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.
~ Mt 10:28
The argument says that this verse proves the immortality of the soul. It’s an odd argument, certainly as “destroy” hardly conveys the meaning of living onwards. However, it is a common enough argument to warrant at least a short article about it. Let’s look at the words “kill”, “body”, “destroy” and finally “soul” (leaving it for last, as that is what is in dispute).
Kill – apokteino
This word means “to kill in any way whatever, to destroy, to allow to perish” per Strong’s. It is variously translated “kill” (55x), “slay” (14x) and “put to death” (6x). The subject is “them” and the object is “the body”. Therefore, we are not to fear those who can kill us physically. So far, so good. However, notice that we are not to fear those who “are not able to kill the soul”. The implication thus far, then, is that there is One Who can kill the soul!
Body – soma
This word means “the body of men or animals, a dead body or corpse”. It can be used figuratively for “body of planets and of stars” or as we would say “heavenly bodies”. Paul uses this metaphorically to refer to the Church. However, in conjunction with “apokteino”, it is obvious that it is referring to a living body (def. 1a of Strong’s).
Destroy – apollymi
This word means “to destroy, to put out of the way entirely, abolish, put an end to ruin; to kill; to declare that one must be put to death”. It is a broader term, then, than apokteino. Notice, however, that it is being applied to both “body” and “soul”. It is referring to the same end for both body and soul in “hell”.
Soul – psyche
This word means “breath, the breath of life, the vital force which animates the body and shows itself in breathing”. It applies to both men and animals! This is nothing more and nothing less than the equivalent of the idea of “ruach” or “breath” or “spirit” that is represented in the OT. The OT makes it quite clear that upon death, the “breath” of life, the spirit in man, leaves. It is gone, it is unconscious, and it returns to God to wait for the resurrection (see “Myth of the Immortal Soul: Do Souls ‘Depart’ Upon Death?“).
Using this spirit, which contains the memories and character of a person, God raises up this person from the dead at the appropriate time. If that person is rebellious and rejects God’s mercy and grace, that person is thrown into the Lake of Fire, “hell” or more properly “Gehenna”. That person is a physical human being, and when thrown into the Lake of Fire, he or she is burned up with no hope of a future resurrection.
If “psyche” must mean an immortal soul, then that causes other problems as well. That word applies to animals as well as people. So, therefore, it is illogical to state that humans will live on forever and animals will not. Yet, the Bible shows that the spirit of animals “goeth downward” while the “spirit of man … goeth upward” (Ecc 3:21) so that it is saved off for the resurrection.
The Good News
No, the good news, the Gospel, is that Jesus is going to return to this earth to straighten out this mess we have created! He will raise up His saints, who will rule with Him for 1,000 years. Afterward, a general physical resurrection where people will have “the books”, the “biblios”, the Bible opened to them for the first time. They will be offered their first chance at salvation! Those that reject His offer will die forever, and those who accept will live forever.
This is not the only day of salvation, as some would preach. Otherwise, the unthinkable alternative is that God is too powerless, too sadistic or too egotistical to keep over 2/3rds of human beings from going to an ever burning ever tormenting hellfire.