What does the phrase “their worm does not die” mean?

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“And 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 eyes, to be cast into hell fire— where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched” (Mark 9:47, 48).

The Bible clearly teaches that Hell is not forever. https://bibleask.org/is-hell-forever/.

Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed with everlasting, or eternal, fire (Jude 7), and that fire turned them “into ashes” as a warning to “those that after should live ungodly” (2 Peter 2:6). We know that these cities are not burning today. The fire went out after everything was burned up. Likewise, the everlasting hell fire will go out after it has turned the wicked to ashes (Malachi 4:3). The effects of the fire are everlasting, but not the burning itself. So, obviously the phrase “their worm does not die” is symbolic in its meaning.

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 the popular explanation equating “worm” with “soul” (Isa. 66:24). And this fact is recognized by almost all commentators.

A worm is a symbol for complete destruction. In v. 43 “life” is set forth in contrast with “the fire that never shall be quenched.” In Rom. 6:23 and many other scriptures, “life” stands in contrast with “death.” In John 3:16 the contrast is between “everlasting life” and “perishing.” Therefore, it is obvious that Jesus in this verse intends the same contrast. “The fire that shall never be quenched” stands in parallel to “‘their worm does not die.” Maggots can’t exist in the presence of fire. Therefore, the meaning of the word worm is clearly symbolic.

Check out our Bible Answers page for more information on a variety of topics.

In His service,
BibleAsk Team


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