Revelation 21:8 lists various classifications of sinners who will die in the Lake of Fire. This does not indicate, though, that if a person has committed one of these sins that he is automatically doomed. Nor does it mean that people are free to commit sins that are not listed here and be safe from the second death.
Instead, these verses describe two broad groupings of people: Those who are in union with God and those who are against Him. Those in union will have overcome throughout their lives, while those against will manifest their resistance through the sins mentioned here.
David C. Grabbe
What Is the Second Death?
God's law will still be in effect once His Kingdom is established. Even after the Millennium, when New Jerusalem comes down, no lawbreaker will be allowed in the city. In Revelation 22, the last chapter of the Bible, obedience to God's law is the central issue. This is very clear proof that the law of God, which reflects the holy conduct of the Almighty, will be the standard for all eternity!
Martin G. Collins
The Ten Commandments
The Bible describes the "hellfire" into which the wicked will be cast as a lake of burning fire and brimstone. Some have pictured this Lake of Fire to be like an active volcano spewing out molten rock. Into such a fiery liquid the incorrigible will be thrown. After having died once and been resurrected to judgment (Hebrews 9:27), they will die the "second death" by being burned up in the Lake of Fire.
Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
Basic Doctrines: The Fate of the Wicked
What causes the sin of fear? The second item listed in Revelation 21:8 points to the answer—unbelief. Psalm 78:13-16 gives an example of how this works:
For he divided the sea before them and led them through! The water stood up like walls beside them! In the daytime he led them by a cloud, and at night by a pillar of fire. He split open the rocks in the wilderness to give them plenty of water, as from a gushing spring. He made streams pour from the rock, making the waters flow down like a river! (New Living Translation [NLT])
Listed are miracles God performed to provide for the needs of His people. Continuing in Psalm 78:17-21, we see Israel's response to God's clear display of His love and care for them:
Yet they kept on with their sin, rebelling against the Most High in the desert. They willfully tested God in their hearts, demanding the foods they craved. They even spoke against God himself, saying, "God can't give us food in the desert. Yes, he can strike a rock so water gushes out, but he can't give his people bread and meat." When the Lord heard them, he was angry. The fire of his wrath burned against Jacob. Yes, his anger rose against Israel. . . . (NLT)
Even though God had provided water in abundance, they were afraid that He would not provide bread and meat. What was the basis, the cause, for this fear? The answer follows in Psalm 78:22 (NLT): ". . . for they did not believe God or trust him to care for them." Amazing! After all God did for them, they still could not muster the necessary faith and trust in God and His love for them (Hebrews 4:2). When push comes to shove, do we believe God's promises? Do we trust in the extent of His care and love for us (John 17:23) and that He will come to our aid (Psalm 34:19)?
What was God's response to the Israelites' display of fear? "The fire of his wrath burned against Jacob" (Psalm 78:21, NLT), foreshadowing Revelation 21:8. Fire is the response to fear from the God who does not change (Malachi 3:6).
Fear, then, is the result of a lack of faith, not believing in God's power and especially His love and willingness to act on our behalf. The fearful are that way because they lack faith. Christ reveals this connection in Mark 4:40: "But He said to them, 'Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?'"
When Christ saw fear, His immediate response was to question that person's faith. Fear is a very human reaction. As Christ indicates, how we respond depends on our degree of faith. When faith is weak or non-existent, fear becomes the controlling factor rather than faith. We begin to live by sight and not by faith (II Corinthians 5:7), and without faith, we cannot be saved: "And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who did not obey? So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief" (Hebrews 3:18-19).
Our rest is God's Kingdom. Just as a lack of faith—unbelief—barred ancient Israel from entering their rest, a lack of faith can bar us from entering ours, keeping us out of the Family of God. Without faith, it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6). We are seeing that sin is not the result of weakness as we normally think of it, as in we are "weak in the flesh." Yes, there is weakness, but what is the root of sin—its cause? When looked at closely, the root of sin is "unbelief," as Israel's example illustrates. Unbelief—a lack of faith—causes and leads to producing sin in our lives, pointing to our real foundational weakness: a lack of faith. This is Paul's message in Romans 14:23: " . . . for whatever is not from faith is sin."
The Sin of Fear (Part One)
Jesus says that Satan “was a murderer from the beginning” and “is a liar and the father of it” (John 8:44). Is this passage in Revelation 21 wrong because the unrepentant, unbelieving, lying, and murderous demons will still be alive? There is no contradiction. They will have been burned up in the Lake of Fire.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Do Angels Live Forever?
Because we live in times that are increasingly uncertain and perilous, fear is a reality all will face at some time. A sobering consideration is that fear appears in a list in Revelation 21:8 describing those who will be cast into the Lake of Fire: "But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death" (emphasis ours throughout).
As bad as murderers, the sexually immoral, and sorcerers are, note that God puts first, at the head of the line, the cowardly and unbelieving. The Bible in Basic English renders these first few words as, "But those who are full of fear and without faith. . . ." Why are fear and lack of faith such preeminent sins in God's eyes?
Before answering that question, let us first establish that fear and a lack of faith are sins. Notice Nehemiah 6:10-14:
Afterward I came to the house of Shemaiah the son of Delaiah, the son of Mehetabel, who was a secret informer; and he said, "Let us meet together in the house of God, within the temple, and let us close the doors of the temple, for they are coming to kill you; indeed, at night they will come to kill you." And I said, "Should such a man as I flee? And who is there such as I who would go into the temple to save his life? I will not go in!" Then I perceived that God had not sent him at all, but that he pronounced this prophecy against me because Tobiah and Sanballat had hired him. For this reason he was hired, that I should be afraid and act that way and sin, so that they might have cause for an evil report, that they might reproach me. My God, remember Tobiah and Sanballat, according to these their works, and the prophetess Noadiah and the rest of the prophets who would have made me afraid.
Nehemiah labels fear as sin. Romans 14:23 says the same of unbelief: "But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because he does not eat from faith; for whatever is not from faith is sin." A lack of faith is also sin.
So, why are they at the beginning of the list in Revelation 21:8? And, of the two, why is fear first? The New Living Translation provides an answer to that question by rendering the verse's opening words as, "But cowards who turn away from me. . . ." In fear, cowards run from the battle, showing disloyalty to their sovereign. In the spiritual realm, they put their self-interest above everything, including God. Fear violates the first commandment by not giving God the preeminence it demands. It is not surprising, then, that the first sin listed is the one that so directly violates that first great commandment (Matthew 22:36-38).
In his commentary on Revelation 21:8, James Burton Coffman notes, "But it is not of natural fear and timidity that John speaks; it is that cowardice which in the last resort chooses self and safety before Christ." He nails the core problem of fear—at the end, it can cause us to reject God in favor of self.
The Sin of Fear (Part One)
Other Forerunner Commentary entries containing Revelation 21:8:
2 Corinthians 13:5
1 Thessalonians 5:21
2 Thessalonians :
2 Peter 3:10-13
1 John :