The Limited Power Of The Wicked
"And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell," (Matt.10:28).
These words are found in the Lord's instructions to the Twelve as He sent them out on the "limited commission," (Matt. 10). He spoke to them frankly
about the hostility they would encounter as they spoke the truth of the coming kingdom. They would be opposed by religious leaders (v.17), by
governmental leaders (v.18), by family (v.21), and would be "hated by all" for His name's sake (v.22). Yet, the Twelve would be able to rise above any
hesitation or fear of opposition and give the message free course. Jesus said to them, "do not fear," and gave them the groundwork of this confidence. This text is another reason for courage: "And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell."
There is something worse than physical death. There is a natural dread of death we should not necessarily feel guilty about. To some extent each of us feel this fright. Most surveys or polls that inquire about common human fears show this widespread fright of death. Jesus wanted His men to know, there is something worse than physical death. That is the eternal destruction of "both soul and body in hell." Being "cast out into outerdarkness," where there will be "weeping and gnashing of teeth" is an outcome far worse than physical death. A suitable paraphrase might be: Don't worry! The only thing the persecutors can do is kill you!
To people with a limited earthly perspective, this sounds crazy. To people with no sense of the divine, this doesn't make any sense. To those who shun the fear of the Lord; to those who do not have the good and honest heart, this is regarded as ridiculous.
But to people who are convinced that this life isn't all there is, this is a statement that elicits the greatest kind of courage and generates well-founded hope. The body is a small matter in comparison to the soul. Physical death is a reality, but not the final reality. There is something after death, good or bad, but eternal.
Persecutors may kill the Lord's disciples, but these enemies can go no further. Cancer may rob you of your brief bodily existence, but cannot take from you eternal fellowship with God. An accident may cause your sudden death, but those in Christ discover gain in death (Phil. 1:21). No power can pluck you out of the hand of God if you are determined to stay there! "Unless the soul consents to its own injury, it cannot be harmed."
Faith with all its' activity and prayer with all its' power can put us in position to so enjoy the grace of God in Christ, the fear of death is reduced and anticipation of heaven keeps us secure. Let us know, the power of the wicked is limited. We can, therefore, preach the gospel without fear. We can stand for truth; live the truth; speak the truth, knowing we shall be "saved from wrath through Him," (Rom. 5:9).
By Warren E. Berkley
From Expository Files 12.9; September, 2005