Does Mark 9:49 Prove an Ever burning Hell-Fire?


By Peter Salemi





People with the traditional view of Hell (immortal souls suffering in eternal torments forever) often quote Jesus words when he said, “For every one shall be salted with fire, and every sacrifice shall be salted with salt.” John Gill writes, “that fire shall be to them, what salt is to flesh; as that keeps flesh from putrefaction and corruption, so the fire of hell, as it will burn, torture, and distress rebellious sinners, it will preserve them in their beings; they shall not be consumed by it, but continued in it: so that these words are a reason of the former, showing and proving, that the soul in torment shall never die, or lose any of its powers and faculties; and particularly, not its gnawing, torturing conscience; and that the fire of hell is inextinguishable; for though sinners will be inexpressibly tormented in it, they will not be consumed by it; …they shall be preserved in their beings in it, as flesh is preserved by salt:” (John Gill’s Exposition of the Bible, emphasis added).


Barnes’s says the same, “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;” (emphasis added). But as common as this interpretation may be, surely it is entirely speculative.


Many admit that, “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.” (ibid, emphasis added)


Is this the true interpretation of the text?


I often argued that putting our ideas into the Bible causes confusion and error. This is why Peter said, “Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.” (2 Peter 1:20). Putting our ideas into the Bible is condemned in the Bible itself-and we see why! It causes contradiction and confusion when we read interpretations like the ones above. We must let the Bible SPEAK TO US! Let the Bible interpret itself!


What Did Jesus Mean?


It is obvious from the previous verses, the context is, Jesus is speaking of the fate of the wicked who do not repent, he says, “And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched:” (v.43). The word “Hell” is “Gehenna” meaning, “Of Hebrew origin ([H1516] and [H2011]); valley of (the son of) Hinnom; gehenna (or Ge-Hinnom), a valley of Jerusalem, used (figuratively) as a name for the place (or state) of everlasting punishment: - hell.”  (Strong’s #1067, emphasis theirs). Not a place under the earth somewhere, where it’s the Devil’s home-that comes from paganism. Gehenna is the valley in Jerusalem, and at that time, it was the place where the town dump smoldered and the fire was never quenched because it was continually fed with trash! If it were not fed with trash the fire would go out!  Jesus used this analogy for the fate of the wicked. (Download our booklet on Hell for more details).


Now Jesus says this three times, “Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.” (vv.44, 46, 48). Some PEOPLE think that Jesus was referring to people as worms and was trying to say that these “people” never died — but lived on in agonizing torment. Those who say this fail to notice that Jesus does not call the wicked people “worms” but instead speaks of “THEIR” worm. But how is it that “their worm” does not die? Are there immortal worms in Hell? No!


First the Greek word is “sko'-lakes” and it means “Of uncertain derivative; a grub, maggot or earth worm: - worm.” (Strong’s #4663). Gehenna, or the Valley of Hinnom, was also where the dead bodies of animals and despised criminals were thrown. There were ledges along the edge of this valley on which these dead bodies might land instead of falling down into the fires beneath where everything was burned. Smith's Bible Dictionary gives a description of this valley — which was something like one of our city dumps today where trash and rubbish is burned up. This is why Jesus mentioned the fire and the worms or maggots. They were either consumed by fire or by their worm, or both. What the fire could not consume the grub or maggot does.  This comes from Isaiah 66:24 that says, “And they shall go forth, and look upon the carcases of the men that have transgressed against me: for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched; and they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh.” But why is it that the maggot or worm does not die?


Maggots are the wormlike larvae of flies. Flies swarm over the decaying refuse and keep it continuously infested with maggots. They continue for only a few days in this larva form, then pupate and finally emerge as flies, later dying. It’s a collective expression for all the worms that devour dead matter. These worms do not die, but pupate and become flies. The flies continue to deposit their eggs and the process repeated only as long as there are dead bodies or other matter for the larvae to feed on, so the worm “dieth not.” Just like the fire; it will not be “quenched” as long as the bodies feed the fire. Edward Fudge rightly explains that “both worms and fire speak of a total and final destruction. Both terms also make this a ‘loathsome’ scene.” (The Fire that Consumes, p.63). (Read our booklet “Is there Really a Hell Fire” for more details).


Then Jesus says, “For every one shall be salted with fire, and every sacrifice shall be salted with salt.” (v.49). So what does this mean when it comes to the fate of the wicked? Does it mean preservation of the wicked in Hell? Salt may preserve meat, but Jesus doesn’t say everyone will be salted with salt. He says they will be “salted with fire.” The connection between the preserving function of salt and the alleged preserving function of this fire seems dubious. Fire consumes, salt preserves! Their functions are completely opposite!


Jesus is saying being salted with fire is like being salted with salt in the same sense as the sacrifice he mentioned, that both are dead bodies are being covered, one with salt and one with fire. This is what the similarity is! Both are drenched with two completely opposite elements. The function of those elements is not the comparison! The bodies being drenched with them is!


Baptism with Fire!


The Greek word for Baptism is “Baptizo” and it means “immersion. Thayer’s states,

1) to dip repeatedly, to immerse, to submerge (of vessels sunk)

2) to cleanse by dipping or submerging, to wash, to make clean with water, to wash one’s self, bathe

3) to overwhelm” (emphasis mine)


Clearly, Jesus, when speaking of the sacrifice being “salted with salt” he was referring to the sacrifices at the altar of the Temple. In Leviticus 2:13 it says, “And every oblation of thy meat offering shalt thou season with salt; neither shalt thou suffer the salt of the covenant of thy God to be lacking from thy meat offering: with all thine offerings thou shalt offer salt.” The sacrifices were drenched in salt as a symbol of the perpetual covenant God made with Israel. The dead bodies of animals were sprinkled all over with salt! 


According to the baraita quoted on today’s daf (=page) there were three places where the salt was applied in the Temple:


·        In the “salt office” in the Temple where salt was applied to the hides of the sacrifices that were given to the kohanim as their share in the sacrifice (see Vayikra 7:8)


·        On the ramp leading up to the altar where the parts of the offering that were to be sacrificed were prepared


·        On the top of the altar itself, where various offerings were salted, including a variety of different types of meal-offerings – the kometz and levonah (the fistful of flour prepared by the kohen for sacrifice together with the frankincense), the meal-offering of the kohen and of the kohen gadol, as well as others. (Menahot 21a-b – Salting sacrifices in the Temple by Rabbi Steinsaltz, as published in the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz).


So the sacrifices were just drenched in salt; Understanding this, we can understand what Jesus said about being “salted with fire”!


The dead bodies of the wicked will be immersed with fire-a baptism by fire!


John the Baptist spoke of it in Matthew, “I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire:” (3:11). This not the baptismal formula used by the church-for we are still baptized with water “in the name of” Jesus Christ.


This is a different baptism it’s not “in the name of” the Holy Spirit, but it is one baptized “with” the Holy Spirit as opposed to water which Christians today are baptized with.  The context here is the FATE OF THE SAVED AND THE WICKED AT THE COMING OF CHRIST! This baptism that will take place at the resurrection when the believers in Christ will be change from flesh to spirit and be composed of-immersed in the Holy Spirit-the power of God.  As Paul said, “it is raised in power” (1 Corinth 15:43). Like Jesus was, “And declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead:” (Romans 1:4). 


To Whom Was John Speaking?


Above we read the text which speaks of this baptism with FIRE. To whom was John speaking? Notice verse 5, “Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judaea, and all the region round about Jordan,” Are we to assume that all these people were righteous people? No not at all! The other verses show us that there were people, who were repentant, and others who were hard hearted and John condemned them.  


“And were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins

But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 

Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance:” (vv.6-8).  Here we see two groups of people awaiting different fates. The one who would be baptized by the Holy Spirit Later by the Messiah at his second coming, as John spoke of the “wrath to come” which is in the end time (see Rev 19:15); “but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost” (v.11).


The other group who was warned to “flee from the wrath to come?” by “Bring[ing] forth therefore fruits meet for repentance:” (v.8). But they did not! There are two classes of people here, awaiting two opposite fates — one to be baptized with the Holy SPIRIT, the others baptized with FIRE! John was speaking to both sinners and those to be saved. When he said Christ shall baptize You — the YOU included BOTH. The saved He would baptize with His SPIRIT — the others with the FIRE!


Notice the 10th verse, “And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.” He is speaking of the fate of the wicked, which shall be cast into the lake of FIRE, which is the second death (Rev. 20:14), and standing before him were those to receive that fate!


Then John says, “I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he [Jesus] that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you [the whole population] with the Holy Ghost, [the repentant ones] and with fire [the wicked who refuse to repent]: 

“Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat [those that Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance] into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” (vv.11-12).


The chaff is people who do not produce any “fruits meet for repentance.” Hosea says, “And now they sin more and more…Therefore they shall be as the morning cloud, and as the early dew that passeth away, as the chaff that is driven with the whirlwind out of the floor, and as the smoke out of the chimney.” (13:2, 3).


Daniel 2:35 says, “Then was the iron, the clay, the brass, the silver, and the gold, broken to pieces together, and became like the chaff of the summer threshingfloors; and the wind carried them away, that no place was found for them: and the stone that smote the image became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth.” These scriptures show the chaff refers to lost sinners. How closely this language matches that of Christ, with His fan, whipping up a wind that purges the chaff off His floor, carrying away the chaff, to be burned with FIRE.


Jesus will gather HIS wheat, the fruits-meaning righteous people. The wheat is gathered, into the garner. But the FIRE is the fate of the chaff — unquenchable FIRE! Compare this with Matt. 13:30. Jesus says, “Let both grow together (wheat and Tares) until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn.”


What do the symbols represent? Jesus explained: “The field is the world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked one; 

“The enemy that sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels. 

As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world. 

“The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; 

“And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.” (vv.38-42). It is clear that Jesus is going to baptize with fire the wicked and they shall be consumed with fire! As Malachi says, “For, behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the LORD of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch...And ye shall tread down the wicked; for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet in the day that I shall do this, saith the LORD of hosts.” (v.1, 3). The wicked will be consumed by the fire that they will be drenched or immerse or baptized in, or as Jesus put is “salted with fire.”


Symbols Interpreted


John the Baptist describes Jesus with a fan in his hand; with it he shall purge his floor. Purge it of what? Of the chaff! Then the wheat will be gathered into His garner.


What is his floor? The same as “His field” of Matt. 13:24, “The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field:” The “The field is the world;” (v.38). It is in the world that the tares are sown with the wheat. The wheat is gathered and the tares, — the lost sinners — are to be PURGED from the world, and baptize, salted with fire and are consumed with unquenchable fire.


What is the Purge?-What will Jesus purge in this world? “And I will purge out from among you the rebels, and them that transgress against me: I will bring them forth out of the country where they sojourn, and they shall not enter into the land of Israel: and ye shall know that I am the LORD.” (Ezekiel 20:38).


What does the fan symbolize?- “Thus saith the LORD; Behold, I will raise up against Babylon [sinners], and against them that dwell in the midst of them that rise up against me, a destroying wind

“And will send unto Babylon fanners, that shall fan her, and shall empty her land: for in the day of trouble they shall be against her round about.” (Jer 51:1-2). The fan is an instrument for destroying sinners with FIRE — Gehenna fire.


Jesus Concludes


At the end of the chapter Jesus says, “Salt is good: but if the salt have lost his saltness, wherewith will ye season it? Have salt in yourselves, and have peace one with another.” (Mark 9:50). Here Jesus is NOT speaking of the wicked, as he says, “Have salt in yourselves, and have peace one with another.” He is referring to the “sacrifice” that is seasoned with salt. These sacrifices which were Holy to God were a symbol of the followers of Christ. He is speaking to his disciples! He called them the “salt of the earth” (Matthew 5:13) Paul said that Christians are “living” sacrifices (Romans 12:1). We are to "immerse" ourselves with the message and way of life of Christ. The Christian should be “salty” having that tang, with the message of Christ that gets people’s attention. Shock the world with the message of the gospel!


So the one who will be “salted with fire” are the wicked- the chaff, the tares, who will be purged from this world and burnt up in an unquenchable fire. Baptized with fire to be consumed, not preserved and living forever in a place called hell and suffering for eternity. A God of Mercy and Justice just won’t do that!  

If you wish to donate to the BICOG Please click here