What did Jesus Christ mean, "Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul"?

Who is able to destroy both soul and body? What does Matthew 10:28 teach about our soul?


Matthew:10:28 says, "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."

The word "soul" in this context implies "the capacity to live." That is, another human being may be able to take away our life, but we still have the capacity to live again. God can always bring us back to life in the resurrection. So, though we naturally fear people who can cause our physical death, Jesus was giving us the true, eternal perspective. We should not fear man, but God.

Why? God has the authority to deny bringing us back to life—destroying the capacity to live ever again. "Hell" in this verse refers to the gehenna garbage heap fire burning in the valley outside of Jerusalem. It's symbolic of what the Bible calls "the lake of fire." If we die "the second death" in the lake of fire, there remains no hope of a resurrection (Revelation:21:8).

If we fear—reverence and obey—God, we don't need to fear men.

For more insight, please read our booklet Who Is God?


rwp_47's picture

Matthew:10:28 is a powerful scripture which reveals that there a two deaths. The first death of which we are all familiar with (and the only kind we've ever seen) is the death of our bodies ... as Matthew plainly says. This death is not permanent and is like a sleep. We all (good and bad) shall all be resurrected (awakened) from this death. So God instructs us that this death isn't something that we should fear (though experience clearly reveals we all do to one extent or another). A living being consists of three things - body, soul, and spirit - each of which is an object. To gain a kind of intuitive understanding of these one might find it helpful to think of them as being like a computer. A computer consists of hardware (body), software (soul), and electrical power (spirit). For the computer to function all three are needed. This first death is like destroying the hardware. Obviously without the physical computer (i.e., the hardware) the software and the electrical power can't function. But the software can be installed in another computer and then when plugged in can function just as before. This is basically like what happens in a resurrection. The software/soul (which hasn't been destroyed and is you) is simply loaded into a repaired (or another new) body.
So Matthew is telling us here that we shouldn't fear this physical death because it doesn't destroy the thing that is really us ... which is the soul. We are a soul that has a body (to function in) and a spirit (that gives us the power to be animated). Now without a body we can't function and are comatose (unconscious). In any case God requires that we all experience this death but he tells us not to fear it because it doesn't destroy us ... it just puts us out of commission until he resurrects us.


cjgennaro's picture


Where do you get the thought that a soul is the "real us"? There is no scripture in the Bible that gives us indication that a soul apart from the body, has existence. The best understanding of Mtt 10:28 Is that man can kill your physical life but not perminently, but God can take away perminently the possibility for you to live. When your soul is destroyed, that is your life being destroyed forever. Clearly a soul can die, so it is not something immortal.


rwp_47's picture

Hi cjgennaro ...
You asked: Where do you get the thought that a soul is the "real us"? Well doesn't Gen:2:7 clearly say that's what man became ... a living soul? And anyone familiar with United knows that's what United teaches ... man is a soul that has that has a body and a spirit.

You have me at a disadvantage cj because I don't know what affiliations you might have nor exactly what you might believe. So its hard to know what I can set my mental objects on that you'll accept. So what do you think the "real you" is (though I don't recall using that exact term in that comment) if not the soul? Is the "real you" your body, your spirit, your hair cut, ... what? What do you say?

And I would have to disagree with you assessment of what Matthew:10:28 says. That verse has to be one of the clearest verses in the entire bible. And I think it clearly says a good deal more than that "man can kill you physical life but not permanently". I think it says that almost anything can take one's life (a falling rock for instance) And it also clearly is saying that nothing but God can kill one's soul (and it actually puts it in that vernacular).

And you think that the fact that a soul can die proves that its not immortal ... why would you think that?
After all ... clearly God died.
And forget explanations trying to explain that. Its simply a fact. God died. There's no denying it. And that logically means you're saying that God is therefore not immortal. I think the problem is that you're using the term immortal like an unidentified flying object ... where its not clearly defined. What do you think immortal means? I think that if you could live forever unless literally executed by God (and God alone) ... then I'd say you were immortal. Not even Satan can kill/destroy your soul ... that's clearly discerned from Matt:10:28.


rwp_47's picture

cjgennare ... greetings

Consider what Steve Myers has to say about what the "real us" is:


Steve states the church's position on what is man. Man doesn't have a soul ... but rather as Steve plainly states in the BT Daily toward the end ... man is a soul. So Steve (and the church) say that you are not a body and you are not a spirit. You are a soul.

And just as a side note and something to think about ... would you say the Word of God is not immortal?
But doesn't the bible tells us that Jesus is the word. But Jesus died ... didn't he? So how then is the Word immortal ... based on your criteria for immorality in your last sentence?

And actually ... if one considers what Matthew:10:28 clearly infers ... a man's soul doesn't die in some natural way (that is, it doesn't grow old and die a "natural death"). A soul is "destroyed" by "execution". And only God can perform that execution. If not executed by God ... a soul will not die.


rwp_47's picture

Hi cjgennaro ...
I've been thinking about it cj. And while the church does teach that man is a soul - I think you are correct in questioning that. I think the church is wrong about that. God formed man from the dust of the ground - and then it says man became something. I think that clearly says that the thing that was the man was that body - not the soul. And it says that things were added to that lifeless, soul-less, spiritless body that was man (and these added things came directly from, and out of, our creator - from his very person). And the things that were added were soul and spirit. God plainly tells us that we are dust, and we shall return to dust again. So I think you are right in regard to questioning whether man is a soul.

But your understanding of Matthew:10:28 is off. Because it clearly shows that the soul exists as a separate "thing" in its own right as does one's body or spirit. Because it plainly says that the body can be killed without killing the soul. And then it informs us that we don't want to get too cocky about that because God (and he alone) can destroy one's souls in the lake of fire.

Actually, and very interestingly, I've found that Ezekiel:18:4,20, which states that the soul that sins shall die, and that the church uses as its basis for saying that the soul is not immortal, can actually can be used to prove the exact opposite - that actually soul, in fact, is immortal.

The logic goes like this: The soul that sins shall die. That implies that the soul that doesn't sin won't die. Which means a sinless soul is an immortal soul. We know that Jesus didn't sin. His soul therefore is immortal. But suppose you kill Jesus (the man) - as the world actually did. The only thing you would have killed is his body (just as Matthew says). You were not able to do anything to his soul (again, just as Matthew says). The soul that is now scheduled to die is yours (unless you're forgiven for the murder). But you're still alive (at least for the time being).

So Matthew is correct. The soul is something that exists in its own right just as a body does - or just as spirit exists.

What Matthew says is like saying that Davis Robinson is 7'-2" tall. What you said was like saying - "no that's wrong - all you can say is David Robinson is tall." Now you're right - David is tall. But you're wrong - because he is 7'-2".


GreenBranch's picture

Everyone here is including some elements of truth from the Bible. However, God keeps things simpler. Let's use Christ as the example. How does he exist with God? In the word, God uses a lamp to explain his existence, Christ's existence and our existence.

God: The endless life, immortal, invisible and never seen
- John:4:24, 1 John:1:5, 1 Timothy:6:15-16

Christ: The lamp that holds the invisible life itself so all in the universe can actually see God, he changed his lamp from glorious to human when he became Adam #2 for salvation
- Revelation:21:23; Hebrews:1:3; John:1:1-9

The humans are also referred to as lamps
- Proverbs:13:9; Proverbs:20:20

Everyone in the universe borrows from the light/life of the invisible God that lives in Christ to light their lamps;
- John:1:9; Proverbs:20:27;

Everything in the universe exists inside the invisible life including Christ who comes from the invisible/immortal life and possesses it as himself.
- Acts:17:28; 2 Chronicles:6:18; John:14:6-10;

When humans die, the light they borrow returns to God, But the person themselves no longer exists. All that remains is an empty lamp frame. The lamp frame is what humans can touch and destroy which is the body that returns to dirt at death.
- Ecclesiastes:12:6-8

Even Angels can be destroyed because every life in the universe borrows from the eternal, invisible and immortal spirit of life/God to live. Thus Satan and the fallen angels now have an expiration date.
- Matthew:25:41; Revelation:12:12

This is why only Christ could be the payment because in him dwells the immortal and indestructible life. So yes he experienced death but death for him is different from everyone. Meaning the life everyone borrows returns to God; but Christ himself is that life and the possessor of it. Thus, he could only die in his humanity or body
- 2 Corinthians:3:17; John:14:1-9; 1 Peter:3:18

Some translations get 1 Peter:3:19 wrong saying Christ went to talk to the dead. What it's actually saying is that it was by the spirit he spoke to those now dead when they were alive in the days of their rebellion. He did it through Noah: 2 Peter:2:5.

So don't fear the one that can break the lamp and put out the flame. God who lends the flame can always restore the lamp and relight it. Fear God because he can put the flame out and destroy the lamp frame permanently.
- Psalm:37:10; Luke:3:17; Isaiah:33:10-13

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