Stumbling Into Hell
“And if your eye causes you to stumble, cast it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes, to be cast into hell, where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched. “
The Lord Jesus Christ, in a discourse concerning service, sanctification and things that cause His disciples to stumble, quotes from the prophet Isaiah. The original inspired utterance is found in Isaiah 66:24. “Then they shall go forth and look on the corpses of the men who have transgressed against Me. For their worm shall not die, and their fire shall not be quenched; and they shall be an abhorrence to all mankind.”
Foretold of Old
Isaiah, the Messianic prophet of the Old Testament, was given these words to speak to the nation of Israel, just as our Lord Jesus Christ did in His earthly ministry. The last chapter of the book of Isaiah contains great declarations of hope and the future glory of the spiritual Israel of the Messianic age, which prophesied the inclusion of the Gentiles.
This great new nation to be born in spiritual Zion (Isa. 66:8) and comforted in heavenly Jerusalem (Isa. 66:13) used as a demonstration that, as Isaiah calls it, “His Hand made known to His servants.” (Isa. 66:14). This sudden birth of this nation (the church on Pentecost in 30AD) presented in contradiction to the normal protracted birth of a woman in labor, yet another evidence offered of God promising to execute His plan. (Isa. 66:8-9)
Yes, the time was coming, as the prophet declared, “to gather all nations and tongues. And they shall see My glory.” (Isa. 66:18) The faithful “survivors” would be sent to bring fellow brethren (those who trembled at the word of the LORD) from among the nations as a grain offering “to the LORD” and “to My holy mountain, Jerusalem.” (Isa. 66:20) Does anyone see a vague resemblance to Hebrews 12:22-24 in these statements?
Also foretold in this final chapter were the warnings of the judgment to come upon the disobedient Jews. Those who would choose “their own ways” and who delighted “in their abominations.” (Isa. 66:3-4) These same would mock those who tremble at God’s word; “brothers who hate you” and would seek to “exclude you for My name’s sake.” (Isa. 66:5) They taunt the faithful of the living God, “Let the LORD be glorified, that we may see your joy.” (Isa 66:5)
Isaiah declares of these mockers and scorners “they will be put to shame.” (Isa. 66:5b) Looking to their coming punishment he prophesies, “A voice of uproar from the city, a voice from the temple, the voice of the LORD who is rendering recompense to His enemies.” (Isa. 66:6) A reference to the coming destruction of the Jewish system at the hands of the Roman armies circa 70AD for rejecting the Messiah, He by whom would “the LORD be glorified.” The ultimate end of those who transgress against God is a place where “their worm shall not die, and their fire shall not be quenched.”
The promise retold
Jesus’ citing of Isaiah’s last inspired and recorded statement must be understood in the light of the context of Isaiah chapter 66, thus the need to bring forth some highlights of that chapter. Why? Because His listeners, Jews, would have an understanding of the context from which Jesus’ referred in His quote. Now, let’s consider the context surrounding His quote of Isaiah and see the similarities that apply.
Jesus’ quote of Isaiah centered around two basic things. Those things that would cause the “little ones” who believe to stumble, thus preventing them from entering into life, and those things in the disciples’ personal lives that would cause them to stumble and prevent them entering into “life”, also referred to as entering the kingdom (Mark 9:43,45,47).
The reference to the little ones in verse 42 actually harkens back to verse 37 concerning receiving a child, or serving the needs of an immature little one, bringing them into understanding of who Jesus is, not hindering their growth.
Remember, there was the one that the apostle John tried to hinder because he wasn’t following with them. Did that individual Jew that God was using to cast out devils have a full understanding? No, probably not. What was Jesus’ command? Don’t hinder him. Bring him to the LORD. Let him enter into life, the kingdom, the nation to be born in Zion. Do you suppose this might come to mind at some point as the Gentiles are being brought in as prophesied by Isaiah in chapter 66?
They were not to hinder these spiritually immature by setting some kind of a trap or stumbling block (exclude “for My name’s sake”) but to encourage them. Those that have survived, been delivered out of death, are sent to gather the nations that they may see the glory of the resurrected and ascended Christ. Sound familiar to the context of Isaiah 66?
Regarding cutting off of hand and foot, the plucking out of eyes, the Lord uses figurative speech to communicate that among His disciples there is to be no choosing of “their own ways”, no elevating of some passing pleasure of sin, no delighting “in their abominations” knowing it will diminish the power of the gospel to overcome sin. “We know that no one who is born of God sins.” (1 John 5:18) Amen? In continuing in sin, they mock God’s word. Remember the lesson of those who sought their own ways and desired to revel in their abominations.
Now, how about the warning given the Christian who seeks to justify His unrighteous behavior, giving lip service to the word of God rather than trembling before it, causing others to stumble and ultimately causing their own soul to stumble? Well, the voice of the Lord, Jesus, declares and retells it for our benefit. They are going to stumble right into hell, “where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched” suffering their due recompense. Let’s expunge the sin and let our service and sanctification bring souls to God’s holy mountain. Amen?