The Worm and the Fire

Do not Jesus’ words about the possibility of going into Gehenna, “where the worm does not die and the fire is not quenched” show that hell is a place of unending conscious torment? (Mark 9:43-48).

Before jumping to conclusions, however, the following facts must be taken into account:

1. Jesus is quoting from Isaiah chapter 66:15-16, 23-24 which pictures God’s destroying his enemies until all that remains is a pile of corpses, being consumed by maggots and fire, a scene of disgust and abhorrence. 
2. The reference is to “dead bodies” not immortal immaterial souls.
3. The setting is a rubbish-dump outside of Jerusalem, not some other worldly subterranean “hell” which doubles as the Devil’s headquarters. 
4. There is no suggestion that these people will suffer eternally though their carcasses will remain for a time as a reminder of their rebellion against God. 

Those that argue that an “unquenchable fire” must have an endless supply of fuel or that an undying worm must have an endless supply of food simply ignore the way Scripture itself uses such language. A fire that is not “quenched” is precisely one that burns until it has consumed the object being burnt (Ezk. 20:47-48). No doubt the worms too will feed until the wicked are totally consumed as is pictured in (Malachi 4:1,3).

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