28 “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”
And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.
From a human level, the worst thing a minister can face is the death of his body. Murder is the most terrible thing one’s opponents can inflict. However, there is something worse—the killing of the soul. The latter should be the fear of those who proclaim Christ. The ultimate disaster is not physical death but spiritual death.
The soul is not the same as the spirit. The soul is our mind, emotions, and will (our personality), but the spirit is our capacity to relate to God. The soul (the person) goes into an eternal state, either heaven or hell. The body will ultimately go there as well.
But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.
There is a proper fear—fear of God who can kill both body and soul in eternal judgment. Fear of Him overcomes fear of them.
The word for “hell” here is geenna. This word is from two words: ge (valley) and hinnom (Hinnom) = the Valley of Hinnom. The Valley of Hinnom was a valley south of Jerusalem. This valley became a figure of hell, the place of final judgment. The body as well as the soul of unbelievers will go to hell.
God alone controls our eternal destiny.
It is wise to fear God who has control over our eternal destiny. Why fear man, who can kill only the body? Physical death pales in contrast to the prospect of eternal hell. God will vindicate believers and punish persecutors. Christians should never fear man, for fear debilitates our ability. A football player who fears the opposition cannot play at his best. The player who loves contact and deals with pain has an advantage over the player who doesn’t. The believer will not ultimately lose the battle. Fear of people will hinder dynamic ministry. Remember Martin Luther’s hymn:
Let goods and kindred go,
This mortal life also;
The body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still;
His kingdom is forever.
God separates the body and soul at death (2 Co 5:1-10). To be absent from the body is to be present (face-to-face) with the Lord (2 Co 5:8).
For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. 24Nevertheless to remain in the flesh (body) is more needful for you. Php 1:23-24
The Christian never fears hell because of the death of Christ on the cross to pay for his sin. Jesus took my hell that I might have His heaven. He paid for any and all of my sins at any time or place. There is no sin for which He did not pay. Therefore, God can never put me in hell, for I believed that Christ paid for my sins. It is impossible for God to go back on His Word or promise.