Hell Fire and the Immortality of the Soul
“If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life maimed, rather than having two hands, to go to hell, into the fire that shall never be quenched— where ‘their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched” (Mark 9:43, 44).
The word hell used in Mark 9:43-48 is from the Greek word Gehenna. This term, is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew word Hinnom, the name of a valley near Jerusalem, “used as a place to cast carcasses of animals and malefactors, which were consumed by fire constantly kept up.” (Liddell and Scott’s Greek Lexicon).
The word “Worm” which is in Greek “skōlēx” means “a maggot.” As Major, Manson, and Wright (The Mission and Message of Jesus, p. 123) comments, “The undying worm is not the symbol of a soul which cannot die, but is the symbol of corruption which cannot be purged.”
In Mark 9:43-48, Christ evidently refers to the same judgment fires of hell as those described in Isaiah 66:24, where we read: “They [the righteous] shall go forth, and look upon the carcasses [“dead bodies,” A.R.V.] of the men that have transgressed against me; for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched.” We are told in so many words that the agencies of “work” and “fire” of hell are working, not upon disembodied spirits, but upon bodies, dead bodies.
In Luke 9:43 “life” is set forth in contrast with “the fire that never shall be quenched.” And in Romans 6:23 and many other scriptures “life” stands in contrast with “death.” In John 3:16, the contrast is between “everlasting life” and “perishing.” It is obvious that Jesus here means the same contrast.“ The fire is not quenched” stands in opposition to “their worm dies not,” and is an equal expression, yet it seems contradictory that maggots should continue their work in hell fire. To say that if a fire keeps on burning, then whatever is cast into it keeps on living indefinitely, is contradictory to both the works of nature and to the testimony of Scripture.
There is nothing in the word skōlēx, “worm,” that even remotely justifies the popular explanation equating “worm” with “soul” (Isaiah 66:24), a fact recognized by almost all commentators, whatever they may think personally about the state of man in death.
Is Hell Forever?
The Bible specifically teaches that hell fire will go out and that there will not be left “a coal to warm at, nor fire to sit before it” (Isaiah 47:14). Malachi wrote that sinners would burn up as “stubble” and would become “ashes under the soles” of the feet of the redeemed (Malachi 4:1, 3). Even Satan will be turned to ashes upon the earth (Ezekiel 28:18). The wicked do not keep on burning endlessly; the fires of the last day will literally “burn them up” (Jeremiah 17:27; Matt. 3:12; 25:41; 2 Peter 3:7–13; Jude 7).
And “the wages of sin is not eternal life in hell fire, but “death” (Romans 6:23), the same penalty God assured Adam and Eve would be theirs if they ate the forbidden fruit (Genesis 2:17). Ezekiel states clearly that “The soul who sins shall die” (Ezekiel 18:4) not live in misery.
The wicked will burn in the fire as long as they live, or until death. God states that all will be punished according to their deeds. This means some will receive greater punishment than others, based upon their works (Matthew 16:27; Romans 2:5-7; Proverbs 24:12) but after the punishment, the fire will go out. The Bible also teaches that in God’s new kingdom all “former things” will be passed away (Revelation 21:1, 4). Hell, being one of the former things, will also pass away.
If God tortured His enemies in hell throughout eternity, He would be more cruel than men have ever been. The teaching of eternal torment in Hell is an attack upon the loving character of a tender and merciful heavenly Father who loved His children unto death “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).
In His service,
This post is also available in: हिन्दी (Hindi)