DESTROY SOUL AND BODY IN HELL
"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. Matt. x:28. “But I will forewarn you whom you shall fear: Fear him which, after he hath killed, hath power to cast into Hell; yea, I say unto you, fear him.” Luke xil:5. The reader of these verses and the accompanying language, will observe that Jesus is exhorting his disciples to have entire faith in God. The most that men can do is to destroy the body, but God “is able,” “hath power” to destroy both body and soul in Gehenna.
It is not said that God has any disposition or purpose of doing so. He is able to do it, as it is said (Matt. iii:9) he is “able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.” He never did, and never will raise up children to Abraham of the stones of the street, but he is able to, just as he is able to destroy soul and body in Gehenna, while men could only destroy the body there. Fear the mighty power of God, who could, if he chose, annihilate man, while the worst that men could do would be to destroy mere animal life. It is a forcible exhortation to trust in God, and has no reference to torment after death.
Fear not those who can only torture you–man–but fear God who can annihilate, (apokteino). 1 This language was addressed by Christ to his disciples, and not to sinners. 2 It proves God’s ability to annihilate (destroy) and not his purpose to torment. Donnegan defines appollumi, “to destroy utterly.” As though Jesus had said: “Fear not those who can only kill the body, but rather him, who, if he chose could annihilate the whole being. Fear not man but God.” “So much may suffice to show the admitted fact, that the destruction of soul and body was a proverbial phrase, indicating utter extinction or complete destruction.” Paige Dr. W. E. Manley observes that the condition threatened "is one wherein the body can be killed. And no one has imagined any such place, outside the present state of being. Nor can there be the least doubt about the nature of this killing of the body; for the passage is so constructed as to settle this question beyond all controversy. It is taking away the natural life, as was done by the persecutors of the apostles.
The Jews were in a condition of depravity properly represented by Gehenna. The apostles had been in that condition, but had been delivered from it. By supposing the word Hell to denote a condition now and in the present life, there is no absurdity involved. Sinful men may here suffer both natural death and moral death; but in the future life, natural death cannot be suffered; whatever may be said of moral death. Fear not men, your persecutors, who can inflict on you only bodily suffering. But rather fear him who is able to inflict both bodily suffering, and what is worse, mental and moral suffering, in that condition of depravity represented by the foulest and most revolting locality known to the Jewish people." “Woe unto you Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of Hell than yourselves.” Matt. xxiii:15. Looking upon the smoking valley, and thinking of its corruptions and abominations, to call a man a “child of Gehenna” was to say that his heart was corrupt and his character vile, but it no more indicated a place of woe after death, than a resident of New York would imply such a place by calling a bad man a child of Five Points.
We have thus briefly explained all the passages in which Gehenna occurs. Is there any intimation that it denotes a place of punishment after death? Not any. If it meant such a place no one can escape believing that it is a place of literal fire, and all the modern talk of a Hell of conscience is most erroneous. But that it has no such meaning is corroborated by the testimony of Paul, who says he “shunned not to declare the whole counsel of God,” and yet he never, in all his writings, employs the word once, nor does he use the word Hadees but once, and then he signifies its destruction; “Oh Hadees, where is thy victory?” If Paul believed in a place of endless torment, would he have been utterly silent in reference to it, in his entire ministry? His reticence is a demonstration that he had no faith in it, though the Jews and heathen all around him preached it and believed it implicitly.
A careful reading of the Old Testament shows that the vale of Hinnom was a well-known and repulsive valley near Jerusalem, and an equally careful reading of the New Testament teaches that Gehenna, or Hinnom’s vale was explained as always in this world. (Jer. vii:29-34: xix:4-15: Matt. x:28) and was to befall the sinners of that generation (Matt. xxiv) in this life (Matt. x:30) that their bodies and souls were exposed to its calamities. It was only used in the New Testament on five occasions, either too few, or else modern ministers use it altogether too much. John, who wrote for Gentiles, and Paul who was the great apostle to the Gentiles, never used it once, nor did Peter. If it had a local application and meaning we can understand this, but if it be the name of the receptacle of damned souls to all eternity, it would be impossible to explain such inconsistency.
The primary meaning then, of Gehenna is a well-known locality near Jerusalem; but it was sometimes used to denote the consequences of sin, in this life. It is to be understood in these two senses only, in all the twelve passages in the New Testament. In the second century after Christ it came to denote a place of torment after death, but it is never employed in that sense in the Old Testament, the New Testament, the Apocrypha nor was it used by any contemporary of Christ with that meaning, nor was it ever thus employed by any Christian until Justin and Clement thus used it (A.D. 150) and the latter was a Universalist, nor by any Jew until in the Targum of Jonathan Ben Uzziel, about a century later. And even then it only denoted future, but did not denote endless punishment, until a still later period.