“Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul..." (Matthew 10:28)

“Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of one who can destroy both soul and body in hell." (Matthew 10:28)

Why is Jesus telling them not to 'be afraid'?

This statement follows Jesus' warning to his followers that they will be subject to persecution meted out by the Romans and the Temple institution, due to their dedication to Jesus.

Jesus also emphasized that should they follow the example and teachings of Jesus, they would be subjected to similar persecution as he was.

And as he predicted, most of Jesus' known disciples were indeed persecuted in the decades following Jesus' departure. These include Peter, John, James, Mark, and Matthew.

Now Jesus is telling his followers that if they are persecuted, they can only harm the body but not the soul. The soul will be intact because it is separate from the body.

Jesus is clearly speaking of the relationship between the body and the spirit, as he prepares his followers to go out and teach on his behalf.

Jesus is indicating that our central identity is spiritual, not physical. Jesus is clear that the death of the physical body does not impact the spiritual self. Each of us will continue to exist after the physical body dies.

This means Jesus is teaching that we are not these physical bodies.

What is the 'soul'?

The "soul" is being translated from the Greek word ψυχή (psychē) meaning, according to the lexicon:

- "the vital force which animates the body and shows itself in breathing;"
- "a living being, a living soul"
- "the soul as an essence which differs from the body and is not dissolved by death (distinguished from other parts of the body)"

Jesus is speaking of the fact we are each a spiritual being, not a physical body.

This is one of the core teachings of Jesus that many teachers are ignoring. This is also stated in Luke:
"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothes." (Luke 12:22-23)

How does this impact Jesus' message?

Many teach that we can ask Jesus to help our bodies heal or help us get more money or help us achieve material success. Is this right?

Jesus did not teach materialism. This is clear from this statement about the body and the soul.

Jesus taught that we are each a soul. We are not these physical bodies. Since the soul cannot be killed when the body is killed, this means Jesus was teaching that each of us is a soul. It is not that we have a soul. We are the soul.

Jesus did not teach that we gain happiness through materialism. 

What does Jesus mean by 'in hell'?

This is precisely those whom Jesus is warning his students to be wary of:
"Rather, be afraid of one who can destroy both soul and body in hell."
Where is the "in hell" Jesus is referring to here?

If Jesus was referring to hell as only a place we go after the body dies, then his language would not be in the present tense as he mentions "can destroy both soul and body in hell."

If he were only speaking of "hell" as a place we might go in the future, he would have said something like, "one who can send the soul to hell." 

But he didn't say this. He speaks as though the person might descend into hell right here and now. How is that?

Hell is that place where God is forgotten. Hell is that place where people avoid the Supreme Being and His servants and His representatives. Therefore, hell can be any place or time where the Supreme Being is forgotten.

In other words, we can be in hell right here and now. Or not - depending upon our consciousness.

Who is the 'devil'?

But why is hell also referred to as this hot place - a dungeon - where people are chained up and beaten by the devil?

This is actually metaphorical. Just look around. There is suffering all around us. Our bodies suffer from the time they are born to the time they die. Yes, there may be glimpses of momentary pleasure in between, but most of life in the physical world is difficult and full of suffering. And heat - yes, both metaphorically and literally - heat pervades this world. The heat of burning desires and the sweltering heat of summer.

Here in this world, we experience disease, starvation, getting old, and then death. Our bodies constantly get sick. The body gets hungry several times a day even when there is enough food to eat. And in between the body is suffering from all sorts of ailments. Is this not hellish enough?

Thankfully, we are not these physical bodies. And the world was designed to help us rehabilitate. The physical world is a place of rehabilitation. So there is a way out.

Jesus is telling his students that they don't have to worry about their physical bodies being hurt - because our physical bodies will all die at some point.

Rather, Jesus is warning his students about those who will harm their consciousness - encouraging them to forget the Supreme Being.

Jesus makes these clarifications because he is telling his students to stay away from those who reject the Supreme Being and offend God’s servants. This is the hell that Jesus wants his students to avoid because he cares for them.

What is heaven?

And what about the "heaven" that those who like to show their allegiance to Jesus discuss as they ignore the Supreme Being? Jesus speaks to those here:
"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'" (Matthew 7:21-23)
The key phrase here is, "but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven."

Despite this clear statement, there are many so-called followers of Jesus that speak of heaven as this place of enjoyment - imagining themselves sitting back and enjoying life in a beautiful place.

They want heaven without the Supreme Being. They want to enjoy life in a perfect place but they don't care about the Supreme Being. Is this really heaven? No.

Jesus is speaking of doing the Supreme Being's will. Doing something that pleases God. This is the consciousness of heaven. And this is the opposite consciousness of a person who is seeking their own pleasure while thinking we are the center of existence.

This doctrine that "satan" or "the devil" has somehow gotten out of God's control is preposterous. The Supreme Being is the absolute Controller of everything. God has no real competitor. This is why He is called "God."

Because God gives everyone the choice to love Him or not, some choose not to. And those who choose not to love Him are given the opportunity to forget Him and live in the physical world for a while.

But the physical world is also a place of learning. We may enjoy coming here and forgetting our real existence in the spiritual realm for a while. But this world is also set up as a learning facility.

Here we can learn how to love again. We can learn to care for others and not just about ourselves.

Yes, caring about ourselves is important. But it is not that important. It is not as important as caring for others. It is not as important as helping others grow.

We can learn these things here if we want to. But this world allows us to forget who we are if we want.

This is the world of misidentification. It is the world of forgetfulness. It is the world where we can forget the Supreme Being and forget our relationship with Him.

Forgetting about our loving relationship with God is hell. We can leave hell simply by dedicating our life to the Supreme Being. This means that heaven is as close as a decision.