Immortality and Mortality

Question 5

What does the term 'unquenchable fire' mean? Is it a fire that cannot be put out, or a fire that never goes out?

The words of Matthew 3:12 were spoken by John the Baptist about Jesus.

Matthew 3:12
Whose fan is in his hand, and he will thoroughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.

This description is one of many that portray Jesus as the judge of mankind. The 'wheat' represents the righteous, and the 'chaff' represents the wicked. The wheat which is valuable is gathered in, while the chaff worth nothing is burned.

Elsewhere 'sheep' and 'goats' represent the righteous and the wicked. Jesus as the judge separates the sheep from the goats.

Jesus, the Son of Man shall come in glory with all His angels. Sitting on His throne, all nations will be gathered before Him. He shall separate them one from another as a shepherd divides the sheep from the goats - the sheep to the right, the goats to the left. Those on the right are blessed and shall enter the kingdom. Those to the left are cursed and are consumed by everlasting fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels.

Matthew 25:31-34, 41
31 When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then he shall sit on his throne in splendour:
32 And before him all nations shall be gathered: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats.
33 And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.
34 Then the King shall say to them on his right hand, Come, you who are blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world...
41 Then he shall say also to them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.

In the description of the wheat and the chaff, the chaff is destroyed with unquenchable fire. In the description of the sheep and the goats, those on the left (represented by the goats) are destroyed with everlasting fire.

Examples of unquenchable fire


Following a decade of drought, and a week of above average temperatures, fire swept across the State of Victoria, Australia; creating the worst natural disaster in the nation's history. The date was the 7th February 2009. Over 170 people perished; the majority died in their homes or in their cars. Fire-fighters fled the approaching firestorm.

Prior to this event the general advice regarding bush fires -- was that people could safely shelter in their homes until the main fire front had passed. It would then be safe to exit and put out fire attacks on their property while these were still small enough to fight. It was believed that only the elderly and infirm needed to get out of the area well in advance of any fire.

But on this dreadful Saturday, the fire approached with such intensity that these pre-existing rules simply did not apply.

Immediately before the fire front an ominous foreboding prevailed, an horrific blackness consumed the land, then came the enormous roar of the approaching fire. The fire consumed everything - the countryside, townships, homes, and cars.

Four hundred fifty thousand (450,000) hectares were blackened, three thousand and five hundred (3,500) buildings and homes were destroyed, and the known human loss was 173 confirmed dead.

This is just one cruel example of unquenchable fire.

What is unquenchable fire?

It describes a fire that cannot be put out. It consumes all ahead of it. It abates only when the destruction is total and complete.

Unquenchable does not mean that the fire does not eventually go out -- it simply means that it is impossible put out.


On the 11th September 2001 two hijacked airliners were deliberately flown into twin office towers in New York City in an event which has become known simply as 9/11. It was instantly apparent that the resulting massive fireball and ongoing fires would obviously overwhelm any immediate fire-fighting effort. The situation was dire - appropriate fire-fighting resources were so inadequate, the time to act so short, and the location of the fires so unreachable; the fires were simply unquenchable.

Fire-fighters bravely entered the towers with a two-fold plan - to fight the firestorm, and carry out a search and rescue mission.

The fireball at the time of impact immediately claimed the lives of passengers and crew of both airliners and many office staff at the immediate locations. Workers trapped in the floors above the fires fled upwards to the roofs of the buildings. Given time helicopters could have plucked to safety each and every one. Workers below the fires fled downwards towards the streets.

But the fires continued to burn - the fires were not brought under control, neither could they be with the means available - they were unquenchable. The fires continued to weaken the structures of both buildings until they brought about their spectacular and total collapses.

About 3,000 people perished that day. The exact number will never be determined.

Numerous unquenchable fires

Unquenchable fires of less notable extent occur daily and constantly throughout the world. Despite brave efforts to extinguish them, they destroy property, or lives, or both. When it is too late to save lives and salvage property, and the unquenchable fires have consumed all, they do eventually go out.

Unquenchable means that they cannot be put out, not that they never go out.

Judgment from God

The biggest fire in history is still to come. It is unquenchable. It comes from God.

It is reserved for the wicked. No means at their disposal will control or contain it. The fire will only go out when it has consumed all.

Matthew 3:12
Whose fan is in his hand, and he will thoroughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.


Question 6

What do the words 'eternal,' 'everlasting' and 'forever' mean? How do we and others use these words?