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In 1 Corinthians 15:26, Paul writes (NKJV):

The last enemy that will be destroyed is death.

Although death is the "last enemy," does Revelation portray "Death" as being destroyed before those who aren't written in the Book of Life? We read in Revelation 20:14-15 (NKJV):

Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.

Does Revelation 20:14-15 suggest that Death and Hades are thrown in the fire, and then those "not found written in the Book of Life" (NKJV) are thrown there afterward, or does the text just mean that Death, Hades, and the wicked are all thrown into the lake of fire simultaneously?

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    Why put ourselves to the task of looking for interpretations which will create contradictions? May 24, 2023 at 16:58
  • @StephenDisraeli I'm trying to determine how the passages can be reconciled. Was my "guess" correct that the texts just mean that Death, Hades, and the wicked are all thrown into the lake of fire simultaneously, or is something else the proper meaning?
    – The Editor
    May 24, 2023 at 17:26
  • @StephenDisraeli dealing with contradictions (seeming or real) is one path toward Truth. Without doubt, there is no need for faith. May 24, 2023 at 20:07

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Death is a state, a condition, that can only be entered into by the living. At the point of death applying to a living thing, the living body dies. The only thing that can change that is if God grants a resurrection from the dead to one that death has 'claimed'. The resurrection of all the dead is described in Revelation chapter 20 from verse 4 to 15. Verse 6 says that "the second death" has no claim on those attaining to "the first resurrection".

This "second death" is also called "the lake of fire" (verse 14). This is important, for the answer to the question depends on whether the last enemy being destroyed is "the first death", or "the second death". In other words, is "the first death" different to the "second death"? It would seem so, given that "the second death" is this lake of fire into which many of the resurrected dead are cast, as is Satan the devil and his minions. And it clearly is different, given that death itself is cast into this lake of fire last of all, after all those others have been cast in.

That is when the saying in 1 Corinthians 15:24-26 comes to pass. "The end" has come, when Christ has put down all rule and all authority and power. Then the last enemy - death - is destroyed. There is no difficulty with those verses in Corinthians. They are straightforward. The only difficulty is if a wrong interpretation of Revelation 20 causes confusion.

We are told that the devil has been cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where his agencies already are; all the dead have been resurrected and judged; the sea has given up all its dead for that purpose. The adverse judgment of those whose names are not found written in the Book of Life has been passed, and they are all cast into the lake of fire, which is called "the second death". The grave is empty; hell is empty; then death and hell are cast in last of all.

Just because the following verse repeats the chilling warning that "whosoever was not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire", does not mean to say that they are cast in after death and hell have gone in. No. The second death - that lake of fire and brimstone - receives death and hell last of all.

This means that once death and hell have been emptied and cast into the second death - that lake - there can be no more death. All who are alive remain alive, either in glory in heaven, or in everlasting torments in the lake of fire. Revelation states this twice, first regarding all men who worship the beast and his image:

"He shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb: and the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night..." Revelation 14:9-11 A.V.

"And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever." Revelation 20:10

The lake of fire is not an enemy; it is God's means of dealing with all whom he judges adversely - a state of containment, perhaps? Death is the last enemy to be disposed of - made of no effect - rendered obsolete - eternally emasculated and unable to cause death any more. There can be no more dying once death is cast into the lake of fire. "The second death" does not cause death - it is a way of describing a state from which actual death cannot deliver anyone, no matter how much they might long for death.

Therefore, there is no contradiction between those two texts.

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Try to avoid personifying "Death and Hades".

Consider this verse as meaning:

The saved people have all become immortal, so when all the irredeemable people are destroyed by fire, death and the grave will no longer have any purpose or meaning.

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The verse from Revelation seems to imply simultaneous casting. If that is the case, there is no contradiction - only a clarification.

I'd suggest researching the Greek word(s) translated Death and death in these two instances. My guess is they are different - with the lower case denoting death in general and upper case denoting Death as a personification. Again, in this case there is no contradiction as Paul would be referring to death in general.

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In Rev 20, the second death is the final death symbolized by the lake of fire. If the wicked are destroyed in the lake of fire - they are consumed/destroyed by the fire from heaven creating the lake of fire in V9 & 10 - then when all the wicked are destroyed, then there is "no more death" (Rev 21:4).

If there is no more death, then Rev 20:14, 15 personified and dramatizes this by saying that death is destroyed! Hades (= the place of the dead) is also destroyed because it is no longer needed.

That is, Rev 20:15 is simply a reminder of who is destroyed in V9 & 10 - all the wicked.

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Paul's prediction in this chapter responds to the fact that "some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead." (15:12) This is the central issue. So he says, "if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; 17 and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins." His statement that "the last enemy that will be abolished is death" is meant in this context: to emphasize the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead -- not to answer the question of which comes first, the defeat of death or the destruction of Hades. Nor is he addressing the timing of one's inscription in the book of life and/or being cast into the lake of fire. These do not figure into his calculation at all.

John, on the other hand, is not dealing with the question of whether the dead rise or not. He is simply relating an apocalyptic vision. The two writings are of a different genre and so do not need to be reconciled, so much as appreciated as expressions of two different men in very different circumstances: one relating a powerful vision that he has experienced, the other teaching a congregation that needs to understand that the Resurrection will indeed occur.

Reconciling Paul's teaching in 1 Cor. 15 with John's Revelation is something like trying to make two different jigsaw puzzles fit into one. God may know how to do it, but I do not. In the end, the best guidance is given by Jesus:

Of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone. For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah. (Mt. 24:36-37)

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