Wisconsin Lutheran Chapel logo

God’s Word for You

Mark 9:43-48 Hell, worm, and fire

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Friday, April 10, 2020

43 If your hand causes you to fall into sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than to go with two hands into hell,  into the fire that never goes out, 44 ‘where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.’  45 And if your foot causes you to fall into sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life lame than to be thrown with two feet into hell, into the fire that never goes out,  46 ‘where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.’  47 If your eye causes you to fall into sin, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye, than to be thrown with two eyes into hell, 48 ‘where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.’

It seems that Jesus used this illustration more than once during his ministry to explain sin and repentance. For example, in the Sermon on the Mount, he uses these same words as a way of warning against adultery and other sexual sins (Matthew 5:29-30). With a touch of genius, the Lord mentions three body parts that occur in pairs: hand, foot, eye. By doing this, Jesus proves that removing one of them is really not the answer, since the other one remains. What sin might a man commit with his left eye that he could not also commit with the right? Therefore the eyes themselves are not the cause of his sin, but the man’s will and desire which move the eyes, feet and hands to sin.

What would be better (but not yet best) is to consider whether a certain association or habit is causing you to fall into a sin. If going to a certain bar at a certain time of day causes you to sin, cut that bar at that time out of your habits. If using the internet at a certain time of day opens a door to easy sin, gossip, lust, covetousness, greed, envy, or whatever temptations there are, give up the internet at that time of day and do something more productive for your family, your health, and especially for your faith.

Beyond this, we must really understand that our sinful desires, our sinful fallen human will, is at fault. This is not something that can be removed with a scalpel or a schedule. The will (or heart) must be converted, because it is what controls all of the body’s members, as well as the deeds of the mind and of the tongue. This conversion is the putting off of the Old Adam. It consists of being sorry for my sins and of believing that God forgives my sins for Jesus’ sake. We also call these things contrition and repentance. “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation” (2 Corinthians 7:10).

Jesus says “better” three times, but we should not take his “better” statements to be the seat of a doctrine that would show that some people will not be restored to physical perfection in heaven (since Jesus asks whether it wouldn’t be better to enter heavenly life with just one eye, or foot, or hand). But we are told that we will “be purified, made spotless and refined” (Daniel 12:10), and although the prophet is clearly teaching about our spiritual lives, purified, spotless and devoid of any sin, scoured forever clean by the blood of Christ, we can also say that our bodies will be holy, acceptable, and free of any and every defect. Does that mean that we will look the way we did when we died? Our thoughts there are only speculations. Perhaps we will appear to have bodies that move back and forth through the stages and points of human life, so that at one time I might be a man in my fifties, but later a boy in my teens, or even a child, and later on, an old man in my eighties. However we will appear, it will be for one purpose only: to give glory to God. For in heaven we will have no need to do many of the things we do in this lifetime, but there will never be an end to the praise we give to God.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim Smith

About Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.


Browse Devotion Archive