Wednesday, 11 August 2021
But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.” Revelation 21:8
The Lord noted those who would inherit all things in the previous verse. It is “he who overcomes.” Anyone who doesn’t fit into this category will have a different fate ahead of him. To give an idea of the type of people this includes, a list is provided. The idea here is that all who don’t believe in and accept the finished work of Christ are a part of this list, demonstrating their actual state of lowliness, regardless of how they think of themselves.
Understanding that, Jesus begins the list of those who are disqualified. Each is in the dative case, meaning that they are the recipients of the action that will be expressed. One can think of each category being preceded by the word “for” or “to.” Thus, “To this group, and to this group, and to this group there will be this consequence applied to them.” As such, Jesus begins with, “But the cowardly.” Hence, think of “But to the cowardly.”
The idea of being a coward brings up the thought of shrinking back in fear during a time of war or the like. This is not what is being referred to. The word is deilos. It signifies fearful, timid, or cowardly. The word is used in Matthew 8:26, Mark 4:40, Hebrews 12:28 (where it is translated as “godly fear”), and in this verse.
HELPS Word Studies defines the term – “properly, dreadful, describing a person who loses their ‘moral gumption (fortitude)’ that is needed to follow the Lord. / refers to an excessive fear (dread) of ‘losing,’ causing someone to be fainthearted (cowardly) – hence, to fall short in following Christ as Lord. / deilós is always used negatively in the NT and stands in contrast to the positive fear which can be expressed by 5401 /phóbos (“fear,” see Phil 2:12).”
As it has already been noted concerning those who “overcome” from the previous verse, this cannot be referring to someone who expresses fear after salvation. It refers to one who never receives Christ out of fear of the consequences of doing so.
The next on the list include the “unbelieving.” The word, in this context, is anyone who has failed to believe the gospel. As belief in the gospel is required to be sealed with the Holy Spirit, such a person is unsaved. Paul defines this in Ephesians 1 –
“In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.” Ephesians 1:13, 14
A person who believes the gospel is sealed with the Holy Spirit as a guarantee of his salvation. Those who do not believe will not be saved. The context of Jesus’ words is after His completed work and ascension. Thus, a lack of belief in the gospel is the focus of what is stated here. Next, it refers to the “abominable.”
The word is a perfect participle, and it signifies “to stink.” Thus, it speaks of the total corruption of the person. He is foul, detestable, and loathsome. Remembering that those on this list are given as comparisons, it is saying that those who may think they are pure and good smelling are rejected, vile, and loathsome without Christ.
Jesus next mentions “murderers.” This refers to those who commit unjustified, intentional homicide. Jesus uses the verb form of this word to make a point about people’s need for Him –
“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment.” Matthew 5:21, 22
God looks at the heart when He evaluates man. The act of murder carries punishment, but the intent of the heart is no less convicting before God. This is true with the next category, the “sexually immoral.”
The word speaks of a male prostitute. However, in the New Testament, that is given as a type of any who engages in sexual immorality. Of such conduct, Jesus uses adultery as an example of the intent of the heart –
“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Matthew 5:27, 28
The next on this list includes “sorcerers.” HELPS Word Studies defines this as “properly, a sorcerer; used of people using drugs and ‘religious incantations’ to drug people into living by their illusions – like having magical (supernatural) powers to manipulate God into giving them more temporal possessions.”
From there, Jesus refers to “idolaters.” This speaks of a server or worshiper, either literally or figuratively, of idols. Being in a congregation where Christian images, such as crucifixes, statues of “saints,” and so on are served must be included in this. Without Christ’s atoning sacrifice to cover one’s sins, such actions merely heap up added guilt. They are no different than worshiping statues of Buddha.
Jesus finishes this list by saying, “and all liars.” The word used is general in nature. It certainly includes liars, but it signifies false, deceitful, lying, and untruths.
Of these, Jesus says they “shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone.” This is hell. It is a place from which there is no escape and no end. God promised full restoration to man of that which was lost. But that is conditional on the work of the Messiah. He completed His work, and all who receive Him will be saved. All who do not are included in this list of doomed souls.
Again, and as stated before, the list is given as a comparative list to show that those who have not come to Christ are like any of those mentioned in this verse. There is no gradient scale by which man can be saved. There is no bell curve. There will be no evaluations of how hard or how well someone worked. There is either being in Christ and being covered by His righteousness, or there is nakedness and exposure. Those who stand naked and exposed before God will find their place in this lake of fire, “which is the second death.”
The second death is that spiritual death that all humans are born with. We are born physically alive, but spiritually dead. Being born again in Christ restores the spiritually dead condition to life. Not being found in Christ leaves that person dead in sin. When he dies, his spiritual condition is in an unconverted state. As such, his fate is sealed. The lake of fire becomes his eternal home. As Jesus says, “this is the second death.”
The 21st letter of the Hebrew aleph-bet, Shin, corresponds to the 21st Chapter of Revelation. Shin is pictured as the two front teeth, and it signifies sharp, press, eat, and two. However, it also represents the eternal flame. Thus, there is a contrast between the lake of fire in verse 8 and the illumination of God and the light of the Lamb in verse 23. There are those condemned to the flames, and there are those who will be illuminated by the light of God – both are eternal.
Life application: One of the most common misperceptions about Jesus is that He is a cosmic pushover and that through His work there is an “anything goes” attitude concerning our walk and conduct. This attitude leads to heretical groups and cults by the bucketful.
People who spend all their time solely in the beatitudes fail to take in the whole counsel of God. They fail to realize that the same God who thrust Adam from the Garden of Eden, who swept the world clean in the Flood of Noah, who destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah with fire and brimstone, who punished the people who had stood at the base of Mount Sinai – making them wander in the wilderness until all the disobedient were dead – and who also exiled His chosen people from their land – among many other acts of judgment recorded in the Bible – is the same God who spoke out those beatitudes. He is the Lord Jesus. He is the Judge of the sins of the world, and He will cast those who fail to meet His perfect standard into the lake which burns with fire and brimstone.
In the end, all of the sins of man can be forgiven, but they must acknowledge their violations of what God expects of and from His people. Only through the cleansing power of the precious blood of Christ can man be purified from these things. Let us come to the throne of grace and receive God’s offer of mercy while there is still time to do so. Let us come to JESUS.
Lord Jesus, we come before You and confess that our lives have been lived apart from You. We have committed sinful acts and deserve only God’s wrath. But we look to You for forgiveness and mercy. Thank You, Lord, for the undeserved favor You offer. Amen.