The thought is being put forth that many unbelievers will undergo the second death at Armageddon before Satan is abyssed. The following scriptures are presented to support this view:
Revelation 19:20-21 (New American Standard Bible)
“And the beast was seized, and with him the false prophet who performed the signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image; these two were thrown alive into the lake of fire which burns with brimstone. And the rest were killed with the sword which came from the mouth of Him who sat on the horse, and all the birds were filled with their flesh.”
Matthew 25:41,46 NASB
“Then He will also say to those on His left, 'Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels…”
“These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
Revelation 7:14 (New American Standard Bible)
“I said to him, ‘My lord, you know.’ And he said to me, "These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”
Actually, Revelation 19:20-21 says nothing about any humans being thrown into the lake of fire, but only "these two", that is, only the "two" systems symbolized by the "beast" and the "false prophet" are said to be thrown in the lake of fire. After or at the end of the "little season"/"short time" (Revelation 20:3) which occurs *after* the 1,000 years of the reign of Jesus and the church, Satan the Devil joins these two. -- Revelation 20:10.
It is also after or at the end of that "little season"/"short while" that those humans who fail to repent at heart during the millennial age are additionally cast into the lake of fire, represented in Revelation 20:9,15. These are those spoken of in Matthew 25:41
To understand this more fully, it might be beneficial to examine the two general days of judgment, and the corresponding condemnation and wrath resulting from each.
The first day of judgment began upon the nations more than 6,000 years ago with the first man, Adam. Out of Adam came all nations of mankind. (Acts 17:26) Adam disobeyed God, bringing judgment upon himself and all nations that have come into existence through him, as we read: "The judgment was by one to condemnation, . . . therefore as by the offense of one [Adam] the judgment was to all men to condemnation." (Romans 5:16,18) The execution of that judgment upon man began with Adam and continues until today, resulting in misery, sickness and death for all. (Romans 5:12) The facts today testify to the truthfulness of that judgment day, for we see its results everywhere. Hence, it is that as a race we are a groaning creation, travailing in pain, going down to sheol, the realm of death. (Romans 8:20-23; Ecclesiastes 9:10) Our only hope of recovery from that original sentence rests in Christ. The scriptures assure us that Jesus Christ by the grace [undeserved favor] of God tasted death for every man. (Hebrews 2:9) All are thus "bought with a price." Therefore the world of mankind may hope for a full release from the death sentence in God's due time.
So before we are even born, we are already under a judgment. We receive the execution of this judgment when we die. Thus God at various times has carried out this execution against many nations and peoples who would seek to thwart his purposes. "The nations have sunk down in the pit which they made [through Adam's sin]. There own foot catches in the net which they hid. Jehovah is known by the judgment he executes. The work of his own hands ensnare the wicked one." (Psalm 9:16) The word translated "judgment" here is the Hebrew word mishpât, which Strong gives the meaning of "verdict" as well as "justice." The verdict, of course, was given in the Garden of Eden: death. The executing of that verdict meant, therefore, the death of the person or persons receiving its execution.
Terms that express the condition brought by this original sentence or judgment of death are the "wrath" and "anger" of Jehovah. "For God's wrath is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of mankind who extinguish the truth by unrighteousness; because what may be known of God has been made manifest all about them, for God has made these apparent to them. For from the creation of the world the unseen things about him can be understood by looking upon the things made, both his eternal power and divine being, so they are without excuse. Because having known God [in Adam before he sinned] they did not glorify him as God, nor were they thankful. They became futile in their reasonings, and their heart's discernment was darkened. Claiming themselves wise, they became foolish [The serpent led Eve to believe that she would become wise as a result of disobeying God. Adam also evidently felt himself wiser than God by listening the voice of his wife.] and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into a likeness of an image of corruptible man, birds, four-footed animals, and reptiles. [Adam, in obeying his wife, allowed his wife to become his god. Mankind has been bringing the glory of God down to corruptible matter ever since.] Therefore God also gave them up to the craving of their hearts, their bodies being dishonored among themselves, [Adam and Eve felt no shame concerning their bodies until they sinned. Adam did not develop a spiritual desire to serve God. He did not learn to walk by the spirit. He walked after the flesh, desiring his wife more than God.] in that they changed the truth of God into a lie, and venerated and served the created rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen." -- Romans 1:18-23.
Now we come to the scriptures that speak of the day of Jehovah's wrath, when his wrath upon mankind is being brought to an end. (Revelation 6:17) The day of his wrath is spoken of as coming in the blowing of the seventh trumpet and consisting of seven "vials" or "bowls." (Revelation 11:15; 15:7) The last bowl results in the destruction of Babylon the Great, a woman representing the false religious promises of Satan as begun in the Garden of Eden and extended all over the world. (Genesis 3:4,5; Revelation 12:9; 16:19) The destruction of those individuals who make up Satan's seed, those under God's wrath is also depicted as taking place as part of the last vial. (Revelation 19:17-19, 21) The execution upon those under God's wrath is still, however, an execution of the original sentence given in the garden of Eden -- death. The various systems of Satan receive a different sentence. Under the symbolism of a beast and false prophet, these systems are spoken of as being thrown into the "lake of fire and brimstone," referring to the lake of fire and brimstone outside the walls of Jerusalem in the Valley of Hinnom, or Gehenna. (Revelation 19:20) According to historical references to this valley in Jesus' day, fires were continuously kept burning in this valley by the addition of brimstone (sulphur), so that Jesus spoke of the "fire that does not die out," or as the King James Version says, "not quenched." (Mark 9:43-48) Now we know that the fires in the valley of Jerusalem no longer exist, so we must look upon to these Bible references as symbolic. So what does the lake of fire symbolize? Jesus spoke of those things thrown into as "destroyed." (Matthew 10:28) Thus Revelation 19:20 is referring to the destruction of Satan's systems that are symbolically spoken of the false prophet and a certain beast. These systems, as such, were produced out of the sea and earth of sinful mankind under the condemnation of death through Adam. (Revelation 13:2,11) However, these systems are eternally destroyed. Why? These systems are efforts of mankind (and demons) to bring mankind away from Adam's condemnation. Therefore, as such, they are viewed by mankind as not under that condemnation in Adam. Thus they are worshiped by men. (Revelation 13:4,12) Consequently they could be looked upon as symbolically "alive," only to end up in eternal death as a result thereof.
But notice that the individuals associated with these systems are not spoken of as going into the second death. These have never been released from Adamic death, and therefore cannot be given the execution of second death. The destruction that comes upon the nations is the execution of the original sentence given in the garden of Eden, and is the destruction spoken of as the broad road to destruction which all nations have been traveling since Adam's disobedience. (Romans 3:11-15; Matthew 7:18) As Jehovah turns the nations to destruction, he also says: "Return, you children of men!" (Psalm 90:3) Therefore the judgment remains the same as Jesus said: "If any man hears my words, does not believe, I do not judge him; for I have not come to judge the world, but to save the world. He who rejects me, and does not receive my words, has one that will judge him. The word that I have spoken, the same will judge him in the last day." (John 13:47,48) "He who disobeys the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God [through Adam] remains upon him." -- John 3:36.
Jesus therefore tells us that the individual judgment of all those who do not now believe will be in the "last day," being that the wrath of God (as a result of Adam's sin) remains upon them. Since the wrath of God remains upon them they, as individuals, will receive the execution of that wrath in the "war of the Great Day of God the Almighty" at Armageddon. The execution to be finalized at that time, however, is a result of the collective judgment that began in the Garden of Eden. Thus when Jesus spoke of that coming destruction he said: "At that time two will be out in the field; one will be taken away, and one will be left. -- Two will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken, and one will be left." (Matthew 24:40,41) Those left I understand to be those spoken of in Psalm 107:20, who call upon Jehovah through Jesus especially during the great tribulation, washing their sin-ladened robes in the blood of lamb. (Revelation 7:14) Those taken, like the antediluvians outside of God's favor, are taken in death, as a result of God's wrath which remains upon them. They are not taken in the second death. (See verse 39; see also Isaiah 24:6; Romans 5:9; Ephesians 2:3; 5:6; 1 Thessalonians 1:10; 2:16; 5:9; John 3:36) It is quite possible then, that there will not be any who have not washed their robes in the blood of the lamb will be left alive at that time, not even of natural Israel. -- Revelation 7:14.
Lets go back a little to when Jesus first returns. One of the first things he does is to complete the sealing of his bride, the 144,000 who are not only heirs of God, but joint-heirs with Christ. These are sealed out of the Israelites who are such by faith; these sealed ones are joined with Christ in symbolic marriage. (Revelation 7:1-8; 19:7,8; Matthew 24:31) After obtaining his bride and returning from the wedding, others join with them in the marriage supper. (Revelation 19:9; Luke 12:35-40; Matthew 25:1-12; Revelation 7:9-17) These I believe to be the class spoken of in Psalm 107:20 and Revelation 7:9-17. While the world is thrown into the fiery furnace of the tribulation, the last elect group of true servants of God are separated from the world by God's angels into God's symbolic barn. (Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43) Many scriptures indicate that only God's righteous ones, justified by faith in Jesus, will be left as God's kingdom fills the whole earth after it has destroyed all the unrighteous kingdoms of the world. (Daniel 2:44) It is during the time of trouble that the nations are gathered, not for their final judgment as individuals, but for the execution of judgment as had begun upon them through Adam. "For my decision is to gather nations to assemble kingdoms, to pour out upon them my indignation, all the heat of my anger; for in the fire of my jealous wrath all the earth shall be consumed." (Zephaniah 3:8, Revised Standard Version) This execution of judgment, however, not being final judgment, is rather the consummation of the judgment through Adam. The unbelieving world still has to face the final judgment in the "last day".
The "last day" is spoken of as the day when the believing dead return. (John 6:39-54) Jesus also said that unbelievers would be judged in the "last day." (John 12:47,48) Therefore the "last day" is the day of the world's resurrection and regeneration, and the "day of judgment". It is in that same "last day", however, that the judgment is given to the saints , so that they may be judges with Christ in judging the unbelieving world. (Daniel 7:22; Matthew 19:28; 1 Corinthians 6:2; Revelation 20:4), This great judgment day will be the second great judgment day for mankind. Thus we read: "He has appointed a day in which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he has ordained; of this he has given a guarantee unto all men, in that he has raised him from the dead." (Acts 17:31)
Nor should we think of this day as a 24-hour day, but as a day on a larger scale. Peter tells us: "Brothers, do not be ignorant of this one thing, that a day with Jehovah is as a thousand years." -- 2 Peter 3:8.
The world has already completed its first trial, failed and received a condemnation. The trial took place in Eden: Adam our first father, was the representative of himself and his race in the trial. He failed, and was sentenced to death, and the whole world, his posterity, are still resting under the incubus of his sentence: "Dying, you must die." -- you are unworthy of eternal life which was offered to you in the beginning -- your disobedience has proven you unworthy. As we look about us we see that none of the race has improved and reached perfection -- rather. on the contrary, the course of the race in general has been downward, and the scriptural assurance is: "There is none righteous, no not one." -- Romans 3:10.
If then the whole world is already condemned to death -- if all were born in sin and thus from birth have been under the sentence of death, what kind of a judgment further would they need? What more condemnation could they receive from Jehovah than that already against them? Surely we are not to suppose that God doubts the wisdom of his own decision, which the Scriptures express so forcefully, and that He will try matters again to see whether or not any mistake was made in His original decision. The Supreme Court of the Universe is infallible; its decision beyond repeal; its sentence is "The wages of sin is death." (Romans 6:23) For thousands of years this penalty has been inflicted. There could be no hope of a change upon the part of the great Judge. We see, then, that any thought of a repetition of the original trial and sentence is inconsistent, and hence the day of judgment spoken of in Acts 17:31 must refer to a new trial.
But on what grounds could the great Supreme Judge of the Universe grant a new trial to Adam and his family? Since Jehovah, being true to His Word, could not rescind His own just sentence, the only consideration upon which a new trial could be granted would be that the penalty of the original trial should first be met and canceled. And this is exactly what did take place: "By one man's disobedience sin entered the world, and death as a result of sin; and so death passed upon all men, for all have sinned." -- have inherited the sin, are made sinners. (Romans 5:12-19) But now the Messiah has died for the ungodly -- has redeemed Adam, and incidentally, all of his posterity involved in his transgression. Hence the Scriptures assure us that God can be just and yet be the justifier of him that believes in Jesus. (Romans 3:26) That condemnation through Adam would have meant eternal death for Adam and his race had it not been for the provision of the sacrifice of Jesus.
Here notice that the apostle (in Acts 17:31) refers right back to our Lord's great transaction, his great redemptive work and how that, after he had died for our sins, God raised him from the dead. The apostle further declares that in so doing, God gave us an assurance of his intention to grant another trial to the race of Adam and that this Jesus who died for Adam and his race is, by divine appointment, the Judge and Mediator through whom all the condemned ones, if they will, may return to the full perfection of harmony with their Creator, and the eternal life which he is pleased to give to all those who are obedient to his laws.
The first judgment was that of one man, the effects of which extended to all of his posterity, all those lost, all who were condemned, all who went into death. The divine standard can never alter; a sinner can never have eternal life, either in heaven or elsewhere. Eternal life is a gift of God, and he will give it to none who are in sinful condition. The divine proposition is, to give to Adam and every member of his race an individual opportunity for returning to harmony with God, and thus to a recovery to all that was lost through the original fall -- with added blessings in the case of the faithful followers of Jesus in the present age. This is the Good News! -- that there is a hope of eternal life through Christ, not just for those who believe in this age, but also for those who believe in that day, the last day, the age to come. Several thousand years had elapsed before our Redeemer was born upon the earth, yet in all that time none of Adam's race had escaped from death, except as reckoned alive by faith; only a few had any knowledge of the divine intention to provide a Savior and Redeemer and ultimately to roll away the curse and bring in blessings through Him.
The few faithful of old were of the Abrahamic line, the Israelite line. But even to them no promise of eternal life was given, though it was indirectly hinted at, and they were told to hope for it through the Messiah promised. Nevertheless, based on the promise of the sacrifice of Jesus, many in Old Testaments times were counted as alive before God through faith. Nevertheless, the Scriptures declare that Jesus brought life and incorruption to light through the Good News -- its full meaning was not brought to light before amongst mankind, since no human had lived a sinless life. (2 Timothy 1:10) At his birth the angels declared that they were messengers of Good News, which would have its fulfillment through the newborn babe, saying: "We bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord." -- Luke 2:10,11.
The apostle declares that these good tidings for our race are the tidings of salvation -- not salvation from the lake of fire, but salvation from sin through Adam and its death penalty. This salvation consists of two things: -1- The sinner must be imputed as righteous, no longer a sinner, and begotten again to newness of life; -2- the sinner must be raised up out of the present death conditions -- brought back to full perfection of life as it was enjoyed before the sentence or curse came upon all mankind. There is also one more aspect of this salvation, that is, the developing of faith and love to an extent that death will be completely swallowed up in victory. This would also correspond to the prospect set before Adam. Unless Adam developed his love and faith in his Creator to such perfection that it would be unthinkable that he disobey, there would always have been the threat of death. So that this threat of death would be taken away, it would have been necessary for Adam to have proven his faith and love to such an extent that there would no longer be a shadow of doubt that he would thus continue to obey. Only by such could it have been true that there would no longer be any threat of death. This is what Paul refers to as the putting on of incorruption. (1 Corinthians 15:54) Once one has proven this character to be incorruptible, then it can be said: "Death is swallowed up in victory." (See Isaiah 25:8 ) This is salvation in the broadest meaning of the term, and the apostle declares, which salvation began to be spoken by our Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that there was no offer of salvation, no basis upon which it could be offered, until Christ, as our Redeemer, our Savior, brought life and incorruption to light. Thus, nothing that he said and nothing that the apostles said warrant us in believing that this salvation will allow life eternal to be retained by any except those who prove themselves fully willing and obedient. The offer of life eternal, indeed, we are assured, is to Adam and every member of his race, but it will be for each one of them to accept or reject its terms. The good tidings of joy will be to all people, but it will mean eternal incorruptible life only to those who prove their love and obedience to him -- those who obey the great Redeemer (who is also the Teacher, the King and the Judge) will, after the final judgment, depart into eternal life, while those who prove themselves incorrigible will depart into eternal punishment. -- Matthew 25:46.
However, the salvation in general is applied in the next age, not this age. Those of this age can only participate in this salvation by faith, reaching forward in time to the age to come, and tasting of the powers of that age. (Hebrews 6:5) Those who do so do receive the possibility of access to special privileges in this age, if they avail themselves of those privileges. Most, however, who put faith in Jesus, never exercise that privilege to any great extent, and thus remain as "babes in Christ." -- 1 Corinthians 3:1.
It is not difficult to prove from the facts as well as from the Scriptures that Jehovah has a favored people who are in the world at the present time -- that, as during the Jewish Age, the seed of Abraham according to the flesh were Jehovah's favored people, and as the apostle declared, a `Jew had much advantage in every way, mainly in that to them were committed the oracles of God.' (Romans 3:2) So during the Christian era, there is still a selection according to God's favor, as the apostle points out -- only a certain class of the world is being dealt with. The great mass of mankind are not being favored with the necessary information and opportunity to come into harmony with Jehovah at the present time. We know that some, ignorant of the Scriptures and short-sighted in their view of the conditions of the world, may dispute this, but it will stand examination from both standpoints.
Notice how frequently our Lord declares that only some have the ear to hear. (Matthew 7:14; 13:9,13-18,43; Mark 4:9,12,23; 7:16; Luke 8:8; 14:35; John 10:3,16) This means that only those are called. And he assures us that even amongst the called only a comparatively few will be chosen to be of the joint-heirs with Christ, the bride of the Lamb. (Matthew 22:1-14; Romans 8:17) The prophet Isaiah holds forth a similar thought, assuring us of a future time coming, when the wilderness will blossom as a rose, namely, the Millennial Age, when all the blind eyes will be opened and all the deaf ears will be unstopped. (Isaiah 35:5) He thus implies that at the present time many eyes are closed and many ears are stopped, so that the majority of mankind now do not see and do not hear, do not appreciate, the things which God has revealed to a special class only "the called according to his purpose." -- 2 Timothy 1:9; Isaiah 29:10.
The apostle Paul also refers to the matter in the same way, only more explicitly, telling us that "the god of this world has blinded the minds of them that do not believe, lest the light of the glorious good news of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine upon them." (2 Corinthians 4:4) This implies that generally the whole world was in blindness, but that by God's grace his message through Jesus and his disciples comes as an eye-salve to some, but not to all. The vast majority, blinded by the adversary, by false octrines, selfishness, weakness, depravity, superstition, etc., are utterly blind and ignorant respecting the true qualities of God and of his Son, and the plan for his vindication through the salvation being worked out on their behalf. As the apostle declares: "The world does not know us, even as it did not know him." (1 John 3:1) It is the adversary who has brought this blindness of heart upon mankind, which hinders their knowing, loving and appreciating God's love and offer of salvation.
The question needs to be answered: Why should God provide a great feast of fat things through the sacrifice of his Son, and yet not make provision that all of the unenlightened human family of Adam should understand it? The very thought seems incongruous. He who loved the whole world so as to give his only begotten Son as their redemption price surely should love them all to such an extent that he would give them all the proper knowledge of that Son -- the knowledge necessary to their appreciation of him, and of his work, and of their privilege of return to harmony with their Creator and to everlasting life. We search the scriptures to ascertain the secret of this peculiarity, and are there informed that Jehovah is now calling a peculiar people, a cream class as it were, from the world of mankind into his marvelous light. (1 Peter 2:9,10) From amongst these called ones, God first chooses a bride for his Son who become joint-heirs with him; and secondarily others are become the bridesmaids, princesses, princes in all the earth, etc. -- Matthew 25:1-13; Psalm 45:14-15.
Looking at Acts 17:31 again, we see that it refers to the entire matter of the world's judgment as future from the apostle's day. It is still future from our day, though very near at hand. Thus we should expect that the great Sun of Righteousness will soon be disclosed to the world, and the shadows of the dark night of sin and superstition and ignorance will begin to flee away. We can no longer wonder that Jehovah, through the prophets, spoke so joyfully of this coming judgment of the world as a great blessing, saying: "Let the heavens rejoice, and the earth be glad! Let the sea roar and the fullness thereof! Let the field be joyful and all that is therein! Then all the trees of the woods will rejoice before Jehovah! For He is coming, for he is coming to judge the earth! He will judge the world with righteousness and the people with His truth!" -- Psalm 95:10-13.
The gathering of the nations for individual judgment takes place by restoring them to life so that they may be judged, not by their past works, but by their works as related to the books that will then be opened. (Revelation 20:11-13). This gathering of the heathen peoples to be judged as individuals (not in Adam) is not the gathering of nations that takes place at Armageddon for the executing of God's judgment as begun upon man through Adam. "`Therefore wait for me,' says Jehovah, `until the day I rise up for plunder, my determination is to gather the nations, to my assembly of kingdoms, to pour on them my indignation, all my fierce anger. All the earth will be devoured with the fire of my jealousy." (Zephaniah 3:8 ) This is just before or at the beginning of the 1,000-year reign of Jesus, when God executes judgment upon all the ungodly. This same period is when the day of Jehovah comes as a thief upon the world. The execution of judgment at that time is to convince the ungodly of their sins, thus indicating that their destruction is not eternal but rather for the purpose of disciplining, so that they might come to know Jehovah. (Jude 1:15; 2 Peter 3:7,10; Psalm 83:18) It is during this transition period that Satan's world is destroyed. It is not until after the destruction of this present evil world that Jehovah `turns to the peoples a pure language.' (Zephaniah 3:9) We have to admit that the peoples of the world are still being blinded by Satan. (2 Corinthians 4:4) Indeed, blindness is more prevalent today than when Jesus was here. It is not until after Satan is bound and the veil of blindness is removed that it can truly be said that the nations have received a pure language. (Isaiah 25:6-7; Revelation 20:3) And the method of gathering the nations at that time will be through the awakening of the dead, in the day when many will be turned to righteousness. -- Revelation 20:11-13; Daniel 12:2,3.
And thus we have the proper setting for the judgment of the sheep and the goats. The "sheep" of the parable are not the sheep of the present age, whom the Master knows and who know the Master. (John 10:14) Rather these sheep of that judgment day are the "other sheep" who are not of the same pastorage that recognize the Master in the present age. They are brought forth out of death in the age to come. These become the sheep of the next age. These do not inherit a place in the ruling house of God, but do inherit the kingdom prepared from the founding of the world, the kingdom that was prepared for Adam and which he lost. (Matthew 25:34; Genesis 1:28; Psalm 8:3-8; Hebrews 2:6-8 ) These inherit these promises, not after Armageddon, but after the final eternal destruction of the wicked which takes place after the thousand-year reign of Christ, that day which God has appointed "in which he will judge the world in righteousness." It is only then that one will no longer be able to find a wicked person. -- Revelation 20:7-9; Psalm 37:9-11; Acts 17:31.