In this issue, we will look at "unquenchable fire" or fire that "cannot be quenched." We will not look at words translated "hell" such as Hades, Gehenna, Tartarus, or Sheol. Neither will we deal with the "lake of fire." Those words are dealt with on our tape entitled "What the hell is hell?" Our booklet The Gates of Hell Shall not Prevail as well as other tapes also deal with these words. We will not deal with words translated "eternal," "everlasting," or "forever." We have many tapes dealing with those words.
Some of the scriptures that speak of an "unquenchable fire" are: Matt. 3:12, Luke 3:17, and Mark 9:43-48. Those who believe these scriptures refer to a so-called final judgment when the sinner gets cast into "hell" should read these scriptures very carefully and observe the following:
With these thoughts in mind, let us look at these scriptures with a very open mind. Christians who have use these scriptures to consign millions to hell may discover this fire is one in which they themselves will have a part in. After all, right after Jesus quoted this very favorite verse of hell-fire preachers about the "worm that does not die, and the fire is not quenched," Jesus adds these words that are never quoted with the above words, "For everyone will be seasoned with fire."
One of the main problems dealing with these passages is the fact that people see this fire as an eternal fire. The word "unquenchable" is the Greek word "asbestos" which has also become an English word. The English word "asbestos" means, according to Webster's Dictionary "a kind of material unaffected by fire." This is a very different meaning than the "religious" meaning of the word and different than the way the Greeks used the word in Jesus' day.
Let us see how the word "asbestos (unquenchable) was used by the Greeks. Strabo calls it the lamp in the Parthenon, and Plutarch calls the sacred fire of a temple "unquenchable," though they were extinguished long ago. Josephus, the Jewish Priest who saw the destruction of Jerusalem says that the fire on the altar of the temple at Jerusalem was "always unquenchable" abeston aei, yet he was there when the fire on the altar was forever extinguished. Eusibius, the church historian who lived in Constantine's day says that certain martyrs of Alexandria "were burned in unquenchable fire." The fire was put out within an hour! Homer speaks of "unquenchable laughter" asbestos gelos, (Iliad, I: 599)
Clearly, we are not dealing with fire here that is eternal and will never go out. We have a fire which will not be quenched until it consumes that which it is burning! It cannot be put out by an external means such as water or lack of oxygen. When it consumes everything that it was set to consume, it will go out due to lack of material that is burning. The force of the word should be on the emphasis that this divine fire will not be stopped from doing what it was sent to do. It will finish its work and will not be cut short. Whatever it was sent to burn will be completely done in. There will be no rescue.
Jesus coupled this "unquenchable fire" with some other interesting verses. Keep in mind, Jesus only came to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. He rarely talked to pagans. His words were usually directed at people who claimed to know the things of God. He talked about "hands, feet, and eyes that cause you to sin." It is better to cut them off than to go to "hell" (gehenna) having both hands, feet, and eyes. Jesus said if you have lust in your heart, you are guilty of adultery, if you have hate in your heart, you are guilty of murder. The churches I have been a part of were full of people from the pastor down to the lay people who lusted, cheated, sued, cheated on taxes, cheated God according those preachers who command the unlawful Mosaic tithe. Coveteousnes, unforgiveness, etc. were not uncommon sins in our midst. Many Christian leaders who teach this "unquenchable fire" as eternal punishment have been guilty at some time or another of having a foot, hand, or eye that has caused them to sin. I ask you this. Why isn't the church full of one-eyed, one-handed, one-footed people! Because the church is full of hypocrites who relegate scriptures directed specifically to them and relegate them as dealing with the world.
When one looks at "fire" scriptures in relationship to people, the Bible has far more scriptures saying that God's own people will have to go through fire than scriptures which refer to unbelievers going through some kind of fire. If the church would focus on the fire that is eventually going to consume them and not be "quenched" and stop trying to get their enemies eternally toasted, then perhaps the church may begin to shine like gold refined in the furnace.
In summary then, it is time for us to meet THE FIRE so that we can become
ministers of fire, full of a compassionate love that will melt our enemies with
His good works which we will pour on their heads. Don't delay this meeting.
Don't wait until Jesus has to repeat the words He spoke to John and James when
they wanted fire to come down on the heads of the Samaritans who rejected the
Gospel. He said, "You do not know what manner of spirit you are of. For the
Son of Man did not come to destroy men's lives but to save them." (Luke 9:56)
After Christian's are salted with fire, we will stop saying so many stupid things.