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

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

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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?

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  • Mike Haynes

    Now to address the aspect of immortality. Immortality is something we will inherit if we overcome and endure to the end. Simply put, immortality is having the power of life within yourself. No one can take life from you. Only God has immortality ( both Father and Son ) at this present time. No other living being has immortality. This includes mankind as well as angelic beings.
    It was noted that Jesus, who always existed, has immortality. This is true. Jesus existed as the "word" which was God and did indeed have immortality. But does that indicate that Jesus had an immortal soul? Not at all! Though Jesus was indeed immortal before coming in the flesh, He gave up that immortality by His own choosing. No one could take His life from Him because He was immortal. However, He could freely give up that immortal existence as He clearly reveals in scripture. That He did. He chose to give up His life for our salvation, placing His trust in the God who became His Father to to restore to Him all that He chose to give up. After His resurrection the Father restored all things they shared together before His death...including immortality.

  • Mike Haynes

    Interesting conversation but confusing to the original question IMO.
    Soul =body+spirit...God formed man from the dust of the ground ( body ) and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life ( spirit ) and man BECAME a living soul ( combination of body and spirit= LIVING soul ). Take away either part of the combination and the soul ceases to exist. Therefore there is no need to fear man who can destroy the body only. As God's word reveals, when the body dies the spirit returns to God for safekeeping until which time God chooses to resurrect that body and once again impart that spirit which made that individual a LIVING soul. Just as all men die ( their bodies die ) so all will be resurrected. As long as God chooses to impart that spirit into a body the soul will exist. There is a second death mentioned in scripture. This is the death of the "soul" Matthew spoke of. Simply put...the body will be put to death and will never again be reunited with the God given spirit. Man can only destroy the body...God can destroy the body and deny that spirit which makes man a living soul.

  • Sabrina Peabody

    I agree with a lot of your points, for example, your assessment that “The ⅓ is the children of Israel God says he’s going to bring through the fire of trial Zechariah 13 and clean them up and return them to himself” refers to Israel/God’s people. I agree Christ is the God of the OT.
    As to why Christ would talk to fallen angel and what He said, I don’t think that is clear. Christ did give verses from Scripture as a response to Satan when He was being tempted, He exchanged more words, than “I rebuke you.” And remember the exchange about Job in heaven too? Doesn’t it say Michael contended with the devil and disputed about the body of Moses? That takes a few more words than “I rebuke you” (Jude 1:9). I think the point there is that he didn’t bring about a railing accusation as a result of or during that discussion and we can learn from that attitude.

  • GreenBranch

    If you look at the dispute with Satan that Jude 1:9 references, it declares that Satan stood next to Joshua (a symbol of things to come) accusing him (Zechariah 3:1-3). The Lord kept the answer simple. He saw no need to explain the gospel to Satan. So then why would he preach to fallen angels?

    Moreover, the Bible says that the angels (I believe Christ's angels) long to look into the details of the Gospel. If Peter revealed this by the Spirit after the resurrection (1 Peter 1:12), then it is not possible that our Lord went and preached to the fallen angels. It is not angels God helps but humans (Hebrews 2:16).

    Furthermore, the exchanges with Satan in Job were pre-resurrection. The discussion with Satan in the wilderness was Christ the suffering servant in human flesh using the word of God to fight against the temptation presented to him (Hebrews 4:15). As it is written, He was led in the wilderness to be tempted.

    Christ after death could NOT be tempted, and He fully answered every accusation and claim of Satan through the cross (Colossians 2:14-15). So no need to have a discussion with him and the fallen (John 16:11, Revelation 20:9-10), as He said "It Is Finished".

  • Sabrina Peabody

    Hi GreenBranch,
    I apologize for reading your response too quickly as I wanted to address the point that Christ did not preach to dead human spirits (as so often is misunderstood by Christians who believe we immediately go to heaven/hell when we die. For more info on that, check out http://www.ucg.org/bible-study-tools/booklets/heaven-and-hell-what-does-the-bible-really-teach ). UCG’s standpoint is that Christ preached to the fallen angels/demons/disobedient spirits during Noah’s time.
    Perhaps it can be understood that Christ preached to the humans during the time right before the flood while they were on earth (and alive) and who then died as a result of the flood. I would have to research the idea further.
    Angels are often referred to as stars (as in a scripture you referenced - Revelation 1:20), also Isaiah 14:12 (Satan/fallen angel), Job 38:7 (When the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy = angels praising God for His creation). Stars do not exclusively represent angels in the Bible (e.g. Joseph’s dream and his brother’s being stars, nations etc.)

  • GreenBranch

    I understand it's UCG's standpoint looking at the reference links, but is that your standpoint? And we agree that stars have been used as reference to both humans and angels. However, when you look at the context of the scripture in Revelation 12:1-6, it's about God's chosen people and Satan. This same scenario plays out in multiple places of the OT: After Christ's resurrection, 1/3 of the Israelites survive the foretold roman desolation and are scattered to the wind, a small portion of the 1/3 returns to Israel towards the end of time (1/10th), and then it gets desolated again ( Isaiah 6:10-13, Ezekiel 5:1-4, Daniel 8:10 and Daniel 9:26). Therefore, I conclude these stars deal with people and not the angels.

  • GreenBranch
    Hi Sabrina, When I consider your response, I'm not sure you read my feedback in detail. I said the preaching it's talking about is that Christ Spoke to those who are dead "when they were alive" during the time of Noah. Why? Because the Lord is the Spirit and God of the old testament. That is what Peter is teaching us... it was impossible for death to hold Christ because the life in him is the invisible and indestructible God. So he was put to death in the body but alive in the Spirit. The same God who spoke to us in the past by his Spirit through prophets. He spoke through Noah the preacher of righteousness. 2 Peter 2:5, Hebrews 1:1. But let's look at the answer you're referencing: "Check out this Bible FAQ: Who were the "spirits in prison" that Jesus preached to as mentioned in 1 Peter:3:18-20? ( http://www.ucg.org/bible-faq/who-were-spirits-prison-jesus-preached-ment... )" Why would Christ go and speak to fallen angels when in Jude 1 it’s explained that the only reply God gave to Satan against his accusations of Israel (the Body of Moses) was, "The Lord Rebuke you." Who are the stars of God but the Saints and Israel? Genesis 37:9, Daniel 8:10, Daniel 12:3, Matthew 13:42, Revelation 1:20, Ephesians 3:6, Isaiah 56:3-7. Also, those 1/3 stars of heaven that have been called the fallen angels is completely wrong. God is the giver of wisdom and that answer doesn't align with his scripture. The 1/3 is the children of Israel God says he's going to bring through the fire of trial Zechariah 13 and clean them up and return them to himself. Also see Ezekiel 5. You must understand that Revelation is the final consolidation of every prophecy given from the old and new testament. Virtually nothing referenced in your answer applies to 2 Peter 2:4 but 2 Peter 2:4. The scriptures you use have other supporting scriptures that prove the answer to be invalid regarding 1 Peter 3:18-20. We are warned not to go beyond what is written and to rightly divide scripture. The answer given is misleading and doesn't stand up to testing. You said if we love God we desire to please him. How can that be done without seeking to understand everything he's revealed? We can't just think, we must know: John 8:31-33; Proverbs 2:3-5,2 Timothy 2:15, Matthew 13:44, Proverbs 25:2, Deuteronomy 29:29.
  • Sabrina Peabody
    Hi Green Branch, Rev 12:12 can be read that Satan's rule on this earth is coming to an end, no wonder he would be upset. He also is going to be cast into a pit for 1000 years. Death is like sleep until we are resurrected so Christ would not have preached to dead human spirits... Check out this Bible FAQ: Who were the "spirits in prison" that Jesus preached to as mentioned in 1 Peter 3:18-20? ( http://www.ucg.org/bible-faq/who-were-spirits-prison-jesus-preached-mentioned-1-peter-318-20 ) Concerning the Bible FAQ above, I think if we love God we desire to please Him.
  • GreenBranch
    Hi Grace1102, The key to show that it is humans being referred to here and not fallen angels is the phrase: "1 Peter 3:19 - By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison;" Are the fallen angels said to be in prison? The passage says they're put under chains of "darkness" - 2 Peter 2:4, Jude 1:6 If it refers to prison or captivity, when did they arrive? It says they arrived when they left their position which was before Moses's time because he wrote Genesis several hundreds of years after the flood. However, in Job we see that Satan visited Heaven to accuse humans before God. In addition, we see that the disobedient Angels accompanied Satan in Heaven when war broke out: Revelation 12:8-9 When did this war break out? After the child (Jesus) was snatched up to the throne. Jesus alludes to this war drawing near when his passion was upon him when he says: "John 12:31-32 King James Version (KJV) 31 Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out." They were cast out into the earth with no more access to Heaven. Even during Jesus's ministry, these spirits roamed the earth in humans from the Abyss and sought not to go back. Luke 22:3, Luke 8:29-31, Luke 11:23-26, 1 John 5:18, 1 Peter 5:8. So, is it that the chains aren't strong enough? Or is it that the chains of "darkness" referred to is the fallen's inability to escape disobedience and ignorance of truth? "John 1:5 King James Version (KJV) 5 And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not." "Ephesians 6:12 King James Version (KJV) 12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places." How is it that the fallen angels are afraid of God and yet remain disobedient except God has bound them to disobedience until he judges them? James 2:19; Hebrews 2:16; Acts 26:18; This darkness is what Jude and Peter are referring to. Now, regarding the term prison, the bible refers to the grave as a prison for humans whether righteous or wicked: Zechariah 9:10-12, Isaiah 42:6-7, Isaiah 24:21-23, Isaiah 10:1-5; I hope this clarifies why the prisoners in 1 Peter 3 refer to humans and not the fallen angels.
  • rwp_47
    GreenBranch Seeing that God is light - then how is it that he can't be seen? How does one not see light (since light is specifically that portion of the electromagnetic spectrum that can be seen)? And GreenBranch - exactly what is light (G5461)? Also, if he truly keeps things simple, then what is soul? And why would 1 Corinthians:2:7-8 speak of God's "hidden wisdom" which the world can't know if its all really so simple? And this article is specifically questioning what it means not to be able to "kill the soul". And yet the word soul is nowhere observed in your comment. Why? Nor is there an explanation as to why it is that no one but God can kill it. And no explanation as to how it is killed and what does it actually mean when its speaks of killing it. For instance, James:2:26 tells us how the body is killed. The spirit is removed from it. Without spirit our body of dust dies. We are a body of dust (Genesis:3:19) "for dust thou art" - and it is spirit that causes this dust to live. When spirit is removed the dust dies. We're living dust. Can the dust that is you explain what is soul? Is soul death like body death? Is soul death caused by the removal of the spirit? And we know that when spirit is removed from our bodies and we die that our bodies disintegrate. But is the same true of the soul if the spirit is removed for it? Perhaps not? After all the dust we are came from the ground but the soul, on the other hand, came directly from the person of our creator (Genesis:2:7). So explain soul and soul death - and why no one but God can kill it - and what killing it actually means.
  • GreenBranch


    About Soul:

    Do you know God used the word Soul to also refer to himself (Jeremiah 32:38-41)? The soul means existence. God’s life is the only indestructible existence (Hebrews 7:16, 1 Timothy 6:16). Every creature in heaven, earth and the universe borrows from God’s existence to have their own existence = being = Soul (Acts 17:28 and Rev 4:11). To live is to exist and to die is not to exist, or, “to be or not to be” as Shakespeare says.

    So no one can permanently destroy anyone’s existence right now because God has a time when all who don’t exist will be brought back into existence for judgment – Ecc 11:9. At that time, God will permanently destroy all of those deemed his enemies in the second death .

    To kill = Destroy = Death = Not to exist

    So what does it mean not to exist? Scripture reveals that you are nowhere, without knowledge of time passing and don’t know you ever existed - Ecc 9:5, Psalm 49:18-20, Ecc 9:10, Psalm 88:5-12, Psalm 6:5, Psalm 115:16-18. Just as you didn’t exist or have knowledge of the passing of time during the years of Genesis until your birth. But God knew you because he knows all things from beginning to eternity (Psalm 139:16).

  • GreenBranch

    Hi rwp_47,

    The light is referring to Truth and Goodness. The darkness is talking about blindness, falsehood and evil. The statement in 1 John 1:5 is a reference to what Jesus taught: Matt 6:22-23. If the eye is healthy (Circumcision of the Heart) then your inner man will be full of truth…But if the truth you say is in you is actually falsehood - then you are extremely blind. Thus God is light or as said of Jesus - full of Grace and Truth. Jesus in Glory is the image that allows us to see God.

    Concerning God's "hidden wisdom", it is simple according to Prov 1:7 - the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom (Prov 4:7). God said if we'd turn at his rebuke he'd pour out his Spirit on us and make known his thoughts (Prov 1:22-23). So fear God and go to him in the way he requires and he’ll explain his thoughts (The Written Word).

    I will address Soul shortly as I'm running out of characters.

  • grace1102
    Well put Green Branch except for one part I have always believed other wise. 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. The Spirits spoken of here are the angels spoken of in Genesis that left there abode. As far as I know we are not referred to as Spirits in scripture. Your thoughts:).
  • GreenBranch
    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
  • rwp_47
    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".
  • DarrellHartsock

    Some things to consider:
    --Is it true to say that Jesus is immortal because he has not sinned; or is it true to say the exact opposite, that Jesus has not sinned because he is immortal God, and immortal God cannot sin?
    --Would it not be intuitive to say the "thing" that man **became* when God breathed **life** into him was a **living** soul--as opposed to the non-living "body" of dust? (No life no soul.)
    --What do the various conjectures in this tread contribute to the core matter that spawned it? (The key word on all this vast discussion is "kill.". And in this setting it means more than "extinguish;" it means to utterly destroy and abolish.)
    --Accept the clear light of Jesus and stop attempting to crafting clever arguments intended to defend **the** church's teaching. Instead, simply accept that the law you are attempting to keep is an absolute slave master over you and you are utterly incapable of keeping it. The old law stands between you and God and constitutes the relationship between you and God. (Through the law God reveals himself to you; and by keeping it you draw ever closer to God.). Put rather yourself between God and the fruits of his liberating spirit.

  • rwp_47
    cjgennare ... greetings Consider what Steve Myers has to say about what the "real us" is: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d65mzY4z2OI 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
    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.
  • cjgennaro
    Rwp, 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
    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.
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