The Eternal Reality of Hell

The Occupants of Hell

The antichrist and the false prophet will be the first occupants of hell.  Upon Christ’s return to the earth at the conclusion of the seven-year tribulation, these two men will be cast into the lake of fire (Rev. 19:20).  The men who had knowingly allied themselves with Satan will precede him to eternal ruin.

Satan and his demons were intended to be the only occupants of hell.  Indeed, hell was initially prepared for “the devil and his angels” according to Matthew 25:41. One can see from this that God did not pre-determine for men to sin. It was their free and tragic choice. Satan will be the third being cast into the eternal lake of fire, after his final deception of the nations at the end of the millennium (Rev. 20:10).  We may infer that the demons are cast in with him or shortly thereafter.

The unbelievers of all generations and all nations will be the final occupants of the lake of fire.  Christ describes the first judgment, which occurs at the conclusion of the tribulation period but before the millennial kingdom, at the conclusion of His Olivet discourse in Matthew 25.  The parable of the ten virgins (Matt. 25:1-13) and the parable of the talents (Matt. 25:14-30) describe this judgment on the resurrected nation of Israel (Ezek. 20:37-38; Mal. 3:2-5).23  Many will be shocked that their relation to Abraham and their works will not gain them entrance into the kingdom.  Those virgins who were unprepared for the bridegroom’s coming symbolize the unbelievers, while the watchful virgins are those who possessed the faith of Abraham.  In the second parable, the faithfulness of the servant indicates possession of faith in Christ, while the unfaithful servant will be cut off, and cast into the outer darkness.  The final parable of the sheep and goats in Matthew 25:31-46 describes the judgment on living Gentiles at the end of the tribulation (Joel 3:1-2).24  The sheep are allowed entrance in the eternal kingdom of Christ, while the unbelieving goats will be cast into hell.  These judgments are placed before the millennial kingdom for two reasons.  First, they will occur at Christ’s return to the earth (Matt. 25:10, 19, 31).  If this occurred after the millennium, the dead would be resurrected to meet Christ, but here the opposite is seen, Christ returns to find them unprepared.  Certainly it will be no surprise to those who have already died that the Lord will come to judge them.  Secondly, the results for the righteous include entrance into Christ’s kingdom, of which the first aspect is His rule on earth during the millennium (Matt. 25:34).  The final resurrection and judgment of unbelievers (Dan. 12:2; Acts 24:15) will occur at the conclusion of the millennium (Rev. 20:5).  The dead unbelievers are raised and given bodies with which to stand before the Great White Throne where Christ sits to judge them according to their works (Rev. 20:12).  Those whose names are not found in the Book of Life will be cast into the lake of fire (Rev. 20:15).  Those who were judged beforehand on earth (Matt. 25) will either be judged again, or thrown into the lake of fire after these, for “death and Hades” will include anyone who could be left at the end of the Great White Throne.  Thus anyone, Jew or Gentile, whose name is not found written in the book of life, will be cast into the lake of fire.

23 Pentecost, J. Dwight, Things to Come: A Study in Biblical Eschatology (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1958), 412.
24 Ibid., 415.