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There are some who believe that the "Second Death" in Revelation is not literal, but figurative of eternal separation from God in hell.

Revelation 20:14 Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire.

Revelation 21:8 But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”

For those that do not believe that the Second Death is eternal death/destruction, and instead believe that it symbolizes eternal conscious separation from God, particularly one that leads to being tormented in hell for eternity, how do you reconcile this with the fact that God is the only source of life?

Genesis 3:22-23 Then the LORD God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, knowing good and evil. And now, lest he reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever...” Therefore the LORD God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken.

God knew that if the humans ate from the tree of life they would live forever; He did not want that to happen. Hence why He took necessary action to ensure that they would NOT live forever. Said action was to banish the humans from the Garden of Eden, henceforth preventing them from eating of the tree of life and living forever. Essentially, humans are not, by virtue of being human, capable of living forever; if we were, then it would not have mattered if God banished them from Eden. But He did. They were officially and irrevocably separated from the tree of life; this directly corresponds to them being mortal and dying. All God had to do was separate them from the tree of life to guarantee their ultimate death.

John 11:25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live,

John 14:6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father except through Me.

Assuming that by "the life" Jesus meant eternal life(life that never ends), Jesus is saying that He is eternal life, i.e. that one can only attain eternal life(life that never ends) through Him. It follows then that if someone is permanently separated from Him who is eternal life, they cannot have eternal life(you cannot have something while also being separated from it).

John 6:63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.

Jesus makes it here as unequivocal as possible. It is God's Spirit that gives eternal life. Being permanently separated from God means being permanently separated from His Spirit. How, then, can those permanently separated from God(and His Spirit) live forever to be tormented in hell? Perhaps most unambiguously;

1 John 5:20 And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.

It is incontrovertible; God is eternal life. Ultimate and permanent separation from God directly corresponds to ultimate and permanent separation from eternal life, i.e. it is impossible for one to live forever if completely separated from the sole means of living forever. It's logically inconsistent to say that the wicked burn eternally alive in hell while also permanently separated from the only means of eternal life(i.e. God); you can't simultaneously have something and be separated from it(just as Adam and Eve could not eat from the tree of life while also separated from the Garden of Eden[which contains the tree of life]). But perhaps I am completely missing something. Hence my question...

  • How can the wicked live for eternity in hell while simultaneously being permanently separated from God, the only source of eternal life?
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  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Ken Graham
    Commented Feb 14, 2022 at 14:02
  • Seems like a philosophical question to me, not a theological one. Mainly because you happened to bold the word "logic". I closed it for a second, but I reconsidered. I would prefer you asked these questions from a certain point of view so they can be answered concretely and not just poetically.
    – Peter Turner
    Commented Feb 14, 2022 at 14:09
  • @PeterTurner Thank you very much. I appreciate it! I'm currently working on an answer for it, so hopefully you find it concrete and not poetic. :-)
    – Rajesh
    Commented Feb 14, 2022 at 14:13
  • The truth is, when something that is logical is then denied by historical error, this question needs to be asked. The O.P is 100% correct ..Satan is not able to give life. The Bible adequately explains death...the dead know nothing and for them there is no further reward! It is simply a misinterpretation to believe the wicked live for eternity suffering.
    – Adam
    Commented Mar 11, 2022 at 21:16
  • When you say prove using scripture - what do you mean by "scripture"? =) Commented Mar 12, 2022 at 4:27

9 Answers 9

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I'll attempt to provide a simple answer. Hopefully others will join the discussion and offer more elaborate ones.


According to John 17:3 (ESV):

And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.

In other words, eternal life means to be in a permanent state of intimate knowing (relationship) with God and Jesus Christ.

1 John 4:7-12 (ESV) sheds additional light:

7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.

From this passage we gain insight into what it means to know God: knowing God cannot be separated from loving God, receiving His love and channeling that love through us toward others.

This link between love and knowing God is strengthened by John 14:23 (ESV):

23 Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.

And Galatians 5:22-23 explains that love is a fruit of the Holy Spirit:

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

In short, from the above passages we gather that eternal life means:

  • knowing God (eternally)
  • loving God (eternally)
  • having an intimate relationship with the Father & the Son (John 14:23) and the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23)

Therefore, those who experience the Second Death and are thus eternally separated from God can still be said to lack eternal life even if they have an eternal conscious existence because:

  • they don't know God (in their separated mode of existence)
  • they don't love God (in their separated mode of existence)
  • they don't have an intimate relationship with the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit (in their separated mode of existence)

Therefore, you can exist eternally and consciously separated from God and still lack eternal life. There is no contradiction as far as the definitions are concerned.


Note: this answer was inspired by this short clip where William Lane Craig briefly discusses his view on Annihilationism. See also the answers to the question Does it follow from John 17:3 that the wicked will cease to exist (since they won't have eternal life)?


Appendix - Formalizing concepts

Due to confusions arising from ambiguities in the meaning of certain words, I'm including this section as an attempt to formalize the definition of several key concepts.

Self: the essence of a conscious being. It can be embodied or disembodied. (See here & here for related discussions.)

Life_type_1: the union between a self and a physical body.

Life_type_2: the union between a self and a glorified body.

Life_type_3: the union between a self and God (Father, Son & Holy Spirit).

Physical birth: an event in which a disembodied self acquires Life_type_1 for the first time

Resurrection: an event in which a disembodied self acquires either Life_type_1 or Life_type_2 again

Born again experience: an event in which a self acquires Life_type_3

Bodily dead: said of a self that lacks both Life_type_1 and Life_type_2 (i.e. a self that is disembodied).

Spiritually dead: said of a self that lacks Life_type_3

First death: an event in which a self loses Life_type_1 (i.e. becomes disembodied).

Second death: an event in which a self is declared officially and irrevocably spiritually dead on Judgement Day (there are no more chances for repentance).

Eternal life: the state of having Life_type_3 permanently and irrevocably. If you believe in the "once saved always saved" doctrine, this state begins as soon as you become born again. Otherwise, at the very least this state is fully confirmed on Judgement Day, when your eternal fate is sealed.

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  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Ken Graham
    Commented Feb 13, 2022 at 1:31
  • SRI, You said at the start of your answer, "Hopefully others will join the discussion..." but surely you know by now that this site is not for discussions? A question is asked, individuals can post an answer, and the OP can tick one that seems best. End of. Comments are only for suggestions to improve the Q or and A. So, could you kindly remove that "Hopefully others will join the discussion"?
    – Anne
    Commented Mar 8, 2022 at 15:34
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+100

The last thing this question needs are lots more details in addition to the multitude already given in various answers. My answer is a simple clarification. Track the line of argument via the bold sentences.

The wicked are already separated from the only source of life (God) due to their wicked sinfulness. Even while they live here, on earth, in the body, they are separated from God (Isaiah 59:2 - God does not look on them, & Habakkuk 1:13 - God is too holy to look upon sin). Yet they continue to live physically, until such time as they receive the wage for their sin - physical death - Romans 6:23. However, that verse shows something else at work, when the previous verse is also considered:

"But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." Romans 6:22-23 A.V.

This shows that humans on earth, living physically, can be set free from their sin and so due to receive everlasting (eternal) life through Christ, despite dying physically. They still have to receive their 'wage' for the body of sin they built up while in the flesh - physical death - but from the time they had saving faith in Christ, they began to live spiritually, a never-ending life in Christ:

"He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, has everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life." - John 6:47

"He that believes on me has everlasting life." - Ibid. 6:47 Jesus speaking both times, present tense.

But until people begin to live spiritually, they only live physically, and if they die physically in that unregenerated state, they remain spiritually dead to God and Christ, therefore they cannot receive the life everlasting promised to those born again of the Spirit. Yet they are not annihilated at physical death! The spirit in them returns to God for the judgment:

"Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was, and the spirit shall return to God who gave it... For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good or bad, or whether it be evil." - Ecclesiastes 12:7-14

There is a God-given spirit in every human, which will return to God, for judgment. Resurrection bodies will be created on the Day of Judgment, to "clothe" those spirits with, to stand before the throne of judgment - Revelation 20:11-15. In those resurrection bodies that are designed for the eternal state, the judged either go to the eternally burning lake of fire where Satan & Co already are, or to heavenly bliss with their Saviour. Just as Satan is eternally tormented (Rev. 14:10-11) so are all those who have his 'mark' - the wicked.

If God will not cause Satan to cease to exist, who is already alienated from God, but has allocated outer darkness and eternal torment for him and his followers, why should humans who have his mark on them, identified with him in their sinful and unrepented-of wickedness, not also continue existing in blackest darkness in that eternal torment? The light of God does not shine on them, but God does not take back the life he gave them. They simply exist without his light and love, knowing they have chosen to reject God, and regretting that for eternity.

Though God has chosen not to give certain ones eternal life in his holy presence, it does not follow that they must cease to exist. They simply exist outside of his holy presence, outside of his glorious light. It is where eternal life is experienced that is the point of scripture; either rejoicing in God's presence, or agonising forever shut out of that presence. But just as people can live physically whilst simultaneously being spiritually 'dead'- "dead in trespasses and sins", Ephesians 2:1 - so can physically dead people live in the spirit - awaiting the final judgment as to whether they will enter God's presence, or be eternally shut out of it, cast into outer darkness - "wandering stars, to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness FOREVER." - Jude verse 13.

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  • Interesting perspective. So, eternal life isn't exactly "knowing God" then? It's eternal spiritual life, that is, eternal life = eternal being connected to God? If so, this part of your answer confuses me; "Though God has chosen not to give certain ones eternal life in his holy presence, it does not follow that they must cease to exist. They simply exist outside of his holy presence, outside of his glorious light." Is the eternal life in question life that lasts for eternity or being connected to God? Are there 2 definitions of eternal life you're going by? Thanks!! +1 :)
    – Rajesh
    Commented Mar 12, 2022 at 15:49
  • @Rajesh The demons know God and scripture but that doesn't lead them to worship God after they turned to follow Satan: James 2:19. To know God & Christ believingly, in faith, IS life eternal as Jesus said in Jn.17:2-3. Such ones are not of the world; they are sanctified through God's word, which is truth (vs.16-19) You cannot separate knowing God like that from eternal life. As Satan and his demons continue to exist outside of God's presence, so do all who choose Satan's way and believe his lies. There is life eternal in bliss, or in torment: Lk 16:19-31 We have our being in God who is eternal
    – Anne
    Commented Mar 13, 2022 at 12:47
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'In whom we live and move and have our being' [Acts 17:28 KJV]

The original (see The Englishman's Greek New Testament) has 'live and move and are'.

Our being is in God.

He saith 'I am that I am'.

And we are in Him.

We exist because he exists.

He has shared his existence with us.

And his existence has no end.

Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it. [Ecclesiastes 12:7 KJV]

In death, the body is buried and corrupts.

But the spirit returns to God.

And shall be re-united bodily, in the day of resurrection.

Then shall we be forever with the Lord . . . . . or in a lake of fire, as it is written.

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    @Rajesh this is precisely why I don't think this is question ought to be asked here. If it's just something you want to discuss with friends, do that, if you want to ask a pastor that's good too. But here, answers are just facts about Christian doctrines leaving you to draw your own conclusions.
    – Peter Turner
    Commented Feb 14, 2022 at 18:07
  • @PeterTurner "answers are just facts about Christian doctrines leaving you to draw your own conclusions" Oh! That is... I see. Well, thanks for letting me know. :)
    – Rajesh
    Commented Feb 14, 2022 at 19:24
  • 1
    @rajesh (with apologies to Nigel for pinging him yet again) I forgot to write "And NOT enter into a discussion with other users over the merits of your conclusions except, if they offer, in a chat room"
    – Peter Turner
    Commented Feb 14, 2022 at 19:42
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How can the wicked live for eternity in hell when they are completely separated from the only source of eternal life?

The short answer is simple: The wicked do not desire to be in the presence of God, who is the Author of all goodness and holiness.

Man has been created by God with an immortal soul, yet how can those who are evil and despise God himself, live with Him. They can not and thus there exists Hell.

St. Matthew makes this clear that the physical death of a human being is distinct from the spiritual death in Hell.

And fear ye not them that kill the body, and are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him that can destroy both soul and body in hell. - Matthew 10:28

But what is Hell? It is the absence of God.

Yes, hell is the absence of God. Here is 2 Thessalonians 1:7–9:

When the Lord is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might.

Back in the 1980's a certain book was quite popular reading in Catholic high schools. I remember reading it in high school myself. The idea that God is not in hell comes across quite well in The Screwtape Letters.

The separation from God is pivotal to C. S. Lewis' vision of hell:

Separation seems for Lewis to describe the essential idea of hell, capturing what is conveyed by the biblical imagery of torture, destruction, and privation. To be forever cut off from God’s presence, eternally unable to know God’s love and mercy, would be a torture best described by being burned ceaselessly by fire. To be totally separated from other creatures, to be wholly and increasingly self-absorbed, makes that self smaller and smaller, and ultimately will result in the person ceasing to be a self. To someone who has been wholly centered on self, having that self cease to exist would be the ultimate possible loss, a horror describable for us, Lewis says, only through images of physical destruction. The torture of separation and the terror of ceasing to exist are better seen not as punishments imposed by God, but as the natural and inevitable outcome of choices humans themselves make and attitudes they themselves develop. - Heaven and Hell Idea and Image in C. S. Lewis

Nevertheless, I still feel the need to show that concept of "hell being the absence of God" in a more historical sense. There are echoes of it throughout the ages.

When I was a young lad, I was taught how to make a perfect Act of Contrition, so I could pray it when I went to confession to a priest. Here is the one that I learned as a child:

O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee, and I detest all my sins, because I dread the loss of heaven, and the pains of hell; but most of all because they offend Thee, my God, Who are all good and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve, with the help of Thy grace to confess my sins, to do penance and to amend my life. Amen. (ACT of Perfect Contrition)

One can see that I put the words the pains of hell in bold. This is done because one of the greatest pains one could possibly endure would be the fact that the damned are deprived of the presence of God.

”The pain of the damned,” says St. Thomas, ”is infinite, because it is the loss of an infinite good.” (1. 2, qu. 87, a. 4.) Such, too, is the doctrine of St. Bernard, who says, that the value of the loss of the damned is measured from the infinitude of God the supreme good.

Hence, hell does not consist in its devouring fire, nor in its intolerable stench, nor in the unceasing shrieks and bowlings of the damned, nor in the terrific sight of the devils, nor in the narrowness of that pit of torments, in which the damned are thrown one over the other: the pain which constitutes hell is the loss of God. In comparison of this pain, all the other torments of hell are trifling.

The reward of God’s faithful servants in heaven is, as he said to Abraham, God himself. ”I am thy reward, exceeding great.” (Gen. xv. 1.) Hence, as God is the reward of the blessed in heaven, so the loss of God is the punishment of the damned in hell.

Hence, St. Bruno has truly said, that how great soever the torments which may be inflicted on the damned, they never can equal the great pain of being deprived of God. Add torments to torments, but do not deprive them of God. ”Addantur tormenta tormentis, et Deo non priventur.” (Serm. de Jud. Fin.) According to St. Chrysostom, a thousand hells are not equal to this pain. Speaking of the loss of God, he said: ”Si mille dixeris gehennas, nihil par dices illius doloris.” (Hom, xlix., ad Pop.) God is so lovely that he deserves infinite love.

The sinner, drowned in sensual pleasures, scarcely knows God: he sees him only in the dark, and therefore he disregards the loss of God. But in hell he shall know God, and shall be tormented for ever by the thought of having voluntarily lost his infinite good. A certain Parisian doctor appeared after death to his bishop, and said that he was damned. His bishop asked him if he remembered the sciences in which he was so well versed in this life. He answered, that in hell the damned think only of the pain of having lost God.

”Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire. ” (Matt. xxv. 41.) “Depart from me.” This command constitutes the hell of the damned. Begone from me; you shall be no longer mine, and I shall be no longer yours. ”You are not my people, and I will not be yours.” (Osee i. 9.)

St. Augustine says, that if the damned saw the beauty of God, “they should feel no pain, and hell itself would be converted into a Paradise.” (Lib. de Trip. Hab.) But the damned shall never see God. When David forbade his son Absalom to appear in his presence, the sorrow of Absalom was so great, that he entreated Joab to tell his father that he would rather be put to death than never more be permitted to see his face. ”I beseech thee, therefore, that I may see the face of the king; and if he be mindful of my iniquity, let him kill me.” (2 Kings xiv. <32.) - On the Pain of Loss which the Damned Suffer in Hell ON – St. Alphonsus

In hell there is no love. God is love. The damned hate and curse all the angels and saints. They curse particularly their guardian angels their special advocates and above all, the Virgin Mary, the Mother of Jesus. They hate the wounds of Jesus Christ, the blood of Jesus Christ, and the death of Jesus Christ. They hate the living of this world, especially those in the state of grace. Moreover they hate one another and themselves. How can God be present amongst such emptiness. The reprobates are thus left to themselves without God!

For those who are more into private revelation, here is something to ponder:

Our greatest torment consists in knowing with certainty that we will never see God. How greatly we are tortured by that which we were indifferent to while on earth! - Letter from a Soul in Hell

St. Augustine said, “The separation from God is a torment as great as God." Cf. Houdry, Bibliotheca concionatorum (Venice, 1786), vol 2, “Infernus,” No. 4, p. 427.

The greatest torment consists in knowing with certainty that we will never see God and this constitutes the second death.💀 The damned are thus very much alive in Hell for eternity.

In Hell there is no love, and the damned do not desire to be in the presence of God, who is the Author of Love. Christ died for sinners, yet some refuse his Divine Mercy.

I fell sorry for Satan, for he loves not!

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  • Btw, I didn't downvote your answer. I actually really appreciate it. :) So here's a +1. Have a good day! :D
    – Rajesh
    Commented Feb 13, 2022 at 6:57
  • 1
    @Rajesh All is good. Pax.
    – Ken Graham
    Commented Feb 13, 2022 at 14:25
  • How does one suppose that the very same fire and brimstone that destroys the wicked earth and cleanses it, how is that same fire going to be survivable for the wicked? It's illogical and nonsense. The wicked will not burn in hell forever...they will be burned up in the lake of fire and that is the end of it for them.
    – Adam
    Commented Mar 11, 2022 at 21:20
  • @Adam Who says that it is the very same fire and brimstone? The fire of hell seems to be something unique imposed by God on the Demons and the Damned. The fire and brimstone that destroys the earth and cleanses it is not the same as that is mysteriously in the place created for Satan and all the evil devils for eternity.
    – Ken Graham
    Commented Mar 12, 2022 at 2:05
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I'll offer a Latter-day Saint's perspective

Eternal man

We have always existed and will always exist (D&C 93:29,33; Alma 42:16).

We have a "self" (or "mind" or "intelligence" or "consciousness") that has been from eternity past; it was clothed with a spirit by God our Father. (Abraham 3:22-23, Moses 3:7, Acts 17:29, Family Proclamation par. 3)

Upon entering mortal life, we were further clothed with a physical body: spirit and body were joined together. Spirit (and "intelligence") continue on in the Spirit World after physical death; the body molders on earth. (Genesis 2:7, Eccl. 12:7, Alma 40:11-14)

At the resurrection, spirit & body are reunited, never again to be separated. All members of the family of Adam will exist forever with an immortal spirit joined to an immortal body. (D&C 138:17, 2 Nephi 9:21-22)

We did not begin to exist; we will not cease to exist--rather, our "self" is transformed through the process known as the Plan of Salvation. I see a beginning & ending of our existence as category errors--that's not the kind of beings we are are--we are eternal beings, clothed with spirit & body in the image of God.

--

What are life & death

Life is a joining together; death is a separation. Although new life may change our state of being/experience/perceptions, it does not begin our consciousness. Death may change our state of being/experience/perceptions, but it does not end our consciousness.

The (Nephite) prophet Jacob explained death:

10 O how great the goodness of our God, who prepareth a way for our escape from the grasp of this awful monster; yea, that monster, death and hell, which I call the death of the body, and also the death of the spirit.

11 And because of the way of deliverance of our God, the Holy One of Israel, this death, of which I have spoken, which is the temporal, shall deliver up its dead; which death is the grave.

12 And this death of which I have spoken, which is the spiritual death, shall deliver up its dead; which spiritual death is hell; wherefore, death and hell must deliver up their dead, and hell must deliver up its captive spirits, and the grave must deliver up its captive bodies, and the bodies and the spirits of men will be restored one to the other; and it is by the power of the resurrection of the Holy One of Israel. (2 Nephi 9:10-12)

He describes physical death in verse 7:

this flesh must have laid down to rot and to crumble to its mother earth

He describes spiritual death in verse 9:

to be shut out from the presence of our God, and to remain with the father of lies, in misery, like unto himself

To borrow a phrase from SpiritRealmInvestigator: "death" & "consciousness" are orthogonal properties.

--

Kingdoms of Glory

I do not believe salvation/damnation are boolean concepts. Paul spoke of different degrees of glory among resurrected bodies (see 1 Cor. 15:20-22); through Joseph Smith additional details were revealed:

PlanOfSalvation (source)

--

Outer Darkness

32 They are they who are the sons of perdition, of whom I say that it had been better for them never to have been born;

33 For they are vessels of wrath, doomed to suffer the wrath of God, with the devil and his angels in eternity;

34 Concerning whom I have said there is no forgiveness in this world nor in the world to come—

35 Having denied the Holy Spirit after having received it, and having denied the Only Begotten Son of the Father, having crucified him unto themselves and put him to an open shame.

36 These are they who shall go away into the lake of fire and brimstone, with the devil and his angels—

37 And the only ones on whom the second death shall have any power (D&C 76:32-37)

--

Telestial

(often associated with the glory of the present world)

81 And again, we saw the glory of the telestial, which glory is that of the lesser, even as the glory of the stars differs from that of the glory of the moon in the firmament.

82 These are they who received not the gospel of Christ, neither the testimony of Jesus.

83 These are they who deny not the Holy Spirit.

84 These are they who are thrust down to hell.

85 These are they who shall not be redeemed from the devil until the last resurrection, until the Lord, even Christ the Lamb, shall have finished his work. (D&C 76:81-85)

--

Terrestrial

(often associated with the glory of the earth in its Edenic state)

75 These are they who are honorable men of the earth, who were blinded by the craftiness of men.

76 These are they who receive of his glory, but not of his fulness.

...

78 Wherefore, they are bodies terrestrial, and not bodies celestial, and differ in glory as the moon differs from the sun.

79 These are they who are not valiant in the testimony of Jesus; wherefore, they obtain not the crown over the kingdom of our God.

--

Celestial

(the glory of God)

51 They are they who received the testimony of Jesus, and believed on his name and were baptized after the manner of his burial, being buried in the water in his name, and this according to the commandment which he has given—

52 That by keeping the commandments they might be washed and cleansed from all their sins, and receive the Holy Spirit by the laying on of the hands of him who is ordained and sealed unto this power;

53 And who overcome by faith, and are sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise, which the Father sheds forth upon all those who are just and true.

...

62 These shall dwell in the presence of God and his Christ forever and ever.

...

69 These are they who are just men made perfect through Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, who wrought out this perfect atonement through the shedding of his own blood.

70 These are they whose bodies are celestial, whose glory is that of the sun, even the glory of God, the highest of all...

--

Eternal

Eternal is a descriptor of God. I have written more extensively on the topic here.

10 For, behold, the mystery of godliness, how great is it! For, behold, I am endless, and the punishment which is given from my hand is endless punishment, for Endless is my name. Wherefore—

11 Eternal punishment is God’s punishment.

12 Endless punishment is God’s punishment. (D&C 19:10-12)

Jesus paid the price of our sins to satisfy the demands of justice and extend mercy:

15 And now, the plan of mercy could not be brought about except an atonement should be made; therefore God himself atoneth for the sins of the world, to bring about the plan of mercy, to appease the demands of justice, that God might be a perfect, just God, and a merciful God also.

16 Now, repentance could not come unto men except there were a punishment, which also was eternal as the life of the soul should be, affixed opposite to the plan of happiness, which was as eternal also as the life of the soul. (Alma 42:15-16)

If we reject the mercy offered by Jesus, there is an eternal punishment:

15 Therefore I command you to repent—repent, lest I smite you by the rod of my mouth, and by my wrath, and by my anger, and your sufferings be sore—how sore you know not, how exquisite you know not, yea, how hard to bear you know not.

16 For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent; (D&C 19:15-16)

Eternal here is describing God specifically, not duration generally:

  • Eternal punishment is God's punishment
  • Eternal life is God's life

Immortality describes living forever. To quote Dr. Jason Carroll:

Eternal life is a life that is both endless in duration and godlike in quality

--

Conclusion

God's plan of salvation will enable His children to become the very most they are willing to become. In this sense salvation, in the fullest and most complete sense of the word, describes the result of fully participating in the plan of salvation.

A deeper dive on my thoughts on the meaning of salvation is found here.

Those separated from the source of eternal life (God) will not have eternal life--their eternal progression will be halted, there's an asymptote in their future.

How can the wicked live for eternity in hell when they are completely separated from the only source of eternal life?

My conclusion follows if we allow that death & consciousness are orthogonal properties (otherwise this statement is obviously not an answer to the question):

I have not argued that the wicked will live forever in hell, but that they will live forever. They will not, however, have eternal life, the kind of life that God has.



Disclaimer: these thoughts are the product of my own study and do not constitute official statements by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

"D&C" in the citations above refers to the book of Doctrine & Covenants

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  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Feb 19, 2022 at 0:56
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"How can the wicked live for eternity in hell when they are completely separated from the only source of eternal life?" The answer to this question is that they can’t.

"And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death" (Rev 20:14. KJV)

While the first death is the death of the body, the second death would be the eventual death of what is left over after the departure of the body. This inner element of the human constitution the Bible calls soul.

It is written in the Holy Writ that we shouldn’t fear people who can kill our body, but can't kill our soul. We should only fear the one who has power to destroy them both (Mat 10:28). The reason we should not fear those who only can kill our body is because God has the power to later supply us with another new body, while the killers and the other sinners may have to forever be without a human body (Rev 7, 14 & 21).

The Lake of Fire is the end of everything, and bored bodiless souls would eventually try to escape an eternity in Hell, by throwing themselves into the fiery lake and commit soul suicide. This is synthesized from Swedenborg’s writings* where he explains having seen lost people throwing themselves into Hell after having found the bliss that Heaven seemed to offer inadequate. Consequently, the logical next step would be to from Hell throw themselves into the Lake of Fire.

——————————————

*

“... when that state is ended he himself casts himself into the hell where those are who are like himself. This act of casting down appears to the sight like one falling headlong with the head downwards and the feet upwards.”

(EMANUEL SWEDENBORG: Heaven and Its Wonders and Hell. Things Heard and Seen. O510)

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  • Interesting perspective. Thanks for writing me an answer. +1 :)
    – Rajesh
    Commented Mar 19, 2022 at 2:31
  • 1
    However, to clarify, Swedenborg did not teach annihilationism. He stated that people who go to hell remain there forever, just as people who go to heaven remain there forever. See, for example, Arcana Coelestia #7541, 8637, 10749; The New Jerusalem #177, 239. According to Swedenborg, the human soul can never be annihilated. The lake of fire, he said, is symbolic of the anger and hatred in which people in hell live. It does not literally burn and destroy the people in hell, snuffing out their existence. Commented Oct 31, 2022 at 11:04
  • @Lee Woofenden. Interesting. Thx for the clarification. There is always something new to learn. So you would mean then that the term "second death" just means separation from God? Commented Oct 31, 2022 at 13:36
  • 1
    Separation from God, yes, but it is voluntary separation from God. People in hell turn their backs on God and want nothing to do with God, because what they love to do is contrary to God's love. Commented Nov 1, 2022 at 17:30
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OP: How can the wicked live for eternity in hell while simultaneously being permanently separated from God, the only source of eternal life?

Good question. As you mention, the Garden of Eden shows that man was banished from the Garden in order not to live forever, but in a fallen state. To potentially return to the Garden, it required a perfect sacrifice, an offering for sin.

And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel. Gen 3:16

Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. Is 53:10

This motif carries throughout scripture from incidences like Abraham and Isaac on the Mount, to the Mosaic Law, and finally to the birth, death, burial, and resurrection of Christ.

To answer the question, we understand two things. One is the recognition of intentional versus ignorance sin. Two is the fact that Christ died for all. The relationship between these two things is man has free-will. We may either accept Christ's sacrifice or reject it. Rejection is the unforgivable sin as there is no more sacrifice for sin.

For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, Heb 10:26

For these people who sin intentionally by rejecting Christ's one sacrifice once, there only remains an existence in outer darkness.

It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. Heb 10:31

But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death. Rev 21:8

So, how can the one who rejects Christ's sacrifice live eternally in hell separated from God? Free will, rejecting Christ.

EDIT TO ADD. The process of how one specifically can be separated from God yet live forever may be broken into two parts. One is for the born-again believer who subsequently turns away and one is for the unbeliever:

All will hear the Good News, whether in this life or the next. All will be given a chance to hear the Gospel and decide to accept or reject.

Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, John 5:38

For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living. Rom 14:9

For the born-again believer, we know this:

Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever. 1 Pet 1:23

But there is also this of the man who is clean (born-again), yet subsequently refuses the Passover Lamb:

But the man that is clean, and is not in a journey, and forbeareth to keep the passover, even the same soul shall be cut off from among his people: because he brought not the offering of the LORD in his appointed season, that man shall bear his sin. Num 9:13

Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin. Heb 10:18

This person who once believed and was born-again and then refuses the one sacrifice (Passover), this person goes into outer darkness.

What of the person who hears and chooses not to believe, thus never being born again?

At the Great White Throne judgment, God sends the devil, false prophet, the beast, death, hell, and all those not written in the Book of Life into the lake of fire. (Rev 20:10-15).

PS. For me, these things are a change from Once Saved, Always Saved.

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  • All you did was describe the process that leads to being eternally separated from God. You didn't actually show me how it's possible for one to be eternally separated from God(the source of life) and also live forever.
    – Rajesh
    Commented Feb 12, 2022 at 18:33
  • 1
    @Rajesh fair enough. I'll edit my answer to address the process.
    – SLM
    Commented Feb 12, 2022 at 19:19
  • 2
    It's tough to equate ritual cleanness with assurance of salvation. Commented Feb 12, 2022 at 22:53
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Op ask's

"How can the wicked live for eternity in hell while simultaneously being permanently separated from God, the only source of eternal life?"

Please show where it says that the wicked are permanently separated from God?

No where in the bible does it actually say that hell or punishment or torment is eternal. It’s for an “age” – an undefined, but limited period of time.

One of the scriptures that you quoted for "eternal life" was in Genesis 3:22

The word used in Genesis 3:22 is olam and means a long duration.

And Jehovah God saith, 'Lo, the man was as one of Us, as to the knowledge of good and evil; and now, lest he send forth his hand, and have taken also of the tree of life, and eaten, and lived to the age. Genesis 3:22

  1. olam ► Strong's Concordance olam: long duration, antiquity, futurity Original Word: עוֹלָם Part of Speech: Noun Masculine Transliteration: olam Phonetic Spelling: (o-lawm') Definition: long duration, antiquity, futurity

Also you quoted 1 John 5:20

In 1 John 5:20 the word aionios does not mean eternal but age lasting. It too last a long time.

◄ 166. aiónios ► Strong's Concordance aiónios: agelong, eternal Original Word: αἰώνιος, ία, ιον Part of Speech: Adjective Transliteration: aiónios Phonetic Spelling: (ahee-o'-nee-os) Definition: agelong, eternal Usage: age-long, and therefore: practically eternal, unending; partaking of the character of that which lasts for an age, as contrasted with that which is brief and fleeting

Here is another verse that was quoted.

And we know that the Son of God has come, and has given us understanding so that we know the true One, and are in union with the true One--that is, we are in union with His Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and the Life of the Ages.1 John 5:20

To sum up these few verses has to do with the ages, not eternal. (Without beginning or end)

Now some will have (Zoe) life for the ages and will come to know God and His Son.

Others who are in the lake of fire (which is a huge study in itself) are alive as well but not in a literal fire. That is a pagan idea that the enemy has propagated since it an evil, detestable practice that the Gentiles did as well as Israel.

"For the people of Judah have done evil in my eyes,” declares the LORD. “They have put their detestable idols in the house that is called by my name in order to defile it. 31They have built high places at Topheth in the Valley of Ben-hinnom to burn their sons and daughters in the fire. I didn’t command this, and it never entered my mind! 32“Jeremiah 7:30-32

"How did the Molech work in the valley of Ben-Hinnom? It was built outside of Jerusalem. It was an idol with the face of a calf and open hands like someone who wants to take something from another. They would light this idol on fire until his hands were scorching. There were seven chambers before him and according to the quality of the sacrifice that is how close one could come to him. If one came with a bird, then chamber one; goat, chamber two; sheep, chamber three; calf, chamber four; cow, chamber five; and ox, chamber six. He who brought his child, the priests would say that he is offering the greatest sacrifice. He would enter the innermost chamber and go kiss the Molech . . . The priests would then take the child and place it near the Molech. They would then bang with drums to drown out the cries. . . Come see how obsessed the nation was with idol worship that they were willing to do something so reprehensible!

Whoa! Why would anyone in his right mind find such a service attractive for his own children? Maimonides tells us that the conniving priests of Molech convinced people that whoever did not have their children participate in this ritual would witness the death of their children.12 Thus, people felt that by appeasing the Molech god they would secure their child’s future. " Commentary from: https://www.chabad.org/parshah/article_cdo/aid/4372130/jewish/The-Tragic-History-of-Molech-Child-Sacrifice.htm

Getting back to the lake of fire will also be for an age or two.

Revelation 20:14 Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. Revelation 21:8 But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”

This second death called the lake of fire will have to do with kolasis: correction ,but will certainly feel like punishment.

Weymouth New Testament "And these shall go away into the Punishment of the Ages, but the righteous into the Life of the Ages." Mathew 23:46

Young's Literal Translation And these shall go away to punishment age-during, but the righteous to life age-during.' Mathew 25:46

Some will be going away to age lasting kolasis: correction.

Others into age lasting life.

2222 zōḗ – life (physical and spiritual). All life (2222 /zōḗ), throughout the universe, is derived – i.e. it always (only) comes from and is sustained by God's self-existent life. The Lord intimately shares His gift of life with people, creating each in His image

8But to the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and sexually immoral and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their place will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur. This is the second death.” Rev. 22:8

Some will be enjoying a life of being with Christ and in His Kingdom while others will be cut off, outside the Great city, in darkness, reaping what they sowed according to their acts. Reap what you sow.

The nation of Israel was figuratively dead and scattered among the nations, but the kingdom is resurrected under Christ, the Lamb. We see through all the fiery Judgments, Gods anger on their worship of idols , sorrows, God casting them aside for thousands of years, they have been cut off. (Rom. 11:24) We See through the prophet Ezekiel they will come back to life. Ezekiel 36 and 37

We don't know what that judgment at the lake of fire looks like but maybe we can get a hint from Israel's history.

Nevertheless everything God does has a purpose. He is sovereign and will complete the work of his hands.

'For in him we live, and move, and have our being.' As some of your own poets have said, 'For we are also his offspring.' Acts 17:28

Will that ever change?

-2

It is noteworthy that the word “lest” is not in the original Hebrew text (Strongs). So maybe the text should read “I will banish them from the playful nakedness of the garden of Eden that the human race will take root and live forever through proper multiplying intercourse. God therefore made clothes for the child-like adults, to remove overwhelming arousing exposure from their minds”

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  • "not in the original Hebrew text" Where's your source? I looked at the interlinear on Biblehub, and the conjunction פֶּן(meaning otherwise or might) was found there. Besides, you don't even touch on the other passages I include, all saying that God/Jesus/the Spirit is the source of eternal life... Complete separation from that which is life can only imply the inevitable outcome of death. -1
    – Rajesh
    Commented Feb 18, 2022 at 23:14
  • Strongs concordance is my source. Commented Feb 18, 2022 at 23:16
  • I am using Strongs concordance app. When I pressed the word “lest” in the King James text the six words: “and now lest he put forth” we’re highlighted”. The Hebrew word that was translated is “shalach”. Strong’s concordance has its meaning to be: “a primitive root; to send away, for, or out (in a great variety of applications):--X any wise, appoint, bring (on the way), cast (away, out), conduct, X earnestly, forsake, give (up), grow long, lay, leave, let depart (down, go, loose), push away, put (away, forth, in, out), reach forth, send (away, forth, out), set, shoot (forth, out), sow, spread.. Commented Feb 18, 2022 at 23:28
  • But did you look at the original Hebrew text of the entire verse(23)? See the Strong's app interlinear(if it has one), and tell me if the conjunction פֶּן is found there.
    – Rajesh
    Commented Feb 18, 2022 at 23:30
  • Strongs, I mean “strange” :) that particular word does not seem to be found in the Strongs original Hebrew text. Question is who has the correct original text Strongs or Bible Hub? To me the context in the narrative is the survival of the human race, which God decided needed correction for the sake of getting on track. Commented Feb 18, 2022 at 23:42

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