Is God the one who “destroys both body and soul in hell?”
DOES THE BIBLE SAY WE ARE TO “FEAR GOD WHO IS ABLE TO DESTROY BOTH BODY AND SOUL IN HELL?”
This MISQUOTED passage is the perfect example of how we AUTOMATICALLY jump to the conclusion that death and destruction is from God.
First, the word “God” is nowhere in either of these passages.
“And I say unto you my friends, Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear him.” Luke 12:4-5.
“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.
And yet, people seem to always PRESUME it is God to whom these passages are referring. Yet, I submit that once we take a deep breath and consult the Holy Spirit, we will see that these verses are obviously talking about Satan and NOT God.
SATAN is the one whose destructions we are to have a healthy caution of being “killed by,” as Jude 9 warns. SATAN is the one who “destroys the flesh of men.” 1 Corinthians 5:5; John 10:10. SATAN is the one who has “the power of death.” Hebrews 2:14.
Repeat this ten times: SATAN HAS THE POWER OF DEATH, NOT GOD! JESUS TRUMPS SATAN’S POWER OF DEATH WITH HIS POWER OF LIFE.
Some may object to the idea that we are to “fear” Satan on any level. But, we don’t need to be so tight in our use of the word “fear.” Fear has many nuances attached to it, one of which is “to be wary of.” I think the sense Jesus used it here is to “be wary of” Satan who destroys the body here on the earth and, afterward, the disbelieving soul in Hell.
In English, “fear” has many applications, many intensities, and many applications. So too in Greek, fear has many shades of meaning, from “pure terror” to “reverential awe” to “passively be alarmed.” The last definition is the one I am proposing. Here is one (among many) nuanced English dictionary definition of fear: “An unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat.”
The Greek word “phobeo” translated as “fear” in the Luke and Matthew passages cited above, has many applications. The Lexicon provided below lists the first application of this word as “passively being alarmed.” That is exactly the sense in which I have been using it.
Hebrew and Greek Lexicons (C)
to frighten, i.e. (PASSIVELY) TO BE ALARMED; by analogy, to be in awe of, i.e. revere:–be (+ sore) afraid, fear (exceedingly), reverence.
to put to flight by terrifying (to scare away)
to put to flight, to flee
to fear, be afraid
to be struck with fear, to be seized with alarm
of those startled by strange sights or occurrences
of those struck with amazement
to fear, be afraid of one
to fear (i.e. hesitate) to do something (for fear of harm)
to reverence, venerate, to treat with deference or reverential obedience”
Moreover, below are multiple translations of the same word in 2 Corinthians 7:11, where the same word translated “fear” in the Matthew and Luke passage, is translated “alarm” here. The point is that a “passive state of alarm” is clearly one of the normal applications of this word. This term perfectly matches Peter’s warning for us to be “sober and alert” toward Satan who prowls about as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour.
“For see what eagerness this very thing — this sadness as God intended — has produced in you; what defense of yourselves, what indignation, what ALARM (phobon | φόβον | acc sg masc), what longing, what deep concern, what punishment! In everything you have proved yourselves to be innocent in this matter.” 2 Corinthians 7:11.
New International Version (©1984)
“See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what ALARM, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done. At every point, you have proved yourselves to be innocent in this matter.”
New Living Translation (©2007)
“Just see what this godly sorrow produced in you! Such earnestness, such concern to clear yourselves, such indignation, such ALARM, such longing to see me, such zeal, and such a readiness to punish wrong. You showed that you have done everything necessary to make things right.”
Weymouth New Testament
“For mark the effects of this very thing–your having sorrowed with a godly sorrow–what earnestness it has called forth in you, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what ALARM, what longing affection, what jealousy, what meting out of justice! You have completely wiped away reproach from yourselves in the matter.”
Repentance breeds a state of vigilant ALARM against the oncoming destructions of the devil, NOT the oncoming destructions of God!
Finally, we really need to allow the Holy Spirit to help us select the best and most God-honoring application of the word here. I John says perfect love casts out all fear, yet if the narrow definition is correct, perfect love won’t cast out all fear because we will be in continual “terror” towards God for being able to destroy our bodies and souls in Hell. That just cant be right. God is not a torturing terrorist. Satan is.
Let me ask a question. Are we to be wary of (fearful of) oncoming drunk drivers, nearby rapists, lurking murderers, chaotic 18 wheelers suddenly crossing over into your oncoming lane of traffic and colliding into you. Sure we are to be wary of (fearful of) these scenarios, especially if they started to actually occur. This doesn’t mean we curl up trembling in the fetal position, but it does mean we stay vigilant and intensely ready to dodge, duck and disarm dangerous situations.
If we think about it, why would and should we EVER be afraid of Jesus? Awestruck certainly, but why ever terrorized with fear? He is our rescuer, not our condemner. Yet, if you believe the original passage is NOT talking about Satan, then the only other interpretation is that God is the destroyer of men’s flesh and souls in Hell, a prospect I find much more disturbing.
Jesus came to save us, not destroy us. Do we really believe we are not to be wary of Satan? 1 John 5 says the whole world is in Satan’s power. Paul called him the god of this fallen world. Jesus called him the ruling prince of this fallen world. And yet, we are to not be wary, sober minded and cautiously alert to Satan’s threat?
Satan is the one who kills both body and soul, NOT God. Jesus saved us from Satan’s ability to kill our bodies and destroy our souls in Hell. He gave us the keys to the kingdom. The connection between Satan and Hell is long established in Church history.
Hell “is an intermediate place or state of the soul between death and final judgment.” Encyclopedia of Early Christianity, edited by Everett Ferguson, p. 417 (Garland). However, Hell is much more than just the abode of the dead. Satan rules in Hell. Hell is the symbolic capital city of Satan’s kingdom of darkness and death.
“I will build my church; and the gates of hell (Hades) shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Matt. 16:18-19. These verses obviously link “Hell” with “Satan’s kingdom” as the very real enemy of His Church.
Moreover, we are empowered to bind this Satanic kingdom with our keys of authority so that men will be loosed from the grip of the devil. William Manson renders “gates of hades” in this passage as “Satan-Hades.” (Jesus and the Christian [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1967], p.83).
There is a term, the “Harrowing of Hell,” which the church has long used to describe Jesus’ “Christus Victor” descent into Hell to crush its evil grip over men. Like Samson did with the Gaza gates (as a prophetic Old Testament type of a New Testament spiritual reality), Jesus carried the gates of Hell away on His shoulders as He “led captivity captive.”
The Church is called to enforce Jesus’ defeat of the gates of Hell, a battle in which Jesus promised Hell would never “prevail” (a term indicating that at least one point in time Hell was a hostile element toward God). But Jesus “led captivity captive” as he “stripped principalities and powers” of their demonic weaponry. Colossians 2:15.
“Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.” Ephesians 4:8-10.
It has always been largely believed that in some prior age Satan ruled “the gates of Hell,” against whom Jesus said His Church would “prevail.” Matthew 16:18-19. Hell was not only seen as a POW camp for lost souls after death, but “the gates of Hell” were also seen as a demonic power center from which Satan operated his destructions. Gates in the ancient world always symbolized the power center of a city. Satan’s power always works various destructions toward men, both in the land of the living and in the land of the unrighteous dead. These destructions were believed to be Satan’s ongoing torture toward the dead imprisoned souls in Hell, as well as Satan’s crippling oppressions toward the souls still alive upon the earth.
Many ancient Jewish and early Christian writers link closely the concepts of Satan and Hell (literally “Hades”). See Testament of Reuben 4:6-7; Matthew 16:18-19; 1 Corinthians 15:24-27; Revelation 20:7-10, 13-14. So strong is the perceived connection between Satan and Hell, that scholar W. Manson renders “gates of Hell” in Matthew 16:18 as “Satan-Hades.” In other words, “Satan” is “Hell” personified and “Hell” is “Satan” objectified. But, after the resurrection and His Pentecostal return thought the indwelling Holy Spirit, Jesus has NOW given us the keys of the kingdom to defeat all forms of Satanic-death and Satanic-Hell. Their dark power source has been unplugged. Jesus, through the cross and resurrection, crushed these two demonic dynamics once and for all, and now waits for His Church to rest in that victory by faith.
The New Testament seems to frequently link the concepts of Death and Hell as complementary demonic forces (Revelation 1:18; 6:8; 20:13). Satan is portrayed as the once lord of Death according to Hebrews 2:14, so it is quite natural to assume that Satan is (or was) also the lord of Hell. Death and Hell are both portrayed in the New Testament as forces hostile to the kingdom of God ( 1 Corinthians 15:25-26; Matthew 16:18).
The early church fathers Origen and Clement actually considered the fallen earth to be part of Hades, Hell’s foyer so to speak. Origen, Beg. 4.3.10.
A well known Jewish book has the coming Messiah heroically descend into the underworld to rescue lost souls from Hell. This story is described in the “Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs” dating from about 100 B.C. In it, Messiah enters into the kingdom of Beliar (Baal), the chief of Hell, to rescue his captives.
The third century Christian “Teachings of Silvanus” and the “Gospel of Bartholomew” apply the same basic theme to Jesus. His disembodied soul heroically enters Hell during His three days dead. He attacks the underworld and sets free all the souls Satanically imprisoned there.
The “Gospel of Nicodemus,” held as canonical for many centuries, contains the most detailed account of this story. The first written version of this book is from the fifth century, and describes Jesus harrowing Hell, which is described as a dark underground prison administered by Hades, who personifies death, along with Satan, who commands an army of demons. Source: “The History of Hell” by Alice Turner, page 66-68, Harcourt Inc., 1993.
The early Christians variously believed that the defanged powers, principalities and demons all moved in and out of Hell, sometimes as prisoners, sometimes as jailers, sometimes as tempters and afflicters of men, and sometimes as rebels to congregate under the defeated and scattered banner of Anti-Christ. Satan: The Early Christian Tradition, by Jeffrey Burton Russell, pg 144, Cornell Universal Press, 1981. But there wasn’t a uniform belief about the governing dynamics of Hell. Hell was in flux. Satan’s armory and torture chamber of horrors was being conceptually converted into a healing hospital of spiritual recovery.
Even pagan culture intuitively knows that Satan once ruled Hell, not God. Satan was formerly enthroned in Hell. It was his power center from which he ran his dark kingdom. But now he has been evicted from his stronghold. Only Christians seem to still wrongly believe that Jesus is now somehow the manager and hooded torture-monger of Hell.
Simply put, Hell underwent a massive renovation in AD 33. I propose that the concept of Hell (by whatever name or function) has been completely renovated by Christ.
Jesus, through His cosmic victory over the dark principalities and powers, wherein He stripped them of all reign and rule, has completely and eternally gutted Hell, judgment, and condemnation. Again, as Ephesians declares, He “took captivity captive.” That phrase is pregnant with implications.
Here is one.
By “taking captivity captive,” Jesus converted Hell into a hospital of healing. Interestingly, during the Civil War, former armory and enemy strongholds were converted into hospitals when they were de-weaponized and then occupied by their opponents. Would Jesus do ANY less?
What then if Hell, from Gods viewpoint, because of Jesus’ harrowing of Hell, was no longer enemy territory, but instead was conquered territory converted into a medical facility for the restoration and rehabilitation of the criminally insane, the fearfully delusional and the murderously mad? What if Hell, from God’s view, consists of the remaining postmortem fig leaves of delusions, behind which the souls of the fearful and unbelieving hide from God?
What if God patiently endures and ministers to these sick people in, through and around their delusions? What if God uses the spiritual “shock treatment” needed to awaken these poor souls to the truth – – a truth which will set all men free – – God loves them and gave His life energies to cure them from their sicknesses?
Let’s consider Adolph Hitler as an illustration. Hitler was one of the most evil men who ever lived. But, what if God took Hitler’s soul on a cosmic journey right after Hitler’s soul left his body? What if this journey had a purpose – – to take Hitler back to the point where it all went wrong, to show him the gravity and immense sufferings he caused, to reveal all the bitter roots of his evil. What if this journey, because of Hitler’s intense will to evil, APPEARED to take months, years, or centuries by our measurements, but in the reality of God’s timing could take place in a wink of an eye.
But what if God’s irresistible goodness eventually, ultimately and totally outlasted and overcame Hitler’s defiance. Hitler’s “wood, hay and stubble” would be burned off and he would suffer much loss, but he “himself would be saved, yet so as by fire.” Similar examples of this dynamic can be seen in The Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens AND Joseph’s treatment of his brothers (Gen. 42-45), where the grievous wrongdoers were taken on an unexpected and undeserved journey of ultimate redemption wherein they found a place of deep and heartfelt repentance.
Patristic Universalism (aka Apocatastasis), to which I subscribe, believes that one must be spiritually reborn to enter the kingdom of Heaven, and that this rebirth comes solely from an extension of interpersonal faith in Jesus Christ. It simply holds that this conversion can come in this age (which is far better) OR in the heightened crisis of the postmortem ages to come.
In other words, even after our deaths, God will continue to woo us, convince us, and vibrantly confront our issues until we finally see and embrace the irresistible truth– that Jesus Christ is the one true light and love, and in Him alone our salvation lies. The church fathers believed that “God’s fire was wise” in purging and pruning our diseased souls back to a place of pristine health.
This form of Universalism believes in a God who would never give His children the keys to a cosmic car with which they could crash, burn, and destroy themselves eternally. Rather, our dear Abba has installed spiritual guardrails, airbags, and safety equipment into the postmortem cosmos which will keep our souls from destruction no matter how hard we may have wrecked them during our earth lives.
Simply put, Patristic Universalism believes Jesus will win all people back, come Hell or high-water. God, through Jesus Christ, will ultimately rescue and convince ALL to receive their rebirth, even if it is after (in some cases) much “gnashing of teeth,” prolonged emotional anguish, and stubborn mental resistance. Many will hold out for extended periods of time, but all will eventually see that against an irresistibly virtuous God there is no eternal defense. As the lies are burned away, every soul will come to itself and behold this champion truth– Jesus Christ is God’s rescuing love.
He will heal all the rebels of their rebellion.
He will cure all of His haters with His relentless love.
He will save ALL His lambs by going after them wherever they have fallen lost.
He will boast as He meets every tearful prodigal on their return journey home.
How long will God continue to convince His children to receive the light and love of His Son? …..As long as it takes.
The early Church largely believed God’s Hell-fire was not inflicted to destroy the lost, but rather to ultimately save them. God’s “fire” was “WISE” (Clement of Alexandria) in that it revealed, cleansed and cured the lost soul of all the false identities accumulated during their fallen lifetimes. The “wood, hay and stubble” of these false identities would be “burned off” of the lost soul, but they themselves would “be saved, yet so as by fire.” 1 Corinthians 3:13-15.
Hell, from this viewpoint then, was a rocky but redemptive journey to repentance and restoration. Hell was still seen as infinitely intense and unimaginably painful – – just not eternal.
Ebenezer Scrooge’s nightmarish journey as described in the classic “Christmas Carol” would be an illustration of what such a redemptive journey through Hell-fire might look like. For Scrooge, his journey was intensely revealing, painful and heart-breaking, but ultimately redemptive.
Scrooge was not even aware that his own repentance and redemption was the Lord’s endgame. He was too busy suffering at the realization of his past, present and future sins. And, in fact, Scrooge’s journey appeared to be outside of time as we know it. The mistakes of whole life were played out before him in just a few earthly hours, yet for him it appeared to last a very long time.
This same dynamic plays out in the story of Jonah. Jonah “in the belly of a fish” (Jonah 2:1-10) was used by Jesus as a type and shadow of His suffering in Hell for three days. Matt. 12: 39-40. Jonah believed he had been in the belly “forever” (2:6), when in fact it had only been three days. Jonah in fact called the whale’s belly “the belly of Hell” (2:2).
Thus, Jesus and Jonah both referred to the whale’s belly as a type of Hell, yet it was not in fact eternal. From Jonah’s viewpoint, it certainly seemed eternal and hopeless, yet God was working repentance in Jonah’s heart during this three days in figurative Hell.
Would God not have the same type of cosmic “elbow room” to take our souls on such a “Scrooge-like” and “Jonah-like” post-mortem journey to repentance?
Here are a handful (there are many more) of my favorite passages supporting this concept of what the church fathers called Apocatastasis (Acts 3:21), or the reconciliation of all things to Christ. This ultimate reconciliation occurs “partially” in this current earth age, but will occur “fully” throughout all the post-mortem ages to come (Acts 2:7).
“I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for ALL men. . .For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; WHO WILL HAVE ‘ALL’ MEN TO BE SAVED, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.” (1 Tim. 2:1,3-4).
“For therefore we both labor and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the SAVIOR OF ‘ALL’ MEN, specially of those that believe.” (1 Tim. 4:10).
“He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one ALL THINGS in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth—in Him…. That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.” (Ephesians 1:9-10, 2:7).
“He will transform the body of our humble condition into the likeness of His glorious body, by the power that enables Him to subject ALL things to Himself” (Phil. 3:21).
“EVERY MAN’S work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work shall be BURNED, he shall SUFFER LOSS: but HE HIMSELF SHALL BE SAVED; yet so AS BY FIRE.” (1 Cor. 3:13-15).
“For as in Adam ALL die, even so in Christ shall ALL BE MADE ALIVE. But EVERY man in his own order: Christ the first-fruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming. Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. For he must reign, till he hath put ALL enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. For he hath put ALL things under his feet. But when he saith, ALL things are put under him, it is manifest that he is excepted, which did put ALL things under him. And when ALL things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put ALL things under him, that GOD MAY BE ‘ALL IN ALL.’ Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead?” (1 Corinthians 15:22-29).
“I heard EVERY creature in heaven, on earth, under the earth, on the sea, and everything in them say: Blessing and honor and glory and dominion to the One seated on the throne and to the Lamb, forever and ever!” (Rev. 5:13).
“Then He who sat on the throne said, ‘Behold, I make ALL things new’….” God will dwell with men and he will wipe every tear from their eyes, death, mourning, crying, pain and the old order of things will pass and everything and everybody will be made new (Rev. 21:5).