The hope of eternal life in God’s kingdom is described many times in the Bible. But what about the destiny of the wicked? What happens to them?

Bible teaching on death, and the wicked

Here is a selection of Bible passages which describe their fate:

the wicked will perish: … they vanish—like smoke they vanish away. (Psalm 37:20).

the wicked will be cut off from the land, and the treacherous will be rooted out of it. (Proverbs 2:22).

They are dead, they will not live; They are deceased, they will not rise. Therefore you have punished and destroyed them, And made all their memory to perish. (Isaiah 26:14, NKJV).

And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. (Daniel 12:2)

They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction (2 Thessalonians 1:9)

And these will go away into everlasting punishment (Matthew 25:46)

So the wicked will also be resurrected when Jesus returns, and their punishment is rejection and then destruction. Everlasting punishment is everlasting death. The final punishment of the wicked is annihilation, perpetual death, being cut off from the land of the living forever. This makes sense because it is consistent with Bible teaching concerning life and death, “for the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23).

Eternal torment?

Nowhere does the Bible teach that the wicked suffer eternal torment. There are two passages that have been misinterpreted to say this:

  1. The parable of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16. This parable is an elaborate parody as explained here and was never intended to be taken literally.
  2. Revelation 20:10 which says that the devil, the beast and the false prophet are thrown into a lake of fire to be tormented. However, a few verses later (v14) we are told that death and hades are also thrown into the fire and that the lake of fire is a symbol of the second death. So clearly this passage is also highly symbolic and not intended to be taken literally.

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