(MATTHEW 3:12; REVELATION 20:9-10, 13-15; ISAIAH 66:22-24)

Copr. 1999, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.  All scripture references
are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973,
1978, 1984 International Bible Society,  unless otherwise
noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of
Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found
within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a
blackboard or some other visual aid. This lesson can be
found at: <url:http://www.CameronLaw.com>

Introduction: One strong reason the Christian has for
"taking up his cross" on earth is the hope of eternity in
heaven.  It seems so foolish to trade 70 years here for
eternity.  But, is the trade worse than that?  If we are
lost, do we simply lose eternity?  Or are we trading 70
years of sin for an eternity of agony in fire?  Would the
justice side of God punish man by eternal burning for 70
years of sin?  Let's see what the Bible says.

     I.   FIERY END?

               A.   How are the wicked destroyed? How is sin destroyed?
          What do you think the Bible teaches about this?

                         1.   Let's review several texts to see if what you
               think is supported by the Bible:

                                   a.   Read Matthew 3:12. What is the fate of the

                                             (1)  What kind of fire does it say will
                         burn the wicked?

                                   b.   Read Matthew 25:41. What kind of end do we
                    see here? What kind of fire do we have?

                                             (1)  Does this text suggest that the fire
                         that burns the lost is the same fire
                         that burns the Satan and his angels?

                                   c.   Read Mark 9:43. What kind of place is
                    hell? What kind of fire do we have here?

               B.   The Bible clearly teaches that the fate of the
          wicked is fire.  Each time we have seen the word
          "fire" we have found an adjective that indicates it
          is forever. So the next important question is "how
          long?"  Specifically, "Is it [the fire] forever?"
          Before we get to that, let's look for a moment at
          the importance of this question.


               A.   How important to your Christian experience is the
          question "how long do the wicked burn?

                         1.   If you thought the wicked would burn forever,
               would you be more serious about your
               relationship with God?

                         2.   On the other hand, if you thought God would
               punish a lifetime of sin with eternal torment,
               would you reject Him?

                                   a.   Would you serve Him because you were

                                             (1)  Can you be scared into obedience?

                         3.   If eternal torment in fire is the fate of the
               wicked, and you fail to warn people about it,
               how serious a sin is that?

                                   a.   Remember in Luke 16 (the story of Abraham
                    and Lazarus that we studied last week) it
                    has the wicked talking to the righteous,
                    but they cannot cross over because of a
                    "great chasm."

                                             (1)  If you are wrong, but go to heaven,
                         are you going to hear about this
                         throughout eternity? (I suspect there
                         would be a lot of yelling about it.
                         "You didn't warn me!")

                         4.   We are approaching 3,000 people who get this
               lesson each week through the internet.  As you
               might imagine, I get a steady stream of
               feedback on the lessons. Almost all the
               feedback is positive, but these series of
               lessons on the afterlife have recently caused
               a very concerned gentleman to write that I am
               misleading the readers and that I should stop
               teaching on this subject.

                                   a.   If I am wrong that the end of the wicked
                    is death, not eternal life, is he right?
                    (You bet he is!  Friend, this issue is of
                    critical importance.  You need to be
                    certain you understand the Bible's
                    teaching on this issue.)


               A.   Let's look at some more texts about the fiery end.
          Read Revelation 20:9-10, 13-15. How long does this
          suggest that Satan is tormented? (Day and night

                                   a.   Do you remember that we earlier read
                    Matthew 25:41 that said that the wicked
                    are burned in the same fire as Satan?
                    Does this then suggest that the torment
                    for the all the wicked is forever?

                                   b.   Verse 9 of Revelation 20 says that the
                    fire "devoured them."  How do you
                    reconcile the idea of being devoured with
                    existing forever?

                                   c.   How can the lake of fire be called "the
                    second death" (v.14) if you actually live

                                   d.   What do you think verse 14 means when it
                    tells us that "death and Hades" were
                    thrown into the fire?

                                             (1)  Are they burning forever too? (Verse
                         14, more than anything else, seems to
                         show that the fire means "the end."
                         Otherwise, how would it make any
                         sense to throw death and Hades in the
                         fire? The phrase "ever and ever" in
                         v. 10 uses a Greek word (aion)that,
                         according to Thayer, can mean "a
                         period of time, an age.")

                                   e.   Read Matthew 6:30. Do you normally see
                    people burning grass?  What do you think
                    Jesus means when He refers to the grass
                    being "thrown into the fire?"  (He is
                    obviously using this expression to mean
                    that it dies. It is the end.  It is not
                    literally burning.)

                                   f.   Read Isaiah 66:22-24. How can we have
                    "dead" bodies and live worms? (This is a
                    picture of a defeated army. What do you
                    think they did with the dead?  If they
                    left them there, worms would eat them.  If
                    they wanted to get rid of them, they would
                    burn them.  This is an indication of a
                    great number of the wicked so that the
                    worm and the fire have a very long life.)

                                   g.   Read Jude 1:7. What kind of fire destroyed

                                             (1)  If the fire of Sodom is an example,
                         what do we learn from this example
                         about the everlasting nature of the

                                             (2)  Is Sodom currently burning?

                                   h.   Read Jeremiah 17:27. Was Jerusalem
                    destroyed?  Is it still burning?

                                   i.   Read Revelation 18:2, 7-9. What is the end
                    for "Babylon?" (Fire consumes her.)

                                             (1)  Does the fire torture her? (It seems
                         that it does. See v.7)

                                                       (a)  If so, how long does the torture
                              go on? (Verse 7 seems to say it
                              is measured by the extent of her

               B.   These texts we have looked at seem to suggest that
          "eternal" and "everlasting" fire is not really
          eternal or everlasting at all.

               C.   Does the idea that eternal does not really mean
          forever when it comes to the fiery end of the
          wicked create other problems for us? Let's look at
          Matthew 25:46.

                         1.   If you say that the punishment of the wicked
               is not eternal, then why would you expect that
               you would live forever with God? (The greek
               word is the same for both "eternals" in this

                         2.   Do you have a double-standard? How would you
               explain that your reward is eternal, but the
               punishment of the wicked is not? (The
               teachers' helps suggest that a proper
               interpretation of the Greek is "not subject to
               change."  The death of the wicked is not
               subject to change and the life of the
               righteous in also not subject to change.)


               A.   What does it say about our Lord if he would set
          someone on fire forever?

                         1.   Is that consistent with your knowledge of God?

                         2.   Read Ezekiel 33:11. What does this suggest is
               God's attitude towards the death of the

                         3.   Why, then, does God burn people at all? (Read
               2 Peter 3:10-13.  The old will be burned, and
               the new will be created.)

               B.   Praise God that He has made provision for you to
          escape destruction.  Will you accept His offer?