Jesus on the Reality of Hell

Mark 9:42–48 (MEV): “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea. If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, into the fire that shall never be quenched, where
‘their worm does not die,
and the fire is not quenched.’
And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life lame than with two feet to be thrown into hell, into the fire that shall never be quenched,where
‘their worm does not die,
and the fire is not quenched.’
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 than with two eyes to be thrown into the fire of hell, where
‘their worm does not die,
and the fire is not quenched.’

This is a rather unsettling subject. It certainly isn’t without much controversy. You are going to meet people who profess to be Christian, but will allude to Hell not being real, or at least temporary. The will almost always offer a Patrice similar to love wins.

Here, Jesus is speaking in rather matter-of-fact fashion. He is speaking about hell and saying you don’t want to go there. He speaks in veiled fashion of sin. The thing that causes us to go to perdition. Sin is a satisfaction of our own desires without concern to others.

In this passage, Jesus cites a phrase from the prophet Isaiah. Factually, it is the closing idea to the entire writings of that prophet.

Isaiah 66:24 (MEV): And they shall go forth and look on the corpses of the men who have transgressed against Me. For their worm shall not die, nor shall their fire be quenched. And they shall be an abhorrence to all flesh.

Now, understanding what is happening in Isaiah, the they in the text is the human inhabitants of the new heavens and earth. These come to worship in the presence of God on every new moon. Part of that worship is going to involve a forever witness of the costs of sin.

Perdition is forever. That flame won’t stop. That is what is apparent in Isaiah. Three times Jesus quotes Isaiah. Three times He says this is forever. It’s not purgatory. People aren’t going to pay indulgences or have masses in their names to be free of this. It’s important to understand the gravity of this. It’s said three times for a reason.

2 Corinthians 13:1 (MEV): This is the third time I am coming to you. “In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established.”

Paul cites Deuteronomy 19:15. It’s really real. And you don’t want to end up there forever. This is what Jesus is trying to communicate. This next verse will serve as a transition from reality to application.

Mark 9:49 (MEV): Everyone will be salted with fire, and every sacrifice will be salted with salt.

There is some disagreement as to what these closing statements of Jesus mean. This first statement is enigmatic. I am no scholar, but I think the statement is transitional, moving from a dark reality to hopeful application.

Everyone will be salted with fire. Think of the preservative nature of salt. Fire becomes that salty preservative. Fire is judgment, but here it also preserves. This is a short statement that the judgment of sin is preserved eternally.

There is a connecting and transitional thought. And every sacrifice will be salted with salt. Given the nature of what Jesus taught before, it included graphic removal of offending body parts. These are sacrifices one makes. We cut out of ourselves those things that offend God. In so doing, those sacrifices are salted… Preserved.

It’s the juxtaposition of two ideas, both preserved by salt. Because salt is good.

Mark 9:50 (MEV): “Salt is good. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how will you season it? Have salt in yourselves, and have peace with one another.”

In other words, our own constant self introspection and sanctification ensures saltiness. Having salt in ourselves is to be self-controlled. What better way to have peace with others than to esteem the needs of others before our own, and to seek to fulfill the needs of others sacrificing our own.

When we offend, there is no amount of apology or repentance that can heal the hurt of the offense. The one offended will always experience some pain as a reminder. The offender will also have some reminder of the pain given to another… Even if amended. That pain acts as a preservative of the sacrifice.

Think of it like actually removing your hand to keep from offending God. The pain of the offense is far greater than the pain of amputating and living without the hand. Even though you will be reminded constantly by its absence, that sacrifice is salted.

If we as Christians neglect these basic things in our relationships with God and with others, the salt loses its saltiness and becomes mundane.

Have salt in yourselves. Remember the offense you’ve caused and the pain they inflict in others not as self-flagellation. Yes, be constantly remorseful. In the same way, remember the pain others offenses have caused you. Not to be angry or self-pitiful, but knowing you hold no grudge.

Release the offense, whether perpetrator or victim. Have peace with one another.

That’s salt.

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