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The Fate of the Unrighteous Dead in Isaiah 66:24

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Question:  Hi Bob,  Could you tell me about the meaning of the description of the dead in Isaiah 66:24?

Response:  As is made clear by verse twenty-two, this last paragraph in the book of Isaiah is speaking about the Eternal State (otherwise described in scripture as "the Kingdom of the Father": cf. Matt.13:43). That is to say, these verses describe the final state of things, after the Tribulation, after the Second Advent, after the Millennial Rule of Christ, after the "Great White Throne [i.e. "Last"] Judgment" when we will inhabit a "new heavens and a new earth" (cf. Rev.21:1 - the same reference as we find in v.22 of Isaiah 66), the place of the New Jerusalem of Revelation chapters 21-22. This will be a place "where righteousness dwells" (2Pet.3:13), and one from which all evil-doers (that is, all unbelievers and fallen angels) will be excluded forever (Rev.21:8; 21:7; 22:15). But while our blessed portion will be with the Father and the Lamb in that wonder of wonders, the New Jerusalem, those who rejected Jesus Christ in this life, and those who followed Satan to rebel against Him, will have their portion in the lake of fire "which burns forever" (Matt.25:41; Mk.9:48; Rev.19:20; 20:10; 20:15; 21:8), the final place of disposition for all of God's enemies. This fiery lake of torments, currently unoccupied (it is to be distinguished from the present "holding area" of hell/sheol below the earth: cf. the parable of the rich man and Lazarus in Lk.16:19-31), has already "been prepared for the devil and his angels" (Matt.25:41), filled by the stream of fire which proceeds for the very throne of the Father (cf. Dan.7:9-11; cf. Rev.14:10-11). The last prophesied event before the commencement of eternity is the Last [or "Great White Throne"] Judgment, wherein all the unrighteous, men and angels, will judged and committed to this fiery lake. In the Eternal State, in the New Jerusalem, those who have rejected and chosen against God and His Son will play no role except to serve as a testimony to God's truth and righteousness and as a spectacle to those who accepted and chose for Him and His Son. This is the basic meaning of the Is.66:24 passage, namely, the eternal, cautionary spectacle for the elect which these rebels will provide, confined forever in torments:

And yet a third angel followed them, saying in a loud voice, "If anyone worships the beast and his image and receives a mark upon his forehead or upon his hand, he himself will also drink from the wine of God's wrath which has been mixed undiluted in the cup of His anger. And [that person] will be tortured/tormented in fire and sulfur before the holy angels and before the Lamb. And the smoke of their torture/torment will go up forever and ever, and they have no rest day or night, those who worship the beast and his image and whoever takes the mark of his name."
Revelation 14:9-11

This is exactly what Jesus is saying in Mark 9:48 and the surrounding context. The fire of the lake where the condemned will reside will never be quenched, and their suffering will never end, because they saw fit to reject and even fight against the One who sacrificed so much to save them from this end (i.e., "those who rebelled against me" - Is.66:24).

As to the references to "worms", this is possibly a use of poetic language to make the point (for example, trees "clap their hands" in Is.55:12, an event we are not to take "literally" but see as an expression of the joy of all nature at the return of Christ and the beginning of the Millennium: cf. Rom.8:19) - in "the grave" we expect to find dead bodies being eaten by worms. This poetic imagery brings home in a powerful way the disgusting "second death" to which the enemies of God have betrayed themselves (Rev.20:14). What is clear from all the passages above is that the unrighteous dead will be resurrected (cf. Dan.12:2), and therefore will inhabit bodies in this "second death" of torments and will be visible to all elect mankind and angelic kind, wherein their folly and God's complete vindication will be clear for all eternity.

Please see also the following links:

The Lake of Fire

The Last Judgment

Three verses in Isaiah (Is.21:4; 28:10, & 66:24).

Against Universalism I

Against Universalism II

Hope this helps to clear up your question.

Yours in Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

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