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.
These verses go with the last verse. Literally.
Jesus Himself shows that this verse can have a different application than a literal call to cut off your hand.
Mark 7:21 For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, 22 Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: 23 All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.
Evil proceeds from the heart. The hand just does what it’s told.
A spiritual application can be made here for the Christian today that it would be better to be without a body part than to use it to unite in sin and wickedness and that applies not only to hands that touch things they ought not in ways they ought not, eyes that look at things they ought not, and feet that hastily take them to wicked places where they should not be.
Modern versions based on the Alexandrian text-type Codices Vaticanus and Sinaiticus which underlie Westcott and Hort’s Greek text and all the modern versions remove verses 44 and 46. And yet, these two verses are found in the Byzantine text tradition from Antioch where Christians were first called such that the churches believed through for nearly 2,000 years.
Note here that the Hell where “their worm dieth not” is to be a physical place on earth. By any understandable method of interpretation, Hell in the verse 43, 45, and 47 is a place of burning and suffering, where decay is eternal, and the worm that feeds on the sufferer lives forever, too.
Isaiah 66:22 For as the new heavens and the new earth, which I will make, shall remain before me, saith the LORD, so shall your seed and your name remain.23 And it shall come to pass, that from one new moon to another, and from one sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to worship before me, saith the LORD. 24 And they shall go forth, and look upon the carcases of the men that have transgressed against me: for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched; and they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh.
Now for what I believe the verses are literally about based on the literal context. Notice that in the context of these passages Christ has referred to offending a little one who has believed in Him. I think the warning should be obvious for any church worker or person in authority in the local church who has the inclination to deal inappropriately with a child.
Three times, Christ alludes to the passage in Isaiah here. Three times he warns people that they’d be better off not to have something as a part of them than to use it against Him to sin. It must be a very important point He wants His people to learn. Would it were that priests, pastors, Sunday-school teachers, all church workers, and Christian congregations would look at these passages and the context. Perhaps there would be fewer survivors’ groups on social networking sites or books written by those who had “escaped” if they had.
God is very serious about this one thing in particular among many. Don’t mess with His children.