“fire in the age to come.” The Greek does not refer to “eternal fire,” as if the fire would last forever, but rather “the fire in the age to come,” that is, the fire associated with Christ’s kingdom on earth, when the wicked will be punished by being thrown into Gehenna. The Greek word aiōnios (αἰώνιος) in this context does not refer to how long the fire burns as to the fact that it is the fire that is spoken of that relates to the Day of Judgment associated with the Messianic Age, the Coming Age, the age to come.
Centuries before the New Testament was written, and still during New Testament times, the Rabbis taught about two Ages, the present one we live in and the future Messianic Age. This teaching of two ages can be seen throughout Scripture, and indeed, understanding them can really boost our understanding of Scripture. The age we live in today is referred to as the “present evil age” (Gal. 1:4). In Luke 20:34-35, Jesus said the people of “this age” marry, but those people who are considered worthy to attain “that age” (the future Messianic Age) do not marry. Jesus also taught about a sin that would not be forgiven in “this age” or the coming one (Matt. 12:32). The Devil is called “the god of this age” (2 Cor. 4:4), because he rules this age but not the next. Furthermore, his demons are called “the rulers of this age” (1 Cor. 2:6-8) because of the power they wield, and what they promote as wise is called “the wisdom of this age” (1 Cor. 2:6). The present evil age offers a lot of temporal satisfaction, so God warns those people who are rich in “this age” not to be haughty (1 Tim. 6:17), but Demas loved “this present age” and left Paul (2 Tim. 4:10). In fact, believers are strictly warned not be conformed to “this age” (Rom. 12:2), but in this “present age” are to live self-controlled, upright, godly lives (Titus 2:12).
Here in Matthew 25:41, depicting the Sheep and Goat Judgment, which is the Judgment Day for those people still alive on earth after the Battle of Armageddon, Scripture tells us that the goats will be put in the fire—the fire associated with judgment and the Messianic Age. This “fire” is the lake of fire into which the unrighteous are thrown on the Day of Judgment (Matt. 25:41, 46; Rev. 20:10, 14, 15).
There is no evidence that the lake of fire came into existence very long before Armageddon and the Day of Judgment. The first people thrown into it are the Antichrist and the false prophet (Rev. 19:20). Then, very shortly afterward, the “goats” (unbelievers; unrighteous) from the Sheep and Goat Judgment are thrown in (Matt. 25:41, 46). [For more on the Greek word aiōnios and how it relates to the coming Messianic Age, see Appendix 2, “Life in the Age to Come.” For more on the possible origin of the lake of fire, see commentary on Daniel 7:10].
“prepared for the Devil and his angels.” This is an important phrase because it shows that God never intended for people to die in the Lake of Fire. In this verse, Jesus sends the people who have fought against them into the Lake of Fire, but at the same time points out that it was never intended for them; it was intended for the Devil and his angels.
God prepared the Lake of Fire for the Devil and his angels because of their rebellion against Him, but He pleads with people to “choose life” (Deut. 30:19; cp. Ezek. 33:11). This verse shows that those Christians who teach that God predestines some people to everlasting life and others to torment in the Lake of Fire are wrong. If God predestined people to the Lake of Fire, and they never had the ability to choose to be saved, as Calvinists teach, then God did indeed prepare the Lake of Fire for those unsaved people.
That the Lake of Fire was prepared for the Devil and his angels, but not for humans, even though we know from Scripture that many humans do reject God and will die in the Lake of Fire, shows God’s continued love for mankind, and He wants “everyone to be saved and to come to a full knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:4). Only when people reject God and thus choose death does God honor their freewill choice and end their life in the Lake of Fire.
[For more on the Lake of Fire resulting in annihilation, see Appendix 5, “Annihilation in the Lake of Fire”].
“Devil.” The Greek word is diabolos (#1228 διάβολος), which literally means “Slanderer,” but diabolos gets transliterated into English as our more familiar name, “the Devil.” Slander is so central to who the Devil is and how he operates that one of his primary names is “the Slanderer.” [For more information on the names of the Devil, see Appendix 14: “Names of the Devil”].
“his angels.” What we refer to as “demons” (or “devils”) today are fallen angels, who joined Satan in his rebellion against God and became part of Satan’s demonic army of evil spirits, which is why demons are referred to as “his” angels.
The Bible never tells us the original God-given name of the spirit being we now know by names such as “Satan” and “the Devil.” We know he was a leader in God’s original creation but became filled with pride and rebelled against God (Isa. 14:12-17; Ezek. 28:11-19). One-third of God’s created angels joined Satan in his rebellion (Rev. 12:4), and the Devil and his angel followers will eventually be thrown into the Lake of Fire (Matt. 25:41; Rev. 20:10; and clearly implied in Daniel 7:12). [For more on the names of the Devil, see Appendix 14: “Names of the Devil.”