“And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into shell, where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.” (Mark 9:47-48, ESV)
Mark’s gospel reminds us that Jesus believed in a real Hell, a place where sinners will be punished for their disobedience of rejection of Jesus. It is a nasty and vile place, one which Jesus warned His listeners to avoid at all costs by comparing it to a garbage dump. The word hell is the Greek word Gehenna, the garbage dump of Jerusalem. Gehenna probably had a very bad stench or smell as it was filled with rot and corruption. When Jews heard Jesus use this term, they would be filled with revulsion and disgust at the mention of this foul and nauseating place.
And so Jesus described as the most loathsome place in all of existence, as the place of retribution, of suffering, torment, and unquenchable fire. The fire makes it clear that Hell is a very uncomfortable place since constant and intense heat can be a terrible and unbearable thing. It saps our strength and makes us feel like not doing anything, just lying still in some shade to get relief. The only thing in fact that makes the heat bearable is the prospect of relief usually a cool drink or a nice cool breeze or air conditioning. But in Hell, there is no such relief, so there is no hope there either.
But Hell is more than hot, it is filled with corruption. Jesus uses the term worm in his description of Hell. This refers to the maggots which we find in garbage dumps eating away at everything. The impression we get is that Hell is a place of corruption and decay, the place where sin completely engulfs and envelops a person. And there is no escape. Therefore it is the responsibility of each of us who know the truth, who see the danger to try to prevent others from going there. We must go and preach salvation in Jesus Christ to the lost, in word and deed regardless of what they make think say or do to us, regardless of any discomfort it may cause us, or how foolish it looks. If we don’t go out and warn people about it they face discomfort far greater than any we could experience and it will be without end.