Daily Readings and Thought for January 8th. “FEAR HIM WHO CAN DESTROY BOTH SOUL AND BODY IN HELL”
Today’s Chapter 10 in Matthew has quite a number of the sayings of Jesus that challenge us to correctly understand what they mean as he speaks to his disciples and sends them out to preach [v.5]. Take the example above: what is the soul as distinct from the body? The answer to this question only becomes clear when we clearly see the point Jesus is making.
Jesus had first said, “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul” [v.28] and this makes sense when we understand he means others killing you because of your preaching. This was to later happen as we read in the Acts of the Apostles. But what is this “soul” that other humans cannot kill? And what is the greater power to be feared who is able to “destroy both soul and body in hell?”
The meaning becomes clear when we understand that this greater power, the power we should really fear, is God. Then we note that the Greek word for “hell” is, in this case, Gehenna. This means the rubbish dump area over the wall in one part of Jerusalem. Fires continually burned there to consume all that was useless, that was totally waste. Jesus used it as a symbol of divine rejection in the day of judgement.
So we can understand Jesus is telling his disciples as he sent them out “to the lost sheep of the house of Israel;” [v.6] not to fear the opposition they would encounter, the worst that could happen would be the end of their mortal life. But there will be a “day of judgement” [v.15] following the resurrection when even such as “Sodom and Gomorrah” will be judged! This might surprise us, but Abraham initially thought that there could be 50 righteous there (as we will read tomorrow – Genesis 18 v.24). It will be following that judgement that God will make an eternal end of “both soul and body” of all those who have not believed in Him and his Son and failed to dedicate their lives in faithful service as a result of that belief.
We read of this last week in the book of Revelation! John told his readers of the vision when “I saw the dead great and small standing before the throne and the books were opened. Then another book which is the book of life … if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire … this is the second death, the lake of fire.” [20 v.12,15,14]