The living dead and the dead living
Prudence precludes taking an authoritarian stance on the question of the ultimate fate of Satan and his demonic kingdom. On one level, their fate is very clear: they will be defeated. Though currently the "prince of this world" - albeit already judged and "cast out" (John 12:31, 16:11) - Satan is slated to be "bound" (Rev. 20:2), shut up and sealed (Rev. 20:3), and tormented (Rev. 20:10). He is to have his head "bruised" by Messiah (Gen. 3:15) and to be "crushed" under the feet of the saints (Rom. 16:20). Scripture hints that his minions will suffer the like fate (see, for instance, Rev. 12:9).
On a different level the final outcome is less clear. Specifically, will they cease from existence? Scripture does not explicate the matter, and we acknowledge the serious difficulties involved in interpreting various passages concerning the eternal fate of both demons and unregenerate human beings. In particular, Revelation 14:11 suggests that impenitent sinners will be tormented "for ever and ever", a fate elsewhere decreed for Satan (Rev. 20:10), suggesting a similar fate for both. However, we believe that closer inspection, coupled with sensitivity to differing modes of expression, shows that these verses are not talking about the eternal state of either sinners or Satan but about the totality and finality of the destruction of their evil influence over mankind. The precise meaning of, "And they will be tormented day and night forever and ever" remains open to question. Without a miracle, the two men who are thrown into the "lake of fire and brimstone" would immediately perish. Furthermore, no mention is made of the continuance of this fiery lake into the new heaven and new earth (Rev. 21).
While many passages attest to the annihilation of unrepentant human beings, the fate of demons is much less clear. One passage possibly hints at their continued existence. Just before Jesus cast demons out of two "fierce men", one of the demons asked, "Have You come here to torment us before the time?" (Matt. 8:28). They recognized that at an appointed time they would be "tormented". If annihilation were to be their ultimate fate, surely they would have made some kind of allusion to it. In the final analysis, however, the key evidence in support of the proposition that Satan and the demons will "live" for ever lies in the absence of any hint that they will cease from existence.
The likelihood of perpetual existence for Satan and the demons raises an interesting question: do they have eternal life? If wicked demons have been granted eternal life, why, when it comes to human beings, will it only be given to those who believe in Jesus (John 3:16) and keep His
commandments (Matt. 19:17)? Without going into all the reasoning, it seems to this author that the simplest solution to the problem lies in understanding what constitutes real life. Jesus said that He, Himself, was "the life" (John 11:25). John also testifies that "in Him was life" (1:4). Demons hate Jesus Christ, and Jesus has no truck with them - at least no more than is absolutely necessary for the fulfillment of His plan. The concept is summarized in 1 John 5:12:
He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.
Jesus also said that all who believe in Him "shall never die" (John 11:26), even though they will die. Likewise, He declared,
And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent (John 17:3).
In short, life is not a matter of consciousness; by the same token, death is not primarily defined by unconsciousness. Life is a mindset (John 6:63), and so is death. The mindset of "life" involves "knowing" God and Jesus Christ; obviously, "knowing" means embracing, loving, worshiping them, loving the things they love and hating the things they hate. Those who hate the mind of God are dead. All the other things that we normally associate with "the good life" - freedom from pain and worry, plenty of leisure time and physical pleasures,
some of which Satan has in spades - are all small change indeed compared with having a godly mindset. Many people are healthy and prosperous, yet they are dead. Satan is dead. Abraham is alive, though unconscious. You could become a bedridden quadriplegic, struck blind and deaf, and yet be more alive and a whole lot happier than the immortal demons who live a miserable existence.
Satan and his fallen angelic cronies (Rev. 12:9) are dead. Unfortunately for them they are conscious, and probably will remain so into all eternity. They may have immortality, but they certainly do not have eternal life. Remember, eternal life is not about consciousness but about a godly mindset. The righteous who currently sleep in their graves number among the "dead living" to whom Jesus will give everlasting consciousness, glory, and abundance at the sound of the "shout, the voice of an archangel, and the trumpet of God" (1 Thess. 4:16). Because they have put on the mind of Jesus Christ - the mindset of life - Jesus will joyfully receive them unto Himself and shower upon them His incalculable love for ever and ever.