Was Jesus Referring to God When He Said “Fear Him Who is Able To Destroy The Body And Soul”? – Matthew 10:28

I was having a conversation or what I would call a scriptural “debate” with someone on the comment section of my Facebook page where I shared a link to my article on “Who killed Ananias and Sapphira?”.

While we continued, he made reference to the statement of Jesus in Matthew 10:28 which says

“And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” (KJV)

This verse inspired me to write this article as an update to the previous. Let’s discuss this part of the Bible.

Various other translations of the Bible used “Him, One, God, etc” to replace the word “him” but earlier English translations used “him” even though “Him” is used in such translation in verses talking about God.

I believe that most translators used what they thought, not necessarily what Jesus said.

Jesus wasn’t very explicit here but we already have explanations for it in the word regardless if we stand on the side that believes Jesus was talking about God or on the side that believes Jesus wasn’t talking about God. Whatever side of the debate we chose to stand on, a clear understanding of the word will eventually bring us to the same conclusion.

Like I explained in the previous article, Jesus is the express image of God and therefore any character we do not see in Jesus shouldn’t be credited to God. If Jesus was loving, then God is loving, no more, no less. Express image means “exact image” and this means we shouldn’t be looking elsewhere to understand God or even find answers about God but on Jesus.

Doesn’t it seem rather absurd that Jesus would say:

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” – John 10:10

And then, turn round again to say “God is a destroyer”. Wait a minute, let’s not be too quick to conclude, let’s see some few places in the Bible where it talks about a committed killer.

“Evil shall slay the wicked” – Psalms 34:21

“For the wages of sin is death” – Romans 6:23

“sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.” – James 1:15

“The soul that sins, it shall die” – Ezekiel 18:4

We can see clearly that sin is a destroyer, it destroys the soul like Ezekiel pointed out. Death here isn’t talking about the body, men can kill the body, animals and weapons can kill the body but sin is what destroys the soul as we can see in the Bible.

Do sin and God share a similar nature? No! Death after all simply means the absence of life. So, when we say someone is dead, it means that the person has no life! The Bible tells us that the wages of sin is the absence of life but the gift of God is life which Jesus says will be received in “abundance”.

That one single verse cannot alter the entire words of Jesus and the teachings of the Apostles. Not one place will we see the Apostles linking the character of God with evil; whether spiritually or physically.

When one receives the gospel and accept Jesus, he starts living the life of God but when one rejects the salvation that comes from Christ, he or she is spiritually dead, God didn’t and won’t kill him or her as you can’t kill an already dead man.

Now, was Jesus asking them to fear sin? As in, live in fear of sin or the devil? No! Fear in this context wouldn’t suggest merely being scared but would suggest an awareness of danger.

Let me put it this way:

The disciples were initially aware that they could be persecuted and killed. These are men who have experienced and worked miracles, yet they were afraid of being killed! It’s a natural state of man when he is aware that something bad would happen to him, it is not faithlessness. We don’t see Jesus talking about faith here or encouraging them to build their faith.

This would be the thoughts of the disciples:

“We are going to be persecuted and killed by these folks…”

And Jesus was saying to them

“don’t be afraid of these folks who can only kill your body, there is something more important! These folks will kill the body but there is a greater danger, unbelief! Which destroys the soul”.

In other words, Jesus could be giving them reasons why they must preach the gospel regardless of persecution so that people can be saved from their unbelief. Prior to this verse, Jesus was charging them to missions.

So, we can confidently say that Jesus wasn’t referring to God here and many translations added “God” because that was who they thought Jesus was referring to while the original manuscript has no mention of God in that verse.

Throughout the New Testament, Jesus wasn’t hiding God in ambiguity, even when he wants to feature God in a parable, he would use a king or a father! That one place cannot alter the entire Bible. If we must interpret scripture with scripture, then we can confidently say that Jesus was never talking about God.

This is how I personally understand it.

Let’s look at that verse again and explain it with the assumption that Jesus was referring to God.

“And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” (KJV)

The first statement reads “fear not them which kill the body…” And the second reads “fear him which is able…” He didn’t say “fear him which destroys…” There is a difference between being able to something and doing it. God can bring this earth to an end with a breath but he hasn’t. Does this suggest he killed Ananias and Sapphira when he had to? No, because as far as we know, even to that extent in the Bible, God does not kill. We haven’t said he cannot but he simply does not.

So, if Jesus was referring to God, then he is pointing them to God who has a power that is greater than that of mortal men, not to suggest that he kills but to show that he possesses the power to do far exceedingly above those men who kill the body.

So, if I am working with a man who has power above another, I shouldn’t be scared about the other person because I am under a covering. God, however, chooses what to do and whatever he does clearly expresses his character.

Blessings.

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