“Do Not Become Fearful of Those Who Kill the Body”
1-3. (a) What question is appropriate about the speaker of the words of Matthew 10:28? (b) What was a Levite priest ordered to do in behalf of Jewish soldiers gathered together for battle action?
“AND do not become fearful of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; but rather be in fear of him that can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna.”a
2 There must have been some strong reason for the speaker to say those words. Was he addressing soldiers who were arrayed in battle equipment and who were ready to march out against the enemy armed with weapons capable of killing the human body? Some centuries previous, when the speaker’s people were gathered together for battle action, a Levite priest who was appointed to this military duty would address the troops with words to inspire courage. He would follow the orders written down by the prophet Moses, who wrote them in the fifteenth century B.C.E.:
3 “In case you go out to the battle against your enemies and you actually see horses and war chariots, a people more numerous than you, you must not be afraid of them; for Jehovah your God is with you, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt. And it must occur that when you have drawn near to the battle, the priest must also approach and speak to the people. And he must say to them, ‘Hear, O Israel, you are drawing near today to the battle against your enemies. Do not let your hearts be timid. Do not be afraid and run in panic or shudder because of them, for Jehovah your God is marching with you to fight for you against your enemies so as to save you.’”—Deut. 20:1-4.
4. Who spoke the words of Matthew 10:28, to whom, and on what occasion?
4 Jesus Christ was not a Levite priest. When he said the words recorded in Matthew 10:28, he was not addressing Jewish soldiers who might get killed while trying to kill the enemy. No, Jesus Christ came along with a new teaching, for, when his own life was in danger, he said: “All those who take the sword will perish by the sword.” (Matt. 26:52) The men whom Jesus Christ told not to fear those who kill the body were twelve peaceful men. They were his twelve special disciples, whom he named apostles, and were in no army. True, their bodies were in danger of being killed, but not by an enemy army in battle action. They were being sent on a peaceful mission, one that did not deserve their being killed. Nevertheless, a little earlier in his speech to these same twelve apostles Jesus Christ said:
5. In keeping with his words in Matthew 10:28, what had Jesus said a little earlier in his speech to his apostles?
5 “I am sending you forth as sheep amidst wolves; therefore prove yourselves cautious as serpents and yet innocent as doves. Be on your guard against men; for they will deliver you up to local courts, and they will scourge you in their synagogues. Why, you will be haled before governors and kings for my sake, for a witness to them and the nations. . . . Further, brother will deliver up brother to death, and a father his child, and children will rise up against parents and will have them put to death. And you will be objects of hatred by all people on account of my name; but he that has endured to the end is the one that will be saved. When they persecute you in one city, flee to another.”—Matt. 10:16-23.
6, 7. (a) How did Jesus’ instructions to the apostles show that they were not to engage in violent invasion and plunder? (b) To what consequences were they to leave the unfriendly, and how did Jesus give a hint of this in Matthew 10:15?
6 Was the working equipment of the twelve apostles to be military? Were they to invade homes violently and plunder them? No; for Jesus Christ said to them: “Do not procure gold or silver or copper for your girdle purses, or a food pouch for the trip, or two undergarments, or sandals or a staff; for the worker deserves his food. Into whatever city or village you enter, search out who in it is deserving, and stay there until you leave. When you are entering into the house, greet the household; and if the house is deserving, let the peace you wish it come upon it; but if it is not deserving, let the peace from you return upon you. Wherever anyone does not take you in or listen to your words, on going out of that house or that city shake the dust off your feet.” (Matt. 10:9-14) So they were not to go to the people like a crusading army with fire and sword. They were not to take warlike action against anyone, even against the unfriendly. By merely shaking the dust off their sandaled feet they were to show that they left the unreceptive house or city to the consequences that were due to come upon them from a higher source, from heaven.
7 Jesus gave a hint of such consequences when he added: “Truly I say to you, It will be more endurable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah on Judgment Day than for that city.”—Matt. 10:15.
WHY ENEMIES WANTED TO KILL THE BODY
8. What must have been the reason for their becoming objects of hatred by all the people so that men would want to kill them?
8 When the apostles of Jesus Christ were acting in such a peaceable manner, why should they become the objects of hatred by all the people to the extent that men would even want to kill the bodies of the apostles? The reason for this must have been the message that Jesus Christ sent his apostles to preach. What that message was Matthew 10:5-8 informs us: “These twelve Jesus sent forth, giving them these orders: ‘Do not go off into the road of the nations, and do not enter into a Samaritan city; but, instead, go continually to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. As you go, preach, saying, “The kingdom of the heavens has drawn near.” Cure sick people, raise up dead persons, make lepers clean, expel demons. You received free, give free.’” Their message was to be that the kingdom of the heavens, the kingdom of God, had drawn near.
9. How was the nearness of the Kingdom to be demonstrated by the apostles, and on what basis, and so for what must the Kingdom message have been responsible?
9 The “sheep of the house of Israel” had been praying and looking for this kingdom. The fact that it had drawn near was to be proved by wonderful miracles performed by these Kingdom preachers, curing sick people, raising dead persons to life, making persons clean from their leprosy and delivering persons who were obsessed by demons. All this was to be done free of charge, no collection plate or bucket being passed around. Consequently, the message of God’s kingdom must have been the thing that stirred up the hatred and opposition of people even to the point of using violence.
10. What were the apostles to give the message, and what was it going to require of them to keep on doing so?
10 The apostles were not to be afraid to preach what Jesus told them to preach, even though they could be certain that men would oppose their message. They were to give the message the widest publicity possible. Jesus said to them: “Therefore do not fear them; for there is nothing covered over that will not become uncovered, and secret that will not become known. What I tell you in the darkness, say in the light; and what you hear whispered, preach from the housetops. And do not become fearful of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; but rather be in fear of him that can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna.” (Matt. 10:26-28) So it was going to require fearlessness of men for the apostles to keep on preaching the message of God’s kingdom.
11. How did the apostles show the necessary fearlessness, and with what result?
11 The apostles then showed the necessary fearlessness. Luke 9:6 says: “Then starting out they went through the territory from village to village, declaring the good news and performing cures everywhere.” There is no record that on this particular preaching campaign anybody tried to kill them. Luke 9:10 reports: “And when the apostles returned they recounted to him what things they had done. With that he took them along and withdrew to privacy into a city called Bethsaida.” Thus they all got back safely.
12. Over a year later, how much did the preaching of the Kingdom cost Jesus, at whose hands, and on what charge?
12 However, less than two years later, or in 33 C.E., the preaching of God’s kingdom did cost Jesus Christ his own human life. The men who had his body killed were the religious leaders of the city of Jerusalem, the capital city of Israel. When they turned Jesus over to the Roman governor in Jerusalem, they accused Jesus as a teacher, saying: “He stirs up the people by teaching throughout all Judea, even starting out from Galilee to here.” They put pressure upon the Roman governor to nail Jesus’ body to a stake outside Jerusalem to die. But the Roman governor had an inscription posted above Jesus’ head, which read: “This is the king of the Jews.” (Luke 23:1-6, 38) The Roman governor did not know that the God of the heavens had anointed Jesus Christ to be king over all mankind, not merely over Jews.
13. What kind of treatment did Jesus indicate that his disciples would receive, and did his apostles get such kind of treatment, according to the Bible record?
13 If Jesus suffered that way for preaching God’s kingdom, what were his disciples to expect? Just before he told them not to fear those who kill the body, he said to them: “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a slave above his master. It is enough for the disciple to become as his teacher, and the slave as his master. If people have called the householder Beelzebub [a name for Satan the Devil], how much more will they call those of his household so?” (Matt. 10:24, 25) Thus he gave his apostles to understand that they must expect to receive the same kind of treatment that he himself received for preaching God’s kingdom. Such treatment they did receive, not only from their own nation, the Jews, but also from the non-Jews or Gentiles. The apostle James, the brother of the apostle John, was put to death by the executional sword of King Herod Agrippa I of Jerusalem. The king also planned to kill the apostle Peter in the same way, but his plans were foiled by God’s angel.—Acts 12:1-11.
14, 15. (a) What congregation was particularly persecuted in this way, and what member of it proved to be a notable martyr? (b) What did a Jew who assumed responsibility for that one’s death later say about his persecution of Christians?
14 Not only the apostles were thus persecuted, but also the rest of the disciples of Jesus Christ, and particularly the congregation in Jerusalem. Most notable among these martyrs was the disciple Stephen, who was stoned to death by the Jews. One of those who assumed responsibility for Stephen’s death was Saul of Tarsus, a Jewish Pharisee. Years afterward, when appearing before King Herod Agrippa II, he said with reference to his persecution:
15 “I, for one, really thought within myself I ought to commit many acts of opposition against the name of Jesus the Nazarene; which, in fact, I did in Jerusalem, and many of the holy ones I locked up in prisons, as I had received authority from the chief priests; and when they were to be executed, I cast my vote against them. And by punishing them many times in all the synagogues I tried to force them to make a recantation; and since I was extremely mad against them, I went so far as to persecuting them even in outside cities.”—Acts 26:1-11.
16. For doing what work did this converted Jewish Pharisee himself suffer persecution, and in what manner did he do much of this work?
16 This Jewish Pharisee was himself miraculously converted to become a member of the congregation of Jesus Christ. He became the one known as the apostle Paul. (Acts 9:1-25) Then he himself began to suffer persecution for preaching God’s kingdom, in Asiatic and European cities. He did a lot of this preaching from house to house; just as he said on one occasion to citizens of the city of Ephesus, Asia Minor: “I did not hold back from telling you any of the things that were profitable nor from teaching you publicly and from house to house. But I thoroughly bore witness both to Jews and to Greeks about repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus. . . . And now, look! I know that all of you among whom I went preaching the kingdom will see my face no more.”—Acts 20:17-25.
17. When in prison what did Paul do about preaching the Kingdom, and from where was his last letter written?
17 Not long afterward the apostle Paul was imprisoned; but imprisonment did not make him fearful of preaching God’s kingdom. During his first imprisonment in Rome “he would kindly receive all those who came in to him, preaching the kingdom of God to them and teaching the things concerning the Lord Jesus Christ with the greatest freeness of speech, without hindrance.” (Acts 28:30, 31) The apostle Paul’s last letter was written evidently during his second imprisonment in Rome, when he was about to be executed by killers of the body.—2 Tim. 4:16-18.
18, 19. (a) What unquestionably helped those early disciples to be fearless in the face of violent death, and who else were meant to be helped in the same way? (b) By foreseeing and foretelling what for our day did Jesus see the need for such help now?
18 Those faithful followers of Jesus Christ of nineteen hundred years ago did not mix in worldly politics. Unquestionably they preached God’s kingdom as the one and only hope of mankind. In the face of violent death they were helped to keep fearless by remembering Jesus’ words. His words have not ceased to be of value today. He meant for them to be remembered by Kingdom preachers of today, for he foresaw our day as the time for the setting up of God’s kingdom in the heavens with power. Jesus Christ was the greatest of all God’s prophets on earth, for no other prophet made such accurate prophecies of our own remarkable day as Jesus Christ did. Among other things, he foresaw and foretold for our day the greatest campaign ever to be accomplished by his faithful followers, that of preaching God’s established kingdom.
19 Foretelling it in his prophecy concerning the conclusion of this worldly system of things, Jesus said: “You will be objects of hatred by all the nations on account of my name. . . . But he that has endured to the end is the one that will be saved. And this good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations; and then the end will come.” (Matt. 24:9-14) Has not this prophecy come true? Yes.
20, 21. (a) When did that message begin to be preached, but what organizations were not the ones to preach it? (b) What did that message not advocate, but, rather, what exposure has it made?
20 Today there is a message of God’s kingdom that is being preached among all the nations, just as the apostle Paul himself preached it, “publicly and from house to house.” According to historical records, the message began to be preached in 1919, the year immediately following the end of World War I. The message was not preached by the churches of Christendom, for the nations of Christendom were the main fighters in that world war for earth’s domination and were still interested in dominating the earth. The message was not one advocating the League of Nations, which was then proposed and which many religious clergymen of the United States of America in the year 1919 called “the political expression of the Kingdom of God on earth.” That League of Nations has been succeeded by today’s United Nations organization, but this new arrangement for international peace and security has not proved to be “the political expression of the Kingdom of God on earth” anymore than the now dead League of Nations.
21 The message that has gone forth from God since 1919 has exposed both the League of Nations and the United Nations as being simply man-made substitutes for God’s kingdom, hence as frauds!
22. How was the message foretold by Jesus different from that advocating man-made substitutes, and how was the year 1914 C.E. emphasized?
22 The true Kingdom message, the one foretold by Jesus Christ in Matthew 24:14, is different. It has notified all the nations that God’s kingdom for the government of the whole earth was set up in the heavens at the close of the “times of the Gentiles” in the year 1914 C.E. (Luke 21:24, AV) In 1914 the end was reached of the 2,520 years that Jehovah God had allowed for the Gentile (non-Jewish) nations to trample on His right to rule the earth by means of a kingdom in the hands of the Messianic Descendant of King David of Jerusalem. The 2,520 years of the nonexistence of a Davidic kingdom on the earth began in the year 607 B.C.E., when the Babylonians destroyed the earthly Jerusalem and overturned the royal throne of King David’s line, never to be set up again on earth at Jerusalem. Therefore, in the year 1914 C.E. came the time for God’s kingdom to be reestablished, not on earth, but in the heavens, in the hands of the promised Descendant of King David, namely, Jesus Christ.—Ezek. 21:24-27.
23. (a) What can be said about the visible proofs of the Kingdom’s establishment that Jesus foretold, and what warning has the message given to the nations? (b) What has been the effect of this respecting the Kingdom preachers?
23 Jesus Christ himself had foretold the visible proofs as evidence to us today by which to know that the Davidic kingdom of God had been set up in the invisible heavens. These have come to view since 1914, in which year World War I broke out and ushered in an era of earth-wide violence that continues to this day and gets worse. God’s kingdom message since then has warned all nations and governments of earth that for them to continue ignoring God’s established kingdom and refusing to turn over their national sovereignties to it would result in their total destruction in the “war of the great day of God the Almighty,” at a place called in Hebrew Har–Magedon (or Armageddon). (Matt. 24:7-14) Not strange, then, that the preachers of this particular Kingdom message have become what Jesus Christ foretold in Matthew 24:9, “objects of hatred by all the nations.” Modern history has recorded much persecution of these Kingdom preachers internationally.
“FEAR THEM NOT”
24. Why has the good news of the Kingdom continued to be preached despite persecution, and what special message was published in 1933, and for whom particularly?
24 If the Kingdom preachers had yielded to the fear of men who can kill the body, “this good news of the kingdom” would not have continued to be preached under heavy persecution. Thirty-one years ago, or in the year 1933, this magazine The Watchtower published in its issue of November 1, the leading article entitled “Fear Them Not.” This took up a special discussion of Matthew 10:26-28, just like this present magazine article that you are reading. It was written for those who were coming into special danger at that time, namely, for “the remnant,” “the temple class,” which is evidenced by the fact that the remnant is repeatedly mentioned in the article, from the second paragraph clear through to its forty-second and last paragraph. (Rev. 12:17) No mention is made therein of the “other sheep,” whom the Fine Shepherd Jesus Christ gathers to his fold in hope of eternal life on earth amid Paradise conditions. (John 10:16) That article on fearlessness was well timed for the “remnant” yet on earth, that is, the faithful followers who will be made associate kings with Jesus Christ in his heavenly kingdom.—Rom. 8:16, 17.
25, 26. (a) What action did the Roman Catholic Hierarchy take toward the year of that publication? (b) Why, nevertheless, was that year a critical one?
25 The year 1933 was a critical year. True, the pope of Vatican City, Rome, had declared the year to be a Holy Year in commemoration of the killing of the body of Jesus Christ exactly nineteen centuries previous. So the Roman Catholic Hierarchy expressed the hope that ‘a tide of religion would arise and sweep the nations into peace and prosperity.’ However, in Germany, Adolf Hitler, the Nazi leader, became Chancellor and was voted into dictatorship by the German Reichstag on March 23. In Italy, Benito Mussolini had already become dictator, fastening upon that nation a Fascist rule, and he had entered into a concordat with the pope of Rome by which the pope became the sovereign of Vatican City.
26 Japan was then in the tight grip of war lords who had imperialistic ambitions, and it was working toward becoming an Axis partner with Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy. On March 27 the emperor of Japan declared Japan’s withdrawal from the League of Nations because of taking offense at it. So the world situation was shaping itself, not for international “peace and prosperity,” but for the outbreak of World War II and the deathblow to the League of Nations. Along with all such political developments, Catholic Action was, even in “democratic” lands, cooperating with the Roman Catholic dictators of Europe.
27. Whose faith and courage were strengthened by that article “Fear Them Not,” and what was their experience afterward?
27 The Watchtower article “Fear Them Not” strengthened the faith and courage of the Kingdom preachers, particularly Jehovah’s witnesses in Nazi Germany and in lands that came under the sway of the Third German Reich (Empire). They were the first ones against whom the Nazi dictatorship proceeded. They were thrown into prisons and the horrible concentration camps for refusing to renounce God’s kingdom and to worship the Nazi State. Still, throughout all the earth, not excluding “democratic lands,” Jehovah’s witnesses began feeling increased persecution and opposition because of fearlessly continuing to preach God’s kingdom.
28. By the end of World War II in 1945 how many Kingdom preachers had met death, and to what had they not yielded?
28 By the end of World War II in 1945 and the overthrow of the Nazi and Fascist dictatorships and the imperialistic war lords of Japan, the preachers of God’s kingdom who had met death at the hands of “those who kill the body” ran into the thousands. In Nazi Germany, out of ten thousand witnesses of Jehovah who had been put in prisons and concentration camps only eight thousand came out alive. They had not yielded to the fear of mere men.
29. Today what situation do the Kingdom preachers face, so that they need to be reminded of Matthew 10:28?
29 Today, thirty-one years after the much-needed message “Fear Them Not” was published in the columns of the Watchtower magazine, we face a worse situation. The operation of the United Nations has failed to put on an unshakable foundation the desired peace and security of the world. Dread of a third world war with hydrogen bombs and other fiendish means haunts all the nations. The Nazi, Fascist dictatorships are gone, but other dictatorships, including those of political Communism, flourish; and the contagious fever of selfish nationalism spreads like a plague. The worship of national sovereignties and of the political State expands and takes on new expressions. The march of the nations to Armageddon in opposition to the sovereignty of God’s heavenly kingdom is speeded up to double-quick time. As never before, the upholders and preachers of God’s kingdom need to be reminded of Jesus’ words to his apostles in Matthew 10:28.
30. So what texts of Revelation that call for faith and endurance apply today, and who else besides those referred to in these texts are concerned?
30 Our day, with its attempts to force all mankind into worshiping the symbolic “wild beast” of world politics and into worshiping its image, the United Nations organization, is the time for the words of Revelation 13:10 to apply: “Here is where it means the endurance and faith of the holy ones.” Also, the words of Revelation 14:12: “Here is where it means endurance for the holy ones, those who observe the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus.” Moreover, today not only the “remnant” of these “holy ones” are concerned. They have been joined by an increasing “great crowd” of “other sheep,” who have volunteered to share in the Kingdom preaching. For this great crowd of “other sheep” the shaping up of things on the international scene calls for faith and endurance to hold fast to Christian integrity. The “other sheep” cannot do so and at the same time fear men who kill.
a Quoted from the book of Matthew, chapter ten, verse twenty-eight.