Unquenchable Fire

un-kwench'-a-b'-l, pur asbestos): The phrase occurs in Mt 3:12 and its parallel Lu 3:17 in the words of the Baptist on the Messianic judgment: "The chaff he will burn up with unquenchable fire"; but also on the lips of Christ Himself in Mr 9:43, where the "unquenchable fire" is equated with "Gehenna" (which see). The same idea lies in Mr 9:48, "The fire is not quenched" (ou sbennutai), and is implied in the numerous allusions to fire as the instrument of punishment and destruction in the Gospels and other parts of the New Testament (e.g. "the Gehenna of fire," Mt 5:22 margin, etc.; "furnace of fire," Mt 13:40,42,50; "eternal fire," Mt 25:41; compare also 2Th 1:8; 2Pe 3:7; Jude 1:7; Re 19:20; 20:10,14-15; 21:8). For Old Testament analogies compare Isa 1:31; 34:10; 66:24; Jer 4:4; 7:20; 17:27; 21:12; Eze 20:47-48. The language is obviously highly metaphorical, conveying the idea of an awful and abiding judgment, but is not to be pressed as teaching a destruction in the sense of annihilation of the wicked. An unquenchable fire is not needed for a momentary act of destruction. Even in the view of Edward White, the wicked survive the period of judgment to which these terms relate.


James Orr

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