Answering The “Hell” Verses

 

Verse #3 - Isaiah 66:24 

 

They will go out, and look at the dead bodies of the men who have transgressed against me; for their worm will not die, nor will their fire be quenched, and they will be loathsome to all mankind.  

WEB (World English Bible)

 

And they have gone forth, And looked on the carcases of the men Who are transgressing against me, For their worm dieth not, And their fire is not quenched, And they have been an abhorrence to all flesh!  

YLT (Young's Literal Translation)

And they fare forth and see the corpses of the mortals, the transgressors against Me, for their worm shall not die, and their fire shall not be quenched, and they become a repulsion to all flesh. 

CLT (Concordant Literal Translation)

 

Then shall they go forth and look upon the dead bodies of the men who had been trespassing against me—For, their worm, shall not die, And, their fire, shall not be quenched; So shall they become an abhorrence to all flesh.  

Rotherham Bible

 

[This passage, for many, is the most compelling reason to believe in eternal conscious torment. It is quoted by Jesus in Mark 9:43-49.] 

 

After reviewing the many views and points to consider when studying this excerpt of scripture, we should be reminded of Paul’s words in

1 Thessalonians 5,  be continuously examining and putting all things to the proof, hold tightly to the beautiful, the ideal, the fine!   

 

 

 

 

 

 

Points and perspectives to consider:

 

 

  1. This passage can easily be taken as a simple, yet horrific view of an historic event. It has profound overtones that are figurative and symbolic. Both perspectives are likely to be simultaneously accurate. 

  2. This seems to be an account, whether historic or prophetic, that occurs in or just outside Jerusalem. 

  3. It is a scene, Isaiah says, of disgust or abhorrence (v. 24). Note that the picture includes dead corpses, not living beings. It involves shame, not pain. These are the “corpses of those who have been slain.” This is not an image of conscious torment. 

  4. Throughout the Bible, the use of “unquenchable” fire refers to fire which cannot be resisted, and which thus completely BURNS UP whatever is put into it (Matt. 3:12; Ezek. 20:47-48; Amos 5:5-6).

  5. The fire is not perpetual. The point is that no man can quench it. Only God can quench this fire. Many translations show the bias of the translators when it renders the phrase too strongly, “shall not be quenched.” The literal rendering of the phrase is simply “is not quenched,” that is, not by any man or natural occurance.

  6. When Jesus quotes this passage (Mk. 9:48), we must read the Scripture he alludes to if we wish to understand His meaning. This text clearly describes total destruction, not conscious torment. Since Jesus says nothing to change the original meaning, but rather confirms it in other places (see Matt. 10:28), we are safe to leave it just as it stands.

  7. During intertestamental times, this language came to be associated with the Valley of the Sons of Hinnom, also known as Gehenna, the word translated “hell” in some New Testaments. Gehenna was once the site of child sacrifices (2 Kings 16:3; 21:6) and later the city “dump” for garbage and dead carcasses (Jer. 7:31-33; 19:2-13). It was a repugnant and disgusting place in biblical times, crawling with worms, maggots, and vermin - filled with sickening sights and smells.

  8. Jesus’ warnings, which correlate with this passage in Isaiah, came with an important component - the timing of this destruction was to occur soon. In Matthew 23:36, Jesus states, “Truly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.” Again in Matthew 24:34 we read, "I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.”

  9. According to various historians, including Flavius Josephus, the horrors and unspeakable events that occurred in and around Jerusalem from 67-70 AD match up with this passage in Isaiah 66 and Jesus’ warnings to the religious leadership of the day.

  10. It’s Interesting that Jesus’ warnings include the word “generation.” The destruction of Jerusalem and the Jewish people of Judea occurred forty years after Jesus’ admonition. Numbers 32:13 gives us a strong indication that forty years was a generation, the number of years the people of Israel wandered in the desert. 

  11. To presume that this is a picture or warning of eternal, conscious torment seems to be the consequence of a predetermined perspective, a savage imagination and established diegesis. It is also the opposite of Peters announcement in Acts 3:21 about the restoration of all things and Paul’s declaration to the Pharisees in Acts 24:15, that the resurrection is for everyone, including the wicked.   

  12. With regards to the term - “for their worm shall never die” - the worm can live until its job is completed, in other words the maggot or worm will not die while it still has a job to do.  

  13. “Their fire shall not be quenched” is not necessarily a declaration of endless fire. Strong’s describes “quenched” as “to be extinguished” which is to say that the fire will continue without being put out. If a house burns to the ground and no one is there to extinguish the fire, then it could be said that the fire was not quenched. Just as the “eternal fire” that destroyed Sodom and her sister cities. The fire was not quenched. It completed its assignment. 

  14. It should be noted that “the worm” is singular, not plural.

  15. One is on solid exegetical ground when they interpret the 66th chapter as a prophetic word about a coming Messiah as the suffering Savior in 4 B.C. and when He returns as a conquering King in the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. The undying worms and the fire that can’t be quenched are symbolic of God’s intention to complete His work in us – destroying our sinful nature to complete us in His image and likeness. 

  16. Figuratively, we can approach this passage in this way. If ALL flesh goes out and looks on the corpses of them that have “rebelled,” whose corpses are they looking at? It would have to be at least some of their own OR ALL of their own. The word “basar” is translated “flesh.” In the Septuagint “sarc” translates the word “basar” and is what Paul refers to as the old nature or self. As if to say, we are seeing our own rebellious selves from a resurrected state.

  17. Isaiah 48 gives us an insight to the fact that God was not surprised. Verse 8 tells us, You have never heard, you have never known, from of old your ear has not been opened. For I knew that you would surely deal treacherously, and that from before birth you were called a rebel. He has consigned these evil ones to rebel, just as He has done likewise to us all according to Paul in Romans 11:32, For God has consigned us all to disobedience so that He may show mercy on all.

  18. Strong’s Concordance 8438, several spellings including, “tola” or “tolaw” means worm, maggot or scarlet. Also "Kermes Vermilio"

  19. If any man’s work is burned, he will suffer loss, but he himself will be saved, but as through fire. I Corinthians 3:15  Our God is eternal, and He is a consuming fire Hebrews 12:29

  20. Doctors are now using maggots to heal people’s wounds. It turns out that maggots will only eat dead and decaying flesh but not living flesh, so maggots placed in an infected wound can clean the wound far better than any human surgeon with a knife. Not only do maggots and worms consume dead matter, they turn it into the raw material for Life. They make the soil rich!

  21. What would “the worm” eat if at one point “death shall be no more” (Rev. 21:5)? When certain “worms” (the one’s we call caterpillars) run out of food or finished eating, they form cocoons (chrysalises), and are transformed into butterflies. They didn’t die. They metamorphosed.

  22. Jesus refers to Himself as a worm in Psalm 22:1-8…1My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? 2O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest. 3Yet you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel. 4In you our fathers trusted; they trusted, and you delivered them. 5To you they cried and were rescued; in you they trusted and were not put to shame. 6But I am a worm (tolaw) and not a man, scorned by mankind and despised by the people. 7All who see me mock me; they make mouths at me; they wag their heads; 8“He trusts in the Lord; let him deliver him; let him rescue him, for he delights in him!” 

  23. Jesus quotes the first line of Psalm 22, on the cross. There he identifies himself as the speaker, subject, and true author of the psalm. The psalm goes on to make that clear. In verse 6 he says, “I am a worm.” Is Jesus immortal? Does Jesus inhabit even Gehenna? Is the consuming worm like The Consuming Fire? Is Jesus immortal? Does Jesus consume death and turn it into life? Is the process shocking, even disgusting to the human eye? Is it his scarlet blood that cleanses us white as snow? 

  24. See APPENDIX “F” - this word “tolaw” refers to a particular type of worm. A worm that would eat dead flesh (in the valley of Gehenna for instance), and at a certain point form a chrysalis and transform into a butterfly. The word is also translated “scarlet,” because it was from this worm that the Hebrews obtained scarlet die. This word shows up in all sorts of verses having to do with the construction of the tabernacle (dwelling of God) and in some fascinating places having to do with ritual sacrifice for cleansing.  

  25. Exodus 26:30-31…30Then you shall erect the tabernacle according to the plan for it that you were shown on the mountain. 31“And you shall make a veil of blue and purple and scarlet (tolaw) yarns and fine twined linen. It shall be made with cherubim skillfully worked into it. 

  26. Leviticus 14:4-7…4the priest shall command them to take for him who is to be cleansed two live clean birds and cedarwood and scarlet (tolaw) yarn and hyssop. 5And the priest shall command them to kill one of the birds in an earthenware vessel over fresh water. 6He shall take the live bird with the cedarwood and the scarlet yarn and the hyssop, and dip them and the live bird in the blood of the bird that was killed over the fresh water. 7And he shall sprinkle it seven times on him who is to be cleansed of the leprous disease. Then he shall pronounce him clean and shall let the living bird go into the open field. 

  27. Matthew 10:29, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground without your Father’s will.” It appears that Jesus is referencing this verse and his listeners knew it. They would buy the two sparrows for ritual cleansing, they would also know that “tolaw” was for healing

  28. The Greek LXX version of Job 25:6 uses skwlhx skolex, which is the Gehenna worm Job uses to describe the “son of man.” 

  29. The Hebrew word used here is elwt towla, meaning specifically coccus ilicis, the female worm, or grub, from which, the much sort after, scarlet dye was extracted. In the Old Testament the word is nearly always translated as "scarlet," the color predominantly associated with wealth and importance, etc., and, not surprisingly, a color which was a prominent feature of the Tabernacle. 

  30. The "worm" and the "fire" mentioned here, does not refer to those who have "transgressed" or rebelled against the Lord. The worm here is towla, which was not a symbol of death or decay, but rather, a symbol of wealth, status, and eternal life through the son of man. 

  31. Dr. Henry Morris of ICR notes: “It would appear that the writer of Mark, either did not know the real significance and symbolism of the undying worm when he constructed his gospel, or he simply could not find a Greek equivalent for it. In the latter case, it remains a mystery why he did not, then, transliterate the Hebrew towla, instead of using the Greek word skolex. That the writer of the Gospel of Mark completely misses the importance of the Old Testament symbology has proved to be totally misleading, for it presents the unwary reader with what appears to be just another allusion to Hell, when in fact, it is not.” 

  32. If eternal torment is true, why would Paul cloak the doctrine of hell in ambiguity - especially considering the gravity of the matter? "The wages of sin," says Paul, "is death" (Rom. 6:23). Throughout Paul’s summary of theology, his letter to the Romans, we read over and over that the result of Adam’s sin is death - an affect we all inherit. Ezekiel 18:20 confirms this: "The person who sins will die.”

  33. Death is the worst possible punishment that can be meted out in in Old Testament law. Even when a man was guilty of multiple murder, the maximum penalty was death. There is no sin worthy of being burned at the stake, much less being burned in a torture chamber for an eternity. 

  34. The dead bodies of the rebellious Israelites are images of what happens to mankind under the law - the end result is death in the old order of things.  However, God having mercy on all made a new way for everyone to enter His kingdom through the sacrifice of His son, Jesus. When we look back at our former selves, everyone will worship Him giving Him glory (credit) for His acts of kindness and relentless love for all.  Love never gives up, and never fails. 

  35. A broader context of Scripture is helpful in understanding passages like this. Does this verse contradict the message of grace and mercy? 

  36. But God was merciful! We were dead because of our sin, but God loved us so much he made us alive with Christ, and God's gift of unconditional grace is what saves you. God raised us from death to life with Christ Jesus, and He has given us a place beside Christ. God did this so in the future world He could show how truly good and kind He is to us because of what Christ Jesus has done. Ephesians 2:4-7

  37. LINK - Video about Jesus' reference of "Worm"  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6dIpDbf7TRY

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