One of the greatest stumblingblocks that prevents many Jehovah’s Witnesses from accepting the ransom for all is their teaching regarding the second death. One of the scriptures of concern is that of Revelation 14:9-11. It is often claimed that those individuals in Revelation who receive the “mark of the beast” will go into the second death, and not be raised in the day of judgment when all nations are to be blessed. For any unregenerated who receive this mark, this would mean that such would never receive the benefit of the ransom for all, and that somehow they come under the second condemnation evidently without ever having been released from the condemnation in Adam.
And another angel, a third, followed them, saying with a great voice: “If any man is worshiping the beast and his image, and receives an engraving on his forehead, or upon his hand, he also will drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is prepared unmixed in the cup of his anger; and he will be tried [literally, touchstoned] with fire and sulfur in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb, and the smoke of their being tried [as by a touchstone] goes upward for ever and ever. And those who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the engraving of his name, have no rest day and night. — Restoration Light Improved Version.
The book of Revelation is highly symbolic. Of course, it is not speaking of a literal beast with seven heads and ten horns, a literal lamb, etc. The beast and its image, or rather the entities represented by the beast and its image, as such, are the product of man’s being under the condemnation of sin (Romans 5:12), but the entities themselves are not under the death penalty in Adam. (1 Corinthians 15:21,22) The condemnation of God that comes upon these entities is not the death penalty in Adam, since these entities, as such, were not under that death penalty. They are entities that exist illegally from God's standpoint.
Those who have the engraving of the beast are tried with figurative fire and figurative sulfur (brimstone). The scripture does not say that the fire and sulfur here is the second death, however. The scriptures do not say that these individuals are thrown into the lake of fire, the second death. Fire kept burning with sulfur does not necessarily designate the second death. Fire represents Jehovah’s eternal zeal for righteousness against unrighteous. The sulfur represents the determination of that zeal to burn until it destroys whatever that zeal is set against. Such destruction, however, does not, in itself, signify eternal destruction. God has turned mankind to destruction, due to Adam’s sin, and mankind in general has been walking that broad way leading to that destruction ever since Adam, and yet, through Jesus one can get off the broad way. — Genesis 2:17; 3:19; Matthew 7:13; Romans 5:12-19.
God can execute that sentence upon mankind at any time, and, at the end of the age, his wrath upon mankind as a result of Adam’s sin is to be brought to a completion. (Revelation 15:1) It is important to distinguish between the condemnation that is in Adam, and the second death condemnation. There is redemption, deliverance from the destruction, the death in Adam. There is no redemption, or deliverance for those who come under the condemnation of the second death. Thus, when God again expresses his wrath upon those who, after having had all the advantages of the millennial reign of Jesus and the saints, still follow Satan, it is not the wrath that results from Adam’s sin (which will be brought to a completion — Revelation 15:1), but rather the wrath due to the results of their own individual judgment at that time.
The individuals spoken of in Revelation 14:11, however, having been marked by the beast, are tried in association with the trial upon the beast and its image. While the trial leads to distress and possible destruction, there is no reason to think the individuals receive anything but the wrath of God as expressed due to Adam’s sin.
Being however, associated with an the evil entities expressed in symbols, they are tried before Jesus and the angels because this association. The fire represents God’s zeal of righteousness, which tries and leads to execution against all unrighteousness. The symbol of “sulfur” (brimstone) intensifies the determination of that zeal, that it will not cease until it causes the destruction of that which is out of harmony with God’s righteousness. During the period of this trial, those who are worshiping these entities will have no rest day or night, thus signifying a time of distress for those who worship the beast and his image.
The symbolic smoke, representing the aftermath of their trial, will go up for all eternity, in the remembrance of all ages to come, as a signal, a reminder, of what they stood for.
The image of the beast seems to parallel the “false prophet” spoken of later. If so, we are told that the the beast and its image, whatever one may consider them to represent, are symbolically thrown into the symbolic lake of fire, which fire represents God’s jealous zeal. — Deuteronomy 4:24; 6:15; Zephaniah 3:8.
The beast and its image are not pictured as being thrown into hades, for, as entities, they are not, nor ever have been, under the condemnation of Adamic death. Jesus died for all those in hades, so that all in hades, great and small, may be raised in the last day judgment, when God blesses all the families of the earth. Jesus did not die for these entities, represented by the symbols of the beast and his image.
The individual humans, however, who receive that engraving, or mark of the beast, do not receive that engraving from God, but apparently from the system/entity represented by the beast, for it is stated that he, the symbolic beast, causes all to receive that symbolic engraving, and that unless one has that symbolic engraving he is not allowed (symbolically) to buy or sell. It is not a mark that God inscribes upon them to show that they, as individuals, are worthy of the second death, as some have seemed to assume. With the eternal destruction of those entities, the mark is no longer valid upon the individuals who had been inscribed with those those symbols, and the license to symbolically buy and sell under the rulership of such a beast or its image is no longer valid. For the unregenerated individuals involved, they are still under condemnation in Adam, and their new judgment comes in the "last day", after Satan is abyssed, when the books will opened to them without blinding influence of Satan. (Isaiah 2:2-4; 20:7; John 12:47,48; 2 Corinthians 4:3,4; Revelation 12:9; 20:1-3,20) For any who belong to Christ involved, we believe the judgment of these will be in harmony with Luke 12:42-48. See our studies
This, of course, is but a very brief summation of the verses, without getting too much into what the symbols represent.