Their worm - This figure is taken from Isaiah 66:24. See the notes at that passage. In describing the great prosperity. of the kingdom of the Messiah, Isaiah says that the people of God “shall go forth, and look upon the carcasses of the men who have transgressed against God.” Their enemies would be overcome. They would be slain. The people of God would triumph. The figure is taken from heaps of the dead slain in battle; and the prophet says that the number would be so great that their worm - the worm feeding on the dead - would not die, would live long - as long as there were carcasses to be devoured; and that the fire which was used to burn the bodies of the dead would continue long to burn, and would not be extinguished until they were consumed. The figure, therefore, denotes great misery, and certain and terrible destruction. In these verses it is applied to the state beyond the grave, and is intended to denote that the destruction of the wicked will be awful, widespread, and eternal.
It is not to be supposed that there will be any “real” worm in hell - perhaps no material fire; nor can it be told what was particularly intended by the undying worm. There is no authority for applying it, as is often done, to remorse of conscience, anymore than to any other of the pains and reflections of hell. It is a mere image of loathsome, dreadful, and “eternal” suffering. In what that suffering will consist it is probably beyond the power of any living mortal to imagine. The word their, in the phrase “their worm,” is used merely to keep up the “image” or “figure.” Dead bodies putrefying in that valley would be overrun with worms, while the “fire” would not be confined to them, but would spread to other objects kindled by combustibles through all the valley. It is “not” meant, therefore, that every particular sufferer has a special worm, or has particular sins that cause remorse of conscience. That is a truth, but it does not appear that it is intended to be taught here.
Every one shall be salted with fire - Perhaps no passage in the New Testament has given more perplexity to commentators than this, and it may be impossible now to fix its precise meaning. The common idea affixed to it has been, that as salt preserves from putrefaction, so fire, applied to the wicked in hell, will have the property of preserving them in existence, or they will “be” preserved amid the sprinkling of fire, to be continually in their sufferings a sacrifice to the justice of God; but this meaning is not quite satisfactory. Another opinion has been, that as salt was sprinkled on the victim preparatory to its being devoted to God (see Leviticus 2:13), so would “the apostles,” by trials, calamities, etc., represented here by “fire,” be prepared as a sacrifice and offering to God. Probably the passage has no reference at all to future punishment; and the difficulty of interpreting it has arisen from supposing it to be connected with the 48th verse, or given as a “reason” for what is said in “that” verse, rather than considering it as designed to illustrate the “general design” of the passage. The main scope of the passage was not to discourse of future punishment; that is brought in incidentally. The chief object of the passage was -
1.To teach the apostles that “other men,” not “with them,” might be true Christians, Mark 9:38-39.
5.That everything which would endanger their salvation should be sacrificed; that they should “deny” themselves in every way in order to obtain eternal life. In this way they would be “preserved” to eternal life.
The word “fire,” here, therefore denotes self-denials, sacrifices, trials, in keeping ourselves from the gratification of the flesh. As if he had said, “Look at the sacrifice on the altar. It is an offering to God, about to be presented to him. It is sprinkled with “salt, emblematic of purity, of preservation and of fitting it, therefore, for a sacrifice.” So “you” are devoted to God. You are sacrifices, victims, offerings to him in his service. To make you “acceptable” offerings, every thing must be done to “preserve” you from sin and to “purify” you. Self-denials, subduing the lusts, enduring trials, removing offences, are the proper “preservatives” in the service of God. Doing this, you will be acceptable offerings and be saved; without this, you will be “unfit” for his eternal service and will be lost.”
Lost its saltness - See the notes at Matthew 5:13.
Have salt in yourselves - Have the preserving, purifying principle always; the principles of denying yourselves, of suppressing pride, ambition, contention, etc., and thus you will be an acceptable offering to God.
Have peace - Avoid contention and quarrelling, struggling for places, honors, and office, and seek each other‘s welfare, and religion will be honored and preserved in the world.
The fact that one does not in all things conform to our personal ideas or opinions will not justify us in forbidding him to labor for God. Christ is the Great Teacher; we are not to judge or to command, but in humility each is to sit at the feet of Jesus, and learn of Him. Every soul whom God has made willing is a channel through which Christ will reveal His pardoning love. How careful we should be lest we discourage one of God's light bearers, and thus intercept the rays that He would have shine to the world! DA 438.1
Harshness or coldness shown by a disciple toward one whom Christ was drawing—such an act as that of John in forbidding one to work miracles in Christ's name—might result in turning the feet into the path of the enemy, and causing the loss of a soul. Rather than for one to do this, said Jesus, “it is better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the sea.” And He added, “If thy hand cause thee to stumble, cut it off: it is good for thee to enter into life maimed, rather than having thy two hands to go into hell, into the unquenchable fire. And if thy foot cause thee to stumble, cut it off: it is good for thee to enter into life halt, rather than having thy two feet to be cast into hell.” Mark 9:43-45, R. V. DA 438.2
Why this earnest language, than which none can be stronger? Because “the Son of man is come to save that which was lost.” Shall His disciples show less regard for the souls of their fellow men than the Majesty of heaven has shown? Every soul has cost an infinite price, and how terrible is the sin of turning one soul away from Christ, so that for him the Saviour's love and humiliation and agony shall have been in vain. DA 438.3Read in context »