Matthew 10:28 – Fear God Who Can Throw us into Hell?

Homer_afraid“Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in Hell.” (Matt 10:28)

This verse is a puzzle because of what Jesus says next:

“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” (Mat 10:29-31)

Be afraid? Don’t be afraid? Which is it? I’m confused. Is Jesus sending a mixed message? No, he isn’t. But there is no doubt Matthew 10:28 has been used to sow fear among the saints. This verse has caused the children of God to be insecure about their Father’s love. It has led to confusion and anxiety and diabolical thoughts like this: I know God loves me on account of Jesus, but I still need to perform lest he destroy me in Hell.

No, no, no! That is not what Jesus is saying at all. So what’s going on in this passage? What is Jesus saying?

The easiest jigsaw puzzle

Read Matthew 10:28 out of context and you’ll end up insecure and anxious. But read this verse in context and you’ll end up secure, encouraged, and confident of your Father’s great love.

The “be afraid” speech is recorded in two gospels; (1) Matthew 10:28 and (2) Luke 12:5.

–    In Matthew’s account Jesus is about to send out the twelve to demonstrate the gospel of the kingdom.
–    In Luke’s account Jesus has just rebuked the law experts for taking away the “key to knowledge,” a reference to the law that reveals sin and our need for Jesus. Jesus declares woe on these law experts because, “You yourselves have not entered, and you have hindered those who were entering” (Lu 11:52).

The same story is told twice, in Matthew and Luke, and these two accounts are like a two-piece jigsaw puzzle. A two-piece puzzle is the easiest puzzle there is. You don’t need a theology degree to assemble such a simple puzzle. Even a small child can do it. And so can we.

The picture in the puzzle

Here’s the context: The disciples are about to go and proclaim the gospel and will likely face persecution from the religious leaders and law-lovers. Got it? Good. Now here, in point form, is everything Jesus says to encourage them.

  1. Go out and reveal the kingdom by healing the sick and driving out demons (Matt 10:7-8).
  2. But be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy (Lu 12:1). Those guys have the key to knowledge but have not used it to help themselves or others enter the kingdom. Woe to them!
  3. Since you’re going to be sheep among wolves, be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves (Mat 10:16).
  4. Understand that you will face opposition. You may even be persecuted and tortured (Matt 10:17).
  5. If these men have persecuted the head of the house (i.e., me) how much more will they persecute the members of his house (Matt 10:25).
  6. But don’t be afraid of these men because a day of reckoning is coming when their hypocrisy will be exposed for the sham it is (Matt 10:26).
  7. Ha – you want to know who to be afraid of? It’s not these clowns who can only hurt your bodies. There is One far scarier than these guys – One who is able to destroy both body and soul (Mat 10:28).
  8. That scary One is your Father who loves you and cares for you (Mat 10:29).
  9. As you encounter the opposition of wicked men, remember that Almighty God is for you and will vindicate you. So don’t be afraid (Mat 10:30).
  10. Indeed, don’t even worry about what you will eat and wear, etc. (Lu 12:22). As you seek the kingdom your loving Father will take care of all your needs (Lu 21:31).
  11. You who have acknowledged me before men, I will acknowledge before my Father. But those clowns who think they’re hot stuff – those law-lovers who have taken away the key to knowledge, have denied me and chosen to remain outside the kingdom – I will deny them before my Father (Mat 10:32-33).
  12. So I say again, do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom (Luk 12:32).

Do you see how it’s important to read things in context? Jesus isn’t threatening his disciples (or anyone) with Hell. He is encouraging them. Again and again he says “Do not be afraid.” At first blush this seems unrealistic. How can we not fear given all the trouble and opposition we face when preaching the gospel? “The solution,” says Jesus, “is to look at your Father. He’s awesome! He’ll vindicate you and take care of you.”

This reminds me of something Darrin Hufford said in his book The Misunderstood God:

The wrath of God should never scare you. All human beings have something in them that needs to know that their dad can beat up all other dads. It’s a security issue. (p.158)

The fearless children of a fearful Father

Only a wicked parent gives their children mixed messages. Only a wicked parent mixes love with terror. Your heavenly Father is not a wicked parent.

Jesus is not sending a mixed message to his disciples. He is not saying be afraid and don’t be afraid. There is no fear in love. Rather, he’s putting persecution into perspective. It’s like he’s saying:

Guys it’s natural to be scared of persecution and death. But there are scarier things out there. Your Father for One. He’s the scariest hombre there is! And you have nothing to fear from him. When you understand this – when you know that God is for you, not against you – it will free you from the fear of men. So don’t be afraid and don’t worry. He who cares for the sparrows cares for you. And don’t think you have to do any of this gospel-preaching stuff to earn your way into my kingdom. No, little flock, your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom.

We live in a world enslaved to fear. Jesus came to set us free from the fear of death and every other fear (Heb 2:15). It is inconceivable that Jesus would use fear to free us from fear. The disciples understood this which is why one of them later said:

“Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened.” But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. (1 Pet 3:14-15)

When you set apart Christ as “Lord” you are literally saying Jesus is the ultimate power and authority. You are saying he is the kurios, the supreme ruler, and the final word on every subject. When fear comes to you, perhaps in the form of opposition or a bad doctor’s report, this is the time to set apart Christ as Lord. This is the time to speak to your fears about the One who is above all and at whose name every knee will bow.

“Be afraid of God?” Not us, not his dearly beloved kids. But those enemies of his who hate Jesus and seek to intimidate and threaten his kids – yes, a little fear of the Lord might yet do them some good.

___________

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59 Comments on Matthew 10:28 – Fear God Who Can Throw us into Hell?

  1. thank you Mr. Ellis for this timely message. i’ve been feeling like this for quite some time now. having an unhealthy fear of God. listening to “godly” counsel from pastors who i believe have no clue that they are “preaching” legalism. i am going thru some things now. just know that i am so happy that i found your website…it is a needed blessing in my life. may the Lord bless you and your family.

  2. So true, this message is resounded in every page of the bible that we get to discover as treasure hidden not from us but for us. thank-you

  3. Excellent. You are right about the apparent contradiction in Jesus’s teaching, and your solution is very encouraging. I’ll certainly read the passages in Matthew and Luke again very carefully.

  4. RokserRocks // July 9, 2013 at 12:02 pm // Reply

    This is a good post. The child of God should not fear God in a terror sense. We should fear Him in a reverent love sense. The UNSAVED LOST PEOPLE SHOULD FEAR GOD IN A TERROR SENSE BECAUSE IF THEY DIE WITHOUT THE LORD JESUS CHRIST THEY WILL BURN IN HELL FOREVER AND EVER AND EVER, quarantined in their lost sin poisoned state, in the literal Lake of Fire, forever!

    • chrisvanrooyen // July 9, 2013 at 7:54 pm // Reply

      You have no idea of what you are saying, no one comes to Jesus out of terror . the implication of what you are saying is that there is no hope for those in prison there is no love to free them, only terror to keep them bound. The scripture links this type of thinking with the false Shepard who opened not the house of his prisoners.I say again to you terror has saved no one what chance of release does your theology offer.

      • boy Paul you must have read my mind,no, on second thought you dont want to do that,ha ha,it seems God is aware of our battles,and sends in the cavalry, imagine that, I actually kinda of get a kick out of dispelling the schizophrenic God,however i will make a attempt to behave myself. maybe.

    • Hi, you may find this interesting.
      In Matthew 4:10 Jesus quotes Himself from Deuteronomy 6:13 and translates “fear the Lord” as “worship the Lord”. Blessings!

    • Luke 9:54 When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?” turned, and rebuked them, and said, You know not what manner of spirit you are of. 56For the Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.” RockserRocks, Please read the above and please think prayfuly about your words.

  5. Very good article Paul. It’s unfortunate that believer’s all over the world need to be reminded that our father God is a good God, but because of teaching full of the law they have many misconceptions. It’s the same thing with many areas…for instance, when it comes to healing i’m always amazed that people believe God puts sickness/diseases on his children. Well, if that’s true then Jesus really screwed up by healing people everywhere he went! We need to slow down and read the Word in context so we can see what it is really saying to us.

    • True Scott. They usually say things like “if it be God’s will” so and so will be healed. He says in His Word that He desires for us to be whole. I like the verse where it says Jesus went around doing good. I felt God confronted me on that the other day – the simplicity of those words. When we do good, are kind, give compliments, etc.. We’re doing good. We’re bringing joy and acceptance to others.

      • In 2001 my oldest daughter was diagnosed with epilepsy. Doctor’s said she wouldn’t be able to go to school, go outside & play, learn to ride a bike, learn slower than other children, and couldn’t take a bath in more than a few inches of water. She was having an average of 100 seizures every day. I had pastors & other Christian friends tell me God put this on her because of past sins & others said it was to teach us a lesson! Thankfully I didn’t believe what they said…I knew just enough to know that that didn’t make sense. Why would God make people sick & Jesus would heal them. It’s a long story, but the bottom line is that my daughter is totally healed & hasn’t had any medication in over 10 years! She’s an honors student & has gotten her driver’s license! She’s also been on 8 missions trips, including South Africa, Brazil, Paraguay, Ireland, as well as many trips in the U.S. She’s going to Honduras this weekend. She turns 17 the end of this month. God is good!

      • That’s a wonderful story Scott. God is good to us.

      • That is an awesome story! Thank you for sharing! God has healed me more then once. On one occasion someone with good intentions handed me a tape. (a message by a guy who claimed once he forgave other he was healed) God made it clear to me to not listen to it and gave me a word to give him. “When the disciples came upon the blind man they asked Jesus who sinned him or his parents. Jesus replied, “Neither that God’s glory would be seen.” You should have seen his face when I said this! God later healed me and you better believe I bragged it up!

    • Wow Scott, I’m also thankful that you didn’t believe them. So glad to hear your daughter is doing so well. God is faithful! God bless you and your family!

      • Thank you. I’m glad I didn’t believe them either, but it wasn’t easy. I was from a very small town & there weren’t any what I would call faith Churches or even believer’s who thought it was even possible for someone to trust God for healing…on purpose. I learned faith from dad Hagin & I honestly thought that only me and dad Hagin believed. I didn’t know anything about grace at that time, but I honestly believe healing would have come faster if I would have.

    • chrisvanrooyen // July 11, 2013 at 4:55 pm // Reply

      Great Testimony Scott what is so awesome is that the healing came by just simply believing God,s character revealed in Jesus.

  6. chrisvanrooyen // July 9, 2013 at 7:57 pm // Reply

    Jesus said many things about hell to illustrate to the law experts how heartless their thinking was.

  7. what manner of LOVE is the Father’s Love ?

  8. what manner of LOVE is the Father’s Love ?
    Thanks

  9. Thank you Paul,

    I’ve been reading your blog for a little while now, trying ever so hard to understand this message of grace that most here seemed to have grasped. (I know, don’t chuckle….trying hard to understand grace, duh!)

    But, I guess it’s been like labouring to enter His rest!

    I’ve intently been listening to Andrew Wommack’s messages and even Joseph Prince’s messages, since I learned about him here on your blog. I’ve listened over and over hoping that soon the penny would drop, so to speak. Just last night I was listening to Andrew’s ‘True Nature of God’ podcast series. I found myself so mentally tense, wishing I could just get it…how good our God is, that is!

    Well Paul…I just now got it! Your explanation of the scriptures here has unlocked something in me…and it came effortlessly! I just realised that the times I have read Matt 10:28, I have done so with a gulp, with fear, but swallowed it and continued on as it it never happened. Wow…please keep unlocking these ‘little’ hidden scriptures that have a ‘big’ impact on us subliminally.

    Thank you Paul Ellis!

    • That’s wonderful Susan! That moment when Jesus comes into focus – full of grace and truth – is one of life’s sweetest moments. I talk about my moment here.

      • Thank you for your reply, Paul.

        I read your post titled “How well did I understand grace….”. Thank you for the link. Wow, I can so relate, I saw my name all through that post. You said, “I knew people who looked into the Bible and saw radical grace but I didn’t. Sure, there were pockets of grace but there was a whole lot of other stuff as well.” That has been my frustration exactly!

        Have also just read your post on rightly dividing the word….thanks again. So many years reading the bible so wrong! I was getting to the point where I would just place the bible down, thinking it’s just way too dangerous for me to read it by myself without first listening to an ‘interpreter’ like Andrew Wommack or the like.

        I plan to take my time and read the word with a new mind set, with new eyes. New days for me and it’s lovely!

        Be blessed!

    • I think part of the problem for me susan was that it was so illogical,ya know[will not compute],living in a world were everything seems so conditional,i think it began for me,when i began to see how accepted I was,like andrew says,when you find out how accepted you are,you sit there and say [Gee,I was doing so well to.

    • Great comment Susan! Just keep hearing and hearing more of Jesus’ words of life. It’s a lifetime journey of knowing Him more and more. God bless you!🙂

      • Thank you Earl and LJP,

        I appreciate your replies and encouragement!

        Bless you both heaps!

  10. Thank you so much! This has so spoke to me. I’ve been outside the system for almost 5 years now. Yet I’m still finding “fear” teaching, verses that were taken out of context, that I’m having to detox from. Talk about a long process.

  11. Michele Stewart // July 10, 2013 at 10:02 am // Reply

    I think this post is fantastic – thank you so much for sharing🙂

  12. Hi Paul,
    I’ve really been caught up on understanding this passage of scripture from Galatians chapter 5. In verse 21, who is Paul saying will not inherit the kingdom of God? Is it those who are saved or unbelievers? I know God forgave ALL when Jesus died, and all sins are forgiven, we need to accept that to be saved, so who is Pauls listing the deeds of the flesh for, and warning in verse 21? If its to believers, which im thinking it is, what part of the kingdom would they not inherit? I was thinking maybe temporal parts of our inheritance on earth, ( perhaps call, or spouse, or etc, im not too sure) or is it eternal things, such as our reward in Heaven, or if possible ultimately our salvation for those walking in that lifestyle on a regular basis? any help or insight would greatly be appreciated, thanks so much!

    • I talk about this at length in my book in chapter 9. It’s actually really exciting stuff and Paul says something similar in his other letters (eg: 1 Cor 6:9-10). Do you have my book? If not, I’ll try and find time to write something here but I have 24 comments waiting for moderation right now, plus a big thing going on over on E2R’s FB page, plus I’m about to take my wife on a date, so don’t hold your breath.🙂

      • Oh sweet, I didn’t know you had a book! Great, thanks I will look into getting that, hope it all goes well and have a great date night🙂 !

  13. This is very interesting. I’m always careful not to read into scripture what I think it should say (by that I’m not implying that you are b.t.w., just putting it out there because this is the very reason the Pharisees got it so wrong). Scripture is full of apparent contradictions that cannot be reconciled by the human mind and this is deliberate because one of the key things God needs to teach us is that His ways are higher than our ways and His thoughts are higher than our thoughts …

    Relationship with God is based equally on the premise that we should love Him and fear Him. Rejecting or diminishing either effectively breaks the relational equation. There is a parallel in (healthy) human relationships (God really tries to help us with this): children should equally love (hugs and kisses) and fear (respect) their parents and there’s nothing perverse about that unless we have a perverted view and understanding of what fear (and love) means. This is obviously hard in a world where so many things are twisted and perverted, but try for a moment to see this from the perspective of a *perfect* Father who is a *perfect* balance of love and holiness, judgment and mercy, hatred for sin but love for sinners etc. It’s in embracing these apparent contradictions that we suddenly no longer find it weird when our Father *commands* us to love Him *and* fear Him at the same time.

    • Franz, I wonder what you make of that verse that says there is no fear in love but perfect, or completed love drives out fear (1 Jn 4:18)?

      The line “God’s ways are higher than ours” is often used to explain mystery and paradox but this line from Isaiah 55 isn’t referring to either. It’s a direct reference to the new covenant. “Our ways” are the low, earthly ways of law and tit-for-tat and karma. But God’s ways are the superior and heavenly ways of unmerited favor. Is 54-56 is one of the best expositions of the new covenant in the Bible.

  14. I have been attending a revival.Let’s just say there is laughter and fire in the meetings.He has been preaching on Christians being lukewarm and hell a lot.I had been dealing with extreme grief for 21 months and after I was prayed for, It is totally gone.No more whys and feeling forsaken.My question is does this supernatural intervention prove what he is preaching is true? Now I feel like a lukewarm Christian again because of his messages.Dear Lord make it clear.

    • No, it proves God is gracious and that he doesn’t wait for us to get our theology perfect and our doctrinal ducks lined up before he blesses us. This revival has left you with a bad aftertaste – the gospel of grace never does that because the gifts of God are perfect in every way.

    • Colleen G. // July 24, 2013 at 12:20 pm // Reply

      I once someone put it this way- God can used bent sticks to set us straight. Meaning that someone does not have to be 100% theologically correct for God to be able to work through them for our benefit.
      Do a search here on this site about lukewarm. The articles will set your mind at ease.

  15. Thank you Paul and Colleen.I am so thankful to be free from that horrendous grief.I will study more to come to an understanding.Appreciate your responses.What you say makes sense.

  16. Paul, you often talk about the idea some have of “performing.” I am guessing that is in reference to one thinking they have to work (perform) in order to get on God’s good side. That part I understand. My question deals with a believer acting out of obedience by “wanting” to and not feeling they “have” when it comes to following Christ. Maybe you have a blog already that deals with that issue. Thanks again.

  17. EXCELLENT, Paul, many think Jesus was talking about the one who is HITLER😀

  18. If my Father is for me, then what can stand against me haha. Our Father is the biggest and best!

  19. Thank you for this article. I have been troubled for a long time with insurity and anxiety about God’s love for me and this helps.

  20. Paul, this is a little side bar to this topic, but I can’t pass up the opportunity to ask your thoughts since the scripture is mentioned in this article…

    “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” (Mat 10:29-31)

    I have studied and believe in the way you and Andrew Wommack teach the sovereignty of God (that Everything God wills does not always happen, and that everything that happens is not always God’s will). I see that in the Bible. But this passage is one that seems to suggest otherwise. I read it as saying nothing happens without His will, even small things, even bad things (like He wants sparrows to kill over).

    Please help me with this road block in my faith!

  21. Michael Jenkins // November 21, 2013 at 5:45 am // Reply

    It is so good to read scriptures in context, this is good news!

  22. Anyone have any thoughts on my question a couple of posts above?

    • Sorry Amber, I missed your earlier question. I think Jesus is saying, “Your heavenly Father cares for you. How do we know this? Because the Creator is intimately involved with his creation.” He is not saying God kills sparrows or that he wills death on them. I know that’s how the NIV translators read it but a more literal translation is “not one sparrow falls without your Father.” In other words, God notices.

      Jesus’ tone makes it clear that this is meant to comfort us. “Do not be afraid.” If the Almighty has his eye on these little birds, he surely has his eye on you. Indeed, he numbers the hairs on your head.

    • I agree with paul amber,I believe he is ministering security and comfort to the disciples,….take heart for I am with you……like peter said,god doesnt want any to parish but for all to come to repentance……………so ya know, fallen world ,free will, freedom to choose,etc, so take heart rest in him.

  23. Elizabeth M Otero // April 16, 2014 at 10:29 pm // Reply

    Wow!…Speechless! 🙂

  24. Suzanne,just want to assure you that you have not lost “your” salvation for ANY reason.Paul has many articles on eternal security,and i would encourage you to read them.I will be praying for you. A simple prayer that has helped me over the years through difficult times is the serenity prayer….”God,grant me the serenity to accept the things i can not change…the courage to change the things i can…and the wisdom to know the difference”…one day at a time. John 10:28-29

  25. damilola akinyera // December 12, 2014 at 5:04 am // Reply

    Hi Paul, always cool reading your posts. Please whats your explanation for …

  26. Judah emory // March 1, 2015 at 4:46 am // Reply

    Paul you are so awesome you preach the true hyper grace of Jesus you are highly favored I am a true beliver

  27. Your explanation is YOU explanation. Which is false teaching and fake explanation

  28. I dont like the grace plus law mixture bit or tithing in nt churches…there is none…

  29. craig guttman // April 1, 2016 at 4:49 am // Reply

    My all-time favorite words in Scripture..”there is no fear in love..”

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