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I don’t know if any of you receive the emails that Dr. John Roller sends out, but I really enjoyed this last one. Dr. Roller is an expert on the doctrine of Conditional Immortality (also called “the sleep of the dead” or “soul sleep”). His impassioned defense of the importance of this doctrine can be watched or listened to on our Death is Sleep resource site. More information about Dr. John Roller, including some articles, may be found on his website. What follows is his explanation of the meaning of Mark 9.48. Before quoting his exposition, it may be helpful to remind you of what the verse says in its context.

Mark 9:42 – 50
42  “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe to stumble, it would be better for him if, with a heavy millstone hung around his neck, he had been cast into the sea. 43 “If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life crippled, than, having your two hands, to go into hell, into the unquenchable fire, 44 where THEIR WORM DOES NOT DIE, AND THE FIRE IS NOT QUENCHED. 45 “If your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame, than, having your two feet, to be cast into hell, 46 where THEIR WORM DOES NOT DIE, AND THE FIRE IS NOT QUENCHED. 47 “If your eye causes you to stumble, throw it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye, than, having two eyes, to be cast into hell, 48 where THEIR WORM DOES NOT DIE, AND THE FIRE IS NOT QUENCHED. 49 “For everyone will be salted with fire. 50 “Salt is good; but if the salt becomes unsalty, with what will you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.”

What follows are Dr. Rollers remarks.


Q: What is meant by the biblical expression “the worm dieth not”?

A: In Mark 9:48, Jesus quotes Isaiah 66:24, a passage in which Isaiah presents the LORD (see Isaiah 66:23) as predicting something that will take place on the “new earth” (see Isaiah 66:22). He says that “they [referring to the ‘all flesh’ mentioned in Isaiah 66:23] shall go forth, and look upon the CARCASES [not ‘immortal souls’] of the men that have transgressed against me: for their WORM [the maggot that feeds on those ‘carcases’] shall not die, neither shall their fire [the fire that burns up those ‘carcases’] be quenched: and they [the people that have transgressed against God] shall be an abhorring unto all flesh.” This “picture” is that of a city dump, where maggots feed on dead bodies and fire burns up trash: it is not a picture of a torture chamber where demons with pitchforks prod living human beings into fires that burn them alive but never actually harm them (because, if they did, they would eventually destroy them altogether). I can’t imagine that Jesus, in quoting the passage, meant to teach anything other than what the passage itself taught: so Mark 9:48 must mean the same thing that Isaiah 66:24 means. The idea of the “never-dying worm” is a symbol for the fact that as long as there is a dead body to be chewed on, there will always be a worm to do the chewing – not that any individual worm is immortal! Anyway, the human being in this picture is most definitely DEAD, not alive. “Carcases” don’t suffer pain, and they aren’t aware that worms are eating them; and, after they have been in fires for a while, they burn up, and they don’t exist anymore. I see NO justification for “natural immortality” in either of these verses, and I can’t imagine how anyone who reads Hebrew and Greek could.

If you have a question that you’d like me to answer in a future issue of the Roller Update, please send it (right away!) to johnroller@faithbiblechristian.com.

One Response to “Mark 9.48 — The Worm That Never Dies”

  1. on 07 Oct 2010 at 9:50 amCameo

    Just the other day I was reading my bible and got side tracked on the subject of the worm. It was kind of funny..because i didn’t set out to study this subject… but this is usually how God gets me to look into something. The worm i found likes to eat on dead bodies and when we are spiritually dead we have this worm or torment, hell fire moments in our life that never die. It reminds me of our life. When we are unwilling to surrender to God and continue to live a lawless life we suffer spiritual death. Our lives speak defeat..everything we touch turns to garbage. Nothing ever gets better. Our health, family, fincial world everything sees a lack of blessing. I was known as a black sheep, growing up from the begining. My twin sister was known as the adulterous women and my older sister had the name preganant without being married. These names or titles if you will have followed us for years and has caused so much pain. But when we turned to God and asked him to blot out this old identity we get a new name. I’m now called the daughter of his delight. My God now has turned my morning into Joy..I have a hope of restoration. Those who continue to keep their old name/life never have the hope of restoration. They have that worm/tormented life that offers no hope of a new begining..but it’s all because they are not willing to turn from their sin. They like, many others love what the world has to offer (addiction, anger, hate, self love, etc). When God is brought into the picture because their tired of this old life he burns away the old…it’s called the refiners fire to bring in the new….born…delivered from the yuck. Thank you God for giving me a future and a hope. I believe this is why Christ gave the desciples a new name. Their identity had changed. Sara…turned to Sarah..Abram…to Abraham. Simeon to Peter…Benoi (Son of my pain) to Benjamin (Son of the right hand). We have a new name written down in glory and it’s mine. We take on Gods name….Powerful, Overcomer, Redeemed….Or you can have he name of Abbadon/Apolyon…Destroyer….YUCK!


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