Second Death

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The second death is an eschatological concept in Judaism and Christianity related to punishment after a first, natural, death.


Although the term is not found in the Hebrew Bible
Hebrew Bible
The Hebrew Bible is a term used by biblical scholars outside of Judaism to refer to the Tanakh , a canonical collection of Jewish texts, and the common textual antecedent of the several canonical editions of the Christian Old Testament...

, Sysling in his study (1996) of Teḥiyyat ha-metim (Hebrew; "resurrection of the dead
Resurrection of the dead
Resurrection of the Dead is a belief found in a number of eschatologies, most commonly in Christian, Islamic, Jewish and Zoroastrian. In general, the phrase refers to a specific event in the future; multiple prophesies in the histories of these religions assert that the dead will be brought back to...

") in the Palestinian Targums identifies a consistent usage of the term "second death" in texts of the Second Temple
Second Temple
The Jewish Second Temple was an important shrine which stood on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem between 516 BCE and 70 CE. It replaced the First Temple which was destroyed in 586 BCE, when the Jewish nation was exiled to Babylon...

 period and early Rabbinical writings. In most cases this "second death" is identical with the judgment, following resurrection, in Gehinnom at the Last Day.

Targum Deuteronomy

In Targum Neofiti (Neof.) and the fragments (FTP and FTV) the "second death" is the death the wicked die.

Targum Isaiah

Targum Isaiah has three occurrences. The first is 22:14 where the Aramaic paraphrases the Hebrew as: “This sin will not be forgiven you until you die the second death.”
The final two examples are from Targum Isaiah 65 which sets the scene for an apocalyptic final battle. Targum Isaiah 65:6 paraphrases the Hebrew in line with the interpretation of the penultimate verse of the Hebrew Isaiah found in the Gospel of Mark where "their worms does not die" is equated with Gehinnom. Here both Targum Isaiah and Gospel of Mark supply the term "Gehinnom", where Hebrew Isaiah simply concludes with the heaps of corpses following the last battle
Last Battle
Last Battle may refer to:* The Last Battle, a 1956 novel by C. S. Lewis* The Last Battle, a 1966 book about the Battle of Berlin by Cornelius Ryan.* Last Battle, a 1989 Sega video game...

 where "their worms do not die" making no further eschatological extension into resurrection and judgment.

Targum Jeremiah

Targum Jeremiah 51:17 has the Aramaic "they shall die the second death and not live in the world to come" which appears to depart from the other Targum uses in not being explicit that the second death is after resurrection, but may instad be an exclusion from resurrection.

Targum Psalms

The majority reading of Targum Psalm 49:11 has the Aramaic translation "For the wise see that the evildoers are judged in Gehinnom". However several manuscripts, including Paris No.10, Montefiore No.7, and Targum of Salomos 113 have the variant Aramaic translation "He sees men wise in wickedness, who die a second death, and are judged in Gehinnom."

Rabbinic Interpretations

Rabbi David Qimhi (Toulouse, c.1160-Narbonne, 1235) considered the phrase to mean "the death of the soul in the world".


The main occurrence of the term "second death" in Christianity are the series of uses in Revelation, 2:11, 20:6, 20:14 and 21:8. There are different interpretations as to the meaning of the term "second death"

Different views

The majority of Christians who believe in the immortality of the soul regard the second death to mean eternal suffering or torment in a place called the Lake of Fire
Lake of Fire
A lake of fire appears, in both ancient Egyptian and Christian religion, as a place of after-death punishment of the wicked. The phrase is used in four verses of the Book of Revelation. The image was also used by the Early Christian Hippolytus of Rome in about the year 200 and has continued to be...

, though a minority of Christians who believe in the immortality of the soul teach universal salvation. Mortalists, including many Anglicans, some Lutherans, all Seventh Day Adventists, and others, oppose the idea of eternal suffering but believe that the Second death is an actual second death, meaning that the soul perishes and will be annihilated
Annihilationism is a Christian belief that apart from salvation the death of human beings results in their total destruction rather than their everlasting torment. It is directly related to the doctrine of conditional immortality, the idea that a human soul is not immortal unless it is given...

 after the final judgment.