The Destinies: Destiny of the Lost

The Destiny of the Lost


The lost will suffer public shame at having their sinful lives exposed on the judgment day. Those who have pretended to be believers will be exposed as the imposters they are.[1] Those who have trusted in other ways of salvation will discover that their gamble has not paid off. There was only one way to salvation and they rejected the way and chose the wrong way.[2] No secrets will remain unannounced.[3]


Unbelievers will also experience just punishment for every transgression they have committed, whether in word or deed, commission or omission. The nature, severity and duration of that punishment will be determined by God, whose omniscience and righteousness insures that it will be just. God cannot overlook sin that has not been atoned for. Thus this punishment awaits all who are not protected by the blood of Christ. The Bible describes this punishment as trouble and distress,[4] torment,[5] darkness, weeping (out of remorse for losing salvation) and gnashing of teeth (out of anger against God),[6] and being beaten with whips.[7] While some of those images are no doubt symbolic, they describe a future reality that is horrible to imagine. We need to keep these images in mind so that we can pray urgently for our unsaved friends, loved ones and enemies, and seek to win them all to Christ.


On the previous two points, all evangelical believers would agree. But some insist that God will not only punish sinners for their rejection, but keep on punishing them throughout eternity. Thus they say that not only is God’s punishment eternal, but also the act of punishing itself. Many base this belief on the mistaken assumption that human souls are already immortal by nature.

The Bible makes it clear that the punishment received at the judgment is not the last part of the bad news. The wages of sin is not perpetual suffering in hell, it is death.[8] Those who overcome are promised not that they will avoid an eternity in a bad place, but that they will avoid the second death.[9] The unsaved will suffer punishment according to their sins, and then will experience this second death.[10] The lake of fire must consume and bring about the second death to all those thrown into it, then it will destroy death and Hades.[11]

Typically, those who favor the view of eternal conscious torment redefine the term death as it has to do with the destiny of the lost. Since, in their view, both saved and lost will continue to live eternally, death cannot mean the loss of life. But Jesus’ descriptions of the fate of the lost imply loss of existence, not just a conscious painful existence forever.

  • He spoke of the house built on the sand collapsing and falling over.[12] That is the end of the house.
  • He spoke of the weeds gathered up and burned with fire.[13] That is the end of the weeds.
  • He spoke of the good fish being gathered into containers, but the bad fish are thrown away to rot.[14] No more bad fish.
  • He spoke of plants not planted by his Father as being uprooted.[15] An uprooted plant dies.
  • He spoke of branches that do not abide in the vine as being thrown away, drying up, being gathered and cast into the fire.[16] Burning branches burn up.
  • He spoke of tenants who reject their master’s authority as being destroyed,[17] not just punished.
  • He said that the unrepentant will perish like those on whom the tower of Siloam fell.[18] Those unfortunate people didn’t just suffer. They died.
  • He likened hell to Noah’s flood, which destroyed everyone outside the ark.[19]
  • He said that hell would be like the day Lot went out from Sodom, and all the inhabitants of Sodom were destroyed.[20]

There are only two eternal destinies: life or death. The saved will be rewarded with permanent life, while the lost will suffer permanent death.

By Rev. Jefferson Vann

(Rev. Jefferson Vann is a graduate of Berkshire Christian College, Columbia International University and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He and his wife Penny have been involved in Advent Christian ministry since 1984, serving as missionaries in the Philippines and New Zealand. Jeff is the author of “An Advent Christian Systematic Theology” and “Another Bible Commentary” and is a contributing editor to “Henceforth …”)


[1] Matthew 7:21-23.

[2] John 14:6.

[3] Luke 12:3.

[4] Romans 2:8-9.

[5] Revelation 14:9-10.

[6] Matthew 25:30.

[7] Luke 12:47-48.

[8] Romans 6:23.

[9] Revelation 2:11; 20:6.

[10] Revelation 21:8.

[11] Revelation 20:14.

[12] Matthew 7:26-27.

[13] Matthew 13:40.

[14] Matthew 13:47-48.

[15] Matthew 15:13.

[16] John 15:6.

[17] Luke 20:16.

[18] Luke 13:4-5.

[19] Luke 17:27.

[20] Luke 17:29.

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