Mark 9:48—Why did Jesus say worms would not die in hell?

Problem: Jesus said that hell is a place “where `their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched’ ” (Mark 9:48). But what do everlasting worms have to do with hell?

Solution: Jesus is not speaking of earthworms, nor any other kind of animal here. He is speaking about the human body. Notice, He did not say “where the worm does not die” but, rather, “where their worm does not die.” The antecedent of “their” is a human being who sins and dies without repentance (cf. 9:42–47). “Worm” is simply a way to refer to the human “worm,” or shell known as the body. This fits with the context where He is speaking of the parts of the body, such as, “hands” and the “foot” (9:43–45). Jesus said here that we should not fear the one (man) who could destroy our body, but not our soul, but, rather, to fear the One (God) who could send soul and body into the everlasting flames (Luke 12:4–5; cf. Mark 9:43–48).

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This excerpt is from When Critics Ask: A Popular Handbook on Bible Difficulties (Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1992). © 2014 Norman Geisler and Thomas Howe. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Click here to purchase this book.