Threads and Worms
I want to lay out a few of the themes and threads that I am starting to see emerge in my study of these parallel passages from Mark 9 and Isaiah 66. First I want to give some of the context and highlight some of the linking phrases that I am seeing here.
"Be joyful with Jerusalem and rejoice for her, all you who love her; be exceedingly glad with her, all you who mourn over her, that you may nurse and be satisfied with her comforting breasts, that you may suck and be delighted with her bountiful bosom." For thus says the LORD, "Behold, I extend peace to her like a river, and the glory of the nations like an overflowing stream; and you will be nursed, you will be carried on the hip and fondled on the knees. As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you; and you will be comforted in Jerusalem." Then you will see this, and your heart will be glad, and your bones will flourish like the new grass; and the hand of the LORD will be made known to His servants, but He will be indignant toward His enemies. For behold, the LORD will come in fire and His chariots like the whirlwind, to render His anger with fury, and His rebuke with flames of fire. For the LORD will execute judgment by fire and by His sword on all flesh, and those slain by the LORD will be many. (Isaiah 66:10-16)
The sky was split apart like a scroll when it is rolled up, and every mountain and island were moved out of their places. Then the kings of the earth and the great men and the commanders and the rich and the strong and every slave and free man hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains; and they said to the mountains and to the rocks, "Fall on us and hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb; for the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to stand?" (Revelation 6:14-17) Notice that it is a Lamb that is assumed to be full of wrath – how absurd! And yet it is the clear perception and belief of all who do not have an intimate connection with that Lamb.
Now notice some fascinating similarities between that last passage and the context in Mark.
They came to Capernaum; and when He was in the house, He began to question them, "What were you discussing on the way?" But they kept silent, for on the way they had discussed with one another which of them was the greatest. Sitting down, He called the twelve and said to them, "If anyone wants to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all." Taking a child, He set him before them, and taking him in His arms, He said to them, "Whoever receives one child like this in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me does not receive Me, but Him who sent Me." (Mark 9:33-37)
Now Jesus begins to move into the area of talking about rewards and consequences.
For whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because of your name as followers of Christ, truly I say to you, he will not lose his reward. Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe to stumble, it would be better for him if, with a heavy millstone hung around his neck, he had been cast into the sea. (Mark 9:41-42)
For everyone will be salted with fire. Salt is good; but if the salt becomes unsalty, with what will you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another. (Mark 9:49-50)
Put me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm. for love is as strong as death, jealousy is as severe as Sheol; its flashes are flashes of fire, the very flame of the LORD. (Song of Solomon 8:6)
There is a lot that needs to be said about this issue of the fire of God, but this is some of the most interesting and challenging to those willing to reconsider their traditional assumptions.
I want to follow the scarlet thread of this word worm. First of all, here is Strong's definition of the Hebrew word used in this last verse in Isaiah. Interestingly, most of the time this word is used throughout the Bible it is not translated worm but is used to describe the color crimson or scarlet – which just happens to be the color used by royalty for their distinctive clothing.
a maggot (as voracious); specifically the crimson-grub, but used only (in this connection) of the color from it, and cloths dyed therewith:--crimson, scarlet, worm.
Following are a few of the significant verses that have this word used in them.
But I am a worm and not a man, A reproach of men and despised by the people. All who see me sneer at me; They separate with the lip, they wag the head, saying, "Commit yourself to the LORD; let Him deliver him; Let Him rescue him, because He delights in him." (Psalms 22:6-8)
This is an obvious prophecy of what Jesus specifically experienced on the cross as He felt our sins crushing out His very life.
"Do not fear, you worm Jacob, you men of Israel; I will help you," declares the LORD, "and your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel. (Isaiah 41:14)
"Come now, and let us reason together," Says the LORD, "Though your sins are as scarlet, they will be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they will be like wool. (Isaiah 1:18)
"They will all respond and say to you, 'Even you have been made weak as we, you have become like us. 'Your pomp and the music of your harps have been brought down to Sheol; maggots are spread out as your bed beneath you and worms are your covering.' (Isaiah 14:10-11)
This passage is a prophetic description of what Satan himself is going to experience at the very end of time during the final day of exposure or judgment.
"Then they will go forth and look on the corpses of the men who have transgressed against Me. For their worm will not die and their fire will not be quenched; and they will be an abhorrence to all mankind." (Isaiah 66:24)
This verse is found in the context of the final time when sin and all of its consequences are fully laid bare and after that there is never any more sin or sinners left anywhere in the entire universe. Notice that according to this verse, those who are saved will experience a time when they will go out and observe the corpses (clearly in the original language this means dead bodies, not living, tortured souls) left over after the final effects of sin are experienced by all those who have resisted God's grace and love toward them.
However, what I find quite interesting as I looked at the original words from Hebrew is that I cannot find any reference to some of the words that appear in the English version of this passage. That alerts me to the possibility that this text could very potentially take on quite a different meaning if those studying it were open to alternative views of God other than traditionally taught. In the original language there are far fewer words in this last sentence. In this last half of the verse there is a word that simply denotes the presence of this crimson color (or possibly a worm) and then a word denoting that it will not disappear or die. Then there are two words stating the presence of a fire and stating that it is unquenchable. Finally, there are two more words that say that this will be reason for people to feel abhorrence, an aversion or a feeling of contempt and that this will be felt by those who are alive and look upon this scene.
At this point my mind was led to a text that is believed to apply to Jesus in the New Earth and describing potential exchanges between Him and those who see the scars of His crucifixion.
If someone asks him, 'What are these wounds on your body?' he will answer, 'The wounds I was given at the house of my friends.' (Zechariah 13:6 NIV)
Personally, I sense that this verse in Isaiah just may be talking about the undeniable crimson that will never disappear and may well apply to the permanent marks of the crucifixion. This is where the crimson blood of Jesus originally came and served as the most important exposition of God's passionate love for sinners ever to be displayed. To secure His victory for all of eternity and to prevent sin from ever arising again to poison the universe, those crimson scars will always be clearly visible as a reminder of the horrendous results of what happens when a created being, a child of God, chooses to indulge in sin and try to live in independence from God, the only real Source of life.
The fire that cannot be quenched is linked to the very fire of God's passionate love which is totally unquenchable. There are a number of verses that may explain this point. (Deut. 4:24; 5:22-26; 2 Chron. 7:1-3; Song of Sol. 8:6) And finally, both of these things (the eternal evidence and the unquenchable fire) serve to create a permanent sense of abhorrence for evil that will serve to inoculate everyone from ever having the slightest desire to ever try anything like this again at any point throughout all of eternity future.
I see a parallel between what can be viewed in this verse at the end of Isaiah and a previous passage from the same book which is one of the most explicit revelations about the real truth of the fire of God.
"You who are far away, hear what I have done; and you who are near, acknowledge My might." Sinners in Zion are terrified; trembling has seized the godless. "Who among us can live with the consuming fire? Who among us can live with continual burning?" He who walks righteously and speaks with sincerity, he who rejects unjust gain and shakes his hands so that they hold no bribe; He who stops his ears from hearing about bloodshed and shuts his eyes from looking upon evil; he will dwell on the heights, his refuge will be the impregnable rock; his bread will be given him, his water will be sure. Your eyes will see the King in His beauty; they will behold a far-distant land. Your heart will meditate on terror: "Where is he who counts? Where is he who weighs? Where is he who counts the towers?" You will no longer see a fierce people, a people of unintelligible speech which no one comprehends, of a stammering tongue which no one understands. Look upon Zion, the city of our appointed feasts; your eyes will see Jerusalem, an undisturbed habitation, a tent which will not be folded; its stakes will never be pulled up, nor any of its cords be torn apart. But there the majestic One, the LORD, will be for us a place of rivers and wide canals on which no boat with oars will go, and on which no mighty ship will pass. For the LORD is our judge, the LORD is our lawgiver, the LORD is our king; He will save us. (Isaiah 33:13-22)