Matthew 18:8:

8 And if your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life crippled or lame than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into the eternal fire.

Mark 9:43:

43 And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire.

Isaiah 66:24

24 “And they shall go out and look on the dead bodies of the men 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.”

Matthew 25:41

41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.

All of these verses pretty clearly indicate an "unquenchable fire" or an "eternal fire". So what do annihilationists make of these passages?

  • The fire is eternal. Those (humans; "the devil and his angels" are another story) cast into said fire — according to annihilationists — are not. Of the above, only Isaiah 66:24 looks like a potential problem.
    – Matthew
    Dec 3, 2021 at 16:45
  • @Matthew I guess I would question what the point of the fire is if not to burn something.
    – Luke Hill
    Dec 3, 2021 at 16:49
  • "...the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels"? "The devil and his angels" are subject to the eternal fire. Humans may or may not be necessarily subject to the fire (n.b. passages in Matthew referring instead to "the outer darkness"), and may or may not be subject to it eternally.
    – Matthew
    Dec 3, 2021 at 17:32
  • Yea so it seems inconclusive on whether or not it is eternal for the humans. Thus we must turn to Isaiah
    – Luke Hill
    Dec 3, 2021 at 17:39
  • 2
    tl;dr is the fire is eternal, not necessarily whatever's thrown in it. Dec 4, 2021 at 0:50

1 Answer 1


Mark 9:43 refers to "unquenchable fire" (Greek ἄσβεστον (asbeston) from which we get the word "asbestos").
The KJV calls it "the fire that shall never be quenched".

This verse also refers to this fire as "hell" (Greek γέενναν (geennan), from which we get the word "Gehenna").
The Outline of Biblical Usage describes "Gehenna":

This was originally the valley of Hinnom, south of Jerusalem, where the filth and dead animals of the city were cast out and burned; a fit symbol of the wicked and their future destruction.

In the next verse, Mark continues to describe this garbage dump:

Where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched

The fire will not be quenched and the worms will not die, at least not as long as there is fuel to feed the fire and flesh to feed the worms.

But there is nothing here that suggests that any of this lasts forever (have the worms been graced with immortality?).

Matthew 18:8 refers to "eternal fire" (Greek αἰώνιον (aiōnion) from which we get the word "eons").

This is fire that no one will ever extinguish, fire that will continue burning for as long as it needs to. Except for minor variations, no one disputes that this is fire that will not be extinguished, and will burn for as long as it needs to, to the end of the age (eon) if necessary.

But such a fire, even if were to burn for all eternity, is not a problem for annihilationists, as the verse in question simply talks about being thrown into the fire. There is no implication in the scripture that anyone would survive such an event.

If you were vacationing in Hawaiʻi and someone told you to be careful so you don't fall into the volcano, would you have any reason to think that doing so would somehow make you immortal? Would you have any doubts that the actual result would be your permanent death and the physical destruction of your body?

Isaiah 66:23–24 is the scripture that Mark quoted:

And it shall come to pass that from one New Moon to another, and from one Sabbath to another, all flesh shall come to worship before Me,” says the LORD. And they shall go forth and look upon the corpses of the men who have transgressed against Me. For their worm does not die, and their fire is not quenched. They shall be an abhorrence to all flesh.

Notice that this is talking about "corpses of the men" being viewed by living physical humans. These are dead bodies and they will soon be eaten or burned, becoming nothing but ashes and soil. There isn't the slightest implication that these corpses are aware of what is happening to them, much less that they are immortal and will continue to be burned and eaten over and over forever. They are simply lifeless bodies, incapable of sensation or awareness.

Matthew 25:41 again refers to "eternal fire", and again there is no implication that anyone will survive being thrown into it.

Revelation 14:9–11 says:

Then a third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, “If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives his mark on his forehead or on his hand, he himself shall also drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out full strength into the cup of His indignation. He shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever; and they have no rest day or night, who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name.”

This describes events around the time of Christ's return, at the end of the Beast's rule here on Earth. These people have not been resurrected, they are normal humans, our descendants or ourselves, still living here at the end of the current age.

The "torment" is the knowledge these people have of what their fate will be. They know they will end up burned to ashes and completely destroyed, gone forever.

And again, the "forever and ever" could mean until the end of the age, until it has served its purpose, that there's nothing they can do to extinguish it. But even if it really did mean literally forever, it is still only the smoke and fire itself that lasts, not the torment.

Revelation 19:3 says "… Her smoke rises up forever …" (NKJV), using the Greek words "kapnos autos" (καπνός αὐτός) for "her smoke", and "eis ho aiōn" (εἰς ὁ αἰών) for "for ever".

Those same two Greek expressions are used in the Septuagint for Isaiah 34:10 "the smoke thereof shall go up for ever", referring to the destruction of Edom. Yet today, less than 3000 years later, there is no trace of that smoke. The idea, both in the Hebrew and Greek scriptures, is that of something that burns without being extinguished before it runs out of fuel.

How do annihilationists respond to verses that indicate eternal hell fire?
Annihilationists don't deny that there will be a "hell fire", nor that people will be condemned to burn in it.

What they don't understand is why so many other people believe that anyone could survive the experience.

  • Jws certainly do not agree that God will subject anyone to literal fiery torment even for a moment.
    – Kris
    Dec 4, 2021 at 13:33
  • @Kris, the unsaved are burned up (Rev 20:15 — Furthermore, whoever was not found written in the book of life was hurled into the lake of fire.), but there is no indication that they are conscious or alive at this point. Compare with the fate of the Beast and Prophet (Rev 19:20 — "… While still alive, they both were hurled into the fiery lake that burns with sulfur."). Dec 4, 2021 at 14:46
  • JWs teach the fire is symbolic of complete destruction. And the beast and the prophet being alive when thrown into the LOF indicated they are a active in their deeds when destruction is brought to them
    – Kris
    Dec 4, 2021 at 20:58
  • "... why so many other people believe that anyone could survive the experience." Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego survived in a fire so hot that it killed others who merely approached. It must be remembered that all those who are thrown into "eternal fire" are in resurrection bodies and they may not respond to physical principles like our mortal bodies. Dec 5, 2021 at 1:18
  • @Kris Those who worship the beast "shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb"..."and they have no rest (from torment) day nor night." - Rev 14 Can you read complete destruction and an end of torment here? Can you say they are not subjected "to literal fiery torment even for a moment."? Dec 5, 2021 at 13:03

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