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Eternal Worms and Unquenchable Flames

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Eternal Worms and Unquenchable Flames

Mark 9:43-48

Have you ever heard the phrase “I’m your worst nightmare?”  Rudy Giuliani said that to last fall when he was a presidential candidate.  He said it was because he was a Republican who could beat a democrat.  The original meaning of the word nightmare is an evil spirit that visits people when they are asleep.  It was much later when it took on the meaning of frightening dream that often awakes the sleeper.  Lastly it is something that produces anxiety, fear, or terror.  For those of us who have raised daughters; maybe your worst nightmare was like mine—a rough looking 25 year old who pulls up to your house on a motorcycle and says, “I am here to pick up your daughter.” Then there is my most recent one of being mummified in a shroud of cotton candy and being place on an ant hill.  But in reality, there is not a worse experience detailed in the Bible than what we find about a place called Hell.  This is not one of my favorite subjects to preach on, but it is found in the Scriptures often, and we need to be reminded of Hell.  As we read the text this morning, did you catch the description of the worms and the flames?  How about this for a title of your worst nightmare?  Eternal Worms and Unquenchable Flames.  I believe if we could pop the lid off of Hell and you could feel the fervent heat and hear the blood curdling screams, if you could just for a moment experience the anguish of eternal torment—that would become your worst nightmare. 

1.  The reality of Hell.  People do not like to admit this fact, but it is a fact nevertheless.  Jesus taught much more on the subject of Hell than He did about Heaven.  In Dr. Wilkins book he says it was 13 to 1.  Another man said it was 11 to 1.  No matter what the number is, the lesson is this:  Jesus Christ believed in a place called Hell.  We are living in this post modern age, when many fundamentals of the faith are being minimized or cast off altogether.  No doubt that the matter of Hell falls into this category.  About half of the people in America believe in Hell.  When we get into denominational labels it is fairly staggering:  Baptist 35%, Pres. 54%, Meth.  58%, Episc. 60%.  How about this one:  In a survey of the eight largest seminaries in America, 71 % of the students and faculty said they do not believe in a literal Hell.  What does this mean?  The training ground is producing men who will one day stand behind a pulpit and boldly proclaim that Hell is simply a place in the mind, or is largely symbolic, etc.  They will also write books, and we will buy them and read them, and listen to their compelling argument.  We will see the belief in a place called Hell grow smaller and smaller as the last days approach.  We will lose the sense of urgency to preach the message of the Gospel, and more people will be turned into Hell in the coming generations.   This is the best advice I can give you on the matter:  Let God be true and every  man a liar. 

Psalms 9:17 The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God.

Luke 12:5 But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear him.  Hell is a real place with real residents.  We can look to various places in the Bible to find out who is in hell.

Matthew 25:41 Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:  In this text, the sheep and the goats have been divided.  Theses are not farm animals, but those who have either accepted or rejected Christ.  In Luke 16, we have the story of the rich man and Lazarus, and the rich man is described as being in the torment of Hell. 

Acts 1:25 That he may take part of this ministry and apostleship, from which Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place.  We could go through the Bible and speculate who is and who isn’t in Hell this morning, but that would not be profitable.  If they are in Hell, there is nothing we can do to get them out.  We need to concern ourselves with those that are headed there now.

John 3:18 He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

John 3:36 He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.   Religious people, moral people, wicked people, good friends, loved ones, family members, co-workers, they are lost right now, and none of them are guaranteed another day. 

James 4:14 Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.

2. The Repulsiveness of Hell.  Back to our text, their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. 

Luke 16:24 And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.

Luke 13:28 There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out.

Matthew 13:49-50

49 So shall it be at the end of the world: the angels shall come forth, and sever the wicked from among the just,

50 And shall cast them into the furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.

Now we have the matter of the eternal worm to deal with.  There are many ideas out there as to what this worm is.  Some say it is like the worm that feeds on dead bodies in the process of decomposition.  Except it feeds on a soul that cannot be consumed.  Others say it is the memory of a man that gnaws on him throughout eternity.  I had opportunities to accept Christ, I had invitations to church, or like the rich man, please send someone to tell my brothers! 

The unquenchable flames.  There are some fires that firemen cannot put out.  They cannot get close enough because of the heat or the fumes, and they just let the fire go until the fuel is depleted.  In Hell the wrath of God fans the flame, and the eternal souls of the lost feed the flame. 

3.  The Release from Hell.  If I told you that you could be placed into a position to never see, experience, or get a taste of the place called Hell, would you interested? 

Realize you are a sinner.  Romans 3:23.

Recognize that Jesus has paid the price for sin.  Romans 5:8.

Respond to God’s gift of grace.  Romans 10:13.

If you are not saved this morning, there is hope for you in the finished of Jesus Christ.

If you are saved, you could respond in a couple of ways—Thank the Lord that you will not ever witness the eternal worm and unquenchable flame.  Ask God to increase your burden for those around you who are headed for a Christ-less Hell.

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