Why Not to Fear Those Who Kill the Body
1, 2. (a) Who are those whom Jesus tells his followers not to fear, and in what condition are they? (b) With what words did God by his prophet Isaiah call attention to this when encouraging his people?
WHO are those persons whom Jesus Christ tells his followers not to fear, in Matthew 10:28? They are all mortal men, just the same as we ourselves are. Politically or militarily or materially or religiously they may be strong, and may be worshiped as gods by the people under their control or command, but all the same they are mere men in a dying condition. They are unable to escape from the death that spread from the first human sinner Adam to all his offspring, including all of us on earth today. The one living and true God called attention to this very fact when he foretold that his ancient people would be liberated from the Babylonian World Power that was hemming them in and blocking their way of escape. To them Jehovah God said:
2 “I—I myself am the One that is comforting you people. Who are you that you should be afraid of a mortal man that will die, and of a son of mankind that will be rendered as mere green grass? And that you should forget Jehovah your Maker, the One stretching out the heavens and laying the foundation of the earth, so that you were in dread constantly the whole day long on account of the rage of the one hemming you in, as though he was all set to bring you to ruin? And where is the rage of the one hemming you in?”
3. (a) At what time could those words be fittingly said to the nation of Jacob? (b) To whom could those same words be fittingly said today, and why?
3 Those words of Isaiah 51:12, 13 could well be said to the nation of Jacob after the Babylonian World Power fell in the year 539 B.C.E. and after the conqueror, Cyrus the Great, issued his decree in 537 B.C.E. for the once-hemmed-in Jewish captives to return from Babylon to their beloved homeland in Palestine. But what about the modern-day witnesses of Jehovah? They themselves had a deliverance from Babylon the Great in the year 1919 C.E. So in principle the words of Isaiah 51:12, 13 can be directed to them in relation to all the political dictators who have arisen since that year and who have tried to stop the earth-wide Kingdom preaching that Jehovah’s witnesses have undertaken in obedience to Jesus’ words in Matthew 24:14. Where are those dictators who have been responsible for killing the bodies of many thousands of Jehovah’s witnesses?
4, 5. (a) Where are those dictators and oppressors of modern days who had to do with Jehovah’s witnesses? (b) What did such oppressors prove to be, and what should be our attitude toward remaining ones?
4 Where is Benito Mussolini, Fascist dictator from 1922 to 1943? He was executed and his corpse was abused by Italians in 1945. Where is Adolf Hitler, Nazi dictator from 1933 to 1945? He shot himself rather than be captured alive. Where is il Tedesco (The German), Pope Pius XII, the Concordat partner of the Catholic dictators Mussolini and Hitler and the vigorous pusher of Catholic Action? His coffin rests in a burial vault in Vatican City since October of 1958. Where is Joseph Stalin, Russian Communist dictator for twenty-nine years, under whom Jehovah’s witnesses languished in prisons and labor camps in European Russia and Asiatic Siberia? A brain hemorrhage killed him March 5, 1953. Where is Generalissimo Rafael Leonidas Trujillo, dictator of the Dominican Republic since 1930? He was assassinated by officers of his own army on May 30, 1961, ending a notorious era for the Republic.
5 Each of these oppressors of humankind proved to be just what Jehovah God said, “a mortal man that will die,” being “rendered as mere green grass” by the sickle of death. Why, then, should Jehovah’s witnesses as preachers of God’s heavenly kingdom be afraid of the dictatorial oppressors that yet remain?
PREACHING THOUGH THEY ARE YET IN SUBJECTION
6 The Kingdom preachers of today make no effort to hasten the death of totalitarian rulers in political power. They do not lift a hand against these, but they conscientiously carry out the apostolic command in Romans 13:1: “Let every soul be in subjection to the superior authorities.” When these totalitarian rulers try to destroy the adherence of Jehovah’s witnesses to God’s kingdom and stop their preaching of that kingdom, they follow the example of the apostles of Jesus Christ in saying: “We must obey God as ruler rather than men.” (Acts 5:29) Yet this all-transcending obedience to God does not authorize Jehovah’s witnesses to take action politically or bodily against persecutors and oppressors.
7. What attitude of the persecuted David toward King Saul do the persecuted witnesses of Jehovah take toward political authorities?
7 When under persecution by political authorities, Jehovah’s witnesses take the attitude of David of Bethlehem. He was wrongly outlawed and persecuted by the jealous King Saul of the nation of Jacob or Israel; yet never did the hounded David lift a hand to harm King Saul or to fight against the people over whom King Saul reigned. David always kept in mind that King Saul was “the anointed of Jehovah,” and that it was therefore Jehovah’s responsibility to remove King Saul from governmental office if He chose. Accordingly, on an occasion where he had the life of King Saul in his hand and his nephew Abishai asked permission to kill King Saul, David said: “As Jehovah is living, Jehovah himself will deal him a blow; or his day will come and he will have to die, or down into battle he will go, and he will certainly be swept away.”—1 Sam. 26:10.
8. How did it work out that David had no selfish hand in the death of the persecutor King Saul?
8 Not long afterward King Saul did go down into battle, against the Philistines. Mortally wounded by a Philistine arrow, King Saul fell on his own sword to hasten his death before the enemy got his body. Thus David, who was a Hebrew witness of Jehovah, had no hand in the death of his persecutor for the sake of clearing the way for his own self to become Israel’s king.
9. To whom did David give the credit for deliverance from the persecutor, and with what words?
9 Hence David could give to his God Jehovah the credit for the deliverance of him from his persecutor King Saul. In the superscription of Psalm 18, written by David, we read these words: “Of Jehovah’s servant, of David, who spoke to Jehovah the words of this song in the day that Jehovah had delivered him out of the palm of all his enemies and out of the hand of Saul. And he proceeded to say.” Say what? “I shall have affection for you, O Jehovah my strength. Jehovah is my crag and my stronghold and the Provider of escape for me. My God is my rock. I shall take refuge in him, my shield and my horn of salvation, my secure height.” (Ps. 18:1, 2; 2 Sam. 22:1-3) Like David, Jehovah’s Christian witnesses of today wait on him for deliverance from their enemies and persecutors.
10. How long a time may such waiting require, as illustrated in the case of Jehovah’s witnesses in what is East Germany now?
10 As in David’s case, this may require years of waiting. In East Germany Jehovah’s witnesses first had to wait for the end of Hitler’s Nazi rule; and now they have to wait for the end of the new totalitarian rule that took Nazism’s place, the Communist rule that depends on Soviet Russia now under Brezhnev. How much longer they will have to wait for relief we do not know, but they are determined to wait till Jehovah brings it.
11. (a) How long may Jehovah’s witnesses be yet obliged to suffer unjust punishment? (b) When is such persecution certain to end?
11 A dictator may die from natural causes or otherwise, and yet a totalitarian form of rule go on after his death, as in Soviet Russia. Or, even if there is a change in political style of government, yet it might continue to outlaw Jehovah’s witnesses and prohibit them from preaching God’s kingdom and from helping others to ‘get out of Babylon the Great’ and to ‘come to the water of life.’ (Rev. 18:2-4; 22:17) The dictators or oppressive form of government may not pass away in the remaining months or years of this “time of the end,” and witnesses of Jehovah in various lands may be obliged to worship and preach underground at great risk and peril of unjust punishment, down to the very close of this period. But one thing we do know. Dictators, totalitarian governments and all other forms of human political government will be certain to end inside this generation, at the battle of Armageddon, “the war of the great day of God the Almighty.”
12. Whose folly will then be demonstrated, and whose wisdom?
12 The end of them all will be a violent one, at the hand of the Almighty God himself by means of his heavenly executional armies, his holy angels under command of the Lord Jesus Christ. Then the folly of rulers in not permitting the free preaching of God’s kingdom and taking no heed to it will be demonstrated. The wisdom of the Kingdom preachers will also be demonstrated, for they will survive and be liberated forever.—Rev. 19:11-21; 16:14, 15.
UNABLE TO “KILL THE SOUL”
13. What was the reason that Jesus gave for the Kingdom preachers not to fear killers of the body?
13 Why did Jesus Christ tell his followers not to fear those who kill the body? The reason given was not primarily that the body killers are themselves mortal. The reason that Jesus mentioned was that such body killers “cannot kill the soul.” (Matt. 10:28) These words of Jesus the Roman Catholic priesthood and Protestant clergy of Christendom have used to argue that the human soul is unkillable and that it is, as the ancient Babylonians and the pagan Greeks claimed, an “immortal soul.” The Holy Bible, in both its Hebrew Scriptures and its Greek Scriptures, teaches that the human soul is mortal, not immortal, destructible, not indestructible. Eighty-eight or more Bible texts can be quoted to show that the human soul dies; no texts show that it is immortal.
14. What Bible texts proving death of the human soul may be quoted, and how is it possible for the human soul to die?
14 For example, Ezekiel 18:4, 20 says: “The soul that is sinning—it itself will die.” Jesus himself said: “My soul is deeply grieved, even to death.” (Matt. 26:38) Revelation 16:3 says: “Every living soul died, yes, the things in the sea.” The human soul is the human person himself, made up of the fleshly body and the active force of life maintained by breathing. (Gen. 2:7) So when the human body is killed, the soul dies; the intelligent person dies.
15. In what way could men who kill the body not kill the soul?
15 What, then, did Jesus Christ mean when he said: “Do not become fearful of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul”? He meant that such opposers and suppressors of the preaching of God’s kingdom cannot keep the faithful Kingdom preachers from having a resurrection of their souls from Haʹdes, the common grave of dead mankind.
16. How was their inability to kill the soul illustrated in Jesus’ case, in fulfillment of what prophecy?
16 For example, Jesus Christ was the greatest preacher of God’s kingdom. Jehovah God his heavenly Father let the enemies kill the body of Jesus. After Jesus was buried in a memorial tomb and thus went to Haʹdes, the enemies tried to prevent his having a resurrection from the dead. So the Jewish chief priests and the Pharisees had the Roman governor authorize them to seal the stone door of the tomb officially shut and to post a soldier guard there to prevent any theft of Jesus’ corpse. But the third day Almighty God resurrected his faithful Son Jesus Christ from the dead. (Matt. 27:57 to 28:7) In this way the words of Psalm 16:10 were fulfilled toward Jesus: “You will not leave my soul in Sheol. You will not allow your loyal one to see the pit.”
17. (a) To whom did the apostle Peter apply Psalm 16:10, when and how? (b) Why can it be said that God did not leave Jesus’ soul to Haʹdes or Sheol?
17 On the fiftieth day after Jesus’ resurrection from the dead the apostle Peter was inspired by God’s outpoured spirit and he applied Psalm 16:10 to Jesus, saying: “David says respecting him, ‘ . . . you will not leave my soul in Haʹdes, neither will you allow your loyal one to see corruption. . . . ’ . . . he saw beforehand and spoke concerning the resurrection of the Christ, that neither was he forsaken in Haʹdes nor did his flesh see corruption. This Jesus God resurrected, of which fact we are all witnesses.” (Acts 2:25-32) Thus Jesus’ earthly enemies were able by God’s permission to kill his body, but they could not kill his soul; they could not kill his right and title to a future life by a resurrection from the dead. When his enemies killed the body of Jesus, the prophecy of Isaiah 53:12 was fulfilled: “He poured out his soul to the very death, and it was with the transgressors that he was counted in.” But on the third day God Almighty raised Jesus Christ to life again as a soul by resurrecting him from the dead, thus not leaving his soul in Haʹdes or Sheol.
18. (a) Jesus’ words of Matthew 10:28 were a strong appeal to his apostles to believe in what? (b) What quality has been and is required of Christ’s followers to persist in Kingdom preaching?
18 Jesus’ words to his apostles for them not to fear the body killers who “cannot kill the soul” were therefore a strong appeal to his apostles to believe in the resurrection. Back there, what quality was required for followers of Jesus Christ to persist in preaching God’s kingdom even though the enemies of the Kingdom message killed them for it? What quality does it require for his followers today? Back there it required and today it requires great faith, yes, strong hope in the resurrection of the dead by the power of Almighty God. The apostles to whom Jesus said the words of Matthew 10:28 had a strong basis for believing in God’s power and his purpose to raise the human dead.
19. What strong basis did Christ’s apostles have for believing in God’s power to raise the dead?
19 From the Bible the apostles knew that, centuries before Jesus Christ, Jehovah’s prophets Elijah and Elisha had raised dead persons to life. They were also eyewitnesses of the fact that Jesus raised to life the daughter of the Jewish ruler named Jairus. (1 Ki. 17:17-24; 2 Ki. 4:32-37; Matt. 9:18-26; Luke 8:40-56) And in the same speech, before he told them not to fear those who can kill only the body, Jesus said to the twelve apostles: “As you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of the heavens has drawn near.’ Cure sick people, raise up dead persons.”—Matt. 10:7, 8.
20. Why were the apostles not to be afraid of losing their lives in God’s active service, this fact also encouraging all Kingdom preachers to do what?
20 Whether any of the apostles raised a dead person to life on that first preaching campaign of theirs the Bible does not say; but later on the apostle Peter did raise the dead disciple Tabitha or Dorcas to life. (Acts 9:36-41) So, when Jesus told the apostles not to silence the Kingdom message because of fearing murderous men, they well understood that they were not to be afraid of losing their human lives in God’s active service, because there would be a resurrection from the dead, at which time they would get their reward. What an encouragement this is for Kingdom preachers to be faithful even at the cost of their human life!
WHOM TO FEAR
21. What good news are Christ’s followers now commissioned to preach, and why without fear of body killers?
21 The dedicated and baptized followers of Jesus Christ are now commissioned and sent forth to preach “this good news of the kingdom.” Like the twelve apostles, they are under command not to fear men with the power to kill; otherwise, they would not carry out their commission to preach God’s kingdom as the only hope of mankind.
22. But what fear is to be an encouragement to them to do the preaching work?
22 But, as an encouragement to their doing the preaching work regardless of murderous men, the followers of Jesus Christ are to fear someone else. Jesus identified this one by what this one was able to do, when he said: “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. 10:28) On another occasion, in a similar statement, Jesus said to his disciples: “I say to you, my friends, Do not fear those who kill the body and after this are not able to do anything more. But I will indicate to you whom to fear: Fear him who after killing has authority to throw into Gehenna. Yes, I tell you, fear this One.” (Luke 12:4, 5) This one is not Satan the Devil, even though the Devil is the “one having the means to cause death” at present. (Heb. 2:14) No, but the One to fear is Almighty God, Jehovah.
23. If, as Christendom’s clergy claim, the human soul is indestructible, what logical questions should we then ask?
23 The Roman Catholic priests and the Protestant clergy of Christendom say that we humans have an immortal soul that is indestructible. If that were so, then God could not kill the soul any more than men who kill the body can do so. Then, too, why should we fear God any more than we should fear mortal men? Why should we do so if God cannot blot us out of existence if we prove unfaithful in carrying out our preaching commission from God?
24. What literal Gehenna was there in Jesus’ day, and of what did he use it as a symbol?
24 However, Jesus Christ said that God does have the power to destroy both body and soul in Gehenna. In Jesus’ day there was a literal Gehenna outside the western and southern walls of Jerusalem. The word Gehenna is Greek and means “Valley of Hinnom.” This Hinnom Valley was converted into a public incinerator for burning the refuse of Jerusalem, including at times the dead bodies of vile criminals. No living things were tormented with fire in that Hinnom Valley or Gehenna. Things were destroyed in it by the most powerful means known, fire. So Jesus used Hinnom Valley or Gehenna as a symbol of complete destruction, a destroying of someone out of all existence. Does that idea make you shudder?
25. For what kind of place was Gehenna not used as a symbol, and why not?
25 Accordingly, Gehenna is not a name for a place of everlasting torment of conscious human souls by means of fire and brimstone and under the supervision of devils. The human soul is not immortal and for that reason could not be tormented everlastingly. Gehenna is the state of being destroyed absolutely forever.
26. How does God destroy the human soul in Gehenna?
26 How, then, does God destroy the human soul in Gehenna? He does so by not granting the mortal human soul a resurrection from the dead under God’s kingdom. When the body dies, the soul or the conscious intelligent person also dies. The body decays and disappears, returning to the dust of the ground. (Gen. 3:19) As for the soul, Jehovah God does not apply to the unworthy dead soul the benefits of the ransom sacrifice that Jesus Christ offered to God nineteen centuries ago. Hence God leaves that undeserving dead soul out of existence, never resurrecting it from the dead.
27. What can men not wipe out by just killing the body and whose resurrection can they not prevent?
27 Mortal man cannot wipe a person out of all future existence by just killing the body of such person. Men cannot prevent a resurrection of any dead persons to whom Jehovah God will apply the lifesaving benefits of the perfect human sacrifice of his Son Jesus Christ. The ungodly political Communists and other atheists cannot prevent the carrying out of the Bible prophecy: “There is going to be a resurrection of both the righteous and the unrighteous.” (Acts 24:15) The materialistic Communists of Soviet Russia and of its satellite countries cannot prevent God from resurrecting the faithful witnesses of Jehovah whom they have killed because these refused to give up the Bible truth and the preaching of God’s kingdom as the only government of salvation.
28. Why should those who kill the body of Kingdom preachers now beware?
28 However, Almighty God can judicially issue a decree against the resurrection of anyone upon whom he executes his adverse judgment. Consequently, let men who try to kill the bodies of witnesses of Jehovah for refusing to stop their preaching of God’s kingdom beware! If the “war of the great day of God the Almighty” comes upon these persecutors suddenly and God the Almighty executes his final judgment against them, it means the destruction of the souls of these persecutors in Gehenna and not merely the destruction of their human bodies.—Rev. 16:14, 16; 19:15-21.
29. (a) Why should Jehovah’s Christian witnesses as Kingdom preachers also beware? (b) Whom, therefore, should they fear, and what should they do?
29 Let the Christian witnesses of Jehovah who preach his kingdom also beware. Why? Because Almighty God can also make a judicial decree against the resurrection of any dedicated, baptized Christian if this one fails to carry out his dedication to God fully and if he yields to the fear of murderous men and quits the preaching of God’s kingdom that is prophetically commanded in Matthew 24:14. Thus Jehovah God is able to destroy both soul and body in Gehenna, in everlasting destruction. Is that not a reason for dedicated, baptized Christians to fear God rather than men and therefore to continue obeying God’s orders to preach this good news of His kingdom? Is it not a compelling reason for them, in fear of God, to obey God as ruler rather than mortal man?
30. (a) Why should the worst that man can do to us not frighten us off from faithfulness to God? (b) What about the worst that God can do to us?
30 If obedience to God as ruler leads to death at men’s hands, God’s promise stands fast of a resurrection from the dead for the faithful one. Why, then, fear men? Why not rather fear God and prove faithful and hold onto the resurrection hope? God can do worse than the worst that men can do to us. The worst that men can do is to cause us to go to Haʹdes by unjustly killing our bodies. The worst that men can do to us can be undone by God in resurrecting us from the dead to life in his everlasting new order of righteousness. Ah! But God can destroy the wicked completely in Gehenna as unworthy of his mercy through Christ; and nobody can undo that. Let us be wise, then, and avoid deserving that.
31. How would it be that the resurrected Jesus Christ would reward followers who were faithful to death with the “crown of life”?
31 Nineteen centuries ago the resurrected Jesus Christ in heaven assured his followers that they would have a resurrection if they proved themselves faithful despite suffering an undeserved death at men’s hands. He said: “Do not be afraid of the things you are about to suffer. Look! The Devil will keep on throwing some of you into prison that you may be fully put to the test, and that you may have tribulation ten days [all days]. Prove yourself faithful even to death, and I will give you the crown of life. . . . He that conquers will by no means be harmed by the second death.” (Rev. 2:10, 11) The enemies would inflict death, but the resurrected Jesus, who is in possession of the “keys of death and of Haʹdes,” would reward his faithful followers with the prize of life. How? By resurrecting them from death in Haʹdes. Thus the Christian souls would not be destroyed in Gehenna, that is to say, in the “second death.”—Rev. 1:17, 18; 21:8.
32, 33. (a) Why did Paul not fear body killers, with what effect on his preaching? (b) What did the imprisoned Paul urge Timothy to do, referring to what personal example in this regard?
32 The apostle Paul was also a magnificent example of faith in the resurrection. For that reason he never became fearful of men who kill the body. He never tried to please men, but slaved for Christ. He feared God rather than men, and kept preaching. (Gal. 1:10) For this he was thrown into prison by the Devil repeatedly.
33 Writing from prison shortly before he was executed by those who kill the body, Paul urged Timothy to persist in preaching God’s Word and he called attention to the final reward in connection with his own faithful example, saying: “I solemnly charge you before God and Christ Jesus, who is destined to judge the living and the dead, and by his manifestation and his kingdom, preach the word, be at it urgently in favorable season, in troublesome season, . . . fully accomplish your ministry. I have fought the fine fight, I have run the course to the finish, I have observed the faith. From this time on there is reserved for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give me as a reward in that day, yet not only to me, but also to all those who have loved his manifestation.”—2 Tim. 4:1, 2, 5, 7, 8.
34. How would Paul receive this “crown of righteousness”?
34 The prize for his having done what was righteous he would receive through resurrection from the dead after the manifestation of the Lord Jesus Christ, “the righteous judge,” in his kingdom.
35. Since 1914 C.E. what work has been given to Jehovah’s witnesses alone, and this because of having what things uncovered and made known to them?
35 Now, since the year 1914 C.E., a preaching work has been assigned to us as Jehovah’s dedicated, baptized Christian witnesses. (Matt. 24:14; 25:31-34) We alone have been graciously given this most distinguished work of preaching God’s established kingdom, to preach it in all lands. No other religious organization on earth is doing this preaching work. The “talents” and “minas” of Kingdom service have been taken away from the fearful, the slothful and the unfaithful ones. (Matt. 25:24-30; Luke 19:20-26) By the revelation of God’s Word the Kingdom message has been given to us. The spiritual things that have been kept covered to others have been uncovered to us. The things kept secret in God’s Word have become known to us. What, then, shall we do?
36. What, then, shall we do, according to Matthew 10:26, 27?
36 This! The things that the reigning King Jesus Christ has said to us “in the darkness” so that worldly men could not observe firsthand—these things we must not keep to ourselves but must “say in the light.” The things that our reigning King has, by means of the Holy Scriptures, “whispered” to us as his faithful confidential disciples, we must make most widely heard; these things we must, as it were, “preach from the housetops.”
37. What shall we do if men misrepresent us and threaten us with death, and why?
37 But what if men call us by evil names and misrepresent our work? “Do not fear them,” is our King’s command. What if they oppose our message and threaten to punish us with death? Do not become fearful of them, but, rather, fear Almighty God who can punish the wicked ones in Gehenna and can raise the faithful God-fearing ones to life in the realm of his glorious kingdom. (Matt. 10:26-28) Yes, fear Him and imitate his greatest Preacher, Jesus Christ, and keep preaching to the full demonstration of your faithfulness to God for his unfading glory. His kingdom with resurrection power will gain the everlasting victory.
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MAP OF 1st CENTURY JERUSALEM
VALLEY OF HINNOM (GEHENNA)
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The dead bodies of vile criminals thrown into Gehenna