Romans 6:20-23 (HCSB) – For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
The “end of those things,” (our sin) and “the wages of sin,” is death. These are very serious warnings about what results from our sin. It causes the reader to contemplate or to at least think about to some degree anyway, what that mode of death might be or look like. The Bible certainly gives us a picture of the nature of that death. Plus, it also gives us a picture of what happens to the remains of the person who suffered that death. Even though the pictures of what happens to the dead person’s remains are different, both pictures are very similar in one respect… They each result in the consumption of the person (being eaten up).
Here is Jesus reminding the hearers about the death and consumption described in the scriptures, which is the final fate of those who are not loyal to Yahweh. It is based upon Isaiah 66:24 (in bold)…
Mark 9:42-48 (ESV) – “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea. And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. 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. 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, ‘where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.’”
Jesus caps off the imagery by quoting the last verse in the book of Isaiah (bolded below). Here is the intense warning of the Old Testament book’s closing, which His audience was already familiar with…
Isaiah 66:15-24 (ESV) – For behold, the LORD will come in fire, and his chariots like the whirlwind, to render his anger in fury, and his rebuke with flames of fire. For by fire will the LORD enter into judgment, and by his sword, with all flesh; and those slain by the LORD shall be many. “Those who sanctify and purify themselves to go into the gardens, following one in the midst, eating pig’s flesh and the abomination and mice, shall come to an end together,” declares the LORD. “For I know their works and their thoughts, and the time is coming to gather all nations and tongues. And they shall come and shall see my glory, and I will set a sign among them. And from them I will send survivors to the nations, to Tarshish, Pul, and Lud, who draw the bow, to Tubal and Javan, to the coastlands far away, that have not heard my fame or seen my glory. And they shall declare my glory among the nations. And they shall bring all your brothers from all the nations as an offering to the LORD, on horses and in chariots and in litters and on mules and on dromedaries, to my holy mountain Jerusalem,” says the LORD, “just as the Israelites bring their grain offering in a clean vessel to the house of the LORD. And some of them also I will take for priests and for Levites,” says the LORD. “For as the new heavens and the new earth that I make shall remain before me, says the LORD, so shall your offspring and your name remain. From new moon to new moon, and from Sabbath to Sabbath, all flesh shall come to worship before me, declares the LORD. And they shall go out and look on the dead bodies of the men who have rebelled against me. For their worm shall not die, their fire shall not be quenched, and they shall be an abhorrence to all flesh.”
Death and Consumption
After God’s judgement results in the death of sinners, their dead bodies will then end up being consumed. I say this because both the Hebrew and Greek words for “worm” in Isaiah 66:24 and Mark 9:48 respectively, each describe a creature that eats corpses. In other words, the organism in view (a maggot) consumes dead bodies. Fire, which is also part of the imagery, does the same thing. It consumes what it burns. We must come to grips with the fact that according to both Testaments, death and consumption is the ultimate fate of everyone who is antithetical to God. There is no way around it.
Will you be part of the “‘new heavens and the new earth that I make shall remain before me,’ says the LORD,” as I quoted from Isaiah above? Or, will you be of “…the dead bodies of the men who have rebelled against me. For their worm shall not die, their fire shall not be quenched…”?
Here is what Jesus said after quoting the end of Isaiah…
Mark 9:49-50 (ESV) – “For everyone will be salted with fire. Salt is good, but if the salt has lost its saltiness, how will you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.”
We will all one day face the salting of the “consuming fire” at the future judgement. Some will suffer death and consumption by that salting, while those who were “at peace with one another” (in this life) will not, and they will be grateful…
Hebrews 12:28-29 (ESV) – Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.
Godspeed, to the brethren!
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