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Daily Bible Verses | On Scandal, Sin and Hell

Audio Bible | The Gospel of St Mark | Oliver Peers

Christian Art | Heaven And Hell

Mark 9: 38-43, 45, 47-48 – 26th Sunday Year B (Audio Bible KJV, Spoken Word)

38 ¶ And John answered him, saying, Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name, and he followeth not us: and we forbad him, because he followeth not us.
39 But Jesus said, Forbid him not: for there is no man which shall do a miracle in my name, that can lightly speak evil of me.
40 For he that is not against us is on our part.
41 For whosoever shall give you a cup of water to drink in my name, because ye belong to Christ, verily I say unto you, he shall not lose his reward.
42 And whosoever shall offend one of these little ones that believe in me, it is better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the sea.
43 And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched:
[44 Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.]
45 And if thy foot offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter halt into life, than having two feet to be cast into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched:
[46 Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.]
47 And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out: it is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire:
48 Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.

John tells Jesus that he and other disciples have forbidden a man from casting out devils in Jesus’ name, and Jesus tells him that he was wrong to do this. The man was doing good, irrespective of his not belonging to the community of disciples following Jesus. There is no call for exclusivity, so long as people are working faithfully for and toward the good. Jesus displays an ecumenical attitude here. Different faiths, different churches, can peacefully co-exist and work alongside each other for the greater good.

Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem, where he is to give his life for the sake of mankind, to redeem us from our sins. This is to be the ultimate saving gift, and yet Jesus is careful to remind the disciples that God values all acts of service to others, no matter how modest they may be. Should the disciples find themselves thirsty, they will be grateful for a glass of water, offered in the name of Christ and with love of Christ.

We are, though, warned in the most severe terms against scandal, that sinful behaviour which provokes sin in others and turns people away from God. An offence against the little ones especially is of the utmost seriousness. We may call to mind, perhaps inevitably, the recent child-abuse scandals in the Catholic Church

Jesus does not shy away from warning us about the consequence of sin, which in the end is hell. It is our responsibility to distance ourselves from occasions of sin, to take ourselves away from the danger of committing sin, no matter the transitory good those occasions may seem to offer us. The eternal good of our soul is more important. ‘If thine eye offend thee, pluck it out.’

‘Hell’, or ‘Gehenna’, was a valley somewhat south of Jerusalem, which was used as a city dump and where a fire was kept burning to burn the rubbish. An ugly, stinking place, it serves as a symbol here for the fate of those who cast themselves out from God’s mercy, who through sin are fit for nothing but the rubbish dump, which is hell. Here the worm does not die – these sinners will experience remorse too late for ever – and the fire will not be quenched. Through such graphic imagery, Jesus warns us not to lose sight of the good, to let the evils of the world obscure our sense and understanding such that, indeed, those evils may even delude us into thinking they are good. We pray to the Father: ‘Lead us not into temptation.’

‘And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment;
10 That ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ;
11 Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God.’ (Philippians 1: 1-11)

Audio Bible KJV | Endnotes

Heaven And Hell

One of the most well-known passages in the Old Testament that speaks of Hell is Isaiah 14:12-15. Here, the prophet speaks of the downfall of the king of Babylon, describing how he will be brought down to Sheol, the Hebrew term for the underworld. This passage is often interpreted as describing the devil and his fall from grace, with the phrase ‘how art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning’ being particularly memorable.

Psalm 49:14-15 speaks of how the wise and foolish alike will die and go down to Sheol, emphasizing that earthly wealth and status offer no protection against the inevitable end that awaits us all. This serves as a reminder to focus on the things that truly matter in life, such as living a virtuous and righteous existence.

Daniel 12:2 describes how ‘many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt’. This speaks to the idea of a final judgment, where all souls will be judged based on their actions in life and either rewarded with eternal life in Heaven or punished with eternal torment in Hell.

Deuteronomy 32:22 speaks of how ‘a fire is kindled in my anger, and shall burn unto the lowest hell’. This emphasizes the wrath of God and the consequences of disobedience, underscoring the importance of remaining faithful and obedient.

Proverbs 15:24 states that ‘the path of life leads upward for the wise, that he may avoid going down to Sheol’. This serves as a reminder to live a wise and virtuous life, seeking to follow the path that leads to eternal life in Heaven rather than the path that leads to eternal punishment in Hell.

Ecclesiastes 9:10 reminds us that ‘whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol, to which you are going’. This emphasizes the importance of living fully in the present moment, making the most of our time on earth rather than focusing solely on the afterlife.

Heaven And Hell In The New Testament

One of the most well-known passages in the New Testament that speaks of Hell is Matthew 25:41-46, where Jesus speaks of the final judgment and the separation of the righteous from the wicked. Here, Jesus describes how the wicked will be cast into ‘the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels’, while the righteous will inherit eternal life in Heaven. This passage emphasizes the importance of living a life of service to others and of treating others with kindness and compassion, as these actions are seen as expressions of one’s faith in God.

Similarly, in Luke 16:19-31, Jesus tells the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, in which the former is condemned to torment in Hades while the latter is rewarded with a place in Abraham’s bosom. This parable emphasizes the importance of showing mercy and compassion to those in need, and of avoiding the selfishness and greed that can lead one down the path to eternal punishment.

In the book of Revelation, we see further descriptions of Heaven and Hell, with the former being depicted as a place of eternal joy and peace, while the latter is depicted as a place of eternal torment and suffering. Revelation 21:4 speaks of how in Heaven ‘God will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away’. This serves as a reminder of the ultimate reward that awaits those who remain faithful to God.

Christian theologians and religious leaders have offered their own insights into the concepts of Heaven and Hell. Saint Augustine wrote extensively on the topic of Hell, emphasizing the idea of eternal punishment as a necessary consequence of sin and disobedience. Protestant reformer John Calvin believed that God had predestined some individuals to be saved and others to be damned, with the latter being consigned to eternal punishment in Hell.