I have been recently involved in a number of discussions about hell and the eternal conscious torment of those who go to hell. Within these discussions the following passage is often cited and used to support an argument of eternal torment; the worm representing a person or their soul.
Mar 9:47 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,
Mar 9:48 ‘where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.’
At first glance, indeed it does seem to support this position; yet contextual investigation will show this is not the case. Instead the passage is saying the worms who eat the deceased will not die. The point of the Isaiah passage is that the nations gather to worship God. He is telling his disciples to stop big noting themselves and that their mission is to point others to God and not to themselves. Within Jesus, eternal life shall be found. Outside of Jesus – death is the result.
However, its my contention that the main point Jesus is making here isn’t about hell; rather he is teaching something on a deeper level… and the key to this understanding is found in the subsequent verse.
Mar 9:49 For everyone will be salted with fire.
Mar 9:50 Salt is good, but if the salt has lost its saltiness, how will you amake it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.”
.We must ask: why is Jesus saying have peace with one another?” How does this fit into the scope of what he just said? Within this framework of questioning we are forced to back track to the beginning of the conversation which starts in Mark 9:33 and continues to 9:50.
The disciples had been arguing about who was the greatest among themselves. Pride was rearing up. There is a sense that they were trying to outdo each other in the various miracles they were performing. So much so, they were proud of stopping someone who wasn’t one of them from casting demons out in Jesus name . Jesus replies to them; Pull your heads in, for anyone who is for them isn’t against them.
The main message of Mark 9:33-50 isn’t about hell. It’s all about getting living a life that will attract and allow others to worship Christ and not one that separates others from Christ. And within the context of life and death – all who receive the gift of eternal life are equal in Gods eyes – for in Christ there is no gender, class, age or national difference.