Free Republic
Browse · Search
Topics · Post Article

Skip to comments.

Hell: the Worm and the Fire

Posted on 11/10/2006 9:20:15 PM PST by Rurudyne

Hell––a bone of contention in our culture that often sees an everlasting state of punishment as somehow too sadistic and too cruel ... therefore a state of being that many hotly reject.

I have something to suggest about the nature and severity of that punishment and I should be very clear that this is an analysis––MY ANALYSIS––and not a statement of vital doctrine.

There are two principal torments indicated in scripture: the worm and the fire. The worm is within and the fire is without.

Of the worm: I suggest that this is the "itch" to sin.

I've often seen Hell described as a place where fallen angels have domain and sometimes even a place where persons engage in endless sin (a whole series of books, in fact).

However, among many who accept the doctrine of Hell, it is generally understood that the environment will be sufficiently content-free so that overt acts of sin, those outside the body, will not possible.

Yet, without going too much into it, I cannot accept that there will any sin of ANY kind going on in Hell. That even ‘simple expressions’ of sin––like hatred or envy––that can be fully internalized will not be possible.

My two principal arguments for this assertion are:

It is said of Jesus that He came to destroy the works of the devil. The principal work of Satan has been sin. If there is any form of sin actually manifested in Hell then a work of the devil remains.

It is said of Jesus that He is the savior of all the world BUT that He is also a special kind of savior for the redeemed. The distinction is that all have been saved from something while some have been saved to something. What all have been saved from is the continued presence of sin, or such is my thesis.

The obvious objection to this point is that if those condemned to the lake of fire are functionally without sin then how is their continued disposition just?

To answer this, a distinction needs to be made between those who are saved and those who are lost with respect to their very different "itches."

Someone who is saved has in this life received the Holy Spirit and is a new creation. Now, we continue to be ordinary people and we do sin ... but our ultimate nature has been changed. What we do is not a function of who we are so much as it is a byproduct of what we are carrying around with us 24/7 ... namely this body of death. Not ignoring the fact that Christians sin, something is changed in our vital nature. There is a hunger for God. That hunger is an itch, which the more we scratch at it the stronger it will become. Once the body of death is removed, then all that will remain of our desires is to have more and more of God.

Heaven and the New Earth are the places where that can happen 24/7––or whatever.

Now as for those who remain lost. Their nature––even in resurrection––IS the body of death. Their itch is to sin. The more they scratch at it in life the greater the itch. This is not as most people think of things are: the most vigorous scratchers are not murderers or harlots but are instead Satan's masterpieces ... seemingly moral individuals who sit in a pew for year after year and never get saved. Still, the intensity of the itch to sin is not in and of itself sin, as sin––even sins of the mind and feelings––are actions which are undertaken to scratch the undeniable itch.

This is how I propose that the sin-worm functions. This worm is the itch to sin. If there is no possibility to sin, then it is an itch that must rage unabated at exactly the level it raged when physical death came. The inability to scratch translates into an inability for the itch to grow. This would actually be a great mercy on God's part as He would only have to assign punishment is accordance with a set level of wickedness ... no judgment would ever have to be revised for the worse.

Thus His wrath may not be specifically addressing any deeds done in life and instead may be remedial ... a response to the persistent state of the lost rather than their transient actions.

In this light I should point out that His judgments and wrath could never be revised for the better ... since it takes the Holy Spirit to effect the removal of the sin-nature (the worm) and He won't be anywhere near there or them.

And yes, folks who dangled their toes in salvation's waters for their whole lives have the very worst itches of all ... at least among human beings. A heartfelt and ethically straight pagan who never heard much about Jesus or gave Him a second thought would probably have an almost inconsequential sin-itch by comparison.

This brings me to the fire: The fire is the counter force that keeps the worm in check. Gross sins––external sins––are all unavailable to the damned. This leaves only those sins of the heart and mind––like hatred or envy. If there is no check against these then the sin-worm would find some means of expression ... even if only an internal one.

So the strength of the fire is measured in accordance to the strength of the worm. It would only have to be exacting, just enough to be the counter force to keep that which is within in check.

Thus one whose sin-worm is weak to nonexistent would have to endure only a "little" fire. Another with a raging worm would endure a raging fire. The pressure of God's wrath keeps the sinner's final state effectively sinless. No works of the devil remain.

"But they are in Hell!" someone might protest.

True, but Hell isn't Satan's work

It is God's.

While Satan would probably rather not go into the lake of fire, he knows that's where he'll end up. He has God's word on it. Simply, I'm suggesting that Hell is the place where even Satan won't be able to sin any more.

As for the finality of Hell––getting neither worse nor better––if God were to ever let up for even a moment then those in Hell would have to seize the opportunity to sin to the max or else miss their opportunity. The absolute worst thing I could imagine would be their collective voice shouting over the dividing gulf something to this effect: "He has relented in or sufferings, how can you be sure he won't someday relent in your good?"

So the only way to prevent Hell from needing to be worse is to prevent it from from ever getting better. In essence, the damned will be held in changeless stasis in which they can neither repent nor rebel.

This is quite unlike what I imagine for the redeemed, whose God-itch would be scratched to ever greater intensity for all of eternity. God being without limits is also God as a limitless fascination and focus. The saints need never fear of growing tired of God.

And they have His word that he will never grow tired of them.

Which brings up this point: the suffering of the wicked is of a piece with the exaltation of the redeemed. They are both expressions of God's faithfulness.

I'm just arguing that one is a fixed, remedial state while the other is an expanding one; also, that both are in accordance with the nature of a person's true essence.

TOPICS: Apologetics; Moral Issues; Religion & Culture; Theology
KEYWORDS: heaven; hell; judgement; salvation
Now, is such an analysis as I’ve just presented impious or improper to be made?

Remember, when it says:

"Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, and which have not entered the heart of man, all that God has prepared for those who love Him."

... we are really dealing with a condition very different from the one we experience now. Even if God had gone on in great detail about Heaven, our frame of reference is such (living in a world full of sin) that we'd probably not understand what was said. Only Adam and Eve ever had a frame of reference which might enable them to comprehend such a description ... were one available. In one sense, this is what Paul writes of when he 'describes' the experience of being taken up into the third heaven––or the Heaven of God's presence. Likewise with John's experiences. Or even Isaiah, who saw Him.

They did see, but were blown away by the experience and only able to deal with it but a little. Paul certainly didn't imagine he could tell anyone about it beyond the mere fact; and, while John tried to provide descriptions, these are problematic when one gets beyond the actions being taken by God, Messiah, angelic beings and exalted persons.

On the other hand, we do live in a world chock full of sin. If one is of a mind to, he may see quite clearly aspects of Hell closing on and enveloping actual persons as well as be aware of the stench that may be coming from the all-too-close body of death. So it may also be significant that God never says that Hell will be beyond our ability to comprehend in the here and now. Indeed, Jesus provided the very details on numerous occasions upon which I based my own speculations.

Simply, Hell is at least intellectually––though not factually––comprehensible because it's heat metaphorically radiates throughout the whole world as it now is.

Maybe you'll understand the analysis better if you understand another exercise I've sometimes (infrequently) undertaken.

I try to imagine what Heaven will be like. Really apply myself. Then when I think I've done the best I can, I look to God in prayer and essentially say "You have said that Heaven is beyond comprehension, well, this is pretty amazingly good––but it is comprehensible. So it must fall short. What You have in mind is far better than my best. I have Your word on it. So sock it to me!"

It says that we are to test God to see that He is good.

But part of God's goodness is His holiness and justness which define why there is a Hell and must also determine the limits of same. Those limits are rooted in this life and this world, the things done in the body. So I don't believe my analysis to be impious.

Indeed, there is an idea in our culture that sinners in Hell will somehow still be able to sin (a whole series of books to that effect, as mentioned earlier). If at the deepest (subconscious) level they wish to sin––sin is their thing––then the implication that even Hell won't hold them back from this desire might actually be a source of comfort to continue as they are doing.

If, on the other hand, it is made quite clear that Hell is a place full of frustrated sinners––unable to sin––then Hell becomes a place of genuine privation and horror as incomprehensible to sinners as Heaven is to still-mortal Saints. Something that may help to literally scare the Hell out of a few people.

Or such would be my desire and motivation.

1 posted on 11/10/2006 9:20:17 PM PST by Rurudyne
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | View Replies]

To: Rurudyne
Check out this site.

It's my understanding that hell is an eternal place for all who reject Jesus Christ, that the worm is another punishment in addition to the flames. You might also be interested in the different words. "Gehenna" seems to be comparable to the valley of Hinnom in Israel, in which corpses burned. Tartarus is likely the abode of angels in chains.

2 posted on 11/11/2006 5:17:43 PM PST by Tim Long (Don't blame me. I voted conservative.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Rurudyne

Studies in hamartiology are helpful in better grasping the nature of Sheol.

Any proper study of hell will discern the meanings of Sheol, Hades, Lake of Fire, Paradise, Abraham's Bosom, Tarturus or the Torments, the Pit, the grave, the dead vs the living, the ressurection, with linkages to sin, condemnation, salvation, and heaven.

It might be noted that the Lake of Fire was created for the fallen angels, and later those who are declared PONEROS, or 'good for nothingness will also be cast there. This will lead to a study of the nature of good and evil.

It has been said that the issue of sin has already been resolved on the Cross. Today, sin may be resolved in an instant, simply by confessing one's sin and turning away from disobedience to His will and returning to focusing upon Him. Repentence is simply turning away from a wrong course by turning to Him. Confession is an act of man who exercises faith in Truth over something separate from His will. All the judgment is His and all the payment for sin is His, we simply turn back to Him in simple faith.

Whereas the issues of sin have been resolved for all eternity, the issues of good and evil have not been resolved in a fashion such as Christ dying on the Cross. Good and Evil must be resolved in time.

It should be noted that those who perform good works, independent of faith through Christ, simply are performing works which are good for NOTHING at the final judgment.

If one is seeking to understand what the desciptions of hell imply, it probably has just as much significance for the many millions of people who are intending well and good, but still are acting independently of faith through Him.

Heaven and hell have far less to do with morality than they do with simple faith through Him.

The worldly system was extensively studied by the Greeks. KOSMOS, or the World, is a system of creating order out of CHAOS. The most intricate wordly systems are created by those seeking to avoid faith through Him at all costs, and those intricate systems in many cases are the most legalistic, ordered, and appealing systems to the old sin nature. This doesn't mean all order is evil, rather that the ordering of things independent of God is part of Satan's counterfeit plan to create a false paradise. It will end in the Lake of Fire, a place for those things good for nothingness.

3 posted on 11/11/2006 7:00:37 PM PST by Cvengr
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Tim Long
"It's my understanding that hell is an eternal place for all who reject Jesus Christ, that the worm is another punishment in addition to the flames."
Your understanding would be right.

I am just contending that the worm is not necessarily (please note the careful use of words) a punishment inflicted on the damned by God, but is rather the punishment that they may have inflicted upon themselves.

This is why, for example, that sexual sins like homosexuality are so very bad: these are sins done in the body (to use Paul's description) and as such are insults to build up mighty worms (if my analysis holds water).
4 posted on 11/11/2006 11:24:00 PM PST by Rurudyne (Standup Philosopher)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 2 | View Replies]

To: Cvengr
"Heaven and hell have far less to do with morality than they do with simple faith through Him."


But please understand my point: if Hell is a place where sin can persist––and not just the consequences of unpardoned sin: God's wrath––then isn't there still a work of the devil that remains?

Trying to understand why punishment is everlasting goes beyond simply telling folks that there is a Hell.

Such a feat wasn't even necessary in the 1st Century because even among pagans there was a sense that justified wrath was only a misstep away.

But in these apostate times, when many people who even call themselves Christians mock the fact of hell by saying that to pay out an eternity of suffering for a moment of sin is sadistic (among other things) it does serve a purpose to put forward intellectual and reasonable constructs that demonstrate that maybe, just maybe the modern world is arguing against a strawman of its own devising?
5 posted on 11/11/2006 11:36:15 PM PST by Rurudyne (Standup Philosopher)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 3 | View Replies]

To: Rurudyne
An analysis well beyond my modest capabilities but I will share with you that I view Hell as having the presence of God removed from one's soul.

I know there are several interpretations of "Eli, eli, lama sabachthani?" but I often wonder if perhaps, when taking on the sins of the world, Jesus was, for a moment, seperated from his Father. What pain that would have been.

So for those that refuse God's love in life get their wish in Hell. Could the drop of water the rich man was asking for to experience God's love once again? Is the fire the desire to have God's love back, once realized?

Or in more common parlance "you don't know what you got till it's gone".

Sorry, a reply not worthy of yours, I appreciate the opportunity to have read it, thanks.

6 posted on 11/11/2006 11:39:00 PM PST by Proud_texan
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Proud_texan
The soul of wit!

Your response was well made by any standard.

In truth, just because I can form an idea and wrap a lot of words around it––there are those who'd maintain I wouldn't know "brief" if if bit me bum––that doesn't mean I actually know of what I speak.

I'll be the first to admit that, which is why I tried to point out that this wasn't some great doctrine. Pity me if I ever start acting like I'm someone special.

As for that moment of death on the cross, have you ever thought about the tearing of the veil? Sure, it was a miracle that was probably responsible for all those priest coming to believe in Him; however, there may be another, more humble explanation.

What do the fathers of Jewish boys do when their son dies?

They tear their garments.

The veil was essentially God's garment on Earth even if his glory no longer indwelt the Temple.

I do wonder what the priest in attendance saw that day.

The form of a massive hand grasping the veil and tearing it asunder in one swift downward motion?

Something to ask him about later, I suppose.

7 posted on 11/12/2006 12:03:54 AM PST by Rurudyne (Standup Philosopher)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 6 | View Replies]

To: Rurudyne

The penalty of sin isn't eternal wrath, it is eternal death. A state of existence involoving separation. Sin was atoned for on the Cross. Christ's atonement was unlimited. This propitiated His wrath. That doesn't mean the issues of good and evil have been solved yet. One consequence of any good performed independent of God, will be a just judgment its worthlessness.

8 posted on 11/12/2006 6:14:56 AM PST by Cvengr
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 5 | View Replies]

To: Tim Long

Basically a smoldering garbage pit (q.v. "cast out")

9 posted on 11/12/2006 6:20:34 AM PST by P.O.E.
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 2 | View Replies]

To: Rurudyne
I submit a possible explanation of the rending of the veil.

From my reading of the use of the temple, the outer temple was for the people and the inner part of the temple was for the chief priest alone, the holy of holies so to speak where the Ark was kept. The veil separates the two.

When Jesus, who brought a new covenant of God to the people including non-Israelites, died the veil was rent, that lawful separation of the people from the holy presence of God was done away with and each person can now come to that place through faith and belief through Christ.

God's salvation though the mediation of priests and rabbis was ended and the reaching of salvation of each individual through Christ began.

Previously, the salvation of God was available only through Israelite bloodlines. That ended, too.

10 posted on 11/12/2006 7:34:42 AM PST by William Terrell (Individuals can exist without government but government can't exist without individuals.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 7 | View Replies]

To: William Terrell
I've never found anything wrong with that explanation. There's a song that speaks to "Mercy's face pressed against the veil" and I'm in agreement with the poetic truth it (the song) presents.

Yet literal truth is plain spoken in this case. We don't know what was seen when the veil was torn ... probably at the moment that the horns were blowing outside. Toss in an eclipse, an earthquake and the dead coming out of their tombs to be seen by many and it was something that made an impression, to be sure.

But since it was His death that predicated the tearing of the veil and since He was––indeed is still––a son of Israel, it isn't all that out there to say that His death on the cross would have required some suitable expression of grief on the part of the Father.

After all, to whatever degree there was even a momentary separation between them (as many reasonably postulate): it would have been mutual.
11 posted on 11/12/2006 8:56:49 AM PST by Rurudyne (Standup Philosopher)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 10 | View Replies]

To: Rurudyne
But, then, the Father sent His Son to die in just this manner. My understanding is that Jesus was to experience all man's fallibilities, including separation from the Father in Hell, then ascended to the Father.

As was offered earlier, separation from The Father would be and is Hell.

12 posted on 11/12/2006 9:23:51 AM PST by William Terrell (Individuals can exist without government but government can't exist without individuals.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 11 | View Replies]

To: Rurudyne

"If I knew God I'd be Him."

13 posted on 11/12/2006 9:45:51 AM PST by onedoug
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: onedoug
"If I knew God I'd be Him."

Allrightythen! Where did THAT come from?!?
14 posted on 11/12/2006 10:07:22 AM PST by Rurudyne (Standup Philosopher)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 13 | View Replies]

To: Rurudyne
I don't know, really. Dennis Prager uses on his radio show from time to time, but I've never heard him attribute it. Moreover, my admittedly limited web-search skills have also been for nought. Yet it's such a great phrase, I can't resist using it from time to time, though I'll always put it in quotes.

"If I knew God I'd be Him."

15 posted on 11/12/2006 12:27:44 PM PST by onedoug
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 14 | View Replies]

To: Rurudyne
Hell isn't Satan's work

Maybe not, that part isn't certain since Satan worked in the executive suite at first. However, the road to hell is Satan's work, and that road is wide, smooth, and paved. Lately it is also attractively lighted around the clock. And, no speed limit.

16 posted on 11/12/2006 12:32:47 PM PST by RightWhale (RTRA DLQS GSCW)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: RightWhale; All
Maybe not, that part isn't certain since Satan worked in the executive suite at first. However, the road to hell is Satan's work, and that road is wide, smooth, and paved. Lately it is also attractively lighted around the clock. And, no speed limit.
I see no problem with that assessment. But I do imagine that the terms of salvation as I understand them are such that the resurrection will do away with Satan's works––my own feeble logics not withstanding ... I certainly make no pretense to some special knowledge.

Man and Angels may choose what they will, but God is master over the consequences.

A complementary idea is seen with the notions of free will that the world enjoins.

Consider: to be free with respect to sin is to be a slave to righteousness. For the elect the choice is whom do I obey? The Spirit or this Body of Death?

This means that Christians exercise a different kind of will than do non-Christians who are free with respect to righteousness but are slaves to sin.

For the unregenerate in this age, they are able to exercise the full range of moral choice and to operate their will as a moral person. If they choose to act beatific or satanic their moral choices do not disrupt their sin reality.

This is why, I'm convinced, one moral philosopher opined that man's existence as a moral being demands that he reject Him, God.

To the world the whole panoply of free will is bound up in being able to know good and evil, to be a moral or an immoral being––or even something in-between as is more often the case.

By contrast, a Christian no longer factually operates in this way. Our choice is: "Whom do we obey?"

To the worldling, Christians have surrendered their free will.

But when He returns this will come about (or so I'm convinced): without our Body of Death we will be able to exercise our wills freely because nothing we could do could ever change the fact of our new birth or that we please Him––we will have true free will and maybe even more.

But for the damned, even the free will they have had will no longer be an option. The damned will be unable, if prevented or incapable, of ever acting on their wills ever again.

Or such is my supposition.
17 posted on 12/06/2006 10:36:57 PM PST by Rurudyne (Standup Philosopher)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 16 | View Replies]

To: Rurudyne

Remember that Satan has never fought God. He doesn't get to fight God. Gabriel and his forces have fought Satan and Satan has lost--every time and in the time it takes for a bolt of lightning to strike. While we have free will, God knows already and knew all along how it will turn out. It is not for us to know or understand why, as explained in the poetic Book of Job.

18 posted on 12/07/2006 8:42:49 AM PST by RightWhale (RTRA DLQS GSCW)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 17 | View Replies]

To: RightWhale
Just a really obscure thought about The Book of Job:

I imagine that the text contains a point of condition to answer God's question to Satan in 1:7.

Naturally, God knew exactly where Satan had been and what he'd been up to; however, He asked him about it and Satan neglected to give a specific answer.

It is God who brings up Job in light of this question and we immediately see Satan on the attack as an accuser.

The thought I have about the text is that despite Satan's dodging the question, God may have so arranged things (in he text) that we can reasonably speculate where the fallen angel had recently been and what he'd been doing.

Satan might have been hanging out with Job.

Please bear with me. In chapter 29 Job recounts his former life right up to the time all these disasters befell him. Of particular interest is 29:18-25 that begins thusly:
Then I thought, "I shall die in my nest, and I shall multiply my days as the sand. My root is spread out to the waters, and dew lies all night on my branch. My glory is ever new with me, and my bow is renewed in my hand."
This is a statement of pride which Job recounts to those around him. These words also fall at the exact dividing point where Job stops speaking of his former days and starts speaking of his current plight.

So this is my supposition: right after this event is when Satan enters into God's presence intent on accusing Job who may have just been tempted to be prideful based on his circumstances––as if Job was responsible for these.

In this light, Job's plight may be comparable to Nebuchandnezzar's in some respects.
19 posted on 01/06/2007 10:25:22 PM PST by Rurudyne (Standup Philosopher)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 18 | View Replies]

Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.

Free Republic
Browse · Search
Topics · Post Article

FreeRepublic, LLC, PO BOX 9771, FRESNO, CA 93794 is powered by software copyright 2000-2008 John Robinson