What does “Salted with Fire” mean in Mark 9:49?
Let’s read the full passage, which starts with verse 42 and continues to the end of the chapter:
42 “If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them if a large millstone were hung around their neck and they were thrown into the sea. 43 If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out. 45 And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than to have two feet and be thrown into hell. 47 And if your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell, 48 where
“‘the worms that eat them do not die,
and the fire is not quenched.’
49 Everyone will be salted with fire.
50 “Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can you make it salty again? Have salt among yourselves, and be at peace with each other.”
Starting with verse 42, Christ addresses the topic of temptation and chronicles the four causes of temptation outside the root source, which is one’s sinful nature:
- People who “cause” naive believers to sin.
- The “hand,” which is symbolic of something you do.
- The “foot,” which is figurative of a path you take.
- The “eye,” which represents what you allow yourself to see; this includes your inner eye, your imagination.
This brings us to the last two verses of the chapter, which are more ambiguous than the preceding seven verses. You see, sometimes Christ was intentionally ambiguous, which compels people to seek out answers in their studies and relationship with the LORD. You can read more about this here.
Let’s again look at the verses in question:
49 “Everyone will be salted with fire.
50 Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can you make it salty again? Have salt among yourselves, and be at peace with each other.”
Do these two verses stand alone or are they linked to verses 42-48. Let’s assume the latter, which makes sense.
We know that salt back then was used as a preservative for food as well as a seasoning.
As for fire, it was used to destroy unwanted items — e.g. the weeds in Matthew 13:40 — or to purify metals. (Of course it was also used for warmth and cooking).
Assuming verse 49 is linked to verses 42-48, it would suggest that everyone will be seasoned by the fire of suffering, which, in this context, means the suffering of resisting temptation. In other words, facing and enduring serious temptations works in perfecting and preserving the believer. This of course involves suffering since you willfully sacrifice the pleasures of the flesh for the sake of Christ, which goes with the process of sanctification.
Verse 50 says “salt is good” because it preserves and seasons the believer — “preserves” the believer unto eternal life and “seasons” with godly character. The context is the sacrifice of resisting serious temptation; and salt was plainly linked to sacrifices in the Old Testament, as observed in Leviticus 2:13.
Let’s consider the remaining lines in verse 50…
“…if it loses its saltiness, how can you make it salty again?”
If the seasoning of the believer loses its saltiness, how do you season it again? This suggests Hebrews 6:4-8 since Christ plainly conveyed in verses 42-48 that believers who fail to cut off those things that cause them to live a lifestyle of sin (obviously with no concern of repentance) will reap the wages of sin — death — in the lake of fire (Gehenna), which is the second death (Revelation 20:11-15).
“Have salt among yourselves”
Salt also represents the Word of God (Matthew 5:13-16)—the written Word (John 17:17) and the Living Word (John 1:1 & John 14:6)—each of which produce godly character, enabling the believer to function as a preservative in society.
“and be at peace with each other”
For details on the nature of Gehenna/the lake of fire — aka the “second death” (from verses 42-48) — see this article.
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