Jesus said, “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” (Matthew 10:28). The doctrine of hell has never been popular. It is certainly not pleasant to consider souls suffering for eternity. Few preachers will press the seriousness of it in their sermons for fear of driving people away. Those few who do are categorized as “hellfire-and-brimstone preachers.” Yet, Jesus spoke on hell more than any other person in the Bible (Matthew 5:22, 29-30; 18:9; 23:15, 33; 25:41, 46; Mark 9:43-48; et. al.). The love the Lord Jesus has for lost people cannot be surpassed (John 15:13); in fact, love is why he warned about the reality of hell awaiting the disobedient. It is why he died for us (Romans 5:8). His love compelled Him to tell people how to be saved and avoid eternal damnation (Mark 10:21).
Our world is filled with people afraid of what man may do to them. It is no wonder. The cold-blooded massacring of the innocent is a common problem in our society. The Lord hates hands that shed innocent blood (Proverbs 6:17). When young lives are snuffed out before so many of their experiences, contributions, and aspirations can come to fruition, it is particularly galling to our consciences.
But Jesus tells us not to fear them which can only kill the body. Instead we are to fear Him (God) who can destroy both soul and body in hell. This life is not about getting everything we want here and now. It is not about having the best life now. Of course, God gives us good gifts here to enjoy (James 1:17). But life is not about enjoying as much as we can (Ecclesiastes 2:1-11). It is about fearing God and keeping His commandments (Ecclesiastes 12:13). The scales will always be uneven in this life. There will be wicked individuals who will kill righteous individuals, just as Cain murdered Abel (1 John 3:12). It is hard to make sense of their wickedness and cruelty. But we must remember that though our physical existence is temporary, our eternal souls belong to God (Ezekiel 18:4).
God is the father of spirits and should be revered (Hebrews 12:9). When people have no fear of God before their eyes (Romans 3:18), become lifted up with pride so that they put themselves in the place of God (Isaiah 14:14), and allow the god of this world to blind their minds to the light of God’s truth (2 Corinthians 4:4) there is no telling what kind of evil lengths they may go to. We want justice to be served when the wicked murder the innocent. The God who created us can bring our eternal souls to ruin in a place of everlasting punishment called hell. Our God is both good and severe (Romans 11:22). If justice calls out to us, how much more blaring must it be in the ears of Him who is perfect in justice (Psalm 89:14; cf. Genesis 4:10)? The absence of justice in this life is clear proof that future judgment is coming (2 Thessalonians 1:4-10). The fear of hell can lead people to reform their lives; John the Baptist, by inspiration, so preached (Matthew 3:7-12). Jesus’ words in Matthew 10:28 are to deter man from pursuing evil ways that lead to eternal ruin.
God wants man to repent (2 Peter 3:9) and to be saved by coming to the knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:4). He does not delight in the death of the wicked (Ezekiel 33:11). However, God does not offer any consolation to those who remain lost. He will not compromise on His guarantee to punish the wicked. May we not compromise His teaching, but with love warn of the grim reality awaiting the lost so that they choose to avoid eternal damnation.
– Mark Day