FEEDBACK: THE UNSAVED ARE “QUENCHED AS TOW”
We appreciate feedback on the studies posted on this website. It helps us to see if there is anything on this website that does not agree with the Bible.
Below IS A QUESTION ABOUT SOME VERSES THAT SEEM TO TEACH ANNIHILATION.
This is a dialogue with a question and our response and then a follow up question and response
THE READER’S QUESTIONS are IN ITALICS. OUR RESPONSE FOLLOWS.
I cannot relate tow to a candle. Tow is not a candle wick. Tow is the coarse and broken fibers of flax before spinning. The point that Isaiah 43:17 is making about extinguish and quench is that as tow burns up very rapidly if caught on fire, so shall they be that 'shall not rise.' Tow qualifies quench and extinguish to be understood differently than putting out the light of a candle.
You are talking about Isaiah 43:17 where we read:
Which bringeth forth the chariot and horse, the army and the power; they shall lie down together, they shall not rise: they are extinct, they are quenched as tow.
There is a detailed study on this verse at this link:
You are referring to the phrase “quenched as tow” and this phrase makes some people think that this verse is teaching that the unsaved are annihilated.
We know that God wrote the Bible and has given the rule to compare Scripture with Scripture (1 Corinthians 2:13). God is the one who used the word translated "quenched" in several other verses in which it talks about how a candle or lamp is put out. These verses are listed below:
1 Samuel 3:3 And ere the lamp of God went out <03518> in the temple of the LORD, where the ark of God was, and Samuel was laid down to sleep;
2 Chronicles 29:7 Also they have shut up the doors of the porch, and put out <03518> the lamps, and have not burned incense nor offered burnt offerings in the holy place unto the God of Israel.
Proverbs 31:18 She perceiveth that her merchandise is good: her candle goeth not out <03518> by night.
Each of the above verses uses this same Hebrew word translated “quenched” in Isaiah 43:17 to refer to a candle or a lamp that is put out.
God is telling us to look at a candle being put out to understand what God is saying in Isaiah 43:17. When a candle is put out, the candle is not annihilated. Rather, it's light is gone. This is what God is teaching with this word in Isaiah 43:17, the light of the false gospels of the unsaved is gone, not that the unsaved is annihilated.
Regarding the word "tow", the unsaved are not literally "tow", just like the true believers are not literally "wheat" that is gathered into the barn. We must remember that Christ spoke in parables. The "tow" is something that can not stand up to the fire, just like the unsaved will not be able to stand up to the fires of the wrath of God.
Regarding the lake of fire, God has given careful language in the Bible so that we know that the lake of fire cannot be a literal fire that just burns up the unsaved.
There is more information on that at this link:
Regarding "not rise" we think of moving upward. But, the Bible uses the idea of rising to teach that the believers are already risen (Ephesians 2:6). We have not be moved upward. Rather, our standing with God is restored: We are raised up to God. So, this language "shall not rise" means, according to Ephesians 2:6, that they unsaved in hell will never be saved: They will never be raised up to be with God. We have to follow the rules to compare Scripture with Scripture and that Christ spoke in parables.
FOLLOW UP QUESTION:
When we compare scripture with scripture [spiritual things with spiritual things], don't we also compare the word with the words of its context? Now if the word has a greater understanding because of the way it is used in other parts of the Bible then it can redefine the context. But to substitute a candle quenched for tow quenched, to substitute candle for tow, I don't see how it can be, because when tow is quenched because it is burned up so rapidly, there is nothing left of it but ashes, whereas when a candle is quenched, the flame is extinguished, but the candle still exists. Of course, I know that the unsaved are not literally tow, but they are burned up as tow is burned up. Therefore Isaiah 43:17 is referring to annihilation, ashes. The word 'extinct' is also translated as 'consumed' in Job 6:17.
We compare Scripture with Scripture to learn how God defines words.
Regarding H1846 that is translated "extinct" in Isaiah 43:17, God has used that same Hebrew word in verses that talk about a candle being put out to define what that word means. Here are some verses with this same Hebrew word translated “extinct” in Isaiah 43:17:
Job 18:6 The light shall be dark in his tabernacle, and his candle shall be put out <01846> with him.
Job 21:17 How oft is the candle of the wicked put out <01846>! and how oft cometh their destruction upon them! God distributeth sorrows in his anger.
Proverbs 13:9 The light of the righteous rejoiceth: but the lamp of the wicked shall be put out <01846>.
Proverbs 20:20 Whoso curseth his father or his mother, his lamp shall be put out <01846> in obscure darkness.
Proverbs 24:20 For there shall be no reward to the evil man; the candle of the wicked shall be put out <01846>.
In each of the above verses, this same Hebrew word is used to talk about how a candle or lamp is put out.
This Hebrew word does not mean "extinction" or annihilation, because the put out candle is not annihilated. That is a poor translation. That candle just does not give it's light anymore. That is what God is saying, the unsaved in the lake of fire will not be giving the light of their wrong gospels anymore.
Understanding the meaning of H1846 is a matter of listening to God to see how He defines a given word. God defines that word to mean put out your light. H1846 is not directly modifying the word "tow", so the "tow" does not enter into the analysis of this word.
You mentioned Job 6:17. Let’s look at Job 6:16-17:
16 Which are blackish by reason of the ice, and wherein the snow is hid:
17 What time they wax warm, they vanish: when it is hot, they are consumed out <01846> of their place.
Perhaps when people see the translation “consumed out” they think of annihilation. But, that is the reason we have to check how God uses words in the Bible to understand what God means by those words.
In Job 6:17 the ice turns to liquid and flows down the river. Was that ice annihilated? no. It flowed down the river. In the same way, the unsaved will flow into the lake of fire, but will not be annihilated.
The translation “vanish” can give the wrong impression. This word is mostly translated “cut off”. Here are two verses with this same Hebrew word:
In Psalm 88:16 the Psalmist is complaining that God has “cut him off” in his anger. We read there:
Thy fierce wrath goeth over me; thy terrors have cut me off <06789>.
The Psalmist has not been annihilated. Rather, he has been “cut off” from the blessing of God. The same Hebrew word is also used in Lamentations 3:53 in which Jeremiah is talking about God’s wrath against Judah. Jeremiah also suffered. He was “cut off” from God’s blessing in that sense. We read there:
They have cut off <06789> my life in the dungeon, and cast a stone upon me.
Jeremiah was not annihilated, but rather “cut off” from God’s goodness.
Job 6:17 is using parabolic language to describe the wrath of God upon the unsaved, but a careful reading shows that Job 6:17 does not teach annihilation either.
Regarding the burning of the unsaved in the fire or casting the unsaved into the fire, the fire refers to the lake of fire. Those cast into the lake of fire are "tormented day and night" according to Revelation 20:10. We read there:
And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever.
This shows us that the lake of fire cannot be a literal fire. Those cast into a literal lake of fire go unconscious in a few seconds or minutes. They are not tormented day and night. Also, God never uses the word "torment" to refer to the experience of being burned by a literal fire. It always refers to conscious affliction, but never to being burned by a literal fire. For these and other reasons, we can know that the lake of fire has nothing to do with a literal fire. Rather, it points to God's wrath (Hebrews 12:29). So, the idea that the unsaved are just "burned up" in a literal fire and thus annihilated is not Biblical. There is more information on this at this like:
Regarding the word tow and the analogy of burning up tow, when tow is burned up does it cease to exist? No, it is converted to smoke and ashes. All the elements still exist, but they are now as smoke or ashes. You may not be able to see the smoke, but it is there. You can tie that to unsaved, they are represented by smoke (Revelation 14:11, 19:3). But, it is a smoke of torment, conscious affliction.
So, even that analogy points to the unsaved enduring conscious affliction in the lake of fire. The unsaved are not literally smoke nor ashes, just like the true believers are not literally "wheat" nor is Jesus literally a lamb.
Regarding "ashes", God represents Job enduring conscious affliction as "ashes" in Job 30:19. We read there:
He hath cast me into the mire, and I am become like dust and ashes.
Job was not literally “ashes”, but was represented by ashes. Likewise, the unsaved at Judgment Day are sometimes represented by “ashes”, but they will not be literally ashes.
Going back to the phrase “quenched as tow”, the word "quenched" is also used to refer to a candle whose light is put out, but not annihilated (1 Samuel 3:3, 2 Chronicles 29:7, Proverbs 31:18). The unsaved will be "quenched as tow" in the sense that they will have no strength at Judgment day. This idea of no strength comes from Judges 15:14. We read there:
And when he came unto Lehi, the Philistines shouted against him: and the Spirit of the LORD came mightily upon him, and the cords that were upon his arms became as flax that was burnt with fire, and his bands loosed from off his hands.
In Judges 15:14 God uses the same Hebrew word “tow” (translated "flax" there) burnt with fire to represent something that has no strength. With the help of Isaiah 43:17, the phrase “flax (or tow) that was burnt with fire” represents the unsaved in the lake of fire (“burnt with fire”) that does not have any strength against the wrath of God, yet that flax or tow that Samson broke still existed. The point of the word "tow" is that it has no strength. It is not to teach annihilation.
We have to remember that Christ spoke in parables. According to Psalm 1:3, the true believers are "like a tree planted by the rivers of water". They are like a tree in some ways, but in many ways they are not. People will read a phrase like “quenched as tow” and say, “yes, the unsaved are not literally tow, but they are quenched as tow”, and they believe that this is teaching annihilation.
let’s apply that reasoning to the true believer in Psalm 1:3. We read in that
verse about the true believer that he “shall
be like a tree planted by the rivers of water”. The word “like” is the same Hebrew word
translated “as” in Isaiah 43:17 and
other similar verses. Let’s apply the above reasoning used on Isaiah 43:17 to
Psalm 1:3. Psalm 1:3 is talking about a tree which is planted in the earth. The
true believer is not literally a tree, but he shall be as or like
a tree planted by the rivers of waters.
Is Psalm 1:3 teaching that the true believer shall be planted in the earth as or like a tree? No. The true believer is not going to be planted in the earth.
Likewise, Isaiah 43:17 is not teaching that the unsaved will be burned up like tow is burnt up in a literal fire. We have to remember that Christ spoke in parables and to come to truth we have to compare Scripture with Scripture as is shown above.
So, a careful study of Isaiah 43:17, following the Biblical rules, shows that it does not teach annihilation.