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Unquenchable Fire

UNQUENCHABLE FIRE

un-kwench'-a-b'-l, pur asbestos):

The phrase occurs in Matthew 3:12 and its parallel Luke 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 Mark 9:43, where the "unquenchable fire" is equated with "Gehenna" (which see). The same idea lies in 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," Matthew 5:22 margin, etc.; "furnace of fire," Matthew 13:40,42,50; "eternal fire," Matthew 25:41; compare also 2 Thessalonians 1:8; 2 Peter 3:7; Jude 1:7; Revelation 19:20; 20:10,14,15; 21:8). For Old Testament analogies compare Isaiah 1:31; 34:10; 66:24; Jeremiah 4:4; 7:20; 17:27; 21:12; Ezekiel 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.

See PUNISHMENT, EVERLASTING.

James Orr


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Bibliography Information
Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. "Entry for 'UNQUENCHABLE FIRE'". "International Standard Bible Encyclopedia". 1915.