to those who died before, and then die again when thrown into the lake of fire. This is why there will be dead bodies in the lake of fire,

“And they will go out and look on the dead bodies of those who rebelled against me; the worms that eat them will not die, the fire that burns them will not be quenched, and they will be loathsome to all mankind.” (Isaiah 66:24 [NIV])

Because whoever is thrown into the lake of fire dies, and this same place described in this prophecy in Isaiah where “the worm does not die nor the fire is quenched” is the same place described by Jesus in this passage,

And if your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell, where “‘the worms that eat them do not die, and the fire is not quenched.‘ (Mark 9:47-48 [NIV])

In which case, this will not be an ordinary fire, but a lava lake, hence,

…the lake of fire. (Revelation 20:15 [NIV])

Which explains how this fire will not be quenched, just as another fire in another prophecy is described as not being quenched,

But if you do not listen to me, to keep the Sabbath day holy, and not to bear a burden and enter by the gates of Jerusalem on the Sabbath day, then I will kindle a fire in its gates, and it shall devour the palaces of Jerusalem and shall not be quenched.’” (Jeremiah 17:27 [ESV])

Because a steady lava flow does not quench, and also explains how worms will not die, because lava has a high viscosity that will cause dead bodies to float on the surface, where worms will thus feed on those bodies without dying. This fire will continue to burn for around a thousand years, which is also why it is called an aeonial fire,

“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the aeonial* fire… (Matthew 25:41 [MODIFIED-NIV])*

Interlinear Links: *αἰώνιον (aeonial), Matthew 25:41

As such, because the body and soul is destroyed, whoever is thrown into this fire will cease to exist, inclusive of angels, and even demons,

…“‘You were the seal of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. 13 You were in Eden, the garden of GodThrough your widespread trade you were filled with violence, and you sinned. So I drove you in disgrace from the mount of God, and I expelled you, guardian cherub, from among the fiery stones. 17 Your heart became proud on account of your beauty, and you corrupted your wisdom because of your splendor. So I threw you to the earth; I made a spectacle of you before kings. 18 By your many sins and dishonest trade you have desecrated your sanctuaries. So I made a fire come out from you, and it consumed you, and I reduced you to ashes on the ground in the sight of all who were watching. 19 All the nations who knew you are appalled at you; you have come to a horrible end and will be no more.’ (Ezekiel 28:12-19 [NIV])

I said, “You are gods, sons of the Most High, all of you; nevertheless, like men you shall die, and fall like any prince.” (Psalm 82:6-7 [ESV])

In the synagogue there was a man possessed by a demon, an impure spirit. He cried out at the top of his voice,
“Go away! What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are–the Holy One of God!” (Luke 4:33-34 [NIV])

Just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an impure spirit cried out, “What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are–the Holy One of God!” (Mark 1:23-24 [NIV])

And all the wicked will be reduced to mere ashes,

Then you will trample on the wicked; they will be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day when I act,” says the LORD Almighty. (Malachi 4:3 [NIV])

The wicked man sees it and is angry; he gnashes his teeth and melts away; the desire of the wicked will perish! (Psalm 112:10 [ESV])

This is why it is said that the anger of God, although severe, is but for a moment,

For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning. (Psalm 30:5 [NIV])

Whereas those who have died and belong to Jesus Christ will be resurrected at his second coming, at the sound of a trumpet associated with his coming,

Then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven. And then all the peoples of the earth will mourn when they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory… with a loud trumpet call…
 (Matthew 24:30-31 [NIV])

For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. (1 Thessalonians 4:16 [NIV])

[51] Behold, I speak a mystery to you; we shall not all indeed sleep, but all shall be changed, [52] in an instant, in the blink of an eye, at the last trumpet. For it shall trump, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. [53] For it is necessary this corruption to put on incorruptibility, and this mortal to put on immortality. [54] But whenever this corruptible should have put on incorruptibility, and this mortal should have put on immortality, then shall come to pass the word having been written, Death was swallowed down in victory.
(I Corinthians 15:51-54 [ABP])

In that day the LORD will thresh from the flowing Euphrates to the Wadi of Egypt, and you, Israel, will be gathered up one by one. And in that day a great trumpet will sound… (Isaiah 27:12-13 [NIV])

“As for you, go your way till the end. You will rest, and then at the end of the days you will rise to receive your allotted inheritance.” (Daniel 12:13 [NIV])

And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people: and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book. And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to aeonial* life, and some to shame and aeonial* contempt. And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars aeonially* and beyond*. (Daniel 12:1-3 [MODIFIED-KJV])*

Interlinear Links: *‘ō·w·lām (aeonial), *lə·‘ō·lām (aeonially), *wā·‘eḏ (beyond), Daniel 12:2, Daniel 12:3

He will raise a banner for the nations and gather the exiles of Israel; he will assemble the scattered people of Judah from the four quarters of the earth. (Isaiah 11:12 [NIV])

And will be gathered together by angels to be taken to meet the Lord in the air, along with the elect who were already alive at his coming,

Then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven… And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other. (Matthew 24:30-31 [NIV])

For the Lord himself will come down from heaven…with the trumpet call of God… Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 [ESV])

This is the first resurrection spoken of in this prophecy,

Blessed and holy are those who share in the first resurrection… but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years. (Revelation 20:6 [NIV])

In which case, whoever partakes in the first resurrection, will not only rule with Jesus Christ for a thousand years on this earth, but will also live onwards into the aeons of the aeons beginning in a new heaven and new earth, since those who are resurrected in this first resurrection will never die again, since none of these will be thrown into the lake of fire to die a second death,

Blessed and holy are those who share in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them… (Revelation 20:6 [NIV])

Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. (Revelation 21:1 [NIV])

And there will be no night there; and they have no need of a lamp, and the light of the sun, for the Lord  God enlightens them; and they shall reign into the aeons* of the aeons*. (Revelation of John 22:5 [ABP])*

Interlinear Links: *αἰῶνας (aeons), αἰώνων (aeons), Revelation 22:5

And death will also no longer exist in the aeons of the new heaven and new earth,

He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death‘ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Revelation 21:4 [NIV])

Below is a picture I took of hot lava flowing over dry lava in Big Island, Hawaii. The hot lava is unbearably hot, and the dry lava cuts like glass. The idea of being thrown into a lake of this is utterly terrifying, but such is the demise of most mankind, where a lake of this will one day exist with cadavers and worms,

Recommended after reading this study,

The Second Coming, the Trumpet Blasts, the Bowls of Wrath, and Inheriting the Earth

Aeonial is Not Eternal, Aeons, and the Mistranslation of Forever and Ever

The Interpretation of the Rich Man and Lazarus Parable