“do not be afraid of those who kill the body.” The teaching that we should not fear those who can only kill the body but instead should fear God who can destroy a person’s body and “soul” (life) in Gehenna, the Lake of Fire is a very important one because the natural human tendency is to overly fear those who can kill the body and not fear God nearly enough. The wise person fears God and the Day of Judgment much more than anyone or anything that can only kill the body. Here in Matthew 10:28, Jesus teaches the twelve apostles, who he is about to send out on a missionary journey. In Luke 12:4-5, Jesus teaches this lesson to a huge crowd (Luke 12:1).
“destroy...soul.” The Greek word translated “destroy” is apollumi (#622 ἀπόλλυμι). Apollumi means “to cause or experience destruction” (BDAG). The concept of “burning forever in hell” came into Christianity from the Greeks (and Jews like the Pharisees who were influenced by Greek teaching going back to the time of Alexander the Great who conquered Palestine in 333 BC). The Greeks believed in an “immortal soul.” The phrase “immortal soul” is not in the Bible. Once we understand the soul is not eternal, it does not have to “go” to heaven or hell when a person dies. Eternal torment is not the teaching of Scripture. John 3:16, and many other verses, teach the simple truth that each person will either live forever or be destroyed, annihilated.
[For information on “Gehenna” see commentary on Matthew 5:22. For information on annihilation in the Lake of Fire, see Appendix 5, “Annihilation in the Lake of Fire.” For more information on the soul, see Appendix 7: “Usages of ‘Soul’”].