Jesus said, “if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye, rather than having two eye, to be cast into hell fire-where ‘Their worm does not die’” (Mark 9:47, 48). In this passage, the word “hell” is translated from the Greek word gehenna, which is another name for the Valley of Hinnom. This was Jerusalem’s city dump where refuse and the dead bodies of animals were thrown into an ever-smoldering fire to be consumed. So, that which might have escaped the flames of fire would be destroyed by maggots. Thus, gehenna represents a disgraceful place of destruction.
Some believe that the undying worm is a symbol of a soul which cannot die. But there is nothing in the word skōlēx, “worm,” that backs this popular explanation equating “worm” with “soul” (Isaiah 66:24). And this fact is recognized by almost all Bible commentators. The verse “Their worm does not die” (Mark 9:48) can’t support the idea of the immortal soul since the “worms” do not work on “disembodied souls,” they work on actual bodies. According to Jesus, humans who are cast into the lake of fire will go in bodily from. For He said: “It is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell” (Matthew 5:30).
The language that Jesus used in Mark 9:47, 48 is figurative language. And there are examples of this figurative language regarding death in the Bible. Isaiah said, “Behold, they shall be as stubble, the fire shall burn them ’they shall not deliver themselves from the power of the flame” (Isaiah 47:14). And in Jeremiah 17:27, God predicts that Jerusalem would burn with a fire that “shall not be quenched” and that would “devour the palace of Jerusalem.” This fire that “shall not be quenched” doesn’t mean an ongoing flame that can’t be put out as obviously this doesn’t exist in Jerusalem today. It is figurative language that was to describe the destruction of ancient Jerusalem. Thus, the flames and worms of Gehenna is figurative languages used to describe the eradication (ultimate end) of sinners and sin. This concept of hell, fire or worms, literally being something that lasts forever and can never be put out is not supported by the Bible.
Check out our Bible Answers page for more information on a variety of topics.
In His service,