“And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell, ‘where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.’” (Mark 9:47–48 ESV)
What do you suppose that Jesus meant when he described hell to his listeners as a place where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched?
First let’s just point out that Jesus seems to believe that hell is an actual place. He does not seem to think that hell is a metaphor for getting what we deserve in life, nor does he imply that hell is a state of mind. Jesus seems to think that hell is a physical place that is not a good place to be [whether the fire is metaphorical, I do not know , but there is a difference between fire as a metaphor and hell as an actual place, Jesus seems to leave room for fire to be a metaphor, he does not appear to leave room for hell as a metaphor] I’m not exactly sure what he means by where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched, but I’m sure I do not want to go there and find out.
Jesus is verbatim quoting the very last verse in the book of Isaiah here, so it’s important to us to understand what that passage was referring to, in order to understand Jesus’ words here. Isaiah writes:
““And they shall go out and look on the dead bodies of the men who have rebelled against me. For their worm shall not die, their fire shall not be quenched, and they shall be an abhorrence to all flesh.”” (Isaiah 66:24, ESV)
The one’s who have rebelled against me are the same people who are now in a place where their worm shall not die, their fire shall not be quenched.
What is sin if not rebellion against God? God tells me the way that I ought to live, and I refuse to live that way, I choose to live my own way. This is rebellion against God and God must and shall punish it.
In our passage, Jesus connects sin right back to these people in Isaiah who rebelled against God, the same thing that happened to the people in Isaiah, will happen to those who persist in sin and/or cause others to fall into sin.
Here’s the thing, we are all this way! Paul describes everyone as slaves to sin:
“What then? Are we better off? Not at all, for we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under the power of sin, as it is written, “No one is righteous, not even one; no one is understanding; no one is seeking for God.” (Romans 3:9–11 MOUNCE-NT)
Fortunately for us, Jesus himself made a way for us to escape our slavery to sin:
“It is the righteousness of God available through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. (For there is no distinction, since all have sinned and continue to fall short of the glory of God.) They are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as an atoning sacrifice by his blood, obtainable through faith.” (Romans 3:22–25 MOUNCE-NT)