- Mark 9:43-48
- "The fire is not quenched."
- This passage is argued vigorously by Holiness-Fire Pentecostals and other Evangelical bodies as positive proof that the souls of the wicked will spend eternity suffering the torment of hell-fire.
- Pentecostals insist on taking "the fire is not quenched" literally, but what about "where their worm dieth not"? Are there immortal worms in hell? Similarly, is one to take literally the cutting off of hand (vs. 43), foot (vs. 45) and the plucking out of one's eye (vs. 47)?
- Jesus is almost certainly quoting from Isa. 66:24: "And they shall go forth, and look upon the carcasses 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. " But this unquenchable fire is not the hell-fire of Pentecostal teaching. Note the differences:
- The fire is located outside Jerusalem in Israel. (Isa. 66:20). This is not the location of the hell-fire of Pentecostal and Evangelical teaching.
- Travellers will observe the carcasses of the men that have transgressed against God. Pentecostal teaching consigns souls, not bodies, to hell.
- The Greek word, "Gehenna" translated "hell" comes from the Hebrew, "Ghi-Hinnom",1 the name of the valley to the south of Jerusalem2 where the kings Ahaz and Manasseh offered their sons to the Molech. (2 Chron. 28:3; 33:6; Jer. 32:35). The area was polluted by Josiah (2 Kings 23:10) and was called Topheth (altar).3 It subsequently became the city's garbage dump, where dead animals were thrown and refuse burned.4 What remained from the fire was consumed by the worm. Jesus, therefore, uses the word "Gehenna" as a symbol of complete and utter destruction, not as a term denoting eternal preservation in torment.
- Fire is used in Scripture for utter destruction, not for preservation in torment. Consider the following:
- Sodom and Gomorrha were destroyed by fire and brimstone and are now set forth as "an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire." (Jude 7 cf. Gen. 19:24). But are these cities still burning? Scripture affirms that these cities were overthrown in a moment. (Lam. 4:6) and turned to ashes. (2 Pet. 2:6 cf. Deut. 29:23).
- Nadab and Abihu (sons of Aaron) were "devoured" and died by fire which came out from the LORD. (Lev. 10:1,2).
- A fire from the LORD "consumed" the 250 men who illegally offered incense in the rebellion of Korah, Dathan and Abiram. (Nu. 16:35).
- Fire came down from God out of heaven and "consumed" the messengers from the King of Samaria during the time of the Prophet Elijah. (2 Kings 1:10).
- "Unquenchable fire" is an apparently absolute expression which is limited in application, (i.e., until that which is the subject of reference, is totally and utterly consumed). Two passages serve as an illustration:
- "Behold, mine anger and my fury shall be poured out upon this place, upon man, and upon beast, and upon the trees of the field, and upon the fruit of the ground; and it shall turn, and shall not be quenched." (Jer. 7:20). Nevertheless God will have mercy upon Zion when the "set time is come". (Psa. 102:13). Jerusalem will be the city of the great King. (Matt. 5:35 cf. Luke 1:31-33).
- "I will kindle a fire in the gates thereof, and it shall devour the palaces of Jerusalem, and it shall not be quenched." (Jer. 17:27). The fire was not quenched until it had consumed all that could be burned. The fire is not now burning.
Besides these two biblical references, "unquenchable
fire" was also used by the pagan Homer and the church historian
Eusebius. Pagan Homer wrote about the Trojans who used
"unquenchable fire" against the Grecian ships (Iliad 16.
123, 194; 1. 599). Eusebius, writing in the early 4th century AD
used "unquenchable fire" to describe how a Christian martryr
was burned to ashes (Eccles. History 6. 41).
In summary, the expression "unquenchable fire" merely
means that there is no deliverance for the condemned.
"Death" cannot shut out the hope of being brought back to
life again, but "eternal death" does remove all hope of a
future life. Likewise, a "fire" can be quenched before
it has entirely consumed what it is burning: however an
"unquenchable fire" cannot be quenched until it has utterly
destroyed that which it is burning.
- Ethelbert W. Bullinger, A Critical Lexicon and Concordance to the English and Greek New Testament, (London: Samuel Bagster and Sons Ltd., 1957), p. 367. Return
- See Josh. 15:8 Return
- Robert Young, Analytical Concordance to the Holy Bible, (London: Lutterworth Press, 1965). Young comments: "A place in the valley of Hinnom where sacrifices were offered and the dead bodies buried or consumed." Return
- James Hasting, (ed.) Dictionary of the Bible, (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1963). p. 319. Return