In Part 7, I want to address some of the common phrases in scripture that is used and associated with the teaching of hell including the following phrases; their worm dieth not, unquenchable fire, and the furnace of fire. Let’s start by looking at some scriptures that use these phrases;
Mark 9:48 Where their WORM DIETH NOT, and the FIRE IS NOT QUENCHED.
Matthew 3:12 Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with UNQUENCHABLE FIRE.
Matthew 13:42 And shall cast them into a FURNACE OF FIRE: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.
These phrases above no doubt have done nothing but create fear in the minds of people throughout the times and it is phrases like these that give the doctrine of hell an appearance of truth. Sometimes the truth isn’t easy to find or understand and it is up to us to diligently search the truths of God’s words if we want to understand His plans for ultimately redeeming mankind back to Himself.
Let’s start with the phrase “their worm dieth not”. It is easy to think this phrase is talking about immortal worms but that is not even close to what Christ is talking about. Now, it is useful at times to understand the context in terms of the way that a phrase is used in scripture, but this doesn’t mean that the context is the primary way to determine spiritual and scriptural truth. So let’s look at this verse in context if you will;
Mark 9:47-48 And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out: it is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire: Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. The first thing that you need to understand is that Christ is not even addressing the multitudes or any group that one would consider to be the lost or the unbelieving;
Mark 9:35 AND HE SAT DOWN, AND CALLED THE TWELVE, and saith unto them, If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all. If you look back in Mark 9:48, you will see the phrase “cast into hell fire” and this phrase is commonly understood in the Christian church to be directed at the wicked lost souls who die in their sins without Christ. However, we clearly see here that Christ is specifically and purposefully talking to his disciples.
The second thing you need to understand is that the words that Christ is speaking to his disciples in Mark 9:47-48 is a “parable”. I know that many Christians think that every reference to hell in the King James bible should be taken literally so let’s take another look at those scriptures to see if it indeed should be interpreted literally;
Mark 9:47-48 And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out: it is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire: Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. Now are we so naive to suggest that Christ is really teaching his disciples to literally pluck their own eyes out? Even if this were true, have you seen any Christians with plucked out eyes? Do you think that there will literally be a bunch of one eyed Christians in the kingdom of God while everyone in hell will have two eyes? Would plucking out our eyes stop us from lusting with our eyes? Can you not see how absurd this would be if interpreted literally? This isn’t literal; this is a parable with symbols and figurative language. If you can’t comprehend this you will never be able to understand anything about the scriptures since the whole bible is full of figurative language with spiritual meaning.
So what did Jesus mean when he said …where their worm dieth not and the fire is not quenched? Christ is actually making a quote from the book of Isaiah;
Isaiah 66:24 And they shall go forth, and look upon the carcases of the men that have transgressed against me: FOR THEIR WORM SHALL NOT DIE, NEITHER SHALL THEIR FIRE BE QUENCHED; and they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh. What in the world is Christ talking about? If we rely on the Christian understanding of these things then it will never make any sense. Remember that Christ is talking to his disciples so we can be sure that Christ is not talking about immortal worms or eternal fire.
The key to understanding this truth is to first understand the word in this parable that was translated as the word “hell”. We have already talked about the different words in the Greek that were translated as hell and they are geenna and hadēs. In the Greek, the word hell in this verse was translated from the Greek word “geenna”. I’m not going to go through the meaning of this word again so if you need a refresher on the meaning of geenna, then reread the section about geenna on this site. We know that geenna was a real place with a real fire burning. Dead bodies were taken there to be destroyed along with all the garbage from the city. Decomposing bodies will attract worms and other carrion insects as a part of the decomposition process. As long as bodies (flesh) and trash are dumped in geenna, their worm dieth not and the fire is not quenched. This is the practical understanding of geenna but Christ used it as a symbol of judgement literally and spiritually.
Everyone will experience symbolic geenna judgement at one point or another for the purpose of the destruction of the flesh (human carnality). Paul tells us this truth concerning judgement; 1 Corinthians 11:31-32 For if we would JUDGE OURSELVES, we should NOT BE JUDGED. But when we are judged, we are CHASTENED OF THE LORD, that we should NOT BE CONDEMNED WITH THE WORLD. Christ is telling his disciples that they can experience his geenna judgment now in this life, or God’s geenna judgment of the world. In part 3, I explained that the spiritual purpose of geenna fire is to spiritually purify through God’s judgment. God not only wants his people to be holy outwardly, he also wants us to be holy inwardly (our heart, emotions, and thoughts). This process can only occur by the divine spiritual workings of God the Creator. This is God’s will and God’s process. Man has created his own version of judgment that makes God’s geenna hell a literal fire burning place meant to literally torment people for eternity. Any person that endorses man’s agenda over the very sovereign will of God is clearly not a true follower of Christ. God is purposefully and willfully using his spiritual geenna fire for the sole purpose of the destruction of the flesh.
1 Corinthians 5:5 TO DELIVER SUCH AN ONE UNTO SATAN FOR THE DESTRUCTION OF THE FLESH, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. In the practical sense, what do worms do to dead bodies? The word translated as “worm” in Mark 9:48 comes from the Greek word skōlēx and it is really referring to a maggot. Maggots literally destroy flesh in the decomposition process but this is symbolic for God’s unquenchable spiritual fire purging judgment surely no one can put out. The phrase “the fire is not quenched” or “unquenchable fire” as it is stated in Matthew 3:12 is thought to be a reference to eternal fire as in this case;
Jude 1:7 Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, SUFFERING THE VENGEANCE OF ETERNAL FIRE. If we use some common sense here, we should easily be able to understand that the cities of Sodom and Gomorrha are not literally suffering anything at the present time and the word eternal as it appears in this scripture is a blatant translation error. Eternal is translated from the Greek word aiōnios and we have already studied this word and understand its true meaning to be age abiding or eonian. If these cities are literally suffering the vengeance of eternal fire, wouldn’t this “eternal” fire still exist today? In Genesis 19:24, we read this;
Now let’s take another look at Matthew 3:12;
Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire. In the Christian church, this is often mistakenly understood as a comparison between the “saved and the unsaved”. The truth is that this has nothing to do with the wicked and unbelieving world. Christ is talking about his chosen elect – the true believers who have been called out of the Christian church who are know longer being deceived by the pagan beliefs of the world and man made traditions of the church. God is purging and chastening His elect now in this life with geenna judgement. To understand this parable, we must understand how Christ uses the words wheat and chaff. Wheat and chaff are included together naturally before the wheat is winnowed – the process of separating the wheat from the chaff. In practical purposes, the wheat is the grain and it is the good part that is used for food. The chaff is the outer casing of the grain that has no purpose for food and it is discarded. Let’s look at another scripture that illustrates what Christ is teaching;
1 Corinthians 3:14-15 IF ANY MAN’S WORK ABIDE which he hath built thereupon, HE SHALL RECEIVE A REWARD. IF ANY MAN’S WORK SHALL BE BURNED, HE SHALL SUFFER LOSS: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire. A person’s work is what the wheat and chaff represents here. Both occur naturally because man were created subject to vanity – Romans 8:20. When God calls us out of the world, He exposes us and starts to burn us with the fire of His unquenchable fire. We cannot quench or put out God’s fire purging judgment. This has nothing to do with the false teaching of hell and eternal fire. Unquenchable has nothing to do with the word eternal. God is getting rid of the chaff – the unwanted things that make up a man. These things include our lustful ways, sinful acts, and prideful nature. For God’s elect, this process is taking place now in this life through the fiery trials of life and persecution.
1 Peter 4:12 Beloved, think it not strange concerning THE FIERY TRIAL WHICH IS TO TRY YOU, as though some strange thing happened unto you:
Christ likens the wicked and unbelieving world as the tares. This isn’t just referring to people who live in the “pagan world” so to speak. This also includes all of the people who are a part of the worldwide Christian church system that believes in all of these false doctrines of men and devils over God’s Word. Matthew 13:42, And shall cast them into a FURNACE OF FIRE: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. What many fail to realize is that this is also a parable spoken by Jesus.
Matthew 13:53 And it came to pass, that when JESUS HAD FINISHED THESE PARABLES, he departed thence. This furnace of fire is synonymous with the lake of fire spoken of in Revelation that I will discuss in Part 8. Actually most if not all of the references to fire in the New Testament are directly related to God’s spiritual fire purging judgment. We cannot quench God’s judgment on us whether it takes place in this age or in the age to come. God’s judgement is a “furnace of fire” and it will consume any and everything that isn’t precious and pure.
For those of us that God has chosen, we know that this is something that we simply cannot do with our own will; For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure. Philippians 2:13
In Part 8, I will be revealing the truth about one of the most misinterpreted phrases in the entire bible, the Lake of Fire.
Click the link to go to Part 8: The Lake of Fire: This is a symbol…