Questions From Readers
● What is the “last enemy” to be destroyed? Is it death, as mentioned at 1 Corinthians 15:26, or Satan, who is to be cast into the “lake of fire” after the thousand-year reign of Christ?—G.S.
At 1 Corinthians 15:25, 26 the apostle Paul wrote: “[Christ] must rule as king until God has put all enemies under his feet. As the last enemy, death is to be brought to nothing.” But what death did the apostle have in mind?
First of all, let us note that this enemy could not be the “second death” repeatedly mentioned in the book of Revelation. (Re 2:11; 20:6, 14; 21:8) Why not? Because nowhere do we read of its being destroyed. How could it be, since it means eternal annihilation, everlasting destruction or punishment? It will always exist, and that in two respects. First, it will never be destroyed in that it will never give up the dead in it. Second, it will exist forever in that, should anyone throughout all eternity rebel against Jehovah (though this is highly improbable), he would be cast into the “lake of fire,” the “second death.” So the “second death” will neither release those who are in it nor become powerless should any deserve to be committed to it throughout eternity.
Besides, the “second death” could not be said to be an enemy of humankind in general. It will actually be mankind’s friend, for it will rid the earth of all those not deserving to live and who would make life miserable for others. As the instrument of God, it does not contain the innocent, but only those deserving of destruction.
However, death due to Adam’s sin is an enemy of the whole human race. (Rom. 5:12) Significantly, therefore, when the boys of Bethlehem and its districts two years of age and under were slain by Herod’s soldiers, they went to what Jehovah termed “the land of the enemy,” the “land” of Adamic death. (Jer. 31:15-17; Matt. 2:16-18) Indeed, death due to Adam has been and is the great enemy of humankind. It still claims men, even those righteous or noble, and it has brought humankind untold suffering and misery. What a joy it is to know that it will be destroyed when these words are fulfilled: “Death and Hades were hurled into the lake of fire. This means the second death, the lake of fire”!—Rev. 20:14.
The destruction of Adamic death might be said to be gradual, taking place in steps, as it were. For one thing, in the post-Armageddon new order humankind will no longer die because of Adam’s sin. Those who die then will be incorrigible sinners. And, compared to the everlasting life they could receive if faithful, they will die as mere children, though a hundred years old. (Isa. 65:20) Then, too, as the resurrection proceeds, the time will come when there will be no one in Sheol or Haʹdes because of Adamic sin and death. But death due to Adam will not be completely destroyed until every vestige of Adamic sin has been removed from humankind and man attains perfection. As pointed out at 1 Corinthians 15:24-26, this will be after Christ “has brought to nothing all [opposing] government and all authority and power,” but it will be before the end of his millennial rule. (AT; Mo) It will be before “he hands over the kingdom to his God and Father.”
However, according to Revelation 20:7-10, after the thousand-year reign of Christ, Satan the Devil will be released from the abyss to try to mislead those upon the earth, all of whom will have been brought to a state of perfection. Then all those who succumb to Satan will be destroyed, being hurled with Satan himself into the lake of fire or the “second death.” This portrayal of events seems to contradict the words of the apostle Paul. Was the apostle mistaken? Is it death or is it Satan that is the last enemy to be destroyed?
The inspired apostle Paul did not err. At 1 Corinthians 15:24-26 Paul pointed out that Adamic death would be brought to nothing after all opposing government and authority and power were brought to nothing. That is true. When death is brought to nothing, no opposing governments, authorities or powers will be in operation anywhere. It will be the last of those enemies. However, the apostle was not here discussing what would take place after the thousand-year reign of Christ. He was not discussing the fact that Satan would be let loose out of his prison then. He was viewing things as they would be at the time when death would be brought to nothing. He was discussing events within the millennium, not those that would take place after Christ handed the kingdom over to his Father at the end of that time. (Rev. 20:5, 7) So, viewed in their proper setting, there is no conflict between the statements of the apostle Paul and those recorded by the apostle John in the Revelation.
● Are the demons going to be cast into the abyss with Satan the Devil following the war of Armageddon? Will they also return with him after the thousand-year reign of Christ and thereafter be hurled into the “lake of fire and sulphur” with him?—W.D.
At Revelation 20:1-3 it is pointedly stated that the one known as “the Devil and Satan” is ‘hurled into the abyss,’ where he is restrained for a thousand years; but the demons are not mentioned here. Likewise in Re 20 verses 7 and 10 it reports that, after the thousand years, Satan is let loose and later is “hurled into the lake of fire and sulphur”; but, again, the demons are not mentioned.
However, further details are recorded in other portions of the Bible. For example, on one occasion when Jesus was confronted with a demon-possessed man, the demons, faced with expulsion by Jesus, begged him not to send them into the abyss at that time. The account reads: “And they [the demons] kept entreating him not to order them to go away into the abyss.” (Luke 8:31) So those demons knew that in due time they were going to be hurled into the abyss; this was God’s judgment against them. We can thus conclude that, when Revelation 20:1-3 speaks of the abyssing of the chief rebel and wicked spirit, Satan, the demons are to be understood as included. Obviously, a report on the Devil’s defeat means that those serving under him have also been defeated. So both the Devil and the demons are hurled into the abyss following the war of Armageddon.
But how do we know whether the demons will return with Satan following the thousand years and so be on hand when he is hurled into “the lake of fire and sulphur”? Because Jesus Christ said that they would share that end with him. He spoke of the “everlasting fire prepared for the Devil and his angels.” (Matt. 25:41) There is no statement in the Bible to the effect that the demons are hurled into the “lake of fire” first, to be followed by the Devil a thousand or more years later. Rather, we have seen that they will all be confined in the abyss. So, apparently, they will return from the abyss together and have a share in endeavoring to mislead mankind at that time, but then, with the Devil, the demons will be “hurled into the lake of fire and sulphur,” which is the “second death.” Thus they will all be everlastingly destroyed.