Jesus is indicating that our central identity is spiritual, not physical. Jesus is clear that the death of the physical body nothing to worry about. This means he is saying that we are not these physical bodies.
“Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill 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 that each of us are spiritual beings, not these physical bodies.
This is one of the core teachings of Jesus that ecclesiastical institutions and their 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)Jesus did not teach that we are these physical bodies. He did not teach that we gain happiness through mammon. So why are these supposed followers of Jesus using Jesus to achieve more materialism? Why do they profess praying to Jesus to get rich, get a good job and win football games?
Because they don't want to follow the real teachings of Jesus. They want to use Jesus to enjoy life in the physical world.
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, "can send the soul to hell" or something like that.
But he doesn't. 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.
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.
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 for the enjoyment of God. This is the consciousness of heaven. And this is the opposite consciousness of a person who is seeking their own enjoyment - and forgetting the Supreme Being.
And this concept of a "satan" or "devil" that has somehow gotten out of God's control is preposterous. The Supreme Being is the absolute Controller of everything.
Because God gives everyone the choice to love Him or not, some choose not to. And those who choose not to love Him are sent to the physical world to live their lives forgetting their relationship with the Supreme Being.
This is the world of misidentification. It is the world of forgetfulness. It is the world where its citizens want to forget the Supreme Being and their lose relationship with Him.
Yes, this place - with this consciousness - is hell.
But we can leave hell simply by dedicating our life to the Supreme Being. Heaven is as close as a decision.
(For a translation of Jesus' statements from the Book of Matthew without institutional sectarian influence, see the Gospels of Jesus - translated from the original Greek texts.)