"AND be not afraid of those who are killing the body, yet are not able to kill
the soul. Yet be fearing Him rather Who is able to destroy the soul and the body in
The Lord's disciples would have little difficulty in
understanding this scripture from their viewpoint: our inability arises from the attempt
to adjust it to our standpoint.
Strictly speaking, the soul cannot be "killed." It is only in figurative
expressions in which the person is denoted by the "soul" that it is said to
"die." It is notable that even in this passage God does not say that He is able
to kill the soul, but to destroy it. At death the soul returns to the
unseen. In fact, it has no separate existence. It is the effect of the union of body and
spirit. When that union is dissolved the soul is no more. Sending it to the
"imperceptible" is but another way of saying that it has passed out of existence
so far as our senses are concerned.
But the Lord's disciples would look at this statement from a practical angle. Should
they be killed what would be their experience? Though they should die yet their next
conscious moment, when the soul returns in resurrection, would be the bliss of the
kingdom. All that men can do to them is to cut them off from further suffering and usher
them into their reward.
Not so with God. In the kingdom (and we lose much if we do not keep the kingdom
constantly in view in reading the "gospels") death will mean much to those who
deserve it. Not only will their bodies be destroyed in the fires of Gehenna, which will be
the place of punishment in that age, but they will lose all the joys which the kingdom
offers by the destruction of their souls.
Those killed by men escape suffering and awake to bliss: those destroyed by God forfeit
bliss and awake to suffering at the bar of the great white throne.
Those who strive to enter that kingdom will have much need of this exhortation, for
many, indeed, will enter the kingdom by way of the death of the body and the resurrection.