Apologetics to the Glory of God

Undying Worms and Unquenchable Fire

It is often asserted that there is a problem (for so-called “traditionalists”) with the use of Mark 9:48 due to it’s relation with Isaiah 66:24. This problem, according to Fudge, is that 1) Jesus quotes it “without amendment” 2) That the body is “already dead” and 3) That the fire “is a consuming, irresistible fire”. He relates “salted with fire” to mean the salting of a field, or of a place in order to make it uninhabitable. He cites Fields for his source, but we aren’t told, by Fudge, why this is supposed to have any connection with the passage in question. How does that fit with the next verse, for instance? Fudge does not say. Date does not mentioned being salted with fire in his material, and said he doesn’t not have an answer yet, when I asked him what he thought it meant.

First, when we deal with vs. 49, we must note the textual variant there. Some manuscripts contain “and every sacrifice shall be salted with salt.” It is typically explained that this is an annotation by an early scribe, who considered Leviticus 2:13 to be the referent for understanding this verse. Textually, there is no reason to consider it to be an allusion to “salting a field” or a city, such as Shechem was salted by Ambimelech.[1] Given the context, it more appropriate to consider it in light of the following verse, and frankly, in the same way that our scribe thought of it as. The next verse continues to speak about salt. This time, salt in ourselves, as believers. What is interesting to consider in comparison is that a “covenant of salt” (Num 18:19, 2Chr 13:5) is an everlasting covenant. Gill connects the “covenant of salt” with the “covenant of peace” in Numbers 25:12, and says that this “appropriately follows” upon the “mention of salt in different senses” – especially since the occasion of this discourse was their argument as to who was the greatest. The eternal covenant, as we know, has it’s reverse – the eternal penalty for breaking that covenant – and it seems to be that this penalty is equated with being salted with fire.

After that brief excursus into vs. 49, let’s continue with 48. Vss. 44 and 46, as the NET notes indicate, are insertions.[2] Vs. 48 is a quotation from Isa. 66:24, which reads:

“Then they will go forth and look on the corpses of the men who have transgressed against Me. For their worm will not die and their fire will not be quenched; and they will be an abhorrence to all mankind.”

It is clear that there is a bit of interpretive work do be done with this passage, as it is not immediately clear what the reference is to. Date does his own interpretive work in his debate with Diaz, and, as it seems, follows Fudge rather closely on these points. Fudge[3] as Date (in his gargantuan 3-hour roundtable podcast), asserts that orthodox authors either ignore or overstate Isa 66 in context of Mark 9. Let’s look at the context of vs 48, first in a larger picture of Isaiah. Isaiah is a book rich in doctrine as well as prophecy. It cannot be denied that this is the case. In this book, God reveals much of Himself; what He is like, what He thinks, and what He demands of the creatures who He has created in His image. It deals with His judgment upon the unbelieving Jews, reiterates His promises to the elect whom He has preserved, and grants them a foretaste of what is to come, by pulling back the curtain of mystery, at least to an extent – which, obviously, is the function of all revelation.[4] Isaiah, more than any other prophet, prophesies of the coming Messiah. In this passage in Mark, it is often asserted that Jesus is “simply” quoting Isaiah, but this is not obviously so – another phrase much overstated. The obvious is such only when it is apparent. It is not apparent that Christ simply quotes Isaiah, which even Fudge notes[5], but Date neglects to mention contra Diaz, for instance, saying “Jesus simply quotes this language”. This is incorrect. First, Christ says that their worm will not die, and the fire will not be quenched, while Isaiah says “their” in both phrases. That mistake aside, Christ does not quote this passage, and say nothing else, as Date seems to be asserting, with his statement “not anything that it foreshadows”. Is it Date’s assertion that this is not speaking of future punishment? I cannot think that this is the case, as his comments just prior seemingly speak of it being a future fulfillment, and his comments just after his discussion assert that “this is what what Hell will be like.” Thus, it seems to be the case that what Date is expressing is that we are not to take these words as more than an empirical description of the process of punishment, and the results which follow from it. To use his words, “[h]aving just said that sinners will come to an end, like a garden that dies for lack of water. It doesn’t mean a fire which burns fuel forever, it means a fire which no one can put out prematurely, which will consume until it’s finished consuming. Undying worms, the parallel of unquenchable fire, are worms which do not die prematurely, and will consume until they are done consuming.” More about this series of assertions later.

Is that what the text actually says? We are given little exegesis, and even less textual work is provided us to support these assertions. In the paragraphs I have transcribed, he makes a veritable horde of assertions; sans argument, and sans any meaningful exegetical basis for us to take them seriously. He first asserts that the language of Mark 9 does not support eternal torment, but instead is that of “utter death and destruction.” He fails to tell us where this idea is to be found in an exegesis of the text in his argumentation to follow – which looks quite a lot like the series of assertions I believe they are. He says, in summary, that since verse 15 says “flames of fire”, vs. 16 says “slain”, vs. 17 that the wicked will “come to an end”, and vs. 24 says that there are “carcasses of the wicked whose worm will not die, and whose fire will not be quenched,” that this is a picture of “a pile of lifeless, unconscious corpses; stinking, rotting. Still being consumed by fire and maggots.” Interestingly, he here uses “still being consumed,” while later he will say that it means something quite dissimilar. This is when he notes that Jesus, supposedly, “simply quotes” this language. Given Date’s seeming liberties with the language thus far – I don’t see a “pile” in view in the passage; nor do I see any mention of all the other colorful language he is apparently prone to using descriptively – for instance, while “stench” is often associated with corpses, it is not present here – nor is the “rot” that is often associated with the corpses. His insertion here seems to be eisegetical.

His use of vs. 15’s “fire” as signifying “utter destruction” is puzzling – as the same term is employed, typically in describing the fury of the Lord, and in parallel with the expression of His fury and wrath in the same verse. It seems merely to be an assumption of the meaning of the term. His opening statement, supposedly, does not depend on the meaning of words, he tells us – but this seems to be because he is not willing to define the terms that he confidently asserts mean certain things in particular. Quite a puzzling strategy, to my mind. His lack of discussion concerning the term סוּף – translated “come to an end” in this passage – is singularly puzzling, as we’d suppose him to make more a point of this term, instead of passing by it so quickly. In short, it seems as if he is just prooftexting the context, at least on the surface. But what should we do with the passage, in contrast to his superficial presentation? Why, exegete it, of course. Our space, be it ever so humble, is limited, but we will try to give it an adequate treatment.

Verse 1 of Isaiah 66 begins with an affirmation of God’s sovereignty; Heaven is His throne, and the earth is His footstool! He further asks what sort of house might be built for Him, and asks where it might be that He might rest. He reminds us, in verse 2, that it is He that created all things. That by His word, all these things came into existence. He then focuses the subject; Who will He look to (נָבַט), or take notice of, regard? He who is humble, and has a contrite spirit. This word translated humble is used throughout Isaiah; it is a counterpoint, and a common theme throughout the book. In 3:14-15, the wicked plunder the poor – עָנִי – and grind their faces. In 10:2, they are robbed. In 14:32 they seek refuge in Zion, and in 26:6, the unassailable city is trampled under their feet. The rogue destroys them with slander in 32:7, and in 41:17 they seek water, and are provided for by the Lord. It is these that the Lord regards. The word “contrite” is an interesting one – it is used for Mephibosheth, twice, in Samuel, twice, as “lame”. It has the sense of “smitten”, or “stricken” – and is only in Scripture 3 times. Obviously, the fear of the Lord is in view for the last – חָרֵד – but specifically the fear of the Lord’s word. (This, I believe, is a proper place to use “obviously”, given the use in Ezra 9:4 and 10:3, as well as the frequent and consistent use of its cognate, חָרֵד in this same context.)

In verse 3, there is a strange upside down exchange. Abomination is exchanged for sacrificial offerings, in a variety of forms. It is these whom the Lord does not regard, contra to those whom He does regard, seen previously; He considers them שִׁקּוּץ – and their sacrifices along with them. They have chosen their own way; so as they delight in their שִׁקּוּץ, so the Lord, who does not delight in that which they have chosen, will choose their punishment, and bring upon them what they fear. This is the dark exchange of which we have spoken before, and Paul refers to in Romans 1. They have given themselves over to, and delight in abomination; but further, they are given over to it and confirmed in it.

Next, we see a promise, which extends to the end of this chapter, and to the verse we’re dealing with, ultimately; to those who fear the word of God, those who hate them will be put to shame. They are outwardly pious. They, supposedly for His name’s sake, have excluded their brothers. They supposedly glorified God by doing so, and seem to be daring the Lord to appear on their behalf. This the Lord promises, along with their persecutors’ shame. Yet, what of these enemies? They are another one of the common themes in this book. Of course, the term “enemies” is not used for them in every instance – just as עָנִי is not used exclusively of the people of God. However, seeing where it is used will be helpful. In 1:24, we are told that the Lord will ‘avenge Himself’ on His foes – איב. This is paralleled with צַר, also used multiple times in Isaiah – in various contexts. It is the enemies of Samaria – איב – that He spurs on, in 9:11, His enemies that he will prevail against in 42:13, and recompense in 59:18, as with vs. 6 in Chapter 66. In short, while there are a variety of terms with which the enemies of God are addressed, these examples will suffice for the time being.

Another counterpoint is consumption, in the book of Isaiah; The wicked devour (בָּעַר), or consume the vineyard (Isa 3:14) – one of those often referred to words from Date and others sharing his position – the strong man and his works will be consumed (Isa 1:31) – or more properly, burn together; the modifier has the sense of “union with” – so the most appropriate phrase there is as stated. Yet in Isa 5:5, it is the Lord who enables the consumption of His vineyard. We are told what this vineyard is, shortly thereafter, in 5:6. The vineyard is the house of Israel. It is consumed! If we are to listen to Date’s reductionistic renderings, this would inevitably mean utter destruction, would it not? Yet, we see that later in this chapter is the same verse that Date uses to picture the “utter destruction” – of whom? Israel. Is Israel “utterly destroyed’ in the sense that he wants us to think? I would imagine not, as he asserts elsewhere that he envisions a future “role” for Israel, and considers Israel to be separate from the Church. Yet, the verses he is citing as “utter destruction” are directed at unbelieving Jews. In Isaiah 9:18, wickedness consumes like a fire – unbelieving Israel’s wickedness, using the same language that Date used in his “picture of utter destruction” – but a different verse; yet in 10:17, it is the Lord who consumes – Assyria. Isa 30:27 and 33, of course, note the “burning” of the Lord’s anger, and that the breath of the Lord sets Topheth “afire”. Edom, in 34:9, will have its land turned into “burning” pitch. Are we to take all these references unidimensionally? When Date goes through these texts in a rush, he does not seem to examine them for consistency. Seemingly, he picks whatever looks to “fit” his proof. As we have seen, this isn’t as frequent, even superficially, as it may seem to be.

Now, what shall we do with the following verses? At first glance they do not seem to fit the immediate context. However, it may be useful to consider the parallelism with the book of Romans, at this point. I believe we see in vss. 3-5 an interesting comparison to Romans 1-2. These self-righteous Jews, thinking of themselves as glorifying God, are in fact detested by Him. Their very self-satisfaction condemns them. Their persecution of the humble shows that their show for law-keeping is merely that, and no more. They delight, just as the Gentiles do, in their own way – and their sacrifices are a stench in the nostrils of God, as are their exclusions of their brethren. It is not the hearers of the law who are justified – but the doers of the law. Their outward show is just an act – their hearts as well as their other deeds betray them. So, how are they to be recompensed? We are given a picture in the following verses; a woman who brought forth a son – immediately, easily; yet not only that, but she, Zion, brought forth many sons! But there is something strange about this, as the text notes – does a nation come forth immediately, or is it built over time and generations? Yet, the Lord asks, shall He who brought to the point of birth not speed the delivery? Shall He stop the womb? Not so! For, as Gill explains, this is speaking of the exponential growth to fulness of the Church – the New Covenant heirs, grafted into Israel, and fully grown, mature, and multiplying immediately. This is not cause for mourning, but for rejoicing! It is succor, sustenance, and comfort for Israel – for Israel has been brought into newness of life with the engrafted Gentiles. Note: It is peace, the glory of the nations, and the delight and care of a mother that will be Jerusalem’s. By this, they will know that His hand is with them. But… then the direction changes back to His enemies. To them, He brings not comfort, but indignation.

For those enemies, He will come with fire – these words are exceedingly common, and used quite often of the Lord – His coming, and His fire. He will come in fire – come wreathed in flame, as he descended upon Sinai, or in the Pillar, it seems to be conveying – the closest match in wording I can find – where the Lord is said to be “in fire”. Similarly to Jeremiah 4:13, He is said to come in chariots like a whirlwind – which he equates with woe, and ruination or destruction – again, against Israel, which cannot be said to be “utterly destroyed” in the sense Date wants to portray. The next phrase is quite fascinating; the sense of it is that nothing but the fulness of His wrath will satisfy; that only the full outpouring of His fiery wrath will do.[6] Date wants this to be literal fire, it seems, but the sense seems to be the nature of fury of it, not as describing the empirical results of that fury. As Gill says, it is “a heap of words, to show the fierceness of his wrath, and how severe his rebuke of enemies will be.” It is not a descriptive, empirical account of the scientific method in which his enemies will be rebuked, and “reduced to ashes”, as it were – but a depiction of the unchecked and uncheckable, unabated fury and unleashed wrath of God. This verse is claimed to show “utter destruction” – I don’t find this description at all convincing. What these words describe is the utter fury of a wrathful God on the enemies of He and His people.

If the sense to be made of this is a woodenly literalistic “reduction to ashes” caused by fire – are we to also believe that the Lord will be wielding a sword, in verse 16? Out of His mouth, perhaps? It might be said that this “reduction to ashes” is symbolic; fine – we agree, at least formally, if not actually. Where are we told that this is dealing with “utter destruction”? Date, with all of his allegations, fails to prove this. What it says is that His judgment is by fire – and by His sword. Which judgment? I don’t see that we are told – or that it is being specific enough to determine whether this particular section is *either* a multiply fulfilled prophecy of a temporal nature, or one of eschatological proportions, in a simple sense. When the specifics are not clearly outlined, it’s typically safe to assume that there are both fulfillments in view. In the context of the chapter as temporally considered, Israel certainly is judged in a manner consistent with the language and fury of the passage, when the Romans level Jerusalem, for instance, or when they are invaded by a number of foes previous as well as antecedent to that event. However, this does not necessarily limit the fulfillment to any one event, given the lack of details provided concerning that judgment. Certainly, many in church history have applied this and similar passages to events such as the fall of Rome, the destruction of the Papacy’s power in the Reformation, or other similar events. However, all prophecy must indeed be fulfilled by the final judgment – and most passages involving a judgment using language similar to that of this passage seem to be speaking at least in some eschatological sense. We do, in any case, know that this does have an eschatological application – because Christ gives it one, in Mark 9, by all accounts.

Vs. 17 deals with the idolatrous (see Gill, or the JFB commentary), and says that they will “come to an end”. This is the word I noted was not addressed with any particular detail by Date; merely referenced in passing. It is translated as “fade”, “swept away”, “come to an end”, “snatch away”, “consumed” “perish” and “remove”. Not exactly your unidimensional word, is it? It does not clearly mean “come to an end” in the sense he means. It is neither obvious, nor is it necessary that it mean what he thinks it means. The end of the wicked is clearly the final judgment of God, this is what is obvious – and the next verse’s opening phrase belongs with this – “For I know their works and their thoughts.” What is not obvious is that this necessarily means “obliterated” or “rendered lifeless”, or some other eclectic, never-used-before definition in some other similar sense, given in annihilationist jargon. This is simply reading your conclusion into the text. What do I think it means? I think it means that the the idolaters in question will meet their end in an immediate sense, for their detestation of the covenant, and further, in the final judgment where they will meet their proper end, as determined by God. It is appointed for men once to die, and then the judgment. This is the sense being given. It doesn’t seem necessary to make this immediately (and solely) eschatological, as we are still not dealing with any language which signifies that the final judgment is yet in view – yet, of course, we do know that there is some sense in which it is to be understood as giving context to that which does prophesy of the final judgment.

Further, note the next verse. The shift is made yet again. The time is coming – for what? Well, we see what, directly following. To gather all nations – another reason for thinking that 7-14 is dealing with the incipient Church, and her grafting into the Israel of God – and tongues. Christ ransomed people from every tribe, tongue, and nation[7] – this depicts the gathering of them into the Israel of God. That is the time foretold by God here. He will set a sign among the nations, and they will declare His glory among the nations. From those nations, He continues, will return to the Jerusalem of God people from all the nations. An acceptable offering to God, unlike those which were an offense – and from among them will be those who minister, as Gill explains, as elders and deacons. So, far from Israel being destroyed, as the language Date would insist on necessitates, Israel is renewed and reforged into a mighty people, grafted into the Covenant of His blood. Thus it is that Israel’s name and offspring shall endure – for God has brought it to pass.

Now, we have a few choices here. We can take the section dealing with the “new heavens and new earth” to be a reference to a context change in the prophetic context – or we can see it as an analogy for what the nature of this lasting name and offspring is seen to be – or further, we can see it as a reference to a temporal as well as an eternal fulfillment. I believe the latter is the correct interpretation, for a variety of reasons. First, prophecy is rarely one-dimensional. It is usually complex, at the very least, and typically has multiple “tracks” upon which it rides. It seems rather obvious that this reference to the new heavens and new earth does, in fact, refer to the lasting nature of the name and offspring of Israel. The preceding passages have made that clear. I do, however, think that since it refers to the perpetuity of that people, that it must also necessarily deal with the eternal nature of their covenantal relationship.

So, when we take “the new heavens and the new earth” into consideration, we find, yet again, that there is an immediate as well as a future fulfillment here – just as there is elsewhere. Most immediately, it means that their name and offspring – like the new heavens and new earth – will not pass away. This is contrasted with the “will come to an end altogether” from the previous section – but also with the following section, which we will see shortly. In a less immediate sense, it refers to the perpetuation of the Israel of God – which shall continue until the time is fulfilled, and all the elect are gathered. Finally, it refers to the fulfilling triumph of the Lamb, where all is in subjection to Him – to the glory of His mercy, or the glory of His justice. This is evident by the fact that it is speaking of a continual, ongoing worship of God – where all mankind bows before Him “from new moon to new moon, and from sabbath to sabbath” – in perpetuity. Yet, what is also seen to follow? That the enemies of God and persecutors of His church are continually the objects of contempt and are eternally an abhorrence to all mankind. Why do I say this?

As even annihilationists note – and attempt to use for their own purposes – Dan 12:2 is the only other use of the term “abhorrence” in Isa 66:24. There is an interesting feature of Dan 12 that needs to be brought to the fore, and out of the text. Daniel 11, as practically all commentators note, seems to match the events of Alexander’s meteoric rise to world-conqueror, as well as his precipitous fall, the disintegration of his kingdom into continual internecine warfare, and the rise of Rome, perhaps even their fall, depending on what you consider the last section to be speaking of. As for myself, the whole last section seems to describe the cyclical pattern (also outlined in revelation) of antichrist rising up against the church of God, and being cast back down and shattered.

At the beginning of Daniel 12, we see the figure “Michael” – “who is like God” – standing guard over the people of God. He “stands over” the people of God, and will stand over them here – he guards, and will guard them. His guardianship will be impeccable, and all whom he guards will be rescued, despite the greatest distress ever known. Note also that we are told that it is “those who are written in the book” – a clear reference we know, due to further revelation, is the Lamb’s book of life. So, it is the elect he guards – and all are rescued. To my knowledge, it is virtually unchallenged that this is speaking of the last days here – every orthodox commentator I’ve ever read has connected the following scene to the last days – and for good reason. We see that “many” – or a great multitude – will rise – and they are delineated into two groups. “These” – אלה – to everlasting life – and “these” – אלה – to everlasting contempt – or abhorrence – the word that parallels the term in Isa 66:4.

It will not do, here, to pass over the parallel explicitly made between this “life” and “abhorrence”. The same modifier – everlasting, or eternal – עולם – is employed for both terms. Thus, it is speaking in the same sense concerning both. If we are to affirm the everlasting, active, continuing “life” of the believer – we must also affirm the everlasting, active, continuing “abhorrence” of the unbeliever. We cannot merely sidestep and say that this “life” is something active, and the very nature of he who lives – while the “abhorrence” is something passive, and seen to be the “regard of” that which is abhorred. First, the term in Isaiah does not admit to that distinction. Obviously, it is the case that those living will abhor the abhorrent ones – it says “to all mankind”. However, it does not merely mean that they will be abhorred – they will be an abhorrence to all mankind. This is their risen status – abhorrence. All mankind abhors them – because they are an abhorrence. This is their ontological, objective status. This accords with their being sinful, wretched, depraved and god-hating men – this is who and what they are – and they are confirmed in that status, for eternity.

This interpretation is, quite simply, made even stronger by the consideration that the language of consumption and devouring is descriptive of God. As we saw earlier, it is the wrath and fury of God that is consuming – it is the unstoppable, unquenchable, undeniable rage and fury of the holy God that is symbolized in the worms and fire. His rage never ceases to devour, nor can it be quenched. The corruption, abhorrence, and the shambling ruin of life which they are, by nature – that is their very selves – is the proper and just focus of the Lord’s eternal rage and indignation. They, the eternally abhorrent are eternally subject to the Sovereign God’s justice, holiness and wrath – while the eternally living are subject to the Sovereign God’s love, mercy and grace. Vessels of wrath, and vessels of mercy, indeed.

As we see here, the reproach, or disgrace of those rising will be that which they rise to. That is the state into which they rise. This same “reproach” – as well as an everlasting contempt. This is the same term as used of life. They are paralleled. Thus, if one wants to say that this is the effect of their judgment – a continuing regard by other of them as contemptuous – can we not say that those who receive eternal life are forever remembered fondly, as they lived, past tense, and the memory of their life can certainly be considered “reward”, can it not? That would be the logical parallel, were we to consider the term “life” the way we are told that we should consider “contempt”. If it is the regard of others that is in view, then I can certainly see why they would consider “contempt” as dealing with “destiny”, as Fudge attempts to explain. What I don’t see is why we should consider “life” as anything but the regard for their lives, in the same sense. After all, as Date tells us, this is “how the loathsome one is perceived or remembered by others.” In the same way, then – would it not be the case that “life” is what would be perceived or remembered by others?

It is not merely the case that the perception or memory of those who are an abhorrence is in view – because the same would be true of “life”, if so. It is not the case that these will simply be reduced to lifeless, unconscious corpses; a corpse in the wooden sense being employed by Date and other annihilationists, while abhorrent, is not eternally abhorrent in a sense comparable to, or paralleling the eternality of life with God in Christ. However, it is the case that eternal punishment in the sense of “being kept under punishment for eternity” fits the context very well – that which we saw in Jude, in 2 Peter, in Hebrews, in Romans 8, and other places in the NT where eternality is in view as in Mark 9 – there is always a “continuing action” seen – eternal salvation is not a mere “already” – but is also a progressive work in time, and will be completed when it is appointed to be complete. There seems to be a consistent reductionism in practice when annihilationists deal with the entirety of the selections their “one string fiddle” plays. Whatever the subject is, we see it reduced – simplified without warrant – to “fit” the schema which most suits the annihilationist’s purpose. Such treatment of the text (and of systematic theology) is a dead giveaway to the theologian and apologist that something is rotten in Denmark.

So, after having dealt with a veritable torrent of information, let’s try to sum this up concisely. We started with the typical allegations advanced by annihilationists concerning Mark 9 – most common is that 1) We are ignorant of the text that is being quoted or 2) There is an attempt made to supposedly “get around” the “clear meaning” of the text. Yet, as we have seen, it is by no means “clear” that what we are speaking of is a temporal rendering “lifeless” with eternal results, perceived and remembered by others – because this would necessitate, given the parallel from Dan 12 that life be a temporal rendering of “life” with eternal results, perceived and remembered by others. Further, while the case is attempted from “consume” – we have seen that the sense of a “consuming” fire is the limitless fury of the wrath of God, not some empirical description of a fire, or worms, “devouring” until there is nothing left of it. It is often seen that the annihilationist accuses orthodox interpreters of being “literalistic” – but then turns around and interprets anything to do with his own pet topics in a fashion akin to the wooden literalism of many dispensationalist renderings of eschatological texts. Fire is not meant to be taken as a woodenly literal interpretation of the empirical means by which God consumes His enemies, nor is it a picture for “utter destruction”, as is so often claimed. It is a picture of fury, of rage, and of wrath – driven in Simplicity by the omnipotent holiness of the God of Justice. The annihilationist seems to be a rationalist on the one hand – this corpse is an “actual” corpse, and the fire is an “actual” fire, and all that these mean are what “actual” corpses or “actual” fire means. On the other hand, the annihilationist seems to be an irrationalist, on the other hand. Talk of punishment is the subjective consideration of that dissolution of the one punished, and is the effects, or results, of that punishment, which last forever. When it comes to life, however, then we’re talking bout “actual” life, despite the direct parallel! The rationalist/irrationalist dialectic is seen once again to be present in this case, as it is in so many others.[8]

It is the case, however, that the use of eternity, when used of the works of God – which is certainly what is in view here – depicts not only actions which continue until their appointed end – but actions which are the fulfillment of what has gone before, and continue eternally, without surcease. Both senses of the word “eternal” are here in view, when Christ cites Isaiah in Mark 9 – there is the reminder that the enemies of God will never be allowed to thwart the purposes of God, but will fall in disgrace, while the people of God continue on in His will – as well as the reminder that all will face the eternal justice of God on the last day – and He who guards and keeps His people under His protection certainly knows to keep those who war against Him under punishment. Those kept under eternal punishment, as those who are kept in life eternal are kept equally by God – to the glory of His justice, and to the glory of His mercy. He who knows “to rescue the godly” surely knows “to keep the unrighteous under punishment.” The difference being, in this case, that it is not their being kept for the day of judgment – but that the day of judgment has come – and the abhorrent are eternally punished, as the righteous eternally live.

Let the reader understand.

  1. [1]Judges 9:45
  2. [2]Most later mss have 9:44 here and 9:46 after v. 45: “where their worm never dies and the fire is never quenched” (identical with v. 48). Verses 44 and 46 are present in A D Θ Ë13 Ï lat syp,h, but lacking in important Alexandrian mss and several others (א B C L W Δ Ψ 0274 Ë1 28 565 892 2427 pc co). This appears to be a scribal addition from v. 48 and is almost certainly not an original part of the Greek text of Mark. The present translation follows NA27 in omitting the verse number, a procedure also followed by a number of other modern translations. – cited from the NET notes
  3. [3]TFTC, 80
  4. [4]Which is to say, while there is always ultimate mystery in the transcendent God, we do, however, have sufficient knowledge of Him, as that which is sufficient is revealed, analogically. Since we are speaking of progressive revelation, we are speaking of progressively “less mystery” in the immediate sense. The “veil” is being pulled back, and we are given to understand in the NT that which only Christ could “exegete” of the Godhead – while in the Prophets, we are given more than what was understood in the Torah; cf. John 1:18.
  5. [5]TFTC, 79
  6. [6]cf. JFB commentary, Isa 66:15
  7. [7]Rev 5:9
  8. [8]For those new readers who are here chiefly due to the annihilationism discussions, and lack the context for the preceding, please see here, or here – the references to appropriate sections from Van Til are provided. The way which Date argues scriptural interpretation, it should be pointed out, is quite similar to the evidentialist camp’s conception of what constitutes proper argumentation.


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