Saturday, August 18, 2012

Glenn Peoples, "Isaiah, Worms and Fire"

Dr. Glenn Peoples was fairly instrumental to me in providing a compelling case for annihilationism. Here is his newest post on ReThinking Hell. Enjoy.

Imagine that you had never heard of “hell.” The eternal misery of the damned in dungeons of fire, Dante’s Inferno, Jonathan Edwards’ classic sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” you hadn’t heard of any of it. And now imagine that you were about to open a book that tells us what the judgement of God on his enemies will be like. You read this:
The LORD will come in fire, and his chariots like the whirlwind, to pay back his anger in fury, and his rebuke in flames of fire.
For by fire will the LORD execute judgement, and by his sword, on all flesh; and those slain by the LORD will be many.
From new moon to new moon, and from sabbath to sabbath, all flesh shall come to worship before me, says the LORD.
And they shall go out and look at the dead bodies of the people who have rebelled against me; for their worm shall not die, their fire shall not be quenched, and they shall be an abhorrence to all flesh.
It’s pretty fearsome stuff, granted, but beyond that, what would you make of it? Endless suffering? Torment forever in the fires of hell? Not likely. Such ideas would never even occur to you when reading a passage like this. Anyone able to read the above passage can see what it describes: Death. Any claim that Isaiah 66 contains anything that would lend support to the doctrine of the eternal torments of the damned in hell is indefensible, even laughable. You cannot find a doctrine like that in this text on the basis of any standard methods of responsible exegesis.

But things do not end there when it comes to this text in Isaiah 66. As those familiar with the evangelical discussion of final judgement are well aware, Jesus is said to have quoted this passage when teaching people to avoid sin. In the Gospel of Mark, this teaching of Jesus marks his first use of the word Gehenna, literally referring to the Valley of Hinnom (it is the Greek equivalent of Gehinnom, “valley of Hinnom” in Aramaic). Mark 9:47-48 reads,
If your eye causes you to sin, tear it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell, ‘where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.’
If all we knew about Jesus’ teaching on hell is that he said this and where he got it, there could be no doubt what he is saying. Sin is so serious that we would be better off without an eye that leads us into sin, than to lose not only our eye, but our entire self in Gehenna, ending up like those enemies of God in Isaiah 66 – dead and gone. Outside of disputes of the doctrine of hell, New Testament commentators apparently see this without difficulty. 
 For the link, enjoy it HERE. Beware, it's quite in-depth. Which is cool.



  1. This is quite wonderful. Thinkers who love the Bible as the Word of God and who respect, but are not enslaved by, past interpretations are what I would call genuinely neo-orthodox. Thank you.

    1. Agreed. Glenn is as such a soul. ;)