I am continuing my series on the secrets of the kingdom, taking a look today at Mark 9:42-50 (NIV). If you haven't been following this series, I'd suggest following this link for some of the better posts of the series.
42 “And if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone tied around his neck. 43 If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out. 45 And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than to have two feet and be thrown into hell. 47 And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell, 48 where“‘their worm does not die,
and the fire is not quenched.’49 Everyone will be salted with fire.
This is a difficult passage. It raises more questions than answers for me.
- Verse 43 - 47. Has my hand, foot, or eyes ever been involved in sin? Wouldn't everybody be guilty of these? I hope Jesus is not really encouraging us to do physical harm to ourselves. I sort of get the point. Let's be serious about sin. But really? I find it difficult to understanding a teaching that sounds like self mutilation or self-harm. I wonder if I am missing something.
- Verses 43 - 47. The term behind 'hell' in these verses is Gehenna, which was a valley outside the walls of Jerusalem that was a burning garbage dump and was a place where some children were sacrificed to other gods by fire. Was Jesus talking about the Gehenna that they knew, or was he also talking about another type of Gehenna? There had also been other views on Gehenna related to the underworld, Jesus doesn't really work at defining what he is referring to here.
- Verse 48 is a reference to Isaiah 66:24. Note that the dead bodies do not fit well with the traditional view of hell. "And they will go out and look upon the dead bodies of those who rebelled against me; their worm will not die, nor will their fire be quenched, and they will be loathsome to all mankind.”
- Verse 49. Is this a reference to something like purgatory? Everyone? I thought only the wicked had to worry about some fire in the afterlife.
So I apologize. As I work through a secrets of the kingdom series, I think I have gained some valuable insights related to the kingdom of God. But this passage joins with some others that are still a mystery to me.
Feel free to share some light on the matter.